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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


21 January 2020 – Mike Rogerson is a chartered accountant with a decade of experience working in finance and operational management across three continents. He shares his experience of studying the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains, and how his time with CISL nurtured his interest in social sustainability and led him to pursue a PhD focusing on corporate accountability.

I had been working as an operations consultant when I made the decision to embark on a part-time sustainability course. My clients at the time included a multinational construction company, with projects based in Africa. My role involved advising on logistics in the countries the company was looking to expand into, and I had developed a broad interest in the impact that business decisions can have on local market places and an organisation’s supply chains. 

The Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains appealed to me because it offered a deeper understanding of key sustainability issues, combined with practical, hands-on learning that I felt I could apply to real life situations once back in the workplace.

I had a particular interest in social sustainability, and my tutors were very encouraging and supportive of me analysing the subject in as broad a way as possible.

This was my first experience of undertaking primary, empirical research in an area that was really topical. My research centred on Modern Slavery in Business and having the opportunity, time and resources, not to mention the support of my tutors, to forensically examine this emerging subject, was very exciting to me. 

The course absolutely exceeded my expectations, which were high anyway, and I wish I could have spent a full year working there because I enjoyed everything, from the planning and interaction with the tutors, to the calibre of the guest speakers, and the quality and diversity of my cohort.

Inspired to follow a new career path

I gained so much insight during my time with CISL, and further deepened my knowledge and conviction through discussion and debate with my cohort. We developed good friendships and I’m delighted to be part of a supportive group of people from such a diverse range of backgrounds and professions.

It’s not an understatement to say that the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership pretty much changed my life trajectory. 

Through the duration of the course, it became clear to me how much I enjoyed the research element of studying, and how engaging I found the course material. My time with CISL made me reassess my career plans, and I made the decision to pursue a path that would allow me to focus on the issues I felt really passionate about.

Modern slavery in the workplace

I had found the issue of modern slave labour a compelling one during my time as a consultant. A number of the African and Middle Eastern countries I worked in had problems with slavery because of weak institutional environments where companies could get away with extreme forms of exploitation. The problem of slave labour and the football World Cup construction projects became more prevalent in the media, and I had advised on these issues as part of my work.

What I learned from studying for my Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains directly influenced the way I approached work and how I advised others. During a consultancy role for a construction company, examining refuse collections systems in Angola, I advised the client to enhance the governance around their employment practices. I believe that my insight helped to influence how the board viewed potential labour exploitation in their supply chains.

Having completed my CISL Postgraduate Certificate, I applied to study for a PhD in Modern Slavery and Supply Chains at the University of Bath. Around that time, the Modern Slavery Act came into force and all firms were obliged to publish statements on it. 

There is always more to be done, but I believe many companies can see the opportunities that the Modern Slavery Act brings to their business and that the public are increasingly aware and engaged with the issue too. I believe sustainability teams and those with experience of investigating supply chains are best placed to oversee the implementation of the legislation and I’m optimistic about the progress that is being made.

I learnt so much at CISL and it was fun and enjoyable, even though at times quite intense. It got me to a place where I’m now collaborating with a pioneer of Modern Slavery in Business research at the University of Bath, working at the heart of my own type of sustainability. 

Since completing PCSVC Mike has gone on to publish some of his research, together with Professor Glenn Parry, Professor of Digital Transformation, University of Surrey. Find out more about his paper Blockchain: case studies in food supply chain visibility.

Learn more about the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (PCSB) and apply now for 2020.

The course is a 9-month Master's-level graduate programme, delivered part time for working professionals. You can choose from two streams – Organisational, or Value Chains and Markets (formerly known as the PCSVC).

The programme is designed to strengthen your leadership skills, help you embed sustainability in your organisation or across your supply chain to achieve positive, transformative change.


About the author

Michael Rogerson

Mike Rogerson is a chartered accountant with an established career in financial and operational management roles in Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. He is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Bath, with research focusing on corporate accountability, in particular around modern slavery reporting, and blockchain as a tool for supply chain visibility.

Mike completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) in 2018.


Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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