Looking forward to see you #WBCSD 2017 Liaison Delegate Meeting in Montreux

With more than 7 billion people spread over 195 nations we all share one thing – our beautiful planet earth!

To save our and future generations’ habitat from climate change there is not much time left to make a positive impact before it is too late.

anhang1Educating people, companies and governments can make a huge difference. It is time to start talking, spreading ideas and innovating – the World Business Council of Sustainable Development offers firms a great possibility to do so.

My name is Annika Klesen and I am thrilled to have been chosen to represent the Lancaster University Management School (#LUMS) at the Annual Liaison Delegate Meeting of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (#WBCSD) in Montreux, Switzerland.

As a BBA International Business Management Double Degree student, studying in the UK and Germany I am extremely interested in economics, politics and cultural differences regarding any topic. Being the Social Secretary of the Model United Nations Society (where the work of the UN is simulated at student conferences), I like to interact and debate with people from all cultural backgrounds. Besides that, I love to explore new places or go to the gym with friends.

Growing up in a country (Germany) where every household has about 100 different dustbins for paper, plastic, organic waste and so on I was confronted with a sustainable lifestyle from early childhood. Nevertheless, I have always separated profit from sustainability; it seemed natural for me that companies can only make profit by not respecting that one thing – our planet earth. Being an ambitious, creative and critical-thinking student I did not believe that it is possible for companies to combine both: respecting our planet and creating profit. Coming to Lancaster University nearly two years ago, and choosing the module: ‘OWT.230 Management and the Natural Environment: Ethics and Sustainability’, I have learnt that it is possible for companies to make billions of pounds by including sustainability. Isn’t that great? Saving our planet, in order for future generations to enjoy its’ beauty and making money simultaneously?

I would love to be part of this development and I am looking forward to hear how industry leaders pave the way of sustainable business development at the WBCSD Liaison Delegate Meeting 2017 in Montreux, Switzerland.

As Henry David Thoreau once said:

 ‘As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.’

#Oneteam#OneWBCSDLiaisonDelegateMeeting2017#Oneworld

“Sustainability: A Lesson for Change”

 

globewrapped

“The Greatest Threat To Our Planet Is The Believe That Someone Else Will Save It”

Robert Swann

I ask you firstly to close your eyes and imagine a perfect world: Human utopia. Vibrant Trees, lots of Happy People and Green scenery. I then ask you to open your eyes and look around. Take a hard look at what we do have and why is it this way.

Currently, sustainability is a “hot topic”. Before the industrial Revolution the human race self sustained, the wheel was used for transport, and agriculture was seen of critical importance however, during the Industrial Age, human race has become dependant on new technology and consistently improving upon what we already have. FACT. Continue reading →

In addition to our meeting with Gail Whiteman, some of our team went to a very interesting and somewhat unusual talk at the Lancaster Environment Center, hosted by Dirk Notz of the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Not many of us had been in this building before; our habitat is the Management School. But what we heard exceeded our expectations! To be honest, the very science-related part of the talk exceeded our understanding but expanded curiosity. Listening to scientists and trying to keep those models in mind when deciding how to make business decisions is exactly what current and future business leaders should do. In this blog we share some of what we took home from this excellent talk, and what we can learn from such scientific studies for business policy.

Arctic Sea Ice in Hot Water

Sea ice is vital to the Arctic Ocean, covering the entire area during the winter months, which then melts during summer due to warmer temperatures as a result of longer hours of sunlight. Sea ice follows the cycle of thinning over the course of summer, then expanding and thickening throughout winter. Warmer air and subsequently, rising water temperatures are reducing the amount of sea ice present and this change directly affects the health of Arctic ecosystems. Many mammals rely on sea ice for hunting and breeding. As a result, these animals are facing the threat of restricted food access and falling birth rates. The impacts on wildlife have a direct effect on the indigenous populations, such as the Yup’ik, Iñupiat, and Inuit, via the restriction of their hunting lifestyle for survival.

Over the past 30 years, we have lost approximately 75% of Arctic ice. The major problem that we are likely to face because of this, is an increase of heat ray absorption by the Arctic ocean. This process is called ‘Polar amplification’ and results in the Arctic warming up faster than the rest of the world, leading to more ice and snow melting.

Furthermore, the thawing of the ice caps leads to jetstream meandering and creates a shift in weather patterns as the difference in temperatures between the arctic and the area near the equator do not have a steep gradient anymore. It is the difference between the temperatures of the arctic and the rest of the continents that creates a jet stream from the west to the east.

14509130_10153723710711326_1722352374_n

Source: TIME, Keren Su / Corbis

A report conducted by InsideClimate News suggests that jetstream meandering created severe changes in wind patterns that transport large masses of warm, moist air from the Atlantic to the Arctic, leading to a more drastic impact on Arctic ice caps. However, modelling methods are not capturing this shift accurately and any study on this is subject to further evidence and research.

 

Dirk also lamented the loss of beautiful Arctic landscapes and the cultures of the Inuit and other local people that lived in this part of the world. In terms of the former, he was concerned that the beauty of the earth is not being preserved, and that we will not be able to share it with future generations. He also spoke of the Greenlandic people’s’ loss of their traditional livelihoods – the air was no longer arid enough to dry fish, forcing them to buy fridges.

14522521_10153723710101326_723698184_o

Source: NASA, Trent L. Schindler

Given the research done on this area, it is too early to say whether there is an estimated time frame as to when or if Arctic ice will vanish and Dirk had effectively proven that Arctic ice caps have the potential of accelerating themselves. Furthermore, he highlighted the fact that if ice caps thawed rigorously in one year, it would regenerate rapidly in the year after and this trend was seen over a 50 year period.

A silver lining, however, is that there is evidence that Arctic ocean is becoming more of a carbon sink as it expands due to the melting of the ice caps. In addition to the chemical exchange of carbon between any body of water and the air, phytoplankton (tiny ocean plants) grow in the water, absorbing carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. Furthermore, when these plants die, they sink into the bottom of the ocean where the carbon of their bodies are effectively stored.

But from an economic perspective, what is the financial incentive for large multinational firms to tackle this issue? There is naturally the pressure of maintaining a good public image and appearing supportive of tackling environmental issues, but Dirk highlighted that the melting ice also opened new Arctic sea routes. As this reduces transport costs immensely for these firms, they have a vested interest in, at the very least, maintaining this loss of ice to at least some degree.

Melting sea ice will have global consequences in terms of business by exposing new shipping routes for trade, as well as fossil fuel reserves. It is undeniable that there will be serious climate-related impressions on a worldwide scale, influencing both people and ecosystems. By choosing to act now and slowing the rate of sea ice cover loss, we can reduce the aggressive, negative externalities we are facing. The members and liaison delegates at the WBCSD conference will have an excellent opportunity to address urgent – and global – environmental concerns such as these, and begin the journey along the path to building a safer and more stable future for our natural habitat.

Written by Ben Koh, Frederike Kress, Divesh Lachhwani, Callum Hudson and Jay Mirchandani.

Sources:

1) NSIDC, 2014. Is the Arctic Ocean a carbon sink? [Online] Available: https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/icelights/2014/07/arctic-ocean-carbon-sink [Accessed 28 Sep. 2016].

2)Insideclimatenews.org. (2016). Greenland’s big meltdown in 2015 wore jet stream’s fingerprints. [online] Available at:https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08062016/greenland-arctic-record-melt-jet-stream-wobbly-global-warming-climate-change [Accessed 28 Sep. 2016].

3) RealClimate. (2016). Polar Amplification. [online] Available at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/01/polar-amplification/ [Accessed 28 Sep. 2016].

“Water: Innovation, Impact and Sustainability.” The Arctic Snowball Effect.

list110

Water is central to survival. Fact. In my previous article “ What does a Monkey know of the Taste of Ginger?” I briefly discussed the importance of water sustainability and why I belief water can provide the most efficient resource in order to improve sustainability, particularly in regards to developing countries.]

Continue reading →

Is This the Right Place?

Switzerland has the world’s nineteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and the thirty-sixth largest by purchasing power parity. Credit Suisse Group identified Switzerland as the country with the highest average wealth per adult in 2013. Not to mention the fact, that a regular cheeseburger in Swiss McDonald’s costs twice as much as the same cheeseburger in the same fast food restaurant in the UK. In other words, it is safe to say that Switzerland is a rather wealthy and developed country. Therefore, it would seem rather impractical for an organization, whose aims include economic equality, to have a meeting in a place where economic stability, to some extent, has already been achieved.

WBCSD meetings are not the only conferences on sustainability that are hosted in developed countries. For example, this year International Conference on Sustainable Development is scheduled to be held in New York, the same place where International Institute for Sustainable Development usually hosts its conventions. While the ultimate goals of these organizations involve ending poverty and hunger and reducing inequality among countries, it is really difficult to comprehend the full effect of these problems in places like “the cultural capital of the world”. Therefore, one might enquire: how close to the reality are all of the discussions occurring throughout the events like these?

However, the question, whether these meetings are relevant to contemporary social issues is not the only concern that may arise, if the situation does not change. It is quite evident that conferences like these require fairly large expenses. In most cases, appropriate venue needs to be rented, food needs to be prepared and staff needs to be hired. Additional jobs and investment would arguably have a lot more weight in countries where a shortage of them is presented. Therefore, by hosting the assemblies in economically unstable countries the organizations would already begin to implement the changes that they want to occur, and effectively increase the well-being of the countries’ population. Some might argue that the scale of the contribution would be incredibly small, relative to the scope of the whole problem. However, having these benefits as a by-product of these meetings is arguably better than not having them at all.

The fact that the next WBCSD summit is scheduled to be held in Chennai indicates that the possibility that situation will improve still exists. India has quite a few economic issues, and can provide a source of valuable examples, which can be used throughout the discussion. Moreover, additional investment could be useful in the city that is still recovering from the floods of November 2015. The only question is, if it is a new course for an organization, or is it merely an experiment.

Written by Yury Dmitryuk

Hopes, Dreams and All In Between: WBCSD 2016, Montreux

The World Business Council of Sustainable Business is made up of around 200 large businesses with global influence and power: the Councils’ members are diverse in industry type, with representatives from energy, plastics, automotive, professional services and banking to name a few. With such range of business types being represented, I expect there to be differences in attitude towards the idea of sustainable development, which I believe is embedded in the corporate culture of a company: managers are under pressure to deliver results for owners, and often even have incentive clauses within their contracts – such as bonuses, or share buying options – which align to the demands of major shareholders. Therefore maximizing economic performance is typically the principal objective of businesses. To the contrary, there are businesses with very strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, and hence may have more empathy for the sustainable development concept: it will be interesting to see if I can spot clashes of ethos on the subject between council member companies.

In short term business, sustainability is not something that will enhance profits – research and development expenses are high (while productive results are typically only realized in the long term, so little or no return), while operating in an environmentally friendly way tends not to be at profit-maximizing cost levels. Operating in a way which could be considered sustainable takes vast amounts of finances away from what creates companies their wealth: their resources, such as labour and capital. Having less resources means less output, which therefore means less profit – causing ground to be lost on competitors. To summarize, a business pursuing sustainability objectives is certain to lose profits in the short term. For those businesses who are truly wishing to change their ways, they must face the sustainable development business paradigm, which is whether to sacrifice today for tomorrow. I desperately hope to see Council members back up their good intentions with disclosure of the actual steps they are taking to reach sustainable development: hopefully, these steps will be large strides in the right direction.

I must admit, I do have my doubts about the WBCSD: an organization which, for companies to become part of, charges a huge annual membership fee – E.ON is quoted here as paying 70,000 Swiss Francs yearly to the WBCSD. This makes it a very exclusive group, and hence smaller companies with great potential to have an impact with new technologies do not, because of such large costs to be a part of the Council. Furthermore, if E.ON’s fee is the standard amount paid by each of the 200 members, one must not be surprised the organization affords extravagant annual meetings in locations such as Paris, Montreux, Ankara and more. These meetings represent perhaps a problem endemic of society as a whole – excessive consumption, unnecessary luxuries, and mindless disposal. We greedily, selfishly take resources when we want, and dispose of them as though there’s a black hole for it all to cease existing. Change is of paramount necessity; the perfect place to begin this change is a worldwide organization trying to encourage it.

To contrast my scepticism, I truly do believe over the next few days I will witness specialists speak at great length in their respective fields of expertise with great passion and endeavour: I hope for a grand awakening during these conferences; that companies are striving towards a new era of sustainability and that the next wave of technological advancements is on the horizon for a better world. I know people care deeply about the subject of sustainability – after all, some have dedicated their whole lives trying to progress the model of sustainable development, and are still pushing for this. Despite my optimisms however, I fear the Councils’ efforts are in vain. A company’s environmental affairs representative is going to be much more enthusiastic about sustainability than the rest of the company – how much power can they assert over a global company’s way of business, when any other way would harm profits, particularly in a global, competitive economy?

Ultimately, those with the most power in companies dictate how the organisation is ran: attitudes towards change is dictated by a top-down business culture – if owners benefit from the status quo, change in business operations will not be sought. I appreciate the work and commitment shown by employees at global companies who seek a change in sustainability and development practises, such as those attending as liaison delegates at this WBCSD event. However, I believe revolutionary change in businesses requires revolutionary leaders, or revolt from within – neither of which come about often. The only other way for change is a change in the industry itself: I believe in ‘Creative Destruction’, a term coined by economist Eric Schumpeter: where firms who do not innovate fiercely enough are consumed by poor sales and rising debts.

Overall, I currently see membership to the WBCSD as an attempt by big business to appear to be doing something for sustainability, by having a relationship with an institution who portrays to be pursuing progress in sustainability and development – good press for them, when bad things happen. The reason for this opinion is due to current WBCSD members having been involved in environmental scandals over the last few years: consider the BP oil spillage of 2010, the Volkswagen false emissions testing scandal of 2015… and Monsanto: a long list of environmental and societal abuses. Can a Council of this nature be a valid driving force for sustainability with members comprising of abusers of the Council’s core values?

I hope over the next few days to become better informed of the future of sustainable development, big businesses future intentions and whether the WBCSD can really make a difference to the world it is trying to represent and do good for.

Lee Brennan