Episode #28: Mike Clasper – Sustainability at the heart of good management

02 April 2019

Mike Clasper

In this episode, I talk to Mike Clasper. Mike is the chairman of Coats Group plc. He was formerly chief executive of the airports company BAA, and was chairman of HMRC. He was awarded a CBE in 1995 for services to the environment arising from his time at Procter and Gamble. 

In this interview, we talk how he got to where he is and some of the issues that he dealt with along the way. We talk about the current landscape for socially responsible business, including whether or not mainstream investors are now waking up to the issue as a factor for decision making.

Mike is a highly capable and inspirational leader with a wealth of insight and experience, and I think you’ll get a huge amount from this interview.

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young Mike when he left school and looked ahead to adult life? (1:31)

How did Mike find his first job at the nationalised British Rail? (3:34)

Mike’s move to Procter & Gamble and into the world of brand management (6:42)

What accounted for Mike’s rapid rise within the ranks of P&G? (9:16)

How did Mike emerge triumphant in “the soap wars” with Unilever? A case study in managing reputation (10:33)

Mike’s initiative on packaging waste that projected him into environmental leadership within business (16:23)

What prompted Mike’s move from P&G to run British airports? (19:32)

The hornet’s nest Mike stirred up when he became chief executive (22:54)

Mike’s insistence that the airline industry should be included in emissions trading (24:40)

The challenge of the construction of Terminal 5 (27:46)

Good quality management in solving problems is sometimes what delivers the socially responsible outcome (31:30)

What has changed in the attitudes of mainstream investors? (33:55)

Can you plan for the long-term when there are raiders who want to buy companies purely for short-term returns? (37:40)

The move to the public sector as chairman of HMRC (39:30)

Why it’s so difficult to experiment with new approaches before going to scale (47:00)

How Mike’s current company, Coats, is facing up to sustainability challenges (49:00)

What’s one practical change Mike would like to change before hanging up his gloves (54:00)

Advice Mike would give to his younger self (54:36)

An impressive change maker Mike has been inspired by (55:18)

Mistakes Mike has made that led to a better outcome or personal growth (56:10)

A habit Mike would like to change (59:00)

A book that influenced Mike’s thinking (59:45)

Advice Mike would give to young would-be change makers starting out (1:00:35) 


Mike on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-clasper-56b365164/

The Mind of the Strategist, Kenichi Ohmae https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mind-Strategist-Art-Japanese-Business/dp/0070479046/

Coats plc https://www.coats.com/en/Responsibility/Responsibility-Overview