Blog

Chasing Sustainability Conference 2018

It was a pleasure to be in a room with so many bright minds at the Chasing Sustainability 2018 Conference in Vancouver, an annual sustainability-focussed business conference hosted by the undergraduate and graduate students of the University of British Columbia at CUS Sustainability and Net Impact.

This full-day conference was packed with keynote speakers, interactive workshops, networking sessions, and intelligent discussions. I had the chance to be a part of the second half of the conference, where I interacted with students and listened to two speakers.

Presenter Allen Langdon,  President and CEO of Encorp Pacific (Canada) busted myths such as BC sends recyclables overseas and that plastic bags can’t be recycled. He explained his role and vision as a new appointee, presented statistical facts of waste generated and recycled, and raised concerns on ocean plastics.

Presenter Shaun Frankson, the co-founder of Plastic Bank, a social enterprise that makes plastic waste a currency to stop ocean plastic while reducing global poverty, talked about how Plastic Bank provides a universal income for the world’s poor that is earned through Social Plastic recycling programs. He talked about how IBM is helping them realize this project and how blockchain technology further strengthens it.

Students had opportunities to connect with business leaders to engage in discussions around business and sustainability. It was an honour to be a part of the delegation and to discuss my work as a Sustainability Developer at IKEA with students (I’m now a part of the Operations team at IKEA CDC in Richmond, BC). All in all, it was clear that Sauder undergraduate and MBA students aim to have a huge impact around the world. I was so happy to see their enthusiasm and passion around environmental and social issues.

Keep it up, CUS team!


Event cutlery was by Fairware, maker of eco-friendly promotional products ethically sourced.

Lanyards were reused.

Greener Print Solutions, a one-stop shop for sustainably-driven printing and design solutions, was one of their sponsors.

Environmentalists judge other people

Those moments when I judged people for throwing garbage out on the streets may classify as ‘micro-motives’ according to social scientists Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas.

Micro-motives are a collection of desires or a lack of them, hidden deep inside us. You can understand them by observing how you judge others.

People who care about the environment often resort to these sort of judgements. I did too. Who doesn’t judge though?

Here’s a recent picture that attracted harsh criticism in the light of severe air pollution in northern India and the controversy around fireworks ban.

Crackdown on crackers in cities, over 300 arrests in Delhi alone
Source: Indian Express

These judgements and their underlying micro-motives say something about the dreams environmentalists have hidden inside them. They dream of a better world, not just for them, but also for their family, friends, children, and their communities.

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves-or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.” ― Ayn Rand

Would you rather not have them judge you? Perhaps you are the one who is judging the government for not doing enough to keep the cities clean or judging companies for using toxic chemicals in the products you use. What do these judgements tell you about your desires? If you really know what you want, perhaps you could create a positive impact on the kind of world you want to live in.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Sharing pictures of my visit to the Chihuly Glass & Garden in Seattle, USA. It is an exhibition of nature-inspired art. You will see how Dale Chihuly’s works of art mix with nature as if they were always a part of it. Inspired by his mother’s garden, he wanted to bring together nature and glass and boy what a result!

Learn more about Dale Chihuly and his work here: https://www.chihuly.com/

I wish I had a spare heart

“Sometimes I think I need a spare heart to feel all the things I feel.” ~Sanober Khan

This is how the article I read on Tiny Buddha today started out. But, what is the point of feeling something if you are not taking any action on it? What is the point of acting on it if you haven’t put a great deal of thought into it? What we feel strongly about is what we are passionate about. Here’s another version of passion in a LinkedIn post by Adam Grant:

Passion without perseverance is idle curiosity.

Perseverance without passion is a grind.

Passion with perseverance is grit. 

A few years back, I started writing this blog to raise more awareness about environmental protection. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of progress all around the world. Progress not just for the protection of our environment, but the whole of us – you, me, all the people, the planet and fellow species. Although, there were times when I felt frustrated over the lack of speed at which it was taking place. I am happy when I am now able to bring it up in the day to day conversations. I understand that not everyone reads my blogs. I understand that my methods need to evolve.

Everything takes time and when the most pressing issues take precedence, other issues take a back seat. That doesn’t mean that no one is going to work on them, that doesn’t mean we have to let it go. Somebody somewhere is thinking about it, acting on it. A problem may be small for one but maybe big for another. In times like these, I hope we find the grit we need. Because we cannot have a spare heart, but if all our hearts beat as one, we wouldn’t need one.

A good read for when you think you need a spare heart:

How the Environment Has Changed Since the First Earth Day

 

Goddess of Green Chemistry and Climate

goddess-3575781_1920.jpg
Source

When the vice-chancellor of our university declared that they had come up with their own anthem “Rasayan Devike” (Goddess of Chemistry), I thought he was crazy. Who does that, I said to myself. Until now.

It has been five years since I graduated from this university. Today, I found out that the concept took birth to spread awareness about green chemistry – how old chemistry could help clean up its act with newer greener chemistry.

There’s actually a statue of the goddess near the vice-chancellor’s office. Makes me wonder the length to which the university must have gone to engage people in environmental protection. What were the odds of being ridiculed? 100%? Probably, because I heard no one talk about it the way I’m doing it now. I have a newfound respect for this.

Chances are students barely knew what it was all about. It may have been nothing but a stunt for them. Not to me anymore. History is filled with mythological characters. People have devised ways to celebrate these characters and what they symbolize.

Which takes me to another train of thought. Have you ever heard of the God of Climate? There are many weather gods – wind, thunder, rain, lightning. None for Climate. As NASA defines, “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”

So, what am I proposing, you ask? I’m proposing a God of Climate, wait, no – a Goddess of Climate (it’s just more fun that way). I don’t know how this is going to help, but hey everything begins with an idea, right?

Which variable world do you live in?

geometry-1044090_1920.jpg

Money seems to be the only variable in this world. Beautifully summed up by this Dilbert Comic.

Topper: I reject your idea because the costs are high.

Dilbert: In a one-variable world, you would be a genius.

Topper: Thank you.

Dilbert: I meant every word of it.

Have you ever seen a Chartered Accountant offer a return on investment on an environmental project instead of a tax return, audit financial statements instead of sustainability reports, and offer advisory services to clients based on what is good for the people and the planet?

What about environmental and social costs and related variables? These are mostly hidden unless deliberately shown in the form of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) disclosures.

I attended a webinar once where I raised this question – “When do you see CSR getting integrated into financial reporting?” Their answer – “Regional characteristics and resource limitations play into this greatly. As you may be well aware, Integrated Reporting (IR) is heavily deployed in South Africa and in neighboring/partner countries. Similarly, countries where stock exchanges require ESG disclosure, are more likely to produce integrated reports. Here in the U.S., many of our pioneering IR companies came into this space for the need to share resources with the financial/accounting teams when producing reports. Finally, we’re starting to see a great deal of interest for these types of reports blooming in the U.S.”

65% of Canadian institutional participants said that they often or always consider environmental and social issues, and 95% of them often or always consider governance issues for all investments.

In 2013, research by the India Responsible Investment Working Group, encompassing large corporates as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), more than 50% businesses are now prepared to provide ESG information to investors / other stakeholders.

The big players are considering these costs. Is your business following suit?