From the late 1990s onwards, Forum for the Future rapidly established a strong reputation for the work we do with the corporate sector. As a non-profit, our role is to challenge our business partners (as ‘critical friends’) to get them to raise their game, and embrace a fully integrated approach to sustainable development, addressing social, economic and governance issues as well as environmental concerns.

My own role in the Forum is to direct a number of those corporate partnerships, coordinating our work programmes with them, and urging them on to be much more outspoken in their advocacy of genuinely sustainable wealth creation.

Unilever was one of the first companies to come on board as a partner (back in 1997!), and our work with them today is as important and challenging as it was then.

We have tracked the progress of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan since 2010, seeing it as the most wide-ranging, imaginative and ambitious corporate sustainability initiative that we know of. Later this year, the USLP will be replaced by the Unilever Compass, bringing together business and sustainability commitments in one integrated strategy.

I’m also a member of the Unilever Sustainability Advisory Council, and act as the Independent Sustainability Advisor to CEO Alan Jope.

M&S launched its ‘Plan A’ initiative in 2007, and it’s now in its fourth generation! Forum for the Future has been involved in Plan A right from the start, working with the Plan A team and with a number of senior managers. Between 2011 and 2019, I co-chaired an International Advisory Board for M&S. I have regular meetings with the CEO, Steve Rowe, as I did with Sir Stuart Rose and Marc Bolland before that.

Our priority over the last couple of years has been to work with M&S colleagues in the Food business, addressing some critical sustainability issues around animal feeds, palm oil and other edible oils, and regenerative agriculture. M&S Clothing has also been a strong supporter of our Cotton 2040 initiative.

M&S’s Plan A Report 2020 (pdf)

Aviation is right up there in the list of controversial sectors when it comes to climate change – before the coronavirus crisis, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation were just going up and up. I’ve worked with Air New Zealand since 2013, as Chair of its Sustainability Advisory Panel, and really admire the integrity with which this company seeks to confront its challenges and responsibilities. It’s a tough call!

Air New Zealand Sustainability Report 2019 (pdf)

Air New Zealand Advisory Panel

Palm oil remains another deeply controversial sector, and for the last decade I’ve been intensely involved in making the case for genuinely sustainable palm oil – as the best way of squeezing out supplies of unsustainable palm oil. The world needs this product (the alternatives can be much worse), so we need to get this one right.

Sime Darby Plantation Sustainability Report 2019

I had a soft spot for Pukka’s wonderful teas long before Forum for the Future struck up a partnership with them! Since they were acquired by Unilever in 2017, I’ve chaired Pukka’s Mission Council, both to support and advise, and to keep them on the straight and narrow in terms of all their amazing sustainability and ethical commitments. There have been no problems on that score!

Pukka Herbs Sustainability Report 2018

Pukka Herbs Mission Council

Pukka Herbs Climate Emergency Declaration

Pre-COVID-19, I spent quite a bit of time in New Zealand, where Forum for the Future has a number of really good partnerships. Together with the late Sir Rob Fenwick, we helped set up a ground-breaking initiative called The Aotearoa Circle – made up of CEOs from both the public and the private sector – taking on the challenge of restoring New Zealand’s amazing natural environment.