Sustainable Development Consultants Ltd

Professional Experience

Portrait of Vernon Jennings

Vernon Jennings is Managing Director of an independent consultancy focusing on high-level sustainable development strategy, management, accountability and stakeholder engagement, including the areas of corporate social and environmental responsibility, socio-economics and business ethics.

Most recently he has been working in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, biotechnology, energy, biofuels, agriculture, food and transport industries.  

As a consultant to the Danish biotechnology and pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk since 1990, he has helped shape the company’s commitment and approach to sustainable development and helped implement its programmes.  From 1999 to 2003 he was Vice President Stakeholder Relations at Novo Nordisk, when he was responsible for defining the company’s strategy for social responsibility, including human rights, and environmental responsibility, and directing the implementation of its Triple Bottom Line programmes.  During this time, Novo Nordisk has been a pioneer in stakeholder engagement, voluntary reporting and corporate accountability, and is widely recognized as a world leader in sustainability management and reporting.  Vernon continues to act as a senior executive strategic adviser on sustainability to Novo Nordisk and Novozymes.  Most recently he has helped the Novo Nordisk develop its strategies for the TBL and Access to Medicines and Health, and with Novozymes to develop stakeholder engagement and planning tools.   

Vernon has also been advising GSK on its corporate responsibility and reporting activities and Merck in the USA develop its approach to sustainability and access to health. Since 2008 Vernon has been advising A.P. Moller Maersk, the Danish group, with business activities in a variety of sectors, primarily shipping, transportation and energy.  

From 1990 to 1999 he was a Director of SustainAbility Ltd, the sustainable development think-tank and consultancy, where he was Head of the Values Team.  With a particular interest in ethical and social issues, he helped build SustainAbility’s activities in the field of biotechnology, focusing on the potential contribution to sustainable development.  Vernon was actively involved in the debate about biotechnology and facilitated dialogue between various stakeholders. However, the major part of his work at SustainAbility related to helping leading companies understand and address the sustainability agenda.  He carried out audits and strategic issues and management reviews for a number of companies. He has facilitated dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders for a wide variety of companies and organizations ranging from CIES to Novo Nordisk and Monsanto. Clients have included Asian Development Bank, ASG, Aventis, Bank of Scotland, Dow Chemical, GrandMetropolitan (Diageo), Hoechst, IBM (UK), MANWEB, Monsanto, Neste (Fortum), Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Proctor & Gamble, SKF, Scottish Power, St. Luke’s, TSB Bank, Unilever and the WBCSD. 

Vernon has a strong interest in sustainable agriculture, food and health, and helped Unilever get started on its sustainable agriculture and food programmes. 

Vernon has been one of the pioneers in the development of corporate accountability and sustainability, and the independent assurance of corporate sustainability reporting.  He has been the external verifier of voluntary sustainability reports for a number of companies, including ASG, Neste, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, SCA Graphic Paper, and Welsh Water. 

Vernon has been involved with many initiatives relating to business and sustainability, including the GRI, WBCSD, and the UN Global Compact.  He helped set up the (Institute of Social and Ethical) AccountAbility in 1994/5, where he was involved in the development of the AA1000 standard.  He was a Council member of AccountAbility from 1999 to 2010 and from 2006 to 2009 he was a Director and Chair of the Operating Board of AccountAbility. 

In 1997 Vernon helped establish the Food Ethics Council, an independent council on ethical standards in agriculture in the UK. 

He has been a judge for several environmental and social award schemes, including those of ACCA and the Royal Society for Arts (RSA) in the UK, and the Council on Economic Priorities’ Corporate Conscience Awards in the USA. He is also a past Chairman of the BioIndustry Association’s Sustainable Development Group. 

Previously, he was employed at Dunlop BioActivities, Dragoco Gerberding, the UK Department of Energy and Unilever.  Vernon is a member of ACCA’s Social and Environmental Committee and a judge for ACCA’s corporate reporting awards; he has also been a member of the Copenhagen-based Danish Institute for Human Rights’ Committee on HRCA.  Vernon is a professional member of the World Future Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).  He has a first class honours degree in Plant Sciences (KCL) and a PhD in Microbiology (UCL). 

Clients of Sustainable Development Consultants include:


A.P. Moller-Maersk (Denmark)

Anders & Winst (Netherlands)

Camelot (UK)

Fortum (Finland)

GlaxoSmithkline (GSK) (UK)

Maersk Drilling

Mitsui (Japan)

Nespresso (Swiitzerland)

Nestlé (Switzerland)

Novo Nordisk (Denmark)

Novozymes (Denmark)

Neste Oil (Finland)

Philip Morris USA (USA)

Shell (UK/Netherlands)

SustainAbility (UK) 

Unilever (UK/Netherlands)