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Making Sustainability a Habit


Sustainability, our impact environmentally, socially, and economically, is essential to the healing process of our planet and society as we move forward in this ‘era of recovery.’ This is a time for us to embrace the critical responsibility we have to prioritize the healing of our global planetary and social problems, but also, to regain our footing as we live with the endemic of Covid. It is time for all of us, as global citizens, to accept the fundamental belief that we have a responsibility to leave this world better than we found it.

As ‘business’ is the backbone of of our societies and our global economies, as business founders and leaders, we must accept that it is possible to have a strong and profitable business, while serving as a good steward to both this planet and to humanity. As an advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with sustainability as my core focus, I am committed to sharing the narrative that we must work together to make a collective and immediate impact if we hope to reverse the damage done to our planet by 2030. Sustainability is one the most overused and least understood buzzwords in the English language. One of my favorite definitions of sustainability is ‘treating the world as if we plan to stay.’  For all of the complex definitions of sustainability, it can all be boiled down to ‘survival.’ 

Burgeoning climate change challenges, social discord, and widespread economic and market instability in major global economies are antigens to sustainability; and these are rapidly colliding as catalysts to major systemic societal and planetary failure, accelerated by the challenges we are facing globally. Rather than being left to flounder for our own way-forward, in 2016 the United Nations unveiled the SDGs as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs are a universal call to action to address the key issues impacting humanity across the globe, such as poverty, hunger, energy poverty, gender inequality, a lack of access to quality education, all of which are essential to survival. Reversing the global damage will not only fall on the shoulders of government and industry, but on all of us as individuals, as well.

Larisa Miller

Sustainability doesn’t have to be daunting or complicated. For individuals, sustainable impact can be made through efforts such as the recycling of household products or in the choices we make as consumers in our product selection or service providers. As business owners, operators, managers, and employees, one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards to our communities, stakeholders, and customers, which means that we not only conduct responsible business, but we find ways to give back to our communities.

A business is only as strong as the community which supports it, so by making visible gestures of impact, we create a compelling reason for consumers to choose the products and services of a business demonstrating performance accountability. According to a 2018 Nielson study, 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods or to patronize a brand demonstrating a social and environmental responsibility (this number climbing to 73 percent amongst Millennials). Rishabh Chokhani, CEO of Naturevibe Botanicals, attributes this to today’s consumers wanting to buy a lifestyle, rather than just a product. Consumers are recognizing that our long-term survival, living on a healthy and vibrant planet, depends on the responsible choices we make today.

Sustainability doesn’t only intermingle in the retail and service sector, however, it impacts businesses in all forms, from the top down. A recent Deutsche Bank study concluded that companies operating under change-leadership, with a high rating in environmental, social and governance accountability, outperformed the market in both the medium and long-term. These companies will be the drivers in the conversation-of-change and are better positioned than the competition to anticipate and react to effects of climate change, as well as economic, political, and regulatory changes, as they arise. Introducing sustainable strategies not only helps to make a company more agile and compliant, but it improves brand image and reputation, reduces costs while increasing productivity, and mitigates risk – all of which create stakeholder value.

Adopting a platform of sustainability can be intimidating. To have sustainability become more than just a token gesture, it must go beyond recycling plastic bottles, turning off lights, and conserving water usage. A habit of sustainable impact must begin with our education system. Teaching responsible stewardship to people and planet must begin in our primary grade school year and continue through secondary and post-secondary years. We have done a horrible job preparing the future for our youth, so must ensure that we prepare the youth for the future and using the SDGs we are seeing that every impact – no matter how small or singular – is a measure of impact to our long-term planetary health and viability.

A fundamental mistake that businesses and individuals make when adopting the 17 goals of the SDGs, however, is believing they can, or must, impact all of the goals. Even for the largest companies or the most successful enterprises, attempting to impact all goals is akin to saving an iceberg by covering it with a blanket. Choose the goals that most closely align with your sector, vison, and mandate, and set out to make a concentrated impact to those specific objectives. The SDGs must be interpreted to fit the specific needs of a culture, region, or environmental dynamic.

Humanity, our collective responsibility to our fellow man, must be an integral part of our global conscience. Corporate social responsibility must be an integral component in all sustainable business strategies. ‘Giving back’ must become a part of the rhetoric for businesses of all sizes. For new entrepreneurs, build a platform of social responsibility into your business model from the start helps to make ‘giving’ mindless and habitual. For SMEs, unite your employees in a collective campaign of good, or reward them for their own commitment to community action and philanthropy. And for large enterprises, drive the change. Be the example. Set the bar for all others to emulate and achieve through the creation of a foundation, non-profit initiative or through the institution of a company-wide strategy of financial contribution to various charities-of-choice.

To be a progressive globe, prepared to embrace our planetary future and the rapid pace in which the world is progressing towards the fourth Industrial Revolution, it is important for business to learn that we cannot chart a path to a successful future if we don’t unite behind a common cause. If we work collectively to BE the solution, we will begin to heal our badly damaged planet through a unity of purpose. Together, we will be unstoppable, together we will be sustainable…and together, we will survive.

Larisa Miller is CEO of Phoenix Global, an award-winning global boutique consulting and investment firm based in Miami. With over two decades of experience working with heads of governments and business leaders in the US and across the globe, Larisa has the exceptional talent of developing mutually beneficial partnerships spanning cultures, countries, and industries. She started her career working for the Secretary of Agriculture in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and went on to work in the office of public policy with the Governor of Pennsylvania. Larisa later worked with the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, UAE, as their business development manager, with a focus on sustainable development, and also as head of their large non-profit foundation, which focused on women, youth, literacy and education. Larisa is an award-winning keynote speaker, and sits on several global boards. She is also Managing Partner of Akon Global, developing and facilitating Smart Cities, affordable housing and technology investments with Akon, multi-Grammy award nominated recording star, businessman, philanthropist and change-maker.


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