Five Questions on Sustainable Leadership
Feedback from Paul-Edouard Dubrule, participant of the BNP Paribas Wealth Management ‘Sustainability Leadership Programme’ at the University of Cambridge.
“The positive development since the BNP Paribas programme at Cambridge is that sustainability is now on the Board’s agenda of priorities.”
I have been working at Tok&Stok, the leading furniture retail store in Brazil, for almost 18 years now. The company was created by my parents in 1978 and has expanded to 56 stores nationwide today. In the last few years, we have focussed on developing the company in the north / north-east regions and sold 60% of the company to a US-based fund in 2012. I left my role as Chief Operating Officer in October last year, so since then I’ve been spending more time working as a Board member, both for Tok&Stok and for other companies where we have investments.
What positive impact do you aspire to have through your business activities?
Sustainability has always been a concern for us at Tok&Stok. As we don’t actually produce the products we sell, and rely on a large supplier base, it is important for us to understand where our products come from and to be assured that the materials (and processes) used are sustainable.
From a personal perspective, I know there is a long way to go for us in Brazil when it comes to sustainability. For instance, we want to make sure that our plastic packaging is recycled; in our stores, we are trying to use more sustainable sources of energy and to reduce the use of water and energy. In terms of societal impact, it is critical in a developing country like Brazil that we employers work hard to educate our workforce and actively support lower-income families to send their children to school and college.
Why did you want to participate in the BNP Paribas Sustainable Leadership programme at Cambridge University?
The presentation of the BNP Paribas programme at Cambridge was very well done and very interesting, I liked the different subjects that were introduced in the brochure I received. Since the change in my role, I have more time to pursue my interests, so moved around my schedule to attend the BNP Paribas programme at Cambridge University.
Were there any “eureka” moments during the course?
The talk that impacted me most was given by one of the PhD candidates from Cambridge University, who has travelled a lot to the Antarctic. She showed photos of how the area she’s studying is evolving rapidly, which emphasised how important it is for all of us to understand the impact of climate change and our contributing role.
This is something that companies rarely talk about, and so one of the first things I did when I came back was to bring this issue to the table at our Board meeting. It attracted a lot of discussion, so will definitely be an on-going concern.
Has the course inspired any change?
Not yet – but I think the positive development since the BNP Paribas programme at Cambridge is that sustainability is now on the Board’s agenda of priorities. We are going to keep educating ourselves about sustainability, and I think the fact that we discussed it at the Board meeting has already made the company approach more strategic. By next year, I hope to have more practical and tangible developments to report.
Tell us about your background.