Category: Business (page 1 of 2)

Blog Series: SDG 2 – Food is Life

This week’s guest blog comes third in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs.  

Are you ready to rescue food? That is the motto of a Dutch restaurant called ‘InStock’. In response to the fact that one third of food production is wasted, they decided to create dishes solely with the unsold products from local supermarkets (1). Although we produce enough food to feed everyone, one in nine people (815 million) still go to bed on an empty stomach. After a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again because of conflict, droughts and disasters.

The Targets: Ending Hunger and Achieving Food Security

The targets underpinning SDG 2 address the access to and production of food, while supporting rural development and protecting the environment. By 2030, all people must have access to safe and nutritious food, and all forms of malnutrition must be ended. Malnutrition can, amongst other things, lead to growth cessation for young children and unborn babies. Furthermore, the agricultural productivity and income of small-scale food producers must be doubled in a sustainable way. Importantly, food production must be able to maintain ecosystems and the diversity of seeds, plants and animals, whilst being resilient to climate changes. Additionally, investments in agricultural should be strengthened, trade restrictions corrected, and extreme food price volatility limited.

The Situation: From Hunger to Health?

If current trends continue, the targets set in SDG 2 will be largely missed by 2030 (2). Malnutrition sits awkwardly with the large amount of food waste and increased levels of overnutrition and obesity. There are large in-country and intra-country differences, most notably between developed and developing countries. In the later, almost 13 percent of the people are undernourished, with peaks in Asia (33 percent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (23 percent). Alarmingly, poor nutrition is still the case of nearly half of deaths in children under five. To increase food security, governments must top up their spending on small farms, crop diversity and women’s access to agricultural resources.

 

The food security crisis in Yemen

An occurrence of food insecurity which illustrates the link with conflict and climate change, is Yemen (3). Yemen is ravaged by ongoing levels of conflict between the Yemen Government, backed-up by Saudi-Arabia, and Al Houthi opposition forces. Although the food security crisis in Yemen has been building up since 2004, recently the country has started to receive media attention as the situation was officially classified as a famine. Depreciation of the Yemeni riyal (YER) has resulted in continuously increasing prices of food and fuel, mainly affecting vulnerable parts of the population. The situation has been worsened due to the Tropical Cyclone Luban and the second outbreak of cholera. Of the 29.3 million inhabitants, approximately 17.8 million are food-insecure with 8.4 million severe cases. Without international action, the prognosis is that the crisis will deepen even further…

Universities Creating Partnerships for Zero Hunger

A Conference at the University of Wageningen (4) posed the question: How can we create partnerships that can rid the world of hunger and malnutrition? Insights included that there is a need for a good institutional environment allowing farmers to practice sustainable agriculture. What is more, malnutrition is not only an issue in developing countries. Even though healthy food might be available, it can be affordable to certain communities or there is a lack of knowledge on how to differentiate between unhealthy and healthy options.  Interestingly, Lawrence Haddad, director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, emphasized on making hunger uncomfortable for governments: “hunger and malnutrition are the result of choices about how we use our scarce resources. You can choose to use those resources differently”.

What can you do?

As a consumer, you have great power to increase food security. Use that power! A great initiative that empowers you to contribute to SDG 2, is the Chefs’ Manifesto Action Plan (5). Although targeted at restaurants, their lessons are relevant for everybody:

  • Know your food. Find information, for example on: (a) the ingredients in your products i.e. are these grown with respect for earth and oceans? Are the products seasonal? (b) the supply chain i.e. how many intermediates are there? How fair are workers’ wages? and (c) animal-welfare of diary, meat and fish products i.e. do producers ensure good living conditions?
  • Buy responsible. With the relevant knowledge, use your purchasing power to ensure sustainable production. Try to buy products from local producers through farmers markets, buy less meat and fish, eat seasonal fruit and vegetables and inform about the products at your favourite restaurant or lunch cafe.
  • Nourish yourself, friends and family. Good nutrition starts with yourself! Ensure your meals are nutritious and share this habit with your environment. And whilst you’re at it, plan your meals so there is no need to waste.

References:

  1. Do you want to know more about this concept? Please visit their website here.
  2. If you want to read more about progress towards SDG 2, you can visit the UN website here or the UNSTAT website here.
  3. To get an overview of the humanitarian and food crisis in Yemen, I used the fact sheet of USAID, which you can read here.
  4. Luckily for you, the whole conference is captured by video and available here.
  5. You can read more on the chef’s manifesto here.

Can fashion be sustainable?

Walking around London, we see countless advertisements for fashion retailers every single day. Especially today, on Black Friday, retailers are doing everything they can to convince us to spend more. But our love for fashion may be harming the environment: reports show that fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world.

To find out more, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which is a parliamentary select committee made up of MPs from across the political spectrum, launched an inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Last week, they held a public evidence hearing at the Victoria and Albert Museum, questioning fashion designers, upcyclers and innovators about how to fix the fashion industry’s environmental impact. We were in the audience for the hearing, and are bringing you our highlights of the morning’s discussions.

Source: Hubbub Foundation

The first thing that became evident was that there is no shortage of challenges to embedding sustainability into fashion. From ‘fast fashion’ being too fast to consider sustainable options to convincing manufacturers to return clothing scraps, fashion brands can face numerous obstacles. The good news is that there are plenty of ideas on how to change this. One interesting challenge is the scraps left over from pattern cutting. Designer Phoebe English told the audience to imagine a t-shirt, and then imagine the piece of fabric it was cut from. While the fabric offcuts used to be a resource and sold, they are now frequently discarded. But innovations are happening. In New York, non-profit organisation FabScrap collects this fabric waste and sells it to makers of all kinds (fashion students, sewists, quilters) at affordable prices. Some brands are also looking into zero-waste pattern cutting, where designs are laid out on the fabric in a way that eliminates cut-offs.

The hearing also showed that it’s not just brands who need to change, but also us consumers. The expert panel explained that even though clothes are becoming cheaper, we are spending more, as fast fashion leads us to buy larger quantities of increasingly disposable clothes. But while buying a new outfit may make us happy, the happiness from a new purchase typically wears off after three days. And if an item breaks, we often throw it away – adding to the tonnes of clothes sent to landfill in the UK every year. While some brands now offer free or paid repair services, this isn’t a widespread practice and the panel of experts felt that this was an area legislation could help push the industry in the right direction. One initiative could be making repairs VAT-free. Another idea was for the government to introduce better labelling for our clothes. In supermarkets, food is labelled with health warnings and information on its origin – but our clothes rarely contain warnings about the harmful chemicals they may have been treated with, or the environmental damage they caused.

Finally, sustainability in the fashion industry is not only about environmental sustainability. Increasingly, consumers want to know more about the social sustainability of their clothes. While the fashion industry provides employment for millions of women around the globe, the jobs are not up to scratch: pay is often poor, while working conditions are bad. Journalist Lucy Siege and founder of Eco-Age Livia Firth both pointed out that cheap clothes are only possible due to exploitation. In addition, Dr Offord MP explained that in a survey of 51 leading UK brands, 71% could not be sure that modern slavery had not occurred at some point in the supply chain. While the Modern Slavery Act was praised by the panel, many felt it does not go far enough in assigning legal responsibility. Organisations like IndustriALL Union are working to ensure garment workers everywhere in the world have the opportunity to join a union and fight for better working conditions.

With all these challenges, what can we as consumers do to make our fashion choices more sustainable?

Based on the information the panelists gave, we have put together our top tips for a more sustainable wardrobe:

  1. Buy less, but better
  • Say no to fast fashion! Try to only buy what you really love and know will wear, and try to buy better quality clothes that you can love for longer. While difficult to do on a student budget, vintage shops, charity shops and resale platforms like Ebay or Depop may help you find some bargains!
  1. Get yourself a new outfit for free
  • If you have some clothes you no longer want, why not try going to a clothes swap? You can usually bring clothes you no longer like, and swap them for other pre-loved items a t a clothes swap near you. If you live in King’s Residences, keep an eye out for any swaps your fellow students or the Residences Team are organising.
  1. It’s not just Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – you can also Rent
  • There are lots of places where you can now rent an outfit for a special occasion rather than buying it new.
  1. Repair and repurpose your clothes
  • If you can, try to repair your clothes instead of throwing them away, or alter them to give them a new look. There are more and more repair cafés popping up around the country, and some brands even offer repairs on their products.
  1. Look behind claims on labels
  • During the hearing, the panel pointed out that while terms like ‘organic cotton’ are protected, claims of ‘sustainable cotton’ may not be. As consumers, we can try to find out what is behind these claims to make sure brands are sticking to what they promise.

If you are interested in finding out more about the inquiry, all the latest information is available on the Environmental Audit Committee webpages. The next public hearing is taking place on the 27th November, and will include witnesses from various fashion retailers.  You can also watch the full footage of this public evidence hearing here.

 

 

 

 

King’s is an accredited Living Wage Employer

We are happy to say that King’s has officially become an accredited Living Wage Employer. Our commitment to paying our staff members the London Living Wage is an integral part of Vision 2029’s Service Pillar, demonstrating our commitment to society and our staff.

While King’s has been paying the London Living Wage since 2014, we have only just been made an accredited Living Wage Employer.

What is the Living Wage?

The Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is based on living costs. While the government introduced its own ‘national living wage’ rate for staff over 25 years of age in April 2016, this was not actually calculated against what employees and their families need to live.

The real Living Wage is paid by over 4,400 UK business who believe in ensuring that their employees receive fair pay and can afford to live on that pay. For London there is a separate rate taking into account higher living costs in the capital.

What does it mean to be an accredited Living Wage Employer?

Being an accredited Living Wage Employer means that King’s is committed to paying the real Living Wage to all our directly employed staff. In addition, King’s ensures that are on-site contractors, such as cleaners, are paid the London Living Wage.  King’s is also committed to annual pay increases linked to the cost of living.

What does it mean for staff members?

Not only does it ensure that staff members earn enough to live on, accreditation has many other benefits:

  • 75% of current accredited employers say it has increased motivation and retention rates for employees
  • 58% say that is improved relations between managers and their staff
  • 86% say that is has improved the reputation of the business

We’re happy to say that King’s is committed to ensure that it’s staff members receive a fair, liveable wage.

Become a Committee Member for Fetch Ur Veg

Are you interested in helping to promote sustainable food at King’s, as well as gaining experience at running a unique enterprise?

Fetch Ur Veg is a student-led food co-op, providing fresh, organic vegetable bags to students and they are currently looking for new committee members to take over from next year. As a committee member you will have the opportunity to gain practical experience on how small enterprises are run, as well as encouraging healthy, sustainable lifestyles to students on campus.

If you’re interested in any of the following roles please apply online.

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight! Join us this Friday for an event to celebrate Fairtrade

Fairtrade Fortnight puts a spotlight on trade, and the benefits fair and ethical trade has on the lives of farmers and workers who grow our food.  It takes place from the 26th February to the 11th March 2018, with a variety of events happening around the UK – including at King’s. 

The King’s Sustainability Team is excited to welcome Ketra Kyosiimire from the Ankole Coffee Producer’s Cooperative Union Ltd (ACPCU) in Uganda to King’s for this Fairtrade Fortnight event.  

Ketra is ACPCU’s accountant, giving her an oversight of all coffee production and sales, Fairtrade contracts and investment of the Fairtrade Premium in business improvements and community development. She’s also a farmer herself, and will speak about her experience of international trade and the difference Fairtrade can make from the producer’s perspective.  

ACPCU is an organisation supporting 17 Fairtrade certified cooperatives across southwest Uganda. There is a mixture of subsistence and commercial farmers in these multi-ethnic communities. Agriculture is the main source of income, and with assistance from Cafedirect, they have organised into a strong Union. They have created job opportunities, involved women and youth in their activities, and developed skills and long-term peace in their communities. ACPCU members now manage their coffee from farm to export; by avoiding intermediaries, members can maximise their incomes.  

The event will take place in Bush House, South Wing, 2.01/02 from 16:00-17:00 on Friday, 2nd March. Please sign up at https://fairtradefortnightkings.eventbrite.co.uk/ 

 

King’s is now a Fairtrade University

The Fairtrade Foundation has awarded King’s College London with Fairtrade University status. A Fairtrade University is one that has made a commitment to supporting and using Fairtrade.Fairtrade University FINAL CMYK.edit

The Fairtrade mark is widely recognised, and means that a product meets the social, economic and environmental standards set by the Fairtrade Foundation.  For farmers and workers, this includes the protection of workers’ rights and the environment; for companies it includes paying the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in projects of the community’s choice.

Over the last year, King’s and KCLSU have worked together to make King’s a Fairtrade University. A joint Fairtrade policy has been signed, committing the university and students’ union to supporting Fairtrade by providing Fairtrade products on campus and engaging students and staff in Fairtrade campaigns. Both King’s and KCLSU already sell a range of Fairtrade products on campus, including tea and coffee, chocolate, fruit and graduation t-shirts and hoodies. As well as making Fairtrade products widely and easily available to the university community, promoting the positive impact buying Fairtrade can have on lives across the world is a key part of being a Fairtrade University. During Fairtrade Fortnight in early March, Fairtrade was promoted through posters and special offers from King’s Food. Some Sustainability Champions teams got involved by organising their own initiatives, such as Fairtrade wine & chocolate tastings for their teams.

To ensure the improvement of not only Fairtrade, but the sustainability of all food at King’s, a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food steering group meets regularly to discuss these topics. The group is open to all, and if you are interested in finding out more please contact us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

The Fairtrade University award ties in with wider efforts to make food at King’s more sustainable. Earlier this year, King’s Food joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association and signed up to their Food Made Good programme, committing to sustainable sourcing and practices, as well as ethical standards.

King’s achieves ISO14001:2015 certification

King’s College London operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) across all campuses. In 2016, this system was externally audited at Strand Campus, and certified with the ISO14001:2015 standard.

This year, Estates & Facilities have worked to extend the certification to all campuses, including Residences and sports grounds. Following a successful external audit of all campuses, the Environmental Management System is now ISO14001:2015 certified across King’s Estates & Facilities. Professor Ed Byrne announced the great news at this year’s Sustainability Awards.

Solar panels on the roof of GDSA

Solar panels on the roof of GDSA

ISO14001 is an international standard which helps organisations use resources more efficiently and reduce waste. This achievement demonstrates the strong commitment and leadership for sustainability at King’s, which is apparent not only through the many initiatives underway, but through King’s Strategic Vision 2029, which has sustainability as one of the enabling foundations.

The EMS is at the heart of embedding sustainability at King’s, and takes a holistic view of the environmental impacts and risks arising from our activities. As well as minimising negative impacts, it drives improvement through identifying opportunities for King’s. One of the highlights noted in the audits were the opportunities for enhancing biodiversity. There is a lot of green space at our sports grounds, but even at our main campuses improvements have been made – such as the instalment of bird boxes and an insect hotel at Guy’s Campus.

BikeManMaughanLibrary420x280On achieving the certification, Nick O’Donnell (Acting Director of Estates & Facilities) said: “We’re delighted to receive the certification, and are very pleased to be recognised for the progress we are making in reducing our impacts. This is a fantastic achievement for all operational teams in Estates & Facilities and for our service partners, working across such a large and diverse organisation.”

Professor Edward Byrne speaks at the King’s Sustainability Awards 2017

On the 3rd July, the annual King’s Sustainability Awards took place at Strand Campus.

Professor Ed  Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.

His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:


 

Transcript:

“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.

So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.

So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.

As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].

We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.

Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.

Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.

Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.

I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].

This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.

Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.

In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.

In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”

King’s joins Sustainable Restaurant Association

King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.

Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.

Shot_10-044The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.

The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:

  • Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
  • Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing  and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
  • Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have:  the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.

In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.

In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.

Building the Open City

SomersetBeing in the centre of London, our campuses are predominantly urban spaces. However, there are ways sustainability and biodiversity can be built into the city.

To give people the opportunity to find out more about this, Open City have organised Green Sky Thinking.

Green  Sky Thinking is a week-long programme of open events around how to design a more sustainable London. During the week, there are 50+ events, ranging from site visits to presentations.

It runs from the 15th to the 19th May 2017, and registration for sessions is open.

To find out more about the programme, visit the Green Sky Thinking Website.

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