Development

WestRock paper and packaging is a giant company of sort – with a revenue of more than 14 billion USD, the company has been exhibiting good financial health in recent years. For WestRock, business sustainability is much more than a financial goal, reason why the company is constantly working with its supply chain, customers and communities located on the company’s factory site. We interviewed Cynthia Wolgien, WestRock Corporate Communications and Social Responsibility Manager in Brazil about the company’s community programs and vision for the future.

“Learning with the Tree” is a project which trains public school teachers with UN Agenda themes

(Versão em português abaixo – Portuguese version below)

– Tell us a bit about WestRock’s involvement in sustainability projects.

I have been working in the area of external communication and social responsibility for six years and at WestRock the two areas are closely linked. Sustainability has always been in our practices and, as the world has progressed, the company has evolved with it. In recent years, it started to work more thoroughly with the various dimensions of sustainability and this year will be the first to launch a sustainability report, aligned with the global report that the company launched last year. In Brazil, our company is privately held and has no obligation to file a sustainability report on investor standards. So we have the freedom to speak to other stakeholders, communities and clients in our report. What guides our work are the three pillars we call PPP: People, Planet and Performance.

– What are the regions of the country where your CSR programs are concentrated?

The vast majority of CSR actions are around the company’s units in Brazil, more specifically in Santa Catarina and Paraná Southern states, where we have our forests. With these communities we take special care, we run surveys and studies so that our social projects impact where they are needed most. But throughout the country we have at least 18 voluntary initiatives.

– Could you name one project of major relevance?

This year we are working with communities’ needs in a deep and smart way, in order to understand their needs and to know how they fit into what the company believes before implementing programs. One of the initiatives is “Learning with the Tree Project”, which is in its 23rd edition and trains public school teachers with themes that have always been related to the UN agenda. Two years ago, we launched the program with the 17 sustainable development goals, to present them more generally. Last year, we worked on goal 15 and land life, and this year we talked about water, goal 6. Approximately 200 teachers are trained each year, many of them coming from poor municipalities, without access to didactic material to implement the projects. So the company provides not only content, but also promotes debate and donates the material to the schools. Our goal is to reach out to children so they grow more aware and environmentally responsible. It is long-term, and they take this knowledge home, being agents of transformation and questioning.

– How can sustainability be good business?

Within the PPP philosophy, all these actions will give sustainability to the business over time. Performance is the financial health that, globally, is aimed at the investor. In Brazil, we think of performance as a profitable business that is sustainable to pay suppliers and reinvest in what we believe in. Our commitment goes beyond our operations – we have a code of conduct for suppliers to meet the goals of integrity, employee well-being and safety.

– What is your vision of corporate social responsibility within the company?

Our desire is to continue to be one of the companies that innovates and brings solutions to the customer but thinking from the forest point of view, passing through the paper mill and arriving in cardboard, which is our biggest business. We want to innovate in a responsible and committed way, in order to to minimize impact. In addition, we seek to involve employees, suppliers, customers and communities, to work always in a more holistic sustainability way.

Horyou, the social network for social good, supports social innovative initiatives that help the world to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Horyou is the organizer of SIGEF, The Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum. Be the Change, be Horyou!

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Entrevista em português

Responsabilidade social corporativa define a sustentabilidade nos negócios

Professores participantes do Projeto Aprendendo com a Árvore (PACA)

A empresa de papel e embalagens WestRock é uma gigante em seu mercado – com mais de 14 bilhões de faturamento global, a companhia vem apresentando boa saúde financeira nos últimos anos. A sustentabilidade nos negócios está intimamente ligada à preocupação com a sua cadeia de fornecedores, clientes e comunidades nos entornos das fábricas da empresa. Entrevistamos Cynthia Wolgien, gerente de Comunicação Corporativa e Responsabilidade Social da WestRock no Brasil, que fala sobre os programas comunitários da companhia e sua visão de futuro.

– Conte um pouco sobre o envolvimento da WestRock com projetos de sustentabilidade.

Trabalho há seis anos à frente da área de comunicação externa e responsabilidade social e na WestRock as duas áreas estão intimamente ligadas. A sustentabilidade sempre esteve nas nossas práticas e, à medida que o mundo foi avançando, a empresa foi evoluindo com elas. Nos últimos anos passou a pensar de maneira mais centralizada nas diversas dimensões da sustentabilidade e esse ano será o primeiro que lançará relatório de sustentabilidade, alinhado com relatório global que a empresa lançou no ano passado. No Brasil, nossas empresa é de capital fechado e não tem obrigação de lançar relatório de sustentabilidade nos padrões para investidores. Por isso temos a liberdade de falar para outros stakeholders, comunidades, clientes, sem o viés da obrigação. O que norteia o nosso trabalho são os três pilares que chamamos de PPP: Pessoas, Planeta e Performance.

– Quais são as regiões do País onde estão concentrados os programas de RSC?

A grande maioria das ações de RSC estão no entorno das unidades da empresa no Brasil, mais especificamente em Santa Catarina e Paraná, onde temos nossas florestas. Com essas comunidades temos um cuidado especial, fazemos levantamentos e estudos para que nossos projetos sociais tenham impacto onde elas mais precisam. Mas em todo o país temos pelo menos 18 iniciativas voluntárias.

– Você poderia citar um dos projetos de maior relevância na área de sustentabilidade?

Esse ano estamos trabalhando com as necessidades das comunidades de maneira profunda e de forma inteligente, para entender seus anseios e saber como eles se encaixam com o que a empresa acredita antes de implementar programas. Uma das iniciativas é o Projeto Aprendendo com a Árvore (PACA), que está em sua 23a edição e capacita professores da rede pública com temas que sempre estiveram relacionadas com a agenda da ONU. Há dois dois anos, fizemos o lançamento do programa com os 17 objetivos de desenvolvimento sustentável, para apresentá-los de maneira mais geral. No ano passado, trabalhou vida terrestre, objetivo 15, e esse ano falou da água, objetivo 6. No total, aproximadamente 200 professores são capacitados por ano, muitos deles provenientes de municípios carentes, sem acesso a material didático para implementar os projetos. Então a empresa providencia não só o conteúdo, mas promove o debate e doa o material para implementação do projeto na escola. Nosso objetivo é chegar às crianças, para que elas cresçam mais conscientes e ambientalmente responsáveis. É longo prazo, e que levem esse conhecimento para casa, sendo agentes de transformação e questionamento.

– Por que a sustentabilidade pode ser um bom negócio?

Dentro da filosofia do PPP, todas essas ações darão sustentabilidade ao negócio ao longo do tempo. A performance é a saúde financeira que, globalmente, é voltada ao investidor. No Brasil, pensamos performance como ter um negócio rentável que seja sustentável para pagar fornecedores e reinvestir no que acredita. Nosso compromisso vai além das nossas operações – temos um código de conduta para fornecedores para que eles cumpram metas de integridade, bem-estar dos funcionários e segurança.

– Qual é a sua visão de futuro para a responsabilidade social corporativa na empresa?

Nosso desejo é continuar sendo uma das empresas que mais inova e traz soluções para o cliente mas pensando desde o ponto de vista da floresta, passando pela fábrica de papel e chegando no papelão ondulado, que é nosso maior negócio. Queremos inovar de maneira responsável e comprometida, para minimizar impactos. Além disso, buscamos envolver funcionários, fornecedores, clientes e comunidades, para trabalhar sempre com esse viés de sustentabilidade mais holístico.

Horyou apoia as iniciativas de inovação social que ajudam o mundo a alcançar os Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável, e é organizadora do SIGEF, o Fórum de Inovação Social e Ética Global. Seja a mudança, seja Horyou!

Cities which use technology to provide a better quality of life to its people are following the right path to become smart and prosperous.

Barcelona, Spain

A few months on the first 5G networks started operating in the United States and China, the technology market is already gearing up for the massive impact of hypervelocity networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) in everyday life in cities. For many experts, the revolution has already started: we have reached the era of 5G cities where smartphones, drones, cars and connected industries will be the tools for governments to predict the future. Most cities’ main goal is to create an environment where people can thrive to face less inequality and bureaucracy, and have more access to information regarding their rights and the public services they are entitled to.

“The age of connectivity has been reached and will benefit billions of citizens around the world,” says Mats Granrys, general director of the GSM Association, the European trade body which represents mobile operators. In practice, while 5G is still waiting for organizations and governments’ approval of technical specifications, top US and European phone operators have entered an aggressive race to turn cities into technological hubs.

Vodafone, which is doing 5G tests in Milan, Italy, aiming at providing the city with 80% coverage, is one of them. The project is to transform Milan into a data lab, using interconnected drones and fixed cameras to oversee mobility and security. Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone Group, foresees technologies such as digitally-integrated ambulances with hospitals, where remote consultations and vital data exchange will help to make the rescue process more efficient and speedy. Cameras and drones also improve event management and act as support for city security by allowing authorities to create alternative traffic routes in real time, for example. Together with the local government, Vodafone is also working with small entrepreneurs on the project. “The idea is to create an ecosystem of experimentation. Technology can be the great solution to generate more productivity, business and jobs in cities”, he says.

Jean Pierre Bienaime, general secretary of the European infrastructure association 5GIA, says cities like Barcelona in Spain and Bristol in the United Kingdom, are the next smart 5G cities. “From measuring the environmental impact of pollution to digital monitoring and automatic management of ports, there will be a radical transformation in public and private management”, he affirms. Bienaime believes that cities must focus on Public/Private Partnerships to ensure the success of the initiatives.

Companies, in particular telephone operators, are taking the first steps in regional data analytics initiatives with the potential to become smarter with technology. Telefonica, for example, inaugurated a project in São Paulo, Brazil, that uses traffic data to predict high levels of air contamination up to 48 hours in advance. The system uses the signals emitted by smartphones to draw a matrix of mobility and understand the pattern of people’s displacement. “As urban traffic is a key predictor of pollution, we have been able to identify the problem before it happens,” says Pedro Alarcon, Head of Telefonica in the Big Data for Social Good area. He adds that the project was born as a sustainability action but ended up becoming a marketable product, thanks to the government’s interest in acquiring the service. “The next steps with the arrival of the 5G networks will be to implement the IoT to be even more precise,” he says.

One of the benefits of the new generation of Internet, according to 5GAI’s Bienaime, is the wide coverage of networks and the minimization of service failures. In Brazil, for example, the association is developing international cooperation projects in remote regions, with the goal of bringing connectivity and the internet of things to benefit sectors such as agriculture.

In a speech in February this year at the Mobile World Congress, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim highlighted the role of the mobile industry in economic growth and the end of inequality. “Smartphones are dream accelerators,” he says. The presence of mobile networks and connected devices in communities in poor countries, he explains, enables communities to access new business, as well as education and autonomy.

Yong Kim cites such examples as Manila in the Philippines where a public-private initiative for open data was launched to monitor traffic, which generates daily losses of more than $ 60 million, or India, where data points to the regions of cities most affected by pollution and allow institutions to invest in housing and the environment. “The internet of things can unite us to reduce extreme poverty,” he says.

Many of these social innovation projects are laboratories for operators to work with broader solutions in cities and regions with different profiles, regardless of the degree of economic development. “By combining mobility data with other sources, operators can create a business case to support decision making and planning by governments and NGOs,” says Granrys from GSM Association.

The host city of SIGEF 2018 is a reference in MedTech and new technologies as indeed Singapore aims to be at the upfront of a promising market with the right setup to attract both investors and innovators.

(Photo: RENDY ARYANTO/VisualVerve.SG)

Singapore is home to more than 60 MedTech companies which are mainly focused on research to develop new and innovative health care approaches. It is, indeed, a promising market. According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Asian medical technology market is expected to be the world’s second-largest by 2020, with a promise of a better life expectancy and quality of life.

In the last few years, the government has made a big effort to build a welcoming infrastructure for these businesses, either by investing in patient care based on a talent pool with big data and analytics skills, or by developing a supportive ecosystem which counts on research institutions, universities and startups, all of which provides the MedTech companies with a rich and fruitful research and development hub.

This ecosystem allows for companies like Tictrac – an app developing company which focuses on tracking health data and giving tips and information to its users -, to come up with solutions for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases. In a recent interview, Martin Blinder, Tictrac CEO, confided that: “It is for people to find reliable information about the best way to reduce risk and improve their health. After meeting their doctor, people go home with some very high-level information, often go online and end up finding a lot of contradictory information or dangerous fat diets”. The company has a partnership with the Singaporean Ministry of Health, which aims to use more technology to prevent and manage diseases.

The successful combination of a friendly environment for MedTech innovation and public-private partnerships has pushed many companies to be more willing to invest in this market. In the last few years, a number of Singaporean IT businesses have set up MedTech operations in order to profit from the market’s good prospects. The electronic manufacturer Venture Corp is one of them and has been shifting their investment to LifeSciences and Medical Technologies, which now represent 43% of their revenues.

In a speech at a MedTech event last year, the Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran stressed the importance of investing in new health care technologies knowing that populations are getting old and that artificial intelligence is taking over most industries. “We know that the nature of jobs is changing profoundly, as technology and automation play an increasing role in driving innovation and operations,” he said. “We need to transform our societies and economies to become more age-friendly, and turn longevity into a positive force for economic and social development.”

The host city of SIGEF2018 next September is thus the perfect place to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Organized by Horyou, it will include a special panel on MedTech.

As the team leader of the Global Perspectives Studies from FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Lorenzo Bellù studies the impact of agriculture in our daily lives. Is humanity threatened by mass food production techniques? Should we all go organic? I talked to him and brought you answers to these and other questions.

Photo: UNDP

Regarding the Zero Hunger goal, how can we overcome the challenge to produce healthy food for all?

I understand healthy food as safe food, which means is not poisonous or damaging, and then containing sufficiently nutrients, vitamins and proteins. On the other side, it is a healthy combination of healthy food. You can use healthy food and have an unhealthy diet. I’m saying that in terms of abuse of animal proteins, for example. Food may be healthy but the way you use it or abuse it can be unhealthy.

That being said, how to produce healthy food for an ever-growing global population?

There is a debate about whether farmers should use organic versus conventional techniques. I’m not against organic, but a key question is whether producing organic food is something that can actually feed the planet now and in the future. This question is an issue that still needs to be researched. Having said that, this doesn’t mean conventional agriculture doesn’t require investigation. In general, we need to identify sustainable ways of producing to achieve the SDGs, but we don’t have the answers. Moving food along the sustainable pattern require investigation, investment, commitment.

Are technology and social innovation helping with providing solutions to the increasing global demand for food?

We are going to face several challenges, one of them is in front of us, how to produce more food with fewer resources – water, land and greenhouse gas emissions. Technology may help us to use less water or using it in a more efficient way, it is something that may evolve a lot. But this requires knowing the moment when crops need water and the quantity. So technology can help with finding ways of dealing with antimicrobial resistance. The use and abuse of chemicals, medicaments, antibiotics to deal with animals and plants diseases cause resistance. Technology can discover new remedies ant the better use of the current ones.

Conventional agriculture has shown limitation in terms of excess withdrawal of water, fertility of soils, what has been useful so far to feed global expanding population now cannot be on the future, we are facing deflation of biodiversity. We must change the way of doing and producing things by spreading existing knowledge, investing more in research and development, infrastructure, know-how and expertise of people. We don’t have preconceived solutions. To move around these ways you need political commitment, private investment and the participation of all actors.

What is the role of consumers and their personal choices in order to push for a more sustainable agriculture?

I believe that the role of consumers is crucial now and it’s going to be crucial in the future. First of all, the consumer can decide to move personal diets into more healthy food. In developed countries, for example, where there is an excess of animal products consumption, we can move to more sustainable diets, because animal processing is very intense on gas emissions. (By eating too many animal products), I am not going to help myself and other people and I put pressure on the market, contributing to raising prices. Consumers are sovereign, what they decide can influence production and is going to be crucial to go on the sustainable path.

Many experts and influencers advocate for organic, regional, seasonal food. Is it part of the solution to make agriculture more sustainable?

It’s important to rely on trustworthy information and not ‘fake news’ sources concerning food. On internet you find everything, consumers have to be informed but not trapped getting wrong signals. Not all the websites are the same. But I believe consumers who want to privilege organic food may have their right to do that. I believe the awareness is a key factor also in pushing production techniques. I’m not saying that local food intended as self-sufficiency of small, regional areas is necessarily more sustainable than traditional. To some extent, exchange of food across different zones may help increase sustainability, so you are not forced to produce some kinds of food. If you live in a zone where water and land are under stress, there is no need to produce that to fulfill needs. So it doesn’t exist simple solutions to complex problems. But consumers who want strawberries in winter time need to know it’s not advisable. If they want cherries in December in Europe and they’re coming from Australia, it’s not environmentally sound. You can consume other things. We need to be wiser about what the implications are.

What should we be aware of working conditions and other social impacts of agriculture?

When we eat food at cheaper prices, we don’t count externalities like footprints as transport cost and pollution. We don’t fully internalize the costs of gas emissions. The food is cheap, I consume it, but environmentally and socially it may not be cheap. Prices are signals the consumer receive, but the cost of polluting water sources may not be reflected in these prices. Food may come at cheaper prices because people work with indecent wages and conditions. In some parts of the world, labor conditions are not acceptable, that’s why FAO push member countries do adopt legislation to impose decent working conditions. FAO avocates for responsible investment in agriculture, respect for the environment, local values, right to food, access to resources to small holders. It may imply higher costs, but the consumers have to be aware of what they consume and if it comes from countries which actually respect these conditions. If we move in that direction we may be close to achieve the SDGs.

Horyou is a strong supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This article highlights challenges and solutions for SDG12 – Responsible consumption and production.

Organized by the United Nations in Geneva, the World Summit of the Information Society discussed the role of technology in building a better future

Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, speaking at WSIS Forum

A big welcome to the future we all want – with more technology, creativity and innovation at the service of a fairer society. That was the message that this year’s 4-day WSIS Forum, whose motto was Leveraging ICTs to Build Information and Knowledge Societies for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, opted to convey to the rest of the world.

Entrepreneurs, government officials, organizations and members of the civil society tackled some of the most important challenges facing the modern world which included those relating to protection of the environment, inclusion of vulnerable social groups, promotion of small businesses and furtherance of artificial intelligence for human rights.

Horyou, the social network for social good, joined two panels, alongside high-level members of international organizations, as well as the private and public sectors. During the High Level Policy Session on Financing for Development and the Role of ICT, Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, spoke about the skills required from social entrepreneurs. «It’s great to see how youth is engaged in social entrepreneurship to make a difference and do good. At Horyou, we believe in technology with a purpose, which requires courage and optimism», he stated.

On the sensitive issue of promoting equality through information and technology, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the UN, regretted that “as fast as advances are occurring, they are not taking place fast enough in many areas” and called to “bring the whole world online so everyone can benefit from ICTs”.

It was nevertheless underscored that governments are indeed making progress in democratizing access to technology. Case in point, Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Salem, ICT Minister of Saudi Arabia, highlighted that the Kingdom has invested in state-of-the-art technology to equip its public institutions. «In 2018, ICT investment has grown by 6% over 2017 and, by 2020, we will furnish thousands of public institutions with optic fiber”, he stated.

The panel Women in ICT, moderated by Cintia Pino, Horyou’s Head of Marketing and External Relations, female executives from non-profit and private organizations discussed the ways to engage more girls and women in technology. Leading women figures including Sonja Betschart, co-founder of WeRobotics, an organization which uses drones to promote technology in developing countries, and Trisha Shetty, a UN Young Leader who advocates gender equality, showcased their success stories and their activism for social good.

Government officials were an important part of the event, as many high-level conferences were organized to debate policies and share success stories. Dr. Chérif Diallo (ICT), from Senegal, presented his country’s digital strategy for 2025 and Ms. Aurélie Zoumarou (ICT) from Bénin, highlighted the efforts to include more women in technology.

At the closing ceremony, Mr Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), declared that «WSIS 2018 has shown how the power of ICT can be leveraged to make progress on a range of important issues, from gender equality to cybersecurity and the Internet of Things». Mr Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Chairman of WSIS 2018, thanked the audience and panelists with words of hope and optimism. «Connectivity and the Internet can play an essential role in the endeavors to achieve inclusion and equality», he affirmed.

The Mobile World Congress which is one of the most important global events in mobile technology and innovation that supports the UN SDGs has announced a partnership with the World Bank to improve development through Big Data.

The MWC venue in Barcelona

The 2018 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place last week in Barcelona, has reached remarkable results. Gathering more than 107,000 participants and 2,400 companies who exhibited their devices and business solutions, the event is known for the new technologies that are yearly presented to the general public. From self-driven cars to smartphones, and from smart homes to drones, everything seems to gravitate around electronics and software.

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Last year, the GSM Association, representative of the mobile operators and organizer of the MWC, launched the initiative Big Data for Social Good, which gathers now 19 companies and foundations committed to supporting developing countries, foster education, improve the conditions of refugee camps and encourage startups that develop solutions to empower minorities.

This year, the MWC social good project took another step forward. With the motto of Creating a Better World, the 2018 edition heavily supported the Sustainable Development Goals. The GSMA partnered with Barcelona artists to illustrate the unique role Mobile is playing in supporting the SDGs and created visual characters to represent the mobile industry impact in supporting each one of the goals. The audience had the opportunity to learn about the SDGs and to know the role of the mobile industry to reach every one of them.

During the event, GSMA announced a partnership with the World Bank to leverage Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to communities and countries in need, fighting poverty and enhancing economic development. «With IoT and big data, we have the ability to provide insights that can be used across a wide range of applications, from agriculture to environmental protection and beyond», said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, praised the initiative and made a call for more stakeholders of the mobile industry to do more against poverty. He particularly mentioned the impact of the 5G implementation, planned to start in the US and China by the end of the year, on improving people’s lives. «We must ensure it will create new markets and jobs for the poorer countries. It’s urgent to rethink tech and connectivity roles and how they will create new drives of economic development», he said.

During the many conferences dedicated to the impact of technology on society, companies showcased projects and strategies to improve connectivity and inclusion through technology. Vodafone Foundation, for example, is installing emergency wifi networks in refugee camps and in areas affected by natural disasters. Oisin Walton, programme manager for the Foundation, showcased an education project that started in the Kakuma refugee camp, in Kenya, which consists of a digital classroom that is now spread to 31 schools in 4 countries. The project is a result of a partnership with the UNHCR. «There’s a huge potential to do things together. We believe in innovation as a combination of partnership models and technology solutions», he stated.

Many other companies focused on including and empowering impaired people, like MJN Neuroserveis, which developed a device that predicts an epilepsy seizure 1 minute before it happens, Wayfinder, an audio solution with geolocalization for blind people, and Iris Bond, which helps paralyzed patients to communicate through their eyes.

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