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Accelerating the Sustainability Transformation: Key Event Takeaways
Our economy and businesses are at a critical juncture, facing the urgent need to address the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and ecosystem protection while fostering well-being for all stakeholders and economic success. On June 5th – World Environment Day – our (Solvay Lif...
Marianna Rousaki |Author
Marianna is the Content & Social Media Coordinator at Solvay Brussels School - Lifelong Learning.
Our economy and businesses are at a critical juncture, facing the urgent need to address the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and ecosystem protection while fostering well-being for all stakeholders and economic success.
On June 5th – World Environment Day – our (Solvay Lifelong Learning) joint event with Solvay Schools Alumni brought together influential experts, policymakers, and businesses to discuss the immense challenges and promising opportunities of the sustainability transformation. The event served as a platform to analyse the progress made to date and explore pathways to accelerate the transition towards a circular, low-carbon, and inclusive economy, promoting human well-being.
Leading the Way with Remarkable Keynotes and Panel Discussions
The event commenced with a lineup of keynote speakers and panellists, including prominent sustainability and business transformation figures. Among them, Dr Ilham Kadri, the CEO of Solvay S.A. and Chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), delivered a paradigm-breaking address: “You can be sustainable and profitable”, she proclaimed, before outlining how once she came at the helm of Solvay, the magnitude of changes needed for the chemical company to deliver on the Paris Agreement seemed but an opportunity to prove that [Companies] know we are part of the problem, but more importantly we want to be part of the solution”, and exemplifying how “sustainability is changing the role of the leader” - one that is investing in long-term sustainable plans rather than short-term results. Encouraging and challenging their teams, Solvay has managed to deliver “twice the Paris Agreement” in the latest years – all while being more frugal with natural resources and multiplying business projects.
“Crises are wake-up calls…make your transformations and make them sustainable.” -Dr Ilham Kadri
Joining her on the floor was Dr Arnaud Zacharie, Secretary General of the 'Centre National de Coopération au Développement' (CNCD-11.11.11), who shared valuable insights into the transnational cooperation necessary for sustainable progress. “Sustainability will not be possible without strong social support [...] without the participation of developing countries, the green transformation is not possible”, he underlined, making a point on how imperative acting on inequalities is “both within and between counties, to strengthen the solidarity between generations, improve the lives of those most vulnerable”, and to create new ‘green’ job opportunities, for a transformation that he described as “the new industrial revolution”.
Preview: Dr Zacharie elaborates on the interdisciplinarity of the Sustainability Transformation.
You can watch the entire interview here.
Throughout the event, participants delved into a rich tapestry of sustainable solutions and practices. Panel discussions featuring Belgian and international pioneers in sustainability shared their expertise and professional commitments, showcasing the great range of socio-political structures that are involved in sustainable transformation, and the relevant prospects across sectors. The discussion highlighted the importance of the varied –even seemingly polar at times– points of action that were brought forth. Quentin Lancrenon of The Shifters emphasised that "We have no other choice than being activist," and Vanessa Biebel, COO and Executive Manager Sustainability & Circular Economy VBO-FEB, later echoed this by stating, "If you want to change the world, work in a business, not an NGO." Indeed, it is crucial to recognise that sustainability transformation is a battle with multiple fronts. Any conversation aiming to yield substantial acts must address the subject with relevant nuance and acknowledge that daring efforts are required across various sectors, ranging from NGO lobbying to pioneering business initiatives. As Eline Brugman, Climate and Sustainability Lead at Deloitte, put it:
“We need leaders [in politics and organisations] who take bold decisions”.
Being part of the solutions and moving forward
The event also served as a platform to spotlight the first Executive Master in Sustainability Transformation, a flagship programme launched by Solvay Brussels School-Lifelong Learning. Its Academic Director, Bernard Mathieu, presented the course, highlighting its curriculum, structure, and transformative potential: “We need a profound, complex, and well-organised management of our businesses to drive the change of our economy”. With this Executive Master, Solvay Brussels School aims to be a decisive agent of up- and reskilling professionals and thus a direct enabler of the sustainability transformation of our society.
Lastly, the event also fostered networking opportunities among sustainability professionals, leaders, and alumni. Participants had the chance to connect, exchange ideas, and build collaborations with like-minded individuals passionate about driving sustainability forward. The evening concluded with a vibrant networking session, providing a relaxed environment for further discussions and the formation of valuable connections.
The transformative event held on June 5th demonstrated the collective determination to address the world's sustainability challenges. By bringing together experts, policymakers, and businesses, SLL & SSA created a collaborative space to explore solutions and inspire action. We can only hope that with the knowledge shared, connections forged, and inspiration ignited, participants left the Solvay Campus equipped to make a positive impact on the world and contribute to the ongoing sustainability transformation.