Scale up investments for sustainable dev’t,  says Dr Byamugisha

Dr Albert Byamugisha, Head of Uganda National Sustainable Development Goals secretariat. COURTESY PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Today, many companies have accepted their responsibility to do no harm to the environment. Products and production processes are becoming cleaner and where such change is underway, the environment is on the mend. Prosper Magazine’s Henry Mulindwa, spoke to Dr Albert Byamugisha, head of Uganda National Sustainable Development Goals secretariat ahead of the annual CEO Summit.

Business leaders cannot brush off the sustainability issues anymore as they are required to make good on environmental pledges in the form of sustainability reporting. Can you explain what sustainability means for Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)?
Sustainability is a dynamic equilibrium in the processes of interaction between a population and the carrying capacity of an environment such that the population develops to express its full potential without adversely and irreversibly affecting the carrying capacity of the environment upon which it depends. 

Sustainable development canbe achieved by minimising the use or waste of non-renewable resources by substituting, reducing, reusing, recycling, and restoring. It can also be achieved by the sustainable use of renewable resources and keeping within the absorptive capacity of local and global sinks for waste.
SDGs are meant to enable a dynamic equilibrium of sustainable development as described in ‘Our Common Future,’ also known as the Brundtland report: “The development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (The Brundtland Report 1987).Sustainable development is premised on three pillars; economy, society, and environment.

The SDGs support the attainment of the above pillars through environmental sustainability where realising SDGs will improve human welfare through the protection of natural capital such as land, air, water, and minerals.

In the implementation of SDGs, we believe that economic sustainability is important. Maintaining high and stable levels of economic growth is one of the key objectives of sustainable development. Economic sustainability is compulsory,  however, sustainable development is not only about economic growth. Therefore, we must pay attention to the quality of growth.

We also believe that the implementation of SDGs should invest in social sustainability and create services that constitute the framework of our society through a larger lens of the world to ensure cohesion, reciprocity, honesty, and the importance of relationships amongst people. 

How can CEOs make environmental, social, and governance issues real?
The CEOs should create an environment that facilitates dialogue with stakeholders, especially on concerns that involve ESG efforts, and advance the company strategy. 

The CEOs should ensure their companies adapt ESG Integrated reporting. Integrated reporting helps companies understand the materiality of ESG issues and links these to corporate performance through standard evaluation and reporting. ESG means going beyond the usual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). 

The CEOs need to ensure that stakeholders are educated on the value ESG creates, such as how it can be an impetus for future growth and bolster the companies’ branding, credibility, and profits. 

Adapting smart technology is crucial as it supports ESG strategies by reducing energy usage and wastage by optimising environments improving comfort and providing clear data insight, converging siloed systems, and presenting data in a useable format.

How can CEOs empower their teams to deliver on the sustainability agenda?
There is a need for significant personal engagement by employees in sustainability issues. CEOs should keep employees fully updated on company updates about green and local initiatives, as well as broader sustainability goals.
Focus on how the initiatives are benefiting the environment, the businesses growth, and the local community. Through knowledge management, employers can benchmark sustainable best practices and disseminate this knowledge to their employees for learning. It would also be good to have incentives for implementing sustainability strategies for companies to drive adaptability, responsiveness, and efficiency. 

The fourth industrial revolution and rise of technology call for digital skills. CEOs need to enhance the digital skills of their employees. Digital skills to enhance their operations, knowledge sharing, decision-making, problem-solving, and communication within and outside the company.CEOs should prioritise digital adaption to keep up with new disruptive tech.

How does integrated reporting create sustainable and long-term value?
Integrated reporting (IR) is a framework for corporate reporting, in which corporate financial and sustainability information are integrated into one report. An integrated report includes material information about a company’s strategy, governance, and performance.

Integrated reports disclose and connect financial, social and governance inputs and performance information. They improve the transparency of a company’s social responsibilities and demonstrate how a company creates social value over time. An integrated report reflects the level to which sustainability has been built into a company’s vision, mission, and day-to-day operations.

Integrated reporting stimulates further third-party verification of non-financial data and will drive sustainability as an integral part of the discussion with companies. Integrated reports provide insight into stakeholder relationships and help enhance such relationships for long-term value and sustainable benefit. 

Most European countries are shifting their mandate from industrialisation to deindustrialisation. Isn’t Uganda taking a risk investing in more industries, especially when the green economy is the new global strategy?
Industrialisation and the green economy are important for the nation. In pursuit of sustainable development, the economic, social, and environmental pillars cannot be achieved in isolation from each other.

The quest to preserve and protect the environment amidst industrialisation should incorporate the principles of sustainable development.

Industrialisation and the green economy should be in equilibrium to not only preserve the quality of the environment at the expense of their economic growth and development, or only pursue economic growth and development at the expense of the environmental life and quality. 

The ecological threshold can be enhanced through technological advancement to accommodate more industrial activities without causing harm to the environment. Therefore, Uganda is not at risk investing in more industries if economic growth and development and the natural environment are equally preserved.

How is the private sector engaged in SDGs?
The private sector is widely considered the engine of economic growth. It has, among other things, contributed to technological advancements in key sectors, such as energy and transportation, increased life expectancy through innovation in health care, and helped millions of people escape extreme poverty.

The private sector is one of the key stakeholders that shoulder a fundamental responsibility for accelerating the SDGs implementation process.