On Wednesday 21 February Professor Kirkup delivered his talk to a crowded Fyvie Hall at Westminster’s Regent Street campus. His presentation explored the challenges faced by living in a ‘VUCA’ world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
Professor Kirkup presented some of the challenges we currently face as a global community, including population growth, increased consumption of natural resources and the quantity of waste we generate. In his view, business has a major role to play in leading the way to more responsible management of resources, viewing business leaders as ‘stewards’ of critical financial, social and natural capital.
Professor Kirkup focussed on the need for businesses to become more sustainable in their management practices not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it can be a contributor to efficiency savings, innovation and new business opportunities. He particularly explored how a different perspective on ‘waste’ – as a resource rather than a problem - can generate opportunities for new business enterprise.
He presented the theory of the ‘circular economy’ and lessons we can learn from businesses that are exploring recycling, re-manufacturing, re-purposing, up-cycling and industrial symbiosis. He explored the scope for new customer value, new revenue streams and cost savings through innovative approaches to waste, citing examples from the sustainable practices of corporate giants like Canon and new business models from Elvis and Kresse, who upcycle fire hose into high-end fashion accessories, and Toast, who collect stale bread and reprocess it into beer.
Professor Kirkup concluded his talk by describing the values and qualities that business leaders need to have to be successful in a VUCA world; responsible, collaborative, globally-minded, strategic thinkers, innovative, entrepreneurial, strategic, resilient, flexible and adaptable.
Malcolm Kirkup joined the University of Westminster in 2016 as Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Westminster Business School. His previous roles have included senior positions at several major UK business schools – Cranfield, Loughborough, Birmingham, Lancaster, Exeter and Edinburgh. He is known for his work in changing the curriculum in Business Schools to focus on the skills, knowledge and values that can better prepare young people for the global challenges facing business. He is particularly proud of his work in building the global reputation and impact of the Edinburgh MBA and Exeter’s One Planet MBA – both of which focus on developing graduates with a more inclusive, responsible and sustainable approach to business – and he continues as a champion of innovation, sustainability and change at Westminster Business School.