Thinking about sustainability and leadership

Ricardo Voltolini, Managing Director of the company Ideia Sustentável, participated in the Monitor Training Program, which discussed sustainability and its daily practice

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Students, professors and directors from social institutions in rural Bahia listened attentively to the speaker’s words. “The planet’s most serious problems are not climate change or a lack of natural resources,” said Ricardo Voltolini. “We are dealing with something much more serious – the scarcity of leaders,” he said. One of the first consultants in the area of business sustainability in Brazil, journalist and Managing Director of the company Ideia Sustentável, Voltolini was invited by the Odebrecht Foundation to administer a presentation that sought to promote reflections on sustainability and how to practice it on a daily basis. The presentation, an activity associated with the Monitor Training Program, was held on August 31 at the Odebrecht Organization Knowledge Center in Salvador.

Using the experiences shared in his last book, entitled Conversas com Líderes Sustentáveis (“Conversations with Sustainable Leaders”) as a base, Voltolini told the stories of important national and international entrepreneurs who needed to take attitudes never before imagined to lead. It is what he defines as “leaders who understood the true concept of sustainability – a combination of economic aspects, environmental preservation and social development.”

During the presentation, the journalist listed the five characteristics of a potential leader. The first of them refers to believing in sustainability by conviction and not for convenience, and internalizing its main values, such as ethics, transparency, diversity, respect for others and care for the environment. “We are used to thinking of ourselves as opposed to developing solutions that are of interest to the common good,” said Voltolini.

The second and third aspects consider that it is necessary to view sustainability from the perspective of opportunity and not risk, and consequently, concentrate it on the business strategy. Finally, the last points indicate that a leader is that individual who is concerned with educating his or her stakeholders – employees, clients and shareholders – and that he or she aims to ensure transparency, or in other words, clearly communicating what he or she does. “There is no distinction between leading, educating and communicating,” he reinforced. The journalist also revealed the conversations he had with Norberto Odebrecht in 2005, when he went to the Bahia Southern Lowlands for the first time, and the references to the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO) as one of his sources of study.

Also during the explanation, Voltolini qualified the Bahia Southern Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Program for Development and Growth Integrated with Sustainability (PDCIS), supported by the Odebrecht Foundation, reinforcing that his proposal is aligned with the current global demands. These include the preservation of natural resources and importance of maintaining a harmonious relationship between man and nature. However, according to him, in order for PDCIS to continue reaching its objectives, it is necessary to understand the role of each person involved in the process. “It becomes necessary to understand the dimension of the individual role in maintaining this cause,” he said.

Ubergson Assunção, age 17 and a student at the Igrapiúna Family Home, was happy with the opportunity to participate in the discussion. “I’m involved with projects that allow me to develop and support my family,” said Assunção. “But I can’t be limited to this. It is important to take care of the environment in which we live and preserve it for the next generations,” he said.

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