Introduction: Technology and Sustainability

Hi guys!

My name is Ed and I am a fourth-year BBA Management student having just returned from a placement year at Deloitte in London. I am originally from Halifax in Yorkshire so I didn’t move very far to come to University!

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On my placement year, I was working in Technology Consulting with a particular focus on Cyber-Security, it is my interest in both technology and sustainability that has led me to be here. I have always been interested in the idea that we can solve many of society’s problems with technology. Among the modules I study are “Technology and Organisation: Society and Risk” as well as “Ethical Responsibility in Business”. Hopefully, you can see how we can draw the link between these different areas, technology can enable us to act more sustainably and be more ethically focused. Over recent years there have been many technological advances in the area of sustainability including but not limited to: towers that scrub away smog, filters that remove toxins from dirty water and electric vehicles that help reduce carbon emissions. Two of the major areas that the WBCSD are involved in that interest me are Energy and Cities & Mobility, I look forward to learning about the projects that are ongoing or planned.

I am hoping to expand my knowledge of sustainability through the WBCSD event, as I am aware that it is currently slightly lacking. Using my experience and new perspective I want to create a ripple effect by influencing others to act more sustainably!

D-10: WBCSD, passionate students are coming!

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”
― Bryan Stevenson

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 NOE… “Sorry how do we pronounce your name”?

Hi everyone!

I’m Noé Cichy (don’t bother if you cannot pronounce my name properly, nobody really can: not even me!) and currently in the third year of the BBA International Business Management.

I inherited this last name from my German father. However, having a Spanish mother but growing up in France and having to speak all three languages, never really enabled me to pronounce this surname perfectly, which actually has Polish roots (don’t ask me why)! Nevertheless, this mixed identity obliged me to adopt an international vision of the world in which we live from the cradle. My internationality was also at the origin of the rise of my interest for business sustainability.

 

Why exactly business sustainability/WBCSD?

During the summer 2013, I had the privilege to work in two different refugee camps in Greece. Hearing the tragic flight stories of young men not older than me increased my personal conviction that the business world had/has a responsibility to pursue social justice and enhanced my wish to be part of this journey. This was the main reason behind my choice to achieve my first mandatory internship in the sustainability department of Migros (Switzerland’s largest retailer). During those 6 months, I defined future procurement policies for metal and plastic products, which enabled Migros to make a step toward its strategic sustainability goals for 2020. This experience further strengthened my will to pursue a career within this realm.

When I heard about the opportunity to go to the liaison delegate meeting of the WBCSD in Montreux, it was very clear for me that I would do everything possible to be part of it. The opportunity to hear first-handed the views of experts from the industry, and witnessing how ideas are put into action in companies such as Santander, Unilever, BCG, etc. will be a life changing experience as well as an amazing opportunity to bring me a step nearer to my career aspiration.

 

What do you expect from the conference?

 The title of the meeting is “’Roadmaps for impact in today’s reality”. The question here is of course: what reality are we talking about? If we consider the four main economic systems on which the WBCSD focuses its work (Energy, Food and land-use, Cities and Mobility, and Redefining Value), it becomes quite clear that we are talking about a reality which is challenging, difficult to handle with. What do I mean exactly by that? Well, consider the dramatic news we are hearing from Eastern Africa the last few days: according to Stephen O’Brien (United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator) over 20 million individuals are facing the threat of starvation due to the enduring drought (Tageschau, 2017). What I am expecting from this 4 days in Montreux is to witness how businesses are solving, and are planning to counter such massive challenges. I hope to see companies engaging with global issues, companies actively developing and implementing solutions to reverse inequality and the threat of climate change.  One burning question I have is: how does the WBCSD convince multinational companies to implement measures, which may lead to a decrease of financial value? How do they deal with freelancers? (Yes, yes, I know… those are two questions and not one! To my defence:  they are quite intertwined, aren’t they? 🙂 )

 

And when does it exactly start?

10 days to go before we fly… I am extremely excited to be part of this trip and to share my experiences with you all!

 

Reference List

Tageschau. (2017, 03 11). “Schwerste humanitäre Krise seit 1945”. Retrieved 03 16, 2017, from tageschau.de: https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/un-aufruf-hungerhilfe-101.html

 

 

 

Intro: How I Transitioned from Finance to Sustainability

Hi everyone!

My name is Kristen and I am an international business student on my expatriate year from the US. Before my trip abroad, my background was purely in international affairs and finance. I spent the last three years of my undergrad in Boston both studying and working in the finance sector. So I’ll tell you a little bit about how I shifted my interest from finance to sustainability.

I grew up in one of the boroughs of New York City, where the natural world has been so severely modified by the Anthropocene that my exposure to it has been relatively limited. Therefore my fascination for the natural world has only developed and grown since my move from NYC to Lancaster. It was a big adjustment moving from the city to the English country side, but after awhile I just adapted to my new surroundings. I started to really appreciate the fresh air and green hills around campus. Back in my home town, there were no green pastures for plenty of miles and especially no sheep around the corner!

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My passion for sustainability in business was amplified after I attended the LUSH summit last month, where the company showcased their partnerships with grassroots organisations. This summit made me realize that it is possible for companies to not only fulfill their financial goals but also take care of natural and social capital. I also developed my interest for sustainability through researching topics such as fishery management, global eating patterns and horticulture.

These topics are my main focus and interest going into the WBCSD event in Switzerland. Apart from food and land use, I am also open to learning way more about the energy sector and how companies are changing the industry for the better.

Sustainable Cities: Rediscovering the Concept

It’s been sometime since I came back from the trip to Chennai, so I had plenty of time to reflect on the experience obtained during the WBCSD’s meetings and sightseeing in Chennai area. Over the last weeks I was brought back to India many times in my dreams, recollecting the numerous moments and episodes I encountered there. It is very surprising how we are processing information – after some time we are able to re-discover in our mind numerous curious details about the events and processes we were previously observing or involved in, with numerous discrete ideas being formed into a solid opinion overtime. Moreover, after a certain period of time we might be able to recognize something important, which seemed to be out of our sight earlier. Following the trip I often asked myself what was the most significant discovery I had made for myself, what was that important idea I managed to identify.

Being very interested in sustainable cities topic and thus having a goal to learn as much as possible about the issues impacting sustainability of cities and existing ways to tackle them, at the conference I was in constant search for new information and solutions to address the above. What is more, following the WDCSD sessions I had a chance to attend I was contemplating potential implementation of the mentioned solutions in Indian cities like Chennai. Overall, I was very focused on the topic and considered it to be almost a panacea for the 21st century world.

On my way back to Lancaster I was quite satisfied with the knowledge obtained and information gathered on the actions being undertaken. This, being enhanced with positive emotions and amazing experiences accumulated, was making me very energetic and enthusiastic about upcoming final year at the university.

However, the more bright emotions were fading away, the more critical I was becoming about my experience and thoughts. I started to realize there was something missing from my understanding of sustainability and sustainable cities solutions in particular. My perception of the idea started to seem incomplete to me… Looking back at my time in Chennai, additional questions started to come to my mind. Are the sustainable cities solutions relevant and applicable to every city? If they are, are they the top priority matters for those cities?..

Based on the information I recently discovered, “the emissions per head drop as city size grows in the developed world, where a doubling in size typically leads to an increase in emissions of only about 80 per cent” due to the higher efficiency achieved in the developed cities (MIT Technology Review, 2014). In the developing countries “the doubling of city size leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions of about 115 per cent” (MIT Technology Review, 2014). It made me think what is the contribution to, for example, CO2 emissions by the rich and poor city? Which one of them allows its citizens to live more sustainable life?

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In the developed rich cities there are numerous state-of-the-art sustainable technologies and solutions such as hybrid cars, solar panels and smart buildings. What is more, it is considered that rich cities of the developed world becoming more and more specialized in services provision. Conversely, the poor cities do not possess majority of the progressive technologies and are mainly production–oriented. And still, developed world produces significantly more emissions per capita than the developing world (Rapier, 2012).

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Is it consumerism that triggers this? According to the recent statistics, 12 percent of the world’s population living in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute, 2013). People who live in affluent countries consume significantly more, which enhances negative impact on sustainability overall and adds to the carbon emissions level in particular. In developing countries, on the contrary, there is a far lower scale of consumption, which partially compensates for the insufficient level of sustainable practices.

Nevertheless, my point here is not to determine who should be responsible for the sustainability issues, the rich or the poor cities, but rather to highlight the limitation of the sustainable cities solution I had a perception of before and emphasize the importance of the complex measures necessary to be undertaken as part of the sustainable cities solution. To improve sustainability, it is essential to tackle low education level in the developing countries allowing them not only to improve their standards of life, but also to make them aware of the sustainability problems and necessity to tackle them. The same applies to the developed world, where it is essential to make people more conscious about their personal actions towards environment and their enormous consumption leading to the increasing ecological footprint. What is more, actions towards high-priority problems such as hunger, poor health, water pollution and inadequate sanitation should also be incorporated into the sustainable cities practices.

My view on the sustainable cities approach changed significantly since I came back from the very inspiring trip to India. Initially considering sustainable cities solution as an isolated topic, my perception of it gradually moved toward seeing this as a very complex, integrated set of actions aiming not just to tackle carbon emissions and minimize the resources input, but also to improve other essential aspects of human life without which it will not be possible to achieve significant change and maintain long-term success in environmental sustainability. What is now left to understand, therefore, is how we can best influence the society, both in rich and poor cities, to be more sustainable…

By Palina Malash

MIT Technology Review, 2014. Are Big, Rich Cities Greener Than Poor Ones? Available at: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/525571/are-big-rich-cities-greener-than-poor-ones/

Rapier, R., 2012. Climate Change and Developing Countries. Available at: http://www.energytrendsinsider.com/2012/08/09/climate-change-and-developing-countries/

Worldwatch Institute, 2013. The State of Consumption Today. Available at: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810

Sustainability and business: where does the media come in?

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Michael Mander

The Guardian has not reported on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development since 2014. The BBC quoted a Tweet from the WBCSD last year, but little more in the last 5 years. I couldn’t find a single mention of the WBCSD in any of The Independent’s online content. These are the three news sites I read the most. So – when the opportunity to attend the WBCSD Council Meeting came up, it’s little surprise that my first response was “the what?”.

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Business Motives for Sustainability

During my time in Chennai at the WBCSD annual meeting I had the opportunity to experience a corporate environment like one, I could never have imagined. Before this trip, to me the concepts of sustainability and corporate business were worlds apart, I assumed that businesses only had one motive and that was profit. I did not think sustainability and corporate businesses could exist side by side. Businesses want to create shareholder value by reducing costs and increasing revenues, these motives do not coincide with greener aims to protect and restore the planet. However, after an amazing experience in Chennai, my opinion on this changed. I saw multiple businesses that genuinely care about the environment and were on a mission to change this by implementing policies set out by the WBCSD. This sparked a personal interest of mine to deeper understand what motivates businesses to start transforming their business to be more sustainable.

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The most apparent motivation for businesses to become sustainable is that they genuinely care about the people, the planet and the carbon footprint their business leaves behind. The new influx of managers and business leaders that are emerging are more aware of sustainable implications and consequences that arise when the planet is not being looked after. These new managers are more conscious to implement changes within  a corporation so that the planet benefits when the business does. This increased awareness could have arisen from more research and understanding across businesses and new managers about what is really happening to the world and how the natural resources are being depleted could have sparked a passion to implement change in the way businesses operate.

The second motive for businesses to become more sustainable is to improve the image of the company. This is because increasing numbers of customers becoming more conscious of their purchase decisions and are trying to become more ethical, where possible. This means that consumers are more likely to pay a higher price for an organically sourced, fair-trade and sustainable product rather than going for the cheapest option possible. This means that companies that produce sustainable products are likely to have increased brand image as they more popular than unethical products. This will lead to higher revenues from customers and increased investment from shareholders. This is great news for businesses as this could lead to business growth and profitability which would align the two goals and provide an explanation to why a previously profit motivated firm would take an interest in sustainability.

A third possible reason for why businesses are becoming more sustainable is that it will benefit its employees. Part of being sustainable is looking after employees and suppliers all the way throughout the supply chain. A lot of businesses use cheap offshore labour to manufacture their products, however, this can come with some bad press as it is associated with using child labour, poor working conditions and extremely low pay. If a company decides to look out for their employees, especially in developing economies it will transform the livelihoods of these workers. This again will reinforce positive company image and improve the corporate social responsibility but will also be the morally the right option for the business to take. This also includes workers working in head office roles; if these employees are treated better then it is likely that they will perform to a higher standard, be more productive and efficient.

Overall, while it is important to consider the motives behind businesses becoming more sustainable their motives and intentions do not really matter – all that matters is that businesses, for one reason or another are waking up and putting sustainability higher up the list of their priorities. And at the end of the day, that is what matters.

Image: http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/Yes-the-planet-got-destroyed-But-for-a-beautiful-moment-in-time-we-created-a-lot-of-value-for-sh-Prints_i9318014_.htm

Rainbow Home- Residential Hostel for Girls

Katie McAllister

 

While in Chennai we, LUMS students, were given the amazing opportunity to volunteer at an organisation of our choice- either a rehabilitation centre for men with mental disabilities or at a hostel that teaches English to young girls- organised by Chennai Volunteers. Volunteering has always been something that I have wanted to do, especially abroad and especially in a school, so going to Rainbow Home Residential Hostel for Girls was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss!

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On approach to the school we were surrounded by slums and squalor living conditions, hard to come to terms with when you’re faced with the modern infrastructure of Lancaster University on a daily basis. As we reached the school we began to understand that this kind of environment is so normal to those who live within it, women were smiling and laughing while sitting on street corners making necklaces from fresh flowers, men went about their day to day business selling street food as if they were Michelen Star Chefs!

The school gates opened as we drove up the dirty driveway to see around 50 young girls sat outside giggling and singing. The playground, or yard, was grimy and probably very unsafe but that didn’t stop the young girls from dancing around. Each and every girl seemed so excited to see us as though we were a completely different species! They were truly over the moon to see us arrive and couldn’t wait to talk to us when we got inside!

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After removing our shoes, we all sat down on the floor of a class room with young schoolgirls fighting for a seat next to us. After a few moments of shyness, the girls soon came out of their shell and began to sing to us: “if you’re happy and you know it…” and after this it was only fair that it was our turn to sing to them, much to the children’s enjoyment and our embarrassment we stood up to teach them the Macarena and the Hokey Pokey (which obviously continued on for much longer than anticipated). Following our X-Factor worthy performance, we were asked by the teachers to help the young girls draw a greetings card for someone of their choice. This proved to be difficult due to language barriers as well as the girls being more interested in the softness of our hair and the colour of our nails! After some discussion about our beauty regime the girls got down to business, drawing flowers, butterflies, love hearts as well as writing some very good English! We also had the chance to take some photographs with the girls, who took it upon themselves to take them with our iPhones- another moment that they were truly mesmerised by something that we take for granted. At the end of our short visit, most of the young girls decided that they wanted to give the card that they had drawn to us, a sweet memory of our time at Rainbow Home.

Although it is unlikely that we will ever see those same girls again, I know, on behalf of all the other students that came, that we wish them all the best in terms of health, education and opportunity. They have been born into an environment which may not deal them the best cards in life, however with the confidence that they showed us on our short trip, we know that they can definitely go a long way! The trip itself was very humbling, it highlighted for me the true divide that exists not only in Chennai but across the globe. I saw those girls as girls just the same as me when I was their age, but they looked at each of us as though we were aliens.

We are all the same, living in the same world with the same problems happening around us. It just happens to be that some of us, due to our more individual environment, are made to be more aware of things going on in the world. After this experience I came to the conclusion that climate change, poverty, pollution are all things that require the action of everybody, however it takes us – the more aware- to kick-start that action!