Portfolio

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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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Is motorsport turning over a new, green leaf?

The lights go out, the engines reach a high-pitched scream and dozens of elite racing machines begin the charge, rocketing around the track at breakneck speed. It’s not an image traditionally associated with sustainability. Over the years, motorsport has cultivated a reputation for high performance, gas-guzzling cars, glamour and excess. However, with corporate sponsors demanding improved environmental performance, new race regulations promoting fuel efficiency and Formula E cementing electric vehicle technology in the public consciousness, could racing be undergoing a green revolution? As...

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Industrial symbiosis: Sharing waste energy and materials for mutual benefit

As businesses grapple with the challenge of decoupling growth from a heavy dependence on natural resources, forming networks and sharing knowledge are increasingly emerging as catalysts for innovation. In 21 industrial nations, networks of companies – often from unrelated sectors – are taking this one step further. By adopting the concept of industrial symbiosis, they are harnessing each other’s excess energy, resources and by-products for mutual benefit. Seeking an alternative path to economic growth Pushing Earth beyond its natural limits, coupled with resource scarcities,...

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How are companies applying circular thinking to packaging?

Packaging plays a vital role in protecting goods and attracting sales. But traditionally packaging has moved in linear supply chains with little collaboration on designing for recyclability or reuse. Companies have tended to opt for low value materials, often used in combinations that are hard to recycle or produce an adverse impact on the environment. When coupled with a lack of widespread consumer understanding around recycling, packaging can end up destined to become waste in a short space of time. Some 79.9m tonnes of packaging waste were generated in Europe in 2011. Now, the landscape is...

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