Imperial College London

Experts discuss how to reinvent capitalism for a sustainable future


image of experts

Business leaders and academics gathered for the virtual launch of the new Leonardo Centre on Business for Society on 16 June.

The launch, held by Imperial College Business School, brought together academics, sustainability leaders and industry experts to explore how to achieve the Leonardo Centre’s mission to create a just and regenerative form of capitalism.  

The Leonardo Centre aims to act like a global laboratory to explore and experiment with an innovative approach to business. Professor Maurizio Zollo, Scientific Director of the Leonardo Centre, said: “The establishment of this Centre is both timely and of critical importance as companies embark on a strategic reset and countries consider a social reset in the wake of COVID-19.”

Watch the full video of the launch event here.

The launch event of the Leonardo Centre
"The Leonardo Centre is a global laboratory to explore and experiment with innovative logics of business." Professor Maurizio Zollo Scientific Director of the Leonardo Centre for Business on Society

Professor Zollo continued: “In the lead up to COP26, many companies will need to have a re-think about their current business models and ask whether they are serving the greater good of society, particularly in relation to the climate crisis. The Leonardo Centre is a global laboratory to explore and experiment with innovative logics of business. The Centre will bring together experts from environmental, social and medical science, with management, finance and engineering scholars to develop and leverage unique data for real world collaborative experimentation with businesses and institutions."

Devising plans for a low-emission world

A selection of speakers including Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, Sanda Ojiambo, CEO, UN Global Compact, and Lord Callanan, Minister for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility, UK Government, discussed the urgency of the Centre’s research.

Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance

Companies must set net zero emissions targets and devise plans for adapting their business models for a low-emission world, Mr Carney said at the event. He went on to urge businesses to come up with strategies which reflect a clear commitment to addressing the climate crisis in order to attract the investments they need to become more sustainable.

Meanwhile, Ms Ojiambo highlighted the parallel missions of the Leonardo Centre and UN Global Compact, as well as the importance of the role of business schools in developing a plan for a post-COVID-19 recovery that aligns with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sanda Ojiambo, CEO, UN Global Compact was another keynote at the event

“For a while, we’ve been telling each other that business as usual is not enough for a sustainable future...but we also need to start saying business school as usual is not enough,” she said.  

Rethinking capitalism

Three panel sessions explored the challenges facing businesses that want to pursue profit for societal impact: the systemic challenge, the business transition challenge and the leadership challenge.

“Business as usual is dead,” Peter Bakker, CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said at the opening of the first panel, before panelists including Professor Tommaso Valletti and Dr Marisa Miraldo of the Business School, went on to explore the problems with our current form of capitalism.

Professor Maurizio Zollo inside Imperial's Data Observatory

Paul Hudson, CEO of healthcare firm Sanofi and one of the keynote speakers at the event said: “Bringing business, policy makers and academia together to collaborate and propose new forms of enterprise for a better and more sustainable world is clearly a noble ambition. From my perspective, it starts by accepting that we have to reset some of our old beliefs, we have to un-learn and re-learn.”

The event concluded with a call to action from Professor Zollo, Mette Morsing, Head, UN Principle Responsible Management Education, and Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.


Evie Burrows-Taylor

Evie Burrows-Taylor
Business School


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