SUS­TAIN­ABLE CHANGE

Meet Con­certo TIC, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps busi­nesses re­alise their sus­tain­abil­ity goals

CEO Middle East - - CON­TENTS -

FOUNDED IN JUNE 2019, CON­CERTO TIC

works with or­gan­i­sa­tions to iden­tify their cur­rent and po­ten­tial eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial im­pact across their value chain and sup­ports them to em­brace sus­tain­abil­ity un­der the um­brella of the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals. Con­certo TIC uses a com­pre­hen­sive method­ol­ogy of tai­lored frame­works, strate­gies and tools which en­able a step-by-step trans­for­ma­tion to­wards long-term or­gan­i­sa­tional growth.

Im­pact sits at the core of Con­certo TIC, as it aims to ac­cel­er­ate progress to­wards global and lo­cal de­vel­op­ment agen­das by en­abling sus­tain­able prac­tices and rewiring busi­ness mod­els. It is all about supporting busi­ness lead­ers and en­cour­ag­ing them to adopt the mind-set of im­pact and defin­ing per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors which don’t only fo­cus on the fi­nan­cial re­turns, but also on the ad­vance­ment of so­ci­eties and en­vi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion.

Con­certo TIC also sup­ports im­pact-ori­ented or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as so­cial en­ter­prises, in de­vel­op­ing im­pact tracking and re­port­ing tools which en­able their growth and drives fur­ther value for their stake­hold­ers.

Alex Ghe­o­r­danescu has al­ways been cu­ri­ous about how busi­nesses can work in an eth­i­cal way and be sus­tain­able. Hold­ing key po­si­tions across di­ver­si­fied in­dus­tries, he un­der­stands how suc­cess is de­fined and driven across all lev­els. Work­ing in the UAE mar­ket for over a decade, his work in­cludes stints at IHG’s MENA loy­alty pro­grammes, leading Emaar’s Group Loy­alty mar­ket­ing strate­gies and launch­ing the Emi­rates NBD ‘U By Emaar’ Visa credit card.

A strate­gic thinker with en­trepreneur­ship at the core of his heart, he works along­side his wife Mi­haela Nina in in­spir­ing and em­pow­er­ing re­gional busi­nesses via sus­tain­able and eth­i­cal prac­tices.

What is Con­certo TIC’s mis­sion and who does the com­pany serve?

Through Con­certo TIC (The Im­pact Com­pany) part of Aug­men­ta­tion X, our aim is to en­able our part­ners fu­ture proof their busi­ness mod­els by in­te­grat­ing im­pact per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors within their strate­gies. We work with public and pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions, rang­ing from start-ups, where our fo­cus is so­cial en­ter­prises, SMEs and cor­po­rates and equip them with the knowl­edge and tools to max­imise their per­for­mance by look­ing at their strate­gies through the lens of im­pact, in align­ment with the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals. At the core of Con­certo TIC sits a thor­oughly de­vel­oped method­ol­ogy which sup­ports us bridge the knowl­edge gap be­tween the cur­rent busi­ness as usual and sus­tain­able, fu­ture-ready mod­els.

What made you de­cide to go into the field of sus­tain­abil­ity?

De­spite the ex­is­tence of a strong busi­ness case for sus­tain­abil­ity, which clearly demon­strates the link to an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s fi­nan­cial per­for­mance, many busi­ness lead­ers of­ten don’t have the in-house re­sources or knowl­edge to im­ple­ment it. More­over, sus­tain­abil­ity is fre­quently in­ter­preted dif­fer­ently with mul­ti­ple terms and frame­works which of­ten are not based on dif­fer­ent busi­ness mod­els. We knew that we had a unique op­por­tu­nity to change the cur­rent ecosys­tem and so Mi­haela Nina and I brought to the ta­ble our com­bined ex­pe­ri­ence in busi­ness me­chan­ics, com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity, rev­enue growth and sus­tain­able im­pact.

Why is it im­por­tant for busi­nesses to con­sider sus­tain­abil­ity when it comes to their busi­ness prac­tices?

This is such an im­por­tant as­pect to ad­dress. His­tor­i­cally, sus­tain­abil­ity has been as­so­ci­ated with CSR ini­tia­tives, such as vol­un­teer­ing or do­na­tions, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism such as plas­tic re­duc­tion or pa­per­less of­fices, just to name a few. Although these are in­deed some of the ar­eas ad­dressed by sus­tain­abil­ity, there is more to it. A sus­tain­able busi­ness is one which ad­dresses all im­pact ar­eas and aims to drive value for all it in­ter­acts with, which on the eco­nomic im­pact side means jobs cre­ation, rev­enue gen­er­a­tion, wages, GDP con­tri­bu­tion for in­stance. It en­com­passes a solid gover­nance struc­ture that looks at the in­tegrity and ethics of an or­gan­i­sa­tion and an anal­y­sis of risks and op­por­tu­ni­ties across the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact ar­eas, which can be health, well­be­ing, ba­sic needs, ac­ces­si­bil­ity, in­clu­sion, hu­man rights, wa­ter scarcity, cli­mate change, pol­lu­tion, food waste. As per the why be­hind a sus­tain­able busi­ness model, just take

as an ex­am­ple the gar­ments in­dus­try. If an or­gan­i­sa­tion has its fi­nal prod­uct man­u­fac­tured in high-risk ar­eas for uneth­i­cal em­ployee prac­tices this will even­tu­ally come back and di­rectly im­pact the busi­ness rep­u­ta­tion and re­spec­tively brand eq­uity. So be­sides just be­ing the right thing to do, there is a clear link be­tween busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

What are some of the ma­jor trends you’re notic­ing in re­gards to sus­tain­abil­ity?

Busi­ness sus­tain­abil­ity is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing part of the agenda of com­pa­nies from all over the world. We have 10 years for SDGs to be achieved and large cor­po­ra­tions have demon­strated growth and per­for­mance as soon as they started to im­ple­ment sus­tain­abil­ity. If we look at re­cent sta­tis­tics, more than 71 per­cent of in­ter­viewed or­gan­i­sa­tions are plan­ning to take ac­tion.

More­over, let’s not for­get that the main catal­yser for this comes from con­sumers’. More than 78 per­cent seek out sus­tain­able prod­ucts or ser­vices. The next gen­er­a­tion pri­ori­tises im­pact and with them be­com­ing the pur­chas­ing power, or­gan­i­sa­tions will need to adapt.

What factors go into de­vel­op­ing a cor­po­rate strat­egy for sus­tain­abil­ity?

If I were to sum­marise a sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy, it would in­clude lead­er­ship, foun­da­tion and in­te­gra­tion. Sus­tain­abil­ity starts at the top and is cas­caded within the cul­ture of an or­gan­i­sa­tion, where ev­ery­one be­comes part of this jour­ney. Part of our role is to de­velop this within the or­gan­i­sa­tions we work with. The foun­da­tion is then es­tab­lished on the ba­sis of the busi­nesses am­bi­tion and a prin­ci­pled anal­y­sis of the busi­ness model and value chain. This is a cru­cial step in en­sur­ing the right framework and method­ol­ogy is used to cre­ate a sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy. And lastly and the most com­plex stage is the in­te­gra­tion through a tai­lored sys­tem which fits the re­spec­tive or­gan­i­sa­tion.

How can a busi­ness in­cor­po­rate a sus­tain­able strat­egy that will en­sure a ma­jor im­pact?

For a com­pre­hen­sive sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy that will evolve with the or­gan­i­sa­tion and sup­port its per­for­mance, an or­gan­i­sa­tion needs to take a holis­tic ap­proach across the en­tire value chain. The first step is to en­sure the right mech­a­nism is in place to iden­tify the im­pact, take the right ac­tions and track progress. Oth­er­wise, it will be like say­ing that we want to achieve X in prof­its, but we have no com­mer­cial strat­egy, nor are we mon­i­tor­ing our ex­penses.

What are the com­mon mis­con­cep­tions that most busi­nesses have about sus­tain­abil­ity?

The chal­lenge with CSR pro­grammes is that they nor­mally are a satel­lite to a busi­ness model and are mostly means of giv­ing back, rather than sus­tain­abil­ity which is sup­posed to be an in­te­grated strat­egy. Another as­pect is that sus­tain­abil­ity is of­ten per­ceived as a mar­ket­ing tool and although sus­tain­abil­ity does con­nect you to your au­di­ence, we have seen plenty of claims which are un­re­al­is­tic and only aim to po­si­tion the or­gan­i­sa­tion in a good light. How­ever, this has started to change, with con­scious in­vestors, en­trepreneur­s, pro­fes­sion­als and con­sumers

start­ing to change the nar­ra­tive and de­fine the cor­rect mean­ing of sus­tain­abil­ity.

What does the fu­ture look like for sus­tain­abil­ity among busi­nesses, es­pe­cially small busi­nesses?

Sus­tain­able busi­ness mod­els are ac­tu­ally the fu­ture. The pace of change which we ex­pe­ri­ence in terms of how the ecosys­tem looks at value cre­ation and how busi­nesses con­duct them­selves is ex­po­nen­tial. If we look at or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Unilever, Pepsi, Mi­crosoft and busi­nesses in in­vest­ment and as­set man­age­ment, they all are geared to­wards sus­tain­able mod­els. With this and with con­sumers be­com­ing more con­scious, small busi­nesses need to tran­si­tion to­wards bal­anc­ing and driv­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on all ar­eas, eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal. Oth­er­wise, they will be left be­hind.

In what ways do you be­lieve sus­tain­abil­ity will grow and de­velop in the re­gion?

In the re­gion, we have a great model in which sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment is driven from the top. The 2030 vi­sion of both the UAE and

Saudi Ara­bia both have sus­tain­abil­ity as main pil­lars, with lead­er­ship driv­ing them. If we add con­sumer de­mand for sus­tain­able prod­ucts and ser­vices, and em­ploy­ees seek­ing pur­pose­ful or­gan­i­sa­tions, we have a move­ment which urges busi­nesses to take ac­tion. This is partly due to the ef­forts the UAE has made in cre­at­ing aware­ness on sus­tain­abil­ity. With SDGs com­ing into place in 2015, we have seen more and more sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tive adop­tion by com­pa­nies.

What’s the best advice you could give busi­ness own­ers re­gard­ing busi­ness sus­tain­abil­ity?

Whether it is about sta­bil­is­ing cur­rent busi­ness per­for­mance or grow­ing, look into sus­tain­abil­ity and how it can en­able your long-term vi­sion. The right tim­ing for this is now and the great part is that when you com­pare the ini­tial cost to the out­comes of an in­te­grated sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy, the ROI proves the busi­ness case. Con­certo

TIC aims to of­fer sup­port to or­gan­i­sa­tions in es­tab­lish­ing the right sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy.

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