A conversation between Stephen A. Carter, Group CEO and Ben Wielgus, Head of Sustainability.
Ben: As an Informa colleague, I found it an exciting, busy and
fulfilling year, with all the many activities going on around the
Accelerated Integration Plan, including the launch of the Informa
Constitution. How would you describe the year?
Stephen: I saw 2019 as something of a tipping point. It was the
year we fulfilled the promises we made to our shareholders in
return for their confidence and support to further expand the
Group. We brought many teams and colleagues together into
one business, we made the enlarged Group more efficient, and
we just achieved another year of growth. That builds external
trust and internal confidence.
In that sense, in 2019 we demonstrated the strength of the
platform we have invested in over the last six or seven years.
This made it the perfect time to refresh and crystallise our Purpose
and Guiding Principles as a Company, in what you and I now call the
Informa Constitution. We defined who we are as a business today
and, as a result, who we will be has become clearer to ourselves
and our Shareholders.
Ben: The introduction of the Constitution, with a clear purpose
and set of guiding principles, felt like a significant development
in our culture to many of us.
Stephen: Yes. Describing how we go about doing business is
a powerful thing.
We have talked before about Informa being a people business,
a face-to-face business, and a human business. When I spend time
with the thousands of colleagues who provided input and ideas to
help develop our Constitution, I saw colleagues who in many ways
are very different from each other, working in different geographies
and different businesses. However, all have a set of shared values
and beliefs, which are now enshrined in our shared Constitution.
It is important, because it says so much to current and future
colleagues and to shareholders, partners and suppliers, about
the kind of people we are at Informa, and the kind of business
we want to be.
Ben: It certainly feels to me like there is a growing feeling
of connection, and ambition as well. Not least of which is in the
launch of our new FasterForward programme which sets us on
an ambitious path to support the shift to an ever more sustainable
way of doing things. How is this important to our culture?
Stephen: We have always said one of our long-term objectives
is that when colleagues move on from Informa, and they are
interviewing for another job, the hiring manager will say “you were
doing that at Informa, that’s impressive!” Of course, that will result
partly from Informa being a successful business – by being a good
place to work, by serving customers, and creating jobs.
Being a successful business also means being successful in creating
benefits for our customers, our communities and the wider
societies we operate in. We are now at a stage where we can set
some ambitious targets for our environmental, social and economic
impacts as a business, and I believe this focus on sustainability will
become an increasingly important component of our culture and
our commercial offering.
Ben: Many of us are excited about these plans. Why do you think
this is the right time for Informa?
Stephen: It goes back to the business we have built over the last
six or seven years. Our investments and progressive improvements,
the talent we have brought in, the commercial success, all of those
things give us both the capability and the licence to go further
now. When we look at the initiatives and stories from around the
business, we see a growing ambition and willingness to lead
by example, The Informa Way. The vast majority of people in
Informa want to do the best thing for their customers and for
Our Walk the World programme is something we are all
very proud of at Informa – but the innovation I see from many
of our colleagues, in how we produce our products and help our
customers achieve their goals, including addressing social and
environmental impacts – these are all key to how we will contribute
positively to change going forward.
I have always believed in business as a force for good.
At Informa, we are one of the world’s leading knowledge and
information providers which creates significant opportunities to
help our specialist markets address their own challenges, against
a backdrop of growing environmental and social pressures. Every
business needs to play its role and whilst, as a knowledge and
information company, our direct impact is limited this does not
remove the imperative and the opportunity to be a better and
more sustainable business.
Ben: Businesses of our scale are scrutinized not only for our direct
impact, but for our indirect impact too. And as you know, some of
our businesses rely on customers taking flights to attend events.
Are you concerned about the risk to our business if people decide
to cut back on flying?
Stephen: That is a great question. Those businesses in Informa
that create, manage, operate and curate major events, actually
reduce flights, save travel, and increase connectivity. That is the
power of our large-scale branded portfolio. It is the reach and ability
of a large scale to bring whole specialist communities together
in one place, at one time.
Our events also connect directly to the power of human ingenuity.
Our future, as a species, depends upon ideas rapidly spreading
across continents, and that is even more important when it comes
to challenges like climate change. Digital connectivity sustains
relationships, but in-person connections help ensure relationships
are trusted and effective and, therefore, new ideas are
The platforms we create allow for highly efficient in-person
connections, helping our customers limit their own carbon
footprint. Surveys of our customer groups tell us that being able to
meet important contacts, access education, network and do deals
all in one place saves significant time and cost and helps cut back on
numerous other travel obligations that would otherwise be taken.
It is efficient for them, it is efficient for their business, and it is
effective for the wider environment.
As a convener, facilitator and connector, the role we play, the
thing we must keep sight of, is that we exist to help others. Many
specialist industries will provide the solutions, but every industry
will have to adapt. We exist to champion the people who will
create solutions, and to help industries make progress efficiently,
including our own.