UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Blog: ISR in conversation with…David Bent on business, policy and transformation

13 April 2023

"Accept today's realities, growing tomorrow’s possibilities" - read Dr Sam Tang's reflections on our recent 'ISR In Conversation..." event with David Bent.

Tall building and trees

At the second UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources "In Conversation..." seminar, on 29 March 2023, David Bent (UCL Honorary Lecturer; Edmund Hillary Fellow; Senior Associate at Skating Panda; and Chair of the EIRIS Foundation) talked about what transformation and state collaboration is needed for corporate sustainability to play a truly positive role in future wellbeing.

Over the last 20 years, David’s work has allowed him to observe how leaders in corporate sustainability have shifted from asking questions about “why we should act on climate change” to “how should we act on climate change”. According to David, this shift in leadership thinking has been reflected in the shift of small scale, poorly resourced sustainability specialist jobs in a business organisation to widely distributed tasks in the day jobs of many people, with each delivering a specific element of the sustainability strategy.

For David, while businesses are transitioning, transformation of societies is necessary, inevitable and unprecedented, and nigh-on-unimaginable in the current paradigm. For transformation to occur, David argued that we need to learn our way towards it – whereby catalytic governments orientate businesses and active citizens towards ‘security for all through renewal’.

In response to David, the ISR’s Dr Catherine Willan reflected on how business and societies progress to sustainability is both too fast and too slow, and reiterated one of David’s arguments, that systems change is essential. Catherine highlighted some of UCL ISR’s research on big challenges, including circular economy, critical minerals, and the consequences of green transitions on jobs. She also emphasised our teaching, including the new Business and Sustainability MSc that aims to train future leaders of business and society, and two well established MSc courses (Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment MSc, and Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc), with graduates working in business, policy, NGOs and academia.

The conversation was then steered by questions from the audience, which discussed: whether we are recycling old ideas; what type of government is needed for transformation; how we need stories to create change; whether we can truly achieve security for all; and how we can action change in our workplace and communities.

Join the conversation on building a sustainable future now.

Sunny cloudscape behind rainforest
Register now for our next "In Conversation..."  event with Emily Cox on public perceptions of carbon removal, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm on the 19 April 2023.  check out our other upcoming events, and join our mailing list for future event invitations and updates delivered to your inbox. 

Join the conversation on building the sustainable future now

More details can be found here.