Sustainability – Feb 2022

Miles Watkins


Miles is a professional environmentalist who began his career in the heavy construction materials space. Having achieved several industry accolades in sustainability, he went on to be commercial leader of one of the world’s leading research and technical organisations in the built environment.

Now as an independent specialist, Miles helps public and private entities integrate the challenge of sustainability through the delivery of customer-led, practical solutions. Miles also operates a couple of start-up circularity businesses Stuff4Life and Xeroc which are developing technologies to cope with the sins of the past as well as deliver circular business models for the future in plastics and minerals respectively.

He has a PhD in change management from the University of Bath, is a Chartered Environmentalist, an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Quarrying  and a Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.

Sustainability – Feb 2022

In 1996 when I started my journey as a sustainability professional, my colleagues thought I was completely mad, somewhat delusional or, at best, ever so slightly socialist. I used to routinely pipe-up in commercial meetings forecasting that customers would become quite fussy about the ethical credentials of their suppliers and that products with a lower carbon content would be in demand. I used to press for detailed ‘warts and all’ environmental performance reporting much to the annoyance of the communications team. I bored the HR manager to death with my insistence that the youth would look in detail at a potential employer’s sustainability record and future commitments, and maybe hold this in a higher regard than a company car.

Now as much as these prophecies are not 100% true today, they are beginning to bite at an increasing rate. Sustainability and good business are more synonymous now than any time in the past. Other than the general rise in awareness regarding the state of the planet thanks to the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, we have seen a substantial take-up of sustainability issues as a marker of quality business leadership by the financial community. You need look no further than the annual open letter to CEOs issued by Larry Fink, leader of BlackRock. In it, Larry links long term shareholder value to meaningful stakeholder engagement – understanding both your impact on and the needs of those around you.

Sustainability – one word – easy to say. But it is quite hard to deliver well for lots of reasons – some of which are not connected to good intentions or a lack thereof. In a series of monthly editorials, I will explore the myriad of sustainability issues which come together to challenge all businesses in the mineral sector. Without doubt it will bring more questions than answers but as Larry says, ‘will you lead or will you be led’?