from the UCT Graduate School of Business take the lead in new global initiative
by Unilever and Net Impact to inspire young leaders to lead much needed change
Answering the global
call for more sustainable business, recently the African chapter of Net Impact,
a non-profit network headed by MBA students at the UCT Graduate School of
Business (GSB), hosted one of a series of pilot events planned by Unilever, in
association with Net Impact, to engage the next generation of business leaders
and ingrain in them sustainable practice values.
According to Sue de Witt, Chairperson of Net Impact
South Africa and MBA student at the GSB – while sustainability is a hot topic
these days, the 2013 Accenture-UN Global Compact study of CEOsshows that
while many business leaders acknowledge the importance of implementing
sustainability practices into business, not enough is being done.
"The study of more than
1,000 CEOs across the world shows that a clear majority, 67%, do not believe business
is doing enough to address global sustainability challenges. The study draws
the conclusion that the global economy is on the wrong track,
and business is not playing its part in forging a sustainable future,” said De
Getting business to change
track forms a major part of the agenda of Net Impact, which has more than 40
000 members around the world - students and young professionals with a shared
aim of driving social and environmental change.
The Unilever-Net Impact event, held at the GSB on 12 November 2013, GSB showcased businesses and entrepreneurs who are
successfully making sustainability part of their operations.
Speaking at the event, Woolworths Head of
Sustainability, Justin Smith, said that taking a sustainable approach has
quantifiable benefits. Woolworths – the only South African retailer to be
included in the Dow Jones sustainability world index – has to date saved R 189
million by incorporating sustainability approaches into their business.
"Sustainability is often seen as a soft consideration – making it quantifiable
is the most important thing a business can do,” Smith said.
Smith said that there are a number of considerations
for why a sustainability approach is so important, including the preservation
of resources the company relies on such as energy and water, and the brand
differentiation that is created by their position as an organisation that takes
sustainability seriously. "There has been a large increase in international
investment due to our stance on sustainability,” he said.
James Inglesby, Marketing Manager of Unilever Nigeriaand co-founder and
DirectoratClean Team Ghana Limited, said that in creating
sustainable practice, it’s important to make sure the strategies are aligned
with the broader businesses objectives.
Clean Team Ghana Limited is
an urban sanitation organisation run through a partnership between Unilever and
Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor, and has led to 3 000 people gaining
access to improved sanitation in Ghana, and 145 tonnes of sludge removed from
the streets. It is serviced by small entrepreneurs and so lends itself to job
creation. One of the reasons it has been a success, said Inglesby, is because
of the way it works in conjunction with Unilever’s objectives: "Unilever
doesn’t make toilets – but we do manufacture sanitiser. So through this
initiative not only do we work towards solving a crisis – but we also ensure
the growth of the organisation,” he said.
Inglesby said this
thinking is part and parcel of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Unilever’s
strategy is to embed sustainability into their business. It sets out to
decouple their growth from environmental impact, while at the same time
increasing positive social impact. The partnership with Net Impact is one of
the ways the company plans to accomplish this.
"Through its engagements with Net
Impact, Unilever hopes to inspire young leaders
to build new businesses with sustainability at their core, or have them join existing
businesses and lead change from within,” he said.
A break-away session at the Cape Town event offered
attendees the opportunity to question experts on how best to approach
sustainability in business. Dianna Moore, GSB MBA alumnus and member of the
Reel Gardening Team that recently competed for the Hult prize awarded by the
Clinton Global Initiative, said that the organisation, which manufactures
easy-to-grow seed packages that use 80% less water than normal gardening, had
learnt three important lessons from their experiences: "It’s important to fall
in love with your business model – because it has to align with your core
capabilities; make sure you pilot early, and often; and be fearlessly focused
on your objectives.”
Further Unilever-Net Impact sessions
are planned at Columbia University in New York and the Indian School of
Business in Hyderbad. These pilot events will then be used to develop a
repeatable and scalable model to roll out to around 30 universities globally in
Karen Hamilton, Vice-President of Sustainable
Business at Unilever, said that: "We want to seed and support a movement where
young people are leading the change so that businesses are not only being less
of a problem but are an actual force for good and part of the solution."
Issued by: University of Cape Town Graduate School of
Business. GSBC PR115
Contact: Emma Kotze at firstname.lastname@example.org or + 0214485941