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Business Leaders from India gathering in London to discuss sustainability PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Monday, 28 July 2014 13:16

Business leaders, opinion formers and policy makers will assemble in London in October for a conference organized by the Institute of Directors of India.

IoD LogoTheir 2014 London Global Convention will attract UK Government ministers, UK-based business leaders and academics as well as a large contingent from across India and the rest of the world.   As they fly in they have preparatory reading for delegates set out by that consistent supporter of Anglo-Indian business development, Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas.

Delegates are travelling to London to study both corporate Governance and Sustainability. That second, more recent, Sustainability theme has shot to the top of many boardroom agendas. 

Wider public and media perceptions may link Sustainability to green sandal-wearing climate-change activists.  The wider public is less likely to understand corporate business imperatives and, even if they did, they’d probably assume that big business is geared to oppose policies that might constrain their freedoms to continue despoiling our planet.  If Bernard Levin was still alive he would dismiss such an assumption as ‘one of the popular substitutes for five minutes thought’.

Headline writers may not yet see a market for stories about responsible business attitudes but sustainability is on the business agenda for blindingly obvious reasons. 

The clock is ticking in various arenas: 

  • The challenge of controlling bacteria that are increasingly resistant to our current generation of antibiotics.
  • An urgent need to find alternatives for the increasingly rare minerals required by hardware like mobile phones that underpin much of our way of life.
  • Strong pressure for more-circular economic systems designed to maximise reuse and minimise waste of materials.
  • Systems developers and researchers are busy envisioning data-driven transaction and decision-making networks to serve ‘life as we don’t yet know it.’

Business engagement in these issues is already strong and enlightened universities and business schools are modifying their curricula to reflect the new realities. 

Sustainability challenges our governance arrangements and board leadership. Will they facilitate and enable the responses that are required to cope with multiple challenges?  The individual and collective performance of directors has been an issue ever since the establishment of limited liability companies resulted in a separation of ownership and control and the appointment of directors. 

So can we now hope for clatter of penny-dropping moments in October?

Baroness Verma Baroness Verma would certainly hope so.  Representing the UK at the Global Convention in her capacity as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Sandip Verma was born in Amritsa, in the North West of India and is, for the UK, a great example of how immigration is inward investment.

In his ‘Theme Paper’ for the Global Convention, Prof Coulson-Thomas, raises many pointedly sharp questions – questions that get to the heart of corporate practice and board-level attitudes.

“Sometimes the vested interests in additional requirements are easier to identify than the 'customers' who might benefit from them. Producing ever more lengthy, detailed and complex accounts on grounds such as “improving accountability” or “better reporting” may generate extra revenues for accountants but how much of what is produced is actually read? Are shareholders taking more informed decisions or are they ticking boxes to receive the leaflets or brochures constituting shorter versions on offer? Do accounting requirements distort decision making?”

The Institute of Directors (India) is developing a seriously strong agenda and, in bringing that 2014 agenda to London, again typifies the value of inward investment – if not immediately in monetary terms most certainly in the form of intellectual capital.


Notes and References

 The London Global Convention  (28th – 31st October), London.  Baroness Verma is chair of the convention's programme committee.  Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, and Trade and Investment Minister, Ian Livingston are also expected to attend the event.

 The theme paper “Boards to Lead: Effective Corporate Governance and Sustainability” by Prof. Coulson-Thomas is available as a PDF download.  It explores how best to encourage innovation and responsibility, address concerns, achieve a better balance between costs and benefits and re-establish board leadership.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, a member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich, holds a portfolio of board, public and academic appointments and has helped companies in over 40 countries to improve board and corporate performance. Author of over 50 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. His latest books and reports are available from

Readers interested in sustainability are encouraged to visit a recent Groupe Intellex editorial ‘A few words about the Circular Economy’.

Back in March,(2014) the Schumpeter column of The Economist reported on corporate attitudes to sustainability in 'A Green Light' .  



Last Updated on Saturday, 09 August 2014 12:30

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