Project Description


January 2022

B2B Strategy

James Myers
James MyersHead of Strategy

21 things I learned about sustainability

Just finished the Cambridge University sustainability leadership course. It’s like an MSc, just crammed into an absurdly short period of time.

At the beginning many become a little depressed by the scale of the challenge but most finish the course more optimistic.

This is my 21 point summary. It could have been more but 21 seemed like a good number. This won’t save you the course fee but hopefully it will make you want to want to find out more. (if you want a version with links let me know)

  • 1. The planet has a problem. It’s been obvious for a lot longer than you think.

  • 2. It will cost more to fix than avoid.

  • 3. For lots of people (and nations), environmental considerations are secondary to the basics, like food, housing, health, day to day survival.

  • 4. People are unresponsive to doomsday narratives. 

  • 5. Environment. Ecological diversity. Economic inclusion. Profit. Consumerism. Materialism. Growth. Financial short-termism. Limited natural resources. Climate change. Sustainability. It is all part of an interconnected system.

  • 6. We need to redefine growth and productivity for the world we want to live in.

  • 7. Free markets won’t solve our challenges. They are inefficient, inequality is baked in, environmental impact is not accounted for. 

  • 8. The solution demands collaboration between governments, competitors and regulators, across borders and along supply chains. (a bit like the pandemic)

  • 9. The purpose of business is a more important conversation than the purpose of a business.

  • 10. Financial markets are positioning themselves as ‘enforcers of the green order’. It is probably going to hurt soon. 

  • 11. Sustainability offers a source of competitive advantage but too many businesses are playing sustainability. It is probably going to hurt soon.

  • 12. Businesses will transform quicker if sustainability is part of the business strategy to increase profits, revenue or market share.

  • 13. Or to put it alternatively, change will be slow in your business if you rely on a moral or ethical argument because not everyone cares as much as you do.

  • 14. Businesses can’t tick all 17 sustainability boxes, so focus on what you can change, explain where it is difficult, and what is going to take time. That is corporate responsibility.

  • 15. Marketing has an important role to play. It can make the topic and your commitments understandable to your customers.

  • 16. Your biggest risk is unintentional greenwashing.

  • 17. We need to change perceptions about re-cycling. Consumerism, materialism, and a love of brand new got us here in the first place.

  • 18. Assuming sustainable products are more expensive and sub-standard betrays a lack of imagination. Embrace sustainability by design, innovation is what businesses do well.

  • 19. The circular economy and regenerative business models need to be taught to every child, not just a few A level and university students.

  • 20. A future offering lower energy costs, cleaner environment and greater social equality doesn’t sound at all bad.

  • 21. Listen to ‘Wear Sun Screen’ again.

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