Category: Guest blogs (Page 2 of 6)

Introduction to Nicola Hogan, King’s new Sustainability Operations Manager

King’s’ new Sustainability Manager, Dr. Nicola Hogan joined the sustainability team last month having previously worked at Goldsmiths, University of London, The EAUC and The University of Limerick in Ireland. Since starting her career in sustainability in Higher Education (HE), Nicola has worked as both a researcher and a practitioner and in some positions, as both. She has conducted research into the calculation of the Ecological Footprint of A4 paper use and from that created a road-map for HE institutions on how to reduced paper use at source, save money and reduce CO2 emissions. She has also  conducted research into the use of sustainable ICT in UK universities identifying where and how ICT energy was being wasted.

In her role as Space, Environmental and Sustainability Officer at Goldsmiths Nicola was responsible for embedding sustainability into campus operation as well as ensuring the College was accredited with Fairtrade – something Nicola is particularly passionate about.

Embedding Sustainability into campus operations across a multi-site university has many barriers – something she is all too familiar with. From 2010-2016 Nicola conducted research that examined what the barriers to sustainable performance in universities might be and how to overcome them. Nicola identified 7 barriers in total, with poor stakeholder engagement identified as being the greatest barrier. However, Nicola was quick to note that stakeholder engagement is pretty good at Kings with more than 500 staff and student sustainability champions actively doing that extra bit for the planet and for King’s, in the 2019-2020 academic year.

When asked what singular and simple action (if any) could be taken to reduce our environmental/carbon footprint and improve our overall campus operations, she indicated that a reduction of waste’  – in all its forms (solid waste, waste water and energy waste) could potentially see an improvement of sustainable performance  by 20% to 30% – with almost no capital costs incurred. In fact it’s widely regarded that waste energy for example could be reduced by 20% in universities simply by switching off and powering down when not in use.

As Nicola starts in her new role at King’s College and with a new year’s resolution  to reduce waste at source in 2020, she is reminding everyone to ‘take a quick look in your bin’ at what you discarded and ask yourself – ‘could I have done without it’ ?

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

King’s Food Sustainability

This guest blog comes courtesy of Ellie Blackmore, Marketing Coordinator for King’s Food. 

Your morning coffee. You can’t function without it. Hitting a lecture without even a sip of caffeine? No thanks. But without a reusable cup, whether it’s a Keep Cup, a fancy bamboo tumbler you got for Christmas, or your dads old golfing flask, you’re contributing to the 2.5+ billion coffee cups that are thrown away every year, with less than 1% being recycled (Environmental Audit Committee, 2018).

This isn’t down to not trying – many people make the conscious effort to put the cardboard vessel that carried their morning latte in a recycling bin. The problem with this is that most disposable coffee cups have plastic in their inner lining, to make them both heat and leakproof, which stops them from being recycled and sends them straight to landfill.

Special recycling bins are few and far between, but King’s Food have installed them in all of their outlets. Simply pour any liquid into the centre of the bin, then pop your cup in the outer holes. Got a reusable cup? Even better, and no extra 20p cup levy charge* for you. Want a reusable cup? Pick one up at King’s Food cafes for £6.50.

King’s Food was recently awarded a 2-star Food Made Good Rating in recognition of commitments to sustainable catering – one of only seven British universities to have achieved this status. A 9% increase on last year’s score, highlighted successes include fair treatment of staff (e.g. all staff at King’s are paid London Living Wage), valuing natural resources (e.g. 100% electricity at King’s comes from renewable, wind energy) and celebrating local & seasonal products.

Local produce plays an important part of King’s Food, with elements of every day menus being sourced in London and the rest of the UK. Honey, from Bermondsey Street Bees, features in breakfast pots and the porridge bars at Chapters and Bytes Restaurant. Bread and pastries are supplied by Paul Rhodes, an award-winning bakery in Greenwich. King’s Food catered events offer attendees the chance to sip on cider made from London-pressed apples, by Hawkes Cidery in Bermondsey.

The positive impact of buying locally is indisputable: from the shorter distance the food travels, to the support it provides to local farms, communities and businesses. Not to mention the richer flavours and nutrients of the produce itself, all of which contribute to the delicious and sustainable food served at King’s Food venues.

One of many efforts to increase sustainability, Roots – King’s Food’s all-vegan café on the 8th floor of Bush House – opened in September 2018. Offering a selection of snacks, desserts, coffee and a different hot lunch every day, Roots is the first 100% plant-based university café in London. For the opening of Roots, the 2019 Green Gown Awards shortlisted King’s Food as a finalist in the Campus Health, Food and Drink category. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on November 26th.

Alongside Roots, King’s Food is committed to offering a vegetarian or vegan option every day at all  of its outlets.

The Food Made Good rating offers advice on how King’s Food can make further improvements to become even more sustainable and to drive change in the sector.

King’s Food will focus on the following over the rest of the academic year:

  • Continue with our focus on using local suppliers and explore using more produce from within 100 miles of London – which will likely increase the amount of produce which is organic.

 

  • Keep investigating ways to reduce energy & water usage across all sites

 

  • Look into our use of disposable packaging and how we can reduce it

 

  • Develop a strategy or policy around healthy eating/menu planning

 

  • Consider ways to further minimise food waste

 

*In February, King’s Food introduced a 20p cup levy to try and cut down the number of hot drinks sold in disposable cups across King’s campuses. Proceeds from the levy go into a Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF), the total of which is currently around £65,000. Applications for sustainability projects will open soon. KCLSU also committed their 20p disposable coffee cup levy to go into the SPF from August ’19.

 

SDG 7: Energy – A Social and Environmental Challenge

This 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. 

Mornings are not my finest hours. With the winter around the corner, I put the heather up and turned on the light to watch the news on my laptop. I quickly boil an egg, toast some bread and jump into the bus to King’s College. Energy is for most of us (including me) a given, but while we are polluting the planet by burning fossil fuels many people are still energy deprived.

SDG 7: Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy

Energy poverty constraints everyday live and limits human and economic development [1]. Worldwide, around 840 million people do not have access to a reliable electricity source. Moreover, 3 billion people do not have access to clean cooking fuels causing indoor pollution endangering health. Energy also supports the working of practically every economic sector: from businesses, medicine and education to agriculture, infrastructure, communications and high technology. At the same time, many economies are dependent upon fossil fuels, that is coal, oil and gas. These fossil fuels produce large amounts of greenhouse gases which is a main contributor to our current climate crisis.

The Targets: Global access to CLEAN energy

Energy is both a social and an environmental problem [2]. This reflected in the underlying tensions of the targets: we want people to have universal access to affordable and reliable energy services, however, the energy sources need to increasingly be renewable and used efficiently. Whereas advanced economies need to adapt their current supply systems, developing economies are hoping to leapfrog directly into clean energy systems. Governments, therefore, need to invest and share clean energy technologies as well as expand clean energy infrastructures.

What is renewable energy and why is it important?

The word ‘renewable’ underlines the access problem we face; at some point in the near future we will run out of fossil fuels and therefore we need to find energy sources that can be constantly replenished [3]. However, there is also an environmental component as fossil fuels are the number one cause of global warming (SDG 13). Renewables can meet our energy needs without harming the earth because they release very few chemicals, like carbon dioxide. New technologies are able convert renewable resources, such as the movement of the wind and water, the heat and light of the sun, the carbohydrates in plants, and the warmth in the Earth, into electricity. The good news is that renewable energy consumption has increased from 16.6 per cent in 2010 to 17.5 per cent in 2016. However, if we want to achieve the climate goals, this change needs to be rapidly accelerated.

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind

The Netflix movie ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ beautifully brings the energy problems to life. It tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who is thrown out of the school when his family is unable to pay his fees. With help from his former teacher, he gets access to the school’s library where he learns about electrical engineering and energy production. Seeking to save his village from the drought and famine, William plans to build a windmill to power an electric water pump to sow crops (SDG 6). Through Williams experience, we see the importance of light for studying, the effects of global warming and the necessity of horsepower to survive draughts [4].

Solar Sisters: Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy

Energy poverty and climate change is disproportionally shouldered by women (SDG 5). They are often responsible for collecting fuels and suffer the health consequences of unclean cooking fuels. Solar Sister [5] invest in women’s enterprises in off-grid communities to deliver clean energy. They provide finance, training, technology and services that enable women to build sustainable businesses. This way, they create a ripple effect impacting not only local women but also their families, and the customers and communities who switch to using clean energy. They kickstarted 4.000 clean energy entrepreneurs and impacted 1,5 million people across Africa.

The Goals are there for You!

Living and studying in the UK, your biggest impact is most likely on clean energy production and consumption. As such, you can take a critical look at you:

  • Energy supplier – Who supplies your energy? What is their energy mix? Can you change to more clean energy providers? Good examples of green UK energy providers are: Ecotricity, Bulb, Ebico and The Utility Warehouse.
  • Energy consumption – There are many small steps to take in your day-to-day live, for example turn off your laptop; unplug electronical devices that you are not using; don’t leave chargers plugged; or change your bulbs to LED lights.
  • Investments – Many students forget that their savings are invested in energy production. Does your bank still invest in fossil fuels, or do they encourage clean energy? Alternatively look in what your university or parents are investing. Did you know that KCL is committed to divest from all fossil fuels by the end of 2022 after students’ hunger strikes?

 

[1] A facts sheet on why this goal is so important can be found here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Goal-7.pdf

[2] You can read more on the targets and how we are currently doing here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg7

[3] Learn more about renewables and fossil fuels and their impacts here: https://www.ucsusa.org/energy

[4] You can watch the movie on Netflix, but here is a small trailer to convince you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izCc4duhnxA

[5] Learn more about the great work Solar Sisters are doing: https://solarsister.org/about-us/

My Role as a UAMSA Projects Assistant

This guest blog comes from Josefin Nordahl, second year student studying International Development at King’s and UAMSA Projects Assistant.

As a part of the Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA as short) conference, we are working to raise awareness of modern slavery by bringing academics, students and businesses together to initiate conversations about the current issues within modern slavery and how to address them.

Rebecca Brown, King’s staff member in the Policy Institute who established UAMSA and the Sustainability Team who aided in the setting up of UAMSA were recruiting for student assistants to help with the establishment of the conference.

I was successful in getting one of the three assistant positions.

From the nervousness building up to the interview and the interesting conversations and follow up opportunities from my involvement in UAMSA, my already existing interest in modern slavery has sparked. So much so that I am planning on writing my dissertation on a topic related to modern slavery later this year. The opportunity was fantastic and gave me the chance to assist and work on something I am passionate about and it has really made it feel less like work and more like an opportunity.

Considering the personal benefits from this opportunity, I have received invitations to other events relating to the subject and the chance to engage in discussions with the leading professionals in the field. My involvement has also helped me in the work I currently do for the Fairtrade Foundation where I have had to use my event planning and organization skills and the knowledge about modern slavery in supply chains in the work for the foundation. I have also learnt a lot about the research and the involvement of producers in this field and this has allowed me to build my own perception of the broad topic of modern slavery and how this better can be dealt with.

But that is not the most important take away from this. The greatest achievement from the inauguration conference we set up in March, is the start of future discussions and collaborations between businesses, academics and students who are all working for the same thing – to end modern slavery.

I look forward to the continued work with UAMSA in the fall and I hope to see more student engagement and involvement from King’s and across other higher education institutions.

Why we went green for our Service Day

This guest blog comes courtesy of Erk Gunce, PA to King’s Chief of Staff and Team Administrator in the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) department.

As the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) team, we are proud to report that, we did it! We broke free from our daily routines and went into nature. No, we are not stuck to our desks and no, we are not addicted to our screens. We did leave the office and we did have fun – and I personally ensured that nobody was checking their emails on their phone!

A few weeks ago, 30 colleagues from the SPA team took a day out of work to volunteer for a local charity. We were able to take a day off, thanks to the Service Time policy. As part of this scheme, all King’s staff can spend one day per year volunteering for another organisation. We chose to support the environmental preservation work of Groundwork London, and took the opportunity to get to know our team members better. Groundwork set us a variety of tasks over the day. These included designing and building a hibernaculum – a protective refuge for reptiles and insects. Hibernacula (pause for applause), allow insects to seek refuge from temperature changes, especially over the winter for protection against the cold. We also made use of loose wood from coppiced willow trees to create hedging, used as a fence to mark the outer barriers of a natural space, instead of relying on non-natural fencing material.

Building a hibernaculum for small mammals, insects and reptiles in the winter (above, left), finished hiberanculum (above, right)! 

Coppicing wild willow trees (above, left) and turning branches into a natural hedge (above, right)! 

Why did we do this?

Because, sustainability!

This opportunity allowed us to do our bit by giving back to nature. It was very heart-warming to see our team addressing their previously non-green habits: colleagues traveled in using their bikes, no disposable cups were used and we made sure we recycled the leftovers from our lunch.

Because, Service!

In line with King’s Vision 2029 ‘to make the world a better place’, this was a fantastic opportunity to give back to nature by building shelters for vulnerable creatures and making use of natural items to build natural fencing. Through taking a day out to support a charity, we also made clear our dedication to support non-profit organisations with their environmental efforts.

Because, team building and wellbeing!

Another crucial aspect of our day off was our commitment to improve the morale of our team and make everyone feel valued. The digital era can easily distract us from the beauties of nature. Encouraging our colleagues to spend a day immersed in a green space was an opportunity to boost their wellbeing. One of the challenges of being a large team is that staff might not know all their colleagues, or they may be mere acquaintances. After the event, staff commented that they had met new faces, got to know their colleagues better and enjoyed learning about each other’s personal hobbies and interests. Hence, it really wasn’t just about environmental support but equally a community building opportunity.

‘The whole experience was one of the best things I’ve done in ages. A brilliant combination of team building, physical exercise, a deeply gratifying sense of achievement and the feel-good high of helping to preserve and enhance urban habitation for native birds and animals’.  – Scott Davison, SPA staff member

Here’s to hoping for more Service days – for our communities, for our staff and for a better world.

Want to use your Service Time to volunteer for a charitable cause? Get in touch with service@kcl.ac.uk for advice.

SDG 6: Water – The glass is half empty and half polluted.

This 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. 

Can you still recall the ‘beast from the east’? Last year, London was ravaged by snowstorms and temperatures dropping far below zero. Thames Water was unprepared which resulted in burst water pipes in the South West. My apartment was cut off from water for almost a week. This week I realized how dependent we are off water. I couldn’t shower, do the dishes, cook, clean, drink tap water or go to the toilets anymore. Globally, water scarcity is an enormous issue. This month I will zoom in on SDG 6: clean water and sanitation.

SDG 6: Access to clean water and sanitation

Clean drinking water and adequate sanitation are essential to survive and live a dignified life. In 2010 the UN, therefore, decided to include water as a human right (1). Clean water is not guaranteed: 2.4 billion people don’t have access to sanitation and 1.8 billion people use polluted water. Water scarcity affects over 40 per cent of the global population. Due to climate change and population growth, this number is expected to rise even further (2). Inadequate water facilitates have big health consequences. They lead to poor hygiene, which causes various diseases. Every day, 800 children still die from diseases caused by poor sanitation. This is unnecessary.

The targets: Access, quality and efficiency.

The targets focus on the necessity of clean water in our everyday lives and the treatment of global water resources (3). Foremost, there needs to be universal access to safe, equitable and affordable drinking water and sanitation. This includes ending open defecation in order to avoid breed places for bacteria, which disproportionally affects the health of women and girls. Furthermore, water quality must be improved by reducing (chemical) pollution and safely reusing wastewater. All sectors need to increase water-usage efficiency and states need to implement integrated water resources management and protect water-related ecosystems, such as wetlands, rivers, and lakes. This can only be achieved through international cooperation and strengthening the participation of local communities.

UN water study: Find solutions within nature.

In 2018 the UN released a study on Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), which refers to finding solution to water scarcity that are inspired and supported by nature. As such, they aim to exploit opportunities that harness natural processes (green infrastructures) which regulate various elements of the water cycle. An example of an NBS that helps manage water availability is the creation of urban wetlands in order to reintroduce used water into the ecosystem. Another example is the creation of underground water reservoirs that can be used during droughts (4). Despite their enormous potential, NBS unfortunately only encompass one per cent of the total investments in water management.

Measuring water pollution on your smartphone.

Through the European partnership ‘MONOCLE’ researchers strive to use earth observation and data to monitor water quality (5). Participants are currently developing low-cost optical sensors, methods and technologies to support water quality monitoring by regional and national agencies. In addition, they explore the role that local volunteers can play in collecting environmental data. The idea is that by tapping into people’s own devices, citizens can provide much needed data. One project, which is led by my former university in Leiden, is ‘iSpex’. Through a mass producible add-on for smartphones with a corresponding app, volunteers will hopefully be able to monitor air and water quality properties in the future.

SDGs: Water, poverty and woodlands.

The SDGs are highly interconnected and can’t be seen separately. Water is essential for achieving any other SDG. As such, clean water is a requisite for health, gender equality, food production, energy supply, economic growth, biodiversity and tackling climate change. Water shortage and poor hygiene disproportionally affects vulnerable societies. Regions that battle with poverty, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, are characterised by long periods of drought (6). This directly impacts the quality of their land: water shortage and pollution destroy ecosystems. As a result, regions end up in a vicious circle: a. poor countries are often dependent on agricultural, b. land degradation destroys fertile soil making land unusable for agricultural, c. this process is accelerated by water shortages.

Reduce your water consumption!

Every day, we consume huge amounts of water, both directly and indirectly. On average, one person uses 121 litres of water per day: 6 litres per toilet visit and 10 litres per minute spent under the shower. In addition, the production of our food and products requires larges amount of water: 2,400 litres of water are needed to produce one hamburger and 11,000 litres to produce a pair of jeans. You can contribute to achieving SDG 6 by:

  • Changing your behaviour regarding water consumption. For example, close the tap while brushing your teeth; use a bowl when doing the dishes; flush the toilet only once; and spend a minute less under the shower.
  • Investing in innovative products that use less water. For example, there is a shower head that can save up to 2 litres of water per minute!
  • Being conscious about water requirements for food and other products. For example, try to eat an extra night of vegan or vegetarian food, or buy a pair of jeans that will last more than one month.
  • Inform yourself! Knowledge is power, so make sure you know your facts. You can, for example, follow a course at Coursera on Water Resources Management and Policy from the University of Geneva or on Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries by the University of Manchester.

Resources

(1) Access to water as a human right: www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/human_right_to_water.shtml

(2) For more information, read the ‘why it matters’ spreadsheets: www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/6_Why- it-Matters_Sanitation_2p.pdf

(3) For an overview of all the targets: sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6

(4) The UN NBS rapport: unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002614/261424e.pdf

(5) Read more about Monocle: monocle-h2020.eu/Citizen_science

(6) A map with global water shortages: www.wri.org/our-work/project/aqueduct/maps-data

SDG 5: Gender equality – “I am a Nasty Woman!”

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. 

On International Women’s Day the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London released a study on attitudes toward gender equality around the world (1). Results showed that 52 percent of the respondents believe that there are more advantages to be a man than a woman. Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, reflected: “people rightly believe gender equality has not gone far enough. While the issues we prioritise may be different country by country, there is a real consensus that men must play their part if we are to achieve true parity between the sexes.”

The targets: Gender equality and the position of women

Even though the term gender equality suggests different forms of gender identification, SDG5 concentrates primarily on the position of women and girls in society (2). The targets focus on private and public domains as well as economical, social and political positions. Foremost, all gender-based discrimination and violence must be eliminated. Furthermore, unpaid labour, such as domestic responsibilities, must be acknowledged to ensure social security; women must have access to contraception; and policy around gender equality should be enforced. Additionally, women must have the same economic property rights and the same opportunities for leadership positions as men.

The current situation: Numbers versus reality

Globally, there has been some progression in certain areas of gender equality. For example, the participation of women in parliament increased from 13 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2017. Furthermore, the number of child marriages slightly decreased, however, 650 million girls and women today were still married in childhood. Progress has been slow; for example, there has been a 1% change in the percentage of senior management roles held by women globally in the last 10 years. In some sectors progress has even been reversed; the percentage of female ICT specialists in the EU has decreased by 6%. Note that numbers only tell part of the story. A lot of gender-based violence and discrimination remains hidden due to shame, taboos or the lack of data availability.

Lacking leadership from the West: The case of the Netherlands

Gender inequality is something that is apparent in both poor and rich countries. My birth country, the Netherlands, for example, dropped from the 16th to 32nd place in the world rankings. Countries such as Moldavia and Mozambique have catch up. This is largely due to the weak political and economic position of women as well as the growing inequality in income and health. To illustrate, there is a gender pay gap of 16 percent, female parliamentarians dropped to 37 per cent and only 26 per cent of management positions is filled by women. A national hero is our former minister Lilianne Ploumen. With her organization She Decides, she fights for sexual and reproductive rights, and even filled in the gap of anticonception supply caused by the Global Gag Rule of US president Trump.

The new feminism: I am a nasty woman

The good news is that the attention for women emancipation is on the rise. In response to comments by Trump such as “grab them by the pussy” and “those are just nasty women”, multiple protests have been organized. For example, the Women’s March in Washington during which actress Alshley Judd performed a poem of teenager Nina Donovan titled “nasty woman” (3). Another example is the hashtag #MeToo which sought to increase awareness for sexual intimidation after several scandals of sexual coercion in Hollywood. Global governance organizations have introduced informal projects as well, to illustrate European Union and the United Nations have founded the Spotlight Initiative to combat violence towards women and girls (4).

Abby Wambach and the Wolfpack

A book on this topic to watch is from Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion (5). Based on her experience as a top athlete, she argues that: “it’s time for women to know the power of their wolves and the strength of their pack”. If we keep on playing by the old rules of leadership, we will never change the game. In the book Abby creates a new set of rules to help women unleash their individual power as well as to unite with other women and create a new world together. To do this, we need to make failure fuel, lead from wherever you are, champion other women and demand what you (and others) deserve!

Step up: Be a champion for gender equality.

Because gender inequality is often socially constructed, the most important thing you can do is to step up for your rights and/or the women in your direct environment. It is not ok if a female colleague is payed less than her man colleague, it is not ok if a female colleague is never nominated for promotion nor is it ok if colleagues make jokes about women in the kitchen or sexual intimidation. Furthermore, there are various initiatives you can support. For example, HeForShe has several projects about online violence towards women and breaking through taboos on sexual health (6). Remember, gender equality is EVERYONE’s business.

Notes:

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 3

This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.

Month 5: February & Finance

Looking into switching my pension to more ethical funds. This has been a daunting and opaque process for me, but I’ve been lucky in the support of some very knowledgeable friends.

Verdict: Definitely high impact but so far neither easy nor especially fun.

 

Month 6: March & Networks

The Network Effect: Sharing ideas, starting conversations and hopefully getting more people thinking about the small things they can change.

  • One of the challenges I’ve always had with this stuff is even if I am able to live completely carbon neutral with negligible environmental impact, I’m just one person on a planet of billions. But that’s what stories are for, so I’ve written this post in the hopes that a few of you will get something useful out of my experiences, and maybe between us we’ll have more of an impact.
  • And on that vein, it helps to think about your network: where are you connected, where do you have influence, who do you know who can change things?
    • This month I ran a workshop for my division at King’s to map our ongoing work against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, so we can amplify and celebrate positive contributions and reflect on how to reduce negative impacts. The output will be an ambitious sustainability plan encompassing the work of about 50 people and the workshop is now being prepped to be shared across the university – exciting stuff!
    • Sometimes all it takes is asking the right person the right question at the right time. Our office fruit is delivered by Oddbox, this year graduations went paperless, our last teambuilding afternoon was a Good Gym walk to volunteer at a foodbank. What could your workplace switch, and can you help make it happen?

Verdict: Relatively easy, pretty fun, and impact… well, you tell me!

~

Links and tips

  1. Energy provider: Switching to Bulb has only ended up costing us 20p more per month.
    1. If you sign up using the link above we both get £50 credit
  1. Laundry and washing up liquid switched to Ecover’s 15L refill boxes:
    • More convenient, as it’s delivered to your home and much, much slower to run out
    • Cheaper per litre
    • Fewer plastic bottles thrown away
  1. Sanitary products: Switching to Thinx was a completely revolutionary move. They are elegant, machine washable and so comfortable, I genuinely feel like one of the roller skating, skydiving women in those awful ads!
    • They ship from America, so watch out for customs fees
    • They also sell reusable tampon applicators
  1. Toilet paper by Who Gives A Crap.
    • I’ve recently switched to these guys and now get toilet paper delivered (so convenient) in plastic free packaging (which is colourful and lovely), made from recycled office paper (no trees harmed in the making).
    • It’s quite a bit more expensive per roll, but the rolls are double the length, so from my initial experiment I think it’s pretty much cost neutral. And they donate half their profits to sanitation projects around the world!
  1. Toiletries
    • Eco friendly deodorant by Nuud
    • Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, in reusable metal tins
    • Investing in a metal safety razor, rather than using plastic ones
    • Bamboo toothbrushes: I have one of these at the moment, but it’s a growing market with loads to pick from!
  1. Food and kitchen:
    • Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to cling film, and it’s easy (and cheap!) to make your own
    • Oddbox deliveries of seasonal fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets
    • Buy plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
  1. Little habits:
    • “Landfill Bin” is now written on the top of my kitchen bin, reminding us all to think twice about whether something is recyclable – this has had a bigger impact than I expected it to!
    • Make sure you’re using smile.amazon.co.uk if you use Amazon; they’ll donate a (tiny) portion of the profit from your purchases to a charity of your choosing

Emily’s Sustainability Journey – Part 2

This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.

Month 3: December & Christmas

Reducing the impact of Christmas by minimising stuff and emphasising experiences in gifts.

  • Buying memberships and tickets to events rather than stuff is a great way to gift memories, while up-cycling and crafting is a great way to create something meaningful and unique
  • Our work Secret Santa this year was capped at £5 and had to come from a charity shop, and we couldn’t believe what amazing presents people found!
  • I also made homemade crackers this year: cheaper, more sustainable and genuinely made everyone happier – imagine getting a lovely silk scarf in your cracker rather than another plastic keyring?

Verdict: Definitely easy and fun

 

Month 4: January & Food

Thinking more sustainably about what I choose to eat, where I buy it from, what it’s packaged in and how much is wasted.

  • Trying to eat more seasonally, with fortnightly Oddbox deliveries of fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets.
    • Wonky fruit and veg are genuinely charming: favourites so far include three pronged kiwis, a cauliflower the size of a football, and a slightly small but entirely delicious pineapple.
    • Starting this in January means I’m far more familiar with British root vegetables than before. Still yet to cook a turnip well, but I’m learning. Looking forward to summer on this one!
    • Finally, the packaging is sustainable: nothing is plastic wrapped and they collect and reuse the previous cardboard delivery boxes with each delivery.
  • Moving all dried produce (rice, grains, pasta, nuts) into jars, beautifying my kitchen cupboards and laying the groundwork for buying plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
  • This one is definitely a journey but there’s so much reward in being thoughtful about food. Some things I’m still working on:
    • Bringing in lunch to work from home consistently
    • Pushing my vegetarianism a bit closer to veganism, which I’ve started by treating cheese as more of a delicious treat than a daily staple
    • Just cooking better food: Anna Jones has been a great help here on seasonal recipes especially!

Verdict: High impact and mostly fun!

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