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Welcome to our Myth blog series. Let’s start with a real myth, Santa.

One day Santa told his elves, go through the list of kids around the world, write down what they have been doing all year long, then tell me if they’ve been good or bad. We’ll decide if they’re going to get any new toys or not this year.

Not sure who told us this story, but we all fell for it.

All year long, we’ve been acting good (or at least we think we tried), because being a good kid meant acknowledgement from the invisible force (Santa) at the end of the year.

As we grew up Santa no longer came to eat your cookies and drop you a new bike, so separating your garbage, swapping out your diesel car for a hybrid one, writing on both sides of paper, seems like an aimless effort because people keep telling us the earth is sick, forests still get murdered and fish still get strangled by plastic floating around the ocean.

Increasingly, consumers are making conscious choices to opt for the products that claim to be sustainable if choosing between two similar products side by side. “For the same price, why not?” It makes us feel better that the plastic bottle of our detergent is made of recycled plastic (even if we secretly don’t separate our rubbish when no one’s looking).

There’s no Santa to tell you if you’ve been doing good or bad anymore.

Then what is the game plan, or is it just a feel good exercise?

Today all companies want to be sustainable. Or better put, all companies “need” to be sustainable. Apart from regulatory requirements, a lot of it has to do with having the “social license to operate”.  But what are they doing exactly and what does it even mean to be sustainable?

Some say it is about being eco-friendly and has everything to do with the planet. So organic food, recyclable packaging, low waste productions and no harmful chemicals from the manufacturing process all qualify.

Others say that it’s about ethical business practices. Pay fair wages, create a sustainable working environment for those that make your clothes and grow your veges. Empower those that may be disadvantaged in the workforce and give them better conditions to work and be able to sustain their families. Looking into the supply chain and building a relationship with each supplier knowing that the whole process treats people well.

A less popular saying is that we need to be economically sustainable.

Luckily for the word sustainable, it actually means ALL OF ABOVE.

According to the 193 nations that had committed to a 2030 agenda for sustainable development, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals entail initiatives that work on social matters improving the quality of life and equality, environmental goals reducing the harm our activities have below and above sea level, at the same time maintaining a healthy growth in economies.

Back in the 80s the Brundtland Commission (1987) had already defined sustainable developments as those that will be meeting the needs of present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

So really, sustainability is all about making sure whatever we do, gives a long term benefit so that others can continue doing the same thing in the future. Surely, we can’t see how many trees we’ve saved by writing on both sides of our paper, but we know that we’d use half as little. Santa would approve of that for sure.

Companies of course cannot possibly work on achieving all 17 of SDG, as not all of them may be influenced by their area of work, nor could they properly zero-in a focus and do something really well. In a future blog we will discuss some methods that will help companies address the choices and prioritization of such issues.

As a starter, we have to remember that everything is somehow inter-related. Improving working conditions, wages and fairer employment opportunities does not only mean achieving decent work & economic growth (SDG #8), it also contributes to lowering poverty and hunger (SDG #1&2), as well as reducing inequalities (SDG#10).

All of this is to say, there actually is a game plan. Small steps towards sustainability contribute towards the bigger picture in various ways and nothing is too big or too small for us to start acting, TODAY.