Future leaders: Sustaining the planet

by Sumaita Afifa Ahmed
School of Business alumna

I completed my studies in Bachelor of Business and Commerce in December 2020.

I am currently pursuing an Honours degree, and my research topic is sustainable consumption in the footwear industry. What inspired me to upvote sustainability-related research was my exposure to the topic of sustainability in my third year. As citizens, we all have a moral obligation to each other, our future generations and other species to sustain the planet. Our actions and choices determine a healthy and safe habitat for all today and in the future. Through sustainability-related research, I can facilitate the transition towards a sustainable future by addressing sustainability-related challenges.

Sustainability education makes an individual more conscious of environmental and societal issues. It spurs critical thinking where they can relate societal and environmental issues to real-life contexts. Over time, this exposure shapes their attitude and values, eventually causing them to empathise with these overarching issues, inspiring them to be an agent of change. With this attitude and the skills and knowledge acquired through sustainable education, they embark on the future as empathetic business leaders who believe in creating a better place to live in for all kinds, and not just mankind.

My professional experience

Working with Bluenumber was an eye-opener for me as I learned about the reality of forced labour, exploitation and poor working conditions underlying many business operations. Managing their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) scorecard data enabled me to recognise the risks within the workforce of an organisation. The internship experience exposed me to the various social issues underlying business operations and drove me to recognise why it is important to address these issues regarding profitability and one's conscience.

I founded a footwear manufacturing and retailing business back at home in 2017. I integrate the social aspects of SDG into my business by ensuring that my workforce operates in a safe and healthy condition, paid fairly and that their basic needs such as adequate lighting, ventilation, access to clean water and sanitation are met at all times. However, we have not yet integrated the environmental aspects of SDGs in the business, which would be most prominent in replacing our raw materials with sustainable alternatives and creating sustainable footwear. This is due to a lack of knowledge about customers' purchase intentions and behaviours regarding sustainable footwear. But we are working on it. This will also help me and other marketers develop effective marketing strategies which will aid to attract customers towards sustainable footwear.

My mentor

Priya Sharma, my lecturer for the capstone unit Ethics and Sustainability in a Business Environment, is someone I am always in touch with. She gave me the direction to focus my Honours degree on something that I truly care about. Sustainability and my hustle in the footwear industry came together to form my research topic. Additionally, I am fortunate to have two supervisors, Dr Stephanie Cheah from the Department of Marketing and Associate Professor Manjeevan Singh Seera from the Department of Econometrics and business statistics. They will supervise me throughout my Honours degree.

A word of advice to current students on sustainability

The choices and actions that we take today will have an everlasting effect on the world we have for ourselves and our future generation tomorrow. Therefore, we should all contribute to the betterment of the world as it belongs to us all equally. Life is not about walking alone. There is much more meaning, fun and happiness in marching forward together for a better world and leaving no one behind. As General Eisenhower had said, “The world must learn to work together, or finally it will not work at all”.