Young sustainability leaders using the EC in business cases

Every individual, family, organization, and community has a vital role to play. The arts, sciences, religions, educational institutions, media, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and governments are all called to offer creative leadership. The partnership of government, civil society, and business is essential for effective governance.

The New Earth Leaders program is a personal and organizational development program in which young professionals use the Earth Charter as an ethical framework for solving sustainable business cases and explore the possibilities of young professionals to further sustainable change in their specific business environment.

The program encourages participants to bring in sustainable business cases from their own organization and provides guidance for the possible implementation of solutions. The program started this June with 8 participants from Brazil and 5 from Holland from various backgrounds, ranging from ABN AMRO bank, to insurance company Allianz, biomass department of Odebrecht to a new energy manager of the city council of Heerlen (Netherlands).

The actively involved participants have since stepped into a program consisting of three parts during a 6 months period:

  • introduction and training period
  • learning journey
  • implementation of lessons

1. Introduction and training period

A five day preparation phase included an introduction to the Earth Charter by highly recognized business executives and Earth Charter commissioners. In addition the program included a challenge to work on offered by the city of The Hague to support them in making ‘Erasmusveld’ the most sustainable city part of Holland. The cherry on the cake of this years edition of New Earth Leaders program was the EC+10 celebration event that took place in The Hague’s Peace Palace. The New Earth Leaders presented their results for their Erasmusveld challenge during a session on Earth Charter and urban development.

You can find some information on the session here (Dutch only) and the presentation held here.

2. Learning Journey: Working on the challenge of Itacare region

The program
The 2nd phase was intensive learning period where the participants underwent a mutual learning journey to Itacare, a small town in the state of Bahia, Brasil. This phase just ended after a splendid week of hard working.

The participants from both countries worked together with local stakeholders on a sustainable business challenge guided by experienced learning facilitators of the program. The goal was to develop a solution to the challenge of this region and by doing so learn from and with each other using the Earth Charter as an ethical framework for personal and organizational development. Working on the case allowed action learning to take place on leadership themes which we reflected upon on a daily base.

The challenge
The challenge the New Earth Leaders had to work with was the challenge this region is facing. Itacare, in Sul de Bahia, is a region full of Atlantic forest that has build a slowly growing economy based on sustainable (eco-)tourism and agro forestry after a decease killed the strong cocoa market years ago. A local NGO Floresta Viva is working hard to strengthen and implement a sustainable development model and connect the local actors more in order to
make the sustainable model economically viable.

Yet at the same time federal government is intending to implement a huge harbor in the middle of the region, destroying 1700 hectares of forest, with the defending argument of the economic development this region could really use. Blinded by the prospect of income the first steps to the realization has been made, yet Floresta Viva is trying very hard to show that there is an alternative economic model, which is much more sustainable in the environmental, social and potentially economic sense.

New Earth Leaders’ challenge consisted of thinking about ways of helping the region to obtain a sustainable model of development. To do this it was necessary to take into consideration ways of improving economic strengths without negative impact on social and environment.

The process
In the 9 day program in Itacare the New Earth Leaders went through a deep process of understanding the local circumstances, stakeholders and communities and from that deep understanding work towards a solution that could help our client, Floresta Viva, in making that alternative economic model work.

We based our work on the Theory-U model (developed by Otto Scharmer) and had a five day deep dive into it within the total program. Going down the U, a metaphor for getting in deep touch with the situation and its actors, we spend two and a half days sensing what was really happening by site visits to several stakeholders; from local hotel owners, to communities, to the local government and the company that will make the most use of the upcoming harbor. A deeply engaged period of meeting kind-hearted locals and at the same time players in the field with less care for people and the planet.

Deeply sharing the insights and touching encounters we worked towards seeing the whole and within that the role that the group could have in supporting Floresta Viva using the Earth Charter. At a deep heart level the group started discovering patterns and idea’s, working towards proto-types of results to be delivered at the end of the program.

In less than five days after starting the engagement with the challenge the group stood before a group of 30 different stakeholders in the region to present three concrete results on three different levels;

  • Macro
    a systemic vision for the future of the region was presented with a focus on sustainable tourism as driver for sustainable development. The model was based on 4 P’s: people, planet, profit and place (extra consideration for the region and its history). The model was called the Mandela of sustainable development of Sul de Bahia. Complementary the participants offered a stakeholder influence mapping model to support the NGO in strengthening their local influence in implementing the model.
  • Meso
    the 2nd group offered several recommendation on tourism concepts, with that offering Triple P ideas and recommendations on how to improve the local circumstances to really make sustainable tourism a flourishing possibility for sustainable regional development
  • Micro
    the 3rd group presented a brand plan and structure for the cocoa coast. The region is officially known as the cocoa coast for its historic connection to cocoa. This is still in the genes of the local communities and by strengthening the brand of the region it could create an attractive picture for potential (sustainable) investors.

If you are interested in getting more information on the presentations and the document, you can get in touch with Earth Charter business task force member Niels Koldewijn at [email protected] .

Exhausted, yet satisfied the New Earth Leaders evaluated on the last day and bridged the experience to their own context, working towards the last phase, which has started after this once in a lifetime Earth Charter experience in Brazil.

3. Implementation of lessons
Based on lessons learned all participants will work on a concrete, existing and relevant sustainability case from their own company. All participants brought in their case during the last program: internal awareness programs, sustainable development vision for the airport of Amsterdam, stakeholder engagement program for sustainability and many other interesting challenges. The New Earth Leaders team will support the participants in reaching their goals so that on November 26th they will be able to present the result of their participation and the way they have put the Earth Charter into practice in their business environment.

We look forward to sharing the results before the end of the year.