It often feels that we are living in darkening times. With our societies facing rising demagoguery, polarised politics, social collapse, trust deficits, persistent bigotry and information warfare, alongside a natural world that is gasping and staggering, struggling for survival in the face of climate change, biodiversity loss and growing mountains of toxic waste, plastic pollution and overpopulation.

At our darkest moments – we yearn for the light. But as sustainability leaders, the burden often falls on our shoulders within the business, to chart a path to a brighter future. It’s a burden that can sometimes feel overwhelming.

So how do we turn things around, take back control, and bring light back to our world?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the concepts of heliotropy and biophilia. 

Heliotropy is the tendency of particular plants to grow towards the light. Think sunflowers in a field, or trees in a rainforest reaching for the canopy. They turn and grow and strengthen in the direction of light and warmth. In the context of human and organisational behaviour, heliotropy is about people growing stronger and more creative by focusing on points of light rather than dark clouds, focusing on the positive and the things that can be changed, rather than being overwhelmed by that which cannot.   

And biophilia speaks of an innate human tendency to seek connections to nature and other forms of life. Billions of years of evolution have elegantly solved so many complex natural problems and may also have answers for multiple human problems crying out for a solution.

What human systems, problems, solutions and environments then could be improved by emulating and re-incorporating nature? How do we move from the dark to the light? From wasteful to sustainable? And from sustainable to regenerative?

Our July 02 Crowd Forum explored the concepts of biophilia and heliotropy and how we can emulate and learn from the system-design genius of nature, to create thriving, sustainable businesses, societies and people.

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Event for: Directors/Heads of: Climate Change, Environment, Sustainability, CSR, Marketing, Communications


  • Charmian Love

    Co-Founder and Co-Chair, B Lab UK
  • Richard James MacCowan

    Founder & MD - Biomimicry UK | Innovation Lab
  • Catherine Cameron

    Director, Agulhas
  • Oliver Heath

    Director & Biophilic Design Ambassador, Interface

Round Tables

  • Biophilia and biomimicry
    Both biophilia and biomimicry were born from the environmental movement, and though it is easy to confuse the two, there are some subtle differences. Essentially, they both draw upon nature in different ways. Biomimicry recognises the innovation potential of life’s tested-and-true “technologies.” Biophilia recognises the health benefits of mankind’s biological connectedness with nature. Together, they show the inspiration and power we can derive from nature. But where can companies begin to apply these principles? What are the costs, obstacles and benefits of bringing them into corporate planning and operation? Participants will share examples from their own companies, or others they have seen work well.
  • Community engagement
    If you think of sunflowers in a field, their bright faces turned together as one towards the light and warmth of the sun, it brings to mind feelings of community, of shared group needs and commonalities. For businesses wanting to engage with the communities in which they operate, they need to provide a source of light and nurturing warmth. This requires a coherent approach to engaging and directing the attention and collective energy of the community. How can companies best take the principles of heliotropy, and use them to drive both community engagement and impact? What approaches work best? What doesn’t work? How do you bring communities along on the journey?
  • Giving the light of charity
    One of the best ways for companies to be the light of change in the world, is through the provision of corporate charity. Charitable giving from business can provide light, warmth and nurture to the beneficiaries. But how can companies make best use of their charitable giving to ensure the greatest impact? How do you determine which, among the thousands of charitable causes, are the most closely aligned with corporate mission? How can companies do more good, by being more conscious and strategic with their charitable giving?
  • *TABLE FULL* Going circular
    The principles of biomimicry, involves the “mimicry” or emulation of nature’s engineering genius, honed over millennia through the processes of natural selection. The emulation of nature, is at the heart of circular economy practices and design principles. For business, where are the best opportunities for going more circular? Where do you begin with ending the take, make, waste paradigm? This roundtable will explore the synergies between biomimicry and circular economy thinking, and brainstorm ideas for putting them into practice in the business. How can companies make the move from wasteful to sustainable, and from sustainable to regenerative?
  • Internal communications and employee engagement
    For most companies, the corporate and/or sustainability mission, in one way or another, is about having positive impacts and effects on society, the environment, the community and on the lives of customers. The principles of heliotropy hold that plants – or groups of people – who seek the light, will more easily grow and thrive. A positive corporate purpose or mission can have a unifying influence on companies and their employees. Used properly, it can be the thread that connects and aligns internal communications, employee engagement and performance. This roundtable will share insights from participants about how they have, could, or should help guide their teams from the darkness to the light through internal communications and engagement.
  • Maximising positive impact and purpose
    The real test of a company’s sustainability strategy, is its ability to deliver positive, tangible improvements to the social, economic and environmental impacts of the business. It can be easy to get snowed under with compliance, reporting and box-checking, and in the process lose sight of the big picture. This roundtable will focus on how sustainability leaders can maximise the positive impacts of their purposeful business mission. How can you tell if you are focusing your energies in the right place? Are there bigger impact problems you could resolve with the same effort? Where are the big opportunities for new impact – and how do you spot them?
  • Renewable energy
    We are a solar powered planet. The sun provides all of the energy needed to sustain life on earth. Increasingly, our modern industrial world is also being powered by solar and other renewable energies. For business wanting to have a net positive impact on the environment, renewables are increasingly the way to go. But how do you transition? What is the best strategic approach to take? Can companies share the light, by building community solar projects that empower people rather than just profits?
  • *TABLE FULL* Wellbeing in the workplace
    There is considerable research to support the positive impact on employee wellbeing from incorporating more natural light, plants, air and biological design into the workplace. For many sustainability professionals, employee wellbeing is increasingly part of their remit. But wellbeing is not just about the physical working environment. This roundtable will consider the key enablers and obstacles to employee wellbeing. What small environmental changes can make a difference? What organisational practices or processes could benefit from a closer connection with, and consideration of nature?
  • None


  • 16:00
    Doors open
  • 16:30
    Welcome from Luke Clarkson, MD, The Crowd
  • 16:35
    Opening Keynote by Oliver Heath – biophilic design ambassador for Interface
  • 16:55
    Panel discussion begins
  • 18:00
    Roundtable discussions (moderated discussions in groups of 10 - 12
  • 18:45
    Networking and drinks
  • 18:45

Venue Details

The Great Hall, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA

Who's Attending

Director of 3D Structure 1HQ Brand Agency
CEO 3f bio
Senior Consultant Acre
Principle Act Sustainably
Environmental Sustainability Manager Adnams
Commercial Sustainability Manager Akzo Nobel
Architectural Designer Architect
Senior Digital and IoT Consultant Arup
Group Corporate Responsibility Manager Aviva
CSR Exec Belron
CSR Exec Belron
Sustainability Officer Birkbeck College
Director BRE
Research Director BRE
Corporate Client Executive CAF
ASE’s Sustainability Lead Capgemini
Sustainability Consultant Capgemini
Founder CollaboratEQ
Associate Director – Sustainability Colliers International
Emeritus Professor Cranfield University
Global CSR Manager Dentsu Aegis Network
Sustainable Agriculture Manager Diageo
Co-Founder Futerra Sustainability Communications
Senior Executive Grant Thornton LLP
Public Affairs Grant Thornton UK LLP
Sustainability Manager Grosvenor
Director Corporate Affairs Hewlett Packard
Global Head Operational Sustainability HSBC
Sustainability Manager Innocent Drinks
Assistant Project Manager International Maritime Organization
Global Head Energy & Sustainability ISS Global
Sustainability Manager John Lewis plc
Sustainability Data Manager Jones Lang Lasalle
Lead Consultant Kholo
Client Solutions Consultant Lane4
Global CR Manager Linklaters LLP
Sustainability Delivery Manager Marks and Spencer
Secretary of the Technical Environmental Commission National Academy of Engineering and Habitat
Executive Director Natural Capital Coalition
Sustainability Project Manager O2
Director Profit Through Ethics Ltd
Head of CR Prudential UK & Europe
Marketing Manager Publicis.Sapient
Global Environment Manager RELX Group
Partnership Development RSPB
Head of Corporate Partnerships RSPB
Solar Partnerships and Projects Manager Shell
Head of HSQE Siemens
Sustainability Manager Tala Energy Ltd.
Innovation Manager The Body Shop
Head of Department The Crown Estate
CEO The Future Academy
Raw Materials Manager The John Lewis Partnership
Head of Sustainability The Royal Parks
Head of Sustainability The Royal Parks
Head of Innovation The Woodland Trust
Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Turner & Townsend
Executive Director UN Global Compact Network UK
VP Finance Unilever
Director, Sustainability University College London
Senior Marketing and Corporate Responsability Manager Veolia
Manager – Earth Challenge | Business Innovation Virgin Management
Sustainable Business Manager Vodafone
Private Sector Advisor WaterAid
Editor We Mean Business
Sustainability manager Willmott Dixon Interiors
Associate – Energy & Sustainability WSP Group