Lessons from the Better Business Summit 2024

Picture of Laura Adams

Laura Adams

What’s new in 2024 for business sustainability strategies? How widespread are science-based targets? What will this year hold for B Corp consulting and advancing sustainable procurement?

A Grain Sustainability team attended the Better Business Summit on 17th and 18th January 2024. The Manchester weather was kind to us, providing a crisp sunny backdrop to the conference. We left feeling inspired, challenged, and galvanised for the year ahead.

The impeccably planned event, run by Hannah Cox and the team at Better Not Stop, provided helpful updates on current developments in the sustainability sector. It also created the space to explore broader themes on how to enable positive change with a lasting impact.

Below are three lessons that really resonated with us and which are transferable to any organisation interested in sustainability.

Nature needs representation in the room

Cosmetics brand Faith in Nature made headlines in Autumn 2022 by appointing a person to its board to represent nature. The Better Business Summit echoed this, ensuring nature was present for every panel discussion, whether dressed as a mermaid, woodland animal or, in one case, a tree in a gag and chains. A playful yet sobering feature, it reminded those present of how the natural world is so often taken for granted, its resources used by business with little acknowledgment or regard of the consequences.

There is also much quiet wisdom in the natural world — should we think to stop and observe — that we could apply to our own workplaces to encourage wellbeing. The natural rhythms of the seasons, for example, allow growth, productivity, and creativity to exist in balance with deliberate and valued periods of rest, recuperation, and regeneration.

We hope that the physical presence of nature at the Better Business Summit 2024 will have sown a few seeds (so to speak) by encouraging organisations to more proactively recognise the value of nature — for example, by committing to safeguard and stand up for the environment and biodiversity through strong policies, procedures and targets.

How to communicate sustainability…without alienating people

John Brown of Don’t Cry Wolf delivered a memorable session called ‘Too poor to be green?’ with a skilful mix of humour and provocation. He shared research undertaken by his organisation showing that, despite best intentions, much communication by the sustainability industry to date has served to antagonise and patronise those on lower incomes rather than offer inspiration for a better common future. He argued that people need to make a stand through their voting decisions — not through spending money — as sustainability is a deeply political economic issue.

The importance of political engagement was a recurring theme throughout the whole summit, including predictions that we will see more organisations making political stands to advance their sustainability agendas. We were also reminded of our power as individual constituents and how we can easily engage with our MPs on issues of the environment and human rights. Businesses and citizens alike can start to think where they have influence to wield in a political context that aligns with their purpose and values.

Photo of sustainability communications chart from the Better Business Summit 2024
John Brown shares how sustainability communications often fail to strike the right tone.

The power of positivity in sustainability

Grain’s very own Madelyn Postman spoke on a panel, ‘How to be a Silent Whistleblower: can you truly create change from the inside?’ together with Nature as well as Simon Ursell of Tyler Grange. It was moderated by Ngunan Adamu. Madelyn highlighted the power of positive messaging in sustainability — there are actions that all individuals can make that make a real impact. An example is the expansion of global grassroots education and behaviour change programmes, such as Carbon Literacy training and Climate Fresk.

The Climate Fresk workshop helps people understand the science of climate change through a three-hour interactive session and has reached almost 1.5m people to date. If you believe that information is the antidote to greenwashing and that the most powerful tool available to people is their voice, programmes like these can disseminate information in a powerful way to people who can in turn become ambassadors for change.

To find out more about Grain’s Climate Fresk and Carbon Literacy training, please get in touch.

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