In my previous post on Sustainability Leadership I mentioned several areas which I was aiming to explore further. Firstly, contributing to the capture of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere through sustainable forests. Secondly, defining a sustainable business model to make the management of these forests economically viable. Thirdly, constructing my own sustainable house. Fourthly, ensuring that my profession contributes to both local and global sustainable development. And finally, practising what I preach in terms of having a sustainable life-style. Today I’ll share with you how my thinking has progressed in these areas and how my determination to continue along this path has increased.
On the one hand, I have been actively looking for pieces of land and talking to different land owners about their features and associated costs. My idea of the kind of land I want to buy has evolved. For instance, I started looking at plots of one hectare, but I now want to buy over 10 hectares. The larger area would enable me to combine reforestation and forest management with permaculture and the introduction of different animal species to help balance the forest in terms of fertility on the one hand and control of invasive weeds on the other (contributing in turn to local biodiversity). Its maintenance would require the help of skilled professionals and employing them would have positive social impact. In terms of a sustainable business model, I have identified several potential sources of income.
In the last few months I’ve had many conversations with many different people. I’m amazed at the responses and reactions I’ve had:
- My cousin, who has worked for a major bank for the last ten years, would like to invest in the project, although I think we have different views in terms of the business model.
- My brother-in-law, who is looking for an investment opportunity, initially said that this project would never be profitable, but now every time he talks to me asks me about it because he has become interested in the business model. What he doesn’t know is that I’m not too keen to share the details of the business model until I see that his motivation is mainly environmental and social rather than economic.
- I’ve identified potential major investors (large corporations) who might be able to scale up the project faster. I need to see if their conditions are aligned with the mission, vision and values of the project.
- My sister and her partner are currently looking for a piece of land too (in a different region).
- My mother is involved in checking the legal situation with regard to the purchase of land and she is ready to help in the process of acquisition.
- A month ago, at the age of 67, my father started to tend a piece of land for the first time, growing fruit and vegetables with a friend. His feedback is very useful and has made me aware of the restrictions that many areas are subject to in terms of access to water. On the one hand, I decided to exclude these areas at least for the first stage of the project. On the other hand, my awareness of how fast the desert is advancing in some parts of Europe has increased and I plan to start a conversation around this issue.
- I’ve reactivated and expanded my network of experts and we’ve had some very insightful and encouraging discussions.
Now I feel much more encouraged as I’m better informed and feel supported by like-minded people. One of the things I’ve learnt from the Masters on Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge University is that, whatever challenge you want to tackle, most of the information you need is already out there, and that’s the main resource that will help any Sustainability Leader in engaging key stakeholders. In my view, collaboration and partnerships are the foundation for reconstructive innovation.
Turning to the professional dimension, I’m currently making a temporary contribution to a global project which aims to improve the sustainability performance of businesses involved in international trade in commodities such as palm oil, coffee and soya (which use vast amounts of deforested land). I have also been teaching international students on sustainable development and sustainable energy.
To finish with, my future steps are the following:
- In August I will go to see five potential plots of land. I will travel many miles and I plan to do so by using car-sharing platforms such as BlaBlaCar. Furthermore, I’ll expend several days with an experienced farming family, who will share valuable knowledge with me.
- In terms of sustainable housing, I’ll opt for an approach based on a wooden structure with external walls built with straw bales. I’ll give more details about the benefits of this solution and about my progress in that area in the next post.
I hope that my journey will inspire other people to undertake new sustainable adventures regardless of their backgrounds and current situation.