Dr Rosina Watson on the social side of sustainability

The St Julian Scholars were delighted to introduce Dr Rosina Watson, senior lecturer in Sustainability at Cranfield School of Management, as the host of their most recent webinar on 22 June.  

Dr Watson presented a vivid picture of the means to achieve sustainability in the hospitality industry and how prioritising sustainable goals can positively impact profitability across businesses. COVID-19 has been a devastating global crisis, but from it has come opportunity and a chance to prove how resilient we are as a community, providing learnings on how to mitigate future crises and adapt to changes. 

One of the key themes of Dr Watson’s presentation was her definition of sustainability not only as the traditional eco-friendly means of protecting the planet, but also as encompassing social issues, such as diversity, community, and economic inequality. For example, she highlighted that the world’s eight richest people have the same collective wealth as the poorest 50% of the global population. Diversity is also a particularly important factor for businesses to consider, as it enables representation of minority consumers, and enables creativity and innovation by considering alternative points of view, ultimately resulting in higher profitability.  

Sustainable development goals, Dr Watson stated, can be summarised into three interconnected categories: biosphere, society, and economy. The actions that businesses put in place to meet these goals are called corporate sustainability, which she defined as follows: 

“A business commitment to sustainable development, and an approach that creates long-term shareholder and societal value by embracing the opportunities and managing the risks associated with economic, environmental and social developments.”  

This concept is divided into two further practices: sustainable development, which necessitates meeting the demands of future generations in terms of improving the three categories of development goals, and triple bottom line, which considers not just profit but also planet and people to maximise the profitability of a business. 

The power shift from shareholders to stakeholders – which includes consumers, employees and society – has redefined the impacts of social and environmental issues on businesses. While previously the power of a corporation lay solely in its managers, there are now far more influences on the way that a business can operate. For example, there are new standards of what consumers and employees expect from businesses in terms of its sustainable contributions; a 2020 study by SmartestEnergy revealed that 81% of consumers are more likely to choose a brand committed to sustainable practices.  

Rather than viewing environmental and social issues as hinderances to business, Dr Watson encourages us to see them as opportunities. Responding proactively to sustainability can drive value to business by mitigating risk through reliable partnerships and supply chains, reducing costs through efficiency and reduction of waste, increasing trust and improving brand reputation, and driving growth for the future. Prioritising sustainability is, in short, a benefit to your business.  

Watch the full masterclass here.