Urgent Business: Five Myths Business Needs to Overcome to Save Itself – and the Planet

The seminal new book from the Centre for Responsible Business, Urgent Business, is now available to buy. This essential guide features the latest research, best practice and toolkits from the Centre, to give businesses the knowledge and practical means to play their part in addressing the big sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

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Podcast: How business can engage with the global goals and start saving the planet: February 2022

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The Responsible Business Manifesto

1. Make profits in pursuit of purpose rather than maximising profits >

Profits aren’t inherently irresponsible, but maximising them inevitably will be. That’s because such an approach prioritises financial gain over all the other social values and sustainability concerns of your business.

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2. Choose whether to grow or not and minimise any damage of expansion >

A business doesn’t have to grow to be successful. But if you choose to, do so responsibly by making sure your extra consumption is balanced with the needs of society and nature. 

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3. Balance the interests of all stakeholders and ecosystems, not just of the owners >

Responsible businesses engage with their employees, customers, suppliers, communities and wider society to understand and accommodate their needs and concerns as part of their purpose too.

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4. Use performance metrics that accurately measure impact and align with the Global Goals >

Only by using such metrics will a business actually improve its sustainability, as well as be more likely to avoid any undesirable or unintended consequences from its activities.

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5. Be fully transparent by using open-access reporting based on the Global Goals >

Open-platform reporting, like G17Eco, is the only way to make a business truly accountable to all its stakeholders and ensure sustainability standards are genuine and comparable.

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6. Use technology, including AI, to help avoid triggering unforeseen tipping points in our ecosystems >

Responsible businesses need to follow the science and make use of the latest monitoring and modelling technology in order to manage the radical uncertainty of environmental risks.

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7. Respect planetary boundaries and seek collaborative, circular solutions >

Rather than a ‘make-take-waste’ approach, responsible businesses should try to eliminate waste and pollution by reusing and recycling as much as possible, working in cross-sector partnerships with others to ‘close the loop’ on the life-cycle of their products.

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8. Work collectively to build society and nature’s resilience and avoid systemic risks >

Because sustainability is a holistic issue, responsible businesses need to do all they can to build up the resilience of the social and ecological systems that support them – from simply paying their fair share of local taxes to working with NGOs to protect global biodiversity.

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9. Understand the systemic nature of any problem to find its most effective solution >

Business leaders who take a systemic approach – looking at the wider impacts on wider society and the environment – are better able to anticipate, innovate and collaborate on issues of sustainability and know where to intervene most effectively.

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10. Give your consumers clear and trusted information to enable responsible choices >

Working with third-party certification schemes and using clear, traffic light-style labelling for social and environmental impacts will help consumers make more sustainable choices.

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11. Value the trust and support of the people you depend upon >

Trust is essential for delivering any programme of sustainability that must involve working with a range of internal and external stakeholders. So make trust a strategic priority with measurable KPIs on all critical relationships, and don’t wait for new policy or laws to raise your standards.

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12. Use your privilege to enhance society and nature  >

Responsible businesses embrace their role as citizens, using their platform and influence to support social justice campaigns, boycott and support suppliers with strong sustainability standards, and contribute to the welfare and infrastructure of society.

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13. Don’t reward or incentivise irresponsible behaviour  >

Recognising your staff’s values and motivating them through purpose, rather than profits, is more likely to encourage the kind of collaborative and innovative work that the complex problems of sustainability require.

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14. Create an inclusive culture that respects the dignity of staff and stakeholders >

Businesses with diverse workforces and employee representation in managerial decisions are shown to have increased productivity and resilience, making them more sustainable and appealing to staff and consumers alike.

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15. Prioritise the sustainability of the planet over your business >

Ultimately, the future of all human activity and our very existence is dependent on a healthy, life-sustaining Earth.

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Resources and Toolkits

Responsible governance

Business Tracker

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Align your business’ purpose and values with the Global Goals using Business in the Community’s pioneering tool.

Business Charter

Good business charter promo rowTake the first steps to becoming a responsible business with Sir Julian Richer’s 10-point charter.

Responsible accountability

Accounting for the Sustainable Development Goals

AICPA and CIMA promoFind out how to integrate the Global Goals into your business with AICPA and CIMA’s essential briefing for accountants and business leaders.

G17Eco platform

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Explore the power of open reporting with World Wide Generation’s ground-breaking monitoring platform that allows various reporting standards to be compared and integrated with the Global Goals.

Responsible production

Doughnut Economics

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Find out more about circular economics and systems thinking using Kate Raworth’s ingenious model.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol

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Learn how to do full-scope carbon accounting using a wealth of greenhouse gas calculation tools from the organisation that promotes the gold standard in the field.

Responsible consumption

Responsible consumption

Goodlife Goals

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Discover the Goodlife Goals and how they can help your business understand and promote the sustainable values of your consumers.


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Use these neat carbon footprint calculators to work out your personal carbon footprint and that of your business, with step-by-step advice on how to reduce it.

Responsible leadership

Responsible leadership

Race at Work Charter

RAW promo Read and sign up to Business in the Community’s seven-point charter to help improve equality of opportunity in the workplace.

The surprising truth about what motivates us

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Watch this great animation based on Dan Pink’s talk to the RSA about what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.

Case Studies: Responsible Business in Action

The Employee Owned Trust: Richer Sounds

  • The successful UK retailer became an Employee Owned Trust in 2019 after its founder, Julian Richer, sold 60% of his shares to the trust.
  • It marks the culmination of 40 years of responsible business practice that prioritised the welfare of its staff through paying a real living wage, opposing zero-hours contracts and offering year-round access to company-owned holiday homes.
  • The company is committed to becoming carbon neutral, free from conflict minerals and paying its fair share of tax.
  • Having spearheaded campaigns against zero-hours contracts and aggressive tax avoidance, Julian Richer has now launched the Good Business Charter accreditation scheme to encourage more responsible businesses and signpost customers to them.

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Case study - Richer Sounds shop front

The pioneering global corporate: Interface

  • The US-based international carpet tile manufacturer – whose European HQ is in Birmingham, UK – has been a world-leader in sustainable business practice since 1994 and is now aiming to reverse global warming.
  • In 1994, its pioneering late president, Ray Anderson, set the company the ‘Mission Zero’ challenge of taking nothing and doing no harm by 2020, which it achieved a year early.
  • Starting with cuts to the petroleum used in its carpet tiles, Interface went on to become carbon neutral across its operations, reclaiming and recycling old tiles, and reducing waste and water consumption by 90%.
  • In 2017, Interface developed the world’s first carbon negative carpet tile that absorbs greenhouse gas. It’s part of a broader experiment with ‘biomimicry’ to create a ‘Factory as Forest’ in Atlanta that provides the same natural services as a healthy woodland ecosystem.
  • Now its ‘Climate Take Back’ initiative aims to give back more than the company takes from the Earth, restoring and making a positive impact on the planet to help reverse global warming.

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Interface concept designers

The local social enterprise: Standing Tall

  • The Birmingham-based startup has been placing people experiencing homelessness into work since 2020.
  • Founder and sole-employee Christy Acton aims to work with 20 businesses to get 20 people into work each year.
  • The former shelter worker offers joined-up support for candidates, providing paid, real Living Wage work and accommodation over a six-month transition period.
  • The unique Standing Tall model is both scalable and transferable with plans to expand UK-wide.

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The disruptive co-operative: C’est qui le patron?!

  • Set up in 2019, the co-operative initially aimed to pay more to dairy farmers than big supermarkets and quickly became the forth-biggest milk brand in France.
  • The 7,500 member-owned company takes a customer-led approach, regularly surveying them to match products to their socially responsible values.
  • This collaborative venture reimagines the relationship between production and consumption, inviting consumers to be co-creators of products and supporters of a shared mission.
  • Having expanded into 30 other product lines, including steak and chocolate, the company has inspired and launched similar cooperatives in other countries around the world.

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How Heart of Midlothian FC broke the traditional ownership cycle

  • After being trapped in a ‘new owner – new hope – increased debt – disillusionment’ cycle since 1981 Heart of Midlothian FC recently became a fan-owned club.
  • Two crises had struck the club due to traditional business decisions being made by successive owners: the ‘stadium crisis’ in 2004 and the ‘Romanov crisis’ in 2012.
  • In 2013 Hearts was rescued by a coalition of an individual investor, Ann Budge, and The Foundation of Hearts, set up by dedicated fans to purchase the club and revolutionise how it was run.
  • Under the new ownership scheme the financial position of the club improved dramatically, including eliminating all long-term debt, construction of a new stand at Tynecastle Park Stadium, deals with problematic corporate sponsors cancelled, staff being paid a living wage and a reinvigorated role for Hearts in the wider community.

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The ocean stewardship initiative targeting systemic change: SeaBOS

  • The Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative was set up in 2016 and coordinated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.
  • SeaBOS aims to try and transform global seafood production and make it more sustainable, protecting the long-term health of the oceans.
  • The initiative connects ‘keystone actors’ in the global seafood system such as marine scientists, seafood companies, fisheries and those in aquaculture.
  • These keystone actors work together to tackle problems such as forced labour, marine plastics and overfishing by creating and lobbying for systemic measures like supranational regulation and traceability technologies.
  • It simultaneously seeks to address seven of the Global Goals, including life below water (Global Goal 14), decent work and economic growth (Global Goal 8) and responsible production and consumption (Global Goal 12).

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The Brazilian sugar producer with healthy soil as a KPI: Native

  • Native’s CEO, Leontino Balbo Jr, started turning his family’s sugar cane plantations into an organic, self-sustaining business in 1987.
  • Recognising its dependency on healthy soil, the firm banned chemical fertilisers, pesticides and burning and introduced practices that would work with nature and the local ecosystem’s services.
  • Native worked with scientists from universities and research institutions to identify natural indicators of soil health that it uses as key performance indicators for the business and its impact.
  • Over 20 years, the plantations’ soil fertility has improved markedly, groundwater sources have regenerated and biodiversity has ‘exploded’ – with crop yields also up by 20%.
  • By improving the resilience of the soil, the sugar cane has also become more resilient to pests and changing climate, surviving more harvests than conventionally-farmed cane.

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The clothing firm that defies ‘fast fashion’: Trigema

  • Owned and run by CEO Wolfgang Grupp for more than 50 years, the German textile firm prides itself on its strong support for the local community.
  • Unlike the majority of the textile industry, Trigema makes all of its clothes on site and only imports cotton, so it can have full control over every aspect of the manufacturing process.
  • As well as embracing organic cotton and circularity in its products, the company looks after its ‘Trigema Family’ of staff with fair wages, sponsored learning and guaranteed opportunities for their children.
  • Grupp sees sustainability as a logical way of distinguishing his brand from the competition and uses personal responsibility as a key part of his management approach.

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The megafactory that became a nature reserve: Toyota UK

  • The 58,000-acre car plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire, became a ‘Site of Biological Importance’ in 2007.
  • Working with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the firm’s employees and contractors help protect and enhance the plants and animals that recolonised the site.
  • A specially-created Biodiversity Action Plan has identified several species of conservation concern and five priority habitats, particularly around three man-made balancing lakes.
  • The site is now part of a scheme to reintroduce ospreys to the Trent Valley, with staff helping design, build and erect nesting platforms.
  • Burnaston is one of five factories worldwide to be designated a ‘Sustainable Plant’ by Toyota, which aims to minimise their impact on the environment.

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How Gap’s work on water resilience is liberating women in India

  • The US clothing company helped set up the Women + Water Alliance with USAID and other charities to improve access to water and women’s status in rural India.
  • Recognising its dependency on both water and women to grow cotton and manufacture fabric, Gap quickly realised the two were interconnected and helping one would benefit the other.
  • 70% of Gap’s value chain in India is reliant on women, who often have to walk for hours to collect water. By training these women to be water champions in their communities, the Alliance has helped one million people have better access to water.
  • Gap’s female employees and suppliers now have more time for work and education to help break out of the poverty cycle.

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How Giki is helping everyone take carbon footprints personally

  • The Giki app helps users scan retail products and see at a glance how sustainable they are.
  • Giki’s website also provides carbon calculators and tools for individuals, companies and groups to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • As a B-Corp and social enterprise, the company ‘walks the talk’ too, boasting a negative carbon footprint and employee policies that encourage no-flying and plant-based diets.
  • The husband-and-wife co-founders’ ambition is to help individuals to link their actions with big sustainability initiatives, like COP26 and the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan.

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The corporate that embraced science-based carbon targets: Capgemini

  • The French multinational became the first IT services company to set emissions limits ratified by the UN-backed Science-Based Targets initiative in 2016.
  • Its aim to slash carbon emissions per employee by 40% by 2030 was almost met by 2019, thanks in part to a big energy-saving drive with its network of datacentres.
  • Its newest and most sustainable datacentre in Swindon, Wiltshire, has achieved power savings of 91% against the industry average.
  • The company’s ‘Road to Net Zero’ plan aims to achieve carbon neutrality across its operations and supply chains by 2030 but doesn’t include historic emissions.

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Fair For You: The company reimagining buying on credit in the UK

  • Fair For You is a loan company that specialises in household essential goods, such as fridges, heaters, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners.
  • It tailors its flexible products towards people who would not be granted mainstream credit – the so-called subprime market.
  • Its model is customer first and not designed to generate a profit from other people’s financial struggles, measuring success in social value not profits.
  • The company recently launched a Food Club with Iceland supermarkets, providing interest-free £75 loans to help customers with the cost of living crisis

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St Basils: the charity taking a systemic approach to youth homelessness

  • The Birmingham-based charity wants to go beyond working with and alongside young people experiencing homelessness and try to prevent it from happening in the first place.
  • By tackling the structural as well as personal factors that drive homelessness and considering it as the ultimate exclusion, a more systemic and collaborative strategy has emerged.
  • St Basils ‘Positive Pathways frameworks’ is now being used by local and national governments to help ‘design out homelessness’ at a policy level.
  • Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of St Basils, explains why all of society, including business, has a vital and collaborative role in such a systemic strategy.

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