Well known strategic corporate sustainability guru Dr. Ravi Fernando has emphasized the crucial need for professional and academic programmes to integrate the corporate sustainability subject into the curriculum to ensure future business leaders understand the increasing importance of working towards safeguarding the planet.
Speaking at a seminar organized by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) recently, Dr. Fernando who is the Chairman of the Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability (Pvt) Ltd., said “businesses have become bigger than nations, so therefore we know it is more crucial than ever before for business leaders to understand how to lead from the perspective of sustainable development.”
He noted that if sustainability is not embedded into the curriculum, thinking and mindset of future business leaders, then there lies a risk in creating future business leaders who will probably have a negative impact on the planet instead of a positive impact.
Dr. Fernando, who also serves as an Executive in Residence at the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre disclosed how most top MBA schools were now teaching corporate sustainability as a mainstream subject in the MBA programmes. “Imparting business leaders on this subject is crucial to how the world operates,” he said.
At the seminar Dr. Fernando also portrayed a bleak future due to the increasing use of fossil fuel across the globe which has led increasing temperatures and also health hazards such as cancer. He said that this year’s first quarter was the hottest ever recorded in Sri Lanka’s history of 140 years, since temperature was measured. He said that worldwide the last 17 years have been the hottest ever. “In Canada and Japan, people have died from heat waves last year, and these are advanced nations. This is an indication that even advancements aren’t preventing people from getting wiped out,” he cautioned.
He added that due to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, diesel and liquid gas, the weather patterns have also changed resulting in extreme weather incidents, high temperature, and droughts. “The more we burn the planet, the planet will heat up.” Dr. Fernando said that those who are even driving diesel or petrol vehicles were contributing to this problem. “But, instead of being the problem, I urge you to think of becoming part of the solution, by converting to either hybrid or electric cars,” he said.
He said due to the burning of fossil fuels, more lead and mercury exudes, resulting in an increase in cancer. According to him, Sri Lanka has had a 100 percent increase in cancer, which he also attributed was also due to the coal power plant in Norochcholai. “The ash from the coal that burns travels not just within Norochcolai but as far as the central province, so it impacts us all.”
He disclosed that having understood the increasing risks of fossil fuels, most countries were moving away from building power plants which are fossil fuels based, except Sri Lanka, which is planning on expanding more fossil fuel centric power plants. According to him, the country has planned 12 more coal power and LNG plants. “China is closing down coal power plants, and India is moving away from it, while Europe has already moved towards renewable energy sources, but in Sri Lanka, we are basically taking two guns and shooting ourselves,” he said.
“If you are concerned about your health and the future of the country, then you need to raise your voice,” he told the audience.
He also warned that due to the climate change and global warming, Sri Lanka also faces the risk of a possible 20 feet sea level rise in the future.
He warned that the climate change as a result of global warming is affecting every part of the business supply chain, which is a crucial component for businesses. “The issue of climate change is going to affect every single business. Instead of making it become worse, we must be part of the solution, which is to move out of burning more fossil fuel,” he reiterated.
Speaking at the event, CA Sri Lanka President Mr. Jagath Perera said that when it comes to sustainability, it is the human being’s responsibility to ensure that this planet is safeguarded and ready to be handed over to the future generation. “Even animals and inspects protect the earth, but the only creature that is working against the planet, are the humans. We are damaging every aspect of nature and the planet and we still don’t realise the impact,” he added.