An opportunity for a future we want: Sustainability aspirations for organizations

Most people ask how one becomes drawn into sustainability consulting. 

In essence sustainability combines innovation, nature, technology, human development and socio-economic elements in a holistic approach to resolve global challenges. Working in the sustainability space is basically on how organisations can embed sustainability to drive growth. Personally, that is an exciting space. 

For many African organisations, which are predominantly medium to small-medium enterprises, long-term planning is not a luxury that most can afford as the toils of barely surviving are enough to keep owners awake at all hours.  However, what is very clear in this moment is that climate issues affect everyone in all corners of the world, regardless of whether one is aware of it or not. A fundamental problem is people do not understand sustainability or climate change or its impact to their current existence/business – how then can we expect societies to do anything about it? 

At the moment it’s tempting to talk about “getting back to normal’ waiting for the pandemic to finish. In a ‘normal’ world, basic deliverables of welfare and prosperity have failed dismally – this is more apparent now more than ever – we are in a crisis to which there is no single globalised solution. Given these changes – this is a crucial time to be asking some big questions – how and why we consume; our attitudes about our business practices as we pollute environments; what we value in society; what we need to let go of and most importantly what new possibilities might become available.  

Basic principles which we rely upon such as laws of nature; the inter-connectedness of humans and natural systems are helping us develop an emerging clarity about our interdependence. These fundamental principles remind us that current issues which we are now living in are a dress rehearsal of potentially unleashed effects of climate change and ecosystem collapse. What is the future we want? (Dame Polly Courtice, Cambridge) 

When I founded the organisation in 2018, it was amidst a period which I was uncertain about what it means to start a business. Operating a start-up management advisory must be on the list of some very difficult businesses to survive beyond two years – to add to that – advisory in this very ‘vague’ issue entitled sustainability advisory – I knew that it would entail a lot of starvation to that end. The journey to sustainability in the Tanzanian organisational context involves a lot of initial knowledge building for companies to understand the difference between philanthropic giving (corporate social responsibility) and sustainable development. Sustainability is about embedding actions across the organisation and not a separate extended arm of the organisation. It’s a very voluntary space in which organisations have to find the need to want to do. 

What would it take for businesses to adapt sustainable practices? At the moment, beyond this period, sustainability approach is the only competitive advantage that will define and separate future-proof organisations. We have recognised this importance and taken a whole-system approach to create a space where complexities are simplified and drawn to basic understanding. 

Leadership across all sectors require knowledge and insights needed to navigate and lead in a changed world. Our role is in the heart of extrapolating the UN Sustainable Development Goals and enabling organisations to work towards 2030 and beyond – to a future we want. 

I invite organisations, leaders and individuals to join in on to this journey of redefining what it means to be in heart of designing a future we want. 

Mesiya Mwangoka is the Founder for Sustainability Practice – an advisory company that works to simplify embedding sustainability into organisations. She is also a Board Director for UN Global Compact Tanzania. 

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