Defining sustainability involves not only explaining the concept, but also understanding the personal stories that crate meaning for each person that uses the term.
For me, with family and roots in Eastern Europe where socialism was deeply ingrained, being a citizen came before being a consumer. This has influenced my vision of marketing and innovation as a professor. During my time at the London College of Fashion, I witnessed the launch of the pioneering Centre for Sustainable Fashion in 2008. My framing of sustainability is based on those first projects in which our students travelled to India to collaborate by getting involved in the design of organic materials there, later visiting a green fashion factory in Sri Lanka. For this reason, I have always seen sustainability as an opportunity for design, creativity and innovation
But I realise that my perspective about sustainability is different from that of people that come from other places or sectors like energy or the public administration. In fact, the meaning of sustainability for many people may be incompatible with meeting objectives. This is their experience and their truth.
As changemakers and leaders, we must find examples of organisations that have integrated a sustainable mindset successfully. Pointing to real success stories helps build a new narrative that is both positive and inspiring for other organisations that see climate change as an opportunity for innovation.
This new narrative emphasises that transforming a company’s thinking from linear to circular, regenerative and fair is not only positive for nature, but also for workers and consumers. Recent examples, such as the journeys of leading organisations aspiring to become B Corps or those that obtain green funding, can mark the way forward.
Another unlikely source of inspiration comes from the community of financial investors. Even if there is still work to be done in terms of impact and equality (such as gender) in investing, some prominent figures like Larry Fink, founder of Blackrock Capital, predict that the next big area of growth will be climate tech. Fast Company shared the winning examples of companies encouraging a positive vision of the future. Northvolt, headquartered in Stockholm, uses clean energy to make batteries, and collected €2,800 million USD in growth capital. Rivian, a manufacturer of electric vehicles in the U.S., builds delivery trucks for Amazon and has raised €2,500 million USD. (1)
We already know that there is a growing demand from consumers for sustainable technologies in areas like electric vehicles and renewable energy, which has resulted in a significant increase in the number of companies developing technologies in these areas. There is much more funding available for new companies from investors in venture capital that want to promote positive impact because they know it will resonate with clients.
The starting point for sustainable transformation is rethinking perspectives that limit the way many of us think about sustainability, using the information available to build a new narrative.
Written by Dr Julia Wolny
Director, Postgrado en Transformación Sostenible in EADA Business School