Sustainability Champion Says Progress Requires Unlikely Collaborations

When Hasan Youness was growing up in Lebanon, he often ran errands for his parents. But there was one thing he wouldn’t do: get cigarettes for his father. “Get your own cigarettes, dad, and feel free to use the balcony,” Youness recalled saying, as recounted in a September blog post. “Didn’t you see the picture of the lungs of smokers in the science book?!”

That is why it is surprising that, today, Youness has engaged in a dialogue with Philip Morris International (PMI) and formed an unlikely friendship with its social impact and sustainability lead, Jennifer Motles. His motivation is one he says the tobacco giant shares: creating a world without cigarettes. 

Youness is a strategic advisor to the U.N. Global Compact in Lebanon and professor of strategic management and sustainability at Lebanese International and Notre Dame Universities. He’s also a leading voice for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including SDG 3, Good Health and Wellbeing. For him, there is no other way to achieve the goal than by working with all stakeholders involved—even those who others demonize.   

“When it comes to making progress on the SDGs, we cannot afford to exclude anyone,” Youness said in an interview with TriplePundit, during which he was clear that he is not an employee or consultant for PMI. “If an organization is engaged and demonstrating that they’re making a real effort, then it’s imperative to include them in the discussion.”