Lancaster experts tackle businesses’ sustainability challenges

A group of people sitting around a low table on comfortable chairs while sipping coffee and talking

Businesses from across the region brought their sustainability and family business challenges to the table for Lancaster University Management School’s inaugural AIMday (Academic Industry Meeting day).

The Sustainability and Stewardship AIMday was run in conjunction with the Centre for Family Business and the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business.

It brought together business leaders and academic experts to address some of the most pressing issues affecting companies across the North West, including how to encourage sustainable activity across supply chains; how to measure and improve sustainability credentials; and how to combat greenwashing.

Representatives from 10 businesses – from major national brands to regional SMEs – presented their challenges to experts from LUMS, and Lancaster’s Schools of Computing and Communications (SCC), and Engineering.

The companies came from across multiple sectors, including homeware, publishing, the food and drink industry, and engineering and manufacturing. They were: Lakeland, Arden Dies, HMG Paints, Addison Engineering, The Plastic Bottles Company, GA Pet Food Partners, Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, Cicerone Press, Rowley Estates, and McClures.

The 27 academics, from a range of disciplines and with diverse backgrounds – both as researchers and as business practitioners, several in family firms – engaged in one-hour workshops with the business representatives, each focused on a particular issue.

Most of the questions related to sustainability, with several specific to family businesses, and they set the agenda for the day. Sessions covered retaining a company culture and values as a business grows, and how to start a responsible carbon journey.

Questions were matched to academic expertise from multiple areas of the University, enabling the groups to hold discussions on potential solutions to current and future challenges.

Professor Jan Bebbington, Director of the Pentland Centre, said: “Collaboration between the Pentland Centre and the Centre for Family Business has great potential, because family businesses have sustainability at their heart.

“We have seen before, and have observed again through the AIMday, that family businesses are willing to have the types of conversations that need to be had around sustainability – which is a globally and locally significant issue.

“Academia and businesses are natural partners. Through the AIMday, we have a format that allows ideas to come to the surface and be shared. We all learn from each other. I have learned about businesses I have not come across before and have been able to share ideas and pick up on the ideas of others.”

AIMdays were developed by Uppsala University, in Sweden, and have been successfully used by major European and Australian universities. Professor Maria Piacentini, Associate Dean for Research in LUMS, is optimistic the first LUMS event can lead to further collaborations between the researchers and businesses involved.

She said: “Our first AIMday was a great success. It brought together so many companies with their own unique challenges – but also issues and questions that could be appreciated by many of their contemporaries.

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to build on the active conversations we have had by continuing to work with the businesses in longer-term partnerships that address their concerns around sustainability and family business.”

LUMS are looking to work with more businesses across the region to help them address the challenges they are facing. Any companies who would like to take part in future AIMdays can contact Partnership Development Manager Stephen King by email to or

People sat around a small table talking

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