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.

Join me on Twitter with Safecity – Jan 28-Feb 3 – Social Responsibility & Women Empowerment

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If social responsibility and women empowerment interests you, I’d like to welcome you to join me in a week long Twitter curation with Safecity @pinthecreep from January 28 to February 3. If you are involved in this field or know any organizations related to this field, please share and we will spread the word! Don’t forget to follow the host @pinthecreep.

Featured topics for the week:

  • Jan 28th: Socially responsible fashion
  • Jan 29th: Social responsible investing (SRI)
  • Jan 30th: Socially responsible tourism
  • Jan 31st: Leadership in the social responsibility space
  • Feb 1st: Socially responsible businesses
  • Feb 2nd: Twitter chat
  • Feb 3rd: Closing the week

Twitter chat – 2nd Feb – Mark your calendar!

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The week will end in a Twitter chat focusing of Social Responsibility & Women Empowerment. Our guest of honor will be Vasu Primlani. Vasu Primlani is many things. She is a standup comedian, professor, triathlete, and- a somatic therapist. She has received over a dozen international awards for her work, her latest being the highest award given by the president of India to a woman – the Nari Shakti award. She specializes in preventing rape, the authentic self, and does somatic therapy for survivors and rapists alike. Follow hashtag #Safecitychat on Twitter to participate in the chat on February 2nd 9PM-10PM IST.

If you have never participated in a chat on Twitter.com before, you must know that on Twitter chats you can share ideas and also make new connections. Follow the steps below if you are newbie to not just Twitter chats:

  1. You need to have an account on Twitter.com.
  2. Follow @pinthecreep and @anujasaw.
  3. This discussion will run between January 28 to February 3, so make sure you keep a close eye on these two Twitter accounts to receive the latest updates and to participate in the discussion.
  4. Follow hashtag #Safecitychat for the Twitter chat on 2nd February, 9PM – 10PM IST.

Any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. You can also see this Twitter Guide if you are new to Twitter.

To know how we did it in the past, here are the links to previous Safecity curations:

In the past, with Safecity, I’ve engaged people on the intersection of Environment, Women’s Safety, Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Twitter on:

  • Women’s role in Environmental Education
  • Achieving SDG11 targets for Safe and Sustainable Cities
  • Rethinking urban transportation systems
  • Omission of women in urban planning
  • Anti street harassment
  • Safety in 100 smart cities of India
  • Safe cycling in Indian cities

I’ve also developed educational material for Safecity on sanitation and hygiene for girls of age group 12-15 years.

About Safecity:

Safecity (registered under Red Dot Foundation) is a platform, founded in 2012, that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data which maybe anonymous, gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to identify factors that causes behavior that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.

Last edited: January 23 2018. Date for SRI and Tourism swapped.

Sustainable investing 101

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Volunteer Image Author Nattanan23

As a young independent adult, one of the things I’m learning about is investing. I want to be able to invest and at the same time bring about a social change. This blog post contains basic terminologies, who this is for, how to start with sustainable investing and some resources if you are still interested. This kind of investing goes by several names and approaches such as:

  • Socially responsible investing (SRI)
  • Sustainable investing
  • Responsible investing
  • Impact investing
  • Ethical investing
  • Green investing
  • Socially conscious investing
  • Community investing
  • Positive investing
  • Green bonds
  • Climate bonds
  • Eco-investing
  • Development impact bonds
  • Ethical banking
  • Purpose-driven finance
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Investment

Who is this for?

Sustainable investing is for everyone and according to experts it doesn’t mean low returns. It is not just for those who care about bringing about social change.

How do I start?

Whenever starting something new, research is inevitable. I’m not an expert but this might help:

  • Find out if a local bank has portfolios such as socially responsible mutual funds and sectoral investments. Back in India, it was difficult for me to explain this to a bank or a portfolio manager because there this concept is not widespread. However, it is catching up. In 2014, India was the first country to mandate a minimum spend on corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Divest from investments that do not align with this strategy.
  • Hire an investment advisory firm that specialize in integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into the selection and management of investments.
  • Fund projects that want to bring about social change.

Resources:

 

Harmon(e)y with environment

Environmental Economics on Wikipedia is a pretty good start for those who want to learn about you know – Environmental Economics. But what is it? It tells you about how we choose to use resources and how it affects our environment. If it weren’t for this, companies wouldn’t have been levied with taxes for polluting our water systems. This is just one example.

4 (15)What particularly interests me is ‘natural capital’ aka the commons or ‘open-access’ properties. World Forum on Natural Capital defines it this way:

Natural Capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things.

Everything really. Now, there’s something called as ecosystem services too, that we obtain from these natural capital. Whatever we use by altering the natural capital for our survival or luxury are ecosystem services, for example, the fuel we use. Crude oil is a natural capital and fuel is an ecosystem service.

You may be aware what will happen if we run out of natural capital. Say, fuel, what will out world look like without oil? Watch this creepy video:

As we run out of natural capital, so will we run out of ecosystem services. This is why we are turning to green chemistry, green technology, renewable energy etc. So, what can we do? There are people who do the natural capital math. It’s called Green accounting.

Oh this economics lexicon is driving me crazy. Ecological economics, green economy, green accounting, environmental economics. Argh. Nevertheless it is an important topic and there are ways to understand it. This infographic, pretty even, has a few things defined in it.

Amidst the sustainability business, what can a common man do? Plant trees? Yyyyyuuup. A good friend asked me if anything like this exists and I assured him he will have the answer to it in one of my blog articles. An act that will enable exactly this will be formulated soon in Maharashtra, India.  The Hindu states, “The Maharashtra Government is in the final stages of formulating an Act that will enable “tree credits” to be traded in the State.” Does this have some economic term too? Yup. It’s called ‘tree credits‘. Farmers will be given appropriate certification and money. Interested people can read this article that states:

The social forestry is currently inviting feedback on the project from the public. Citizens can reach the authorities at treecredit@hotmail.com.

This was going on in 2011, you might want to check if this email still exists. For tree farming outside India, Fox Business has a report.

This is not as rosy as it looks. Nature.com asks: If growing forests in India can generate lucrative carbon credits, then why isn’t everyone planting trees? Paroma Basu reports. Here’s the article that tells you why.

Chemical process industry and pollution

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Volunteer Image Author Olafpictures

A flow chart below shows what a typical chemical process industry looks like, in a broad sense. As you can see, every stage or every plant in the industry emits waste (effluent – whatever that flows outward, other than the product) in any of the forms viz. gaseous, liquid and solid. Effluent handling is a vast topic. Due to stringent norms on effluents emissions, a huge amount of study has been dedicated to waste treatment.

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How does one manage effluents?

  • Make appropriate changes, innovations in the process. This is one of the 12 principles of Green Chemistry, to create such a process so that no waste is produced. Zero waste.
  • So much for Zero waste, it is not always possible. So what can one do? End of pipeline i.e. when changes and innovations are not possible in a process, treat the effluents.  Separation and purification is one of most economically costing processes in the industry.
  • 3R: Reduce, recycle and recover. (Recover: “Liability at one end becomes asset at the other.”, Wealth from waste)

It figures, not all are concern driven. Some can envision the long term (or short term, or local) effects of pollution, while others simply care about money, or both? Money is the incentive and is not about proving that chemistry and physics are working together. Innovation is making money. Money is the incentive, so we find ways to earn money while we try to protect the environment, such as carbon emission trading. Another example is how India gained most from destroying HFC-23.

How do green technologies help us?

  • green technology operates in harmoney harmony with nature, but may not always makes business sense,
  • helps keep a limit on the pollutants produced,
  • most importantly is site specific because what is green at one place won’t necessarily be green at another.

Food for thought – What could Ranbir Kapoor be possibly trying to say in the song ‘Sada Haq’ of the movie ‘Rockstar’ when he says these words: “O Eco friendly, Nature ke rakshak, Main bhi hoon nature”

Further Reading:

Last Edited: January 9 2018