Leon Richards is founder and director at Good Talent, a specialist recruitment service helping the business world to achieve more sustainable practice through access to the right people.
Good Talent focuses on MBA-qualified candidates who are looking to make a difference and transform the world with their knowledge of sustainability and business. Leon believes one way of doing this is to make sure the right candidates are placed within the right roles in the right companies. If you're an MBA with a passion to make businesses more sustainable then Good Talent wants you!
Why did you start Good Talent?
I had been working at Warwick Business School as Recruiter Relationships Manager and heading external relations and I found that a lot of MBA students wanted to do something different. Only about 10% of the class wanted to work in alternatives to traditional MBA roles like finance.
Those who wanted to do something different found it difficult to get advice on how to go about it. It's also obvious that there’s an increasing movement towards sustainable businesses, and we can’t just rely on global institutions to make a change. Regular people want to make a change and MBA grads want to make a change.
How does Good Talent operate?
We work on a search basis, speaking with clients and doing the leg work ourselves to find the right candidates. We don’t advertise the roles but we look through the resumes that are on our website, we use LinkedIn and several other search tools.
We speed the recruitment process up for organizations and present only four or five qualified people to the client. Just to put this in perspective for you, the average job ad receives over 1,000 applications. Proctor and Gamble had over one million applications for 2,500 jobs last year.
We also specialize in complementing firm's MBA recruitment drives. So we attend careers conferences at business schools that these companies haven’t been to and we approach individuals directly if we need to.
How many companies do you work with and how do you select them?
The idea behind Good Talent is working with all of the many areas of business that directly impact on the sustainability agenda. For instance we are very keen on the built environment because it accounts for about 40% of carbon emissions worldwide. We are also keen on companies that manufacture consumer products, energy and technology.
We rountinely check sustainable practice rankings like the Forbes rankings and other ethical practice rankings, and filter out firms that aren't making a difference. We also work with smaller organizations that might not have made these rankings because of their size.
Are there any businesses that you will not work with?
We won’t deal with businesses that have what we consider to be unethical products, for examle a weapons manufacturer. However we are open to working with firms that are trying to improve their sustainability efforts.
What kind of roles do you fill?
The kinds of roles we fill are internal consulting and strategy roles, marketing roles, IT, sales and operations.
For example: Levi’s radically reduced the amount of water they use in making jeans - this is the kind of work a strategically inclined but sustainability-minded MBA would do.
Do you think sustainable practice is here to stay or is it just a fad?
The prevailing argument is that the resources we have are not infinite. Society can’t keep going without paying attention to the fact that there isnt enough to last forever. The ‘take-make-waste’ way of doing things has to change and we can already see that with the move towards recyclability.
Car manufacturers have now started to incorporate new designs that let them re-use parts from older models. We can also see the increasing consumer demand for green products. Consumers are more mindful of what they buy and where it comes from. Even the world of business schools is beginning to slowly catch on.
Michael Porter and Mark Kramer recently released some new thinking in a paper called ‘Creating Shared Value’ where they argue that it is the place of companies to being society back together. This message is being hailed in many circles as the next business revolution.
Does Good Talent have international opportunities?
Right now the focus is in the UK and Europe.
Do MBAs who do sustainable work get paid less and are companies willing to pay more for an MBA candidate with experience and knowledge of sustainability?
No, MBAs who do sustainable work in commercial circles get paid the going rate. A candidate may not necessarily get paid more because they have prior experience in sustainability. This experience will give them an added advantage and possibly get them the job. What I do hope we find over time is that these skills become standard.
How do you think sustainability practice can go mainstream?
Business schools need to pull their weight. A whopping 85% of Business schools don’t teach it as a core module and this needs to change. Many MBA students don’t have the option of learning sustainability issues as part of their standard courses, but there is increasing interest and of course these are our business leaders of tomorrow!