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sustainability


NOW FUTURE IS


A major summit on corporate responsibility was the cen- trepiece of this year’s Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) National Corporate Responsibility Week in November. The focus of the summit in the Aviva Stadium on 18 November was how companies could transform themselves into sustainable businesses. “We decided to look at how corporate responsibility


can help transform companies from very old, traditional models into dynamic future models of sustainability,” explained Tina Roche, chief executive of BITCI. “What we’re trying to do is look at what the major companies are doing.” Marks & Spencer is one of those companies, said Roche,


and delegates heard fromSir Stuart Rose in one of his last speaking engagements before he steps down in January as chairman of the retail group. It was under Rose’s previous role as CEO that M&S launched Plan A in January 2007, setting out 100 commitments to achieve in five years, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’smost sustainable major retailer. He was knighted in 2008 for services to the retail industry and corporate social responsibility.


No Plan B “Can a sustainable business be a profitable business?” Rose asked delegates. “Well the pure and simple truth is yes it can, but as we know the truth is very rarely pure


– and never simple.” He says he was conscious of the economic challenges, but


was determined to make the case for business continuing to lead on sustainability in the current climate. “It’s a very tough time, but you’ve got to look beyond that, particu- larly when you’re talking about sustainability. “Until the Eighties I think it’s fair to say that business


leaders used the word sustainability to mean a company’s ability to increase its earnings steadily,” says Rose. “But in 1987 Norway’s former prime minister Gro Brundtland redefined sustainability by saying it should be looked at as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to actuallymeet their own needs. I think that’s very close to the mark. “It was very much our thinking when we tried to set up


our plan, which we then subsequently called Plan A. We knew back at the turn of the millennium that we had to respond to the changing environment. There was no alter- native, no Plan B. “The Plan A plan was drafted with 100 commitments on


social issues, environmental issues, ethical challenges – whether it’s climate, waste, recycling, sustainable raw materials, fair partnership. “The good news is by the beginning of 2010, we had


achieved 70 of themandmore importantly we were getting financial returns from Plan A. In June of this year we


‘Clearly there’s a moral need to do what we need to do, but if you can also say there’s an economic benefit, that’s a win- win: I’m not embarrassed about saying it’


Winter 2010 Irish Director 47


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