Environmental and Human Rights Consultancy
 

about me: sonja duncan

WORKING WITH PURPOSE

Richard Branson's words, "There's no such thing as work-life balance; there is only life" resonate strongly with me and I have been lucky to build a life around the work I am passionate about.  

For 25 years I have worked with businesses, government and community groups to identify sustainability opportunities and help organisations align their core values and strategies with the expectations and values of the communities in which they operate. In short, helping businesses to maintain their social licence to operate and to grow in a way that recognises the long-term benefits of shared value and a healthy triple bottom line.

It's about integrating sustainability into the DNA of an organisation.

I am a qualified and experienced environmental and social impact auditor having conducted audits throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region across a range of industry sectors including mining, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, health care and agriculture. To me audits aren't solely about documenting non-compliances and risks, but about identifying opportunities and making recommendations that add value to my clients and their stakeholders. Sure, audits are a snap-shot in time, but they should always be a value-add.

For the past 13 years, I have been a preferred consultant for the NSW Government’s Sustainability Advantage (SA) Program and continue to work with its 500 plus members, delivering capacity building and training workshop in strategic planning, sustainability risk, employee and stakeholder engagement and sustainable supply chain management for SA business partners. I love how this program has grown over the last decade and the opportunities it provides businesses and government departments to identify sustainability risks, explore opportunities and implement innovative projects that lead to real change. It's no surprise that this has been one of the most successful State government sustainability programs in the past decade.

I am passionate about the planet and its people. Since August 2017, I have been volunteering with the Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery to develop tools and resources to assist businesses identify modern slavery risks within their supply chains and establish systems and processes to manage and mitigate those risks.  Recently I teamed up with the Freedom Partnership and leading Australian law firm, Mills Oakley, to establish "End Slavery Solutions" a collaboration that seeks to prepare businesses for the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act into Australia.

By working closely with businesses, NGOs and government, I am confident we can work towards the elimination of slavery from the supply chains of Australian businesses and a fairer and more just world for all.

 

 

motorcycles

ALL OVER THE WORLD

I only discovered a love for motorcycling at 50. But I've made up for it, having ridden across15 countries and covered over 100,000 km in just 3 years.

Nothing says freedom like riding along unknown roads in foreign countries, with no destination in mind and no itinerary determining your journey. My husband and I spent 9 months in 2017 "living the dream", riding our motorbikes 48,000km from the bottom of Argentina to Fairbanks, Alaska. We camped, swam in rivers and lakes, ate local produce, saw incredible wildlife and experienced a huge diversity of climates and geographies. But ultimately, what makes a trip like this so special, are the people you meet along the way.

Riding a motorcycle (especially as a woman) opens up a world of curiosity, conversation and companionship. We were never alone for long as locals and fellow travellers alike greeted us with smiles and were keen to hear our travel stories. In return we learned so much about the lifestyles and cultures of the people we met and places we visited. Favourite country of the trip? Definitely Colombia. We were told it was a high risk place and to watch our backs and our belongings. That was not our experience. 

There's a saying in Colombia that "the biggest risk when coming to Colombia, is that you never want to leave." We couldn't agree more.

Kicking back in Colombia.

Kicking back in Colombia.

Loud and proud - arriving in Canada 6 months and around 30,000km into the trip

Loud and proud - arriving in Canada 6 months and around 30,000km into the trip

 

 

yoga

my gift for disadvantaged and marginalised communities

When I started teaching yoga a couple of years ago I had visions of working in a classy inner city studio and connecting with like-minded people.

Instead, I found myself becoming more and more disconnected with the "business of yoga" - a money-making, elitist offering that so often focuses on fitness rather than wellness. And so I made the decision to offer yoga to those who could least afford it, and who would potentially benefit the most from it.

Do you think yoga is addictive?
— Homeless yoga practitioner

Twice a week I volunteer my time to teach yoga to homeless and disadvantaged people at two Sydney locations - the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross and the Ozanam Learning Centre in Woolloomooloo. I love watching my students learn to trust the process of yoga and more importantly to trust me, their bodies and their fellow students. I feel privileged to be a part of these communities where the connections are real and raw and the gratitude flows in bucket-loads.

For me, this gift is the true meaning of yoga.

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the disadvantaged

Sydney, Australia

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Volunteering at a homeless drop in centre in Sydney's Kings Cross has taught me more about humanity, acceptance and diversity than any text book ever could.

When I started volunteering at the Wayside Chapel in 2015 I was a little overwhelmed. There was just so much going on. Every shift introduced me to a huge diversity of visitors - all with different health issues, dependencies and needs. Wayside's mission is to create community with no 'us and them'. There is no judgement, just acceptance. We meet our visitors with our hearts and minds open. With a friendly smile that says "I see you".

As I continue to volunteer, I continue to learn, to accept and to grow. Working with young people at Oasis Youth Centre in Sydney, teaching yoga at the Ozanam Learning Centre and working in the Community Service Centre at Wayside has taught me to love these dynamic communities. I have connected deeply with some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in our city. Some shifts are tough. Sometimes we see the worst of humanity. But more often than not, we see the best of humanity.

With its motto of "Love over Hate" Wayside continues to transform lives and build community. It is an honour to be part of that process and among these amazing people.

Building a community with no us and them
— Graham Long, CEO Wayside Chapel
Unpacking my Honda at Santiago Airport, Chile. Time to start riding to the bottom of South American, then heading North to Alaska - 48,000km to go.

Unpacking my Honda at Santiago Airport, Chile. Time to start riding to the bottom of South American, then heading North to Alaska - 48,000km to go.

It doesn't get better than this - somewhere in the Andes, or the Rockies, or Alaska...

It doesn't get better than this - somewhere in the Andes, or the Rockies, or Alaska...

 
Photo by Leedsichthys/iStock / Getty Images
 
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