I’ve always been interested in topics outside of my areas of expertise, which is why I joined the SLCR programme. Sustainability has been one of the most pressing topics on the agenda of organisations around the world for many years now. I don’t think CSR is a ‘nice to have’ for businesses any more, it’s a necessity.
In the last few years, I’ve noticed consumers gravitating towards brands and companies that share their values. When I’ve interviewed candidates, the younger generation especially are more interested in whether an organisation’s view of the world resonates with their own. This is true in terms of sustainability, covering not just the environment but also social impact, progressive ways of thinking and doing business. People are very sensitive and proactive about these topics, and are actively choosing employers that reflect their values. So in the long term, organisations need to get on board with sustainability or risk losing out on future talent.
Sustainability shouldn’t just be on the agenda for people at the top of organisations, it can also be addressed at all business levels. When I was working at Google in London, I went to the Google Data Centre in Dublin to see how they used wind power to reduce the building’s energy consumption. It was eye opening, not just the reduction in cost, but also the environmental impact they were making. If every employee in a business thinks about sustainability, everyone will be aligned in their goals and have less conflict on the economic side.
My biggest takeaways from the programme completely contrasted my pre-programme business knowledge. Starting now and starting small was something that has stuck with me – it’s not about making huge changes straight away, but making incremental improvements. Another stand out insight was building and cultivating a team who have a CSR mindset and understand how important environmental thinking is. Finally, to really make a difference, it’s essential to aim for long-term development and environmental responsibility, even if it requires a short detour from your growth target. The programme provided sound evidence on re-prioritising against short term profitability and aggressive growth plans.
The ‘cradle to cradle’ case study provided me with a new concept that I think will be an excellent practice for businesses to implement from now on. It is a regenerative approach, mirroring the human industrial activities on nature's processes, where materials and wastes are viewed as recyclable back into the earth. This will help the teams within my organisation discover the best environmental approach to tackle economic questions the business is facing, and challenge them to be more creative and innovative in their approach.
The online networking opportunities really helped to enhance my experience especially during COVID. Being encouraged to interact with each other allowed us to share comments, questions and our own personal experiences in the online discussion forum. It added a whole new dimension to the course content, giving you access to the perspectives of people from all around the world and a range of industries. By actively engaging with others, I was able to find like-minded people and bring our online conversation offline, which has been a great way to grow my network.
Along with new knowledge I can use in my role I now have proof that sustainability is profitable. Through the case studies, I’ve witnessed how an environmental approach can drive long term profit and brand loyalty, which I can use to influence my stakeholders and unlock growth opportunities – strengthening my relationships with them in a way that’s both strategic and authentic.
The programme helped me discover that it’s not just me that’s responsible for enacting sustainable change. It’s everyone – not only just me and my organisation, but also our clients and partners. Knowing this helps me to strive towards making decisions and forming partnerships that I may have never explored or thought of before. I believe that in the long-run, it’s this attitude that will allow my organisation to make a sustained positive social impact.
To transition an organisation to a more responsible business model, it all starts with a change in mindset. Today, my strategy is to embed environmental sustainability into the mission of my organisation, reminding my team to consider the interests of both our stakeholders and social responsibility when making decisions that could have a long term impact. For me, this means becoming an evangelist who proactively engages in conversations that may affect social environment and sustainability decisions, while identifying underlying business contexts that may have causation with CSR.
There’s a saying that ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now’. I couldn’t agree more and I think when you hit a certain milestone or level of work experience, you realise how important it is to focus on making a positive environmental impact as soon as you can. Sustainability matters to me because it aligns with my values. If I can do one thing that’s selfless it's to leave a better world for the next generation.