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.”

Breakthrough Innovation for the SDGs

On Jan. 31st, representatives from Global Compact networks from all over the world met at the UN city in Copenhagen to help in designing Global Compact Young SDG Innovators program. The round table was attended by CEO and Executive Director of UNGC Lise Kingo, top directors and experts in the field of sustainability.

This program will be Launched in many countries around the world including Lebanon. This program in addition to SDG Youth pioneers were initiated due to the UN emphasis on youth as the future change agents.

The 1st of Feb. was a special day for the Danish network which was able to organize a big forum with more than 400 attendees including youth from all over the world.
Engaging youth in building the business of tomorrow was the theme. The forum started with a keynote by CEO and Executive Director of UNGC Lise Kingo and a welcome note by Anne-Marie Skov, executive director of the Tuborg Foundation.

Innovation for the SDGs in private sector companies was one of the discussed topics with case studies from Grundgos and Calsberg Group. Development requires partnerships and innovation hence was a talk by Danish Minister for development cooperation.

With the executive directors of Brazil, South Africa, and USA I participated in a panel discussion on SDG innovation Around the World as a representative of Lebanon. The Lebanese example was able to wow the audience.

A keynote by John Elkington tackled breakthrough innovation and the final panel gathered young entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who were able to make impressive initiative at the global level.