Sustainability 101: Just What this Business Manager and Global Relief Director Needed

By Suanne deBoer

I’ve just completed The Natural Step’s Sustainability 101 course and feel compelled to

combine my business management experience and training with my commitment to social responsibility and sustainability.  The message of sustainability is so simple and yet it affects every aspect of the lives we live – in sometimes very complex ways.

I registered for Sustainability 101 because I am in the process of a career transition from running a business into helping business be socially responsible and sustainable.  I thought the course would provide an overview of how “sustainability” is defined by a leader in the field.   I’ve spent the last decade running a large furniture retailer and I had experience with sustainability from the launch of our own sustainability initiatives in 2006 but this course definitely deepened my understanding and appreciation of why it’s important and how to tackle it.  They didn’t teach me this in MBA school!

I learned several key lessons from Sustainability 101.

First, I now have a much better understanding of the science behind sustainability.  Sustainability 101  puts the four basic principles into layman’s terms that make the science easy to understand and explain.  The message is compelling and inspiring.  It is not simply a “philosophy” but an evidence-based, science-based approach to running business in a way that benefits the business, consumers and society.

Second, I had thought the big wins were the goal.  Seeing the analogy of a chess game and the wisdom and practicality of making deliberate – and sometimes slower –  intelligent actions that give us future options and move us toward the ultimate goal was extremely helpful.

“I’ve come away challenged and inspired.”

Finally, I thought that to transition into a career in CSR I would need to focus on the environment or social issues.  In my role on the board of a global relief and development agency, I nurture a strong commitment to addressing social issues, but what I learned is that there is an inseparable connection between the social and the environmental.  If I am going to tackle the one, I must acknowledge and work towards addressing the other.

Sustainability 101 has reaffirmed my desire to work in CSR, and to make CSR work for business.  It has changed my thinking about the way the world is managed – politically, socially and commercially.  I also see more clearly my role in it and the ways in which I can make a difference.

I’ve come away challenged and inspired.  Challenged to hold myself to a higher standard and inspired to change the world.

About Suanne deBoer

Suanne deBoer has a BBA from Wilfrid Laurier University and an MBA from York University.  She was General Manager of DeBoer’s Furniture for 16 years and prior to that worked as a financial analyst for Rogers Communications and KodakCanada.

She is currently transitioning towards a career in Corporate Social Responsibility.  Suanne is on the Board and Audit Committee of World Vision Canada and the Board and Finance Committee of Mission Aviation Fellowship Canada.

Suanne can be reached at: sdb@deboers.com

About Sustainability 101

Sustainability 101™ is a condensed version of Sustainability: Step by Natural Step™ and takes approximately sixty-to-eighty five minutes to complete (depending on the learner’s pace).

This program is the logical starting point for someone wanting to advance their career into a sustainability framework.  For More Information or Register

Join the Sustainability Movement - Donate to the Sustainability Learning Centre's Student Scholarship Program

About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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