Chair of new Pentland Centre to get sustainability message to boardrooms

Gail Whiteman

01 September 2015

Lancaster University has appointed a leading professor to chair its new research centre for sustainability in business.

Professor Gail Whiteman joins Lancaster after more than a decade at the Rotterdam School of Management to become the Rubin Chair of Lancaster’s new Pentland Centre.

Straddling Lancaster Environment Centre and Lancaster University Management School, the centre, which is being supported by The Rubin Foundation Charitable Trust for five years, will look at environmental sustainability, ethical supply chains, and how business can be a force for good.  The centre is named after the Pentland Brands group of fashion companies, which includes household names such as Berghaus and Speedo.

Professor Whiteman, who is originally from Toronto, Canada, comes to Lancaster following a distinguished career in the private sector – originally working in advertising and marketing – and academia.

Professor Whiteman sees the role of the Pentland Centre to act as a link between science and business – to help business leaders to understand what science is telling us about climate change and social issues and getting this message across in terms they understand – such as economic value and leadership narratives.

“The Pentland Centre is trying to help businesses understand the ethical impacts of their supply chains – Pentland was an early mover on this,” she says.

“My over-riding mission has to be to link the best minds in science and the best minds in business and local people to help deliver positive change,” she says. “It is about boiling down the messages to make the science more understandable for leaders in business.

“The messages need to tie in with their economic motivations as well. We are living in a market-based world. It has to be about offering solutions – not just criticisms.

“Our role is to support those businesses that are already convinced that climate change is an issue,” she says. “We can provide the most progressive companies with the knowledge and solutions to support what they are doing.”

Professor Whiteman, who spent time living with the Cree – indigenous Canadians – as part of her PhD at Canada’s Queens School of Business, will also be continuing ongoing work studying Arctic sea-ice change, bringing a team of researchers with her.

The Pentland Centre is being officially launched this autumn and Professor Whiteman says she is looking forward to working with colleagues across multiple faculties at Lancaster in order to scale-up business solutions for sustainability.