Lessons Learnt

Before attending the WBCSD Liaison Delegate Meeting in Montreux, I had been told by many that this would be a life changing experience. However, I thought it to be an overstatement, something people use to get you to be productive and excited. Now that this experience has come to an end, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised to find out that what I had been told was true.

This was undoubtedly a unique experience and I can confidently say that it had a great impact on me both personally and professionally. Firstly, I had the chance to meet people who have based their entire careers on their beliefs and passions. Having the opportunity to have a conversation with some of them made me realise just how much of an achievement that is. Secondly, all the talks, sessions and working groups I attended were incredibly beneficial and really got me thinking. I had to step back and consider whether I am doing enough to lead a sustainable lifestyle myself, and what I could improve on.

I got some clear messages from the LD Meeting. Every day I gained new knowledge, little bits and pieces that did not make much sense to me at first, but enabled me to see the bigger picture in the end. I went to Montreux with a few uncertainties and doubts about whether business wants to be a force for good and how profitability issues would influence the transition from Vision to Action. Namely, I was wondering whether a company would actually try to reduce its environmental footprint and work towards a low carbon economy, even if it meant profit loss.

I thought that my question had already been answered on my first day attending a working group. Hearing the conversation on leading sustainable lifestyles, I was forced to acknowledge what I had been ignoring long enough. Priority for large companies like the ones in the meeting, is profit making/maximising. Even though this is not news to anyone, I allowed myself to believe that businesses would be willing to sacrifice some of its profits to move into a sustainable future. I was rather disappointed that I had to admit that this is not possible as it would contradict the whole purpose behind establishing a company in the first place. However, as the days went by and the more sessions I attended I came into another realisation. The people there were putting real effort into producing change, but they were doing it in a way that aligns their companies’ sustainable development goals with their profit maximising ones. They were working towards establishing a sustainable strategy for their firms. A strategy that despite having profit maximising as its objective, ensures that sustainable development is interwoven with it. Finally, I recognised that even though this slows down and complicates the process of moving towards a low carbon economy, it is vital. After all, how could business be a force for good and positive change if it is essentially powerless?

Overall, I may still be sceptical and need to see the discussions being implemented, but I certainly have improved my understanding on many topics and I am a lot more hopeful for the future. Looking back, I am extremely thankful for this unique experience, as it has been a learning process and has had a great impact on me.

Dafni Papaioannou

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