Opening Night for Critical Conversations in Sustainability Seminar Series draws a large audience

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Dhiru Soni

31 March 2017

The audience in a contemplative mood at the Main Auditorium, REGENT Business School during the Opening Night of the Critical Conversations in Sustainability Seminar Series. Picture by Viva Productions

Held last Wednesday evening at REGENT Business School in Durban, The Critical Conversations in Sustainability Seminar Series Opening Night showcased a stellar line-up of speakers, and provided a raft of provocative ideas on what the Corporate Sector can do to mitigate the excesses of climate change.    The inaugural session for the seminar series provided a gathering place for individuals from private, public and non-governmental sectors and highlighted the need for a seismic shift in the mind sets for global sustainable development.

The session opened with a minute of silence in respect for fallen hero and icon of the liberation struggle in South Africa, Mr. Ahmed Kathrada. The Programme Director, Professor Marvin Kambuwa then introduced the major objectives of the seminar series and urged representatives and delegates from partnering organisations and the corporate, public and civil society sectors to make concerted efforts to realise the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Managing Director of REGENT Business School, Ahmed Shaikh said, “The Future of Earth will depend on the sustainable efforts put in by a collective of all stakeholders today”. “Within this context, the Critical Conversations Seminar Series in Sustainability” Shaikh said, “Reflects REGENT Business School’s commitment to help shape future business leaders who will be at the vanguard in encouraging the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ approach towards sustainability”.

Held at the main auditorium of the new Institute of Entrepreneurship Building, the event drew a record 150 delegates from across Durban’s socio-economic spectrum.
Councilor, Fawzia Peer, the Deputy Mayor of eThekwini Municipality delivered a stirring keynote address on ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership in Sustainability’. She reminded those present that the Leaders from Corporate Sector had a responsibility to assist both government and civil society in achieving a sustainable planet, a notion that proved to be one of the seminar series’ motifs.

Indeed, Dr. Mahmoud Youssef-Baker, the chairperson of Iqraa Trust, an economist by profession and a former leader of an International Banking organisation the issue of corporate social responsibility has to be given the prominence it rightfully deserves. For too long the ‘profit bottom line’ dominated the narrative of business. In order to become responsible, leaders from the corporate sector had to play their part in sustainability. Representatives from NEDBANK and Indoni, a non-governmental organisation also passionately supported the need for sustainability.

All the participants condemned those denying the effects of climate change.
The programme director then handed the floor over to Fred Kockott who was assigned the position of moderator for the session. Fred informed the audience that he arranged for short video clips to be shown. The one was narrated by famous actor Morgan Freeman and was titled, “Our Future”. The other,”Business can play a Profitable Role in Combating Climate Change” was narrated by Andrew Winston.

However, prior to the screening of the videos, Fred Kockott In a presentation that encapsulated the spirit and intention of the conference challenged the audience to think about the welfare of generations to come, quoting 87-year-old, Native American, Oren Lyons.

“In our way of life, in our government, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead, the generations still unborn, have a world no worse than ours – and hopefully better. When we walk upon Mother Earth we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.”

Oren Lyons is a leading human rights and environmental activist, and author of numerous books.

Immediately after the showing of the video clips, the moderator engaged with the audience in meaningful banter. The session then came to a close after a vote of thanks was passed by Professor Anis Karodia who also reminded the participants that ““A shared view of where we are going will make it easier to overcome incumbency issues”. “It will also enable us to work with government on transition pathways to achieve sustainability.”

Dhiru Soni is the Director for Research and Innovation and the overall coordinator for the Critical Conversations in Sustainability Seminar Series at REGENT Business School


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