Creating the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs

Late last year, we were asked by Derek Browne from Entrepreneurs In Action to help out with an event focused on raising awareness of sustainability and enterprise among students at Sevenoaks School – two things we are very passionate about. The intention was to create a day where students could hear from people involved in sustainability, hopefully be inspired, and then come up with their own business ideas and pitch them to other people (all in the space of a couple of hours). With the help of the Energy Managers Association, we were able to get a couple of awesome speakers – Sonja Graham, Creative Development Manager from the Global Action Plan and Jaz Rabadia, the UK energy manager for Sainsburys. We were joined by James Cornwell, the Quality and Environmental Director of Fourfront Group; not only is James an expert in sustainability, but he was actually an old boy of the school (aka an Old Sennockian)!

Being quizzed about our thoughts on sustainability

Being quizzed about our thoughts on sustainability

To be honest, I was completely nervous at the start of the day – not so much about speaking in front of 200 people, but more about being back at school! After a quick speech by Katy Ricks talking about the school motto and the importance of service (some of which was in Latin), James, Sonja and I were then interviewed as part of a panel discussion about sustainability – and why it’s important. As James Cornwell said afterwards “it is vitally important for students to understand what sustainability means within the world of business, and essential that business passes on its knowledge so the next generation are smarter than the last.”

There were some good questions from the students (including what was going on in Australia), and I hope that a key theme that emerged was that it was good business sense to be interested in sustainability, particularly in terms of the efficiency savings that exist.

Students try and sell their new business ideas to teachers, parents and guests

Students then spent a couple of hours in groups of about 20 looking at issues around energy, water usage, obesity, the end state of which was to have some business ideas that they pitched to about 40 adults who had some fake money to spend on the various products on offer. The students took on that with a lot of gusto – and many are definitely budding entrepreneurs and sales gurus!

Jaz giving a speech to two hundred students!

Jaz giving a speech to two hundred students

Throughout the day, we were all really keen to highlight that sustainability is not just about being green, but that it has huge impacts on enterprise – as Jaz said in her keynote presentation at the end of the day, sustainability is a huge driver of both commercial and environmental benefits – and that Sainsburys had benefited massively in terms of reducing their energy spend through some of their sustainability strategies.

And here is that graphic that I mentioned on the day about a day with less driving which was the study done in Pittsburgh by the National Geographic.


3 Responses to Creating the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs

  1. Sonja Graham says:

    It was a great day to be involved in; the students at Sevenoaks showed that this generation doesn’t just want to leave sustainability up to the “grown-ups” to solve. Entrepreneurs in Action really demonstrated to the group how they can use their skills to be a force for social and environmental good, whether through coming up with the next great green invention or through showing sustainability leadership in organisations they go on to join.

  2. Jaz Rabadia says:

    The students were brilliant and showed great professionalism throughout the day. Some fantastic sustainable ideas and concepts turned into marketable business ideas in just one hour! A great insight and exposure to real life practioners in sustainability that left students, parents and teachers alike feeling very inspired to find their sustain-ability!

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