The Business of Sustainability
Most of my focus this week was on Newcastle Univeristy Business School’s Business of Sustainability Week.
On Tuesday, NUBS very kindly hosted the formal launch event for my latest book, The Green Executive. This was a pretty difficult presentation to pitch as it had to entertain everyone from my 20-month old son Jimmy to University Profs. I decided to gloss over the theoretical models and focus on the 18 interviews that underpin the text. Everybody likes stories, so I told the stories I got from seven of them and then pulled out some conclusions. OK, Jimmy lost interest after 5 minutes, but everybody else thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was delighted with really good, penetrating questions. The best was, if, as I had postulated, big retailers were acting as sustainability gatekeepers for consumers, what was in it for them as consumers themselves appear to be reluctant to choose green products over mainstream products? The answer is broader brand protection. While a consumer may not pay a premium for a green product on any single buying decision, the overall perception of a retailer may influence where that consumer decides to shop.
Oh, and the food was really good to boot. Big thanks go out to Fiona Whitehurst and the team at NUBS.
On Thursday I was back, this time in the august company of sustainable consumerism pioneer Julia Hailes MBE and Peter White, Global Director of Sustainability at Procter & Gamble. The three of us were judging teams of MBA students who had been set the challenge of encouraging behavioural change in consumers of P&G products. We got 5 really good presentations – it was very competitive and they had clearly done their homework.
After some Dragon’s Den-style questioning, we awarded the best overall entry award to Lancaster who had developed a whole suite of interactions for different types of consumer including a Farmville-type viral game to promote sustainable lifestyles. The other award, for best single idea, went to Sheffield who suggested a product code which combined the ideas of a loyalty card and sustainability awareness – the consumer would have to answer sustainability questions before they got their discount points. You’d think we were judging Britain’s Got Talent the way the winners exploded with joy – showing what effort they had put in and how seriously they took the whole process. Peter and I gave presentations, but unfortunately I had to leave before Julia’s keynote in the evening.
So an excellent couple of events, and I feel I’ve wet The Green Executive’s head properly now.