Interview with David Grayson, co-author of Cranfield on Corporate Sustainability

David Grayson

Professor David Grayson, CBE


Cranfield on Corporate Sustainability is a new, unique book designed to stimulate debate about what sustainable development means for business and, therefore, on what business schools across the globe should research, teach and advise. With 30 contributors from the Cranfield School of Management offering perspectives across different managerial disciplines, the book is a manifesto for a new holistic, embedded approach to corporate sustainability management education. Cranfield colleague Graham Bell interviews co-author and editor David Grayson about the new book:

David, could you give me a bit of background about the book and what makes it different?
David Grayson: Well this is, as far as we are aware, the first time that faculty from different management disciplines from a single business school have all come together and given their very different perspectives on what sustainability means for leadership, or for strategy, or for marketing, or for supply chain management, therefore this book is from many different perspectives within the Cranfield faculty, our take on how you manage sustainability for business success.

Now there are quite a lot of different definitions about corporate sustainability – what’s your interpretation?
David Grayson: Well I think we are talking about the responsibility that an organisation has for its social, its environmental and its economic impacts, and because sustainability is all about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to be able to meet their needs as well, it’s about not just managing the risks associated with your social and your economic and environmental impacts but it’s also about how you find the opportunities from managing the positive impacts effectively as well.

Can you give me a flavour of the book and also the approach that was taken?
David Grayson: Well first of all, the approach is deliberately designed – as you would expect from Cranfield faculty – to be very practical and very business orientated, so it is a very pragmatic take on these issues of corporate sustainability, and what we are trying to do is to get different faculty perspectives from different management disciplines and to explain what sustainability means in these different disciplines. In terms of innovation we have Professor Keith Goffin, for example, our innovation specialist, writing about how you innovate for sustainability. Professor Donna Ladkin – one of our leadership specialists – writing about some new leadership styles that will be needed if you are really going to be able to lead successfully for sustainability, and then Professor Lynette Ryals and her colleagues in the marketing faculty writing about how you design and then implement a sustainability marketing strategy for an organisation, and so on.

What would you identify as some of your highlights in the book?
David Grayson: Well I think first of all, the really important thing about the book is that we have tried to explain what these issues of how you manage your social and economic and environmental impacts mean from the perspective of different managerial disciplines. We have tried to provide the kind of language that somebody who is trying to interact with different business functions might need and might find helpful to understand where might my colleagues in purchasing and supply or where might my colleagues in new business development and innovation or in marketing be coming from, what are the kind of issues that I need to be conscious of in thinking about how do I as a sustainability or corporate responsibility specialist interact with those different business functions successfully? Because we believe that one of the critical issues is ensuring that an organisation has a totally holistic approach to the management of its social and economic and environmental impacts. It’s not just having a silo; it’s not just having a specialist division devoted to these questions, it’s all about how do we make sure that these issues are fully embedded in each part of the business? And that’s why we very consciously asked different faculty to say, what does it mean from your perspective, from your different management discipline?

In summary, if there were to be a key point, a key message, that people consider in the book, what would you consider that to be?
David Grayson: Well I think it is that sustainability is now a business critical issue. It’s vital for future business success; you need to be able to understand how sustainability will affect every part of the business and to make sure that you are fully embedding this in every part of the business. This book is, we hope, a very pragmatic and practical tool to enable you to do just that.

Interview by Graham Bell, Business Technology Innovation Manager at Cranfield University School of Management. You can view the video here.

Cranfield on Corporate Sustainability
David Grayson is the director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield University. Prior to this he had a thirty-year career as a social entrepreneur and campaigner for responsible business, diversity and small business development. This included founding Project North East; being the founding CEO of the Prince’s Youth Business Trust and serving as a joint managing-director of Business in the Community. He has worked with many leading global businesses and international institutions including BP, Microsoft, the OECD and the World Bank.

Cranfield on Corporate Sustainability is out now. Buy it direct from Greenleaf Publishing and get a 30% discount. Just use discount code CCS150 at the checkout.

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