During May I had the honour of providing the keynote address at the International CSR and Sustainable Development Conference, held in Dubai.
Whilst having the opportunity to open the conference, together with Dr Tamer Elewa of British University Dubai and Dr Biplap Loha Choudhury of Centre for Journalism and Mass Communication, what stood out most, was the number of people who had travelled from around the world, to both share their industry knowledge and experiences from a local perspective, but also to learn about how sustainable principles (and CSR) together with their impacts, are approached globally.
It was terrific to be part of an annual two-day event where academics and practitioners come together to share knowledge and problem solve the key sustainable challenges we are faced with globally.
Some of the most outstanding case studies included:
- The creation of medicinal preventative products out of natural agricultural waste
- Financial metrics in the measurement of sustainable outcomes
- Shell as a case study in Nigeria
- Sustainable development in agriculture
- Multinational companies and lessons learnt in sustainable approaches
- Also controversial elements of what should be core to CSR – whether it is about people, social or environmental
Many tackled CSR and sustainable development from different topics and perspectives, but with the intent of problem solving sustainable challenges at the core.
Reflecting upon the many varied topics, from my perspective there are two key takeaways to remember when engaging partners to sustainable approaches:
- Successful approaches to sustainable development involve whole system thinking where all elements of sustainable development are integrated into strategy, be it from the business, government or social perspective. Focusing on one core element only, for example, won’t alone solve the challenges experienced globally.
- The critical element is to engage companies to the issues and work together to problem solve and take a leadership role, (many world class organisations already do so) rather than attack corporations for their past. Absolutely, there are many global environmental and social case studies discussing the negative impact of companies, though as controversial as they are, these are also the best lessons learnt on how to move forward in sustainable development.