currently hosting Jazz FM’s daily Business Breakfast show. He is Britain’s longest serving television Business and Economics Editor.
Jess Ainley, Senior Environmental and Sustainability Manager, Little Freddie, the organic baby food company, where she has created and leads the implementation of her organisation’s sustainability strategy known as Little Freddie’s Big Green Plan.
Dr David Greenfield FCIWM FRSA CEnv, External Affairs, Europe, Circular Economy Club (CEC), an international network of over 4,000 members from over 130 countries. CEC’s activity is global, non-profit and free to join. CEC’s mission is to bring the circular economy to every corner of the world.
Anita Longley FRSA, FICRS, Chair of the Institute of CR and Sustainability, (ICRS), the organisation dedicated to supporting CR and sustainability professionals to be brilliant at all stages of their careers.
"The circular economy is not about a particular sector, it's multisector, it's about strategic thinking and from my personal view it's about supporting the delivery of sustainable development goals; in particular, number 12."
The concept of the circular economy – a system of continually reusing and recycling resources – may not be new, but there has never been so much momentum behind accelerating its adoption. That is why the second event in the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange series for 2019/2020 proved so timely – and so popular with Midtown-based business leaders, judging by the sell-out audience that descended on the Goldsmiths’ Centre for the debate.
Indeed, as one of the speakers, Dr David Greenfield, Head of External Affairs Europe and London Organiser of the Circular Economy Club (CEC), put it, it is nothing short of “inspirational” how many start-ups as well as large corporations are now undertaking circular economy programmes.
Jess Ainley should know. As Senior Environmental and Sustainability Manager for the Clerkenwell-based Little Freddie, an organic baby food brand founded only five years ago, she is at the coalface at a Midtown business that is growing rapidly thanks to a strong sustainability proposition at its core. Little Freddie has developed its Big Green Plan, which has three pillars at its core – “packaging, planet and people”. From a scheme that rewards consumers for recycling their products in over 100 Sainsbury’s stores to providing every customer with a means of recycling their products by paying for postage and packaging, Little Freddie works hard to make its circular economy solution as easy for customers as possible.
Striving to make the company the most sustainable baby food business in the UK also plays well with current or prospective employees such as younger workers, Jess adds, who increasingly want to work for businesses that are embracing a circular agenda and can demonstrate a social purpose.
Fellow speaker Anita Longley, Chair of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), agrees. Echoing comments made at the first event of the MBIE 2019/20 series, Anita noted that consumers’ and employees’ expectations are changing, so businesses need to do more to demonstrate their purpose beyond profit. Drawing on almost 30 years’ experience as a sustainability professional, she also highlighted how the SDGs, developed in 2015, have helped to create a “common language” and a “clear framework” for businesses, a contrast to earlier efforts to drive sustainable development solutions.
This also helps to win over potentially sceptical decision-makers in the boardroom, Dr Greenfield told the event. The language used and solutions offered in a business context are key to convincing boards of the need to change, he said.
Our moderator, the broadcaster Michael Wilson, asked the panellists what rising levels of public concern about climate change and waste management meant in practice. Whilst the public focus on sustainability clearly represents a positive mindset shift, all speakers agreed that businesses needed to respond by making real impact rather than greenwashing. Jess discussed the unintended consequences of knee jerk reactions to meet customer demands, and Anita reinforced the need to focus on the detail to ensure that new solutions are based on informed understanding.
The speakers all agreed that when it comes to responsible consumption and production the supply chain is key. Emphasising the importance of collaboration, the panel offered ways of identifying sustainability challenges in the supply chain – understanding suppliers’ needs, working with them by setting bespoke and realistic targets, and supporting them through challenges.
Ultimately, while profit will always be the imperative, the speakers agreed that social and environmental purpose was no less important. As Anita put it, growth at all costs and short termism is going out of fashion, replaced by a focus on a structured, sustainable future.
The third event of the four-part series, titled “Discriminating: Is Diversity the Mother of all Creativity?”, will take place on 27 November 2019. To learn more or register, click here: https://bee-midtown.com/mbie/discriminating/.