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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

22 February 2024 - In this blog Munish Datta, recently appointed Chair of the Business and Sustainability Programme (BSP) for its 30th year, reflects on the past 30 years of sustainability and the impact of the programme in the coming decades. 

2024 marks thirty years since the Business and Sustainability Programme (BSP) was founded by His Majesty, King Charles III, the then Prince of Wales. Since 1994, the programme has engaged over 4,500 alumni from 1750 organisations and become a global benchmark in sustainability leadership education. The last three decades have also marked a monumental change in the natural, social, and economic systems that underpin every aspect of life.

Since 1994 we have added 3bn humans to global population, our demand on natural resources has far outstripped the planets’ ability to naturally regenerate them causing huge ecological degradation. The use of fossil fuels has warmed the planet at a record-breaking pace and impacts, especially in already fragile parts of the world, have become increasingly destructive. International efforts, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, have been established to address global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Innovation and capital flows have driven the adoption of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources now the most cost-effective way to produce energy in most parts of the world.

I remember getting my first mobile phone, now an antiquated technology given the breathless advance in technology which has transformed society in the way we communicate, work, and access information and, it feels like we are only just getting out of first gear given the exponential rise of AI, robotics and the metaverse. We have seen the rise of many social justice movements advocating for equal rights, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, and other human rights issues. Political landscapes have evolved globally, with shifts in power dynamics, the rise of populist movements, and changes in governance structures. These factors, and others, are contributing to a widening inequality between the relatively few wealthy people and the vast majority who are not.

The BSP has been pioneering in helping senior leaders not just navigate and understand the interconnected, systemic nature of these challenges, but to use these insights to influence strategic change across their organisation at the scale of business model and purpose.  The programme has been a safe space for to engender commitment, courage, creativity, and collaboration and a connection to CISL’s global network of over 30,000 alumni. Leaders have carried with them an ability to create organisational resilience, relevance and in many cases define a purpose that unlocks value for them, their organisation, society, and nature.

My own relationship with BSP started as a delegate in 2012 and has grown to become a regular contributor and faculty since. Reflecting on my learning experience, it is, without any doubt, the most significant moments in shaping me, in activating my passion for sustainability by converting theory into practise. It is therefore my huge honour and responsibility to take the position of Chair of BSP, working alongside  world-class experts in the global steering committee and outstanding programme team and faculty. Drawing from our experience, in the real economy, third sector and civil society, from a variety of cultures and geographies, we are committed to shaping and delivering an optimum pedagogy, with leading-edge content.

The greatest distinction between now and 1994 is that we have the benefit of hindsight and better foresight than ever, we have the solutions, capital and growing public support to turn risks into opportunities. This can inspire us to imagine life in 2054, where innovation and collective endeavour has enabled the regeneration of nature, we are united by a global ethos of inclusivity and empathy, where diversity is celebrated, paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable world. This is the vision that motivates me to contribute to the success of the BSP, a life changing experience which has been fundamental to my sustainability leadership journey and, is needed now, more than ever. 

Across this year, the BSP will be held in four locations including Melbourne, Cambridge, Singapore and Nairobi. Find out more about the programme on the website

About the author

Munish is Director of Sustainability for Specsavers Group, operating in 11 countries, with 45,000 partners and colleagues, changing the lives of 41 million customers through better sight and hearing. As a Fellow at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, he empowers senior business leaders & organisations to tackle critical global challenges. 


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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