Continuing the conversation on sustainability

2015 was a remarkable year for sustainability. In September, the United Nations released their Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 goals which act as a universal call to end poverty and ensure that society can reap the benefits of a sustainable world. The SDGs were a landmark achievement, as it was the first time that a clear agenda has been built from international collaboration, and to which each collaborator is now committed to. Merely months later, in Paris, there was the second landmark achievement, as 195 countries signed the agreement which stated that global temperature rise should be limited to well below 2⁰C.

The timing of these couldn’t have been more pertinent, as both agreements came when many thought we were walking away from a collective approach towards global sustainable solutions. Now, a year on, it is time to question how far we have come since these achievements, and what steps are now necessary to ensure that they result in a successful international legacy. It was against this backdrop that Talwyn Whetter and I attended the Natural Partners conference, held at ZSL London Zoo in October.

Set in two halves, the conference highlighted both how organisations were applying the principles of these ground-breaking sustainability solutions, and also the emphasis on the second half through the panel discussion was that we should be ever mindful that there is always more we can be doing to fulfil these goals.

A common thread throughout the conference was that we need to be investing in conversation tailored to various stakeholders to ensure that our ambitions are achieved. Meaningful conversation was essential for the two major sustainability moments last year, yet it is seemingly hard to maintain this level of conversation which will allow sustainable solutions to be driven onwards to action, and eventual success.

One thought which was prevalent in the panel discussion was that we need to start addressing civil society more frequently, and accurately. These stakeholders, distinct from business and government, are a key part in the progression to a society which understands the need for sustainability. As a result of this, civil society has the opportunity to not only understand, but lead change at a time when neither government or business will. People must understand that there is a threat.

Key to this communication should be a recognition of where a common agenda lies, and the language needed to express the need for change. How do we phrase the approach needed to utilise this section of society for the good of protecting our world? At Sysdoc, this is something which we are dealing with currently, as we bring the conversation of sustainability into our own business offering.

So we agree upon the conversation required, and next we must agree upon ensuring this is a collective approach with everyone involved. The landmark COP 21 and SDGs in 2015 present us with a wholly unique situation – we have an agenda in black and white, for the first time, to which we are all commited. Now, the pace needs to be fast in order to build on this success.

In the first half of the conference, Serah Munguti, of Nature Kenya, spoke on the subject of the Tana River Delta. In conjunction with the Kenyan Government, they developed a sustainable land use plan for the Delta, using a total of nine SDGs. But, when talking about the plan, Munguti said ““[it is] a good document, but until it is implemented, it will remain a good document.” It highlighted the same issue with the agreements of last year – they are good goals, yet until they are properly driven forward by the global community, they remain goals and not achievements.

It is important to focus on making good the promises of a year ago, as we look towards the future, and a more sustainable world.

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