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Environmental and Social Sustainability

Originally from Australia, Adrian Mill, Managing Director of ESS has spent the last 12 years based out of Senegal in West Africa. Adrian is the Managing Director of ESS (Environmental and Social Sustainability), a company that is growing exponentially as a result of increasing demand in Africa for sustainability know-how.


When we connected in Dakar, Adrian shared with me his thoughts on how much sustainability work really needs to get done.

“I pay my taxes here, my kids go to school here – we breathe the air, swim in the water. As an immigrant, it’s important to contribute to positive change by being present and making things happen on the ground.

I first landed in #Senegal in 2009 to work on the environmental impact assessment study for the Blaise Diagne International Airport, and fell in love with it enough to make the country my home. Senegal has boomed since then, and while many things have improved, most recognise that more can be done on sustainability.

For me #sustainability is about recognising that we need to be great accountants as well as great scientists. We are, in large part, comparing numbers like accountants do. The challenge we have is that the finance field has existed for thousands of years and is well understood. The sustainability sector is only starting to be taken seriously.

When we propose ESS services, the scope of sustainability support we can provide can be broad. No single person holds all the required knowledge. It can be 20 or 30 different, complex disciplines for a large project. It is important to contextualize this. There is a whole network of considerations that require trade-offs on highly sensitive issues, such as between economic wellbeing, #biodiversity and human health. Capacity can be lacking to deliver these trade-offs on the ground. We are consequently having to build from the foundations up, training locally-based African teams to be sustainability specialists.

Sustainability is in high demand and yet there are areas that can be poorly understood. It can be seen as a cost – almost a form of tax - and no one wants to pay extra if they don’t have to. But these “extra costs” are actually costs that we externalise on society by not ensuring companies address them internally. An obvious example is plastic rubbish that you see on the roadside, which could be addressed by simply changing to different packaging solutions.

As part of demonstrating the commercial return of investing in sustainable practices, we help organisations answer the question of how “circular” they can make their activities. I won’t deny, that can lead to its own set of challenges, as most businesses understandably don’t want to add complexity if they can avoid it.

To be successful you need to make a qualified business case for sustainability. The appetite is there. We partner with numerous #investors here in West Africa and they are driving companies to demonstrate how they contribute to the sustainability discourse now and for future generations.”

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