When it comes to sustainability, there are few people in Romania who can truly lay claim to the title of pioneer. Andrei Cosuleanu, president of Act for Tomorrow, is one of them. OZB took a walk along with him.
How do you define sustainability?
Sustainability is now part of our DNA. Whether it is a country that is governed in a responsible way, or we are talking about a company that is concerned about the sustainability of its business. Sustainability is about understanding the impact of all of our actions and trying to ensure we are responsible and ethical. When we talk about environmental care, health, employee development, customer care, business partners, and even community involvement we are talking about sustainability. If we take the business case, sustainability is a business x-ray. In recent years, business sustainability has become an indicator of the value of a company if it is to be listed on the stock market. Sustainability is a cost that a company must assume in order to be competitive.
What daily steps do you take to promote sustainability?
Responsibility comes for all of us, whether we are at home, at work, on the street or on holiday. As a responsible person, you can take a few simple steps to sort the waste you produce every day, to use natural products, to buy only as much as you need and to dispose less. Waste has become a worldwide concern. Many countries have taken steps to lessen their waste and to stimulate their populations and businesses to pay more attention to the resources they use, regardless of their size. Besides food waste, we have a huge problem with waste in the fashion industry. In recent years, major textile companies have forgotten about sustainability and have begun to release even 2-3 collections each season. This phenomenon only increases the consumption of clothes and therefore diminishes each item’s expectancy.
What factors do you consider when proposing a sustainability initiative?
Ond of the most important factors when it comes to sustainability is for a sustainability strategy is in terms of partners. For example, if we are talking about a textile company, it is very important to pay more attention to the raw materials used. Another important factor is how goods and products are transported. Transport has become a real threat to people’s health, responsible for over 30% of pollution in major cities in Europe. In this context, a solution is to produce as close as possible to the final consumer. Another thing that we take into account is the health of a company. And here I am referring to how employees are treated in that company, how human rights are respected and how the company encourages employees to be responsible.
Do you think the average consumer really cares about buying a sustainable product?
In recent years, due to the way information circulates, some consumers have become more accountable. And we are talking about two cases – consumers who buy from stores that pay attention to sustainability and consumers who buy fair trade products. Unfortunately, in the past few years, more and more companies have tried to maintain a competitive price but have not mentioned the quality of the products they use. This is a real danger to customers. One example is dairy products that do not have natural raw material. There are many available substitutes that make the final product taste natural. Unfortunately, such practices are an attack on food safety for consumers and health measures should be tightened to eliminate these practices. We still have a lot to do for consumer empowerment.
Which are the biggest changes that happened in the sustainability field in Romania in 2018?
2018 was the year in which the sustainability directive started to be put into practice. A still small number of companies now understand the importance of such an approach that not only involves the sponsorship and communication departments, but it also acts as an x-ray of all departments and they understand how they should cooperate to ensure the sustainability of their company. Another important step in 2018 was a sustainable development strategy for Romania. Once the Sustainable Development Department of the Romanian Government was set up, it came up with a strategy and an action plan that our country will implement in the coming years. I hope this plan will be in place from 2019 onwards and all the relevant actors will be at the same table. As far as the waste situation in Romania, 2018 marks a new legislation in the field of waste collection. Unfortunately, this new legislation does not yet have enforcement rules, with a blockage in the sector in the first weeks of 2019. An important change of the year was the removal of plastic bags. This was an extremely important step, but now we have to monitor the bags that will replace them.
What is you challenge for 2019?
2019 is definitely full of challenges. I think the greatest one is to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions. Whether we are talking about education or climate change, we must understand that the steps we take must be sustainable. We are waiting for the implementation of a separate waste collection system, so that environmental education can practically take place. Romania has a goal of reaching 50% recycling waste, and for this goal to be reached unprecedented action is needed.
see http://actfortomorrow.ro/ for more information