Sustainability as a Service: A Conversation with Willem Overbosch

Our CEO and Co-founder Willem joined the SeventeenX podcast series, with Mick Hayes diving deep into sustainability as a service. We have summarised some of their key discussions which delve into the crucial role of business sustainability and introduce the concept of Sustainability as a Service. Here’s a glimpse into their conversation.


A Journey to Sustainability Entrepreneurship

Starting his career at Exxon Mobil, Willem quickly realized a misalignment with his values, leading him to embark on a journey that eventually positioned him at the forefront of sustainability entrepreneurship. His first journey to Australia in 2000 marked a significant turn, propelling him into initiatives that support SMEs in embracing sustainable practices. This path culminated in the co-founding of SDG Align, driven by a deep commitment to sustainability.

Supporting the Sustainability maturity journey

Making sustainable practices a business habit is at the heart of SDG Align’s mission. This innovative, action oriented, approach goes beyond conventional environmental initiatives, embedding sustainability into the very fabric of business operations. It’s about understanding the interconnectedness of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability.

SDG Align offers a comprehensive toolkit that guides businesses through the complexities of sustainable transformation. From initial assessments to tailored learning modules and actionable sustainability plans, the SDG Align Toolkit provides a structured path for businesses to understand their impact and actively improve it.

Why SMEs are the key to a sustainable future

In the current global landscape, the urgency for sustainable business practices has never been greater. Yet, the journey towards sustainability can seem daunting, especially for Small and Medium sized business (or SMEs), facing resource constraints. Unlike large business and corporates, SMEs do not have the capabilities and capacity to invest time and money. In addition, they perceive sustainability and the reporting that comes with it as complex, with only 7% of all SMEs currently reporting on their efforts. This is a huge barrier for transformative change as well as a challenge for corporate sustainability and procurement managers. They face the difficult task of engaging with their SME supply chain partners and supporting them on the journey.

A recent study by the International Chamber of Commerce and Price Waterhouse Coopers, however shows that Small business leaders want to do business for good. They see technology as a enabler to help them gain efficiencies to get the job done.

The SDG Align Toolkit

SDG Align addresses this challenge head-on by making sustainability accessible and actionable. The SDG Align Toolkit provides Sustainablity as a Service to support the SME businesses on their journey, while providing the larger corporates with insights and data. The data is required for mandatory sustainability reporting and disclosures.

  • Accessibility: By breaking down the journey into manageable steps, SDG Align ensures that businesses of all sizes can understand and implement sustainable practices.
  • Actionability: The SDG Toolkit transforms the concept of sustainability from a set of ideals into practical, actionable steps that businesses can follow.
  • Customization: Recognizing that no two businesses are the same, SDG Align offers personalized guidance, ensuring that sustainability plans are relevant and impactful.

SDG Align’s dedication to simplifying this journey reflects a deep understanding of the barriers small businesses face. At the same time addressing corporate challenges of supplier engagement. By offering Sustainability as a Service, SDG Align is not just providing a platform or a set of tools. It is offering a partnership. This partnership is built on the belief that sustainable practices should be within reach for every business, leaving no one behind, regardless of its size or sector.

Sustainability Practices: Australia vs Europe

Drawing from Willem’s perspective, the contrast in sustainability between Europe and Australia is stark yet promising. Europe, and especially The Netherlands, with its robust regulatory frameworks and heightened public awareness, has long been at the forefront of sustainable practices. In contrast, Australia, despite being lower on global sustainability rankings, is rapidly gaining ground, driven by growing consumer demand for sustainable options. Willem views this not as a shortfall but as a fertile ground for growth, emphasizing the potential for Australian business to make significant strides in sustainability. His insights highlight the critical role of business support platforms like the SDG Align Toolkit, in bridging the gap. There’s opportunity in leveraging Europe’s progress as a blueprint for accelerating Australia’s sustainability initiatives.

Breaking down the silos: Collaboration and Team Engagement

Collaboration and team engagement are cornerstone elements in the sustainable transformation journey, according to Willem. He emphasizes the importance of harnessing collective efforts within organizations to drive meaningful progress towards sustainability goals. By fostering a culture of inclusivity, where every team member feels valued and motivated to contribute, businesses can unlock innovative solutions and achieve greater impact. SDG Align champions this collaborative approach, offering platforms and tools designed to unite teams around exploring shared sustainability objectives. reinforcing the idea that successful sustainability initiatives are a collective achievement.

Future Vision

Willem’s vision is a future where every business is designed around and driven by, the triple bottom line. He sees a future where the SDG Align Toolkit evolves to meet the dynamic needs of small businesses striving for sustainability, making it more accessible, actionable, and integrated into their core operations. Through co-creation, continuous innovation and the development of user-friendly tools, SDG Align is poised to lead the transformation of businesses towards sustainable practices, setting a new standard for what it means to operate sustainably.

The concept of Sustainability as a Service, as envisioned by Willem, represents a pivotal shift in how businesses approach their responsibilities in the broader context of sustainability. It’s a model that simplifies the complex journey of becoming sustainable, breaking it down into manageable steps that businesses of any size can follow. This service model not only democratizes access to sustainability but also serves as a catalyst for widespread change, encouraging businesses to adopt practices that benefit the planet, people, and their own prosperity.

SeventeenX podcast: SDG Convos with Mick Hase and Willem Overbosch

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