Celebrating Failure

Monday, December 02, 2013

18:00 - 20:15

Most business leaders say they have learned more failure than success. But somehow sustainability seems to have got itself into a position where it has to be “shiny”, which raises a big question. Is a fear of failure stopping us from innovating?

On the 2nd December we lifted the lid on failure, with four contestants being candid on what hasn’t worked. Our 'Idea Idol' format returned, hosted by the indomitable Ed Gillespie, with the audience determining the best attitude to failure.

We heard tales of woe from;

  • Trewin Restorick, as he explained his “epic failure” in launching Ergo, the UK’s first ever sustainable lifestyle magazine. Worryingly, he still thinks it’s brilliant.

  • Sue Riddlestone, who co-authored the ridiculously ambitious sustainability bid strategy for 2012, on the goals that were missed in creating the greenest Games ever.

  • Matt Sexton, as he underwent group therapy by telling us about turbulent times spent selling wind turbines in B&Q.  We heard why he has no regrets

  • Richard Turner, on why the solar kerosene lamp was a social “clanger”, but how it gave SolarAid the insight to develop the successful solar light.

Our judges / therapists were;

  • Dax Lovegrove of the WWF, who sought to out-camp Strictly’s Bruno

  • Charmaine Coutinho of Good Energy, one of the UK’s most successful energy companies, launched in response to the failure of climate policy.

  • Robert Philips of Jericho Chambers, an expert on trust and transparency.

The message was serious. We need to talk about the “F” word



Charmaine Coutinho Good Energy

See bio

Dax Lovegrove WWF

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Ed Gillespie Futerra

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Matt Sexton B&Q

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Richard Turner SolarAid

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Robert Phillips Jericho Chambers

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Sue Riddlestone OBE BioRegional

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Trewin Restorick Global Action Plan

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Round Tables

Setting targets – is it worth risking failure?

Some argue a case for an element of “stretch” or “unknown” in sustainability targets in order to trigger innovation. Not knowing how to achieve a sustainability target forces and organisation to seek out new solutions, to innovation. But what happens if you miss those targets? This table will consider when to risk failure in hitting targets, and how to communicate this risk.

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Our main discussion was around the link between the ambition of a target and innovation it triggers. We had a variety of different organisations and approached to target setting around the table, but there was a clear agreement between all present that there needs to be an element of “unknown” in targets in order to trigger innovation.

The challenges
Target setting in sustainability is more complex than other business areas, with the following highlighted;
• The issues change in importance over time. Carbon was a big issue in 2007, and companies who set aggressive targets back then may be regretting them now.
• The solutions change. Carbon Neutral was popular a few years ago, but none of our participants favour it today because of the questionable role of offsetting
• Being a publicly held company can have an impact on target setting. Publicly traded companies tend to have shorter timeframe. IKEA’s 2020 target of generating all of its energy from renewable sources was considered unrealistic for a public company.

The solution
We did not come up with a one-size fits all solution for target setting, but a number of solutions emerged.
1. Companies who are serious about change should consider 15 year targets, with the first 5 years being focused on low hanging fruit and subsequent 10 years on investment.
2. An alternative solution that was proposed was a Vision (indicative end game) accompanied by a roadmap (3 year targets). This provides flexibility in a changing world.
3. It is OK to miss targets. We discussed how M&S are behind on less than 10% of their 180 targets, and it would be acceptable for them to drop some of these with time.
4. We dwelled on the importance of getting the materiality of targets right in the first place. You need to understand the relative importance of various issues to different stakeholder groups, and then assess the importance of the various stakeholder groups.
5. We touched on paybacks, on the basis that one can’t determine the degree of stretch without determining an appetite for paybacks. One participant explained how their organisation has agreed to longer paybacks on environmental and sustainability investments than any other areas of business. A dedicated internal sustainability helps, but is often the first thing to be cut in tough times.

In keeping with the theme of the evening, we failed to discuss in any detail how we effectively communicate failure to hit target.

BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal

Culturally it’s difficult in the sustainability team to set targets that you don’t know how to meet
Setting BHAGs when dealing with public money
Mentality that you can’t innovate in a downturn
Companies don’t always see the economic benefit of their work so improved environmental performance is not achieved or targeted because others will benefit

Know some targets you can achieve to maintain morale. This builds credibility and helps to remove the tree hugger image
Setting targets starts a conversation
Internal ownership and internal engagement is very important
Can set personal, undeclared BHAGs to motivate and push the case internally

Failing to hit some targets can impact pay of Board members
The sustainability team is the only department that is setting targets (e.g. BHAGs) that it probably won’t achieve which reinforces a negative image
Business models will have to change if you set BHAGs and the sustainability team isn’t employed to change business models
Need to lose the sustainability talk

Measure the difference in performance from what you would have achieved by hitting a conservative target and what you have achieved by going for a BHAG
Find common goals between sustainability targets and other areas of the business to increase uptake – identify the co-benefits

1. Anglian Water - 10 BHAGs set for itself
2. Anonymous – setting a conservative target for CO2 reduction of 25% when they know that theoretically 50% is achievable
3. Kier – Setting targets in three stages: (i) achievable (ii) beyond compliance (iii) world class
a. This way if you don’t hit world class you have still achieved something

Water #fail?

"In an uncertain future, today’s water strategies are set to fail”. There is a growing school that sees current strategy as being focused on water efficiency, when they should be looking at water stewardship. A recent CDP survey found that 6% of organisations are engaging with local communities on water risks. Does the table agree with this statement?

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• Difficulties on setting long term targets – not knowing how to get there makes the boards scared of setting ambitious targets (Britvic);
• Water reduction is not the driver because it is relatively cheap – stakeholder expectations are a more impactful driver;
• Measuring the water footprint is very complex – further work needs to be done in order to measure success or fail;
• Customers are not aware of water issues. Companies do not feel pressure from the customers, what keeps the subject away from the top priorities;
• In the UK is difficult to create consumer awareness to this subject as British people don’t understand the importance of preserving water due to the amounts of rain every year,
• In big cities, water is more a commodity than a natural resource – it is a battle to bring the idea of stewardship to this field;
• Only businesses where water is the main business have water usage/waste as a priority.

Red Flags (Warnings)
• What to do after a failure? Set an easier target in order to avoid another one? After missing a target last year, Britvic discussed if it was best to keep the target lower in order to make it tangible – this type of reaction doesn’t lead to further improvement.
• Most of the companies don’t have water on their radar yet;
• The trajectory is going in the wrong direction, water prices are too cheap. The UK hasn’t priced water correctly yet, people will only pay attention if they feel “punished”;
• People need to be aware of what is the advantage for the individual in reducing water, more than the costs at a corporate level.

• Being transparent and inform the consumers about water issues, making them more aware. Ex: asparagus production in Peru is depleting water resources, like green beans production in Kenya;
• Putting the information out will give people the opportunity to make a choice;
• As an alternative to price increase, invest on changing people’s behaviour;
• Reconnect people with the water cycle – the closer people are to the water source the more they realise what a natural resource it is;
• Anglian Water initiative in Peterborough, to take people to the river and explain how the actions they take are actually reflected on the river – to demonstrate people there action have a real impact.

Wrap up:
There is a growing school that sees current strategy as being focused on water efficiency, when they should be looking at water stewardship – the table agrees with the statement 100%. And adds that, the point zero of stewardship should be – if one knows where the resource comes from, one has more sense of protection.

Carbon in the context of policy failure

Maybe it’s the DNA of the geopolitical processes, but is it now prudent to assume that policy will not contain climate change?  In the absence of policy, can the table see a business case for business building strategies that will keep climate change to manageable levels? Is the table optimistic of the future?

Why is business failing society?

Many sectors, including energy, banking, media and retail, are deemed to be partially or wholly failing society. We ask this table to identify the five key steps that these companies should take to restore their reputation with the citizen, and explore why it is so difficult to implement them in practice.

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There were five key points that came out of the round table discussion. Firstly, participants felt that it's absolutely crucial that trust is not treated simply as a message used by business but instead to view it as an outcome. It should follow from practises that are internal to the organisation. When business treats trust as simply a message then business could be described as failing itself. By internalising the good business behaviour which leads to trust this can encourage employee engagement and reduce cynicism within an organisation.
This leads into the second main focus of discussion, namely that sustainability must not be treated as a Public Relations strategy. By framing sustainability as a PR exercise it reduces impact internally through a lack of employee engagement and creates distrust in customers. The sustainability strategy must change the core of the business if it is to have a real impact. Participants spoke of examples of employees feeling “pride” in their employers when the sustainability strategy was positioned as fundamental to the wider business strategy. This authenticity is acknowledged by customers as well in creating a positive brand image.
Authenticity or honesty was the third focus point with participants feeling that it is important for business to be clear about where they don't possess all the answers rather than appearing too certain only to fail later. Examples in social media of both good and bad crisis management were given, touching on the wider issue of whether there can be too much transparency. Honesty and transparency was felt to be crucial in building the necessary connections and hence trust, with wider society.
The fourth main area of discussion was centred around ambition. The importance of setting big goals in encouraging innovation and achievement was stressed and in particular, the important and necessary role big business can play in this space was highlighted. However, these goals should be reached by incremental steps to ensure achievable targets are set. This subject touched on a wider discussion about what the role of business should be in society. The table considered whether, if we wish to reconnect business to society, should growth be the sole consideration? The existing business model was discussed with ideas like the sharing economy and a reduction in consumption mooted.
Finally, the table discussed leadership. A crisis of leadership, both in the political and business spheres, was identified and the table discussed what needs to happen to solve this. It was suggested that the short term nature of business and politics encourages poor intellectual debate and even that social media can exacerbate this. The traditional hierarchy of leadership may not encourage the innovation required to solve the sustainability challenge and finally, there is a lack of strong, risk taking, leaders willing to step forward.

Summary Points

• There exists a leadership crisis with not enough leaders in government and business being willing to take risks and think big to solve this challenge. (Example)
• Treating sustainability as a PR message rather than an outcome reduces trust in the business. (Example)
• Sustainability strategy must modify the core business strategy if genuine change is to be achieved. (Solution)
• Many organisations are not modifying their business strategy to be sustainable simply because they believe in the long-term this will be necessary to continue growing.(Solution)
• Public Relations has had a terrible effect on sustainability. With organisations treating it as a message rather than something fundamental to their business model. (Red Flag)
• Better frameworks could be encouraged by government, in particular with regards to shareholder responsibilities and wider stakeholders. (Solution)
• Business models will need to adapt in response to sustainability. In particular how to properly balance competition against cooperation will be an important challenge in the future. (Obstacle)
• Who leads in terms of forming the business strategy? Who should lead in developing how the business model should adapt to these transparency, social media etc.? (Obstacle)

Should sustainability people be more funny?

What is the role of humour in sustainability? Environmental and social initiatives are usually introduced in a serious and honest tone, but how effective is this? Are there times when humour would be more effective than being earnest?

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- Representing a brand rather than being seen as an individual means that communications have more weight and using humour is risky business.
- Its use might not be considered suitable for all industries.
- Some consider sustainability an inherently serious subject and not for puns.
- The relationship between humour and political issues has a jaded past.
- Striking the right balance between communications that are consistent with the brand and use humour to engage is tricky.
- Getting sign-off for comical sustainability campaigns can seem like a heroic task.
- Targeting different segments of our audience with humour requires intricate understanding of what makes them chuckle.

Red Flags (Warnings)
- We run the risk of going ‘too far’, alienating and embarrassing the subject of our puns.
- Humour is a murky subject. It’s personal in its interpretation and very subjective.

- Using humour to talk about an important subject can make people question themselves and their behaviours.
- Humour’s more serious and worthy counterpart isn’t helpful in efforts to engage.
- Humour is innately human and makes as a powerful tool for engagement.
- When competing for attention from multiple messages, humour can offer a way for sustainability to stand out from the crowd.
- The ‘Pleasure Principle’ tells us that if we make sustainability enjoyable rather than a chore, our message will sink in more easily.

- Bupa uses just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek in its ‘Born to Walk’ mockumentary which follows the story of ‘Chad Strider’ the self-proclaimed ‘world’s best walker’ to promote the brand’s new Ground Miles app.
- A subtle humour is used throughout Innocent drinks’ brand, bringing with it a gentle warmth with customers.
- Jaffa Cake, Tesco Mobile and Yorkshire Tea held a jolly virtual twitter tea party and showed faceless corporates the way to use humour and a personal touch on social media.
- Google’s has a unique mix of quirkiness and a pinch of surprise making them a great example of how humour can help you catch the attention of your brand’s onlookers.
- Dollar Shave Club poked fun at the hypocrisy of male grooming advertisements and differentiated its brand in a recent commercial.
- Richard Branson is a CEO who knows how to laugh at himself, famously blogging about funny customer complaint letters and being the subject of many puns in Virgin ads.
- Private Eye ensures never to take itself or the media industry too seriously in its satirical take on current affairs reporting.
- Modern Toss is a great example of how humour can be used to catch the attention of any audience with its funny posters.

Responding to energy supply failure

With capacity shortages predicted as soon as 2015, energy users face an uncertain future.  Do we really need to be planning for blackouts?  Are declining capacity margins a failure of the market or of government policy?  This table will review the UK’s experience to date and discuss the ways that companies can respond.

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• Electricity Market Reform seems to be the best way forward to improve energy efficiency and achieve decarbonisation.
• PPA constrains corporations to purchasing their energy form the Big 6 and imposes a cap that their mix can consist of max. 20% renewables.

What is the driving factor for corporations?
• For a PLC;
1st priority = control of energy prices
2nd priority = sustainability
3rd priority = carbon efficiency
Controlling energy prices would enable control over the cost of a product, but the mechanism for this isn’t yet in place. The challenge lies in gaining some independence from the Big 6 while maintaining those relationships.
• For a publicly owned corporation;
1st priority = prices, Mayoral targets
2nd priority = energy supply and security
For TfL, for example, using the emergency back-up power station to keep the lights on in the Underground during a London blackout is arguably not a priority in that situation. Keeping costs and prices low are more critical. How to obtain the cheapest possible, most renewable supply? TfL have pitched to the market of smaller suppliers and did consider solar lighting until the FiT rate for generated electricity was cut.

Is the risk of supply failure the greatest obstacle to investment?
• Flux in popularity of offshore wind energy over the past 2 years has hampered investor confidence. Great opportunity for innovation here, however, because the offshore infrastructure isn’t in place unlike for grid-dependent technologies.
• Investors are struggling to see the relevance of renewables. The challenge is in offering clients a renewable energy package that works alongside their existing business strategy. E.g. a company with an electricity supply shortage and one with organic waste could collaboratively implement a biomass project.
• 85% of total London Underground energy consumption is on the running of the trains; opportunities for improvement are infrequent as the trains last 40-50 years. Victoria Line trains are no longer PPI, which might facilitate the innovation to produce a lighter, more efficient train.

• Even the best informed environmental consulting businesses can be restricted in implementing energy efficiency measures advised to clients in their own buildings. Delivering measures across a client’s asset portfolio rather than their own building is more impactful and therefore the focus.
• It is difficult to motivate tenants to reduce their energy consumption as the rent is fixed irrespective of actual consumption. Leasing contracts need to be more sensitive, taking actual consumption into account and thereby motivating improved energy efficiency.
• With prices set to rise, concerns about the risk of supply failure are growing. This supports the sustainability agenda. There is huge opportunity for managing demand, with increasing customer interest in Power Purchase Agreement, onsite CHP etc.

Stranded carbon assets – predicting failure?

“Stranded assets” may turn out to be the language that best engages the investment community in carbon. It claims to identify major areas of asset valuations that are at risk in a world where climate change is limited to manageable levels. This table will debate the importance of this methodology, where hidden failure is lurking, and discuss its broader application.

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• “Investors and consumers are not asking the right questions, in the meantime companies are excusing themselves from action on carbon emissions reduction” is one of the prominent views expressed at this table. Evidence for this is abundant; for example, the 347-page prospectus for Glencore Xstrata’s IPO, a merger resulting in a £50bn-plus commodity giant, mentioned in a single short paragraph that into the future emissions and climate change regulations to which they are subject may raise production, transportation and administrative costs, and potentially affect demand for some of their products.
• Short termism in investment decisions is prevalent on the market (unless explicitly purchasing an long-term asset). Because pension funds have a longer investment horizon by definition, they are well suited to be the ones engaging with the issue of stranded assets in the financial sector, for example through engagement with high-carbon companies.
• “It’s challenging to predict what the [export] prices will be, how they will change, what the government will do”: the uncertainty surrounding future action on climate change makes it challenging to act on the issue of stranded assets.
• Many of the solutions to these emerging problems are collaborative in nature but stakeholders are more accustomed to competition. Examples of successful collaboration include when the dairy industry in the UK collaboratively designed a process to meet environmental impact reduction targets set by Defra (‘the Dairy Roadmap’), resulting in more efficient production, reduced carbon footprint, underlined by a strong business case.

Red Flags (warnings)
• “The UK has an emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050, but does that impact current business value?” - the issue of short investment horizons was reiterated (e.g. in finance it is “maximum 5 years”, whilst renewables can take longer than 10 years to break even). However, it was pointed out that traditional sources of energy including nuclear power have a much longer payback period, demonstrating the lack of a level playing field.
• In the context of asset valuations at risk from ‘stranding’ we need to consider that there are different definitions of asset value depending on the angle e.g. transaction price, renewables pricing, etc.

• Stringent and explicit carbon regulation might help investors and businesses that do not excel at forward thinking, or are otherwise constrained, to plan ahead.
• Other companies such as IKEA, who want all sites to be self-sufficient in energy, find that carbon reduction “is just good business”. They are said to act in fear of potentially increasing cost of carbon, but also in response to fears related to the security of supply of energy.
• Many low-carbon alternatives provide an effective hedge whilst delivering substantial value, however this value needs demonstrating to the mainstream (e.g. LED lights).
• In the context of stranded assets fear of failure is a strong motivator, and the desire to pre-empt failure is an important driver for action on climate change.


• We cannot limit our analysis of stranded assets to carbon. Many other examples exist.
• Forum for the Future published a report examining stranded assets in the food-manufacturing sector from emerging nutrition trends (“Nutrition: An Emerging Threat or an Opportunity?”). It is one example of the need to look far ahead to recognise trends, think in terms of not only the business’ impact on the world, but also the impact of the world on the business.
• Energy Performance Certificates, which give potential buyers an upfront look at how energy efficient the property is on a A-G rating band, may potentially create stranded assets in the building sector. Despite debates over their accuracy, it has been pointed that they already have an impact on investors, with buyers now looking to invest in D-rated assets or above in anticipation of 2018 regulations.
• An integrated energy solutions business, received planning permission to build an energy innovation centre (one of the largest projects of this kind in the UK) to provide low carbon heating, hot water and electricity for Cambridge University Hospitals using a mixture of combined heat and power, biomass boiler, and heat recovery from incineration. This is expected to cut grid electricity by more than 50 percent, providing greater energy independence and protection from rising energy prices, whilst also cutting carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent over the life of the project. The loan for the project is based on avoided carbon, and is one example of a mechanism whereby credit for high-carbon project might become harder to obtain if mainstream banks begin to behave in a similar manner to this fund, or the Green Investment Bank.

Learning from failure

The airline industry has significantly reduced accident rates through systems that share mistakes. What would happen if the sustainability community started to share what is not working? Could it be transformative for success? We ask this table to pool some failures, and see what happens!

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Acknowledgements: A very special thank you Jan Hagen, author of Confronting Mistakes, for his insightful contributions to the roundtable discussion. http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/business-learn-airline-accidents
I. Obstacles
1. Ignorance or ineptitude? Communication failure is a common theme amongst the failures given in tonight’s examples. What can we learn from previous communication failures in the airline industry?
2. ‘Psychological safety’ is needed to share failures. But how do we balance psychological safety with accountability? In an ideal world we would see high levels of both.
3. How can we overcome complacency towards traditional approaches to business and openly communicate failures? BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) are a good tool. But what else?
II. Red Flags (warnings)
• CEOs see what the future should look like within a generational timeframe. They have difficulty perceiving the future beyond this timeframe and therefore struggle to take a longer term view of their business.
• Sustainability and CSR can seem intangible, whereas in the airline industry avoiding a crash and fatalities is pretty clear. As systems become more complex people tend to tune out / lose control. But in the airline industry where there is lots of complexity, successful crews communicate with each other more and their leaders use more open questions.
• Within Financial Services, it’s harder to see when things are going wrong. Therefore, sharing and learning from failure will take greater transparency from all stakeholders.
III. Solutions
• F (Fast) – Fail fast and cheap.
• A (Audacity) – Extraordinary courage to take the risk.
• I (Iteration) – Iterate solutions, review what works and what doesn’t work.
• L (Learn) – Rapid feedback loops to learn from iterations e.g. engaging stakeholders through social media

1. BHAG. Big, hairy, audacious goals! A good BHAG needs to feel almost impossible. So big, so hairy and so audacious that everyone instinctively gets that it isn’t going to happen through business as usual. That everyone needs to step up and be more creative and more urgent; bigger, bolder and braver. That normal rules no longer apply. http://sunshineisfree.info/2012/06/28/is-a-bee-hag-the-most-powerful-management-tool-ever/
• Re-framing the message. Richard Turner from SolarAid learned to overcome communication failures in the launch of SunnyMoney by speaking through headmasters to reach the target audience.
• Peer-to-peer trust. The Institute for Government deployed MindSpace as a means to understand and improve government’s success at behaviour change. http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/mindspace
• In search of a communication solution. CEOs that move from a traditional role to a facilitator role can often help move employees toward an idea or solution.

2. Creating an open culture. In the airline industry, one-to-one confidential meetings are preferred when discussing failure – good for safety, bad for learning. As a result, airline crew are trained in more open communication patterns and put through case studies to build greater and more productive communications and thereby foster a sense of psychological safety and a supportive culture.
• Governing values. The chairman and the board need to be very clear on values for their company and communicate these across the organisation.
• Engaging and listening to stakeholders. The Crowd’s “Going Naked” programme is a great way for companies to do this.

3. Agile operations. Eric Ries’ ‘The Lean Startup’ promotes rapid feedback loops. Big companies are just starting to become more agile by crowdsourcing solutions / co-creating solutions with clients. Though much more is needed.
• Strategy realignment. Corporate strategies should now evolve quicker, innovate rapidly, and embrace communities and social media.
• Chemicals industry has another tool to promote better practices within business by providing poll-based risk analysis.
IV. Examples
• Failed communication of a CSR programme. A three year programme in Hackney for 7-17 year olds involved 2000 kids/year and had 600 volunteers and was hugely successful for all concerned. But the client facing leadership team did not know about it. When they heard from a client about a competitor’s traditional work experience programme involving only 100 young people they asked why their firm could not do the same. It was a failure of communication but turned into an opportunity to involve the leadership team and their clients in the programme.
• Culture of sharing failures absent in airline industry. Going from error management to error prevention. In some businesses, it’s ok to fail. Put things right and learn quickly. This is the culture in the airline industry. Airlines have become successful in avoiding silence by changing the attitude towards failure. Errors will always occur so they encourage discussions about failures, hold debriefs and provide plenty of training. Also, if you report your own failure you get a prosecution free card.
• Unsuccessful open system of benchmarking failures in electronic goods industry. Created a platform for the anonymous benchmarking of failures, although it did not get traction. Competitors covet data and do not want to share this openly. There are also reservations around comparing failure rates in the industry against internal rates.
• Peer-to-peer communication failure within public procurement. This sector fails to communicate the benefits of sustainable procurement, even amongst public procurers.
• Erroneous assumption that Western nations are always more advanced than developing nations. The biggest hackathon in the Americas was organised in Mexico by an organisation that wanted to import the hackathon model cultivated in Bristol to developing countries. 100 people attended and engagement amongst companies and the government was high. However, they didn’t realise that Mexico already had the highest number of hackathons per year in the world.
• University recycling programme communication disaster. Cleaners were asked to move the rubbish bins further away to encourage recycling. Instead, the cleaners removed all bins in the building. Despite the chaos that ensued the next day, greater awareness around the recycling campaign was raised as a result of the miscommunication.
• Pride as a failure. Business is often more complicated than just ‘take it on the chin’. A new framework for integrated reporting is soon to be launched, however the target audience, investors, are not convinced the reports should be done for them. Whilst the content of the reports is especially relevant for investors (and despite the hard work done by the framework creators), the message may need to be reframed if it is to be perceived as relevant.

The sustainability innovator

“A conservative-minded sustainability professional is “neither of use nor ornament””, argued Jo Cofino in a recent article. A number of leading companies such as Nike are linking sustainability with innovation, impacting products and services, business models and more. What does the sustainability “innovator” look like – what’s their background, how does their mind work, and what’s the risk of being conservative?

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What is innovation – the table talked about what they personally felt innovation was
• New products and services
• Disruptive behavior
• Cultural innovation
• Communication
• Oppurtunity

Innovation broadly
• Doing something as a business that solves a problem. It is important to look at how this question is posed, if you articulate it with “we” then people tend to workl together with an entrepenural spirit rahther than independently.

It was suggested that by setting too many targets inhibits innovation, wheras someone else countered and said there needs to be targets otherwise you may miss the market.

How do you generate innovation?
• Collective intelligence
• Collaboration
• Risk
• Innovation fund

Are people incentivizing innovation? Yes
• Days off work
• Monetary incentive
• Annual trips

How can you work with supply chains for them to be more innovative?
• Partner relationships
• Transparency
• Someone suggested that innovation actually comes from the supply chain
• Sourcing outside the company
o Big company will use the idea and in return give that person 50%

Do you think your organisation is innovative?
• Mixed reviews
o Some said yes, no, and others felt that there was no oppurtunity as the idea is ultimately up to those in the boardroom

Communicating the “F” word

Should failures be buried under the carpet, or be shouted about? Is social media really changing the game to a point where it is better to reveal failure on your terms, rather than wait to be outed? Can the table think of times when being open about failures have backfired, and what conclusions can be drawn?

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How should we share our failures? Do we market or spin them as near misses, or half-successes, or do we delve into the grit of public humiliation and learn hard lessons in resilience?
· Why does failure happen? Should we get better at knowing when to fight and when to admit defeat and retreat before the battle is lost?
· Whether or not we allow ourselves to fail depends on the strength of our ambition in the first place.
· Discussing success or failure is always an edited story. (Think how quickly Alex Salmond spun the helicopter crash into a success of the emergency services!) We can always decide what the goal was after the event, and re-evaluate our decisions. Is this a useful tool, or a cosy rug we hide under, depriving ourselves of useful lessons?
· Failure can be to do with ineptitude and ignorance, but sometimes the system is against you. How do we deal with system failure? Whose fault is it (when systems fail) anyhow? How do we get beyond pointing the finger, and find systemic solutions?
· When is a good time to admit failure? How should you pick your audience? Telling public stories about failure is not the same as being honest and enquiring internally.
· If we build a society that only celebrates success, we will produce only mediocrity. Discuss!
· How can we address the binary of success/failure in our education system? What does it mean for learning?
· Should we strive always to ‘make new mistakes’, in the words of Esther Dyson?
· Against which measures do we fail as a society, as companies and as individuals: profit, or purpose?

Venue Detail

Bank of America Merrill Lynch: King Edward Hall

King Edward Hall | 2 King Edward Street | London | EC1A 1HQ


Bank of America's offices are a very short walk from St Paul's tube station (Central Line). Exit the station at Cheapside/Newgate Street. Go past the BT centre, with it on your right-hand side and take the first available right down Edward Street. Continue down this road for 80m and the entrance to the venue is on your left-hand side.

Do not go to the main reception desk at their offices when you arrive. You are looking for an entrance that leads you directly into the King Edward Hall.
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