Jo Daniels, ‘Business in the Community’, began the debate by agreeing that it is ok to profit from ‘Sustainability’ but also confessed that she felt that businesses were not doing enough.

She recalled how, over the last 30 years, the challenges that companies face in the CR space have become more complex and why companies now need to ensure that CR is deeply embedded into every element of their business.

One of the most important points she raised was that CSR and Sustainability should no longer be about ‘what businesses can’t do’. Yes it should ensure that it operates ethically, does not rely on slave labour and have far-reaching health and safety guidelines but it should also be about the positive. She commented that as well as pushing the agenda forward, the benefits ‘Sustainability’ offers will enable businesses to stand out in the market place.

Another key point raised by Jo was that CSR shouldn’t just be ‘the small department down the corridor’ – every department and every element of the business needs to consider CSR and that departments need to collaborate to ensure that CSR is pushed forward.

But it’s not just about the business functions, stated Jo. CEOs need to be driving this forward, in fact she claimed that it will take ‘brave leaders’ to ensure that it brings investors along on the journey to ensuring that businesses invest in pivotal CSR measures.

But closing up Jo was unsure whether or not existing CSR efforts ‘Cut the Mustard’. Looking at the way the population is growing and the resources that this growth will require, Jo claimed that businesses will continue to struggle unless they consider ‘Community Building’ and ‘more connected ways of living’. There needs to be a shift, claimed Jo, from product based businesses to service based offerings. For example, do we need to keep making CDs if we all consume digital content? We need to consider new ways of consuming such as ‘collaborative consumption’. Lots of food for thought.


Join the conversation at next week’s event.

4th speaker announced! Jo Daniels, Marketplace Director at Business in the Community.

Date: Tuesday July 12th from 6.30pm – 8.00pm Venue: The Shooting Gallery, The Haymarket Hotel, Confirmed speakers:

  • Donna Young, CSR Programme Director, BT
  • Wolfgang Weinmann, Director of Strategy, CafeDirect
  • Matt Bell, Group Head of External Affairs, Berkeley Group Holdings PLC
  • Jo Daniels, Marketplace Director at Business in the Community

A bit more about our speakers:

Donna Young – Donna has been at BT since 1992. Her career has led her to work in various positions such as Head of at Climate Change and Head of Communications & Engagement at BT. In these roles, she helped to develop BT’s environment & climate change strategy and generated new opportunities as a result of BT becoming more “green”.  She also helped to set the strategy and manage the implementation of BT’s portfolio transformation in relation to communications and change in behaviours through engagement with the wider community.

Wolfgang Weinmann –Wolfgang joined Cafédirect in 2005 and, prior to his present role, was the Head of the Producer Partnership Programme, the company’s unique social return initiative for and with producer partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

He now sets the strategic direction for the company and with a background within the sustainable development field, from humanitarian aid interventions, project design & management to senior consultancy assignments he’s the right guy for the job.

Matt Bell – Matt  joined Berkeley Group in March 2011 and is an experienced comms professional. He was previously Director of Education and External Affairs at CABE, where he led policy, research and campaign teams working across Government to improve the quality of housing, schools, and public space. During these 7 years, he also championed the Building for Life initiative, as well as commissioning CABE’s Housing Audit, a 3 year research programme that produced the first ever empirical assessment of the quality of new housing in England. He was also Director of Communications at VSO, he led various marketing, PR, and advocacy programmes working as part of the global senior management team.

Jo Daniels – Jo is the Director for the Marketplace Campaign and a member of the Executive Team at Business in the Community. She has worked with BITC for nine years with the last six spent developing the organisations work on how companies integrate responsible business into commercial operations – through customer and supplier relationships and new product development. This has involved working with leading companies including Cadbury, Unilever, Audi and Marks & Spencer

To register to attend this FREE event please visit

We would also like to ask if  anyone have any questions for our speakers?

Ella Mayhew, Director, Corporate

I was delighted to hear that Diageo is to pay for 10,000 midwives in England and Wales to be trained to offer advice on the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy. In my opinion, this is a great example of what can be achieved through a collaborative partnership, rather than top-down Government intervention. 

A recent poll of UK consumers by the research company TNS indicates that consumers are inclined to agree. A quarter of respondents think that the food and drinks industry should lead the way in educating consumers on how to make healthy choices and more than half (58 percent) say it is down to individuals to take personal responsibility for what they are eating and drinking.  So, with funding from industry, guidance from Government, access to primary care practitioners and the delivery of information to consumers, could it be true that with the Responsibility Deal, the government has in fact, come upon the perfect behaviour change approach?

I’d like to think yes, but already the naysayers are out in force.  Of course, there are some who feel there are insurmountable conflicts of interest in an industry player funding the solution.  To this group of people, industry will only ever be part of the problem.  But these are not the only critical voices that have been circulating since Diageo’s announcement made headlines. Across social media sites and blogger forums the debate about whether the move is money wasted, have been coming in thick and fast: “Don’t they {pregnant women} already know? Everybody else knows. Does it require formal training to get this simple message across?” comments one.  “How many people are unaware that pregnant drinking is bad?” adds another. 

I don’t doubt that the majority of women in England and Wales are aware that drinking alcohol while pregnant is not good for you. But when statistics show that more than a third (34%) of women don’t give up alcohol when pregnant, then clearly, more information is needed.  

If anyone knows how best to create messages and package them in a way that resonates with target consumers, surely it is the world’s biggest food and drink brands?  At MSL London, we work with some of these companies to deliver simple and informative health related materials for use with patients by healthcare professionals. The materials (brochures, pamphlets, websites etc) are developed by independent experts and supported by the latest science. And they are created because these companies want to make a difference.   

If food and drink industry support for improving our health were to stop, the landscape of our wellbeing would suffer. The public purse is more stretched than ever; remove industry support and it becomes harder to fund and coordinate public health initiatives, with the result that far fewer health and wellbeing messages end up reaching the consumer. 

Foetal alcohol exposure is the leading known cause of intellectual disability in the Western world, caused directly by consuming alcohol while pregnant. It is estimated internationally that one in every 100 children are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). If Diageo’s initiative enables midwives in England and Wales to reach a million women with more information on FASD, then that’s surely good enough reason for us all be hoping the Responsibility Deal is a success.

We are excited to confirm The Conversation Society’s next event. Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

Date: Tuesday July 12th from 6.30pm – 8.00pm

Venue: The Shooting Gallery, The Haymarket Hotel,

Confirmed speakers:

  • Donna Young, CSR Programme Director, BT
  • Wolfgang Weinmann, Director of Strategy, Cafe Direct
  • Matt Bell, Group Head of External Affairs, Berkeley Group Holdings plc

Lots of people are talking about living sustainably these days but do we all mean the same thing? How can we all use less but create more? Can green ever be mainstream? Is business turning light bulbs off or on with customers?   From health and wellness, through to protecting fragile eco systems, engaging employees and customers, sustainability is a big topic. To lead the conversation, and explain what excellence in sustainability means to their organisations and their stakeholders, our expert speakers will each speak for 10 minutes – no visuals, no PowerPoint, no charts, just conversation. Then it’s up to you.

To register to attend, please visit

Remember you can also follow the conversation via Twitter, @ConverSociety and by using #conversationsociety

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting its second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.

Our final evening panellist was Nick Southgate, communications consultant and proponent of Behavioural economics.

Nick Southgate


Nick spent time looking at the individual, as a consumer. His view is that the reason people do things is often not an individual motivation. What people often do, because we like to short-cut our decisions, is what other people do… we spend most of our lives doing more or less what we think the people around us are doing.

He went on to discuss how this is central to his thoughts on the debate in question. “I think cultural change is really the only way to affect individual change, including when it comes to alcohol consumption.”

Mark addressed his thought process by discussing things that we could do culturally to change people’s individual actions.

“First, we could change glass sizes so that smaller drinks were much more fashionable; these days the small wine glasses of yesteryear are so passé and we all want vast buckets but this is just fashion and the industry and partners could do a lot to change this.

We could, in a similar vein, make low alcohol drinks every bit as engaging and motivating as we currently do normal strength beers and wines, we could work harder to make these the drinks people want.

We could do more to routinely serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks together thereby diluting the effect of the alcoholic consumption more. And this could be done by improving the availability bias – for example, teaching bar staff to routinely serve a jug of water with each round or have water and glasses on all tables or simply to ask ‘would you like a non-alcoholic drink with that too?’ more often.

I also wonder why we don’t have more gourmet drinking establishments?  If you think of the number of high-end restaurants in which you have the sort of menu degustation and all these tiny amounts of food… there seems to be very little like this in the drinks world which instead seems to operate much more at the bargain bucket end of the spectrum.”

I also think about Jamie Oliver in the food industry – an engaging crusading figure who explains clearly why ‘better’ is more important than ‘more’ – someone who can almost single-handedly reframe the whole discussion.

Then there are oblique solutions… for example… I read a recent paper on how to reduce drinking on campus which said one of the most effective ways to do this was to increase the number of 9am lectures because it increases the cost of a hangover especially if those lectures are ones which are academically credited so you really do have to be there.”

“My conclusion is that the evidence seems to be showing more and more that culture is what needs to be changed. A responsibility agenda which is just about the individual looks less and less defensible and less and less credible. I think we are entering a new era of responsibility and this is what it will be about.”  Nick Southgate, May 2011.

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting its second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.

Following David Poley’s thoughts, we heard from Mark Baird (Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Diageo GB)

Mark Baird 

Mark continued the conversation by talking us through Diageo’s approach.

“Diageo’s approach is three-pronged: firstly we seek to create a more positive role for drinking; secondly we target specific actions and programmes on minority groups who misuse alcohol; and lastly we continually reinforce positive attitudes and behaviour among the overwhelming majority who drink responsibly.”

“Contextually, it’s hard to believe all of the following given how the media reports alcohol, but they’re all true: average alcohol consumption is down, harmful drinking is down, hazardous drinking is down, those drinking on more than five days a week is down, binge drinking is down, underage and teenage drinking is down, the number of alcohol-related crimes is down and the number of alcohol-related deaths is down.”

Mark then went on to explain that these declining numbers are NOT because of the recession, despite what some might say. “They began falling around 2004, years before the recession began. And I believe they began falling because of what we as an industry and companies like Diageo have been doing during that time.”

At industry level, the Drinkaware Trust was established around six years ago and its five-year, £100million “why let good times go bad?” campaign, aimed at 18-24 year olds, has had significant  success; backed by 45 companies involved in the production or retail of alcohol it now has results showing around 70% of target groups have been prompted to reconsider their drinking as a result of the campaign.

“As for Diageo specifically, we were the first company to launch a national responsible drinking campaign in 2007 and we fund a wide range of social responsibility activities up and down the country. For example, we fund the delivery of a hard-hitting drama about the risks of alcohol which has been delivered to 12-14 year-olds in more than 90 schools – 18,000 kids; we fund a programme in Angus which takes troubled teenagers from three high schools and involves them in rebuilding old motorbikes, preparing them for race days and then acting as race-crew – the rebuilding happens on Friday nights and the races on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so no drinking and no hangovers.”

“We support a police-led project in West Yorkshire where volunteers go into the streets in the early evening and engage with young women to warn them about the serious risks involved in drinking too much.

These are just some of our community initiatives; on a broader scale we also support the Home Office backed Purple Flag and Best Bar None schemes as well as Brake, The British Liver Trust and the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.”

So, to answer the question ‘are we entering a new era of responsibility?’ my view is a resounding no. And I base this on the fact that we as an industry, and Diageo as a company, have been involved in a new era of responsibility for at least the last seven years. Mark Baird May 2011.

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting our second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.


First to talk from our excellent panel was David Poley, CEO, The Portman Group. David started by taking us on a trip down memory lane, where we remembered the campaigns of 20 years ago,  ‘George’ the Hoffmeister bear and the campaign which featured cartoon woodpeckers and the strapline ‘spend some time out of your tree’.

 But David then examined that these are examples from 20 years ago and we’ve since been on a long journey of gradual changes. We have seen a huge change in attitudes towards alcohol marketing.  What was considered safe is now considered irresponsible.  What was considered irresponsible is now, hopefully, not even considered.

David commented by saying “The industry is expected to go further.  To be proactive in educating, informing and influencing consumers into more responsible behaviour.” This has led to a new way of thinking in many drinks companies. So, now, bottles and cans routinely feature unit content information, responsible drinking guidelines and warnings against drinking during pregnancy. On drinks marketing, point-of-sale and on websites you’ll see references to Drinkaware and its website and of course, in the last few years we’ve launched the Drinkaware Trust.

We also now have the Responsibility Deal between industry and Government.  This is providing the impetus for companies to look at new ways that they can help tackle alcohol misuse and promote healthy lifestyles.  In return for this, the Government has resolved to resist imposing legislation in these areas.  The Responsibility Deal is therefore a good thing for industry and, I believe for society. 

David concluded by saying “But the Responsibility Deal is not the end of the journey.  Sooner or later, the industry will face fresh pressure in one area or another.  So my view is that we need to keep doing what we have been doing, to try and anticipate where public expectation is going and make sure that we’re doing all we can to act responsibly and meet that expectation.”