Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
Source: H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance
There are a few standard definitions of sustainability. Here is my non-standard one, that keeps me focused on what it could actually look like: a flourishing human world in a flourishing natural world, working in tandem not in trade-off, now and in future. Ideally fixing or fending off some past or pending head-on collisions. Simple sentences, but getting there will mean a wholesale rethink in how we live, work and fulfill our potential.
Having long been interested in human happiness and a healthy environment, these seemed separate if related issues until sustainability gave me their meeting point. For twenty years I have worked with designers, business people and government to try to expand that point into a growing space for positive action. A few clients and employers are listed below.
Background colour: ‘sustainable’ by charmarie
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The WBCSD is a CEO-led coalition of some 180 global companies working to advance an ambitious sustainable development agenda. As Director Member Relations for 8+ years, I managed relationships with hundreds of global companies from 20+ sectors and over 35 countries, recruiting new members, and developing and delivering the member engagement, retention and recruitment strategy, including:
- Business development for existing and prospective clients – communicating with senior executives on a broad range of issues and offerings, and implementing a robust yet personalized process for bringing on board new representatives.
- Building trusting relationships with key decision makers, handling diplomatic issues with finesse, and maintaining stability through a period of aggressive transformation following change in leadership – ‘You have performed miracles’ – new President.
- Project incubation – as acting Director Sustainable Mobility 2.0, moving from initial scoping to fully-fledged USD 4.5m project with 15 global corporations across the mobility spectrum, and leading the recruitment of permanent staff.
- Developing systems to track engagement and capture intelligence – ‘If my previous company had known our top fifty corporate clients as well as you know the membership, we’d have been very pleased; if one person had captured that, we’d have been amazed’ – incoming MD.
- Developing the organization’s generic communications materials to convey a complex value proposition with templates which could be quickly tailored, allowing faster and more targeted engagement.
- Bringing in the money – ‘You are the custodian of member revenues’ – President.
- Delivering two major meetings per year for 350-450 global senior executives including 60-70 CEOs. Ensured programme coherence and design and delivery of plenaries, securing and briefing 25-30 high level contributors (e.g. UN Secretary-General and Presidents / CEOs or high-level government representatives).
EU-China Environmental Cooperation Programme
Working for a major EU-China government cooperation programme to integrate sustainability into Chinese business management, bringing sustainable business concepts to life, cascading knowledge from CEO and senior executive level through to technical managers. This included:
- Piloting a Sustainable Business Network for CEOs in four cities across China.
- Designing and delivering senior executive seminars – in Chinese, relating sustainability to competitiveness through strategy, productivity, management and marketing.
- Developing an online Roadmap to Sustainable Business – to help managers find resources filtered for quality, clarity and accessibility, and mapped to the business process.
- Synthesis report on lessons learned from the four-year programme.
UK Design Council
For ten years I worked as an independent consultant, conceiving and running a range of projects mostly focused on sustainable design and innovation, including:
- Searching for Solutions – a pulse-taking overview of sustainability drawing on interviews with 100 global experts, and a desk-high pile of papers, distilled into a 100-page report described as ‘a joy to read’ while providing strategic recommendations and options.
- Sustainable Strategies – for the Design Council with Confederation of British Industry and Envirowise – working with eight companies to see where the obstacles to sustainability lay and to find common ground among diverse businesses.
- Eco-design scoping study – to inform Design Council’s strategy on eco-design – according to client, the only report actually read by all directors due to clarity and conciseness.
- Eco-design case studies – addressing both design and marketing issues – still in use after 15 years.
- Young at Art – a Design Council and London Institute collaboration on experimental art workshops for disadvantaged children, raising their awareness of environmental issues.
Talks & seminars
Covering the business, social and environmental benefits of sustainability, I give talks and seminars that are highly visual, lively and rich with examples, bringing appeal to a subject often sold more as obligation than opportunity. Variously described as ‘flawless’, ‘thought-provoking’, ‘brilliant’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘fantastic’. Examples include:
- University of St Gallen International Executive MBA – guest lecturer on sustainable design and innovation.
- Technical University Delft – Circular Product Design Symposium to launch Products That Last, the culmination of a major three-year TUDelft project.
- EU-China Environmental Management Cooperation Programme – design and delivery of one-day seminars for senior Chinese executives, relating sustainability to competitiveness through modules on strategy, productivity, management and marketing, delivered in Chinese.
Other once and perhaps future clients include: London Business School, Warwick Business School, Foreign & Commonwealth Office China, Royal Society of Arts, British Council Thailand, Design Council, construction industry associations in China, Interface China, Vilnius Technical University, and the Institut National Genevois (in French).
Publications & client reports
“You have the best pen in the house” – president of a former employer
“The only consultant reports that all the Directors actually read” – a client director
A natural communicator equally strong in writing, speaking and listening, I relish sifting piles of information for the nuggets that can spark light bulbs of the mind, presenting complex concepts or offerings with compelling freshness, adapted to the audience. An award-winning author known for limpid English and subtle wit, I believe every word counts… including those we leave out. If you think I can help bring ideas to life for your audience, through presentations, workshops or through writing, please get in touch. Online, client and published research and writing includes:
- Sustainable office design white paper – commissioned by Morgan Lovell to inspire more sustainable office design.
- Sustainable design ‘knowledge cell’ for the Design Council – clear-as-crystal first port of call for the uninitiated, to provide a balanced and engaging overview of the terrain.
- Roadmap to sustainable business – to help Chinese business and technical managers find information filtered for quality, clarity and accessibility, and mapped to the business process and to six key sectors.
- Various published case studies and articles, eg Engineering Design, Envirowise and others.
- ‘Design for quality of life’, New Design, 2005, no. 34, pp. 30-33
- ‘Environmental Management and Business Success: making the marriage work’, paper for the Woodrow Wilson Centre environmental issues series, 2004.
- ‘Sustainable Business: making it happen’, German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, 2005.
- Sustainable Strategies: Lessons Learned, client report, 2003.
- Searching for Solutions: A Global Overview of Sustainable Design, 2002, client report.
- Design in Business: Strategic Innovation Through Design, Margaret Bruce and John Bessant, Financial Times, 2002, ghost editor, and contributor on sustainable design.
- Young at Art: Experimental Workshops in Art and Environment, client report, 2001.
- Eco-design Case Studies, client report, 1997.
- Eco-design Scoping Study, client report, 1996.
Need help creating or cascading solutions? Please get in touch...
© Beatrice Otto 2019 - design & content