Sustainability Leadership

Securing People, Planet, Peace & Prosperity for Future
Representational Image
Representational Image Flickr [Creative Commons]

You might wake up with an alarm manufactured in Dubai but invented in America and conceived back in time as a candle alarm in Far East China, and you may continue your day by reading the news feeds on your smartphone designed in the US, produced in China or Taiwan and assembled in your own country with the software created by various other countries.

There is a big chance that the clothes you wear are ‘made in Bangladesh’, Vietnam or China by a Pakistani or French designer.

Delicacies you enjoy in your breakfast or during the day may come from Europe and beyond, and you may drive or sometimes be driven in an Asian car to work.

Similarly, the day is beginning for millions of people around the world.

This outlook on relevant learning about the learner’s life experience, previous knowledge and persistence, can be initiated by using paraphernalia of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to anticipate what might be essential for contemporary globalizing humanities to transition to future sustainability.

The world comes nearer and nearer now and then, not solitary by globalization, trade and finances but also due to global consequences like migration, terrorism, conflict, poverty, Biases, loss of biodiversity, degradation of soils and climate change.

That means the 21st century is very much pigeonholed by the extensive and profound interconnection of many global challenges.

To meet these challenges, the United Nations (UN) has set up many mechanisms — multilateral environmental agreements, global conventions and commitments, conferences, campaigns, and programmes like the “United Nations Environment Programme” (UNEP) and “United Nations Development Programme” (UNDP), UN-days and goals such as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and recently Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainability is in itself a development that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the capacity of future generations, guaranteeing the balance between economic growth, care for the environment and social well-being. 

The “Agenda 2030” “a plan of action for people, planet, Peace, Partnership and prosperity containing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was framed and universally espoused by the 193 member states of the United Nations on 25th September 2015.

These 17 Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, are indivisible and encompass economic, social and environmental dimensions that aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education, and build robust institutions and partnerships, and more.

The goals affect all seven billion people on earth and for them to be met; it is crucial that everyone is aware of and has knowledge of them.

These goals matter because the COVID -19 pandemic pushed an estimated 71 million additional people into extreme poverty, 2 billion people in the world do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, in 2017, only around one-third to half of the global population was covered by essential health services.

About 258 million children and youth were still out of school in 2018.

In 2019, women only held 28 percent of managerial positions worldwide. 789 million people around the world lack access to electricity.

More than one in six young people has stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic while those who remain employed have seen their working hours cut by 23 percent.

Almost two in 10 people reported having personally experienced discrimination.

Nine in 10 people living in urban areas worldwide were breathing air that did not meet the WHO’s air quality guidelines.

Electronic wastage grew by 38% but less than 20% is recycled. Climate change is affecting every country in the world. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood.

Two billion hectares of land on Earth are degraded, affecting some 3.2 billion people, driving species to extinction and intensifying climate change.

Every day, 100 civilians – including women and children – are killed in armed conflicts despite protection against international law.

Strong international cooperation is needed now more than ever to ensure that countries have the means to achieve the SDGs.

The performance of any country, in seeking to accomplish the SDGs, governments, the private sector, civil society and the general public, everyone needs to do their part but to a large extent, it depends on its leadership. 

Sustainability education has a momentous role to perform in shifting the leadership paradigm and nurturing leaders who are proficient in working collaboratively to address complex sustainability challenges. Leadership in 2022 is functioning in an intricate, undefined and continuously changing milieu.

From digital transformation, the bearing of the global pandemic, and the earnestness to deliver a more inclusive and resilient society, to the vital need to reserve inadequate resources and guard nature and our environment, leaders bear the brunt of this accountability.

How can leaders hold the intricacy and degree of this responsibility, by creating the yields essential in the short span and delivering sustainable solutions for the longer period?

Leadership for sustainability symbolizes a novel and extended comprehension of leadership that suggests taking action based on sustainability values, leading from a living processes paradigm, and creating an inclusive, collaborative and reflective leadership process.

Sustainable leadership is all about espousing a responsible approach to the system that we lead.

It is critical to start by exploring and understanding how our individual roles might contribute to undertaking global challenges such as climate change and gender inequality and in doing so to identify the value that our individual actions might bring.

Responsible leaders are always looking up and out beyond their role, organization and sector.

Leadership is not a position or a person but a succession of performances that enable collaborative action towards a common mission of sustainability.

Our part as educators is to create a pedagogy where we present representations and frameworks in such a way that students can reflect on the efficacy of the concept concerning their regional context and their performance.

Our aim is sustainable leadership should reflect our regional ecosystem by creating a robust network of regional leaders who can collaborate beyond the boundaries of any designed program.

Sustainability leaders shape the institutional ethos through their actions and the way they include and involve others. They develop their self-awareness and echo their affiliation with environmental, societal and economic issues.

They also reflect on how their organizational plan and policy contribute a net positive effect on the world and what changes they can make to contribute more sustainably over time.

Senior leaders create an environment around them where everyone can collaborate in shaping a sustainable future.

But Sustainability Leadership development takes time. Depending on where learners are starting from, coming to see themselves as leaders for sustainability could be a whole shift in worldview. 

Permitting for reflection and awareness of values is an important initial element of Sustainability leadership development.

Enabling a shift to a comprehension of the world as living progressions is another important aspect of leadership development that can be fostered through an exploration of ecological systems and diverse perspectives.

Cultivating collaborative and experiential learning opportunities allow for building the necessary skills for inclusive leadership. 

Thousands of people, groups, and communities are now working together and taking action toward a more sustainable impending.

They are doing this through distributed and non-hierarchical leadership, by emphasizing innovation and creativity while converging on issues they care about. 

Educational institutions have a responsibility and an imperative part in empowering leaders to see themselves as part of the cooperative sustainable change that is already happening.

Undeniably, a wide variety of leadership programs for sustainability exist, and the figure is mounting.

These programs usually emphasise practices such as experiential learning, building community, and focusing on systems thinking to foster leadership. 

Intentional pedagogical design can foster opportunities for leadership development, and this requires a shift away from a transmissive, banking model of education (Freire, 2000).

Learning must be seen as more than content to be gained, and instead understood as a transformational reflective process, in which understanding is co-created, personal values are examined, participation and collaboration are valued, and multiple perspectives are encouraged (Burns, 2013).

Learning in this way can be an empowering process that strengthens learners’ connection to regions and communities, and inspires the ability to live by one’s values and to collaboratively seek sustainable change.

Leadership development can and must become a priority. It is more important than ever to provide transformational learning opportunities that empower all learners to become leaders for sustainability.

Our leaders and fore-leaders were malevolent men. They left the world shoddier than they found it. We must not do that.

We as sustainability leaders must leave the planet much more recovered and restored than we found it.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not refl ect the views of GK.

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