Portfolio

Charting the course of sustainability in business

Today’s businesses are under the spotlight like never before. They are expected to play a leading role in fighting climate change, achieving globally agreed sustainable development goals, and ensuring that 9 billion people can live well on the planet by 2050. Progressive businesses are widening their focus beyond profit, to consider how they can create value in society and thrive in the future. It hasn’t always been this way. So how has the concept of sustainability in business evolved? 1960s-1970s: turning up the heat In 1962, conservationist Rachel Carson sparked international outcry...

Read More

The business benefits of promoting diversity and inclusion

Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15pc more likely to outperform their competitors, while thosewith employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35pc more likely, claims research by McKinsey & Co. Combine inherent diversity – such as gender, race or age – with acquired knowledge, such as cultural understanding or language skills, and the stakes are even higher. Increasingly, progressive businesses are embracing diversity and inclusion as a means of forging a sustainable future. Tech giant Cisco attributes its ongoing technological innovation to its...

Read More

Interview with Jeremy Leggett: Why renewables are winning the ‘carbon war’

“It’s an existential battle of belief systems,” Jeremy Leggett told a packed audience at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, describing the raging ‘carbon war’ between the respective proponents of renewable energy (the ‘insurgents’) and fossil fuels (the ‘incumbents’). The social entrepreneur and renewable energy expert, who founded solar business Solarcentury and charity SolarAid, went on to share, in an electrifying manner, why he believes that finally, the insurgents are on ‘the winning side’. Hurling fact after fact at a relentless pace, he...

Read More

Helping farmers cope with climate change

Coffee farmers in Peru suffered heavy losses in 2013 when 40% of the country’s coffee plantations were adversely affected by coffee leaf rust. The disease, which scientists blamed on climate change, damaged leaves and slowed coffee cherry growth, resulting in smaller, lower quality yields. The risks posed by climate change are not limited to coffee. In developing countries, nearly two thirds of the extremely poor earn a living from agriculture. They are on the frontline in the fight against climate change, yet they often lack the finance and knowledge to withstand its effects. This can...

Read More

Business action on the Sustainable Development Goals, one year on

Businesses are failing to work on the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), according to two new surveys, despite being billed as having a key role to play in achieving the ambitious goals. With an estimated investment gap of at least $3tn annually across the SDGs for the next 15 years, private sector involvement is critical if countries are to succeed. Yet fewer than half of global companies plan to engage with the goals, according to Ethical Corporation’s State of Responsible Business 2016 report, which surveyed 2,045 sustainability professionals globally (36% of whom worked for a...

Read More

From basket weavers to salt farmers: the women leading a renewables revolution

People call us Mama Solar,” says Solar Sister entrepreneur Hilaria Paschal. In her native Tanzania, Paschal and her fellow basket weavers buy solar lights and clean cookstoves from Solar Sister, a social enterprise empowering women to bring clean energy to rural African communities, and sell them to friends and neighbours living without access to electricity. The women pay for the products with savings, income from other businesses, funding circles or through Solar Sister’s startup funding packages. Paschal has sold products to more than 1,000 people, channelling the income into her...

Read More

Bridging the solar funding gap to bring clean energy to off-grid communities

High in the Usambara Mountains of northern Tanzania, a woman prepares to give birth in the pitch black. Her family clusters around her. With no electricity at the birthing clinic, someone shines a mobile phone above the midwife’s head. The baby is the last to be born in near darkness at the Zahanati ya Tema clinic. The next day, a local solar company brings access to clean electricity in the form of a solar home system. The initiative was made possible by solar finance business, SunFunder, which aims to bridge the funding gap between investors and up and coming solar businesses in east...

Read More

A tale of two megacities – how Shenzhen and Lagos are coping with urbanisation

Cities are major contributors to the world economy, behind 80% of global economic output. Their rise has been rapid and unprecedented, growing from 2% of the global population in 1800 to 50% today, as more people move from rural to urban areas, compelled by the promise of a better life. By 2050, the UN predicts that two thirds of humanity will live in cities, predominantly in Asia and Africa. Making cities inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “The urban sprawl often outgrows the local infrastructure as the population increases,...

Read More

The woman who catalysed Nike’s sustainability transformation

“Sustainability is not a problem to be solved, it’s a condition to be created,” sustainable business expert Darcy Winslow told a packed room of investors at Julius Baer’s recent Next Generation Summit in Zurich, Switzerland. Drawing on her experience of spearheading Nike’s move to set social and environmental responsibility at the heart of its business, Winslow made a compelling case for inspiring business leaders to strive for positive, systemic change. “We must set a new trajectory if we are to address the degradation of ecosystems, climate change and social inequality,” she...

Read More

Combining technology, tradition and meaning is the future of design

Technology is increasingly being integrated into textile, lifestyle and fashion design, with concepts such as 3D printing, wearables and biomaterials steadily gathering momentum. But the seemingly inexorable push towards technology-infused design is tempered with a growing desire to hold onto traditional values and customs. Society wants products that are both smart and have meaning, and this in turn is leading designers to camouflage technology in more readily recognisable forms. Speaking at the Julius Baer Next Generation Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, designer and researcher Elena...

Read More