By Ian Cheshire
Sally Uren and I have seen rather a lot of each other over the past couple of weeks. That’s because Forum for the Future’s Chief Executive is also the chair of our Net Positive Advisory Council, which recently had its first meeting and participated in a Net Positive Timber Conversation – another step towards a restorative approach to forestry. While it was, of course, lovely to share those moments with Sally, they both, more importantly, represent something close to the very heart of Forum’s ambitions and to Kingfisher’s Net Positive approach: being a catalyst to collaboration beyond the walls of our business.
I’m particularly excited by the new Net Positive Advisory Council, a group of leading experts who will stimulate our thinking and keep challenging us on our journey to Net Positive. At this first session, I was struck both by the depth of knowledge in the room and also the willingness of those present to share their thinking with us. We took away a raft of new ideas that will help us on our Net Positive journey, as well as offers to form partnerships and collaborate.
The latest in our series of conversations proved to be an equally inspirational meeting. These events bring together experts on a particular topic to help us crack some of the problems we face in achieving our Net Positive goals. This time, the conversation was focused on sustainable timber. We were extremely lucky to have some of the most knowledgeable people in this field review our progress to date and share their ideas for how our aspiration – to create more forest than we use – can be achieved, and what it will take to get there.
It is important to me that this collaboration doesn’t stop at conversation. When we benefit from the expertise of others, it’s only right that we make our own contribution to expanding the collective knowledge pool. That’s why, as we break new ground with Net Positive, we’re going to share what we learn and “open source” our solutions so others can benefit from them.
Take our closed loop calculator. We are currently testing what we believe is the first simple method to identify and measure important closed loop credentials. It will help us to monitor progress towards our goal of creating our first 1,000 retail products with closed loop credentials, but we know it will be useful for other businesses, too. As the concept is developed, we will make it freely available for others to use. We will do the same with the impact measures we are creating to assess progress against our other Net Positive aspirations.
I’m also very aware that new ideas aren’t just to be found outside the business. There’s a great opportunity for us to tap into the insights of our own 80,000 people. As we progress on Net Positive, it is a priority for me that we create new ways for our people to share their ideas and be exposed to new concepts from outside that can inspire them. It is my responsibility as the Group’s Chief Executive to create the right environment for this, so that as new ideas emerge they can take hold and grow. It was particularly inspiring to be part of an event just last week that saw 6,000 commercial colleagues, store colleagues and suppliers for B&Q UK and Castorama, France, coming together to showcase product and innovation.
At the World Retail Congress, one of my main assertions was that “we all have to be brave enough to reinvent.” To today’s retailers, that means many things: to design new uses for their floor space, to reimagine how to source and sell products (“omnichannel” seems to be the idea du jour). But reinvention must also apply to how we solve challenges in the world that loom large for the business – like sourcing timber and other raw materials sustainably and affordably. And at the heart of that reinvention must be new ideas and a desire to seek out opportunities for collaboration.
Ian Cheshire is the Group Chief Executive of Kingfisher plc, Europe’s largest home improvement retailer and a Forum for the Future partner.