Yesterday in the late afternoon, I had an opportunity to bring a group of enthusiastic sustainability practitioners together at the first Sustainability Meetup at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi. By uniting these Kenyan sustainability professionals in Kenya, ranging from social entrepreneurs to CSR managers, and providing them with anopportunity to network, exchange knowledge and expertise in the field of sustainability and CSR, this Sustainability Meetup aspired to push the sustainability agenda in Kenya forward by inspiring and connecting these like-minded individuals.
We were very pleased to have DrMichael Hopkins as our first keynote speaker, engaging us in the social responsibilityconversation, as he is a leading expert in the field of CSR and author of the book “CSR and Sustainability – From the Margins to the Mainstream”.
He started off with explaining how the interest to sustainability and social responsibility has evolved over the years and how companies switched from an economic, shareholder theory to a broader stakeholder theory, that includes the environment as an important stakeholder in decision making as well, with some firms like Nestlé adopting the shared value approach.
According to Hopkins, CSR is not the same as philanthropy. He describes CSR as treating key stakeholders responsibly. He went ahead to stress that it is crucial for organisations to map out the key stakeholders to be able to engage them in an effective manner. He stressed that the media has a key role to play and should not be left outsince the media has an important role in communicating your positive and negative sustainability impact.
Wakesho Sonje, our second keynote speaker of the evening, insisted that organisations should make an effort to train journalists on reporting sustainability matters. This is needed to ensure that the media does not only concentrates on an organisations under-performance but also captures their contribution towards sustainability.
In early 2018 two political protagonists in Kenya shook their hands together in a historic mark of unity and compromise, after a year of tensions and political uncertainty. Dr Hopkins’ took this gesture as an opportunity to invest in good. He established his Handshake Fund to commemorate this gesture. Through this fundhe invests in the top 10 social responsible businesses listed in the Nairobi Stock exchange. With his HandshakeFund,he is making an effort to stimulate companies to act in a sociallyresponsible way and proves that there is a business case for sustainability.
Furthermore, Dr Hopkins made the statement that more regulation is not always better and can lead to unintended consequences. To substantiate his statement, he brought up the Nairobi matatu CBD ban of last Monday, when the governments’ pursuit of more regulation caused a majorinconvenience for the society.
The fact that the journey towards integrating sustainability in an organisation is not an easy one was brought up by Wakesho Sonje, who shared her struggles and learnings in her attempt. She underlined that even though this journey towards sustainability can be though, we should never give up and keep on moving.
Though, by doing so, Sonje added that we should not forget to have fun while we are working on it. She pointed out that it is crucial to engage your surroundings in the process, and that we should take responsibility in creating awareness – both internally as well as externally – so that together we can pave the way for sustainability.
And with these words,she emphasized the need for bringing practitioners together and highlighted the importance of this Sustainability Meetup. After this inspiring local experience story of Sonje, the practitioners took this opportunity to network and discuss the learnings and insights shared by these inspiring professionals.
This Sustainability Meetup marked the first of many sustainability gatherings to come. As we look forward, towards helping organisations become more sustainable we must remember that collaboration, communication, networking and sharing are very important components of our success equation. I, therefore, urge to find time to connect with us and fellow practitioners in the field to steer the conversation forward.