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Tomorrow's World... Today's Challenge

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Sustainability

Spiralling resource costs, flooding, civil unrest, threats to biodiversity, rises in environmental refugees and even all-out war - the implications of our unsustainable lifestyles are grim to say the least.

These are just some of the effects we are almost certain to experience over the next five to 20 years as the consequences of our environmental looting catch up with us.

Even today, the effects are showing themselves. Save the Children published results of a survey today, showing one-third of parents in countries including India, Nigeria and Bangladesh, don't have enough food to provide for their children. One in six said their children were forced to skip school to work for food.

The current state of the planet is one that cannot go on!

I believe business can and must play a central role in reversing this situation and driving environmental and social change. Not just because it's the 'right' thing to do but because it's more profitable too.

Protecting the environment is at the heart of sustainable business. The resources that every business relies on come, ultimately, from the natural world.

That's why making sure the value your business creates is sustainable in terms of the environment and its people is common sense. Whether your business suffers in one year because you don't operate sustainably or in 10, the problems will happen.

Recognising the need for sustainable employment practices - after years of pressure and adverse publicity - Apple this week asked for the Fair Labour Association to inspect its supplier Foxconn in China where most of its products are made.

Pursuing profit at all costs is a destructive strategy that ultimately prevents you enjoying the fruits of your labour. It's something that more and more business people are recognising and companies like Puma and Kingfisher - which operates the B&Q brand of DIY stores - are playing a leading role in driving a change towards sustainable thinking thanks to visionary bosses like Ian Cheshire.

David Brown - Rotary International:

Business can become the engine of sustainability within society if companies realise the substantial benefits of acting in a more responsible fashion - that was the message from the Tomorrow's World . . . Today's Challenge seminar hosted by ourselves here at design and innovation firm PAULEY.

With delegates from management consulting firm Capgemini, architecture specialists Eco Design Consultants and Rotary International, the event explored the consequences of failing to embrace sustainability both at an environmental and business level.

Bethan Richmond - Capgemini :

Through a series of talks and practical exercises, the event uncovered practical ways businesses can proactively support sustainability.

The event, sponsored by engineering consultancy Atkins Global, was the result of collaboration between us and Phil Williams from Plan-It Eco.

The event looked at the need for businesses to be more pro-active and innovative in their approach to sustainability. What it revealed was the multiple benefits there are in doing this.

Acting sustainably is not a burden but an incredible opportunity to improve efficiency, engage and inspire staff, and ensure that profits are maximised in the medium- and long-term.

Take our recent work with Eurostar for example. We created an e-training system for repair and maintenance staff to learn and test their mechanical and electrical skills.

The company was able to save tens of thousands of pounds on traditional one-to-one training that involves bringing an entire train up to the central repair depot.

By using interactive, innovation-led design tools companies like Eurostar can enjoy logistics and time savings with a training system that is enjoyable and less resource intensive. In other words, you can get the job done without the environmental, time and financial impact of shifting an enormous train around.

The sustainability event was the first in a series of events at The Farm Sustainability Centre - our dedicated educational centre set in the rural outskirts of Milton Keynes.

The event reminded me that environmental responsibility and profit don't need to be mutually exclusive. Today, it's more possible than ever that we can enjoy the benefits of both.

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