Mike Barry, Leading Strategic Advisor and Consultant on Sustainable Business Industry Talk

Mike Barry Industry Talk Condé Nast College

The Condé Nast College was delighted to welcome Leading Strategic Advisor and Consultant on Sustainable Business to our virtual lecture theatre via Zoom for an industry talk this February. Here, MA Fashion Journalism student, Madeleine Guine takes us through some of the highlights from the Mike Barry industry talk.


About Mike Barry


Considered the leader in sustainable change and most innovative sustainable change-maker for corporations, Mike Barry is committed to helping businesses successfully prepare for the great sustainability disruption expected to take the economy by storm in the 2020s.


Recent Projects


For ten years, Mike Barry designed and implemented Marks & Spencer’s sustainability programme. With this strategy ‘Plan A’, because there is no plan B for the planet, he helped M&S achieve zero-waste-to-landfill status, 100% renewable electricity, and carbon neutrality across all stores, offices, and warehouses. This change management programme made sustainability a priority for M&S and set the example for many businesses. When he left M&S he created mikebarryeco in order to support more organisations take the leap towards sustainability. 

Mike Barry Industry Talk


The State of our Planet


Mike Barry began by giving an eye-watering report on the current state of our planet. Starting with climate change, he explained that in the last 30 to 40 years the world’s average temperature has dramatically risen. The Arctic is currently 8℃ to 9℃ warmer than its long-term average and the predictions, if we do nothing, are catastrophic. Climates all around the world are changing dramatically, such as in the UK in 2020 when the wettest February ever was recorded just a few months before the driest May. Extreme temperatures and meteorology are due to the carbon dioxide released into the air because of our actions.


Plastic is another enormous threat to our planet, in the last year Europe produced 3000 megatons of plastic. Eight million tons of the world’s plastic is floating in oceans at this very moment and is then swallowed by some of the marine life that ends up on our plates.


The Effects of Plastic


Plastic is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, in fact the rate of global species going extinct is hundreds of times higher than what it has been over the last 10 million years, and the rate is growing every day. For Mike Barry biodiversity is like a game of Jenga, “If you pull something out, the whole system falls over”. 


From the seven million single-use coffee cups discarded in the UK per year, to the 120 billion pieces of packaging used only for beauty products, our consumption habits are devastating for the planet.


In 2020, 130 billion clothes were consumed, making fashion one of the most pollutive industries in the world. The clothes we buy, wear, wash, and discard not only cost the planet a lot to produce but washing our clothes releases microplastic into our oceans. 


This prospect is extremely appalling, but Mike Barry believes we have the keys to make this essential change. As he puts it: “there is no vaccine for the planet and climate change, we have to change.”

Businesses leading the way to sustainability


As Mike explains, “70% or 80% of people recognise that what they do has an impact, but only 10% or 20% of people feel confident that they can do something about it”. A significant amount of solutions already exist but these are either too expensive, not easily accessible, and of poor quality and aesthetic. Businesses who find a way to join affordability, quality, and sustainability will thrive. 


“The kind of business we need going forward is one that recognises that the world is not in a good place today. But that by being determined and using the solutions that exist today, we can create a fundamentally better world and society” 


Brands have already implemented big changes to their production. In the past years a growing number of companies have been working on reaching net-zero carbon emissions. Businesses who work towards more sustainable models, are actually benefiting from it. In 2019 M&S started growing produce right in their stores, significantly reducing the carbon emissions, uses of water, fertiliser and even costs of transportation. 


Mike Barry concluded his inspiring talk by reminding the Condé Nast College students that : “You, as new leaders stepping out into the economy, you can be the agents of change that we so desperately need to build on these early steps that we have made.” 


By Madeleine Guine, MA Fashion Journalism Student

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