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Sheryll Karpel

Responsible Business and the Circular Economy

  • by Sheryll Karpel
  • 18 Jul 2016

As Career Moves Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) representative I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Business in the Community (BITC) Responsible Business awards Gala Night at The 02.

Why fortunate you might ask?

Fortunate because in a year when so many unexpected things have happened -politically, socially, economically it became clear not only from the leaders of business, from all the entries to all the awards, to the incredible innovation in technology that the 1600 strong participants were shown that business can truly step up and be a bridge to a better life for everyone in our society.

Fujitsu, the winners of the 2015 Responsible business of the year invited us to travel through an Innovation Zone where they are using technology to create solutions for four global megatrends; an ageing population, feeding a growing population, climate change and scarce resources. I was surprised by the deliciousness of some hydroponically grown lettuce in large warehouses. The level of concern for these global problems from such a successful corporate totally overrode political concerns or international borders.

Duncan Tait, CEO (Head of EMEIA Region) Fujitsu opened the evening talking about the incredible Taiko drummers that opened the event. ‘Drums like these quicken your heart. Drums like these help you connect with others. Drums like these call you to action’. He went on to say that’s what tonight is about. A call to reinvigorate the growth of the responsible business movement. The night was certainly that.

Much talk was of a Circular Economy as opposed to the traditional linear one (make, use, dispose) which has been in operation. A circular economy keeps resources in use as long as possible, you extract the maximum value from each resource when in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of service life.

HRH the Prince of Wales stressed the importance of focussing on a circular economy, delivering sustainability in a resource and carbon constrained world. He called for action and thought leadership from our global business leaders.

BITC have created a circular economy taskforce. The first 5 members are Veolia, PWC, WBA, Interserve and Asda. It’s going to be interesting to see how this important way of thinking will impact manufacturing growth, how we buy and consume products and all the marketing /advertising connected to that. The effect will have a knock on effect throughout all industry sectors.

Antony Jenkins, Chairman of BITC talked about the impact of the referendum in the UK. He reiterated how businesses are already juggling with the global megatrends and digital transformation but also pointed out the enormous gulf that has been revealed in the UK in relation to communities failing to engage with the role business plays in society. It is really incumbent on business to build these bridges because it is a direct route to impacting on people’s lives for the better.

In announcing Veolia’s win as the Responsible Business of 2016, Duncan Tait said ‘Transformation requires brave leadership and their CEO clearly lives and breathes responsible business with an energy and passion that is not only transforming the business but the entire sector'. He quoted some key facts about Veolia which definitely made me want to understand what they are doing:

  • 30% of the board are women.
  • They deliver 300 apprenticeships a year. 10% of those are from marginalised groups.
  • They invested £1m to train 1000 inspirational leaders in their workforce.
  • By 2018 they will have invested £1bn within the UK indirectly creating 28,000 jobs and 2.8 billion in economic activity.
  • They are pioneering news ways of working in a circular economy.

It’s going to be incredibly important to engage and understand how these businesses are using investment in people and new ideas to create a stronger economic output that also benefits our greater society. I for one have regained a great deal of hope for how business can take responsibility to another level and thank everyone who took part in the evening.

A call to Responsible Action indeed.

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