Bonjour a tous et toutes,
My name is Sharlene Gandhi and I am a Marketing Management and French student. LUMS has afforded me a great number of opportunities, including a year abroad in Boston, USA, a fantastically insightful placement year at IBM (which I have noticed that quite a few previous WBCSD delegates have also done!), and a part-time job with the LUMS Careers Service. Needless to say, being a LUMS Delegate for the WBCSD is another amazing opportunity that I am excited to get stuck into.
Just as I began writing this blog post, I received a call from Greenpeace about a petition that I had signed recently, to encourage supermarkets to decrease, or even completely eliminate, plastic packaging. The eight-minute conversation highlighted the importance of just how interconnected business relationships are, and perhaps why it is so difficult to initiate any kind of change. If supermarkets decrease their use of plastic, FMCG manufacturers will also be inclined to remove or decrease plastic packaging in what they sell to their supermarket clients, thereby reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans. Evian has already declared that it will make all its bottles from recycled plastic by 2025. On the other hand, consumers could make active efforts to put convenience aside and eliminate plastic from their shops; Germany already has a plastic bottle recycling system, facilitated by supermarkets, that could very easily be adopted in the UK and other large pollutant nations. ‘These ideas aren’t radical’, said the Greenpeace representative on the phone. And he’s right, they are not – but the business world seems so focused on efficiency, profit and monetary value, that it is inherently ignoring more pressing priorities.
Sustainability has undoubtedly fed into most, if not all, of my LUMS modules this term: we have covered CSR, sustainability in the FMCG sector, green communications (greenwashing as a handy aside) and the role of the government in encouraging green activity amongst consumers and businesses. The overarching message across the modules is the same: the green issue is now on business’ radar, but integrating green activities into existing supply chains and modes of working is proving to be a challenge.
I personally believe that sustainability is not only about environmental protection, but about a fundamental shift in the way we see consumerism, international trade and measures of success for both businesses and individuals. By this logic, I also believe that a sustainable lifestyle begins with the individual or the household. When volunteering in Burkina Faso this summer, with an organisation called The Kabeela Association, it was fascinating how sustainability was well integrated into the business model of this small non-profit in a village of a developing country; resources were reused were possible, local materials were sourced, and rubbish was re-purposed into new items, including a football net for the local community. If small organisations can manage it, there’s almost no reason why multinational corporations cannot!
If looking for more resources on sustainability, and how corporatisation impacts both the environment and small businesses, I would highly recommend a film called In Our Hands . The quest for profit has had devastating consequences, but we can still change it!
I’m looking forward to learning about how corporations are partnering with local communities and national governments to foster change, as well as tackling supply chain issues rather than using CSR purely as a marketing tool.
Thank you and see you in Montreux!