The Sustainable Development Agenda of the United Nations for 2030 has been staging since 2015 a series of goals to guide the world on the path of sustainability with the aim of eradicating poverty, improving living conditions and take immediate action in the conservation of the environment. Thus, each of the 17 SDGs support and promote a specific field that private, public and civil sectors are committed to empower and represent.
The scope of these objectives reflects not only an advance in the development of each country or region of the world, but also demonstrates the synergies and international cooperation willing to act for the social good. But how can you contribute individually to these initiatives?
Here are a few tips:
1. Support them in social networks
Social networks like Horyou allow you to share projects and actions related to the scope of some sustainable development objective and allow other international organizations to help you achieve your goals, either through funding or promoting visibility.
2. Improve your visibility
Always use #SDG (as well as #ODD, #ODS, or other hashtag, depending on your language of choice) in any publication on social media, so that the support you give to a certain cause or project is visible. Thus, it will be easier to find people supporting the same objective and the probability of achieving future connections will be greater.
3. Join new challenges
Lose the fear and support new initiatives like the #HoryouLightChallenge whereby you can share your positive actions in favor of sustainable development as well as in your daily routine.
4. Turn your passion into help
Identify which of the sustainable development objectives is aligned more with your routines, habits and work and share innovative ways to contribute to solutions aimed at the proposed goals.
5. Be an ambassador for your goal of preference
Share with your community and inspire your circle of friends to support Sustainable Development Goals through their daily routines.
In this way, every one of us can contribute a bit to the global agenda of sustainable development and have by 2030 a healthier planet and better living conditions for us and future generations.
Launched in September 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 is a broad and demanding agenda which affects all countries. The new goals require more collaboration, commitment and the participation of all actors: academia, society, governments and private sectors should join forces to shape better times to come. Horyou blog interviewed Maria Luisa Silva, the Head of United Nations Development Program in Geneva, about the challenges presented by the new agenda.
1. How does the new UN Sustainable Development Goals differ from the UN Millennium Goals?
They differ in three fundamental ways. The first difference is that Millennium Development Goals were a relatively narrow social agenda, extremely important but focused on some social issues. The Sustainable development agenda is a broader and more complex agenda that addresses all the dimensions of development: economic, social but also sustainability. The pillar of environment gives a greater expansion in the sustainable development goals – 6 out of the 17 new goals are focusing on environmental issues. The reason they are making their way in the agenda is because these are the areas where the least progress happened during the life of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The second main difference is that the Sustainable Development Goals are going to require a major mobilization of all sorts of actors. The Millennium Goals were mostly emanating from governments towards developing countries, and agreed in multilateral forums. In this case, it requires society as a whole: private sector, youth, academia, everybody to think and to make a necessary social transformation.
The third difference is that they are universal goals. This is not just an agenda for developing countries, this is an agenda that will also apply and demand action on rich societies, to address the social challenges they have, and many of them would be surprised about their serious issues of inequality and poverty pockets. More importantly, there are involved in the environmental transformations required to reach the sustainability dimension of the agenda.
2. How can companies help to engage on climate change and environmental challenges?
The private sector can engage in two different manners. One is with a necessary innovation to make the planet a better place to live. And innovation and the transformation of the production processes need to come up from the private sector. This is a survival agenda. I remember talking to Paul Polman, head of Unilever, and he and many other companies have already realized that this is not just for profit. It’s the interest of new consumers, young people are not interested to consume products from companies that are destroying the environment or gaining money profiting from the poor and vulnerable. So, it becomes really part of the bottom line for enterprises.
The other dimension is also contributions, more and more we are getting private sector organizations leading and contributing to debates which were more traditionally government-led debates. And we have from the philanthropic side foundations from extremely wealthy private entrepreneurs contributing to the public good. So the public good is not just responsibility from governments only, it is also from the private sector.
3. How will developing countries get assistance to reach the new UN Sustainable Development Goals?
Traditionally, development assistance was considered the way to contribute, to leverage development processes in developing countries. And this is what’s called Official Development Assistance (ODA). The goal of ODA was only 0,7% of GDP in rich economies, but very few countries have reached that level. Some have, and it hasn’t really hurt them. It’s not complicated, it’s just a matter of political will. We need to keep pushing them to reach that level, because this ODA is absolutely instrumental, particularly for the least developed countries and the low income countries which are out of their own means to reach the Sustainable Development goals. The case of upper middle income countries like Brazil is not ODA. They will have to develop other means and ways, private investments, mobilization of local resources. It’s important to see how they will deal with obstacles that are limiting sustainable-friendly investments and sustainable development.
4. How do you see the news of China and US signing the Paris agreement?
Paris Agreement was one of the incredible successes of the year 2015, where political leaders around the globe agreed on political agendas that will be extremely important for the coming years. So US and China agreed in Paris and now they are making the next step which is signing the agreement. This is absolutely fantastic and very important, but there is much more to do. We need to transform intended national contributions into real national contributions. So those plans that each country committed itself to do, now they need to become reality. And we also need to go further. Even if we achieve everything that all countries committed to achieve, we will still be in the 3 degrees level. And many states said that they want to go to 1,5. In the revision on those intended national contributions within 5 years, we need to keep pushing for further ambitions.
A conference dedicated to the relevance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for the Private Sector took place last Friday at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The high-level event, in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda, was held by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in collaboration with the Rotary Club Genève International and the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Services. During the conference, a panel of experts representing the public and private sectors, as well as the Swiss Government and International Organizations, shared their opinions on why it is necessary to encourage companies to implement SDG in their business policies and how can it be done.
The executive director of UNITAR, Nikhil Seth, kicked off the conference with a detailed presentation of the SDG. The 2030 Development Agenda was signed by 193 member countries on 25 September 2015. It includes a set of 17 SDG to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. According to Nikhil Seth, SDG cannot be achieved without the businesses commitment.
But how can the private sector be encouraged to contribute to SDG achievement? Joakim Reiter, Deputy Secretary-General of the UNCTAD, sees a part of the solution to the problem in building an innovation system that would enable countries to absorb new technologies. This could be reached thanks to a network of incubators and clusters linking universities to the private sector.
Implementing SDG collaboration between various institutions is essential, according to Monika Linn from UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). “While developing standards and regulations, we are bringing together all stakeholders: businesses, academia and civil society”, she said. UNECE believes that by bringing all actors together, a multiple perspective with respect to the diversity of interests is built.
Diverse thinking can be also applied to business models, according to Walter Gyger, who was speaking for Rotary International. He believes that the traditional business model is no longer an alternative. Companies need to focus not only on profitability but also sustainability and become more long-term oriented. In his opinion, no government can tackle the current problems alone, therefore all concerned parties, businesses, academia and civil society, have to contribute to the sustainability agenda.
Horyou CEO, Yonathan Parienti, emphasized the potential of the global civil society, which is ready to bring the change. Horyou creates conditions to move the society forward while building bridges to connect people across countries and cultures. The progress toward sustainability will be pushed forward as investors will intensify their funding of social innovation. “We must support the innovators of tomorrow”, he concluded.
So why are investors hesitating? Philip Moss from World Economic Forum explained: “Business representatives are anxious about implementing SDG and need assistance”. This phenomenon is evidenced in the context of investment in developing countries. Despite the high interest from investors and the attractive demographic conditions that promise huge market opportunities, companies estimate that the risk is to high in comparison to the expected ROI. A better business climate would encourage them to allocate more capital in developing markets. Those favourable conditions can be created by initiatives like Convergence, which is a platform that blends private, public, and philanthropic capital for the greater good. Convergence helps connect various investors for “blended finance” opportunities in emerging and frontier markets.
Along the same lines, Marion Jansen, Chief Economist at International Trade Centre, brought up the need for support of the private sector. She thus focused on the role of small and medium-sized businesses which represent about 80% of business worldwide and 70% of global employment. “SMEs are much less productive than large firms and the wages are accordingly lower” she stated. A way to preserve the viability of the SME is to increase its productivity. This can be done through collaboration with private and public partners like the Chambers of commerce. It is crucial to provide clear guidelines to small and medium-sized companies and help them to comply with the standards.
Wanda Lopuch, member of the board of directors at Global Sourcing Council, pointed out that language was another obstacle on the way to implementing SDG by private companies: “Unless we incorporate the language of business, which must include the word “profit”, we will be loosing tremendous opportunities”, she warned. According to Lopuch, the visionary and inspirational language of diplomacy used to communicate about SDG is not adequate to the private sector which prefers operational and measurable business terms. The communication style needs to be adapted to those recipients in order to make them feel like “SDG-owners” and to convince them to participate in the implementation of sustainability goals. She defined the expectations toward the private sector as «profit with purpose» that can be created through impact investment and financing high-risk businesses.
The discussion was completed with the optimistic observation of Matthew Kilgarriff, Vice-President of Global Compact Network Switzerland, who reminded the audience that more than 8,000 for profit organizations are already allied with UN through their voluntary commitment to Global Compact. This proves that companies are willing to take this step to transform our world through principled business and “gives hope for a more sustainable future”, he concluded.
From the 8th to the 10th of February, leaders from Government, industry and social enterprise gathered together in the gulf of Dubai. It was an interesting setting from more than one aspect.
The city was not so long ago a baron desert, it has literally been built from dreams of what could be and is now home to hundreds of industries and some of the most spectacular feats of engineering and architecture on the planet. One couldn’t think of a more suitable backdrop, considering the agenda of what was to be discussed at the World Government Summit.
It began with a very matter-of-fact address from CEO of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab who, referring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, stated that “the future is here” and that it is time to mobilize and capture the opportunity that it brings.
The Forth Industrial Revolution covers a multitude of different paradigms, but the narrative of this event was one based firmly on Horyou values: sustainable business.
We have been part of a world up to now that has revolved around the principles of a money making market system whereby lives are sustained on the basis of trade, whether you are trading beans as a farmer in remote Africa or multi-millions in a global hedge fund.
Since the global financial crisis of 2008, principles have changed, from global industry down to citizen level.
We are now slowly adapting a more conscious way of living across the board. We are conscious of our impact on the environment, conscious that our patterns of consumption are keeping laborers working like machines and conscious that the payoffs that we deem important are driving policy decisions that feed inequality.
The need to address this balance of cause and effect regarding capitalism was highlighted. Former Prime Minister of France Dominique De Villepin stated that “We need to remember that business exists to enhance society, not create a division among have and have nots”. Alluded to his time in Government where he created a network in France to connect businesses with students and policy makers, he made his position clear on the importance of people connecting for social good.
This was echoed by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim who affirmed that “we all have a stake and the creativity and innovation of youth are our greatest strength.”
Then came a passionate speech by President and CEO of the UN Foundation Cathy Kalvin. The UN Foundation and Horyou are aligned on development goals and how to get there. They also share a special connection after spending two days contributing to discussions at Earth to Paris in December. Cathy made a plea for us to harness the potential of a purpose driven society serving the citizens of tomorrow. “We must place a special emphasis on youth. Moving from poverty to prosperity depends on us realizing what they have to offer,” she declared.
It was a stage where we realised the negative impact of our past behaviours, but also a place where real opportunities were highlighted.
Overall, the ethos and real need for Horyou as a platform for social good was reinforced. The success of the Sustainable Development Goals is multifaceted but connecting good hearts and minds is the starting point.
Tokyo will host the next SIGEF as it plans to become an example of sustainability by 2020
Tokyo wants to set a good example for the world. As it braces to host the 2019’s edition of SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, the city is aiming to reach the highest standards of sustainability by 2020, when it will also host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. With its ‘Be Better Together – For the Planet and For the People’ slogan, Tokyo is indeed committed to develop sustainable solutions and showcase them to the world.
The Olympics are not the only reason the city is heavily investing in sustainability. 2020 is indeed the final date for a 7-year plan whereby the Japanese government aims to make Tokyo the ‘world’s most environmentally-friendly low-carbon city’. Part of the transformation includes the revitalization of the urban area while surrounding the city with water and greenery.
The initiatives are broad and they resonate with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to promoting ideas like zero waste and reducing carbon consumption, the city shall otherwise rely on technology to make the 2020 Games a landmark in sustainable management. One of the projects includes fuel cell vehicles and renewable energy (see image). The city wants to equalize the greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating public transportation, reusing water and recycling not only waste but also buildings – the plan includes using existing venues and avoiding building new ones.
The 2020 plan also includes:
– Creating more than 500 hectares of new green space in the city
– Ending free distribution of plastic shopping bags
– Equipping metro facilities with 100% LED lighting
– Using recycled metal for the production of all the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo Medal Project)
– Equipping the Olympic stadium with solar-power and a rainwater retention system.
In order to promote so many changes in such a short time, the Japanese government is seeking partnerships with other countries, especially regarding public transportation, air pollution and waste management. Last year, the city hosted the Tokyo Forum for Clean City and Clean Air, gathering representatives from 22 cities around the world which shared their experiences in smart and sustainable management. Next September, Tokyo will host the 6th edition of SIGEF, the most important Social Innovation and Global Ethics forum in the world, organized by Horyou and covering the following topics:
Artificial Intelligence for Positive Change
Fintech and Blockchain
Technology and Life Extension
Sustainable Development Goals
Renewable and Future Energy
Over the next few weeks, Horyou blog will showcase all the initiatives that are being developed by the Japanese government to transform its capital – and the whole country – into an innovative, sustainable and peaceful society, inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The event aimed to build next generation infrastructure to embrace the times ahead through science-based environmental decision-making
Organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment, the conference on “Sustainable Infrastructure and Resilience” took place in Washington, D.C. on January 7-10, 2019. It gathered scientists, students and academics from the country’s leading universities, and representatives of various non-profit organizations. Based on the assumption that investment in a broad range of next generation infrastructure can help establish more sustainable communities and enhance resilience during a period of accelerating socio-environmental and security threats, the conference’s goal was to spotlight the importance of new research, innovation, and collaboration through partnerships in the area of sustainable infrastructure and resilience.
In their opening addresses, Mike Carvalho, NCSE Chair of Board of Directors and President of Carvalho and Associates, and Michelle Wyman, NCSE Executive Director, insisted that the solution to today’s global warming challenges can be found in the study of nature and in science. They were succeeded by keynote speaker Jeff Nesbit, Executive Director of Climate Nexus, who spoke about his recent trip to Antartica, describing its richness and abundance of wildlife, pointing out that right now civilization is at a climate tipping point, and that “water is more important than economy.” It is significant from his perspective that Yemen is out of water, that Saudi Arabia has turned to US for water, and that Pakistan has turned to India and the US for water.
Climate change matters for big companies
The first plenary, “Transforming How Companies Operate in a New Carbon Economy: Industry Leading Innovation,” was moderated by Elizabeth Cantwell, CEO of Arizona State University Research Enterprise (ASURE). Speakers including Grace Bochenek, Lead, Energy and Environment Center of Excellence, The SPECTRUM Group, Bob Dixon, SVP and Global Head of Efficiency and Sustainability of Siemens Industry, Inc., Kevin Etter, Director, Humanitarian Relief and Resilience Program, UPS (Retired) and Rohan Patel, Director of Policy and Business Development at Tesla all agreed that “most change is occurring within companies,” as the majority of companies now have CSR programs as part of their operations.
Rohan Patel from Tesla stated that his company’s goal is to accelerate the movement towards sustainable energy, although there are many cost barriers. Several speakers in the opening plenary emphasized that huge infrastructure issues need to be addressed in the environmental decision-making process. They all agreed that it is important for all countries to move towards sustainability, extensive investments in research and create extra avenues of revenue that would be used to expand the scope of investments in infrastructure and allow for complex projects. The speakers shared the opinion that it is important to utilize innovation in business model adaptation, as well as systems adaptation.
Engineering and science working together
Speakers at the session called “Building Forward: Closing the Gaps between Climate Science, Decision-Making, and Engineering” which I attended included Susanne Moser, Ph.D., Principal Researcher of Stanford University, Dan Cayan, Ph.D., Climate Researcher, University of California, James Deane, Senior Supervising Architect of the Rail Operations Group, CA High Speed Rail Authority, Robert Lampert, Ph.D., Principal Researcher and Professor, Pardee Rand Graduate School. Statistical analysis techniques were suggested, as well as other methods of putting together ways to effectively “build infrastructure taking into account climate change.” Extreme heat was mentioned as a public health issue that puts strain on roads and water supply. Priorities in terms of building forward include: infrastructure investments and reduction of inequality. The final step in infrastructure building is implementation, accountability, training and development. In that context, the significance of cost and benefit assessment for green infrastructure was emphasized.
Investments in Infrastructure: a Long-Term Strategy
Another session I attended was on “Private Sector Roles in Building Community and Infrastructure Resilience” featuring Yoon Kim, Director, Four Twenty Seven, Ksenia Koban, VP, Payden and Rygel, Samantha Medlock, SVP, Willis Towers Watson, Lisa Schroeer, Senior Director of S&P Global Ratings, Thomas Barr, Founder and CEO, Infrastructure Services Group. It focused on the corporations assigning credit ratings to cities and regions according to, among other factors, the likelihood of disasters, as well as a number of elements pertaining to disasters. It was noted that climate change effects are taken into account in bond ratings.
Innovation for Good
On the second day of the conference, I attended the Keynote 2: “Cultivating Productive Optimism in Environmental Science.” The speakers were Carl Page, President, Anthropocene Institute, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America. Anne-Marie Slaughter, in her powerful opening statements, said: “Science and environment give us the belief in something greater than ourselves.” Carl Page, an investor in clean tech and high tech ventures, spoke about the importance of the project of cleaning up pollution using cheap energy. He talked about the increased pace of technology adoption and “the race of de-carbonization.” He also addressed the issue of nuclear energy, which is often considered safer than coal. One of the reasons for opposition to nuclear energy is overpopulation. Having said that, the atomic innovation space is vast. Being an investor, Page made an observation that innovation in finance is accelerating, and investment in companies with environmental goals is becoming prevalent.
I also attended Plenary 2: “Information and Decision Making: Response, Recovery, and Resilience”with Evan Lehmann, E&E News, Shirlee Zane, Sonoma County Supervisor, and Ryan Lanclos, Director, Esri. This session addressed helping NGOs understand what it means to be resilient and how to run a disaster response program. The speakers warned about the effects of exacerbating effects of acute shocks to infrastructure. Economic development and resilience were also a theme of the discussion. The participants reiterated again and again that it time for vigorous and positive action in addressing climate change.
On the “Community Science 101: Practical Tips and Real-World Strategies for Engaging with Communities”, sessions, the speakers were Sarah Wilkins, Thriving Earth Exchange Project Manager, and Zack Valdez, Thriving Earth Exchange Contractor. During this session, the audience participated in an interesting assignment. They were placed on a team as scientists and community leaders in a city that recently experienced a heat wave and asked to address the issue of the changing climate and assess the ways to resolve the issue.To solve this problem, the audience examined the community values, available resources for infrastructure and the existing constraints. Some of the points included asking the right questions to the community leaders, providing better protection to people from the effects of the heat wave, addressing the problem of lack of air conditioning and figuring out the geography and the size of the affected area. The participants had an effective brainstorming session and proposed their solutions.
The final plenary was called “Applying the Convergence of Knowledge, Technologies, and Science to Resilience Thinking,” were professors and researchers made a strong case that when the community is working together, using its knowledge in combination with technology and science (convergence), it is much more effective compared to working independently.
At the end of the two-day conference, Gary Geernaert, Ph.D., US DOE delivered the John H. Chaffee Memorial Lecture on Science, Policy and the Environment in which he emphasized the need for the scientific community to be connected to decision-making process and for the public to have trust in science and scientific data. He addressed the rapid development of new science, including artificial intelligence, machine learning (ML), and robotics, and the importance of new science to be partnering with communities to make things happen. He also touched upon community priorities, state priorities, and scientific priorities and the importance of the “collective vision” in applying science to environmental decision making.
Discussions were very intense, going on for two days with students, professors, and leaders from non-profit space expressing their opinions and giving their suggestions on today’s most crucial issue that society is facing, climate change and the need to act quickly and collectively