Episode #9: Rob Cameron – Tackling the big emerging issues

06 November 2018

Rob Cameron

In this episode, I talk to Rob Cameron, the chief executive of the consultancy and think tank Sustainability.

Rob has been the CEO of a sustainability-focused communications company, Flag – he has been CEO of Fairtrade International and now, in his current role, deals with some of the major global businesses that see themselves on the journey for a sustainable future.

In this interview we talk about how he came to be where he is today and how he had to find his direction along the way. We talk about some of the campaigning issues he’s dealt with, particularly on areas such as fair trade and the impact it has on growers across the world, and latterly the emerging area of antimicrobial resistance.

Rob has been a personal friend of mine for many years, and he’s consistently been one of the more thoughtful and eloquent leaders in the area of sustainability. We cover a lot of ground in this interview, and I think you’ll find it a great listen.

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young Rob Cameron? (1:37)

Why starting in sales makes sense when you don’t know your direction or purpose (2:27)

How Rob ended up at a relatively early age in charge of the company that came to be known as Flag (3:27)

Changing the name to Flag, and why generic descriptive names are not good names for a business (4:27)

The early signs in Rob that he would come to focus on responsibility (5:31)

How Rob came to focus on corporate sustainability as a key focus for the company (7:48)

The major employee communications project that had a significant impact on accident rates in a large company (9:12)

Some of the starting points in getting to grips with corporate responsibility (11:59)

The challenge of doing sustainability communications with large corporates (15:19)

How Rob invested time and energy into getting into the network of sustainable business  (16:26)

How Rob came to the point where it made sense to sell Flag (18:33)

The experience of becoming an employee in the company you formerly owned (20:38)

Rob’s move from Flag to become CEO of Fairtrade International (22:27)

The importance of the Fairtrade mission and the challenges it faced as the agenda became mainstream (27:10)

What role do schemes like Fairtrade have in continuing our progress in reducing absolute poverty worldwide? (29:44)

How important is it that some significant companies have moved away from Fairtrade in recent months? (31:34)

Rob’s move to Sustainability – a consultancy but not a standard consultancy (33:33)

How Sustainability works, both as a consultancy and as a think tank (35:21)

Why you can’t predict the future by simply extrapolating existing trends, and why ‘standing in the future’ can give a different route to insights (37:14)

The issues we need to be aware of that are coming into prominence (39:00)

One practical change Rob would like to make before hanging up his gloves (40:33)

Advice Rob would give to his younger self (41:16)

Who are some impressive change makers that have inspired Rob, and why? (42:41)

What mistake has Rob made that led to a better outcome or personal growth? (44:59)

What habit would Rob like to change? (45:28)

What books have had a powerful impact on Rob’s life? (46:11)

Advice to people just starting out who want to make a difference to the world (47:52)


Rob on Twitter https://twitter.com/rob_cameron_

Sustainability website: https://sustainability.com

Sustainability on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sustability

Books in this episode

Aesops Fables https://www.amazon.co.uk/Aesops-Fables-Michael-Rosen/dp/1896580815/

Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tale-Two-Cities-Charles-Dickens-ebook/dp/B004EHZXVQ/

Zen in English Literature, RH Blyth https://www.amazon.co.uk/Zen-English-Literature-Oriental-Classics/dp/1621389723/