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David Grayson

Working to inspire the best in business, people and society.

Advocate for Disability rights & inclusion, Responsible Business, Sustainability, cross-sector collaboration. Active citizen. Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility, former Chair of Carers UK, Chair of Institute of Business Ethics and chair of Leonard Cheshire. Co-host of the new All In Sustainable Business podcast.

The Sustainable Business Handbook (Out Feb ’22)

A very practical tool to help business people to embed sustainability. Large businesses can use it with their supply chains to help build supplier capacity. Owner-managers facing increasing pressure from employees, consumers and big business customers to demonstrate their sustainability credentials can use the handbook to improve their performance. Entrepreneurs with the aspiration and potential to grow, facing increasing scrutiny from would-be investors and other stakeholders, to embed sustainability in order to enhance value-creation, can use the handbook to get started.


All In: The Future of
Business Leadership

To have a fighting chance of enduring success, businesses can no longer be half-hearted or tentative about sustainability. All In provides corporate leaders with the inspiration and guidance they need to fully embrace the opportunities and challenges of sustainability leadership. This book presents a roadmap for tens of thousands of businesses globally who have yet to embed sustainability in their corporate strategies. All In outlines an approach to leadership critical to future business success and ensuring a better world for all. For more information visit: www.AllInBook.net

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Take Care: How to be a Great Employer for Working Carers

There could be as many as 300 million caregivers in the global workforce providing care for loved ones. Take Care is a practical guide that enables employers to better understand and support employees with caring responsibilities. It presents this as part of good management practice that strengthens organizational resilience and sustainability, and also argues that this is now an integral element of being a responsible employer and organisation.

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As a writer, I am a campaigner by nature. My goals are to share information, develop and disseminate new ideas and approaches and to encourage positive action by individuals and organisations.

I try to write as accessibly as possible as I really dislike reading impenetrable text that requires a dictionary to decipher. I write books, newspaper and magazine articles for Guardian Sustainable Business, Cranfield School of Management blogs, journal articles, conference papers and other publications.

I have written a number of books and contributed chapters to a further 20. My books include:

  • Everybody’s Business: Managing Risks and Opportunities in today’s global society – with Adrian Hodges (Dorling Kindersley/Financial Times 2001)
  • Corporate Social Opportunity – with Adrian Hodges (Greenleaf 2004)
  • Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past, Present and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism – with Jane Nelson (Stanford University Press/Greenleaf 2013)
  • Social Intrapreneurism and all that jazz – with Melody McLaren and Heiko Spitzeck (Greenleaf 2014)
  • Take Care: How to be a great employer for working carers (Emerald Press 2017)
  • All In: The Future of Business Leadership – with Chris Coulter and Mark Lee (Routledge 2018).

My most recent book is “Leaving No One Behind: Israeli business and Inclusive Growth” co-authored with Tami Leffler, Momo Mahadav and Elisha Silberklang: published December 2019.

You can see more of my Cranfield writing by visiting my profile on the Cranfield website.

There is a new book coming out in the new year – again co-authored with Chris Coulter and Mark Lee. This is The Sustainable Business Handbook.

I am also very pleased to be working with my good friend and colleague Melody McLaren and old friends at Business in the Community on a forty year history of BITC ready for the 40th anniversary of the organisation in 2022.



In my second year at secondary school, I was encouraged to debate. I loved it. I have been giving impromptu speeches, formal presentations and lectures ever since.

My more memorable speaking experiences over the years have included:

  • being interrupted mid-speech in Mexico City for an emergency earthquake drill
  • being prevented from speaking at all in Fiji because of a military coup
  • getting off an overnight flight to Harare to speak at a small workshop for entrepreneurs, discovering plans had changed and instead speaking to over 3,000 entrepreneurs with the then Vice-President of Zimbabwe in the chair
  • speaking to several thousand business school students and business people in a whistle-stop, five-day, five-city lecture tour of India organised by the British Council on Corporate Responsibility
  • speaking to business leaders from Myanmar and other parts of Asia in a bomb-proof room in Naypyidaw about business purpose (the room had been built for the visit of President Obama a few months earlier)
  • speaking to enthusiastic young social entrepreneurs and activists over several years of the EMERGE conference.

After 18 months of only giving the occasional speech via Zoom, It has been wonderful to get back  to doing some in-person, live events again including:

  • Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival Sept 17th
  • ADASS Leading in Care Summit Sept 21st.

I was though moderating sessions virtually for the Asian Forum on Enterprise for Society Sept 21-24 and will be participating in an EY webinar on Business Integrity on Nov 25th.

Latest speaking:

Pre-COVID19 speeches included:

Doha, Qatar CSR Awards Ceremony,

Doing Good, Doing Well Responsible Business Conference, IESE Business School, Barcelona,

Responsible Business Leadership Council, Warsaw,

Sustainable Brands, Istanbul,

University of Muscat, Oman,

CSR Europe SDG Summit, Brussels,

European Green Business Week, Crete,

Telegraph Digital & Caring Conference, London,

NOMIA, Roca Gallery Barcelona,

EFMD Annual Conference, Lisbon,

Ethical Corporation Responsible Business Summit, London

Levitt Group, Five Minds Marketing Conference, London,

REBA Well-being Congress, London,

Business Fights Poverty, Oxford,

Forward Institute, Sandhurst,

Advantage Austria, London

Carers UK Annual Conference, Canary Wharf,

Vinci Facilities’ Key Customers’ Workshop,

Austrian Embassy, Institute of Directors London,

Norwegian Caregivers Association., Oslo,

Rotterdam Business School,

Maala, Israel Business for Social Responsibility, Tel Aviv

BRG Staff Conference, Sydney,

If you would like to inquire about booking David for a speaking engagement please get in touch.



Over forty years and counting, I have had the privilege of working with and learning from an amazingly diverse range of individuals and organisations around the world. These have included grassroots community economic development organisations as well as national charities, international voluntary organisations, entrepreneurial start-ups, and some of the world’s largest multinationals. I have done assignments for the EU Commission, the OECD and the World Bank.

Advisory assignments have included helping businesses develop new sustainability strategies and/or reconsider their purpose; evaluate programmes, undertake feasibility studies, collect and present stakeholder views.

My criteria for new advisory work are:

  • interesting assignment where I will also learn and grow;
  • working with fun, positive, stimulating people;
  • having a positive impact.

Some of my recent assignments have included working with the Corporate Research Forum on Human Resources and the Responsible Business agenda

and with the Austrian Embassy in London to organise a “Learning Journey” to London to explore how businesses can embed sustainability. We are planning another Journey in Spring 2022.

I am currently chairing a short-life Taskforce looking at the feasibility of creating a Teach First equivalent for Social care workers.

I am also delighted to be part of the Chartered Management Institute’s President’s Advisory Council investigating what should be a joined-up, forward-looking approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Corporate Responsibility Advisory:

Adviser on Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability:

Visiting faculty:

Circle of Advisers:

Speakers’ panel:

Care and Caring:



I was a very late developer for the world of management education. I joined the faculty of Cranfield School of Management at the age of 52. I had been giving the occasional guest lecture at INSEAD, Stanford and other academic institutions for fifteen years and, for at least a decade, I had been thinking about how business and business schools could work better together to prepare responsible business leaders for the future.

In 1996, I had facilitated for BP a workshop about getting corporate responsibility into the business school curriculum. In 2002, I had helped to convene a meeting at Highgrove for the Prince of Wales to meet business school deans and company heads of talent and learning to talk about the same topic. I was also a visiting Senior Fellow at the CR Initiative in the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard from 2006-10.

Still, it was a daunting prospect when the headhunters first called about the Cranfield post. I was very shocked and pleasantly surprised when at the end of the interview process, I was offered the job. I was a professor of Corporate Responsibility for a decade. I set out my stall in my inaugural lecture, Sense and Sustainability, in 2007; I will leave you to judge what progress we have made by comparing the inaugural lecture and the 2017 Decade of the Doughty Centre report to stakeholders.

Along the way, I have made a few suggestions for improving business-business school collaboration around responsibility and sustainability for Financial Times and Ethical Corporation.

Rotterdam Business School invited me to reflect on the techniques we used at Cranfield over the decade to embed Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability and with the benefit of that wonderful gift called hindsight, what I would do differently if I had my time again.

Current position:

Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management.



When I started secondary school, I could barely walk let alone run (after a long and nasty bone disease). Undaunted, my teachers decided that if I couldn’t join in the compulsory cross-running, I would chair the newly created cross-country organising committee. It was never made clear how the cross-country leagues had been organised hitherto! So, very early on, I learnt the art of chairing. I have been chairing committees and boards ever since.

These have included chairing a Government Taskforce to set up a network of “One Stop Shops” to help small businesses: the Business Links (1993-1996) and then to chair the Accreditation Board for the Business Links under the Major and Blair Governments. I also chaired the National Disability Council (created by the British Parliament to fight discrimination against disabled Britons) from 1995-2000. I was also chairman of the UK Small Business Consortium from 2000 to 2010, to promote responsible business practices amongst smaller firms.

More recent chairing roles have included Housing 21 – one of the main providers of social housing and extra-care housing for older people (2006-11) – and Carers UK (2013-2020).

As someone with a dangerous habit for having ideas, I have to remind myself that normally, I am the non-executive chairman – so my job is to lead the board and not the organisation. I have learnt from both sides of the chairman/CEO fence, the importance in the chemistry and relationship between the CEO and the chairman. I am a great fan of the book Leading the Board by my good friend and colleague Andrew Kakabadse; of the excellent new book “Boards” by Cranfield Visiting Professor Patrick Dunne; and also of the excellent booklet A Question of Balance about the CEO-Chair relationship published by the Association of Chairs of charities and voluntary organisations.

I have just completed a year as chair designate of the international, pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire. I took over the chair role from Sally Davis in October.  I am working closely with our CEO Ruth Owen on a transformation plan for the charity. Together with Ruth, I am leading the discussions on our new Leonard Cheshire Vision 2030 – our strategy for the organisation over the coming decade.

Current positions:

Chair of the Institute of Business Ethics www.IBE.org.uk 

Immediate past Chair of the charity Carers UK http://www.CarersUK.org

Chair of the international, pan-disability charity: Leonard Cheshire http://www.LeonardCheshire.org



I ran my first community campaign at the age of fifteen, when we won a battle with central government over some local authority boundaries, and I have been campaigning ever since.

Over the years, the causes have included Europe, human rights and democracy, youth enterprise and skills development, public-private-community partnerships, better help for entrepreneurs, rights for people with disabilities, responsible business, sustainability, the Good Later Life and creating a society that respects, values and supports carers, and encouraging employers to help their working carers.

I have long been interested in ideas and practical initiatives to build an economy that works for all.  As debates begin about how best to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown, I am carefully following #BuildBackBetter debates such as the Imperative21

I am part of an emerging UK forum: UK21 where people, organisations and movements from a wide range of backgrounds come together to help accelerate the transition to a new economic system.
We have different perspectives, approaches and backgrounds but we are united in two beliefs:
Post-pandemic the UK needs a new economic system that creates shared prosperity and addresses endemic social and environmental challenges.
Business can be a force for good and has a vital role to play in achieving this transition.

I am thrilled to be part of the organising group for what promises to be a very exciting event in the Eden Project in Cornwall March 16-18 2022: called Anthropy.



I was born and grew up near Sheffield, in the North of England. After a youthful dalliance with national and international politics, and a brief spell working for an international, fmcg (fast-moving consumer goods company), I quickly became a social entrepreneur, starting or running several public-private-community partnerships. These have been focused on small business development, youth enterprise, disability rights and more recently, the role of business in society.

In 2007, I was appointed to run the new Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at the Cranfield School of Management in the UK, which I did until the end of 2017. I now divide my time between Sheffield, London, Cranfield and Sitges, near Barcelona.

As a result of a serious bone disease when I was 11 years old, my left leg is considerably shorter than my right. I need some adaptations. Having a disability is one dimension of my life – but is one of many dimensions. It does not define who I am!

Outside of my work and volunteering, I enjoy travel and theatre (when pandemics don’t restrict us!). I am a voracious reader both of non-fiction and fiction. And I enjoy the company of family and friends around the world.


This site was designed by a small, sustainability-focused consultancy Wolf&Player. It was a great pleasure to work with Chris Wolf and Lucy Player. They explain their approach to the design of the website in their portfolio.

My passions:

I remain deeply interested in UK, EU and international affairs. I am a British-European. I enjoy travel, theatre, keeping in regular touch with family and friends; and am trying to get fitter again and regain some lost mobility. Learning Spanish is part of my forward goals.


T: +44 (0) 771 2531238

E: david@davidgrayson.net

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