The Sustainable Leaders Forum 2014: The Ethical Value Review

The Sustainable Leaders Forum is an annual event that focuses on bringing together many professionals looking to move beyond environmental objectives, deliver transformational change in society and create more value within their organisation.

When I was invited to attend by Sue Jueno (Founder of My Green Directory) this year, I was filled with the anticipation to learn what new things are working in the world of sustainability, meet like-minded people and find potential collaborative opportunities to catalyse transformation.

On reflection of the whole day I would say that there were two speakers that really stood out for me: 

Kumi Naidoo:  Executive Director of Greenpeace

When I heard Kumi was due to deliver the opening speech to a room full of business leaders and consultants, I had a number of scenarios play out in my mind. It could have gone various ways, heckling and food thrown at the stage, a mass exit, silent but cynical or listening with intrigue and possibilities to align!

I have to say I was impressed as Kumi started to deliver his very powerful and emotive speech, talking very openly about how they have won some battles but is still losing the war, he calls out for faster methods towards protecting our fragile planet.

One example given was whereby Shell had announced its plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2015, Greenpeace carried out a full campaign asking Lego not to renew its contract with the oil giant. The campaign went on for three months leading to over 1 million people worldwide emailing Lego requesting them to act.  Lego understood that in order to be a caring responsible company it had to listen to its consumers and finally agreed to separate from Shell and team up with Greenpeace in to spread the message #savethearctic.

One statement that really stuck with me was that “Greenpeace were more concerned about business sustainability than you are” (referring to the business community).  Kumi gave an example of how a fishing company could no longer sell fish if the oceans were completely destroyed.  The only way to overcome this challenge is to “liberate climate change” as it is impossible to be separate from peace and economic success.

Kumi calls businesses friends but will not hesitate to call them to account if they are found to be misbehaving!

Dr. Steve Waygood
: Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors

What I found refreshing while listening to Dr Steve Waygood was that he did not stand on stage to talk about all the great things that Aviva Investments are doing, like most other companies throughout the day.  I have to say, I learnt a lot while listening to Steve explain how financial investment and the stock exchange worked.

Steve asked the audience a very poignant question: “How many of you know if your fund manager promotes sustainability through the way that it votes on your behalf at the AGM’s?”

Not a single person in a room full of sustainability experts had their hand up!  I found that this was a powerful statement showing us all how ‘we’ are not taking responsibility of where our pensions and other investments are going and how it is left blindly in the hands of the fund managers and  brokers..  Why are these people not being held accountable?

We all know businesses hold influence and if I knew my money was being used to invest in unethical companies I would be horrified. It made me realise that there was a huge gap when it comes to educating the masses and enabling them to utilise their influence to ensure their money is being invested into companies they believe in.  How many of you have asked your fund managers how they voted at the last AGM? And how many of you are planning to ask now?...

To find out more I would encourage you to read the following white paper published by Aviva, A Roadmap for Sustainable Capital MarketsHow can the UN Sustainable Development Goals harness the global capital markets?

There was plenty of opportunity to network and meet interesting people and listening to a variety of perspectives and I am excited to see what action is taken beyond this event to continue to grow and innovative businesses with an ‘out of the box’ thinking attitude to work towards sustaining our planet.


Review by Deap Khambay, Managing Director, Ethical Value Ltd

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01 Dec 2014

By Ethical Value