Can the Dubai Expo 2020 create momentum for real change in sustainability?

A Lecture by Professor David Russell, Chairman of the Russell Partnership

The above question was posed by Professor David Russell, in a lecture to an audience of 120 guests kindly hosted by Barings on Tuesday evening. There is little doubt that the issue of sustainability has become a primary area of focus for industry and there does appear to be a new energy to see the issue to move to another level.

David’s argument is that the Dubai Expo 2020 will set a new benchmark and set a tone that will inspire many to change just as the London Olympics in 2012 achieved great strides forward against all expectation. The 2012 London Olympics is still the greenest and had the most radical objectives of any Olympics. There is clear evidence at just how 2012 did inspire real change from the approach of suppliers to how it reached the conscience of those watching and attending. Can the Expo 2020 achieve a similar goal in this most important of times?

Listening to David, there is no doubt that the understanding of the sustainability issue and behaviours have radically moved forward and progressed over the last seven-year.  It is important that the major super powers do more but still progress is being made and  David painted a picture that was positive and with hope – whilst at the same time, not underestimating the challenges that are faced. There is still far more that needs to be done on plastics in particular and on waste in general.

A member of the audience noted that it was still far harder to change behaviours in the UK than it was in the Middle East and that more businesses in the UK do need to create a step-change – however, the data also showed that progress is being made and maybe the fact that sustainability is now a prime board agenda item shows just how far that understanding has come and is an encouraging sign.

As the above video indicates the next decade could see some radical innovation and change that will see further radical developments and movement towards a strong sustainability approach.

As David noted, we all have a role to play and often it is just the small things that we do in our behaviours that can create that change.

Our thanks to both David and Barings for a thought-provoking and engaging evening.