Sustainability


Sustainability is the ability to maintain at a certain rate or level. The interesting thing is that rate and level denotes drastically different things. Maintaining a certain rate indicates some kind of constant change whereas maintaining a certain level literally implies no changes or that changes are cancelling each other out.

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That wasn’t what I was hoping to talk about in this article. Rather, the sustainability “industry” has more or less taken off. It started more or less with consumer brands that was looking at reducing the waste, enhancing awareness/consciousness around the consumption chain. It can come in the form of Body Shop’s initial use of non-packaging (or even charging for packaging), to Patagonia’s initiatives that deploys company’s resources into sustainable practices as well as environmental causes. These were seen as more hippie kind of companies just appealing to specific psychographics (as opposed to demographics).

Then it went on to businesses building business models around efficiencies that may have environmental consequences. Monsanto have been developing agriculture technologies that help to grow more crops within less land area. This allows more land on earth to be left for natural forests as opposed to agriculture. Urban infrastructure can be said to play such a role as it attempts to aggregate demand for various services such as clean water and wastewater treatment. With piped clean water, there’s less bottling, less plastic waste.

With the increasing awareness and focus on sustainability, there’s now a proliferation of consulting work involved in this sector. Mostly entailing compliance audits but a new class of consulting work involving coming up with ideas around integration of sustainable practices in business. The tricky thing is that this area is still nascent and they are actually in need of talents but do not have sufficient people who are experienced. The pool of talents they are drawing from are often from in-house big corporates who have been looking at sustainability in their business practices. Those are the best areas of picking up the relevant skills and thinking required.

The industry has a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem where corporates looking at sustainability are often clueless and would like to hire help from these consultants but they themselves are short of talents in these areas. Yet there is a whole lot of talented young people passionate about the cause for sustainability who wouldn’t be considered for such positions no matter how keen they are on it. To this group of young talents, I would advise you to first look for an industry where you want to make that sustainability impact on – it could be bottled drinks, IT, entertainment, etc. The key is that you like what the industry produce and do but would want to make it more sustainable – and within that, you try to pivot yourself to roles and work that is more focused on sustainability.

Most progressive firms looking into sustainability have already realised they need to build that competency in-house for now because they are still in the frontier and pioneering the efforts, especially in Asia.


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