About me: Alan Knight, PhD OBE

I graduated as a geologist and marine biologist in the late 80s, but soon found that counting dead, muddy marine worms was not what I was born to do. I took a leap of faith and entered the retail world, having guessed (correctly, as it turned out) that the eco-thing would one day touch shopping, and that (somehow) a geologically trained dead worm counter could help shops face up to the eco-challenge. After a few months in the London toyshop, Hamleys, my lucky break was being invited to join the UK home improvement retailer B&Q as its first environment manager. This was the first of several such roles for me in UK retail. It took me around the world and led to my involvement in the creation of the Forest Stewardship Council, shaping government policy on eco-labeling and the numerous visits and opportunities to change how links in supply chains of everyday products bring products to the market.
At Kingfisher, B&Q’s parent company, I helped coordinate social and environmental policies for all companies owned by Kingfisher worldwide. From there, I moved to the global brewer, SABMiller, where I produced their first group-wide sustainable development plan, including a group-wide governance system.
In 2006, I founded my own company, Single Planet Living, through which I helped businesses large and small develop their own sustainable development strategies. After 5 years, I joined Business in the Community as their Environmental Sustainability Director.
In 2010, I helped launch the Global Association for Corporate Sustainability Officers (GACSO) after a group of my peers recognized that sustainability needed more resonance with businesses, and the need to codify and nurture the career of the fulltime sustainability professional (www.gacso.org).
I continue to teach on the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership and I am a visiting professor at Exeter University Business School. I have sat on or chaired several think tanks including the Advisory Committee for Consumer Products and the Environment (ACCPE), which unpicked the failure of a single pan-European eco-labeling scheme and suggested the replication of the white goods energy labels for cars and buildings. Whilst sitting on the Sustainable Development Commission, I introduced the concept of ‘choice editing’ and ‘product road-mapping’.
This twenty year journey has helped me shape a can-do, positive narrative on sustainable development. This narrative might come across as simplistic, but it is well informed through real life experiences and contrasts. It draws on the combined emotional and technical intelligence developed by being confronted with; a child making brass door handles in squalor in India; the memory of another child’s face when the toy they dreamed for was out of stock; the sight of a beautifully laid-out garden centre ready for the Easter rush; the destruction of a tropical forest that supplied the timber for the garden benches or seeing an over-weight child enjoying a second burger for lunch in the UK.
It might not be strong on academic references, but it does not need to be: its purpose is to build first-hand experiences through humour, metaphors, and clarity to help business leaders and others value and embrace the sustainability challenge.
Here are 9 of my positive thoughts on the matter. I hope you enjoy them.

Alan Knight PhD OBE
E-mail – Alan@Dralanknight.com
www.dralanknight.com

Rethinking Corporate Sustainability – If Only We Ran the Planet Like a Shop! (374.8 KB)