By IAN BENEDICT R. MIA
My journey with sustainability is an ongoing process. I would be going way beyond myself if I say that I finally found what I want to do for the rest of my life. In this piece, I share exactly that perspective—how pursuing sustainability has been a challenging journey, much like any other career. As I learn more about sustainability, I also learn more about myself. Here is a story of how I came into sustainability, and my hopes and dreams for a sustainable future.
Discovering social entrepreneurship
I was taking up business management in 2016 when I started exploring social initiatives in the country, one being the business incubation platform of the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm. I was first exposed there to something they referred to as “social business” or “social entrepreneurship.”
In the farm, businesses were being created to be managed by the community members. Other businesses were managed by both the community members and former professionals from different industries. There was a good sense of community as people coming from diverse backgrounds would work together toward common goals.
Sustainability can have many definitions, depending on the context. As for me, I’d like to stick with definitions that refer to the long-term positive impacts.
Coming from a traditional educational institution, social entrepreneurship was a pretty new concept to me. What were commonly taught to us were maximizing the profit, minimizing the costs, and making the operations of companies more efficient. Social entrepreneurship, on the other hand, promised something different. It was doing business principally for social good. They would also function like normal businesses but, in the Philippines, what made them unique was that they tried to solve issues in marginalized societies through the art of business. This was what I discovered when I went to the farm.
After that immersion, the concept stuck to me. I decided to explore more social initiatives in the country. I met different kinds of people, learned various tools and methodologies, joined social business pitching competitions, and immersed with tribal communities in seclude places, among many others. It was one crazy and fun ride, which I continue to do today.
This is exactly the advocacy I want to impart on other people. I am by no means an expert in social entrepreneurship and sustainability—I instead like to think that I am an enabler of social change and social impact through the little things I do in my passion projects, volunteer work, and other social initiatives.
Birth of Berde Boy
One of my creative outlets is blogging, which I later decided to combine with my passion for social entrepreneurship and sustainability. Hence, my sustainability blog Berde Boy was born—accessible through berdeboy. blog. Berde Boy tells stories and insights on the sustainability movement through different media. I started it after realizing that there were so many stories I could share with all the social initiatives I had engaged with. I am currently a part of many such initiatives. The blog also happens to be my mini prototype for a sustainability communications agency that I want to put up someday.
But more than telling stories and insights on sustainability, Berde Boy is also a reflection of my personality. I want to spread the sustainability movement through a language that is easily understood and digestible by any curious reader. My personal philosophy is that, since the sustainability movement is of global and paramount concern today, it’s high time it became a common topic for conversations. And so I thought, what better way to do that but by packaging the message of the sustainability movement through a light, warm, but simultaneously critical approach?
The most recent posts in my blog consist of my thoughts on the sustainability profession in the Philippines. I mentioned there how the profession needs further growth, and how today is an opportune time for Filipinos to get into a career in sustainability. While our sustainability industry is not as developed or as mature as those in other countries, this poses many potential and opportunities for growth. From sustainability reporting down to integrating sustainability policies and initiatives in companies, there are many areas for development in this profession.
People would typically ask: What exactly is sustainability? Believe me or not, even people within the industry are still grappling with the meaning of “sustainability.” It is an extremely vague topic, and any efforts to explain it would only diminish its much deeper meaning. But for the sake of conversation starters, I would always say that sustainability is a concerted human effort to create positive social, economic, and environmental change. Its popular definition is that it “focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Both these definitions are correct.
One word, however, sticks to my mind when people talk about sustainability: long-term.
Nowadays, you can attach the word “sustainable” to anything.
Sustainable relationships, sustainable finance, sustainable energy, sustainable governance, you name it. But the common denominator is that sustainability always looks into the long-term—things that would last. It asks questions like: Will using solar energy be healthy for the environment in the long run? How do we implement long-term strategies in a company to sustain its financial health?
Sustainability can have many definitions, depending on the context. As for me, I’d like to stick with definitions that refer to the long-term positive impacts of sustainability.
A call for more voices on sustainability
I can proudly claim that my generation is one of the “most woke” to ever walk the planet. My generation is the one experiencing the brunt of many social issues—from the degraded environmental state of the world, down to the political unrest in many different countries. We are the generation that sees all of it and are visually exposed to disturbing images and representations in the world, thanks mainly to technology and social media.
This is why more of us should also act on the call of the sustainability movement.
It never matters where we come from. A simple conversation on the current state of the world would reveal wonders in terms of the perspectives and insights we can derive on the topic of sustainability. Now, more than ever, the world needs more voices on sustainability.