That phrase in the title is a Tamil expression, meaning “Hello to all”. Should we have the pleasure of meeting in person, you may be confused by my accent, which is a reflection of both my Tamil and Northern Irish heritage. My name is Tara Murphy and I am a second year Marketing and Design student at Lancaster University.
I’d like to start by saying I’m thrilled to be a part of the Montreux 2018 conference and I’m very excited to see how businesses are handling the ‘wicked problems’ of today. Having just covered ‘designing for behavioural change’ this term, it’ll also be interesting to see how the WBCSD plans to incite sustainable change.
I hope to learn a great deal from the individuals and businesses represented at the Montreux conference, which I will be able to apply to my own family business out in South India. Located on the outskirts of the outskirts of a small city in Tamil Nadu, Teddy Exports (no, we do not make actual teddy bears) is working towards becoming a 100% sustainable business. Having already implemented a waste treatment system and a windmill, I’ll be looking out for other ways to reduce our industrial footprint.
Although you wouldn’t find a Nando’s or a Boots chemist for miles, what you will find is a company that has become an integral catalyst for development in business, education and healthcare in the local area. Teddy Exports has become a direct epicentre for a few thousand employees, with many thousand more being reliant on the business’ surrounding operations. This is a living example of how the sustainable development goals can be put into action through business. After attending the 2009 WFTO conference in Kathmandu, I knew that there was much to do in the way of creating communities that can survive through sustainable business. Today, this requires companies to monitor their resource consumption and develop organisational drivers to inspire change in the market, the government, and the global economy.
On a more personal level, I witnessed the threat of unsustainable business habits when global conglomerate, Unilever, disposed of their thermometer factory waste into the local lake in Kodaikanal, where I went to school. The mercury from the thermometers turned a beautiful freshwater lake into a toxic habitat, which severely harmed the aquatic biodiversity and the employment of local fishermen. In 2015, Unilever was finally held accountable for its actions after a student- who was not much older than me at the time- created a viral music video [“Kodaikanal won’t”] calling out the company for its lack of reparations in the community. This is when I understood the impact of the ‘consumer voice’ on the market, through channels like social media, which can turn any critique into a PR disaster, with the right momentum.
Montreux 2018’s delegate meeting, to me, is the ‘tap of experience’, with some participating companies having previously had issues with their sustainability and other organisations that have pioneered sustainability through their supply chains and ethics. I’d like to see what their take is on the development of sustainable businesses in different economic contexts. Although I would never leave the ‘tap’ running, I do hope to take away some practical solutions to the managerial issues that I will face when I’m responsible for my own business.