SUSTY DIALOGUE SERIES

Conversations for Sustainability Professionals

 

Introduction

Sustainability is an imperative for business, government, civil society, and development agencies in Kenya, regionally, and globally. To drive the sustainability agenda in Kenya, it will take a movement of people across organizations committed to championing the change that is needed.

 

Yet sometimes, being a champion and voice for change, can be a challenging and ‘lonely’ endeavour – yet we are not alone and there are many other like-minded people doing the same. There is an opportunity to create and foster a community for and of sustainability professionals and practitioners to move forward together!

 

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together – African Proverb

 

Responsible Business Consulting (RBC) is bringing together sustainability professionals and practitioners to gain insight, exchange and engage on sustainability in Kenya and beyond. These events are a platform for sustainability practitioners to build relationships and community; and explore opportunities with like-minded people and organisations.

 

Recap of the Inaugural Susty Dialogue Series Event

The inaugural gathering of the Susty Dialogue Series took place in Baraza Media Lab, nestled along Riverside Drive in Nairobi, Kenya, on the evening of 11th May 2023, from 6 to 9 p.m.

 

This engaging series sought to forge connections among sustainability experts and foster an exchange of best practices that propel the cause of sustainability forward. The event featured guest speaker: Pheo Mundia, Head of Africa Marketing, Upfields and engaged participants to co-creating solutions to challenges in gaining stakeholder buy-in.

 

Welcome & Opening

The session was opened by RBC MD, Susan Njoroge, who set context for the event series and the role it sought to play in bringing together sustainability professionals and practitioners to inspire, connect and engage together.

 

Speaker Session: The Power of Purpose, Doing Good & Stakeholder Buy-in: Insights from Pheodor Mundia on Sustainability

Pheodor Mundia, Head of Marketing Africa, Upfields is a renowned marketing and sustainability professional in Kenya.  His presentation began with a quote by Jochen Zeitz, setting the stage for a paradigm shift: “Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It is about doing good.” In a world yearning for positive change, Pheodor presented on the transformative potential of purpose-driven brands, supported by compelling research showcasing their accelerated growth.

 

Authenticity: The New Imperative

Pheodor drew the audience’s attention to the importance of authenticity, urging brands to embrace their flaws and prioritize realism over idealism. The desire to enhance their brand image, gain a competitive edge, and capitalize on the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products and practices can result in making empty promises. What consumers seek is honesty and transparency. Delving into the reasons behind this seismic shift in consumer preferences, he explained that greenwashing by brands acts as a catalyst. Being real can foster deeper connections and resonate with today’s discerning audience.

 

Guiding Sustainability with the 17 United Nations’ SDGs

The guest speaker unveiled a game-changing strategy for brands seeking to navigate the vast landscape of sustainability. He urged companies to utilize the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for structuring their initiatives. By aligning their efforts with these global goals, brands can elevate their positive impact and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

 

Empowering SMEs: The Catalyst for Growth

Pheodor revealed an innovative approach to nurturing sustainability by empowering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Companies can support SMEs through vital resources like skills, finance, and technology. Interestingly, 66% of the event’s participants, were from SMEs, a vital private sector audience and leaders for Kenya’s sustainable development. SMEs make up over 70% of Kenya, Africa and the global business economy.

 

Inspiring Success Stories: Jaza Duka and Shakti Initiatives

As his session came to an end, Pheodor shared two captivating success stories from Nairobi and Nigeria. Jaza Duka, a collaborative partnership by Unilever, KCB Group and Mastercard, which offers access to capital through a cashless system, enabling proprietors of small businesses to resolutely stock their stores with enough goods to meet demand.

 

The Shakti program from Unilever encourages women to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and achieve financial independence in rural communities around the world. These are stories of the amazing expansion of retail companies and the motivational journeys of those who have dared to adopt sustainable practices, seeing personally the transformational impact of their deeds.

 

Speaker Q&A Session: Insights

Lessons from a Sustainability Journey

In an engaging question-and-answer (Q&A) session that followed, Pheodor shared a reflection on the lessons he had learned from his journey as a sustainability professional. Pheodor’s response emphasized the importance of collaboration and effective communication. There is power in unity and the art of conveying sustainability messages that transcend boundaries, igniting change on a global scale.

 

Pheodor Mundia, Head of Marketing Africa, Upfields speaks at the inaugural RBC Susty Dialogue Series

 

Mitigating Greenwashing: A Path to Credibility

The spotlight shifted to the critical topic of mitigating greenwashing. Pheodor advised that the key steps to avoiding the pitfalls of misleading sustainability claims include articulating clear intentions backed by meticulous research. Firms should uncover and utilize the support and guidance offered by institutions such as the Marketing Society of Kenya (MSK) and the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) to combat false claims, counter colour-washing e.g. greenwashing, and hold brands to account.

 

Strategies for Notable Success

Pheodor shared the strategies that have contributed to his remarkable success in the field of sustainability. Digitization, intentional exposure, and representation hold great power. Organizations that showcase their best talent have the transformative potential to embrace the global stage. By leveraging digital platforms and intentionally highlighting their sustainable initiatives and achievements, companies can attract attention, create impact, and inspire others to follow suit.

 

 

Breakout Session Co-creation

Through breakout groups the participants then co-created ways to help solve challenges in gaining stakeholder buy-in. Key approaches proposed from the groups included: the importance of inclusion, the need for investment, the importance of understanding customers and consumers, the opportunity to leverage digital platforms, the power of storytelling, working with experts to create awareness and build credibility, and forming strategic partnerships – internally and externally.

 

Wrap up & Closing

Both Pheo and Susan highlighted the growing awareness of sustainability in Kenya; and more importantly the imperative to embed sustainability thinking and practice into business strategy and resilience.

 

Next Steps: Building a Community

Over 90% of the attendees said the event helped them to connect and network with other sustainability practitioners; and the same percentage expressed their strong intention to participate in future events. The participants also highlighted further topics and themes they wanted to gain insight on such as: climate change, sustainable finance, sustainable marketing, disclosure and reporting, among others.

 

This event reinforced the need for such platforms for the sustainability practitioners to come together – gain insights, connect, and build a community – and movement.

 

We hope to see you at the next RBC Susty Dialogue Series Event!

 

Best wishes, Susan Njoroge

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