Category: UN Sustainable Development Goals (page 1 of 4)

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #3

This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019.  This blog comes last in a series of three blog posts from Isabella. 

Sustainability in Estates & Facilities

Student Accommodation / Residences

King’s Food

King’s Sport

King’s Venues

Fit for King’s

Asset Improvement & Space planning

Evaluation

  • The United Nations state that good health is essential to sustainable development, and thus, King’s highly encourages healthy living and well-being. SDG 3 is the most popular within the department and maps across almost every division. 
  • SDG 8 focuses on energy productivity. Given the number of computers, projectors and TVs across the university campuses it is vital that the Estates & Facilities department minimises the amount of energy consumed. 
  • Income equality affects staff and students as it may prevent them from pursuing opportunities. SDG 10 states empowering lower income earners is vital, and Kings are taking many approaches to work on this. In some areas, for example, the Estates & Facilities department gives discounted rates to those with lower income. 
  • An SDG also commonly shared across the department is SDG 11. To face the rapid growth of cities and increasing rural to urban migration, it is vital to focus on sustainable development. As Estates and Facilities manage the venues, residences and space planning in the university this SDG addresses this department most than the others at King’s. 
  • SDG 12 is also implemented in almost every division. Aside from meeting the social responsibility and service targets, King’s also focuses on environmental aspects. It is important that we reduce our ecological footprint by adjusting our consumption and production methods. This goal is being achieved in the way King’s manages the world’s shared natural resources and disposes of toxic waste and pollutants.
    SDG 13 is also quite similar to 12. In managing our consumption and production methods, the human impact on climate change is reduced. 
  • King’s is ranked as the world’s 14th most international university with over 40% of students being from outside the UK. The university focuses on establishing an inclusive community where students from abroad feel they are welcomed. This maps out SDG 16 which encourages peace and unity. 
  • SDG 17 explains that the SDGs can only be realized with strong partnership and cooperation. To achieve this on a global scale we must begin locally. The Estates & Facilities department does so by raising awareness of sustainability and service to staff and students.

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #2

This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019.  This blog comes second in a series of three blog posts from Isabella. 

The following 2 sections contain the desktop research I have gathered on the sustainability practices within two departments at King’sThe School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, and Estates & Facilities.

Mapping the SDGs: Biomedical Engineering at King’s  

I attempted to match the information I found in the Biomedical Engineering Department website to the most appropriate SDG.

Evaluation

  • The Biomedical Engineering department primarily targets SDG 3. The United Nations state that universal health coverage is integral in ending poverty and reducing inequalities. The department focuses on achieving this through their research and innovation in healthcare and medical technology.
  • SDG 4 focuses on achieving inclusive and quality education, especially in developing regions. The university tackles this issue by giving students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunities to progress onto higher education.
    The application for target 4.5 states King’s Widening Participation due to the fact that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related subject streams are available to prospective students on the K+ and Realising Opportunities programmes. However, Biomedical Engineering is not specifically listed, thus, this could perhaps be an area of improvement.
  • SDG 8 promotes productive employment, technological innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.
    In the Professional Issues module I recently completed, I gained an appreciation on project management, entrepreneurship, sustainability and ethics. I believe it has grown my professional development and some awareness of global issues. The module, however, is 0 credits and thus many students did not attend lectures. An incentive to encourage more students to attend could perhaps be an area to focus on.
  • Investing in scientific research and innovation is a primary focus in SDG 9.
    The department is well-known for their extensive on-going research in state-of-the-art labs and hence maps this SDG out well. Also, researchers themselves lecture many modules in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In doing so, students are more likely to then progress onto research and innovation themselves.
  • Due to the vast amount of energy used by computers and machinery it is important that the department focuses on responsible consumption and production as stated in SDG 12.
    King’s sustainability department encourages sustainable labs across all departments who may use them. This focuses on areas such as control of fume cupboards, energy efficient management of cold storage, and recycling plastics.
    To further encourage sustainable labs within the department, staff could become Sustainability Champions.

 

Interview with Paul Marsden (Development, Diversity & Inclusion Lead)

Most charities and sponsors are more likely to fund research projects and give grants to institutions who hold an Athena SWAN Award – many charities have this as a requirement. This acts as an incentive for the department to focus more on gender equality and inclusion. Many sponsors also require research projects to apply to developing countries. For example, technology must be widely used and accessible in all countries. This maps out SDG 9.

Furthermore, the department is involved in outreach activities organised by external companies: Nuffield summer programme, King’s Health Partner’s Summer School, Clinic Trials Day. These are aimed towards prospective students from under-represented backgrounds to encourage quality education for all – SDG 4. Other strategies, such as mentorships, are also being developed to support and encourage BAME students.

Along with the 2nd year Professional Issues module, the department also offers PhD training which focuses on social responsibility, ethics and engaging with industry.

 

Interview with Saad Qureshi (2nd Year Professional Issues Module Lead):

The professional issues module required students designing a business plan on a unique, biomimicry project (the application of nature to engineering). In this module, lectures focused on project management, ethics, and global sustainability issues.

The department’s aim in delivering the module, and teaching sustainability, was to develop student’s appreciation of nature and knowledge on social, economic and environmental issues. As biomedical engineering students, we are in a unique position to help tackle such issues. The project allowed students to develop their skills in sustainable design processes and eco-development. Saad explained that he hopes students will adopt a sustainable approach in our personal and professional lives.

 

The final part of Isabella's internship story will be published tomorrow, 17.1.20

My Internship in the King’s Sustainability Department #1

This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019.  This blog comes first in a series of three blog posts from Isabella. 

Introduction 

My name is Isabella Trujillo-Cortes and I am a 2nd Year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s.  I have just completed the Careers+ Global Internship programme where I undertook a 4-week internship in Hong Kong this July 2019.
The Careers+ programme is aimed towards UK undergraduate King’s students from under-represented groups.
I am of Colombian heritage and I was raised in Newham, London. Despite growing up in a low-participation borough and attending a state school where high grades were not common, I have utilized the support from widening participation schemes to excel in school and college. My up-bringing in London has exposed me to many cultures which motivated me to apply to the Global Internship Programme. As a proud Latina, I am motivated to share my traditions with those of other backgrounds and cultures. The global internship will give me the opportunity to do so.

Aside from the internship, the programme provided one-to-one support and specially designed workshops to support us in achieving life-long success.
To prepare ahead of the global internship and to familiarise myself with the work environment of a professional office, I was also given the opportunity to complete a micro-internship with the Sustainability Department at King’s.

Having recently taken a module titled ‘Professional Issues in Biomedical Engineering’ I was introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The module enhanced my knowledge of the issues concerning our environment; however, I was not fully aware of the goals regarding social and economic aspects.

In addition, I am currently a Social Mobility & Student Success ambassador at King’s. In this role, I have been exposed to one of the many areas of service and sustainability which the university focuses on. I appreciate how the university supports and encourages prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds through widening participation.

In completing my project with the Sustainability department, I saw how the
SDGs, as well as  how global challenges (both environmental and social) are being addressed across the university.
I have also been introduced to the King’s Strategic Vision 2029 – a vision which sets out the aspirations of King’s to make the world a better place. King’s hopes to do this by amplifying Service as core to the public purpose of King’s and to facilitate participation of staff and students. The university are aiming to generate innovate ideas to impact society and work together to deliver these. The Service activity will be evaluated and measured in order to constantly improve strategies.

The internship raised my awareness of the student societies at King’s which tackle global challenges and promote sustainability. For example, the Enactus society (present at King’s, but also many universities world-wide) which implement community impact projects in order to enable sustainable human progress.
In addition, I have become more familiar with the practices and policies across the university to tackle environmental problems. For example, the methods used to recycle laboratory waste, save energy and water, and minimise food waste. The Sustainability Champions programme play a vital part in encouraging others to follow sustainable policies, initiative sustainable behaviour change and work together to reduce the negative and maximise the positive social and environmental impacts.

Furthermore, during my time in the placement, I was fortunate enough to have attended a Service Oversight Group meeting. I was informed about the wider service agenda and updates on progress and achievements. I was also introduced to a student-led project – the ESSA Project. Students delivered an audit report on the social responsibility at King’s which further informed me of the social responsibility practices in the university.

The social responsibility report stated that there was not sufficient communication to students about projects and volunteering opportunities. I find it interesting that this was the main area of improvement as, being a student myself, prior to completing this placement I was not aware of the many on-going projects around the university regarding Sustainability and Service. I agree that this area needs improvement in order to facilitate participation of students, and hence, progress in the Strategic Vision 2029. A training programme titled Supporting Service Leaders at King’s was also promoted in order to encourage staff to focus on Service in leadership. Such strategies such as these could further increase the participation of staff – both those working in Service as well as in other departments.

The service team also mentioned the idea of implementing compulsory modules in sustainability and service across all departments. As I completed a similar module in my course, which I found very engaging, I believe this idea is very likely to encourage other students to contribute in service.

After this internship I am looking to improve the statistics in student engagement by participating in areas of service throughout the university. I hope to join a student society where I can volunteer in social action projects to make an impact to our society and environment. I also look forward to encouraging staff in my department to become Sustainability Champions.

Kings are ranked 5th in the global THE University Impact Rankings and it is our responsibility to maintain this spot or potentially move up. I hope to contribute by playing my part in achieving the Sustainability Goals. Having completed this internship, I am now encouraged more than ever, to make a difference both on a local and global scale.

Lastly, by working in a professional office, I have enhanced my project management, communication, research and analytical skills. I hope to take these skills forward and apply them to my university studies and at my internship in Hong Kong.

 

 

Part 2 to be published tomorrow, 16.1.20

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

Green wall unveiled at Orchard Lisle & Iris Brook

The living wall is a pioneering project designed to filter air at the campus and enhance biodiversity. It contains 73 native and non-native species, and the plants have been carefully curated to provide year-round biodiversity impact. This includes 30 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) approved flowering species and 18 RHS approved pollinating species, which are proven to support an increased insect population. The wall is also designed to improve air quality, with variations in plant size allowing for air movement to pass through the foliage, which acts as an urban air filter. Plants with hairy, waxy or sticky leaves trap particulates like PM10 and PM2.5 and hold them until they are washed away by rain. The appearance of the wall is likely to change throughout the year, with different plants flowering, and species naturally evolving around the wall.

These are some of the plants you can spot on the wall: lavender, rosemary, holly, strawberry trees, sage, wildflowers, honeysuckle and sword ferns. The living wall is also home to several bird boxes, insect boxes, and even a bat box.

Rainwater from the rooftop will be collected and circulated through the wall to irrigate the plants, and the fyto-textile system that holds the plants allows the water to be distributed evenly through the living wall.

The living wall was funded through the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Business Fund, which has awarded £200,000 to create a Business Low Emissions Neighbourhood in the London Bridge area. The initiative is led by Team London Bridge and Better Bankside, and the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, who own Orchard Lisle, will support the upkeep of the living wall.

To read more about the living wall, and to see the full planting plan, visit Team London Bridge.

Student Volunteer Auditors – Sustainability Champions

On the 14th and 15th May 28 students audited the 35 office and residence sustainability champion teams across King’s.

The student auditors received IEMA approved sustainability training, delivered by a representative from the National Union of Students (NUS) in the morning, before taking a break for a working lunch. In this, students assessed the work the staff champions had done within their workbooks. These workbooks contain various actions covering several sustainable areas, including: waste, energy, health & wellbeing, biodiversity and service to the community.

 

Snapshot of the Procurement actions within the Silver Workbook

 

The teams need to complete 18/23 to achieve their Bronze, 23/28 for their Silver and have an up to date Gold project plan covering 1-3 years to obtain their Gold.

After lunch, students paired up and went out to audit two champions teams each. Students went through each completed action with their teams, identifying positive progress the team had made over the year and identifying any areas for improvement to take forward onto the next 19/20 champions year. After the audits, all students returned to the training room to feedback their findings and established which award level their teams should archive for this 2018-19 champions year.

Wonderfully, all 40 office and residence achieved their projected award level achieving a total of:

  • 17 Bronze
  • 4 Silver
  • 14 Gold
Student Feedback

One student pair commented on the auditing process and champions work, saying: “We were really impressed by the changes they have implemented across the team, and how everyone has shown a true change in behaviour. The team have been able to encourage all employees to adopt a sustainable working environment. They have taken initiative on many occasions and their drive to achieve accreditation for their work is fantastic.” Another student commented that she “was impressed to see how passionate people were! Sustainability Champions helps King’s to go in the right direction and have a significant impact.”

This volunteer opportunity presented an opportunity for students to develop skills which is looks great on a graduate CV, including leadership and analytic skills. In addition, this opportunity allowed students to learn more about Sustainability at King’s and the efforts that go into this behind closed doors.

Student Auditors on 14 May 2019 Training Session

What next?

All staff champions will receive their Bronze, Silver or Gold sustainability awards at the annual Sustainability Award celebration in July. Staff will be joined in the company of the student auditors and their student champion assistants, as well as supporting sustainable groups and societies who have all helped to make King’s more sustainable over the past year.

2017-18 Sustainability Champions at the Award Ceremony last summer (2018)

 

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

A winning idea – How to make fashion more sustainable

This week’s guest blog comes from Cristina Zheng Ji. 

Every year, the Policy Institute encourages students and staff to pitch their policy ideas to a panel of experts. This year, the overall winner was second year Political Economy student Cristina, with her pitch to make the fashion industry more sustainable. We met up with Cristina to talk about what inspired her to take part, why sustainability in fashion is important, and how consumers can influence industry.

What inspired you to take part in Policy Idol?

Cristina: One of my lecturers suggested it as a great opportunity, so I decided to look at it. I had two ideas for a pitch, but narrowed it down to this one.

What is the Environmental Cost Labelling System?

C: It’s a labelling system to raise awareness of the environmental impact of clothing production. This would involve using the traffic lights system: red for the highest environmental cost through to green for the lowest and apply it to four categories of impact – water use, energy use, scope to recycle, and whether it is biodegradable.

What inspired you to do a pitch on sustainable fashion? Did you come across sustainability in your degree?

C: I was inspired by a YouTube video I saw on how there is an increased accumulation of plastic fibres in the environment. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic break up in a washing machine cycle and get into water streams. The numbers were astonishing: a washing load can realise up to 700 000 fibres in a single wash. This made me think about how people can reduce or change their consumption of polluting clothing – for example to pieces that don’t release plastic fibres. After looking deeper into the issue, I also found out that disposable fashion caused other severe environmental damages, too. Sadly, information about the impact of clothes on nature is not easily available, so I thought it would be useful to do something to aid consumers when they go shopping. I narrowed the environmental factors down to four categories, which can be changed after feedback from experts. I was also inspired by the traffic lights system in the food industry which colour coded food to provide nutritional information at a glance.

Sustainability is a general interest of mine, but not a formal part of my degree. Sometimes people around you also have a good influence – at home my parent’s generation wasn’t as aware of recycling, but coming to university my friends are very aware. And climate change is a huge issue with a wide range of threats, so it’s good to focus on sustainability. My other idea was also on climate change.

Why is fashion so important?

C: Many people are not aware of how polluting the industry is – it is the second biggest polluter in the world after the oil industry and bigger than shipping and aviation industries combined. We know that cars, shipping and flying have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but we don’t know about clothing. With the fast fashion model of ‘Take, Make, Dispose’ – where we buy clothes, wear them two or three times, and then throw them away –, people buy and dispose a lot of clothes. In Britain, more than 300 000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year. And people will still buy fast fashion as it’s a habit and generally affordable to most, but I believe that once people are aware of it, they might change their behaviour.

I think it is important to give consumers the choice. The idea for the pitch came from the idea of ‘nudging’. Some people see nudging to be paternalistic; however, it preserves people’s freedom to choose according to their own preferences. With the Environmental Cost Labelling System, options of good/neutral/bad are given, so if people want to make the ‘bad’ environmental choice they can do this, but one day they might choose the ‘good’ option instead. For those who have not thought the green issues much yet, the labelling could nudge them towards the better option. And for those who already choose a ‘green’ lifestyle, a lack of relevant information in the fashion industry makes this difficult. Ethical and sustainable fashion is often expensive. If we target the high street with this labelling system, we can bring sustainability to consumers without them having to research brands they don’t know, or spend more money.

Do you think this will lead companies to change their practices?

C: I think it will do. A change in the consumer purchasing behaviour can lead to a change in the manufacturer’s behaviour as they see an increase in demand in sustainable clothes and a decrease in unsustainable ones. Companies also have something to gain from this. If consumers switch to more sustainable brands, it will reward brands working on sustainability.

And companies know that sustainability is important, and that they can’t go on like this. For example, Levi Strauss & Co. make denim from cotton, but know that an uncontrolled and irresponsible resource use of this is wasteful and unsustainable. They are now working towards a circular economy where they encourage the consumer to take their old clothes and shoes back to the stores to be recycled.

What would the system look like, how would it work?

C: The four categories are a starting point – these could be changed after expert reviews. The information would be on clothing tags. Most clothes have a price tag, and also an additional one with information on the brand, or for example one I saw only says ‘We are denim’ 10 times. To replace this, I have designed a tag that has the Environmental Cost Labelling System with the traffic lights on it. In the food industry, the traffic lights labelling is not mandatory, so different brands may set their own standards. If this were to be made mandatory for clothing, and there was a universal agreement of standards for each colour, this could be powerful. There are already websites and non-profits out there that collate information on sustainability of clothing – we could work with them.

Just having a label to simply say ‘sustainable’ isn’t enough. There are so many aspects related to sustainability, and the Environmental Cost Labelling System would allow consumers to consider which aspects are the most important to them when they go shopping – e.g. energy use, water etc. The traffic light system also tells us about intensity, and not just pass/fail – it gives more power to the consumer.

 

After winning the overall prize at this year’s Policy Idol, Cristina is now looking at working with the Policy Institute to take her idea further. We hope that in the future, we might see this labeling system on the clothes we buy!

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:

Apps to Help You Go Green

Eco-Friendly Search Engines

Ecosia

Ecosia is a certified B Corp and was founded in 2009. It’s mission is to cultivate a greener world and has the goal to plant one billion new trees by the year 2020.

Ecosia does this by donating at least 80% of its advertising income to tree planting programs in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, and Peru. It currently has 7 million active users and has planted over 52, 000, 000 trees so far.

Using the app (or desktop search engine) is an easy way to make a difference.

(Ecosia also doesn’t sell your data to advertisers nor have third party trackers, unlike other some of the larger search engines…)

Tackling Food Waste

10 million tonnes of food is chucked away in UK every year. That’s equivalent to wasting £17 billion or £700, on average per household.

Olio

Olio is part of the ‘food sharing revolution’. This app connects people who have food to give away. There are 907,000 people have joined the Olio platform, and so far, has saved 1,218,03 portions of food!

To advertise food: download the app, snap a picture, give the item a short description & when and where the item is available for pick-up.

Too good to go

This app allows food outlets (Restaurants, Cafés,  Bakeries etc.) to advertise any food they have left over at the end of the day– to be sold in Too Good To Go’s ‘magic bags’ for heavily discounted prices.

So far, Too Good To Go has partnered with 1,488 stores (such as Yo! Sushi and Paul) across the UK, saving 479, 094 meals from the bin (equivalent to saving approx. 958,188 Kg of CO2). To learn more about Too Good To Go, watch their video here.

Plastic Reduction

Refill

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. 

The Refill app locates sources of free drinking water wherever you are. In London there are  over 900 refill stations. Around King’s, there are over 42 refill points around Strand, 38 near Waterloo, 17 around Guys , 10 by St Thomas’ & 4 close to Denmark Hill.

Using Refill helps to reduce use of disposable plastic water bottles (nearly half of the bottles in the UK are not recycled, with more than 15 million littered) and save carbon emissions connected to the disposable plastic production. Refill also receives 13p for every refill logged on the app, which goes towards planet protecting campaigns.

(The King’s App can also help you locate re-fill station inside of each King’s campus).

Keep your refillable bottle with you and you’ll never go thirsty again!

Sustainable Fashion

Good On You

Good On You gives you ethical ratings to over 1,000 high street fashion brands. These ratings encompass not just  environmental sustainability (e.g. assessing the company’s energy and water intensity, chemical use and disposal), but social sustainability; analysing factors such as child and forced labour, worker safety, freedom of association and payment of the living wage. Good On You also builds the rating around if any animals are used (reduced scores linked to the use of angora, down feather, shearling, karakul and exotic animal skin/hair, wool and leather).

Users can feedback and make requests of the brands.

Read more on how Good On You and how they rate here.

« Older posts