Scotsman Webinar recap: Leadership for a Sustainable Future

Leaders must be brave, communicate clearly and work effectively with others to help create a thriving future, a Scotsman webinar heard.

The panel discussion, Leadership for a Sustainable Future, heard that a "virtuous circle" is developing, with organisations, their clients, employees and supply chains all pushing each other towards a more sustainable approach to business.

Zoë Arden, a Fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, laid out very clearly why the business world had to grasp this agenda.

"We cannot live on a dying planet, let alone do business on it," she said. "A thriving future requires us all to be courageous leaders, communicators and collaborators. We can all be good communicators and tell better stories to drive change. Everyone can do something."

The Scotsman's sustainability webinar broadcast on Wednesday afternoon.

Allan Wernham, of event sponsor CMS, said sustainability was "fundamental to everyone's future prosperity" and said taking genuine action was vital. To show it was serious, CMS had been the first law firm to commit to science-based targets, and had set a net zero target of 2025, he explained.

Liz Lowe, Head of Sustainability for Great Britain for Coca-Cola, said sustainability had been on the agenda of businesses for a long time, but was often in the background.

There was now much more visibility, thanks to a high-profile push from all directions to drive positive change, she added: "Consumers, investors, customers, employees, stakeholders, are all massively interested in sustainability actions and companies are really starting to talk about it. Being a good business is good for business. People want to purchase from ethical, fair and sustainable businesses."

James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food and Drink, agreed story-telling was vital, whether that was Mackies producing the "world's first carbon-neutral ice cream" or Borders Biscuits reducing its packaging by 90%.

"Sustainability is well-embedded into long-term planning even though businesses are just trying to get through the week at the moment. It's been about survival but they still need to have the eye on the long-term - and the eye has not been taken off Scotland as a world leader in sustainable food production."

Andrew Cave, Head of Sustainability at investment manager Baillie Gifford, said we had to use simple language and leaders had to 'make it real': "It can seem really technical and complex, but the underlying issues are not complex - we simply produce too much carbon for the atmosphere to tolerate.

"It's really important for leaders to link the micro and the macro - and vital for them to show action. It is important to turn the car fleet electric.

CEOs are showing leadership by taking specific actions and sharing stories - to show it's not about other people, it's about all of us."

Read a full report on the webinar in The Scotsman on Monday.