Be a part of tomorrow, be a force for good!

Dear Readers,

I’m Alexia and I’m studying European Management in Lancaster University. This is a special year for me, as not only is it my last year before entering the world of work, but, as you know, I will also participate in the COP21! I’m so excited, I still can’t believe that I am going to take part in a UN Climate Conference where 50 000 participants will try to build a durable effort to solve a Global issue. This international event represents a milestone in the series of attempts we have made so far trying to convey the concept of sustainability all over the world.

In particular I am really interested in understanding how organisations plan to embed sustainability in their business culture and how they are going to redefine their values in order to do that.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is currently the most compelling sustainable development business voice and through its Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative, which is supported by the French Presidency of COP21, it seeks to accelerate low-carbon technology development and scale up deployment in order to limit the global warming to below 2°C .

On the 18th November we had the opportunity to attend a public lecture event where Dr. Rodney Irwin of the WBCSD spoke about how we can ensure growth and progress today without damaging tomorrow.


12248806_1018897248148816_177957174_nLancaster University’s Team COP21 at the Pentland Centre Launch at the 18th of November

In particular, I agree with Dr. Irwin that “business can be a force for good”. It is true. However, what is missing, and required, at the moment is a change in the business culture, as new values of environmental and social respect need to be defined.

By combining what they are already good at with a new way of thinking, businesses can make a difference and turn an ambitious global vision into a positive concrete action. In fact, by using technology, inventions and experience business leaders can solve both social and environmental issues. They have to understand the huge responsibility and, at the same time, the extraordinary opportunity they have. Effectively, investing in sustainability would not only directly benefit the Earth, the environment and human well-being, but also human development and businesses’ profits. As Dr. Irwin said., “organisations can take advantage of plenty of opportunities, they just need the right people leading them”.

12295669_10208234225874001_1708865861_oDr. Rodney Irwin (WBCSD)


In this sense Universities have an important role in shaping the future business leaders. Students need to be educated about sustainability, taught to be open to challenges and encouraged to change things.

In light of this I want to, and I have to, thank Lancaster University for giving me this unique opportunity. By offering to its students the possibility of taking part in the UN Summit in Paris and by launching the Pentland Centre, this University shows its interest in conveying to its students the need of urgent actions and the possibility of making the right choices. We can make a difference, it’s our turn of changing the rules of the game.

“Connecting best minds in business with best minds in science”

Professor Gail Whiteman sends a clear message in the Pentland Centre Launch

G_Whiteman

(Professor Gail Whiteman, Twitter)

Professor Gail Whiteman (Rubin Chair and Director of the Pentland Centre), stated in the Pentland Centre Launch that our world changed heavily since her graduation from University and therefore business, as a driver of the economy needs to deeply engage with the science sector.
In fact she named 6 main topics for research:

  • Value orientated Supply chains
  • Food, energy and water issues
  • Ecosystem risks (especially focusing on the arctic melting)
  • Sustainable soils and land use
  • Sustainable cities and lifestyles
  • Business solution and strategies

The last of these points is approached in cooperation with the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) which has been represented by Dr. Rodney Irwin, Managing Director for Financial Capital Area at WBCSD. The WBCSD is a driving force behind the Vision 2050, which has the goal to ensure well-being of 9 billion people who will be living on our planet by 2050, within the limits of the later.

12277175_1018897244815483_899559443_n

“Every Vision is not worth anything without the Action behind it”
(Dr Rodney Irwin, 2015)

For most, this long term vision seems to be just a great, unreachable dream – therefore Irwin emphasizes that the importance is the move from Vision to Action. In this case the Action behind Vision 2050 is the Action 2020, which is a medium term action plan that sets priorities and must-have business solutions for the upcoming 5 years.
(More information: http://www.wbcsd.org/pages/edocument/edocumentdetails.aspx?id=219 )

Mr. Andy Rubin, Chair Person of the Pentland Branch, displayed with a very personal example what it means to run a sustainable business and that there are too many gaps in the academic research which need to be closed by scientific research. During the public lecture afterwards he approached the challenging question “How can companies be a force for good?” whereas he assumed that companies CAN be a force for good – but under what conditions. Rubin stressed that this is not a question about being profit orientated or not, rather about the balance between making profits and also caring about the well-being of his own employees as well as people all around the globe. Therefore the focus should be on purpose, value, leadership and culture and not only on the shareholder’s profits. According to Rubin, every business leader can be a force for good- if they choose to be it.

Further informative and interesting talks had been held by Professor Nigel Paul (Lancaster Environment Centre) who declared himself as representing the science part of the evening and by Mark Swindlehurst (Director of Facilities/ Lancaster University).

The overall consensus of the Pentland Centre Launch, which was held at the Lancaster University Management School on the 18th November, was the need of joined up thinking to find the right solutions for the enormous challenge that todays and tomorrows generations are facing.

12248740_1018897228148818_96180916_n

References:

The Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business (2015), website via http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/pentland/

WBCSD (2010) ’Vision 2050’ (February 2010)

Reflections from Paris – the day after…

Reflections from Paris – the day after…

Saturday, 14th of November. It’s 11:25h in the morning when my flight lands in Paris. I make my way through the airport and to the hotel, so far I am not feeling too much unease by what I see. But a few hours later I step into the streets in the centre, and everything changes.

I wish I could say it looked as if nothing had happened. I wish I could say people were out in the streets, filling up restaurants and cafés, shopping in stores. I wish I could say so because the truth is I can’t. I’ve been a few times to Paris but I had never seen its streets so empty, its stores closed down on what should have been a busy Saturday. In turn, dozens of wreaths have flowered in front of any monument that remembers the courage of the French people, or anything they ever fought for. The air feels rare and yet somehow… there’s calmness. It’s like you can feel the city’s heart, listen to its silent cry. Because that’s what Paris has been doing ever since Friday night: cry. And the world with it. Thousands of people from every corner of Earth have sent their messages of support. Surely, many will say these words won’t change anything, that they won’t bring back those who we lost nor will they bring those responsible for it to justice. They’re probably right. However, I like to think sometimes it’s not all about taking drastic solutions. Far too many times this has only brought less tolerance and more suffering to people who didn’t deserve so. I like to think that sometimes it really is about solidarity, about sharing a conscious mind and standing together against injustice. I like to think that sometimes words speak as loud as actions and that sometimes it’s about being free to shout them without fear, or motivated by a new mind-set perhaps. I like to think that sometimes it really is about liberté and fraternité, about crying together and helping each other as siblings would do. Sometimes the worst allows us to see the best in people.

And just because sometimes it really is about all of this, I would also like to dedicate a few words to the victims of the attacks in Lebanon some days ago. Their story didn’t make it to the media the way Paris did, but they undoubtedly deserve our full support and condolences  just as much. When it comes down to the loss of innocent lives, countries and distance shouldn’t matter. Egalité, they call it.

Written by Celia Iordache

What comes around goes around

Unlocking the potential of a circular economy

“Not what we think will be, nor what we fear will be, but what could be” (WBCSD, 2010, p.3). The World Business Council of Sustainable Development’s policy document speaks in a language of potentiality – Sustainability is an opportunity.

For those not convinced let’s get down and talk numbers: According to the WBCSD business opportunities in the areas of natural resources, health and education alone, will have a magnitude of US$ 3-10 trillion per annum in 2050, furthermore according to McKinsey estimates the clean tech product market will reach a volume of US$ 1.6 trillion by 2020 (Bonini & Görner, 2011, p.2).

In the future smarter systems, smarter people, smarter designs and smarter business will prevail. Thus, let us try to be smart for a moment:

Step 1: Hate waste
Step 2: Think of something you throw away.
Step 3: Think of what else you (or somebody) could do with it.
Step 4: Don’t throw it away, make it a business opportunity.

Let me give you a case study to illustrate: Crop Mobster is a community exchange platform which leverages social media and instant alerts to quickly spread the word about local food excess and surplus from any supplier in the food chain. So far it has saved more than 1,000,000 pounds of premium local food going to waste. It demonstrates that there is no reason why we can not do something good while earning a profit. The concept of a circular economy illustrated here is widely transferable. It is only four steps to make an impact, and it is only four steps to generate a business idea.

You don’t have to start by hating waste, you can start by hating inefficiency, hate inequity, or just hate the status quo. What I realized while reading in preparation of the WBSCD meeting in Paris is that potential is all around us. Turning your eyes towards Paris, seeing the challenges they are facing, will inspire ideas and thereby will already fulfil one of its missions to inspire sustainable entrepreneurship.

By Ferdinand Weiler

References:

WBCSD (2010) ’Vision 2050’ (February 2010)
Bonini, S & Görner, S. (2011) ‘The business of sustainability: Putting it into practice’
Crop Mobster: sfbay.cropmobster.com

Establishing Green Thinking – Why forests make our world a better place!

 

Hi, it’s me, Veronika! I’m happy to see you all back on our blog! In our last post we introduced ourselves – in this one, I will sum up for you the most important facts about forests and their relevance regarding climate change, and also how to deal with the issue of deforestation in the future.

By tEstablish Green Thinkinghe way, did you know that forests make up about 30% of the world land area? (WBCSD, 2010, p.22) As forests transform CO2 into oxygen, they can be considered the “lungs of our planet” (Speller, 2014), which is why they help reduce global warming by CO2 emissions. Given that trees absorb CO2 like “carbon sinks” (GreenFacts, 2015), the carbon footprint is struck twice when locals burn woodlands in order to cultivate oil palms or soybeans: Not only does the fire cause more CO2 emissions, the practice reduces the amount of trees and therefore the absorption of CO2. “Overall, the world’s forest ecosystems are estimated to store some 638 Gt (638 billion tonnes) of carbon, which is more than the amount of carbon in the entire atmosphere“. (Pacheco, 2015).

What is alarming is that the two countries with the large forest areas, Brazil and Indonesia, also record “the largest forest losses over the past five years” (Pacheco, 2015).

Besides the cultivation of palm oil and soybean, another reason for deforestation is the pasture for cattle.

Furthermore, the loss of biodiversity goes along with deforestation. “More species of plant and animal live in the rainforest than any other land habitat” (Speller, 2014). Moreover, more than a quarter of day-to-day medicines has been extracted from rainforest plants, although “only 1% of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal properties” (Speller, 2014). Thus “we might lose a potential cure” (Speller, 2014) due to deforestation.

The tightrope walk will be between stopping deforestation but at the same time maintaining enough agricultural land for locals to make a living by crop growing.

So how can we stop deforestation?

The REED framework was established at COP13 in Bali in 2007 and finalized in 2010 at COP16 as REED+. (The REDD Desk, 2015) “REED+ is an acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries + Conservation and Sustainable Management” (WBCSD, 2010, p.22).

Within the scope of REED+, affected developing countries should at first develop “a national strategy or action plan” (UNFCCC, 2015). Secondly, establish “a national forest reference emission level and/or forest reference level […] as an interim measure” (UNFCCC, 2015). Thirdly, “a robust and transparent national forest monitoring system is required” (UNFCCC, 2015) and fourthly, the set-up of “a system for providing information on how REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation” (UNFCCC, 2015).

The key issues in Paris at COP21 will be to negotiate a final agreement on the implementation procedures of REDD+ (Forest Trends Association, 2015), and crucial to the success of this mechanism will be “that REDD+ must be able to generate significant amounts of finance to REDD+ countries” (Forest Trends Association, 2015) so that e.g. locals get an incentive to preserve the rainforest (WBCSD, 2010, p.22). So far, “[o]ver $9.8 billion has been committed to support REDD+ in the run-up to the COP in Paris” (Forest Trends Association, 2015).

Thus, it will remain exciting how stakeholders will be elaborating on stopping deforestation and REED+ at COP21 and what the concrete outcomes will be.

 

 

References

Forest Trends Association (2015) Forest Trends at COP21. Available at: http://www.forest-trends.org/dir/cop21/#more (11/11/2015).

GreenFacts (2015) How can forests affect climate change? Available at: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/forests/l-2/3-climate-change.htm#0 (11/11/2015).

Pacheco, P. (2015) One wicked problem, three major challenges. Available at: http://blog.cifor.org/33868/zero-deforestation-special-one-wicked-problem-three-major-challenges?fnl=en/ (11/11/2015).

Speller, P. (2014) 9 facts you need to know about forests and trees.  Available at: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/forests/9-awesome-facts-about-forests-20140321 (11/11/2015).

The REDD Desk (2015) Forests: why are they important? Available at: http://theredddesk.org/what-is-redd#toc-2 (11/11/2015).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (2015) UNFCCC negotiations. Available at: http://redd.unfccc.int/fact-sheets/unfccc-negotiations.html (11/11/2015).

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) (2010) Vision 2050 [Online] Available at: http://www.wbcsd.org/WEB/PROJECTS/BZROLE/VISION2050-FULLREPORT_FINAL.PDF, p.22.  (11/11/2015).