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COSA helps navigate sustainable practices

From the April 2018 issue.

The Committee on Sustainability Assessment, better known as COSA, has developed indicators and assessment systems to help navigate the complexities of sustainable practices.

For Daniele Giovannucci, a Co-Founder and President of nonprofit The Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), the issue of sustainability has always been personal.

“Watching people die and landscapes devastated by greed and ignorance has to be personal,” he says.

Giovannucci speaks of the heartbreak of returning to a rural community where he had previously co-managed a World Bank-Global Environment Facility project. The team had years earlier executed a very successful project with great partners – government, nonprofits and corporations – which involved a lot of talent, effort, and funding. Yet the effects of the change they achieved had not lasted.

“While we successfully achieved the project’s objectives, we had not actually achieved much sustainability,” Giovannucci says. “Sadder still, the same story was amply evident among many other organisations and in many other places – well-meaning projects but just not making a lasting difference.”

Giovannucci began to ponder what had gone wrong and to make inquiries among his institutional colleagues around the world and among private firms working in the field.

In 2005, he says, the light bulb of inspiration lit up for several of those colleagues who were engaged in such projects.

“We realised that, first and foremost, we did not know how to achieve sustainability because we did not understand its complexity. We did not understand it because we did not know how to actually measure it. It was hard to believe that would be the case among leading institutions, but it was true.”

That need for a coherent agreement on what sustainability means, and how to practically measure it, was the impetus for the genesis of COSA.

COSA is a neutral global consortium committed to the public good, which collaborates with diverse partners, from research institutes and development agencies to private companies and foundations.

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