Category: Guest blogs (page 1 of 3)

Growing Food System Insecurity

This guest blog comes courtesy of Chloe Foster, third year undergraduate student in the War Studies Department and Student Assistant to the Social Science Public Policy (SSPP) Sustainability Champions. 

Climate change is set to impact our lives in a variety of ways, but one particular global system is set to experience drastic consequences. Our current food system is not secure enough to sustain the challenges of the future because of increased extreme weather conditions, decreased biodiversity and increased emissions. A model developed by Anglia Ruskin University found that if ‘do-nothing’ trends continue, by 2040, the global food supply will be facing food epidemics and mass insecurity.  This prediction suggests that SDG 2, Zero Hunger is not as achievable as previously thought. Whilst the aforementioned future challenges are not the whole list, this blog post will explore these main areas impacting global food security.

Extreme Weather Conditions

As the Earth’s temperature has risen, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased. Among others, these events include heat waves, drought and flooding. In autumn of last year, Nigeria faced huge flooding which directly impacted on food security and created shortages of rice. The USA has also experienced extreme weather recently; Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused mass devastation of civilian, commercial and agricultural property. Whilst these natural disasters often pose an immediate threat to human safety, they also threaten crop growth and yields. Climate change is set to reduce harvest yields by 11% on average globally by 2050 and compound the already problematic state of food security. Research conducted by Oxfam found that weather-related shocks have the potential to cause huge spikes in food prices and the average price of staple foods, like cereals, could more than double in the next 20 years.

(Source – Oxfam Issue Briefing, GROWING DISRUPTION, Climate change, food, and the fight against hunger, September 2013)

Upcoming event – A new 30-year record of global wildfire activity from the AVHRR GAC archive

22 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)

Decreasing Biodiversity

The Food and Agriculture Organisation published a report in February of this year, detailing the increasing loss of biodiversity and its vital role in our food systems. The microorganisms (such as insects, birds and fungi), animals (like hedgehogs) and plants act as fertilisers, pollinators and purifiers of the environment, ensuring the healthy growth of the world around us.  However, changes in the environment have led to biodiversity loss and the increased risk of increased food insecurity. Almost 1/3 of fish stocks are over fished, around 26% of breeds of livestock are at risk of extinction and 24% of wild food species numbers are decreasing.  However, biodiversity-friendly practices are being increasingly using in agriculture and conservation efforts are increasing across the globe. Whilst these efforts will reduce the speed of biodiversity loss, sustainable frameworks should be used more by governments to formalise these attempts. King’s is promoting biodiversity across its campuses. At Guy’s, there are insect houses and bird boxes, at the Strand campus events are often held on the subject and the installation of green walls and greener spaces are being looked into.

Upcoming event – Biodiversity conservation in the 21st century: Lessons from northeastern China

15 March 2019, 17:15 to 18:15 (Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London)

Emissions

The agricultural sector contributes to global warming in many ways. Research by Friends of the Earth, an environmental NGO, concluded that agriculture (including deforestation needed to create farmland) is responsible for roughly a 1/3 of global greenhouse gasses. The production of meat and dairy produce 51% of worldwide global emissions alone and their consumption is set to double between 2001 to 2050. These shocking figures highlight how our diets have a direct relationship to our carbon footprint and our responsibilities as consumers to make more eco-friendly choices. Changing our diets to be more plant-based and seasonal is an easy and effective way to live more sustainably. The Fetch-Ur-Veg scheme at King’s is a great way to get involved with this. With the scheme you get a weekly bag of amazing seasonally and locally produced fruit and vegetables, delivered straight to the Maughan library! If you’re stuck for recipes, take inspiration from their Facebook page!

Concluding Thoughts

Whilst these issues have solutions based in systemic change, there is still power in the individual. As such, I would still promote small changes that can be made to everyday life to reduce your impact on the earth. Eating a more plant-based diet, using more emission-friendly travel and being kind to the world around, individuals can also have a big impact, locally and in the bigger picture. Using http://www.footprintcalculator.org to work out your ecological footprint is a good place to start your sustainability journey!

King’s Venues Volunteer at Buses 4 Homeless

This guest blog comes courtesy of LaiHa Diamond and Craig Jennings, who are Sustainability Champions working for King’s Venues

Over a month ago King’s Venues met Buses 4 Homeless CIC at The HBAA annual dinner. Dan Atkins touched our hearts with his passion on his mission to provide a low cost holistic solution to homelessness by creating beds, providing food and learning in decommissioned buses. The Buses4Homeless mission is to provide 14,600 nights sleep a year, in the warmth of the converted double decker buses.

The buses will be refurbished to create sleeping , dining and learning areas. (Image: Buses4homeless website)

 

As part of the King’s Service Strategy, all King’s Staff get a day off dedicated to Service. As part of this, King’s Venues team took on the task to help Buses4Homeless to transform four buses donated by Stagecoach, which were left stationary in bus depots without use for several years, and would have eventually been scrapped.

The Buses4homeless mission is to help those affected overcome the issues which led to them being homeless. The aim is to help develop skills and get into apprenticeships and training and eventually into work. The buses will take 40 people at a time, helping build stability and a sense of community.

Strategy of Buses4homeless (Image: Buses4homelss website)

 

King’s Venues & Food team helping at Buses4homeless!

It was a great day of service with the team delivering 4 volunteering days to the charity. For more information about Buses4Homeless, please take a look on their website http://buses4homeless.org. 

Is this a futuristic dystopian village or an anaerobic food processing plant?

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jane Picciano, who is a Sustainability Champion working in the Library Services Team at King’s.

King’s Food waste goes to Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which helps to meet the following Sustainable Development Goals:

This is the story of what happens to all food waste from King’s!

I got a chance to join the King’s Sustainability team on a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant (Agrivert) in Virginia Water which was coordinated with Simply Waste, the food waste collection company for King’s. The tour was led by Charlie who has worked in the recycling industry for over 15 years, starting in local recycling then moving into food specific recycling.

This plant is where all King’s food waste goes to be ‘digested’ then reused as fuel in a methane gas form to power their machines, with any extra sold back to the grid to power 4400 local homes, and as compost to local farmers.

Big trucks drive up to the entrance, as they arrive they punch in a designated code which identifies which company they come from. A scale under the driveway weighs the vehicle and then the vehicle is given the green light to go into the recycling bunker. Once inside, the food waste load is dumped into a deep concrete ‘mouth’ where the process of decomposition begins.

The first stage for the food waste: the ‘mouth’ of the plant before reaching the ‘stomachs’ of the AD tanks.

Once the food waste is dumped into this concrete stomach, the waste is mixed with water to make it easier for any plastic contamination to be sieved out. This is where the plastic contaminated waste comes out and next to it a photo of said waste. The plastic waste is sent to an Energy from Waste Plant.

Shredded plastic from the food waste packaging and plastic bags the waste was delivered in

We were told that most food waste recycling companies prefer food to be in plastic bags rather than biodegradable bags as they are very hard to separate from the food. Biodegradable bags stretch and don’t break as easy which makes them dangerous to the machinery that chops everything up finely for digestion. In addition, they contain more water than plastic, so cannot be burned effectively to get energy from waste. If you look closely at the picture of plastic waste, you can see how big the waste is and how easy it is to sift it out.

Once that is all done, the food waste sludge goes through one more pipe and any tiny bits of plastic and grit not caught by the grinder is siphoned out. After this, the waste is ready to go and gets fed into one of the holding tanks (or ‘Stomachs’ of the plant).

The food waste is now ready for a long ferment (75 days in fact) in one of the five tanks they have. Having the luxury of five tanks gives Agrivert the choice to choose which one to use first and helps them if for some reason there is any kind of mechanical issue or if one of the tanks becomes ‘sick’.

Anything can make a tank sick – we were told to think of it like our own digestive system, in that when you have something that doesn’t agree with you, you might need to a bland diet of something like chicken and rice for a few days to get your stomach back to normal. If one of their batches does gets sick, Agrivert has a ‘chicken and rice’ equivalent that they feed the tank and they soon feel better and are healthy again and they can get back to work! Making sure that the food waste is of a wide variety is important, if the tanks just receive one type of food – such load of bread or curry, the chance of getting sick increases (just like if a human only at one type of food for a long time). Therefore, Agrivert makes sure to balance what the tank receives to reduce the change of it getting sick before the ‘chicken & rice’ is necessary.

The pile of ‘chicken & rice’ (which is really a bland oatmeal mixture)

You will notice that all the tanks have soft domes on them, this is where the gas created by the process collects and is then used to power the Agrivert machinery with any extra sold back to the grid. The power generated from their left-over gasses power up to 4500 local homes per year. The soft domes help identify when there is a problem with the tank, as it will appear sunken and not fully inflated as seen in the images below.

You can see the large motors on the outside of the tanks. These are blades that move the food sludge and make sure it is turning continually and kept warm throughout the whole process (at body temperature – around 37 degrees). The blades are different sizes and heights so that everything moves around and utilizes the whole tank.

The two long implements you can see above are examples of what the blades that churn the food waste around the tank look like.

It was interesting to see the re-purposing of shipping containers; these are being used as heat diffusion containers and the had several more as office and staff room space. The entrance has room for a couple of small offices, a large meeting room and presentation space as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities for the staff and guests.

The last bit of the tour took us past the huge pipe that you see below; we were told that if this pipe ever stops working it would lead to a very loud and dangerous explosion – it means that the methane expelled from the tanks is not moving freely around and has stopped, building up pressure and finally, exploding. Thankfully that’s has never happened at this Agrivert plant but has happened at others.

And this is the story of what happens to the food waste collected at King’s College London!

If you get the chance, I would recommend you go and see how one of these plants operates (The Sustainability Team put on one or two trips to King’s waste facilities a year, follow Sustainability Team social media and newsletter to keep up to date on the next). If anything, visiting one of these plants will give you hope for the future of recycling and show you that it is possible to turn waste; food or otherwise into reusable energy that can power homes and fertilize crops.

The only thing I would strongly suggest is: bring something to cover your nose & mouth, as the smell is overpowering and it lingers on clothes.

I can’t even describe it. 🤢

Jane Picciano, Sustainability Champion Gold, Maughan Library

King’s Sustainable Entrepreneurs: Woodsloth’s Bamboo Straws

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Jonathan Hyde, Masters student at King’s studying an MA in Climate Change. This post aims to start a series of guest blogs highlighting how some of our students, staff and alumni in the King’s community are putting their sustainable passion & innovation into practice. 

Hi my name is Jonathan (Jonny), I study MA Climate Change at King’s and a passionate environmentalist.

This passion for the environment has led me to take a more pro-active stance towards achieving climate justice (fitting with the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and tackling environmental degradation on land and at sea (SDG 14 and 15).

Whilst away traveling, my partner Claire and I came to realise just how severe the plastic pollution problem really was. Plastic litter was polluting everywhere we went, whether it was a forest, a mountain or a beach – there was little escaping it. The beaches were particularly bad, and in one place we took part in a beach clean-up picking up countless straws. Yet, the next day it was just as littered!

It really opened our eyes to this issue. However, when we returned home we saw that actually we had been living in a sea of plastic all along, and that the UK had just as much as a problem.

However, when we were away we saw creative solutions to the problem. One in particular that we loved was the use of bamboo, and especially re-useable straws! We came to find out that bamboo is the perfect sustainable material, being the strongest, most durable, and most rapidly growing grass species in the world! It just so happened that Claire’s parents have copious amounts of bamboo growing in their garden. So, when we first visited them after returning home the bamboo straw production began!

In the beginning, I was just making them as gifts for friends and family, truly enjoying creativity in a way I had never done before. I feel that’s the real beauty of the sustainability movement – what it can creatively and innovatively inspire. The response was brilliant too; people loved them and encouraged me to start selling them. I then discovered my friend who lives close by also has a great amount of bamboo growing, so I began harvesting more, and experimenting with different designs and personalisation.

I established Woodsloth’s as an official business, as sales began to pick up.

Now, 6 months on, and 1 month into “official” business, I’ve created over a 100 straws. I’m delighted as that means over 100 straws aren’t going to end up in landfill or the sea! 100 down, 8 billion to go…and that’s just the number used in the UK!

I have an Instagram page (@woodsloths) and email (woodsloths@gmail.com) where I take personalised orders. I am also in discussions with the Union Shop to have a “King’s” and “KCL” edition on sale, as part of their sustainable and ethical Spring/Summer collection – so watch this space!

SDG 4: Education as the Passport to the Future

This week’s guest blog comes fifth 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.  

 

A primary kid developing the newest app in his bedroom. A teenage boy creating an online platform to share social content. These are the success stories in the age of technology. However, such dreams don’t become reality without one essential ingredient: education. As Malcolm X once said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

SDG 4 = Quality Education

Education is key to reduce inequality and enable people to break the cycle of poverty. Education empowers people, it increases quality of life and stimulates tolerance. There has been a lot of progress towards this goal in the last two decades. In developing countries, the enrollment in primary education has reached 91 percent. But not all is done as 57 million children remain out of primary school. Inequality in opportunities is evident. Half of the children out of school live in Sub-Saharan Africa or in conflict affected areas. The vast majority are girls (1).

The Targets: Quality Education, Relevant Skills and Safe Environments

As the goal suggests, the first target is to ensure free, accessible, quality primary and secondary for everybody. As a result, literacy and numeracy must be dissolved. Other targets go beyond school-aged children aiming to make early childhood development and adult skills training’s accessible. Within education systems, all genders should be equal, and the emphasis should be on knowledge and skills that are needed to promote sustainable development. Moreover, schools should be a safe and inclusive environment, there should be more scholarships for developing countries and there should be better training to provide quality teachers.

 

Education, poverty and health

Education, poverty and health provide a ‘triangle dilemma’: whereas education improves children’s chances for escaping poverty whilst improving their health conditions, poverty and poor health are the main reason why many do not attend schools. The lack of education and health care robs millions of children of their futures (2). Poverty-prone communities in Tanzania, for example, have high changes to get infected by the parasitic disease ‘schistosomiasis’ due to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Especially, school-aged children are vulnerable to the infection. To tackle this problem, a joint-project by UNDP and WHO setup drug distribution points in schools to prevent transmission of the disease and ensure vulnerable children don’t drop out school (3).

A lost generation: education during conflict

Education is a fundamental human right as per the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, out of the 7,4 million documented refugee children, only 3,4 million attend school. Attendance drops drastically; 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, 23 per cent of them are enrolled in secondary school and just one per cent attends university (4). The foundation Educate a Child aims to scale-up successful educational programs for refugees and promote innovative approaches. Their Bangladesh-based partner, for example, provides non-formal basic education in refugee camps. Thus far, they recruited 400 teachers, established 200 Transitional Learning Centres and educate 25,000 students (5).

 

A mismatch between skills and education

One of the biggest challenges in Europe is the disparity between what students learn in universities and the types of skills that are needed within the employment market. A business association articulated it as following: “Currently we have a skills gap; we have vacancies, but people are not trained to fill them. Business need to make education their top priority and present people with equal choices.” The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) aims to strengthen the quality, supply, image and mobility of apprenticeships in Europe.Through vocational education and training (VET) companies ensure their supply of future employees and students learn valuable workplace skills improving their future employability (6).

The goals are there for you as well!

The fact that you are reading this blog already gives you a privilege. I am assuming you have enjoyed primary and secondary schools, and most likely higher education. At a minimum level you are gifted with literacy. Use this gift to advance worldwide education:

  • Attitude – There are no ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ educated people, there are only ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’ educated people. A value-based division is completely ridiculous, so ensure that your language reflects the appreciation of all forms of education.
  • Develop – Acknowledge your privileged position and make sure you keep on developing yourself. Attend your university classes; follow a skills training on coding; learn how to use Excel properly or drop in a conference on business ethics.
  • Tutor – An easy way is to tutor children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Private tutoring increases the income gap. To overcome this, you can support a pupil to get the most out of her/his education and help them build their future. There are different local charities (7).

References

Easy & Everyday Tricks to Reduce Your Plastic Use

This guest blog comes from Yukti Gopal, a third year Politics student from the Department of Political Economy.

 

The plastic we throw away in a single year could circle the earth four times. Every minute of every day, one million plastic bottles are used. It’s become an addiction. Plastic is everywhere and it’s almost as if we can’t escape it. The problem when we ‘throw plastic away’ there is no such thing as an ‘away’, it just ends up somewhere else, usually it’s the ocean. 8 to 14 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans every single year. Needless to mention the disastrous consequences this has. Fortunately, we can all do something to reduce our plastic consumption and here are some easy tricks which you can implement in your everyday life:

1: Buy a reusable water bottle/coffee cup

The simple process of producing bottled water requires 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the actual container. Mind-blowing. We are lucky to live in London where tap water is safe to drink, so why buy plastic bottles?

2: Buy in bulk when possible

Some shops like ‘As Nature Intended’ offer a bulk section where you can buy everything from oats, rice, to seeds and trail mixes. You simply bring your own containers and fill them up. Not only is it cheaper to buy that way but it’s also an efficient way to cut single-use plastic food packaging. If you have access to a farmer’s market, stop by to buy your fruit and veg, there’s usually much less plastic food packaging involved!

3: Eat less seafood

I know this one can be a bit controversial but the sad truth is that while it is great to use reusable straws, the majority of plastic found in the ocean comes from fishing practices. To be precise, 46% of marine plastic waste comes from commercial fishing. Instead, you could get creative and try plant-based alternatives which are more sustainable.

4: Use reusable bags

This is such an easy one! We throw away more than 1 trillion plastic bags a year. I personally always have a reusable bag in the back of my bag in case I need to pop by the grocery store; they take literally no space, weigh nothing yet come in really handy! Incorporating these little swaps in your day-to-day are quite easy and don’t require much effort at all so join us, and be a part of the positive change!

SDG 3: Healthcare as a Human Right

This week’s guest blog comes fourth 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.  

This month is all about wellbeing at King’s. Unfortunately, access and quality of healthcare is not always guaranteed. Article 25 of the UN Human Rights Declaration (1948) states that everyone has the right to a standard of living that enables health and wellbeing (1). Due to the lack of accurate and credible data, it is difficult to measure the current state-of-art of healthcare provision.

SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing for everybody

Sickness and death are part of our natural cycle. However, there are many situations in which it can be prevented or cured. The number one cause of death are cardiovascular diseases. Amongst children under five, birth trauma’s, infections and bacteria lead to over 6 million annual deaths (2). Furthermore, there are large regional difference that mirror income disparity; the worst health situation can be found in Sub-Saharan-Africa and South Asia. As an example, maternal deaths are 14 times more likely to happen in developing countries and children are twice more likely to die before they turn five. Furthermore, developing countries still struggle with deadly diarrhoea contaminations caused by poor hygiene’s.

Reproduction, healthcare and medication

The first target is that everyone should have access to a good quality of healthcare and appropriate medications and vaccinations (3). Strengthening local capacities, for example; affordable care, educated doctors and hygienic hospitals, is a stepping-stone to achieve this. Moreover, women and children are central to accomplishing this goal. Some targets are, therefore, directed at issues such as reducing maternal mortality, preventing children’s deaths, eliminating substance abuse during pregnancy and easing access to sexual and reproductive services. Lastly, more general targets focus on issues regarding to common diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis, traffic deaths and diseases caused by pollution.

Every Women, Every Child

The health of women and children is essential to achieve sustainable development. Healthy women and children create healthy societies and healthy societies build healthy economies, stability and harmony. The project “Every Women Every Child” was set up in 2010 by Ban Ki-Moon and works with various partners to tackle gender related health issues (4). One of their projects, in collaboration with Unilever and USAID, aims to tackle infant deaths due to a lack of hygiene. In order to achieve this, they encourage people to make a habit out of washing their hands with soap on a regular basis (5).

Contraception and family planning

High on the Dutch development agenda, and close to my heart, is sexual and reproductive health-care. The Netherlands helps 1.8 million girls and women to access contraception by strengthening third countries’ healthcare systems and actively lobbying foreign governments. Central to our development policy is family planning. Besides the project “She Decides” of our minister Lilianne Ploumen (which I will tell you more about in SDG 5), we are part of the partnership “Family Planning 2020”. The aim of this partnership is to ensure that every girl and woman is able to freely and independently make the decision whether, when and how many children she wants (7).

No well-being without mental health

There is a growing awareness that mental health is crucial to achieve the SDGs (8). “One in four people experience a mental health episode in their lifetime, but the issue remains largely neglected,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Mental health issues are strongly correlated with structural societal problems and too-often result in the neglect of human dignity and forced treatment. Potential solutions arise not only from within but also from outside the regular healthcare sector. The UK project “Time to Change” challenges the way we think and act around mental health in order to overcome shame and loneliness (9).

What can you do to achieve better health and well-being?

Healthcare is a worldwide problem. Start, therefore, with tackling a few health-related issues within in your own live, direct environment or broader society:

  • Take care of your own body. Eat healthy, exercise, drink in moderation and don’t wait around to visit a doctor. Moreover, make sure that you use contraception during sex, and only have sex without a condom if you are 100 percent sure you both are free of STDs.
  • Take care of your mind. Get enough rest and be aware of the signals of mental problems (10). One of the things I find useful is mindfulness (do you already know the Headspace app?). The online course “de-mystifying mindfulness” elaborates the clinical background of mindfulness in an accessible and academic way (11).
  • Challenge mental health stigma’s. Look at the “Time to Change” resource webpage and inform yourself about mental health issues. Start a conversation with your colleagues, be aware of stereotyping media coverage and call people out on their discriminatory behaviour.

Resources:

Blog Series: SDG 1 – The Battle Against Poverty

This week’s guest blog comes second 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.  

Poverty in all its forms everywhere is, according to the United Nations (UN), stating that it is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. The good news is that the amount of people living in extreme poverty has relatively decreased from 28 percent in 1999 to 11 percent in 2013. The bad news, however, is that over 896 million people are still living with less than $1.90 per day, mainly within South-Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (1). Poverty goes beyond the lack of financial resources; it reflects a lack of opportunities, which are often linked to education, healthcare, discrimination and hunger.

 

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice”

Nelson Mandela

 

 

The Targets: Eradicating Poverty and Creating Social Security

The seven SDG targets that aim to diminish poverty by 2030 include both a financial and a social dimension. A distinction is made between extreme poverty measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day and general poverty measured according to national definitions. Whereas extreme poverty must be overcome completely, general poverty must be halved. On a national level, the targets are three-fold: strengthening the resilience of the poor, particularly in cases of natural disasters; implementing social policies that protect citizen against poverty and; creating equal rights and access to economic resources and services. On an international level, the targets press states to actively mobilize resources that can combat poverty and to create policies that target and benefit the poorest.

Progress? Measuring Regional Inequality

Without measurements there is no knowledge of progress. In the previous blog, I explained that each goal is broken down in targets which are measured by indicators. The UN created a database which tracks down how each country is currently doing on each indicator. Have a look around yourself as this database is accessible for everyone (2). Looking at the data, the general trend seems to be that regional inequality is on the rise. Let’s zoom in on social security, which is crucial to battle poverty. A total of 45 percent of the world’s population has access to at least one type of social insurance. A simple comparison illustrates the imbalance: in Western Europe this percentages is 99, whereas in West Africa it is merely 9 percent.

 

Oxfam and the UN: Business against poverty

There are countless projects that intend to contribute towards SDG 1, but as I specialise in business I would like to focus on the partnership between Oxfam and the UN (3). This partnership aims to make companies aware of their positive and negative impact on local poverty. To accomplish this, they created the so-called ‘poverty footprint’. Through this online tool, companies can begin to understand how they affect poverty and adjust their business operations accordingly. A company that completed the poverty footprint is Unilever. They concluded that by offering more part-time instead of full-time jobs at their manufacture site in Kecap Bango, more people would be helped out of poverty in this Indonesian region. Thus, by measuring their influence on poverty, companies are urged to find innovative solutions.

The situation in Europe

Eurostat, the statistics centre of the European Union (EU), shows that in 2016 over 118 million people were at risk of poverty or social inclusion (see the Figure below). There is a wide disparity within the EU. To illustrate, in Bulgaria almost 42 percent of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In comparison, in Sweden this percentage is only 14. Furthermore, 36 percent of Greek people live below the national poverty line and 19 percent of Romanian people that are employed still live in poverty. In the UK, child poverty is taking a worrisome number; about 4 million children are classified as poor.

 

 

 

The Fund of Urgent Needs in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands, where I am originally from, does not know extreme poverty. Nonetheless, 10 percent of Dutch citizens live under the national poverty line of 33 euro per day. An organization within the Netherlands that aims to tackle local poverty is the Fund of Urgent Needs (SUN). My mother is the location manager in my home-town Leiden, where SUN offers financial aid to people that are in danger of falling between two stools. She explains that: “our foundation gives to the inhabitant of Leiden, who are in an urgent financial situation and do not apply for governmental help”.

What can you do in the fight against poverty?

The traditional way of donating money is, for the low-budget students, not always a possibility – nor might it be the most effective route. Luckily, there are other ways: you can volunteer at existing programmes, such as Child Poverty Action Group, Oxfam, foodbanks or ONE, or develop your own project at King’s. As poverty is rooted in various related problems, you can think about projects improving general live conditions as well. For example, become a reading helper for children at BeanStalk – with only a few hours a week you can ensure a child can read, grow and thrive!

 

References:

  1. More statistics, data and information on this goal can be found here.
  2. If you want to play a bit around with the target data on country level, you can either go to UNSTAT or the SDG index.
  3. Read more on the poverty footprint at Oxfam’s or the UN’s respectively websites.
  4. Unfortunately, in Dutch, but if you want to learn more about the situation in the Netherlands click here and for the foundation of urgent needs here.

Our Fundraising and Supporter Development Sustainability Champions are raising the bar

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Zoe Long. Zoe is a MA student studying Climate Change: History, Culture and Society at King’s.

The Sustainability Champions from the Fundraising and Supporter Development Team have been working incredibly hard all year to reduce their office’s impact on the environment. This year they are working towards the Silver Sustainability Champion Award. Their Chair Caitlyn Lindsay took some time to explain what they’ve been up to.

The Fundraising and Supporter Development Department raise money for the university and affiliated hospitals including Guy’s Cancer Centre, Evelina Children’s, Maudsley Mental Health and St Thomas. The team is comprised of around 120 staff in the Virginia Woolf Building and raise money through a series of events, alumni funding and telephone campaigns.

The Sustainability Champions’ main focus has been raising awareness of environmental issues and the small ways people can make a change but have a big impact. Some of the events organised this year include:

  • Swap Shop: A clothing exchange to recycle wearable but unwanted clothes, finding them a new home and reducing waste going to landfill. This provides also great alternative to buying new items. Money raised from this event was donated to Crisis to buy a safe place for someone stay at Christmas. Any leftover clothes were donated to Smart Works and Oxfam.
  • Craft Fair: Fabric scraps and coffee pods were recycled, crafted and sold in aid of Evelina Children’s Hospital. Another great idea to divert materials from the waste stream.
  • January Walking Challenge: To beat the January blues staff in the office were challenged to walk the furthest, competing both individually and in teams. The initiative was a real success, spawning some healthy competition and encouraging people to swap their commute or get off a few stops earlier. Walking is good for the body, mind and planet!
  • Food Bank Collection: A drive for dry goods and sanitary products saw two boxes of goods being donated to the Waterloo food bank just in time for Christmas.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: The Team is taking part in a Citizen Science scheme run by Friends of the Earth in collaboration with King’s College London to measure air quality in London. Look out for the test tube on Kingsway measuring the air pollution score. The scheme is also designed to prompt thinking about the ways in which we can improve air quality in the city.

Sustainability Week saw the Champions make a special effort to reduce the office’s impact on the environment, events included:

  • Meatless Monday Lunch: Exploring meat-free diets to reduce stress on the planet’s environmental resources.
  • Plastic Free Tuesday Quiz: An interactive way to raise awareness of the many ways in which we can cut down on our plastic use.
  • Power Down Friday: A push to switch off monitors as well as computers at the end of the week to save power. This raises awareness of the many ways in which energy is being consumed in

So far the efforts have been enthusiastically received in the office. Next year the team is aiming to build on their success and achieve the Sustainability Champion Gold Award by focusing on procurement, consumption, and reducing printing.

Sustainability Week Careers Event

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Zoe Long. Zoe  is a MA student studying Climate Change: History, Culture and Society at King’s.

(The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.)

The Discover Careers in Sustainability event on Monday night kicked off the series of evening events part of King’s Sustainability Week. Full of useful information about future careers, the panel was formed of a range of professionals already working in the sector in various capacities. Sitting on the panel:

• Kat Thorne – Head of Sustainability for King’s College London
• Veda Karandikar – Senior Associate in the Sustainability and Climate Change consulting department at PwC
• David Lourie – Director of Good Business
• Iyesogie Igiehon – Associate in the Global Environmental and Regulatory Law Group at Allen & Overy

For those who could not attend the event, here is a summary of some of the best advice.

Was your first job you dream job?
The overwhelming response was no. Instead, the advice was to focus on the role and the skills it can help you to develop. Considering why the job does not suit you can help shape where you want to be next.

Each panel member has a very different background and route to sustainability, however, they were united by the fact that none of them actually intend to work in the sector. Instead, each person followed a career route led by their interests and networking!

How can you find jobs in smaller, harder to find companies? 
Recruitment consultants a good place to start; there are lots of niche recruitment firms, but Acre was mentioned specifically. Whilst they may not have specific graduate roles, a role may come up once in a while and by talking to recruiters you are putting your name out there. Escape the City was also brought up as a place to look for less traditional roles. Twitter, LinkedIn and any social media accounts are often sources of niche roles that may not be advertised elsewhere. When reading reports, check out who wrote the report and if the company is somewhere you would be interested in working. Finally, it is a cliché but networking counts! Get out there and talk to people, be interested in other people’s work and attend lots of events, London is the perfect place to do so.

How can you make your application stand out?
The panellists were very clear you should do your research to really understand what the company is about. You must demonstrate you know who you are applying to. Kat suggested saving your time applying to 100 companies in favour of spending time perfecting five or even one application that you really want. In this time it is important to show the skills you will be using in the role such as research and analysis. Demonstrate you know what the role involves, and how your skills fit the tasks involved.

If you haven’t got a formal education in the role you are applying to, show your interest through practical action or evidence such as volunteering or blogging.

What is the future of the sustainability industry?
There are no signs the sustainability sector growth is slowing. In fact, all signs point to it growing, as larger firms dedicate more resources and time to grow their sustainability departments leading. This will lead to a skills demand in the market. But the sector is changing. Terms like ‘sustainability’ and ‘CSR’ are being used less and less as sustainability becomes a good business practice rather than a side branch of this business.

As sustainability becomes integrated into businesses, jobs will be less advertised as pure sustainability roles and more about core business functions with an edge (or interest) in CSR and sustainability. This means it will be harder to find specific roles so you should focus on your interests and skills. David from Good Business mentioned that when hiring, his firm did not necessarily look for a background in sustainability but rather the skills (business or otherwise) that the candidate will bring to the firm. Secondary to this is a demonstrable interest in the company’s values. Think commercially; trends set to grow include Big Data, AI, and Block chain so start brushing up!

Nevertheless, this is definitely a growing sector, becoming important in every sector and job.

« Older posts