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Nishadi Liyanage: Championing Sustainability in the Corporate Sector

Posted: 24 August 2018

Sri Lanka, Impact,

To Australia Awards alumna, Nishadi Liyanage, integrating sustainable development practices within the corporate sector is more than a job. For Nishadi, sustainability is not just about protecting the environment.

‘True sustainability focuses on achieving wins in all three segments of the triple bottom line – economy, environment and society,’ she says.

In her role at a leading apparel manufacturer in the country, Nishadi’s work focuses on the implementation of sound sustainability management frameworks, which enables the organization to embed sustainable practices in all facets of business operations. Her role supports the organization to be a contributor to Sri Lanka’s sustainable development process, while at the same time enabling the organization to derive sustainable value creation and growth. Nishadi’s role, therefore, has a direct impact on furthering national goals in both the environment and society.

‘Many organisations believe that sustainability is merely a collection of social responsibility and environmental responsibility initiatives put together. The truth is that for sustainability, each organisation needs a robust management framework to deliver results that are in sync with the vision and mission of the organisation. The sustainability drive of an organisation needs to address the company’s key material impacts in order to create not only social and environmental value, but also shareholder value’, says Nishadi.

‘In every business decision, a variety of sustainable development criteria are considered, such as energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, occupational health and safety, labor and human rights, product responsibility, supply chain management and social responsibility. For example, if an organisation has to use large amounts of water, an option could be rain water harvesting to avoid overuse of ground water – a scarce natural resource’, she explains.

Nishadi acknowledges her Australia Awards Scholarship to be the key contributor to her success. She speaks with great admiration and appreciation of Australia Awards, and feels that completing her Master’s degree at the University of Sydney equipped her with the advanced multidisciplinary skills required for her field of work. Further, her work placement research (which formed part of her academic program) enabled her to reach out to experts and researchers to convey the importance of implementing good practices of sustainability in each of their professions. Nishadi feels that this experience assisted her to communicate a complex subject such as sustainability in a much simpler format so that important information could be communicated to key stakeholders – even to those who do not have intricate knowledge of the field.

‘Once I was back in Sri Lanka this experience helped me to get a part time job as a visiting lecturer on the subject of ‘Society and Environment’ as part of the University of London External Program offered by the Royal Institute of Colombo.
It was a fulfilling opportunity as ‘Education for Sustainability’ is an area I’m very passionate about,’ she added.

During her Master’s program, she was also presented with opportunities to undergo specialised training and Nishadi has been able to use this training to make valuable contributions to every employer she has worked for. As an example, she mentions that the training on the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Framework led to her contribution in developing an award-winning Integrated Annual Report for her previous employer.

Nishadi states that as a result of the Scholarship she was not only provided with opportunities of learning but also gained life changing experiences through her travels in and around Australia. ‘I have amazing memories from my trips, but what probably tops my list is visiting the Great Barrier Reef, a living organism so large that it can be seen from outer space,’ said Nishadi, revealing the hidden travel enthusiast in her. Her other fond memories include camping under the stars close to Ayers Rock and cuddling an orphaned Koala in Adelaide. She cherishes every moment in Australia and thanks Australia Awards for the wonderful opportunity.

Australia Awards provides opportunities for talented professionals such as Nishadi to become specialists in their relevant fields and contribute to the country’s sustainable growth.