Optimism and strong leadership are needed to tackle climate change, say experts


David Blood

David Blood, Co-Founder of Generation Investment Management speaking at the conference at the Business School

Businesses need a positive mindset and a robust strategy to overcome the challenges of climate change, said experts at the Business School yesterday.

These issues were addressed at the Mobilising Business, Acting on Climate conference, an invitation-only event organised by Imperial College Business School with the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment. The conference brought together industry leaders and academics from Imperial College Business School to discuss how businesses can manage risks and take advantage of opportunities to move towards a climate-friendly future.

Professor James Barlow, Chair in Technology and Innovation Management at Imperial College Business School reminded the audience how the timing of the conference, which took place before World Earth Day was significant for businesses. He said: “The COP 21 agreement in Paris in December showed how important climate change is for the business agenda. By coming together for this conference, we’ve already demonstrated how we want to be part of the solution.”

Balancing business growth with climate action

Simon Upton, Environment Director of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, looked at the challenges facing businesses in trying to implement the measures set out in the COP 21 Paris Agreement. In a ‘world of fossil abundance’ he pondered on how governments could step of efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement. He said: “Is there ever a ‘Goldilocks’ moment on taking action on climate change? No. Getting to our end goal will not be smooth, but we need government policies that are consistent with change and encourage businesses to embrace technology to come up with innovative solutions to their sustainability challenges.”

Simon Upton

Simon Upton, OECD Environment Director speaking at the conference

The need for businesses to grow while remaining sustainable, was another prominent theme throughout the day. Gabrielle Walker, Chief Scientist of Xyntéo, a consultancy that advises companies on growth and sustainability issues said: “In the past people thought that companies had a choice between investment and sustainability, but this belief is no longer widely held.” Stressing the need for companies to take greater action on climate change she said: “Pessimism is a luxury we can’t afford. Businesses need to implement a timeframe for change, push harder with investment opportunities and tap into education to make change possible.”

Sustainable investing is about how the best businesses need to operate.

– David Blood

Co-Founder, Generation Investment Management

Sourcing sustainable finance

David Blood, Co-Founder of Generation Investment Management, a firm dedicated to long-term investing and integrated sustainability research, outlined the business case for sustainable capitalism and what companies need to do to move towards a low carbon economy. He said: “Sustainable investing is about how the best businesses need to operate. Companies who are innovative will be the most successful. Businesses need to take a holistic approach to investing and consider the social environmental and moral factors as part of their long-term strategy. Strong leadership is key to this business plan.”

Strong leadership

The need for strong signals from the top about climate change was another highlight of the event. Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, a non-profit organisation that aims to create a low carbon future spoke of the need for strong leadership in driving change. He said: “Lots of people don’t like change, but we won’t achieve a low carbon economy through transformation change without strong leadership.” This was followed by a panel discussion, which tackled issues including good investment, how companies can better engage with their supply chain and the value of companies setting higher targets and implementing practical steps to meet their climate change goals.


Panelists discuss the importance of leadership

Reflecting on the event, Professor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam, Dean of Imperial College Business School, said: “I was impressed by the calibre of the presentations and the thought-provoking discussions between industry leaders and Imperial academics. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing society today, so this conference was an ideal opportunity for us to add our voice to the debate and showcase the work that Imperial College Business School is doing in this space.”


Laura Singleton

Laura Singleton
Communications Division


Entrepreneurship, Environment, Strategy-collaboration, Strategy-educational-experience, Climate-change
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