Warburtons sustainability leader shares insight with undergraduates

Michael McDermott and Brett Warburton with students

09 November 2016

Students had a chance to learn about the practical side of sustainability this week when Michael McDermott, Corporate Sustainability Manager at Warburtons, came to share his insights.

Mr McDermott gave a two-hour talk to the class as part of the OWT230: Management and the Natural Environment: Ethics and Sustainability module, during which he explained the company’s sustainability strategy, how it was implemented and why it was important to them.

For Warburtons, a family firm which goes back five generations, their aim is to continue to approach decisions today with future generations in mind, he explained.

Mr McDermott talked about the importance of intrapreneurship in getting staff to engage with sustainability, as well as outlining some of the initiatives undertaken within Warburtons, including school visits in which staff go out to teach children about health and wellbeing, and commitments to reduce food waste and greenhouse gases.

He went on to expand on the different aspects of the firm’s sustainability strategy, which encompasses both environmental and societal aspects.

“We employ a certain sort of person at Warburtons,” said Mr McDermott, explaining how their interview process puts a lot of focus on a candidate’s values.

“It isn’t telling people how to do it. It isn’t pushing, it’s pulling people along with you.”

The Sustainability Manager was joined by Executive Director Brett Warburton, who added that staff stay with Warburtons for a long time and offered his thoughts on why. “When you come to Warburtons you realise the business thrives on their values,” he said.

“They like to work for an organisation that shares their values as individuals.

“We do see ourselves as one big family.”

Mr Warburton concluded that without the right people, with the right values, a strategy will not succeed.

The lecture was well received by students, including Noe Cicly who said that it was great to find out about the practical side of sustainability strategy.

“It’s very useful to us,” he said.

Frederike Kress added: “I thought it was amazing because it’s one thing to learn everything on a theoretical basis, but it’s completely different to see how sustainability is implemented in a business. It’s great to see what businesses do and what their approach is.”

Lecturer Dr Alison Stowell said: “Gaining insight into Warburtons 140-year history, their values and commitment to a sustainable future was truly inspiring. Learning about sustainability in practice is an important part of educating our students future ambitions, as potentially our future is in their hands."