February 7, 2023

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Start a sustainability journey – BusinessMirror

SUSTAINABILITY used to have different meanings for different people at different times, but over time it has acquired a more common and acceptable definition.

The term ‘sustainability’ derives from the Latin word sustinere, which translates to ‘maintain’ and means ‘maintain’, ‘support’, ‘maintain’ or ‘endure’, meaning the ability to endure over a long period of time.

However, the modern usage of the term was heavily influenced by the 1983 United Nations (UN) Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Commission, in their 1987 report entitled Our Common Future.

At the 4th Annual Sustainability Summit of my organization, the Global Compact Network Philippines (GCNP), three pioneers of the UN Global Compact Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) gave the following advice on how to start your sustainability journey, applicable to all organizations, including clubs :

1. Start small and “where you are”. I can give two examples from the club context in the Philippines. First there is the “Green Project” of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), which promotes energy efficiency and sustainable packaging within its membership, understandably because its membership consists of large shopping centers as well as small and medium-sized retail stores. The second is the initiatives of the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) that promote food waste reduction and training programs related to the SDGs with a focus on the demographics of women and youth.

2. Use the SDGs as a framework. While starting small and focusing on areas where they have the experience and influence, both PRA and PFA use the 17 SDGs as a framework and select from them where they can make a greater impact. Both cover, for example, the aforementioned Goal 13 (Climate Action) and Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals), where the two associations use their broad networks to collaborate with other like-minded organizations in pursuit of their sustainable goals.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It also helps that associations adopt sustainability initiatives that have already worked and have a proven track record. Raising awareness, conducting briefings and capacity building programs, sharing peer-to-peer best practices and solutions, and communicating via simple messaging and multi-channel applications are some approaches that have proven successful. Leveraging collaboration and complementing skill opportunities can also make a difference.

4. Involve youth and use their energy. One dividend that current world demographics can harness, in this case to promote sustainability, is to engage youth in sustainability action. From the experience of clubs around the world, contrary to anecdotal data, millennials have been ‘club joiners’. They strive to contribute to the club’s cause while expecting to be on the table and to be recognized for their efforts.

5. Be agile, adapt and make changes in the future. One of the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic is the ability to be flexible and make changes when needed. When it comes to sustainability actions, associations need to listen to their members and implement programs that their members are willing and able to contribute to. In the case of GCNP, the Private Sector Champions initiative has 10 focus areas to be expanded over ten years to help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises recover from the pandemic and become more resilient in their corporate sustainability practices to become.

Octavio Peralta is currently Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network Philippines and Founder and Honorary CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the Association of Associations. Email: bobby@pcaae.org.