NIGEL DOUGHTY: 1957-2012
REMEMBERING A DEDICATED CHAMPION OF SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
The long journey to more sustainable business needs many different contributors. We need critical NGOs ready to challenge bad business behavior; able advisers who can help businesses find profitable sustainability solutions; thinkers able to conceptualise the issues and teach others. There is an especial need for successful capitalists who have built up businesses and who carry credibility with their peers, to champion sustainability.
Nigel Doughty was one of the latter. His sudden death at the very early age of 54 is a grievous loss. For me, he was not just a very generous and thoughtful initiator and sponsor of the business school centre that bears his name. He was also a wise counselor, a clever connector and indefatigable networker, a powerful ambassador – and a good friend.
I first met Nigel in late 2006, as one of several academic and practitioner candidates to be founder director of the Centre for Corporate Responsibility that he was sponsoring at Cranfield School of Management – where he had completed his MBA two decades earlier. He asked searching questions – but in a pleasant, conversational manner that was simultaneously disarming yet demanding.
A few weeks later, when to my great surprise and delight, I was chosen, we met for a “get to know-you” 1:1 dinner. We were of a similar age. We had both grown up in mining districts of the East Midlands. We quickly discovered a similar interest in politics and public affairs – and just as quickly, different political affiliations – but with a shared understanding of the need for both greater international competitiveness and greater social cohesion – not as rival choices but as mutually essential and reinforcing.
At this first 1:1, Nigel was clear. He was pleased to be able to found the new Centre – but he didn’t want to interfere – and if I ever thought he was inadvertently interfering, I should say so. I can see the scene now so clearly even five years on. I thanked him but added that I thought it was far more likely that I would be the one asking for more of his time and input not less – and that if anyone was going to be pushing back, it would be him pushing back to me that I was being too demanding of his involvement.
If the Centre subsequently ever was too demanding, he never indicated. Instead he was always ready to host a suggested meeting, and help us to bring people together. In our regular 1:1 catch-ups, however busy he was with other work, he was eager to hear of our progress and the challenges we were encountering – and quick to share some insight from Davos or wherever, that might help to reinforce our thinking.
At what was to be our last meeting, just before Christmas, he was enthusiastically involved in suggesting speakers for our fifth anniversary conference, and how we could be best involved in the current political and business and academic debates about responsible capitalism. He was clear that the argument for a new more responsible capitalism should be “hard-headed – not soft-hearted.” We talked about a recent visit he had made to Washington and his debates there with some of the right-wing think tanks who seemed confused that such a successful financier could be so active in Labour Party politics.
For Nigel didn’t just put his money where his mouth was. He got actively engaged – whether that was with his beloved Nottingham Forest, or politics or promoting social enterprise or volunteering – or in practicing sustainable business. He encouraged Doughty Hanson – the private equity business he had co-founded with his partner Dick Hanson – to appoint a head of sustainability. Crucially, this post was made part of the value-enhancement team – they were stewards of other people’s investments and as responsible stewards, they had to ensure that sustainability would pay.
This reflected Nigel’s view – expressed in a recent report (Private equity and responsible investment: an opportunity for value creation – Nov 2011), that Doughty Hanson produced in collaboration with the NGO WWF – that:
“Private equity managers are particularly well-placed to promote sustainable business practices through active management of their portfolio companies ….Such an approach can create additional value for all stakeholders and reduces the financial and reputational risks to which they are exposed.”
We have lost a dedicated, active citizen; a generous and practical philanthropist; and a successful businessman who believed passionately that sustainability is integral to long-term business success.
Prof David Grayson CBE is director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management.
Nigel Doughty Memorial Service
On 5th November 2102 a Memorial Service was held for Nigel Doughty in Westminster Cathedral. Video footage of eulogies given by Gordon Brown and David Grayson are available to view.