Tag: SDGs (page 1 of 3)

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:

Sustainability Week 2019

Each year, we hold Sustainability Week to raise awareness and educate King’s staff and students about sustainability at King’s. Sustainability Week revolves around ‘#MakeADifference’. The Sustainability Team, alongside student societies and staff Sustainability Champions, put on events with the aim to educate on various areas of sustainability (social, environmental and economic), give back to society and most of all – have fun!

Here is a summary of the week…

Sustainability Pop up: This Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We played lots of sustainability related games –
we quizzed you on how many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs you could remember and played the washing line game, where staff & students got the chance to win a Keep Cup and a free tea/coffee if they correctly guessed how long it took seven everyday items to degrade (from tea bags, to tin cans (hint: they rust!) to plastic bags). It was great to talk with staff & students about what interests you most within sustainability and we got the chance to update staff & students on some of the sustainability projects happening at King’s – for example, the Don’t Be Trashy project and behaviour change techniques aimed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates in King’s halls of residences.

Josh & Ali from the Sustainability Team at the Sustainability Pop Up, Tues 12th Feb.

King’s VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. We hosted this event in collaboration with the King’s Vegetarian and Vegan society. There were lots of free samples from vegan producers, including vegan cheese (thank you Tyne Chease), chocolate (thanks to Raw Halo) snacks (thank you to Purl Pops, Nim’s Fruit Crisps and Freya’s Fruit Bars), Dairy Alternatives (thank you KoKo, Rebel Mylk and to a King’s Alumni own brand: Edenera!). Students and staff also brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, we discussed the environmental impact of the food we eat and general sustainability passions!

VegFest Vegan Product Samples, Fri 15th Feb.

Dr Bike: Cycling is not only an environmentally sustainable form of transportation, but one that is socially sustainable due to the value exercise has on physical health and overall well-being.

We want to encourage cycling in London and help make it as easy as possible for our staff and students. Therefore, we held four Dr Bike sessions across the King’s campuses. These Dr Bike sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff. Mechanics led the session and checked brakes, gears and chains, changed bike pads and gave advice and accurate quotes for whatever they couldn’t fix. There are many Dr Bike sessions happening across London every day, organised through Cycle Confident. To keep up to date with the latest session near you, follow Cycle Confident updates here.

Dr Bike at Great Dover Street Apartments (GDSA), Tues 13th Feb.

Film Screening: A Northern Soul: Sustainability often gets bundled into being thought of as purely environmental, with the social and economic sides to it often neglected. This year, for our final event of the week, we chose a film which demonstrated the importance of these two, often forgotten, pillars of sustainability. A Northern Soul is a documentary set in Hull, which follows one man, Steve, a warehouse worker on his journey through Hull in 2017 during its crowing year as the ‘UK City of Culture‘. We see Steve chase his passion of bringing hip-hop to disadvantaged kids across the city, through his Beats Bus. The film raises uncomfortable truths about inequality in the UK, but does so while demonstrating the strength and charm of Hull’s residents in the face of this inequality. The film is available on BFI player.

Shot from the documentary ‘A Northern Soul’

GoodGym Run: King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Euston Food Bank. GoodGym volunteers helped to sort out the dry donations of cereal, biscuits and chocolate into sell by date to help ensure no food loss and effective allocation of items according to date. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to help the local community. To read more on GoodGym click here.  

GoodGym runners and walkers, Fri 15th Feb.

Gardening at the Maughan: The Library Services Sustainability Champions ran the gardening session at the Maughan to help nurture the 200+ trees which were planted in the garden at the start of December 2018, as part of National Tree Week and broader City of London Environment and Clean Air Strategies . Sustainability Week volunteers watered all the trees and
re-taped them to ensure their visibility, helped to replant some of the crab apple trees and gave the garden a quick litter pick – all in all, the garden got a good bit of T(ree)LC.

Left: Planting the trees in December ’18. Right: checking up on the trees & re-planting some of the growing crab apple trees.

Ethical Beauty Talk:  Stephanie Green from the Modern Language Centre spoke about how sustainable shea butter can empower women. Speaking from her experience living and working in Ghana she told the story behind the TAMA brand, made from natural shea butter. Lots of the beautiful vegan friendly soaps, creams and lotions were also available for sale at the session!

Zero- Waste Beauty Workshop: 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. The UN has stated that our use of plastic is creating a ‘planetary crisis’, and by 2050, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish. Read more here.

During the week, we held two zero-waste workshop sessions, co-hosted with the King’s Beauty Society. In these sessions, students learnt more about the global plastic-problem and the individual steps we all can do to make zero-waste living that little bit more achievable. Students got to make their own zero-waste coffee body scrub (using King’s Food own used coffee grounds – which would have otherwise gone to Anaerobic Digestion), lemon lip scrub and peppermint toothpaste!

Due to the demand, The Sustainability Team plan to host more events like this throughout the year. In the meantime, a post with the zero-waste beauty recipes will follow on the blog soon.

Top Left: Students with their coffee scrubs
Top right: Essential oils used for the toothpaste and lip scrub
Bottom Left: Breakdown composition of the coffee body scrub (1/2 coffee, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 coconut oil)
Bottom Right: President of KCL Beauty Soc

Thank you to everyone who helped organise and took part in Sustainability Week 2019! We love meeting you all and hearing your feedback, ideas and passions. You showed King’s really can #MakeADifference!

SDG 4: Education as the Passport to the Future

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

 

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

SDG 4 = Quality Education

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

The Targets: Quality Education, Relevant Skills and Safe Environments

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

 

Education, poverty and health

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

A lost generation: education during conflict

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

 

A mismatch between skills and education

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

The goals are there for you as well!

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

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

References

SDG 3: Healthcare as a Human Right

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

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

SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing for everybody

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

Reproduction, healthcare and medication

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

Every Women, Every Child

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

Contraception and family planning

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

No well-being without mental health

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

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

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

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

Resources:

Blog Series: SDG 2 – Food is Life

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

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

The Targets: Ending Hunger and Achieving Food Security

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

The Situation: From Hunger to Health?

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

 

The food security crisis in Yemen

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

Universities Creating Partnerships for Zero Hunger

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

What can you do?

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

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

References:

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

Can fashion be sustainable?

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

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

Source: Hubbub Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Blog Series: SDG 1 – The Battle Against Poverty

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

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

 

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

Nelson Mandela

 

 

The Targets: Eradicating Poverty and Creating Social Security

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

Progress? Measuring Regional Inequality

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

 

Oxfam and the UN: Business against poverty

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

The situation in Europe

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

 

 

 

The Fund of Urgent Needs in the Netherlands.

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

What can you do in the fight against poverty?

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

 

References:

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

Blog Series: 1- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Will You Help Build A Better World?

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

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

The Sustainable Development Goals:
17 Goals to Transform the World by 2030

“This is no plan B because there is no planet B”, are the famous words of Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN). In 2015, the agenda for sustainable development was set by the UN member states. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a collective action plan concerning sustainable social, economic, and ecological advancement for everyone. The aim is to leave no one behind. In this article, I will briefly introduce you to the goals in general. In the upcoming months I hope to familiarize you with each individual goal by writing seventeen separate articles on them.

The 2030 agenda

The SDGs take over the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were effective from 2000 to 2015. The MDGs contributed to halving child mortality and lifting more than a billion people out of extreme poverty, to name but a few examples. Nevertheless, they did not tackle the root causes of underdevelopment. One of the reasons was that the MGDs Goals were only focused on developing countries and at providing developmental aid and assistance. The goals encompass broad social objectives targeted at governments but without measurement tools to evaluate process. The SDGs, on the other hand, target all countries and concern overall investments. They cover a combination of social, economic, and ecological goals targeted at the whole world population and with measurement mechanisms.

17 goals, 169 targets, and 232 indicators

The 17 goals cannot, and should not, be understood as separate entities; the success of one goal is closely related to the achievement of the other goals. The goals are broad and ambitious in their scope. For example, the first goal objective is that nobody should live in poverty by 2030 (“zero poverty”). Each goal is broken down in several targets. The overall 169 targets give the global goals more substance and depth. They specify the various aspects that constitute the goals and indicate when the goal is successfully achieved in 2030. As an example, one of the targets that specifies the first goal refers to the fact that the amount of people in extreme poverty must be halved in 2030. One important improvement is that these targets can then be measured through accurate and dynamic data. The overall 232 indicators link existing datasets to the targets to facilitate the measurement, and evaluation, of progress. To measure is to know!

The Global Goals in your backyard

Under the title “Global Goals”, several organisations around the world are organising events and actions to create awareness of the SDGs and to mobilise people to contribute to the accomplishment of the goals. These events are diverse and differ in scale. Worldwide, there are various events around the subject how to make the SDGs “local business”. In the UK context, the UN Global Compact Network UK organizes the SDG Roadshow, which focuses on how businesses can align their strategies with the SDGs (1). Furthermore, in London Fashion United, a leading fashion trade event, has recently launched the “Power of One”. Through this campaign they aim to raise awareness for the Global Goals and in particularly for ethical and sustainable fashion.

 

The Sustainable Development Goals are also for you!

What encompasses these 17 goals precisely? How are we progressing? Who contributes towards their achievement? What can I do?

During an internship for the United Nations in 2016, I was responsible to find answer to these questions and communicate them to various people. I observed that although everyone is convinced of the importance of the SDGs, they often get stuck in the web of goals, targets and indicators. Meanwhile, I have started working on my PhD at King’s College London and have noticed that there is quite a bit of uncertainty on the SDGs amongst students.

To contribute to a better world, I want to make the SDGs more concrete and accessible for you. To do so, I will write an article about every goal in which I explain what the specific goal means and sketch the current situation. I will give examples of initiatives addressing the specific goal and suggests ways for you to contribute as well. Will you help to build a better world?

 

References

  • Want to know more on the SDG roadshow? You can visit their website here.
  • You can read more on the Power of One here.

Training as a Climate Reality Leader

Hello from Maria from the King’s Sustainability team! For today’s blog, I wanted to share an exciting event I attended over the last three days.

This week, I attended the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps Training. The three day event is organised by the Climate Reality Project, founded by former US Vice President Al Gore. Its aim is to train people from all over the world to be leaders in the fight against climate change, and the training events were featured in 2017’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’.

In Berlin, over 600 new Climate Reality Leaders were trained over three days. The days included a number of presentations and panel debates on climate change and issues around it. As the first day of the training coincided with the first meeting of the German Coal Commission, coal was one of the key themes during the event. A panel on how Germany – and the rest of Europe – can leave coal behind in favour of renewables included an emotional account from a citizen whose village is due to make way for an expanding coal mine. You can read more about Germany’s disappearing villages here. Despite the need for Europe to move away from coal, another panel acknowledged the challenges countries relying on coal for energy face in their transition. Many European countries will need to look at how they can turn their economy around while ensuring former coal industry workers are ready to move into jobs in other industries.

One highlight of the training was to see Al Gore present his now famous slide deck on the climate crisis and its solutions. For over two hours, he explained the science behind climate change, the impact it has on the world right now – and will likely have in the future – and the solutions that already exist. While countless images of environmental destruction and disasters around the world may make it seem like there is no hope, recent developments in renewable energy show that it is not too late to change our path. For example, in June 2017 Scotland sourced 100% of its electricity from wind power for a whole month, and countries around the world are scaling up their solar capacity. In the UK, countless local authorities have pledged to go 100% renewable in the future. Hope was a defining theme of the training, with presenters and panellists reminding the trainees that it is possible to tackle the climate crisis.

A particularly inspiring moment showing changing attitudes was during a Q&A session on the climate crisis presentation. When the audience was asked to raise their hand if they do not own a car, the majority of the room raised their hand. You can see a picture of this moment here.

As a now newly trained Climate Reality Leader, I am excited to go out and campaign on climate change. Climate Reality Leaders are asked to complete Acts of Leadership following their training, which can include anything from giving a presentation to writing a letter to their elected representatives. The Leadership Corps is also a thriving community, with regional and local chapters organising meetings, and assisting and mentoring one another to tackle climate change together. This community element was also central to the three days of training, with each of us encouraged to meet and connect with fellow Climate Reality Leaders from around the world. It was inspiring to see so many people from different industries and all ages coming together to solve one big challenge!

If this has inspired you to become a Climate Reality Leader yourself, you can follow Climate Reality on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming trainings. The next one is due to take place in Los Angeles in August, with applications open now.

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