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Banning the S and C word

On Monday night (May 2) The Office Space held its monthly talk series Insight at Golden Age Cinema and Bar. The theme was ‘Sustainability in Business,’ and our speakers were Jessica Miller, Leader of 202020Vision and Founder of Grow it Local, Andy Marks, Programme Director of Fix and Make at the innovative Hotel Hotel, Canberra and Founder of SleepingBags Social Enterprise and Cecille Weldon, Creator of the Liveability Real Estate Framework and Founder and Key Facilitator of Weldon Co. It was a great night, from which we walked away feeling inspired, but also challenged. From Jess we learnt about crowd farming, that activism doesn’t always have to be radical to be effective, that loneliness is a powerful motivator or in the words of the Whitlams ‘aphrodisiac,’ and that sometimes social conscious just needs a community to foster it. But most of all we gained that you can make anything happen – even a locally, ethically sourced dinner for say 2.5 thousand people at TEDX – with a can do attitude and a passion for change. Andy shocked us with the knowledge that annually retired hotel bed linen can be wrapped around the world twice, before telling us the Sleeping Bags story, of how he got hotels like the Marriott to recycle their linen into a line of reimagined hotel appropriate products, including: robes, hair dryer and shoe bags. He then brought the house down with some incredible stories from his work with Hotel Hotel’s Fix and Make program, from which we learned of our relationship to objects: how to understand and fix them. He even had us adults playing with ingenious, simple toys made from recycled materials. Last, but certainly not least Cecille, one of our Paramount by The Office Space residents blew us away with the idea that sometimes coming totally from the left of field, you can be the right person to push for and realise change. Cecille talked of her using the power of words in creating the Liveability Real Estate Framework, and of how those words changed the focus of home buying to encompass the consideration of sustainable features. All of our speakers came from different fields, backgrounds, even countries in Andy’s case. And their approaches to sustainability and activism were very different. But what wove these speeches together was the idea that the word sustainability actually hinders positive change. ‘Sustainability isn’t sexy,’ Jess proclaimed very early in the piece, going as far as to call it the ‘S word,’ a profanity only second rate to the ‘C words,’ climate change in inhibiting progress. An idea that Cecille too identified, urging us not to let the word sustainability ‘get in the way of the opportunity.’ But how do we make change if we can’t name what needs to change? There were mumbled of an answer in all three speeches, but was spoken aloud by Cecille: ‘connect and reposition “sustainability” to the operational imperative – to save money and make money.’ Meaning simply, if you want to have a conversation, make the conversation interesting to your audience. The ‘S’ word may be a shining light to the converted, but it’s repellent for the unconvinced. To make real, sustainable change, you have to show, rather than tell your audience how doing something sustainable can benefit them. If ‘Sustainability in Business’ piqued your interest, why not join us for ‘Business or pleasure: the commerce of creativity in the Australian art scene’ our next Insight by The Office Space, on Monday May 30. Find more information here, and tickets here. All photos by Will Canning.

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