Do I Really Know What’s Happening

Over a working dinner tonight,  a business partner asked me what my perception of the sustainability field currently is. Are the companies really increasing sustainable business, are more companies getting engaged and is the development going to the right direction?

Having just completed a 2-day forum focused on responsible agribusiness, with over 450 people from government, business, NGOs, media, and the development communities participating, I certainly was inclined to say yes. We had smallholder farmers and representatives of farmer organizations involved. There were 40 students, the hopes of the future in the room. The minister of agriculture and minister of industry delivered a speech. Yes, we are moving the right way, the development is encouraging and collaboration increasing.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and signing of the Paris agreement certainly made 2015 an encouraging and hope-boosting year. Our forum engaged many more companies than before and initial feedback was remarkably positive.

But is this real? Are we really on the right path? Even, or especially, at encouraging and inspiring times as now, shouldn’t we be questioning the direction and the efforts to get there? A saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Do we really know where we are going? Do I know the destination?

Questioning the presence isn’t necessarily being cynical. It’s a required pit stop for checking the direction, making sure that we’re on the right track. It’s so easy to lose sight of the goal when you’re getting excited and maybe too self-sure.

In the sustainability field, I have to question my perception of the general atmosphere and of the status of the development, duly because I’m very biased. I’m biased for judging the development as I’m looking for all the right signals. I read news about sustainability, about the projects and initiatives of companies and organizations. About the commitments of the governments and the actions undertaken by businesses. I speak with like-minded people, who have the same passion and interest for the field. I follow the companies communication and collaborate with those who are open and ready for it.

So do I really know what’s happening, or do I just know what’s happening among my “peers”, among those who are “in” in the sustainability field?

Yes and no. I do know it’s a growing number of companies who are publicly committing to sustainability actions, such as conserving energy and water, and supporting their supply chain. Governments have pledged their support for achieving the global goals. There is momentum – big part of the world is listening. But is there enough action?

Are the governments truly committed and are their commitments enough? Are consumers really getting more aware and interested in sustainability? Will they change their consumption habits and go beyond caring to actual action? Will businesses re-design their business strategies, become more socially engaged and act on their words? Are the non-profits supporting the efforts of the businesses and government and demanding for real change and commitment?

I don’t have the answers. I live in my own bubble. In my world the movement is real, action is taking place and momentum is almost tangible. But it’s my world, and no, I can’t be sure my world is the reality. My world is getting greener, but I don’t know how big the grey area is. And I’m not sure which one is leading and which one will be winning. I can just hope that my perception is right, that my hopes change into a reality.

Even if I can’t eliminate my biased view of the world, I won’t stop believing in it. I don’t have the answers but I’m asking the questions. I want to learn to understand the world better. Those on the green side should seek for communication and understanding with the greys. Impossible can become possible. I will work to make my world the reality.



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Outi Annala

A sustainability-enthusiast with a master's degree in social sciences and experienced working for public and private sectors and for an international Non-profit organization. Writing about life and all that matters in living a life to the fullest. Passionate about engaging the private sector to the development work, promoting partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations and initiating discussion and debates. Excited about life and living it to the fullest.

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