I had a really interesting talk about sustainability this weekend. A friend of mine is a entrepreneur working as an optician. He has a few employees working under him and the business seems to be going pretty smoothly. So I decided to confront him about sustainability. The conversation happened somewhat like this:
Me: “Soooo…. Tell me about the sustainability plan of your company”
He: “Well I haven’t given it too much thought. It’s more of a responsibility of your generation” (Him being 10 years older than me..)
Me: “What do you mean by ´your generation´?”
He: “My generation was raised in the shadow of balance sheet. We only care about financial success.”
Me: “That’s exactly the problem! Why are you like that though?”
He: “I’ve taken one sustainability class in business school and it was ridiculous! All that environmental hippie-stuff really put me off.”
In our following conversation, it occurred to me that he actually knows a lot about sustainability issues. He could just as easily make it visible in his company if he would just want to. But the problem is, that he felt that sustainability agenda is something that’s not meant for normal people, only for environmental activists and companies that have sustainability as a competitive strategy.
This really got me thinking of the importance of education and communication about sustainability. Sustainability needs to be educated and communicated in a way that it sounds possible to make changes towards it. We need to take sustainability down from it’s throne and make it an everyday component of business activities. Like it was said in the class, businesses have the potential to make changes fast. That’s why there needs to be inside-out change for sustainability. Nevertheless, if sustainability becomes associated too much with environmental organizations or scientific apocalypse theories, it reduces it’s relevance to business operations and people cannot connect it to their everyday lives. We need to start focusing more on the baby steps, on the little things that make all the difference.
It’s not only about inside-out or outside-in change for sustainability, it’s both and even more. University education, media, NGO’s and companies are all interlinked in the sustainability consumption discussion. We need to start talking a language that everyone can understand and relate to!