Protecting our future requires a collaborative approach to sustainability, says Dejan Stancer
When you meet Dejan Stancer, the storied serial entrepreneur from Slovenia, the first thing that strikes about him is his no-nonsense, direct approach towards business and, lately, sustainability.
While Stancer has done many things worth writing about in his three-decade career, in his latest avatar as the Chairman of Global Chamber of Business Leaders, in a fireside chat with YourStory’s Shradha Sharma at TechSparks 2021, he emphasized the urgency of action towards making global businesses environmentally and socially sustainable. And of course, infect us in the Indian startup community with his enthusiasm.
Global Chamber of Business Leaders is a coalition of governmental leaders, CEOs and executives, entrepreneurs, investors and business and industry leaders who share a common vision: the sustainable well-being and growth of business in a disruptive and ever-evolving global economy.
GCBL is founded as an alliance where entrepreneurs from around the world nudge each other towards making sustainable business practices a norm.
Stancer started his career quite young, as a 20-year-old in Slovenia, the northern most part of Yugoslavia. In June 1991, when Slovenia gained independence from Yugoslavia, it needed almost everything as it moved from a managed communist economy to a free-market capitalist one, Stancer was part of a group of first-time entrepreneurs in the country, helping build enterprises in automobile distribution to finance to legal services to private investigation and tourism.
The need for socially sustainable business practices
At TechSparks 2021, Stancer spoke to Shradha about the importance of environmentally and socially sustainable business practices, and highlighted the current COVID-19 pandemic as an example of an external shock we had received as a society due to the stress we had put on nature.
“Global entrepreneurs everywhere, including those in India, would have to understand that stakeholders in their business are wider, and their mandate needs to redefine itself- going beyond profit as the sole purpose of its existence for business,” said Stancer.
Musing about the challenges ahead for the world and “What’s Next”, Dejan was critical of the trends in nationalism and political parochialism, warning that local approaches to economic and environmental crises before us were not sufficient and were likely to fail. “The world is already at war with nature and it remains to be seen if governments will step up to this challenge,” Stancer added.
To him, the current approaches to organising a global coalition around climate challenges had focused on “talking about it” even in developed regions like Europe.
“This is not going to be enough,” said Stancer.
In his view, what is needed was building a forum and later a constituency of young business leaders believing in sustainability driven enterprises, which is what GCBL is trying to create through its Young Business Leaders Program (YBLP).
In his characteristically frank manner, Dejan commented that in his native Europe, a serious dialogue about sustainability in business and climate change only began this year after many lives were lost in the 2021 heat wave searing the continent. Stancer also feels that compared to such a challenge, the geopolitical disputes that the world governments are involved in intensely at present, were “pointless”.
“Protecting our future requires a collaborative approach to sustainability, as climate systems cover the entire planet and are interconnected,” he said.
“Piecemeal national approaches to resolving the climate crisis cannot help, as one country’s efforts towards cleaner business practices are likely to be neutralised by another which chooses to do nothing,” Stancer added.
Youth – the change agents for a better world
Speaking of his hopes from the future, he pinned a lot of his confidence on the next generation of business leaders that he is curating through the YBLP. He feels that the youth today will be more action oriented than debitive about sustainability.
However, he also believes that we cannot simply rely on the potential and action of such youth to simply change the paradigm on climate action, because if actions are postponed today, it might be too late for the young leaders’ earnest actions tomorrow to even change the world for better.
Reminiscing on his experiences as an entrepreneur, Stancer talked about the challenges of being a businessman in his early 20s. When he started out, very few people around him understood the nuances of running a privately owned business – as the country had recently come out of a communist regime.
“Institutionally and psychologically, the transition from a managed economy to a free-market one was challenging for any businessman, let alone a young entrepreneur,” Stancer said.
Today, young entrepreneurs across the world, and especially in his native region have access to funds and mentoring. “Then, even getting access to credit or plastic money was tough,” he said. “Things had to be done in cash and there was plenty of discouragement.”
The only thing constant for him was the desire of never giving up. However, he cherished the path and the memories and would go all over the ordeal again, because of the growth such adversities bring for entrepreneurs.
Stancer left us moved with his candor, earnestness and energy towards his mission to reinvent business, towards relentlessly pushing a charter for climate conscious politics and his own introspection of the challenges and responsibilities that we face as entrepreneurs and business leaders.
A recent report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) highlighted that almost 75 percent of districts in India remain under a deep climate stress, with extensive risk of damage to communities and livelihoods. In this backdrop, Stancer’s call on entrepreneurs and young leaders is a timely coincidence for betterment of humanity and nature.
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