Category: Climate Change (Page 1 of 3)

Join the King’s Climate Action Network

Recognising the urgency of the climate emergency, King’s set the ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2025 in March 2017The university has made significant progress on reducing emissions so far, reducing total carbon emissions by 41% since 2005-06. This year, we are launching the King’s Climate Action Network (King’s CAN) to develop a strategy that will take us to net zero carbon 

An image of solar panels at King's, with the text "Join the King's Climate Action Network"

King’s CAN will be an open, interdisciplinary forum to bring together the skills and energy from across King’s to take climate action. The network will tackle a wide range of impact areas, including our university operations, procurement, travel, research and education.  

The aim of the network is to propose solutions to the climate crisis by minimising our negative impacts, and maximising the positive impact we can have in our role as a university. 

We are now looking for staff and students to join the King’s Climate Action Network and help us lead King’s to be net zero carbon by 2025. There will be regular events throughout the year, and you can get involved in one or more of the groups below, each looking at a different aspect of carbon and climate change: 

  • Zero carbon estate (energy and water use, sustainable construction) 
  • Procurement and waste (purchasing policies and data, waste management) 
  • Travel (flights, business travel and commuting) 
  • Responsible investment (divestment from fossil fuels, investment in socially responsible funds) 
  • Students & Education (formal and informal education on climate change and sustainability) 
  • Community & Engagement (creating a positive impact as part of our net zero carbon target) 
  • Zero carbon research  

Groups will be made up of staff, students, and members of the wider King’s community such as alumni, partner institutions and local community members. We hope that through this network, we can build meaningful positive change at King’s, and share our strategy and findings to benefit our wider community.  

We have now also opened applications for the King’s Climate Action Team, a volunteering opportunity for students who would like to get involved in the running of the network. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Sustainability Team in running network events and sub-groups, gaining leadership skill and experience of carbon management in institutions like King’s. Applications are open until Friday, 9th October. You can find out more here. 

The official launch will take place online on the 16th October. If you would like to find out more, please contact sustainability@kcl.ac.uk or visit the sustainability webpagesTo join the network, please register your interest here. 

Sustainability at King’s

To the new students joining King’s this September, welcome! We hope you’ll really enjoy your time at King’s, there is some much going on and there is truly something for everyone.

If you’re as passionate about sustainability as we are, here is a round up of a few things Sustainability at King’s has achieved so far – or plans to achieve (which you can be part of and support on too!):

  • King’s has a target to reduce it’s carbon by 43% by 2020 (from it’s 2005/06 baseline).
  • King’s has a net-zero carbon target set for 2025.
  • As of August 2020, a King’s Climate Action Network (CAN) has been established so students and staff can actively shape how King’s will achieve it’s net-zero carbon target by 2025. Form to join the network here.
  • Since 2017, King’s electricity has come from 100% certified renewable sources (wind power!).
  • The Sustainability Champions programme aims to influence behaviour change and empower our King’s students and staff to make the sustainable changes on the ground in their areas (whether that is an office, a classroom, research or teaching lab or a halls of residence). We started the programme in 2014 – starting with 17 champions, there are now 532 students and staff taking part.
  • You can apply to be a Sustainability Champion Assistant (role will be advertised on KCLSU volunteer platform – end of October/early November) – to help a staff champions team embed sustainability in their area and create projects you want to see introduced!
  • King’s has increased it’s recycling rate from 37% to 69% in 2020 (pre-COVID lockdown).
  • King’s Sustainability has now produced 3 Sustainability Reports – see them here for a more detailed look at how far we’ve come – but also where we still need to get to!
  • Sustainable Food is important to King’s – it has now achieved it’s second ‘Michelin star of sustainability’ – given by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
  • As part of the King’s Sustainable Food journey, you can attend the quarterly Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Steering Group meetings – to hear about what is going on in the world of sustainable food at King’s and suggest any ideas or projects you want to start.
  • Worked with King’s College Student Union (KCLSU) to establish a Sustainability team in the Union Development Committee – a group of 9 students, democratically elected each academmic year to improve the sustainability of the SU.
  • Created a Biodiversity Action Plan for all four campuses and sports grounds.
  • Sustainable communications – since Sept’ 2018, we have had 31 guest blogs written and published King’s students and staff on the Sustainability blog.

Finally, make sure to get in touch with us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk if you have any questions/ideas – and make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Newsletter to keep updated on events, volunteering opportunities and more!

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

A study in 2016 showed that London’s black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

Sustainability Week Event Review: Environmental Regulations & Policies in a Post-Brexit Era

This guest blog comes from Mathilde Funck Brentano and Irina Tabacaru who are the Director and Researcher at the King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment policy centre.

On Tuesday 11 February, the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted an exclusive panel event as part of King’s College London’s Sustainability Week. We welcomed Scott Ainslie (Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament), Adam Bartha (Director of EPICENTRE), and Professor Robert Lee (Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham) to discuss the future of environmental policies in the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The three speakers answered multiple questions, notably on the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union’s environmental law, as well as more specific topics such as air pollution and energy policies. The speakers clearly expressed their perspectives and gave the audience a fascinating insight into the post-Brexit debate on environmental regulations.

The Energy & Environment policy centre began the event with an audience-directed poll, featuring the question: ‘Do you think the UK should move forward with stricter environmental regulation after Brexit?’. After some time to reflect, the majority responded in favour of stricter regulation.

Following the survey, the panel began by discussing whether the UK should uphold European environmental standards after Brexit. While the speakers displayed little confidence in the ability of the current UK government to expand environmental regulations, all three argued in favour of furthering the existing policies. Drawing from his experience as a specialist advisor in the drafting of environmental legislation in Northern Ireland and Wales, Professor Lee highlighted the importance of compromise in reaching higher-level objectives in environmental regulations. In order to enable effective policies to be successful, the accessibility of environmental regulations ought to be improved. The discussion also mentioned the importance of changes in consumption habits to match governmental policies. Mr. Bartha expressed optimism regarding the United Kingdom’s prospects after Brexit. As he noted, one of the European Union’s main weaknesses is its bureaucratic aspect, and the fact that European policies are not implemented by all member states evenly. For example, member states in Eastern Europe respond differently to environmental policies than those in Northern or Western Europe. The United Kingdom now has the possibility to expand sustainability-related regulations more freely across its territory, and avoid the European Union’s precautionary principles in the drafting of legislation, as well as the excessive allowances of the Emissions Trading System (ETS). Conversely, Mr Ainslie underlined the apparent lack of ambition demonstrated by the British government in regard to green policies, particularly when compared to European targets. The speakers also discussed the necessity of a kerosene tax, given the considerable amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by air transport.

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The discussion continued around the themes of Energy and Air Pollution. There was considerable disagreement between the speakers regarding the use and safety of shale gas as a potential alternative energy resource for the UK. The speakers’ views also diverged on the possibility of the UK reaching one hundred percent renewable energy use in the near future. Professor Lee also mentioned the importance of the UK finding its position concerning access to EU energy and, more importantly, pan-EU energy sources.

Our speakers expect that air quality standards will be upheld in the United Kingdom, despite its departure from the European Union. The British government has been tried several times by the European Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality standards. There is considerable public awareness on the topic, with approximately 28,000 to 36,000 pollution-related deaths in the UK every year. The necessity of tight cooperation between Westminster and local governmental bodies was put forth, as well as the urgent need for further enforcement.

Following the panelists’ discussion, the floor was opened to questions. The audience was extremely engaged in the discussion and interacted with the three panelists, raising a variety of issues, including the possibility of an EU-level meat tax. A captivating debate occurred regarding the theme of individual responsibility for climate change, as opposed to corporate and governmental responsibility. The high costs of sustainable and organic products, which represent a true burden for the average consumer, were extensively considered. The topic of waste management was also raised, following China’s decision to close its borders to foreign waste. Our panelists disagreed regarding the existence of the concept of ‘cyclical economy’, especially with reference to vehicles’ lithium ion batteries.

We would like to thank our three speakers for participating and sharing their thought-provoking insights with us. We would also like to thank the King’s Sustainability Team and KCLSU for their support in organizing our panel event. A big thank you also goes to our audience for being incredibly dynamic and engaged in the discussion. We look forward to welcoming you to King’s Think Tank events in the future!

SDG 9: Progress for better or worse?

This guest blog comes seventh 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’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

“We need to help these poor countries develop, to create industries that are able to compete globally, and better their lives” – as spoken by a British diplomat at a conference I recently attended. Without going into the problematic post-colonial mindset, it also raises a fundamental economic question (1). Underdeveloped countries need to develop. However, the so-called developed states are destroying our world. What will happen if all countries reach this level of industrialization?

SDG 9: Innovation, industrialization and infrastructure

The starting point of this goal, just as we’ve discussed with goal 8, is that industries are the core drivers of the global development agenda (2). Reliable infrastructures and technological innovations are necessary to deliver the other goals, such as health care, sanitation and access to education. Some goals, for example, can be delivered through internet services. However, around 3.8 billion people, mainly from the least developed countries, still lack internet access. The growth of industries is closely tied to the global political economy. As a result of increased trade barriers and tariffs in 2018, global manufacturing and associated employment slowed down.

The Targets: Manufactory, mobility and research

This goal includes three broad issue areas which is reflected in the wide variety of indicators (3). Three indicators directly target the development of industries, aiming to stimulate inclusive industrialization; to provide access to financial credit for small and medium enterprises; and to make existing industries more sustainable in terms of clean and efficient resource-use. In addition, industry developments are heavily dependent upon innovation and, as such, the indicators aim to encourage industrial research and development through policies. Lastly, to include everyone in the process of industrialization, the indicators underline the importance of broad access to reliable infrastructure, such as all-season roads, energy-transmission or internet. Developed countries can support developing countries by providing access to novel information, finances and technology.

World’s system theory (Wallerstein)

The central role of global political economy and trade has led to many critical scholars arguing the link between inequality and industrialization. One of the most influential is the world system theory, developed by the socialist Wallerstein in the late 20th century. This theory is influenced by the dependency theory and zooms in on the terms of trade (4). The main argument is that cheap labour and raw materials flow from low-income countries to high-income countries, who in turn, use these raw materials to manufacture goods which they sell for a much higher price back to low-income countries. This exploitative structure of trade and capitalism makes it difficult for low-income countries to escape.

The Entrepreneurial State

Given that this is a government-led development Agenda, it is interesting that innovation is part of this goal. Some people have argued that innovation should be left to the dynamic entrepreneurs of the private sector instead of bureaucratic governments. In her book ‘the entrepreneurial state, Mariana Mazzucato refutes this argument and aims to debunk the public versus private sector myths. In her study, she finds that the private sector only finds the courage to invest after an entrepreneurial state has made the high-risk investments. For example, every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded. She criticises economic growth by showing a dysfunctional economic dynamic where the public sector socializes risks, while private sectors gets the rewards.

Resource-efficient infrastructures

Infrastructure developments, such as roads, buildings, energy and water infrastructure, are really resource intensive. They account for almost half of the global footprint. As such, resource efficiency of infrastructure can be a major driver of the transition to sustainable development. The UN Environment recently published a policy brief (6) in which they argue that our current project-by-project approach to infrastructure planning results in inefficient service delivery. System-level approaches, on the other hand, can increase the efficiency as they are better able to respond to user needs and capture positive industry spill-overs. This type of approach considers the economic, social and environmental impact of infrastructure systems, sectors, their location and relevant governance framework throughout the entire lifecycle, enabling industrial symbiosis and product circularity.

What can you do?

  • Since this goal takes place on a systems-level, your first step is to inform yourself about issues such as global trade, international power imbalances and the grow-degrowth debate. There are plenty of resources. Books that I found useful are: ‘degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era’ and ‘a splendid exchange: how trade shaped the world’.
  • Use your dissertation to contribute to knowledge around these topics. Talk to lectures about what research question might fit your specific programme and use your outcomes to start dialogues with different groups of people, such as policymakers, NGOs or firms.
  • Due to the high level of abstractness, it is especially important to put pressure on your local, regional, national and international political representatives by tweeting, writing, voting, etc. to make sure they implement good policies.

References

(1) For a more elaborated discussion about economic growth, you can read the blog on SDG8 I wrote last month.

(2) Read more about why this goal matters: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/9.pdf

(3) Specific indicators, targets and progress can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg9

(4) An easy and fun way of learning more about the system theory is through this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRLd7xJNn14

(5) Buy the book at your local bookshop or watch the four things you need to know in 60 seconds: https://marianamazzucato.com/entrepreneurial-state/

(6) The UN policy brief can be found here: https://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/sites/default/files/downloads/resource/Policy%20Brief%20-%20Making%20Infrastructure%20Resource%20Efficient.pdf

Vegan Story #2 – Jessie Hardcastle

This guest blog comes courtesy of Jessie Hardcastle, staff member working as the Fit for King’s Manager within the Estates & Facilities Department. 

Jessie’s Vegan Story

When I joined King’s in June 2009 I quickly thought “what a wonderful place to work” – you know when you just find yourself looking forward to getting out of bed in the morning to see your colleagues? I knew this was my kind of place, filled with my kind of people.

10 years later in a very different job and working alongside completely different people I still think that. For lots of reasons. But certainly when Vision 2029 rolled out and the university announced that we are striving to make the world a better place all my personal values (which definitely also drive me at work) hummed happily.

Recently King’s has kept me humming happily even more than usual – because it doesn’t seem to matter which campus I’m on, I can find a vegan breakfast, vegan lunch and perhaps even more importantly – vegan cake for “elevensies”. I use to venture more onto the high street to find vegan options (there are plenty of options there too!) but frankly, the variety of options at King’s tends to be better.

I went vegan for a fairly common reason – I didn’t like the idea of killing an animal for a meal myself, and I didn’t want someone else to do it for me. And when I looked into it, other animal products were not separate to but part of that same industry.

This was a little over 18 years ago when I was still living in Auckland. Without wishing to sound like your plant-based-gran, I can’t help but tell you that “back in those days we didn’t have things nearly so easy.”

I remember one evening, not long after going vegan, I complained to my Mum the only thing I could eat in the fridge were three peppers. “At least there is a red, a green and a yellow one” she said!

Thankfully I enjoy a lot more variety than that now. And despite how that sounds, my family actually quickly became very supportive. I’ve also very rarely had any stigma from my friends and colleagues that wasn’t meant in good humour.

The biggest change in my life recently was giving birth to a baby girl in September 2018. I was secretly worried I might have a small baby that people would claim to be malnourished because of my vegan diet. Enter Charlotte Grace, weighing a whopping 9lb 14oz and quick to dispel that myth. Now a healthy sized toddler, she’s has a good appetite, definitely thriving and eating a wide variety of food. She shared some veggie sushi with me the other day, bravely trying new food without the bat of an eye. That might have been a different story if I’d includes the wasabi mind you.

Going vegan is so clearly linked with my other life choices, that how I spend my money, time and energy can help shape the world I want to live in. And for me, that includes working for an organisation that wants to make the world a better place.

8 tips for a sustainable christmas by Giki

This guest blog comes courtesy of Jo Hand, Co-founder of Giki Badges, mobile app which helps to  inform and understand the impact of your UK supermarket products to guide a more sustainable lifestyle.

As the Christmas buying season gets into full swing, the plethora of choice in food, presents and holiday options can often feel a little overwhelming. But if you put a sustainability filter on your shopping trips, it can make for a happy green Christmas. Here are 8 ideas to get you started.

Avoid unsustainable palm oil

Palm Oil is used in mince pies, Christmas pudding, chocolates, gravy and lots more Christmas goodies. If it is not produced sustainably, it can cause deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, which is threatening species such as Orangutans, tigers and rhinos. But it’s possible to find sustainable or palm free options. Just check what you buy on The Giki app.

Try organic food

The great thing about Christmas is we cook so much from scratch, so have more choice over our ingredients. Although organic can be more expensive, a little planning to maximise leftovers can help reduce costs.  Organic farming is significantly better for biodiversity, because no artificial chemicals are used and this means more insects and wildlife. It is also much better for soil health.  You can get organic fruit, vegetables and meat in the supermarket, or via deliveries like Riverford and Abel and Cole.

Cut down on waste

This is great for the wallet and the environment. Food waste is responsible for up to 3% of our total environmental impact, or 16% of our food footprint[1]. So planning can help, and if you are still stuck with too many leftovers, put them on Olio. It’s a great way to make sure your food doesn’t go to waste, because plenty of other people might be keen to have it.

[1] Giki analysis based on an average UK diet with high levels of waste.

Streamline your food packaging

Wherever you can, buy food with better packaging, which you can recycle. You can check this on Giki, just scan and look for the green Better Packaging badge. No packaging is usually best, but often very hard to find. Recyclable packaging, as minimal as possible comes next. Both these options will help reduce waste to landfill.

Get arty with your wrapping paper

When it comes to wrapping paper, it can be a minefield. Much of it is nt recyclable, and we throw away over 100 million rolls every Christmas! So if you have an artistic streak, or kids who do, why not wrap in plain brown FSC paper (this hasn’t usually been bleached) and decorate it with your own picture. All the extras of ribbons and bows, tend to go straight to landfill and not buying them saves money!

 

Go for a family secret santa

This is a great way with a large group on Christmas day for adults or kids to give and receive one special present, rather than loads that can feel overwhelming. It also helps cut back on the £2 billion worth of unwanted Christmas presents every year! It is even rumored the Royal family enjoy a Secret Santa!

Give the gift of experience

Instead of stuff, why not take someone out, or give your time or expertise. Offering your amazing babysitting skills to a sibling with young children, might be their favourite present yet! Or adopt them an animal from WWF or other charities.

 

Keep your feet on the ground

Flying significantly increases your carbon footprint. Flying economy class to Cape Town, or the Dominican Republic emits over 3 tonnes of CO2 – which is the same amount emitted by felling 4 acres of rainforest. A lower carbon option is to enjoy our UK Christmas  traditions, or try the train to Europe.With over 2/3 of Brits now thinking about buying a present that has a positive social or environmental focus this year, 2019 is definitely a year of environmental awakening.

SDG 8: Economic Growth or Degrowth?

This guest blog comes sixth 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’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs. 

The SDGs as a framework are contested. The main criticism is that the goals are contradictory. In particular, SDG 8 has been accused of violating all other SDG objectives. Whereas the SDGs call to protect the planet, this goal aims for economic growth. A recent study showed that if global growth continues to rise with three percent per year, we will not be able to reduce CO2 emissions rapidly enough to keep temperature increases below 2 Celsius [1].

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

The core idea behind this goal is that all must share in global progress. Decent employment opportunities create fair globalization and has the potential to reduce poverty. It can also provide legitimacy for our ‘social contract democracy’ and function as a pillar for peace and stability. In 2017, 5.6 per cent of the global population was unemployed. Moreover, to keep up with the growing number of people that fall within the ‘working age’, we need to create around 30 million additional jobs per year [2]. A job, however, does not always suffice; 783 million people that do have a job, still don’t earn enough to supply for their families.

The Targets: Growth, Employment and Working Conditions

This goal has three main elements: increase economic productivity, create jobs and improve working environments [3]. Economic growth trajectories vary per country. The least developed countries should increase their annual GDP by 7 percent through diversification, technological upgrading, innovation, tourism and access to banking. Increasing GDPs are expected to create more jobs, which should come with safe and secure working environments and provide equal pay for work of equal value. The most contested target is around ‘decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation’, in which green consumption should ensure that growth can happen within planetary boundaries.

Business Power and Sustainability

In his new book, professor Ponte [4] criticizes ‘green capitalism’ based on this decoupling. His arguments underline what many critics say: sustainable growth doesn’t tackle the main issues of production and consumption. Although the ecological impact per product might decrease, continuous expansion of production and consumption lead to a limited overall impact. In other

words, we cannot just buy our way out of the environmental crisis as consumption is at the heart of the problem. He suggests that to respect our planetary boundaries, we need to think about alternative ways of making the economy work, ranging from prosperity without growth to degrowth and eco-socialism.

Modern Slavery UK

Although contested, SDG 8 also touches upon important labour issues, such as modern slavery. Slavery is often associated with the past or far away countries. This is wrong because slavery is, unfortunately, thriving in the UK. In 2019, the English and Welsh police recorded 5,059 cases modern slavery. This is just a tip of the ice-berg; the real number of victims is approximately between 10,000 and 13,000 [5]. Someone is considered a slave if they are forced to work by threat, owned by an employer, treated as a commodity and limited in their freedom. Most people are trafficked into the UK from overseas and forced into jobs within the agriculture, construction, hospitality, manufacturing and car washes industries or sold as sex or domestic slaves. Unseen is an UK NGO fighting to eliminate slavery [6].

Gig Economy

Labour offences also happen is more subtle ways. Over time concerns have been mounting around the ‘gig economy’, which is characterized by a workforce that is based on short-term contracts or freelance work. Think for example about delivery couriers, Uber drivers and Task Rabbits. Many student jobs with zero-hour contracts also fall within this category. The main concern is around unfair pay and lack of workers protection and rights, such as sick pay, minimum income or insurance for work related accidents. An interesting recent counter movement are ‘worker-owned apps’ aiming to create network of cooperative alternatives of decent work [7].

What can you do?

· Purchasing Power: Over-consumption is a big part of our current ecological crisis. Think twice before you buy something new. If you do need to buy something, think about where

you buy your products. Try to buy from local and small companies and check how the product is made (supply chain).

· Political Power: Voting and political participation matters! Use your political power to demand governments to put necessary regulation in place. Public policies required to reach SDG 8 include mandatory corporate due diligence, stimulating the low carbon economy and applying minimum wages throughout the value chain [8].

· Witness Power: Keep your eyes open for cases of modern slavery and report to your local authorities if you see a suspicious situation. In the UK, you can do this by calling the modern slavery helpline at 08000 121 700.

References:

[1] Hickel, J. (2019). The contradiction of the sustainable development goals: Growth versus ecology on a finite planet. Sustainable Development.

[2] As always, read more on why the UN thinks this goal matters here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Goal-8.pdf

[3] More on the goal, targets, indicators and their progress can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg8

[4] Especially the conclusion of professor Ponte’s new book on business power in sustainability through global value chains holds some strong arguments.

[5] Read the government’s report on modern slavery here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/840059/Modern_Slavery_Report_2019.pdf

[6] If you do one thing after reading this blog, then look at the TED talk of Kate Garbers, founder and director of Unseen, a NGO fighting modern slavery: https://www.unseenuk.org/modern-slavery/unseen-ted-talk

[7] This article of VICE tells more about how worker-owned apps provide a solution: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pa75a8/worker-owned-apps-are-trying-to-fix-the-gig-economys-exploitation?utm_campaign=sharebutton

[8] A few suggestions of the type of policies that we need can be found in this chapter: https://www.2030spotlight.org/en/book/1730/chapter/sdg-8-what-policies-are-needed-achieve-goal-8

Slow Fashion, Explained

The fashion industry has been going through a wave of change over the last few years. Powered by consumer demands for transparent supply chains powered by revelations the fashion industry has on the planet, people and animals. Brands are increasingly rejecting the principles of Fast Fashion, and instead, developing a slow fashion approach to fashion, for a more sustainable approach to making clothes.

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow Fashion is an approach and awareness to fashion, which considers the resources  and process required to make clothing. It is a sustainable mindset and action which involves  buying better-quality products, which will last longer and holds value for the fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.

The term ‘Slow Fashion’ was coined by Kate Fletcher, from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, following the slow food movement. Slow Fashion opposes the fast fashion model which emerged around 20-years ago.  As with the slow food movement, Fletcher saw the need for a slower pace in the fashion industry.

Some characteristics of a Slow Fashion brand

  • Made from high quality, sustainable materials (e.g. organic Fairtrade cotton, hemp, bamboo, Tencel)
  • Often in smaller (local) stores rather than large chain companies
  • Locally sourced, produced and sold garments

The movement of Slow Fashion

Pre-industrial revolution, clothing were locally sourced and produced. Clothing was typically more durable and could serve them for a long time. Clothing reflected the place and culture of the people wearing them.

Today’s Slow Fashion is seen as some these old ways coming back into focus.

Awareness from consumers demanding higher sustainability and ethical standards in clothing is increasing. Research shows, 19% of the top fast fashion-related searches are linked to the environment, ethics and sustainability. Slow fashion encourages us to buy less – and less often, but at higher quality and made from more sustainable processes.  It puts the emphasis on the skills of the people who make them and the quality resources gone into the product.

#GreenFriday

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