The WBCSD 2019 Leadership Program in Mumbai, India, was a week full of new experiences, sustainability learnings, as well as amazing new friends and colleagues to learn from and laugh with. I am so impressed with the kindness of the people from Mumbai and their way of doing more with less. I’m walking away from this week with a heart and head that is fuller than when I started this journey.

India is a thriving country which has progressed substantially over the last ten years. Through the activities organized by the WBCSD Leadership Program, our group witnessed some aspects of this growth but also had a glimpse at the inequalities that subside, and we questioned what could be done to address them.

“We were able to meet leading Indian companies committed to improving the state of the world, developing sustainability strategies within their companies but also in collaboration with the government and civil society,” reflected Manfred Kopper, another participant of the Program. “However, we could also see that many people living in India, especial in places like Dharavi, face a reality made of inequality and lack of access to opportunities that most of us cannot understand. At the same time, we were inspired by two social entrepreneurs - through their projects and stories: they showed us that the state of the world can be improved by truly believing in your ideas and taking them to reality.”

Indeed, for many, the most impactful experience was when our group traveled to Dharavi for a guided tour of areas in need of development. Our visit allowed us to understand a little better the complexity of Indian society and the challenges that the country faces. For instance, the people living in Dharavi practice a way of living with less, creating a stark contrast from what I have seen in many other parts of the world. We had deep discussions, with our speakers and among our group, around how to create jobs but also maintain the health of the people and the communities where they live and work.

During the week, we heard from WBCSD member companies about the support they are giving to the communities, to education, to empower people to live better lives. I remember a speaker quoting Indira Gandhi: “Poverty is the greatest polluter” but also saying that technology can provide better opportunity for a sustainable path forward. We saw that small changes can have a big impact on the community as illustrated by the ITC Hotel Group sustainability practices on responsible luxury.

I, along with the other members of the Leadership Program, appreciated having an open and safe place to discuss business challenges and how to address them within our companies and personal lives.  The Leadership Program participants formed a new community over the week, and we know that coming together can help us to better identify long term business solutions as they pertain to creating sustainable change. Last but not least, we learned how to have fun together and to not take ourselves too seriously … a key in tackling tough challenges in business and in life. 

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