Interview with sustainability ambassador Bassil Salameh

2017-07-04, 14:38

About Bassil

Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Cybercom.

Sure – I work as a Business Analyst.

Internally I have been working with our four offerings and the packaging of those, emphasizing the strengths of region Öresund that I work in. IT Security and Compliance are two of those strengths. Lately I have spent some time speaking at seminars about how the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can be a sustainable and long-term catalyst for growth.

Apart from this I am currently working at a customer site on a group level project for a big telecom company. It is an ongoing project for all their daughter companies. My role consists of identifying stakeholders from both the commercial and technical organization and making sure that both parties agree on the importance of achieving our goals. To put it simple, I bridge the gap between technology and people and consult on ways to do things simpler.  

Why is sustainability important to you?

I have always been very interested in the sustainability agenda from a GreenTech perspective – working on concepts and designs to help figure out smarter and more efficient ways to produce energy. Quite geeky work that is fun to see materialized.

In my opinion, sustainability in business has seen a shift in mindset lately. The traditional business understanding we learned throughout school and university was basically focused on a how a business is run.

The classic idea of consumption “Take-make-waste” has been the fundamental principle that companies have been run on for a good while. This is not a sustainable principle for the world that we are living in right now. Today it has become clear that sustainability and good business are not mutually exclusive – they could and should coexist.

Do you believe that sustainability could be an accelerator for innovation and how?

Yes, this is what we are experiencing ourselves and something we will be communicating to our clients.

To understand this, I think you need to take a step back in history to understand what sustainability has been before. Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are both related, and historically CSR has been looked upon as philanthropy – a type of charity work.

To put it on edge, we had the first “defensive” wave where the sustainability aspect of a business was just that, business and making profits. Many of us know the Friedman doctrine, popularized by his disputed quote “the business of business is business”.

Then we had the second “reactive” wave with the rise of popular CSR. Basically, this meant that the drivers for engaging in CSR were compliance motivated – to avoid looking bad. In a way, CSR was a kind of pure risk management and not being done for the good of society but rather for the business. Companies did still look upon themselves as isolated from the world surrounding them.

The wave we are riding on today is different, it is “proactive”. Sustainability and CSR can be potential drivers for business innovation. Why, because companies look upon themselves as integrated parts of society. Today, CSR becomes an opportunity for companies to actively engage in the challenges faced by society, reflecting upon how to utilize their own strength in solving global challenges.

Do you believe that we can reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030?

The SDG’s are basically the world leaders grand vision for a better world, coming out of UN headquarters. Some might be pessimistic, or skeptical at least.

However, we need to remember the great stories of past achievements. Back in 2001 the UN agreed on another set of goals, the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). As I recall it, the flagship target was to halve the amount of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. According to the MDG’s Report by the UN, we managed to exceed that target by more than half, decreasing extreme poverty from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.

So yes, I genuinely believe we can achieve the SDGs – but not with business as usual. We must prioritize social progress, create scalable business models and be consistent in our efforts to embed the SDG’s across the business (i.e. our strategy, governance, reporting etc.).

Sustainability and Cybercom

What is sustainability to Cybercom?

It is about running a responsible, healthy and profitable business that acknowledge the fact that we are part of this world.

Tell us more about Sustainable Business at Cybercom.

We are seven ambassadors working in three work streams: Sustainable Voice, Sustainable Leadership and Sustainable Business.

In the business part, we are trying to develop a methodology to assess our clients’ maturity regarding sustainability. The reason why maturity is important is the gap between companies that have just started working with sustainability, and companies that have been working with it for a while.

Our hope is to create a common ground between us and the level our clients is at, no matter how high or low their maturity level. For this to work, we need to truly understand what sustainability means for our clients and we do that by understanding where they currently are on their sustainability journey.

Why do the SDG’s matter to Cybercom?

We work strategically with the SDG’s. The best reading on that is our Sustainability Report where we share our contribution to the realization of the goals. I believe that the benefits of incorporating sustainability within our strategy are two-folded. One side is the fact that we are a consultancy company working with digitalization. This provides many obvious opportunities to deliver substantial sustainable and environmentally beneficial results by digitalization, i.e. using technology as a mean to automation, optimization and efficiency in operations. This is what I call the “obvious” and preliminary step of working with sustainability. 

The other, more interesting step, is the potential to use sustainability to deliver increased value for the customer. This can be done by redefining and/or creating new business models, hence going beyond the “obvious”. In practice, this could mean replacing selling goods with services, or more interestingly turning traditional business logic upside down by replacing the “take-make-waste” paradigm with a more sustainable “borrow-use-return”.

We need to remember that our businesses prosper through discovering and creating value. Sustainability along with the SDG’s allow us to create a different “language” in our business that allows us to view things differently, hence we learn to challenge business as usual. In that process, we can grasp convergent business opportunities and even create new ones.

How can the Sustainable Business offering help our clients turn sustainability into a business opportunity?

Sustainability today is all about taking responsibility. It is about being proactive towards the wellbeing of both our business and society. It is to acknowledge that both are dependent of one another.

Within our Advisory Services we have already developed a process that help companies achieve what is called a “net positive impact” on society. This means developing services and solutions that give back more to the environment or society than you take out (i.e. an overall positive net effect).

The Sustainability Ambassadors team is working on further advancing this process by creating a methodology and a maturity model that can easily be adopted by the business community. This is urgently important because sustainability is still seen as an added cost and a way to avoid looking bad, hence the reactive and compliance based approach I mentioned before. Sustainability or CSR is by many still not understood, nor seen as an integrated part of doing business. Why, because there is still no rigid framework for how this can be done.

We are a consultancy company and our most prominent task is to go beyond the obvious – which in case of sustainability is efficiency gains or effects of activities that happens to have sustainable spinoffs. What we will be able to show to our clients is that working strategically with sustainability allows them to foster brand new business models.

Our clients will see the benefits of our offering at multiple levels on both short and long term. The short-term gains will show by: 1. process optimization which entails the “obvious” efficiency gains and cost reductions and 2. strengthened stakeholder relations.
The long-term gains will foster 3. innovations by new technology and differentiation and 4. new business models for long term growth.

All in all we hope to create a plateau that can poke the ingenuity among our clients and spark an interest in thinking sustainability strategically. We see a positive relationship between organizations that embed sustainability across their business and their ability to strengthen their brand, innovations capacity and the ability to delivergreat financial performance.

For those finding this interesting - what should they do? Who should they contact?

They should reach out to me and the rest of the ambassador’s team to hear more about our work. If they find it interesting for their business they should contact one of our Key Account Managers.