Back to Bizweek
Latest News

Embracing sustainability is not an option, but a business need!

A conference focused on sustainability and climate change is scheduled to take place in Mauritius from October 26 to 27. The CEO of Spaanda, the organization spearheading this initiative, aims to enlighten businesses on the true implications of sustainability and climate change for their operations. The event will feature a diverse panel of experts from the public sector, regulatory bodies, and the private sector. Manjula Basant Rai delves deeper into the conference’s objectives and expected outcomes in the following Q&A

The others comfortable girls were girls be and men were men mister we could use well the first thing you know ol’ Jeds a millionaire. Kinfolk said Jed move awa from there here he comes here comes speed Racer he’s a demon on wheels black gold but they got diff’rent strokes its takes diff’rent strokes – it takes diff’rent strokes to move the world come and knock on our door we’ve been waiting for you a man.

What specific challenges observed in Mauritius prompted you to organize the “ESG – Leading the Change” conference?

There are two main challenges, which I would list as follows. First is capacity building. Understanding the true essence of ESG and sharing the knowledge and experience gained in the UK. Second is, coordination. There is a lot already happening in Mauritius, and we wanted to bring everyone together so we are all on the same page and tackle ESG with a more coordinated approach. Mauritius has a lot of potential to be the leader in ESG in Africa. We want to gather everyone to make it happen!

Sustainability is a broad and sometimes elusive concept. How do you define sustainability in the context of businesses, and why is it crucial for them to embrace it? What is their current mindset towards sustainability practices?

The UN defines sustainability broadly as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In my opinion, businesses should also bear in mind whether their business plans and strategies are ‘sustainable’. Not only from the perspective of how they impact the planet in terms of their own activities and emissions, but also how the planet impacts their ability to survive as a profit-making entity.

Will the supply of their raw materials be compromised? Are their customers changing their mindset and exercising their choice of sustainability through their wallets? Is climate having an impact on their operations? Do they have visibility over their whole supply chain to confidently say there are no child labour issues across their whole value chains? Answering these questions for businesses is becoming more and more important. Embracing sustainability, for business, is no longer an option, but a business need!

The current mindset towards sustainability is that we often tend to confuse it with CSR, when it is not that. As I mentioned above, it is ingrained in how the company conducts its business across its value chain, its processes and the way it interacts with its suppliers and customers.

The conference aims to bring together key stakeholders from the public sector, regulators, and the private sector. How do you envision these stakeholders working together to enhance sustainability in Mauritius?

I am very much looking forward to having all the stakeholders together so we can coordinate our efforts in enhancing sustainability. I truly believe that Mauritius has great potential in being a leader in sustainability on the African continent. That can in fact be our competitive advantage in our various markets, especially tourism and the financial industry. For that to happen, we need to involve the government, the private sector and regulators. The government and regulators will mainly facilitate the process by providing the regulatory environment and infrastructure to allow the private sector to innovate and contribute towards sustainable development.

Could you provide some insights into the panel discussions and the specific topics that will be covered in each panel, such as the role of government, the voice of business, and green financing?

We will have 4 panels over the course of the two days. The first panel, ‘Role of Government and Shaping of Public Policy’, will mainly focus on the current and future plans of the government on ESG, and views on how we collaborate to promote the public and private partnership. It will include various Ministries as well as the Bank of Mauritius and the Tourism Authority. In the second panel, The Voice of Business, we will hear from those companies that are already working towards their sustainability agendas. They will share with us their experiences and challenges that they have encountered. It will also be knowledge sharing across the various industries. It will include companies such as Rogers, Harel Mallac, Medine, as well as Business Mauritius and MEXA. The third panel will be Meet the CEOs – the leaders of change. The CEOs are the ones who set the tone and are the vision of the business. We will hear from those inspirational CEOs such as Mr Phillipe Espitalier Noel (also the President of the Sustainability and Inclusive Growth Commission of Business Mauritius) and Mr Ravin Dajee from the financial sector.

The fourth panel will be Meet the Banks – the providers of Finance. This panel will include representatives from MCB, Absa, AfrAsia, as well as the CEO of MBA, Mr Daniel Essoo. We will discuss the opportunities and the challenges in accessing green financing.

Green financing is a critical aspect of sustainability. What specific insights can we expect from the panel discussions on green financing, and how can businesses in Mauritius leverage these insights?

The main aim is to bring together the demand side (which are the businesses in Mauritius) with the supply side (which are the banks) during the conference. For green financing to work, we need the right regulatory environment and the infrastructure for adequate risk sharing. We hope that the panel discussion will help us in finding ways to address the roadblocks that we are encountering, so we can tap fully into the opportunities.

Can you provide examples of successful public-private partnerships in Mauritius or elsewhere that have led to meaningful progress in sustainability and combatting climate change?

In the West, we have seen the private and public dialogue happening quite a lot, especially in the form of consultations ahead of regulatory changes, but also in the form of incentives. We have seen the increasing role of the public sector, for example in the facilitation of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for renewable energy. These PPAs are regulated by governmental bodies, but allow the private sector to reduce exposure to energy price fluctuations, as well as reduce their emissions and meet their energy targets.

Another example is the role of regulations. Companies in the EU and the UK have some mandatory reporting requirements with regards to ESG. Reporting on their sustainability risks and opportunities, as well as their carbon emissions, ensures that businesses are on board with their sustainability agendas. That allows governments to track how they are doing against their own NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) targets or other ESG targets.

Can you share a specific challenge or obstacle you’ve encountered in your business journey and how you overcame it? What valuable lessons did you learn from that experience?

A few years ago, when Spaanda was just a thought in my mind and a dream that I cherished, I questioned whether I would be able to create a brand that would resonate with big companies. So, I asked a CFO of a FTSE 100 business in the UK, “What will make you choose me over a larger consultancy service provider during a pitch?” And he replied, “The credibility and the trust that you will convey to me will guide my decision.” And he was right! I was able to demonstrate that we delivered value and that’s how we built our client base. One of the great lessons I have learnt in life is that there is great power in ‘listening’. The world has so much to offer and so do people around us. Even with this conference, I have spoken to many stakeholders and understood their needs, and taken their feedback on board to make sure that the conference delivers to everyone’s expectations over these 2 days.

In your leadership role, you mentioned the importance of authenticity and developing your own leadership style. Could you elaborate on how your unique characteristics and style have contributed to your success in the business world?

We understand the issues of businesses having been in the corporate world for around 20 years before starting Spaanda. We understand the issues that businesses face, how they operate, and we can thus work with them to address their needs.

Our style is very influenced by empathy, and we are firm believers in navigating the business world with emotional intelligence. Human interactions are at the basis of business dealings and relationships, whether it is with the customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders. We are firm believers in collaboration and partnership. And for that, we believe in the power of dialogue and communication. We have always been very open and easy-going, which means we are accessible to clients, or just a phone call away whenever issues arise.

The other aspect we firmly believe in is growing the team. We invest quite a lot of time in building their capability and their skillset, as well as their careers.

How do you see this evolving in the future, and what role do you believe women leaders can play in advancing sustainability initiatives?

Sustainability and climate change will increasingly be part of the business agenda. The world is evolving, needs and preferences are changing, and with it climate change is bringing its own challenges. So, the whole world will need to adapt to the new rules of the game. Women leaders have a great role to play in this. And I am very proud to see the women of Mauritius at the heart of sustainable development. In fact, 3 of the 4 panels above will be chaired by women!

Given your recognition as one of the “Top 20 Dynamic CEOs in the UK,” could you highlight a specific accomplishment or project that contributed significantly to your leadership journey in the sustainability field?

I think the work that we delivered in the process of climate risk assessment as per the TCFD (Taskforce on Climate Risk Assessment) guidelines was very much appreciated and recognised in the UK. In fact, in February 2023, Spaanda was one among the few companies chosen to feature in Big Ben: An Icon of Democracy and Leadership, an official and historic UK publication for the History of Parliament Trust. It highlighted the company’s journey and involvement in helping companies manage and report their climate risk exposure.

Skip to content