Boardroom 2030? Watch this space

Youth panel at Cornwalls's boardroom 2030, The Eden project

We invited journalist, author, podcaster and founder and director of Making Design Circular, Katie Treggiden, to join us for Cornwall Boardroom 2030 at the Eden Project in 2022. Here she reflects on her experience and the ripple effects it has had for her since.

Close your eyes and imagine a boardroom. What is the décor like? What sort of table is in the centre of the room? What does it have on it? What are the chairs like? What is hung on the walls?

Now imagine the board meeting is in full swing. Who is sitting at the head of the table, leading the meeting? Who is speaking? Who else is sitting around the table?

Now, let me make some guesses about what you might have imagined.

A glass or oak-panelled room? A big impressive table, with notebooks, laptops and coffee cups? Black office chairs or maybe something more akin to a dining chair. Maybe a plate of biscuits, sandwiches or croissants in the middle? And on the walls, a big screen and maybe some artworks?

As for the people in the room: lots of tall*, white, middle-aged men in suits? Maybe a couple of smartly dressed women?

Did you see any people of colour? Any elderly or younger people – any children? Did you see people with disabilities or neurodiversity? Members of the LGBTQIA+ community – or members of the local community? Did you see junior employees, customers or suppliers? Did you see designers or scientists? Anyone who went to state school – or art-school? Anyone in jeans, even? How about someone with blue hair, a tattoo or a facial piercing?! Did you see trees, rivers or birds – or at least any advocates for nature?

The question that poses is – does the homogenous collection of mostly tall, able-bodied, public-school-educated, neurotypical, cis-gendered, straight, white men that comprise most boards have what it takes to get us there?

Whoever is in the room, a board of directors is the group of people appointed to jointly supervise the activities of an organisation – and therefore are the people ultimately responsible for its impact on both people and planet.

The 2030 Agenda, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Goals – the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs – to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

The question that poses is – does the homogenous collection of mostly tall, able-bodied, public-school-educated, neurotypical, cis-gendered, straight, white men that comprise most boards have what it takes to get us there?

Or do we need more diversity, more perspectives, more worldviews, more lived experiences, more voices in the room? More advocates for the communities (both human and non-human) most affected by climate change?

This time last year, I was lucky enough to be invited by Leap to Cornwall Boardroom 2030 to see first-hand the difference that including more voices in the conversation can make to the quality of questions asked and decisions made.

We heard from Good Energy’s youth panel – an advisory board of young people that represent the concerns of the future. They meet formally and are also involved in the ongoing conversations through an open-communications channel hosted on Slack.

We saw a mock board for the Eden Project that raised such good questions that Eden have asked them to come back for real conversations with their board.

The power of diversity to drive better conversations and therefore better decisions was palpable.

But not all companies are big enough to have a formal board of directors. I run an online course called The Seed, that empowers designers and makers to explore, find and define their unique contribution to environmentalism. Most of them are tiny companies often comprising just one or two people.

Undeterred, I took inspiration from Cornwall Boardroom 2030, and one of the exercises we undertook was to put together an imaginary board. People – alive or dead, known to them or famous – that they could call on informally or even just hypothetically. The results blew my mind.

Katie Treggiden talks about Boardroom 2030

Katie Treggiden photographed by Emma Oates

A British furniture-maker who works predominantly with wood, included an oak tree on his board, so that the needs of the forest would be represented. He now goes and meets with that tree weekly.

A Swedish maker who upcycles waste plastic in her work, invited the ocean to join her board.

A Belgian-Congolese fashion designer included an empty chair. Despite having put together the most diverse group of people she could think of, she wanted to make space for potential blind spots, and conscious of the phrase ‘if there isn’t room for you at the table, bring your own chair,’ she wanted to make sure no-one would ever have to.

The Seed forms part of Making Design Circular – the membership community and online learning platform for designers, makers, craftspeople and artists, who I encourage to “rewild their creative practices, so that they, their businesses and their planets can thrive.”

I am currently beginning the process of becoming a B Corp. The first section in the BIA (the B Corp Impact Assessment) is about governance and one of the questions asks whether you have an advisory board. Having experienced these incredible examples of the impact that bringing more voices into the conversation can have, my answer is ‘not yet, but watch this space.’

I have in front of me a list of 12 people I plan to invite to join the Making Design Circular advisory board. They include a 13-year-old girl who lives in Sweden and an 80-year-old retired dentist; advocates for zero-waste, repair and regeneration to represent the circular economy; members of my local community; a seaweed scientist; and that fashion designer and her empty chair.

Now does that collection of people have what it takes to help steward Making Design Circular towards the 2030 that the UN’s SDGs are aiming for? I don’t know, but they’ve got a damn sight more chance than I have of doing on my own.

– Katie


 *A study of Fortune 500 companies showed that (in America), something as arbitrary as height can be the key to the C-suite: 4% of adult men in the general US population are 6’2” or taller, but 30% in the CEO sample reached those heights. Source:

???? Cover photo by Simon Stuart Miller