After years of being on a one-woman mission to inspire sustainability, On Purpose Associate Lieke van Adrichem (October 2014), reflects on what it takes to be an individual or business that creates lasting social change.
My attempts to ‘encourage’ sustainable behaviour around me have had mixed success: being Dutch, I plainly point out to those around me that I disagree with their unsustainable lifestyles. No one dares eat a tuna salad in my vicinity anymore, however I find the remnants of secret tuna indulgence in the trash regularly (‘but you weren’t here so it didn’t matter!’). Over the last few months I have come to realise two things:
Firstly, being sustainable is a genuine challenge when facing reality. I might have used a ‘stick’ to encourage people to change but whilst I learn about the constraints around legal structures; the limitations of traditional financial services and investment models, or about the uncertain social implications of sustainable and social business, I realise that even businesses with the best intentions are forced to make unsustainable choices. The space between business and traditional charities, which we explore during our training, can be restricted by inappropriate regulations not fitting the needs of the social enterprise sector. Quite simply: it’s often easier said than done to navigate business sustainably in these unchartered waters.