By Vincent Diringer and Annabell Cox, March 2024

The journey of ESG reporting within the European Union traces back to the early 2000s when sustainability reporting was predominantly voluntary. Events such as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (1989), the Shell Brent Spar Controversy (1995) or the Rana Plaza Collapse (2013) to mention just major incidents, brought light to current business practices. These major disasters resulted in human and biodiversity loss as well as affected planetarian and human well-being for decades if not centuries. In response to growing concerns about the environmental and social impacts of business activities, the European Union (EU) began to introduce directives and regulations aimed at enhancing corporate transparency and sustainability performance. One landmark initiative was the introduction of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) in 2014, which mandated large European companies to disclose non-financial information, including ESG data, in their annual reports. This directive marked a significant step towards mainstreaming ESG reporting within the EU corporate landscape, driving companies to integrate sustainability considerations into their business strategies. At the same time, companies understood that lacking an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy presents a major disadvantage for their business. In 2022, the European Union decided to enhance the reporting measures with the new reporting standards coming into force from January 1, 2024.

Initially, the NFRD reporting rules applied to large public-interest companies with more than 500 employees. This covered approximately 11,700 large companies and groups operating within the European Economic Area (EEA), including listed companies, banks, insurance companies, and other firms designated by national authorities as public interest entities [1].

EU regulations accelerating

Today, part of the European Sustainability Reporting Directive (ESRD), the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) measures the sustainability impact of large companies and listed small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) including nearly 50’000 companies by 2029. Despite the fact, that the rules introduced by the NFRD remain in force, CSRD enhances transparency in the reporting and highlights the impact of its own business operations and value chain, its products and its business relationships. The exposure of these company aspects offers a detailed picture of how companies manage risks, how they affect the environment and how they contribute to social equality. Considering the remarkable change in our climate as well as geopolitical instabilities, time is precious. Despite the Paris Agreement and the relentless efforts in communicating the UNSDGs and the Agenda 2030, the world is lagging behind agreed targets. The EEA had to act quickly.

Developed by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG), the CSRD proposes a double materiality assessment reviewing both the impact and financial materiality as well as the own operations and value chain. While impact materiality pertains to the material information about the firm’s impacts on people or the environment, financial materiality relates to the material information about risks and opportunities linked to a sustainability matter. [3] Equally, the entire organisational value chain and internal operations are taken under the loop. Instead of looking only at the supply chain, the value chain includes the full range of activities, resources and relationships related to the business and the external environment in which it operates. It encompasses the business activities, the product and business resources and relationships and looks at its products from conception to delivery, consumption and end-of-life. [4] The CSRD evaluates ESG matters where businesses impact everything from carbon emissions to waste management, governance, supply chains, community, workforce and consumers. Lastly, and the most painful as we know, the new directives go a step further. We can no longer report on statements without a proven data point and disclosures to confirm status, progress or deterioration of each reported aspect. Comprehensive, but also incredibly detailed, the EFRAG offers implementation guides to assist organisations with the implementation. For reference, we include the reference, should you wish to get more familiar with the information required:

No doubt, the CSRD presents an uncomfortable challenge as any change we are facing in our lifetime. This directive though is essential to narrow the opportunity of greenwashing claims. It also forces a positive impact on many more businesses in the European Economic Area (EEA) than it did every before. Starting with some trial runs of CSRD reporting as of January 2025 for large and listed companies, more and more businesses will be gradually affected according to the timeline between 2025 and 2029.

Considering that the EEA remains at the forefront of climate action, these new instructions apply also to SMEs in non-EEA countries in the EEA such as Switzerland or the UK. For-profit organisations within Switzerland and branches for example in Germany must adhere to CSRD standards very soon. The involvement of the new rules is massive and important to get it right. To safeguard long-term competitiveness, the European Council delayed the sustainability reporting for certain sectors and third-country companies to June 2026. [2]
Despite the fact that the CSRD affects small and medium enterprises across Europe now or later, SMEs should start embracing sustainable practices today.

For sure, CSRD is painful for businesses, not only from an administrative perspective but also from a resource angle. But do we have a choice? How long can we continue with “business as usual”? Can SMEs still remain competitive with all these administrative constraints?

As Plato once said: “Necessity is the mother of invention”. As much as the industrial revolution or digitalization did in the past, sustainability acts as a lens of innovation.

Smart businesses start to reflect now, using the time to innovate old processes, to explore sustainability practices within every aspect of their business and to assess and revise their purpose and vision embracing an equal society and a healthy planet. Identifying opportunities to improve ESG impact and their overall sustainability as early as possible allows businesses to gain an edge. Early compliance is something that saves businesses both time and money. By analysing the first set of CSRD reports that will be published, companies not yet within the scope have time to use the information to elaborate their strategy and also prepare themselves for their own reporting.

The evolution of ESG reporting within the European Union reflects a growing recognition of the interconnectedness between business activities and environmental and social impacts.

Since the creation of the European Environment Agency in 1990, the continuous expansion of renewable energies in Europe, the transition away from coal and continuous policy interventions allowed CO2 emissions to decrease by 30% in Europe [5] until the year 2022. However, with the current projection, the EEA forecasts to miss the reduction target of 55% in 2030. Equally, on the social aspect, where we need to create more equality in the workforce to secure equal and strong economies, the gender pay gap of average gross hourly earnings in the European Union reduced by 3.1% from 2010 to 2021 and we need to continue the effort. [6] While regulatory frameworks continue to evolve, the harmonisation of ESG reporting standards at the international level remains paramount to ensure consistency and comparability. By embracing transparency and accountability, companies not only mitigate risks but also harness opportunities for sustainable growth in an increasingly interconnected global economy.

At the same time, there is no Plan B, we cannot live on an overheated planet. Time is now to avoid the tipping point and contribute to returning to the planetary boundaries [7].

Together with our advisors and network of experts, LEAD-WiSE helps businesses to convert to sustainable practices with expertise in business innovation, sustainability frameworks and data-driven perspective. We review your status quo, your purpose and values, your internal operations, values chains, governance structure, and suppliers to become more effective and efficient as well as attractive to your clients, employees and investors by leading product innovation in addition to having a positive impact on society and the planet.

Contact us and embark on a quick diagnostic.


[1] European Commission, 2024, “Corporate sustainability reporting”.
[2] European Council, February 2024, Press release, Council and Parliament agree to delay sustainability reporting for certain sectors and third-country companies by two years
[3] Draft EFRAG IG1, Implementation Guidance, Materiality Assessment, December 2023
[4] Draft EFRAG IG2, Implementation Guidance, Value Chain, December 2023
[5] EEA 2023, Total net greenhouse gas emissions trends and projections Europe, December 2023
[6] Gender pay gap of average gross hourly earnings in the European Union from 2010 to 2021, Statista
[7] Planetary boundaries, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University 2023

It is International Plastic Bag Free Day, an event that gives us the opportunity to spread the word about alternatives to single-use plastic bags while protecting biodiversity and ecosystems. This day also serves to raise awareness and to offer learnings about the challenges facing the environment caused by plastics and innovations being developed to solve them. With the UN Plastics Treaty recently negotiated in Paris, we would like to discuss how organisations can collaborate with local communities and businesses to improve environmental and socio-economic health [1-3]. 

In 2019 alone, 353 million metric tons of plastic were produced. This is compounded by the fact that roughly 15% of this waste is recycled back into the economy. The majority of this plastic finds its way into the oceans and landfill, which showcases an issue that has been lingering for decades [2]. The scale of plastic pollution is immense and causes wide-ranging issues at environmental, economic and human health levels. Tackling such a problem is not easy, but institutions and coalitions such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition or the Ocean Cleanup have for goal to raise awareness around the threat of single-use plastics and claim to rid the oceans of plastic by 2040.[3].

With 80% of plastic waste being brought into our oceans through rivers, research shows that the challenge exists across the world including high-income economies such as countries of the European continent. When we examine our local streams and lakes in Germany or Switzerland, we learn that plastic pollutes our ecosystem in the same way it does in Asia, Latin America or Australia. Indeed, it is often not as visible, but it exists and threatens our local biodiversity, water quality and environment.

To cite a few examples, environmental analysis confirms that Lake Leman in Switzerland is filled with 55 tons of plastic every year [4]. Equally, the Rhine River crossing Europe from the Alps to the North Sea has up to 892,777 particles per square kilometre, one of the highest densities worldwide [5]. 

But how can small, medium, and large enterprises in Europe and worldwide contribute and help to clean the local and global water systems?

Two important ways can anticipate these challenges:

Partnerships and collaborations are important to actively test and trial the status quo and generate impact by raising awareness, by innovating operational processes and by educating clients, collaborators and suppliers [6]. As part of the sustainability engagement of each company, firms can partner with local authorities to support the effort for plastic to land in the water and to be collected from beaches and river sides. Through community engagement efforts, businesses can encourage their team members to support waste collection and volunteer work to support a flourishing community [7].

Equally, small, medium and large enterprises can undergo an audit of polymer materials to determine where to eliminate and substitute plastics within their operations and premises. Single-Use plastics, PET and microplastics can be avoided by reusable or degradable products. Unavoidable plastic waste should be recycled and not be put in waste bins under desks. With environmental best practices and internal waste and recycling policies, businesses can educate their teams and raise awareness. Simultaneously, environmental targets and goals can be included in employee reviews and considered an organisational value which will drive stronger employee engagement and commitment.

Key Takeaways:


[1] Valerie Volcovici, 2023, “After rough start, UN plastic treaty talks end with mandate for first draft”, Reuters.
[2] United Nations Environment Programme, 2023, “Turning off the Tap. How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy”.
[3] The Ocean Cleanup, 2023, “About”.
[4] Plastic Oceans, 2021, “Plastic Pollution is overwhelming Europe’s Lake Leman”.
[5] University of Basel, 2015, “Microplastics: Rhine one of the most polluted rivers worldwide”.
[6] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Circular Economy, Opportunities for Innovation and Collaboration”, LEAD-WiSE.
[7] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “The Importance of Sustainable Business Models”, LEAD-WiSE.

Access to education is a human right and has an amazing potential to improve a community’s long-term prosperity [1]. As such, teachers have a major role in the improvement of society. Improved education on climate and environmental matters at all levels of schooling have empowered young people to take action on these issues. Additionally, new educational pathways, styles, and projects are actively being developed to provide upcoming generations with a multitude of options focused on providing them with the most efficient and interesting educational experiences [2, 3]. We talk with Kenny Peavy, an author and outdoor educator at the Green School Bali, who provides us with his insights into what sustainability means for teachers and students.

[Vincent Diringer] Thank you for joining this interview today Kenny, I’d like you to introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about what you’re doing and then we’ll start the interview.

[Kenny Peavy] I’m really excited to be here and have a chat! I’m originally from the United States, I’ve been living, working, and teaching overseas since the year 2000, so 23 years now, in various capacities – international schools, outdoor adventure trip leader – currently I’m at the Green School in Bali where I teach a mix of all of that. I do a bit of math, a bit of science, nature, some English as a second language and once in a while I run some adventure camps.

That’s really interesting, so what exactly is the Green School Bali? You mentioned it a bit there, but it sounds like there are a lot of things happening within the curriculum.

Yeah, as you can see in the background, I’m in one of the bamboo houses, one of the hallmarks of the Green School is that it’s a sustainable campus. All the buildings are made out of bamboo and thatch roofs, they’re open air and we have a permaculture campus with lots of organic gardening, quite a bit of forest and even a river that runs through our campus, so that’s where we start on campus and everything goes from there for sustainability, for outdoor education, for connecting with nature. Like you said, there is quite a bit of flexibility in the curriculum, because we can get the kids outdoors easily and we have lots of connections to nature – we might be one of the only campuses that has chickens, pigs, and cows, gardens all on our school campus.

That’s fantastic, so how do you think that the approach, the closeness to nature helps with the children and the students – do you think that it’s a positive? Does it add to the education aspect of the school?

Definitely, you can step right outside of your classroom and do various science-type experiments: checking the types of soil, connecting with the river or just seeing different leaf shapes. There are a lot of ways to connect with nature, but it can be a distraction at times, we get several snakes on campus and once in a while a lizard will drop from the ceiling – things that don’t happen in your normal school campus, but you can just be flexible with it, go with it, I try to turn those moments into something teachable, especially when we find a cool snake or a frog hops into the classroom, or a lizard drops from the ceiling, we just stop what we’re doing and notice.

That’s really interesting, so what exactly is the Green School Bali? You mentioned it a bit there, but it sounds like there are a lot of things happening within the curriculum.

For me personally, there are a couple of different definitions, one is, first and foremost, a deep connection with nature – so, that’s really what I’m trying to do, is get kids outdoors: playing, discovering, learning, having hands-on direct contact with nature and the hope, there is that once they have a direct contact, they’ll be motivated to take some sort of action for conservation, that’s the direct link to sustainability.

I think a more general approach is, thinking of future generations and how we can do things that won’t impact those generations’ lifestyles. One of the big things we have on campus is, no single-use plastics, most of our meals are vegetarian and organic, so expand beyond learning about nature directly, and thinking about lifestyle and how that impacts future generations’ sustainability.

Obviously, the Green School is a bit further along on the spectrum in terms of being close to nature, but how do you see sustainability or how should it be integrated into education as a whole?

Going back to what I first said, I do think, it’s important for kids to get outside and experience nature directly, so I think that, if schools can do anything like having a nature club, doing Week Without Walls trips, doing adventure trips, service trips, getting outside of the classroom, I think, is first and foremost, which should happen at every campus. If you’re not fortunate enough to live in a natural area like an inner city, bringing nature into the classroom is very important, somehow integrating what you might see in your country where you’re living in the national parks or in the local parks or just outside on your daily walks, every place has some nature, but some places have more than others.

And so, trying to integrate that I think is, what I’m always pushing for. Get kids out of the classroom, learning, connecting directly with nature and beyond that, trying to do some project-based learning, entrepreneurship, one of the things, I’m a really big fan of is, when we have our integrated study units here at the middle school and kids are learning about various topics through different lenses, through literacy, through science, through conservation, through math and then the Grade 8s have to do a project, where they have to come up with some sort of capstone project for middle school before they get to high school, which has to have a sustainability component. Some of my favourite ones: kids making wallets out of recycled tyres, kids growing their own vegetables and making their own products to sell at the cafeteria – all of those kinds of projects combine under some sort of sustainability umbrella.

That’s amazing. I know that’s something, that is taking off with universities as well in terms of how to integrate sustainability within a university course – and there are so many different aspects of sustainability as you know – so I think it’s important to have kids so young already being brought up in it. You mentioned accessing nature, and accessing that patch of environment if you’re an inner-city kid or living in an urban area, you wrote a book called “The Box People” that deals with this subject – can you tell us more about it?

Sure, “The Box People ” is an illustrated children’s book with the message to ‘get out of your box’. It’s the story about our current society and how we live in boxes, we eat food that comes from boxes, that is kept in a refrigerator that is a box, we go to a box to work, we go to a box to go shopping, we get in a box – our cars, buses – to get to these other boxes, and then one day our hero, or anti-hero realises he doesn’t like this lifestyle so he goes to the park and once he is in the park, he realises, there are no more boxes, he starts feeling good and he feels connected to the planet, the flora and fauna. He has this big revelation that ‘Wow, I don’t have to live my whole life in this constructed box that society has built around me for my daily life”. I think, that’s a pretty cool message in an illustrated children’s format that rhymes, it’s kind of like a Dr Seuss book. I think, it’s a good message for the children to hear and see.

You are kind of experiencing this on a daily basis with the Green School in Bali. You are seeing kids come in, and depending on where they have been before being put in a situation like the Green School can be a bit overwhelming, but I think it’s fantastic that they are being put in touch with nature – do you have any stories about how you have seen students develop within that role, once they are outside of their box and how they react in a nature setting?

I definitely have, especially when we do our camps and schools come in from big cities like Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, you know these big urban areas. The first day they’re afraid to sit on the ground, they don’t want to get dirty, they’re really worried about something out in nature that might get them, bite them, and we get a lot of questions about that. By the end, you know they move – and it’s a term I’ve been talking about lately – they move from biophobia, the fear of nature, to biophilia, a love of nature. So, they’re a bit biophobic at first, they don’t want to get dirty, they’re scared of sitting on the ground, they’re afraid of insects, ants or whatever they see on the trees. Then by the end, they’re really curious, they’re not afraid, they don’t want to go back, they want to stay here and are happy to roll around in the dirt, play in the mud and be kids, what I think kids should do. I’ve definitely seen it quite a few times.

It speaks a lot to non-traditional learning, the ‘Box’ of academic institutions. Do you see progress going forward with students, do you think sustainability is playing a greater role – whether that is through environmental, equality, gender? 

Yeah, I definitely do, a big testament to the students and to the teachers, post-COVID lots of students were dealing with social and emotional issues. They’d been locked up for a couple of years, they hadn’t had a lot of contact with each other or with nature. Last year was a rough year, it was a transition year, because people didn’t know what to do, they hadn’t been in school for a couple of years, they’d been locked in their houses and apartments doing online learning. This year I’ve definitely seen an improvement, where there is more of a community feel connecting people and students, connecting more with nature, getting outside more. I’ve seen that over the past three years, where two of those years we were in a lockdown and now we’re able to connect with each other again and with the planet. I’m seeing progress in that. Gender equality is coming up more frequently, more often and those conversations are happening and I’m happy to see, that as well as conversation about how we can connect the kids with the natural world a bit more, how we can live more sustainably, our choices as consumers. Some of the projects I’ve seen are very cool in terms of kids wanting to, as I said earlier, make wallets out of recycled tyres and furniture out of recycled surfboards, they’re already thinking in those directions which I think is a lot of progress.

If you had to give any advice on how to integrate sustainability to another teacher, someone who is not at the Green School Bali, but in an urban setting, what would you recommend?

Sustainability is like a buffet, you’ve got to try different things and see which ones you like. For me, I love nature and the outdoors and science – I’m a science teacher – I’m going to gravitate towards ecology, rivers, seagrass beds and reefs, and getting out there and doing recreational things like swimming or mountain biking, kayaking, snorkelling, and then trying to learn about those. But that might not be for everyone – so just going out and seeing different lifestyles. Learning about different cultures, religions, food, languages, and traditions, these are all ways of connecting with other people. Just try different things. How I learned, was by volunteering with the Malaysian Nature Society when I first came to Malaysia, I had no idea about tropical ecology or rainforests, all my training had been in eastern deciduous forests which is a very different type of ecosystem than a tropical rainforest. So, I just told people, ‘Hey I’m ready to volunteer, I’m here to learn’ and that’s how I got more expert on Southeast Asia, it was just being curious, going out there, joining groups – birding groups, hiking groups – and seeing what other people had to say. 

So, collaboration? Going out there, experiencing things, helping others – I think this is very important and I know, it’s something, we talk about with LEAD-WiSE meaning discovering your own sustainability journey. You want to be sustainable, but sometimes it’s easier to have a greater impact, if you start networking and collaborating with other people, and sometimes it’s never the ones you think – a different business, person, or industry entirely – but you realise, you have so many things in common, that can help build to a more sustainable community. 

Is there anything you would like to end with?

I love teaching and learning, I love getting outdoors and I think the best thing for all of us is to get out and have fun – whatever, that might be for you. Some people like hiking, hanging out on the beach or mountain biking, but get outside. There is so much research about the benefits of nature for physical help, mental help, socio-emotional help – just getting outdoors connecting with nature, with some friends, you’re connecting with people, but then you’re connecting with yourself, that’s the main goal. Go outside, have fun, stay curious and keep looking around and learning.


[1] UNESCO, 2023, “The Right to Education”.
[2] UNESCO, 2022, “COP27: UNESCO launches global survey report on youth demands for climate change education & mobilizes stakeholders for the Greening Education Partnership”.
[3] James Ellsmoor, 2019, “Environmental Education Will Shape A New Generation Of Decision-Makers”, Forbes.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting happened as scheduled in Davos this year with some of the world’s most influential business leaders, public figures, civil society and academia to set out a vision on what economic growth looks like within today’s shifts to purpose-led operations [1-3].

Set to a media background covering mass protests at a coal mine in Lützerath, Germany, major profits from oil companies or even private jets arriving in Zürich for this world conference set the stage to what was happening at Davos: odds combined with reality – yet there are several takeaways from the summit that highlights how change is happening.

  1. Increased Global Sustainability

With back to back UN conferences focused on climate change (COP27) and the protection of biodiversity (CBD COP15) held at the end of 2022, sustainability has been a key talking point for decision-makers. While COP27 yielded mixed results, the CBD COP15 set a landmark deal to protect 30% of the world’s natural areas by 2030 by investing in blue and green economies that favor environmental protection [2, 4]. This is backed by a shift by major industrial sectors and a range of economic benefits governments are passing down to sustainable businesses [3, 5]. Having sustainability feature so heavily at Davos, only serves to reiterate how economies are being adapted to work with the environment, not against it. 

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have increasingly sought to future-proof their business by implementing sustainable operations, of which collaboration is one of their biggest tools [6]. With Davos emphasizing a shift at the top, it can facilitate pathways to sustainability for SMEs. “Large corporates must also play a part when it comes to supporting SMEs in skills-building, especially around digitization and helping create the ecosystem for environmental transition, including unlocking financing,” explains Agility Chairperson Henadi al-Saleh [7], “SMEs are the bedrock of developed and developing economies. They are at the heart of economic growth strategies for most emerging markets looking to climb the development curve.”

While collaboration between SMEs and major companies can certainly fast-track sustainability, SMEs are faster and more nimble than international businesses when it comes to implementing change [8]. Experts at Davos unveiled a report highlighting the need for faster regulations from governments to enable big businesses to shift faster, but also to protect and promote how SMEs are finding innovative ways of implementing sustainable solutions using private funds [3, 5].“There is clearly a gap in supply and demand for finance,” highlights Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator CEO Racquel Moses [9], “There is growing interest from across the private sector to improve the resilience of communities at the front lines of the climate crisis [and] lead to long-term growth.”

From the protests at Lützerath to panel discussions at Davos, climate activist Greta Thunberg highlighted how climate action is playing a key role in societal behavior.  Purpose-led businesses are helping create a more sustainable future, and upcoming generations are more and more educated as to the risks posed by the current economic status quo [1-3]. Young people are demanding change and are following through. The inherent risk for companies not following sustainability trends or greenwashing will be more costly than the cost of their transition [10, 11]. Consumers are changing, businesses must adapt, and as the first three takeaways highlight, there is an appetite for it at all levels and readily available avenues to explore.

Have you thought about how you can level-up your business to become more sustainable?

Key Takeaways


[1] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Purpose-Led, Value-Driven – What else?”, LEAD-WiSE.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2023, “The Global Biodiversity Goal Promoting Purpose-Led Businesses”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Tom Idle, 2023, “Davos 2023: 5 Takeaways for Companies Engaged in the Climate Fight”, Sustainable Brands.
[4] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “What is the United Nations Climate Conference, COP?”, LEAD-WiSE.
[5] The Economist, 2023, “The Dispatch: 5 key takeaways from Davos 2023”.
[6] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Circular Economy, Opportunities for Innovation and Collaboration”, LEAD-WiSE.
[7] Henadi al-Saleh, 2023, “Why big business must support SMEs to achieve economic growth and get to net zero”, World Economic Forum.
[8] Laura Chung and Abby Seaman, 2023, “How small businesses are overcoming the challenge of going green”, the Sydney Morning Herald.
[9] Racquel Moses, 2022, “Building climate resilience through private finance”, the Jamaica Gleaner.
[10] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Gen Z Challenge Status Quo”, LEAD-WiSE.
[11] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Greenwashing within the Global Business Context”, LEAD-WiSE.

Mere weeks after the United Nations climate conference (COP27) ended in Egypt, diplomats assembled in Montreal for another UN conference, this one focused on biodiversity (CBD COP15). Following the mixed results at COP27, the sustainability sector set its eyes on the discussions to be held in Canada, where an ambitious target to protect the world’s natural areas and promote green growth was to be tabled [1]. Over a hundred countries pledged their support for the goal which aimed to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030. Steeped in science, protecting the world’s biodiversity would ensure that important natural systems could be maintained, helping mitigate climate change and building sustainable economies in developing nations [1, 2]. 

As Grenadian diplomat and UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell explains alongside Jamaican Minister Matthew Samuda, protecting local biodiversity could have a massive impact on global goals: “With our nations committing to both land and sea protection we will contribute to the following global benefits:

While the benefits are clear, heading into CBD COP15 roughly 17% of land and 8% of oceans were protected, further highlighting how ambitious such a target would be [3].

Driving Positive Change

Despite some drama during the negotiations process that put in doubt the viability of the target, a consensus was reached and the 30×30 target was agreed upon, and parties will now work on an implementation process [4]. While this landmark deal is drawing scepticism as to its feasibility, it has undeniably highlighted the demand for nature-based solutions and investments into sustainable economic structures [5-7]. For businesses, this signals a change in momentum favouring purpose-led businesses, as Carolina Klint explains, “Organizations should focus their resilience efforts on expediting green energy, climate and nature investments [as well as] improving employee health and well-being. [7]”

But what does this all mean realistically?

The 30×30 will have a more pronounced effect in developing nations and countries with large biodiversity hotspots, where blue/green economic growth that focuses on protection can be effectively developed. However, this also provides opportunities for companies and institutions to explore new ways of integrating nature, biodiversity, and sustainability into their business model [5-7]. This can be through partnerships with like-minded entities, creating local programs, or actively working with suppliers and customers to build sustainable supply chains – have you thought about how your business can contribute to global goals?

Key Takeaways:


[1] High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, 2022, “Why 30×30?”.
[2] Simon Stiell & Matthew Samuda, 2022, “Caribbean 30×30 target: Protecting nature to protect future”, Jamaica Gleaner.
[3] John Cannon, 2021, “Protected areas now cover nearly 17% of Earth’s surface: U.N. report”, Mongabay.
[4] Patrick Greenfield & Phoebe Weston, 2022, “Cop15: historic deal struck to halt biodiversity loss by 2030”, The Guardian.
[5] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “The Importance of Sustainable Business Models”, LEAD-WiSE.
[6] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Net-Zero: The Future of Sustainable Businesses”, LEAD-WiSE.
[7] Carolina Klint, 2023, “Global Risks Report 2023: How organizations should respond”, World Economic Forum.

Human beings start learning with their first breath. Education is essential to acquire knowledge, the skills to survive, to develop one’s full potential and integrate successfully into today’s society.

Today 25% of the European Union’s population is in the 0-24 age bracket [1]. Educational institutions are meant to inspire this age group throughout their childhood, teenage years and into early adulthood.

The concept of sustainability has evolved over the years – today, environmental and social aspects have become increasingly important, exemplified best by growing movements calling for better diversity and inclusion and work-life balance as well as movements such as me-too, BlackLivesMatter or Fridays for future. Many of these activities have been led by a young diverse generation through weekly demonstrations, heated debates and strikes. As a result, our society increasingly demands that companies and governments take responsibility in these areas [2].

Academia is fundamental to bridge the socio-economic divide of environmental and social sustainability competencies [2]. Childcare centres, schools and universities must continuously train their educators and staff with essential new skills, encourage to undertake research, and apply their content to their own internal sustainability practices to lead by example. As a knowledge broker responsible for a well-functioning and healthy society, it is necessary for educational institutions to adhere to, convey and execute an aligned mission, adjust curricula, adapt learning methods and change organisational behaviour towards sustainability. Academia must respond to these emerging, global trends with efficient resource management, new education models, training programs and behaviour to develop integrated, responsible and future world citizens [3].

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

How can academia successfully enlighten its children, pupils, students, educators and staff to innovate, inspire and actively lead the transition to an equal and balanced society while staying within planetarian boundaries?

Align your Vision & Mission

Any business or organisation must develop a strategy aligned with its purpose, vision and mission. Whether it is an early childcare centre or a highly ranked university, it all starts with a strategy allowing for a healthy organisational culture including social justice, democracy and sustainability embedded in the approach. Old frameworks included only the financial aspect of growth. The new leadership requires also considering the well-being and diversity of its people including educators, administrators, building managers, students, and community members as well as the physical environment embracing internal and external sustainable practices contemplating the impact on the planet as well as the classic. All three factors, social, environmental and financial, maintain a healthy balance of sustainable progress. A sustainably aligned and managed educational institution can improve its trust, reputation and progress financially better over the years [4].

Almost 80% of young people report being aware of climate change and global warming.

Young people need to develop scientific skills, digital skills, financial literacy and sustainability competences to be ready for the green transition .
OECD, How can education systems advance the green transition? [4]

Embody your curriculum and research through your vision and values

The European Union’s ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to support the green transition of corporate organisations, enable constant scientific research, create new academic programmes, methodologies and curricula allowing to understand, engage and apply the new skills and learnings. This agenda treats social and environmental sustainability as a core value and pushes educational institutions to enhance their curricula and empowers students to become changemakers. Educators and researchers attracted by your school’s purpose and vision will integrate their sustainability research findings in their teaching, delivering the content with passion.

Academia offering new skills through its programs will remain at the forefront of megatrends. Innovative programs and curricula will attract attention and lead to more admissions and prospects.[5]

Walk the talk – your internal sustainability practices

Sustainability requires a systems-based approach promoting collaboration across disciplines and departments, roles, and schools, to generate positive impact.

To apply what you teach, internal processes should align with your sustainability. Including members of faculty, educators, building maintenance, students and suppliers in this process, it will allow to overcome challenges more easily and transparently while not making it a sole leadership team’s responsibility.

Processes could include revising the following procedures [6]:

Sustainably managed institutions lead to innovative approaches allowing to save costs such as supplies, maintenance fees, energy as well as develop new business models. Lastly and more importantly, sustainable practices are life-sustaining and create value for all stakeholders in the community, not just the organisation itself.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is the primary tool for inspiring change, sharing the vision, prompting new behaviours, and recognizing accomplishments.

For your stakeholders to understand the institution’s strategy behind all the activities around sustainability, transparent, consistent and concise communications through a variety of channels with a clear, authentic and consistent message. By including all stakeholders in your efforts, you encourage open conversations and highlight the benefit of your school’s actions. [7]

As a result, your organisation reinforces its trust by translating its values into credibility.


Academia plays a vital role in the change of behaviour of our society. Childcare centres, schools, universities and business schools maintain constant contact with society. By nature, educational institutions are influenced by social and environmental issues and put their knowledge into practice to achieve sustainability of human systems.

Key Takeaways


[1] OECD Stat – Historical Population 2021
[2] The role of universities’ sustainability, teachers’ well-being, and attitudes toward e-learning during COVID-19, Melinda Timea Fülöp, Teodora Odett Breaz, Xiaofei He, Constantin Aurelian Ionescu, George Silviu Cordoş, Sorina Geanina Stanescu, July 2022
[3] LEAD-WISE – Sustainable change through education, Vincent Diringer, September 2022
[4] OECD, How can education systems advance the green transition?; Francesca Borgonovi, Ottavia Brussino, Helke Seitz and Sarah Wildi, September 2022
[5] The Centre for Green Schools, The whole school sustainability framework 2014 (PDF), Stephanie K. Barr, Jennifer E. Cross, & Brian H. Dunbar
[6] National Governance Association, Environmental sustainability. A whole school approach (PDF), June 2022
[7] Center for green schools
[8] Forbes, A brave new marker: Rising to the challenge of sustainability communications, Jessie Parker, 2021

Written by Vincent Diringer, Content Editor, Sustainability

As part of the global political response to climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) holds a yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) in one of its signatory nations. This has happened every year since 1994, except for 2020, when the global COVID-19 pandemic delayed the summit by a year. The yearly COPs serve as an opportunity for negotiators to debate the next set of climate goals, and for decision-makers to take stock of the progress they’ve achieved so far [1, 2]. Following two weeks of negotiations on key topics, the summit concludes with an agreement  on climate action like the Paris Agreement (COP21), or simply with a statement outlining the developments from the COP, like this year’s Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan.

Outside of the negotiations taking place at the summit, pavilions within the COP campus accommodate delegations from global governments, civil society, and special interest groups. This setting provides opportunities for networking and knowledge-sharing between a wide range of stakeholders, and can be the precursor for the development of private and public sector partnerships towards sustainability, economic development, and climate action. COP remains a relatively closed event, with accreditation for the summit limited and reserved for diplomats and UNFCCC-recognized organizations [2].

What does this mean for individuals?

The UNFCCC COP dictates the speed and scope of global climate action. Therefore, this yearly summit has the ability to set new frameworks, goals, and developments capable of affecting governments, companies, and individuals. For example, the Paris Agreement has served as the key reference for climate action since its creation in 2015, and has gone on to influence the transition to net zero. Other mechanisms can be developed that can impact individuals at a policy level, such as climate finance for Loss & Damage (L&D) which provides technical and economic support to climate-vulnerable countries affected by climate change impacts.

While policy negotiations and civil society meetings are the main activities at COP, global politics and corporate agendas influence the outcome to the point that the summit has been called ineffective and a vector for greenwashing. Combined with slow action on climate and limited advocacy for evidence-based solutions established on scientific research, COPs are increasingly seen as having a limited effect on climate due to the toothless nature of international politics [3-5].

As outlined by University College of London Professor Bobby Bannerjee [4], “After 27 years of negotiations, conflicts and breakdowns, the world’s nations have basically agreed: (1) climate change is a serious problem; (2) something must be done to fix it; (3) rich nations should do more; and (4) based on the Paris agreement of 2015, every country should set their own emissions goals and do their best to meet them. The UN claims that the Paris agreement is “legally binding”, but there are no enforcement mechanisms or penalties for countries in breach. Even current pledges will not be enough to meet the target to restrict global warming to the 1.5℃ target agreed in Paris.”

Outcomes of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh

Professor Bannerjee’s comments are an accurate summary of the outcomes of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh [3-5]. As a delegate attached to the Climate Youth Negotiators Programme (CYNP) and youth advocacy non-for-profit ClimaTalk, I was in Egypt shining a light on young people and their roles in policy-making. While this COP was the first to have youth, indigenous people, and climate justice pavilions – all of which were amongst the most popular ones over the course of the two weeks – there was a permeating feeling that these must progress from tokenistic participation to actual impact within negotiations. Over the course of my time there I heard multiple observers and negotiators highlight how despite an increased amount of youth being represented at the summit, there continued to be pushback against including young people in decision and policy-making. 

While there may have been blockages at the negotiating table, young people were amply represented amid civil society and government delegations. Several young entrepreneurs expressed that they saw COP as a way of building bridges with like-minded individuals and changing the world via their projects, rather than via slow diplomatic processes that are easily hampered. Actions speak louder than words was the adage that seeped through conversations, and young people were clearly ready to take things in hand.

Although diplomats were able to find an agreement on L&D (Loss and Damage) after several decades of negotiations, the final text was seen as a step back in terms of actions especially considering the advice provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and growing support to condemn and drastically reduce the usage of fossil fuels. COP27 hosted one of the largest contingents of fossil fuel delegations the summit has seen, and featured a pavilion from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), this in tandem with Coca Cola announcement as a sponsor has added fuel to the debate of large-scale greenwashing and climate inaction at major international events [6-8].

One thing has been made clear: businesses and individuals have an opportunity to stir change from the bottom-up. Capable of making their own decisions and working collaboratively with other like-minded organizations and persons willing to make a difference, companies have an opportunity to be the leaders in climate action – have you considered how you could enact change in your community?

Key Takeaways:


[1] UNFCCC, 2022, “Conference of the Parties (COP)”, United Nations.
[2] Malek Romdhane & Vincent Diringer, 2021, “What is COP?”, ClimaTalk.
[3] Gloria Dickie and Simon Jessop, 2022, “COP27 – Corporate climate pledges rife with greenwashing – U.N. expert group”, Reuters.
[4] Bob Bannerjee, 2022, “Why COP27 should be the last of these pointless corporate love-ins”, The Conversation.
[5] Aruna Chandrasekhar, Daisy Dunne, Josh Gabbatiss, Joe Goodman, Simon Evans and Zizhu Zhang, 2022, “COP27: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh”, Carbon Brief
[6] Ruth Michaelson, 2022, “‘Explosion’ in number of fossil fuel lobbyists at Cop27 climate summit”, The Guardian.
[7] Esme Stallard, 2022, “COP27: Activists ‘baffled’ that Coca-Cola will be sponsor”, BBC.
[8] OPEC Fund, 2022 “COP27 Overview” OPEC.

Following a 2022 summer season that saw widespread drought, heatwaves, wildfires and water scarcity across the world, French president Emmanuel Macron declared the “end of abundance” as it pertained to consumption [1]. With resources becoming limited and supply chains disrupted, industries are beginning to investigate alternative solutions to solve challenges. In the case of energy production, renewable energy is growing in popularity, for transport, electric vehicles and micro-mobility are being valued more – but what are the opportunities for traditional businesses? 

Sustainable business models abound [2]. There is no shortage of sustainable alternatives that can make business operations low-carbon and have a measurable impact on global sustainability goals. However, within an economic hub there exists opportunities to reduce overall emissions, while addressing dwindling resource abundance [3].

Importance of the circular model

“Looking at today’s consumption levels, sustaining our current growth trajectory would require the ecological resources of 2.3 planets by 2050. This number is significantly higher for mature markets. The US, for example, would need five planets to sustain present-day consumption levels; Germany would need three,” points out Holcim CEO Jan Jenisch [4], “The good news is that a solution is within our reach. We can decouple our world’s growth from the consumption of the Earth’s resources by shifting from a linear “take, make, waste” economy to a circular “reduce, reuse, recycle” one.”

A circular economy uses efficient recycling of waste to fill gaps in supply chains. Recycling at an elevated level would reduce dependence and need for new raw materials, instead finding opportunities for these materials to be found within waste [5]. This process would happen continuously, as in a loop – or circular – economic model. The production and extraction of new raw materials is one of the largest vectors for carbon emissions – being able to replace these processes by recuperating materials from discarded waste drastically reduces carbon emissions and creates a more resilient economy [6].

Herein lies the paradigm shift that will ensure that a business can reduce its environmental impact as efficiently as possible, while solidifying new supply chains within the economy – or as Jenisch puts it [4], “The business opportunity of our time.”

Circularity in action

At first glance, circularity may seem more of a theory than active business practice, but certain industries have been operating within this model for a while. Aluminium recycling is one of the most successful case studies, as CircularLab Co-Founder Gina Lee explains [7]: “75 percent of all aluminium produced is still in circulation. [Current cans] contain an average of 73 percent recycled content, which means, there is a lot of can-to-can recycling taking place. Making a can from old cans uses 90 percent less energy and generates 90 percent less emissions compared to producing that same can from virgin material.”

Other examples of circular models include Holcim’s recycling of construction waste to create roofing and cement or the government of São Paulo’s initiative to encourage regenerative agriculture benefiting farmers and vulnerable communities [4, 8]. Smaller innovative businesses highlight how companies can be born from circularity: a fashion brand using dairy farm waste [9], construction cement made with recycled plastic [10], breaking down old wind turbine blades into industrial products [11], and using insects to break down biological waste and turning them into sustainable cattle feed [12] – solutions truly are everywhere.

The circular economy is more than a catchphrase. As global economies shift to a sustainable model, this will affect business big and small across industries, sectors, and countries – and encourage innovation and collaboration [3-5]. Have you ever considered how you might be able to participate in a circular economic model?

Key Takeaways


[1] Kim Willsher, 2022, “Macron warns of ‘end of abundance’ as France faces difficult winter”, The Guardian.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “The Importance of Sustainable Business Models”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Collaboration Towards the Goals: Working Together for Sustainability”, LEAD-WiSE.
[4] Jan Jenisch, 2022, “Why the circular economy is the business opportunity of our time”, World Economic Forum.
[5] Government of the Netherlands, 2022, “From a linear to a circular economy”.
[6] Dirk Nelen and Ioannis Bakas, 2021, “Improving the climate impact of raw material sourcing”, European Environment Agency.
[7] Gina Lee, 2019, “The aluminium can: America’s most successful recycling story that you’ve never heard”, Green Biz.
[8] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2022, “Regenerative agriculture around São Paulo: Connect the Dots”.
[9] Maeve Campbell, 2020, “The company making t-shirts from gone off milk”, Euronews Green.
[10] Centre for Regenerative Design & Collaboration, 2022, “Introducing Resin8™”.
[11] Mitch Jacoby, 2022, “How can companies recycle wind turbine blades?”, Chemical & Engineering News.
[12] Nambu Group, 2021, “Our Vision & Story”.

The scale of the climate crisis can seem overwhelming at times, especially for small businesses or organizations seeking to operate in a sustainable way. Lost within the mass of information available to us and the fastest ways for global governments to shift towards a net-zero approach, are the solutions available for the entities that are key to the economic transition [1]. Believe it or not, sustainability is relatively easy to attain, and one thing entrepreneurs tend to forget is that it is not an all-or-nothing approach – small steps towards achieving larger goals often have a larger impact [2, 3]! Below you will find a range of steps any business can take to reduce their environmental impact.

Take Stock 

The two major drivers of any business are the customers and the workforce, as such, their input is critical to developing positive company policy and understanding what steps can be taken. Likewise, organizations have a responsibility to educate stakeholders and consumers alike, creating educational campaigns and programmes tailored for each can go a long way in improving local communities’ understanding of climate issues [3-5].

Easy Wins

From reducing electricity consumption, using recycled materials, generating less waste or finding ways to reduce staff travel, there are a wide range of small steps a business can take to reduce its environmental impact [6]. Other steps include installing LED lighting, improving recycling, replacing single-use items with reusable options, and swapping to renewable energy sources [7].

Subsidies & Investments

Larger expenses such as installing smart-meters that monitor power consumption, business-based heating and renewable energy production, and effective insulation have limited many businesses’ ability to transition. However, most local governments have subsidies and schemes aimed at supporting sustainable business operations [7]. Opportunities abound for entities seeking to make small changes and scale up their efforts, and high up-front costs are worthwhile investments [8].

Supply Chains

An often overlooked part of business operations is supply chains, which for certain entities represent a much higher footprint than the business itself [9]. To this end, liaising with suppliers to discuss the best pathway for sustainable operations will be the best option. For businesses with integrated supply chains, a shift to electric vehicles, reducing packaging, and a combination of the above steps will yield strong results.

Outside Help

Sometimes the best way to set and reach sustainability goals is to bring in outside help specialized in making businesses more environmentally friendly. Armed with experience, expertise in their subject matter, relevant collaborators and partners, sustainable agencies can be key in unlocking a business’ potential. Have you ever wondered about the sustainable opportunities hiding in plain sight?

Key Takeaways


[1] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Net-Zero: The Future of Sustainable Businesses”, LEAD-WiSE.
[2] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Changing The Status Quo”, LEAD-WiSE.
[3] Wayne Elsey, 2022, “Small Steps For Big Impact: Getting Your Team Involved In Sustainability”, Forbes.
[4] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Sustainable Change Through Education”, LEAD-WiSE.
[5] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Dialogue Between Activists and Businesses – Key to Creating a Sustainable World”, LEAD-WiSE.
[6] NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, 2022, “What can I do to make my small business more sustainable?”, New South Wales Government.
[7] Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO, 2022, “How to make your business operations sustainable”, Government of the Netherlands.
[8] Paul Polman and Andrew Winston, 2022, “Yes, Investing in ESG Pays Off”, Harvard Business Review.
[9] Eloise Barry, 2021, “As More Companies Make Net-Zero Pledges, Some Aren’t as Good as They Sound”, Time Magazine.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which set out the targets to improve socio-economic wellbeing across global communities by 2030 have received a lot of attention as stakeholders from across various sectors seek to create a better world. There are seventeen goals the United Nations have outlined, including Gender Equality (SDG 5), Affordable Clean Energy (SDG 7), and Climate Action (SDG 13) [1]. Meeting some of these targets can be easier to do for some businesses than others, but one particular goal often gets overlooked when it comes to business operations: Collaboration Towards the Goals (SDG 17).  Collaboration, however, provides a swathe of opportunities for businesses to improve their sustainability, and maximize their impact [2].

A Circular System

“Delivering on climate change commitments is going to depend on industries and the Government working closely together,” explains Alison Kay, Ernst & Young Managing Partner for Client Service UK&I [3], “Businesses need a framework that supports investment and governments need entrepreneurs who can turn ambition into action. Bringing businesses together and sharing their findings with the Government, we hope to make that action better targeted and ultimately more successful.” This means that businesses working together on a range of sustainability projects can lead to breakthroughs at a national or international level in terms of technology, policy, and best practice [2].

The impact of sustainability through collaboration can be exemplified by several projects, for example:

Recognizing Opportunities

Businesses working within the same sector and location should work together to find opportunities to reduce their environmental impact across their shared supply chains. Obviously, this requires a high amount of trust between entrepreneurs, but the benefits of working together and pooling resources open opportunities to create a circular system that can provide a blueprint for companies in different industries [2, 3, 6, 7]. Have you considered where you could further reduce your carbon impact and promote sustainability through business collaborations?

Key Takeaways


[1] United Nations, 2022, “Do you know all 17 SDGs?” United Nations.
[2] Joana Kleine Jäger, 2020, “Will you be my partner? Collaborations in the circular economy”, Circle Economy.
[3] Alison Kay, 2021, “Why collaboration is key to tackling climate change”, Ernst & Young.
[4] Shel Evergreen, 2022, “Lithium costs a lot of money—so why aren’t we recycling lithium batteries?”, Ars Technica.
[5] Md Tasbirul Islam and Usha Iyer-Raniga, 2022, “Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling in the Circular Economy: A Review.” Recycling, 7, 33.
[6] Ram Nidumolu, Jib Ellison, John Whalen, and Erin Billman, 2014, “The Collaboration Imperative”, Harvard Business Review.
[7] Jacqueline Poh, 2022, “3 ways we can collaborate better for a stronger circular economy”, World Economic Forum.
[8] Vincent Diringer, 2022, “Dialogue Between Activists and Businesses – Key to Creating a Sustainable World”, LEAD-WiSE.