Why the Little Guys are Really the Big Guys in Sustainability

by Nigel Johnston
Apr 24, 2015 1:30 PM ET
Nigel Johnston is CEO of QualityTrade.com, the next generation platform for global wholesale trade.


When it comes to protecting the environment or improving workers’ conditions, you might think the biggest companies are making the biggest positive impact.

Multinationals like Apple and McDonald's are so large that --just by taking a few significant steps towards sustainability-- they can change vast swaths of the global marketplace.

But it turns out that the largest corporations aren't leading on this issue. It's the small and medium-sized businesses that are out in front on compliance with sustainability, worker safety and other standards.

Big companies deserve some credit. Because of the scale of their operations, every improvement is difficult. I have been the CEO of an industrial business, and as an investor I visited more than 1,000 manufacturers. I know how hard implementing higher standards can be. 

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Nigel Johnston is CEO of QualityTrade.com, the next generation platform for global wholesale trade. He is former CEO of international recycling and waste management business United Resource Management. In the field of private equity, he managed international investments for Accretion Investment Management, Palamon Capital Partners and Actis – the largest emerging markets private equity firm. Nigel has founded and operated two successful charity organizations