22 October 2015 12:04

Leading climate change academic, Professor Gail Whiteman, alongside Stephen Rubin, Chair of the Pentland Group, Peter Bakker, the CEO of the World Council for Sustainable Business and Martin Chilcott, CEO of 2degrees, gathered in London to launch The Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business to a corporate audience.

At the launch on 27 October they called for courageous leadership and argued that world leaders, global CEOs and international organisations need to more courageous in their decision making in order to change the direction of business.

Ahead of COP21 in Paris, the event aimed to challenge senior business leaders in London to think carefully about how truly challenging their decisions are, and how a little more courage could go a long way toward making big changes.

Drawing on diverse expertise from the Lancaster Environment Centre and Lancaster University Management School and supported by The Rubin Foundation Charitable Trust for five years, the Pentland Centre 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.

Stephen Rubin, Chairman of Pentland Group plc, said: “We are excited by this opportunity to facilitate academic research through a commercial lens and have high hopes that this centre will emerge as a thought-leader in this fascinating and important field.”

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 is 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 will also be continuing ongoing work studying Arctic sea-ice change, bringing a team of researchers with her to Lancaster.

A Lancaster event to mark the opening of the Pentland Centre will be held on 18 November with speakers Andy Rubin, Chair of the Pentland Brand, Rodney Irwin, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Gail Whiteman, Rubin Chair and Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business.

Following this launch event, there will be a public lecture from 6.30pm-8pm which forms a part of Lancaster University’s Public Lecture Series. "How can companies be a force for good?" will explore the burning questions around sustainability, ethics and business.