Welcome to the 2nd episode in the series Sustainable Development and 17 UN SDGs. 

 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries. These 17 sustainable development goals are not linear, rather they are deeply interconnected – action taken on one goal can have a positive impact or a negative impact on the progress of other goals. Identifying, understanding and acknowledging this interconnectivity will help business leaders and individuals to think, plan and build a holistic solution while addressing an SDG so as to  maximise progress and minimise negative impacts on other  SDGs.

 In a world of increasing inequality, environmental unpleasantness and civil unrest,  any business can only thrive if it is done in the sustainable way. Let us look at the SDGs one by one.

Goal 1: No poverty

This ambitious goal has 5 targets or KPIs like eradicating extreme poverty for all people, reducing the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty according to national definitions,  implementing social protection systems and measures relevant for nations, ensure everybody has equal right to economic resources as well as access to basic services..
There is a reason why “no poverty” is marked as goal number 1.

Why is this SDG important?

Eradicating poverty remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. While the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half, between 1990 and 2015, too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs. 

  • As of 2015, about 736 million people still live on extreme poverty (i.e less than US$1.90 a day); . 10% of world population.
  • Half of people living in poverty are under 18. 
  •  80% of people in poverty are living in South Asia and Sub Saharan region. Rapid growth in countries such as China and India has lifted millions out of poverty, but progress has not been even. 
  • Women are more likely to be poor than men because they have less paid work, less education opportunities, and they own less property.
  • In 2016, 55 per cent of the world’s population – about 4 billion people – did not benefit from any form of social protection. 
  • One out of five children live in extreme poverty, and the negative effects of poverty and deprivation in the early years have ramifications that can last a lifetime. 
Before looking at how Businesses and individuals contribute towards achieving Goal 1, let us get into the right mindset first. We call this ACHIEVE mindset. 
Achieve is an acronym for:
  • Ambitious / Accountable
  • Consistent
  • Headman like
  • Intentional
  • Eager
  • Vigorous
  • Energetic

With this mindset, it is a matter of getting things done. 

Role of Businesses and Individuals

There are quite a few things businesses and individuals can do to move our planet towards zero poverty. 

  • Businesses should focus on creating secure and decent jobs especially in the least developed countries where the vulnerable population is most.
  • Sponsor, drive and run projects and programs  to economically empower the downtrodden, underprivileged and the unprivileged groups. Companies can very well commit to sourcing a significant percentage of raw materials from small-holder farmers in a developing country to boost local employment and empowerment
  • Ensure decent working conditions for all employees across your business and supply chain. The term decent working condition could mean different things to different people. If we put ourselves in the shoes of a worker, judge the working condition and if we feel, it is a good enough environment, then we can call it a decent working condition. One broad example for bad working condition across the world is hiring under aged workers. We can ensure not to hire under aged workers in the entire supply chain and not do business with those who hire child workers.
  • Ensure the lowest paid employees get fair and “living wage” and compensations are not based on market alone.
  • Use your business and personal network, create a marketplace and market goods and services that cater to, and aim to improving the lives of underprivileged groups. For ex. a start-up in India develops quality textiles and garments that are created by poor, destitute, marginalised women and markets them at a reasonable price.

Closing thoughts

We should be mindful of positive and negative impacts while working on sustainable development and SDGs. Let us look at the relation between Goal 1 and other goals and the impact we could create.

When we contribute to Goal 1 – No poverty, we can also maximise the positive impact on other goals. For ex. Reducing poverty can help address issues around nutrition (Goal 2 – zero hunger), (Goal 3 – good health and well being), (Goal 4 – quality education), (Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation) 

On the contrary, we should be careful to minimise the negative impact. For ex. if we create more jobs in an effort to reduce poverty and totally neglect the environmental hazards resulting thru such job creations, it may very well have a negative impact on  goals 13, 14 and 15 which are climate and environment specific goals.

Key is to have an ACHIEVE mindset, undeterred vision and a clear understanding of the Power of One.

As the world fights with climate change, loss of biodiversity, scarcity for natural resources and conflicts arising out of such scarcities – Sustainable development is in the news almost every day. We need to acknowledge that the countries around this world face universal challenges that can only be addressed effectively through partnership between governments, corporates and citizens.

Sustainability is the foundation for today’s leading global framework for international cooperation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries, developed and developing – in a global partnership.

In the coming weeks, I will be blogging and podcasting about each of these development goals, what these goals actually mean, where do we stand in these goals now, what is the role of business, governments, citizens to meet these goals and so on. This is an introductory post in that series.

So, what is sustainability and sustainable development?

Oxford defines sustainability as, “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”.

Most frequently quoted definition for sustainable development is from the famous Brundtland report from 1987, which states that, “Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Why should we be interested in sustainable development and UNSDGs?

If you are an individual, you will understand the real state of the planet, its urgent needs and understanding the SDGs will motivate you and trigger you to be a positive change in the society. You can use this opportunity to evaluate your own behaviour and understand the impact you can create towards positive change.

If you are a business entity, you will understand the role of business in the transition towards a more sustainable world. You will also understand that the SDGs are interconnected and the impact your business create on one of the goal may have a negative impact on another goal. You will get some insight on how businesses can help drive the sustainability agenda by effectively partnering with citizens and governments.

Last but not least, I will try to demystify the myth that huge investments are needed in order to take up your green business agenda. On the contrary, business can get benefited by being sustainable.

I will end this introductory note with these words. “Business is not about profit maximization, but about creating a societal value. Profits are a means, not an end in itself.”

2020 got engulfed by Covid and the trend is expected to continue at least for a good part of 2021. Billions of people are in lockdown unable to socialize, unable to go to work or to schools, gather in public places.  People around the world are feeling desperate, millions lost their jobs, people struggling at home, in care homes and intensive care units, dying of the same cause separated from their loved ones in their hours of need. At times of such existential danger, we want to be close to our near and dear ones holding their hands and embrace them. But that is prohibited too as every act of physical contact or every act of physically showing compassion could spread this deadly virus.

Looking back, 2020 taught us so many things about ourselves, our relationships, our society and its value system. We learnt to find happiness in simple things. I personally experienced so many simple moments of bliss. Be it watching the sun shining through autumn foliage sipping a cup of coffee in cold mornings or the times of togetherness with my wife and kids where we had countless hours of fun and frolicking in spite of being in lock down.

Thanks to Covid, planet Earth had some great moments too. The lockdown response to Covid caused an unprecedented reduction in global transport activity which ultimately resulted in considerable decline of global air pollution.  Reducing air pollution can reduce both the climate change and Covid risks. Sea turtles have been spotted laying eggs in beaches they once avoided. A study published during mid 2020 found that the daily global carbon emissions fell by 17%. These are welcome signs for the planet but these changes are also temporary. Once the earthlings gets released from the clutches of the pandemic, they will get into the beast mode destructing our environment.

The Coronavirus shows us how terrible it really is to waste our lives, embroiled in endless battles for wealth, status and power. How terrible it really is to not recognize the value of the people and more importantly the value of our planet and its very existence. Taking the lessons we learnt during the dark hours of 2020 to our heart, let us try to be  aware of our actions and the negative impact we create on the planet by changing few simple things in our day to day lives. Remember the power of one from our earlier post. Sharing few inspirations to kick start your 2021 with more earthly awareness.

Own your cup of coffee – Around 7 million coffee cups are thrown away in UK every single day. Own a reusable coffee cup and carry it along. Lots of coffee houses offer discount when you carry your own cup. Why not just make use of it?

Say no to plastic water bottles – Eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year killing our marine creatures and harming their habitat. A plastic bottle could take up to 450 years to decompose. There are so many alternatives like glass, stainless steel, reusable bottles and so on. Just avoid using plastic water bottles.

Plastic cutleries out of your kitchen and birthday parties – By simply going for a compostable alternative, we could save up to 466 items of unnecessary plastic every year. From edible spoons to Areca plant based cutleries, we have a myriad of options to choose from. All it needs is a mindset change, awareness and consideration towards our planet.

Ditch your tea bags – Tea bags are made of plastic and they are a major cause of polluting our water system due to the non-recyclable components. Simply use loose tea with a tea strainer or go for plastic free, biodegradable tea bags.

BYOB while shopping – Bring your own bagIt takes up to 500 years for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill.

These are just some examples to help you kick start your awareness journey. We can create a considerable impact by just being a bit aware of our surroundings. Remembering to switch off light after leaving the room, going for energy saving lights, turning off computers at night, exchanging old mobile phones while buying  a new one, closing tap while shaving – these are simple things that all of us can follow from this moment. Why not give a try and be a better citizen of this planet?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the Mantra and if we are aware,  we can reduce our consumption and consumerization, reuse almost anything and play our part for a better planet if we also understand what can be recycled.

Let the lessons we learnt from Covid and lockdown guide us towards a better 2021 and let 2021 be the year of environmental awareness for each of us as individuals and collectively as society.

Happy New Year !

The Power of One simply means the power to believe in oneself, often beyond previously demonstrated abilities. 2020 is dominated by Covid craziness but this too shall pass soon. What will not pass without concrete actions from humanity is the climate crisis.

The Paris climate agreement which was signed in 2015/16 by nearly 196 countries pledged to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees celsius by 2030 preferably 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. It is a landmark agreement and more importantly a legally binding one.

To limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, the world need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6% every year between now and 2030. According to Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, “the world is going in opposite direction – planning an annual increase in fossil fuel production by 2%”  Clearly, the paris agreement ambitions are not going in the right direction.

Now, we have two choices to make. An easy choice and a right choice. We can blame it on corporate and country leaders for the climate crisis and move on or simply not talk about it at all and pretend climate crisis is not even real. That’s the easy choice. As a consumer of this planetary resources, we can also make the right choice. We can be the differentiator, understand the power of one, create a difference and build a sustainable community.

Most of us are concerned about global warming and are well aware that there is no Plan B or Planet B when it comes to climate crisis. When we constantly hear about flooding coastlines, abnormal weather patterns, raging forest fires, species extinction – it can lead to what experts call a “Apocalypse Fatigue”. While encountering such adverse message time and time again, even well intentioned people who always look for solutions and work towards problem solving starts to feel helpless and start to avoid acting the right way. That’s apocalypse fatigue and that’s what the human species is going through now !

Per Espen Stoknes –  a Norwegian psychologist and economist has done quite a bit of research on this topic and has written a book “What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming“, where he explains how we can reframe the debate and turn apocalypse fatigue to societal and personal actions. In his 2017 ted talk, he goes on to say, “the biggest obstacle to dealing with climate disruption lies between your ears”.  It’s the Power of One, he wants us to understand.

To explain the power of this thought process, let me share a story of a hummingbird. Hummingbirds are the smallest of the bird species measuring between 3 to 5 inches. Once upon a time, there lived a hummingbird in a forest in Americas along with a myriad of other plant and animal species. One bad day, the entire forest got engulfed in fire. All the inhabitants went into hiding to save their lives. The tiny hummingbird started flying in full thrust towards the nearby pond, fetched few drops of water in its beak and spit it on a burning tree. For hours, it continued with this act tirelessly. At one point, the fellow inhabitants asked the hummingbird if it is insane and how could it save the forest by fetching few drops of water every time.

The hummingbird politely responded, I may not be able to save the forest through my act. But the consequence is same even if run for my live and go in hiding like all of you do. If I can at least save one tree from burning, it is better than no trees. isn’t it?

The animals realized their mistake, immediately ran towards the pond led by a large elephant herd. After hours of firefighting, the species managed to save a small portion of the forest from burning and started building their habitat. Over time, nature took over the barren land and there formed a dense forest yet again.

All it needed was a hummingbird that realized the power of one to save a big forest. We can all be that hummingbird giving our best efforts towards saving this planet from climate crisis. Simple changes make a big difference to the planet. 8 Million tonnes of plastic cups end up in our oceans every year. Nearly 7 Million disposable coffee cups are thrown away in UK every day. A disposable cup takes upto 30 years to decompose. A plastic coffee cup takes upto 450 years to decompose. A plastic straw takes 200 years to decompose.

Clearly we have opportunity to make a right choice on our daily lives that will have a huge impact on the planet. Key is to understand the power of one and start acting now. No voice is too small. We should believe in that.

 

Most of us would have come across the 3Rs for a sustainable future. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Following these 3Rs will not only lead to a happier planet, but also a happier team and an even happier and sustainable, Agile IT organization. Its fundamentals of programming and common sense. That’s what sustainability is about as well. isn’t it? Keeping common sense while catering today’s needs so that the generation tomorrow can also cater their needs !

Reduce: – defined as “make smaller or less in amount, degree, or size.”

Code – We need to shift our focus from Lines of Code (LoC) to Value of Code (VoC). Reduce the code, keep it simple and valuable as it can be. Do the housekeeping religiously and never let dead code lie around in production or even in test environments.  Take out overly complex and redundant code. As developers, if you think the coding effort do not correlate to the value it brings, don’t shy away from asking a big Why? Recent update to Scrum Guide clearly emphasizes more on two keywords – Value and Why.  Sprint after sprint while building a product feature by feature – try to get a clear understanding of why a feature is being built and the value it brings to the product/customer/organization.

Process – Process is only as good as the value it brings or the complexity it reduces. Reduce the process to the extent it helps the team to deliver value consistently.  Be it an organizational/administrative process or a recurring meeting – if you don’t see the value behind such processes, question their purpose and try reducing the duration. Goal is to have a lean, inter-connected and hyper effective business processes that helps create value time and time again.

Reuse: – defined as “an action of using something again.”

Code – Computer program is not about lines of code but about solving business problems. Enough emphasis has been given on code reuse over the years. Code libraries, design patterns, frameworks helps achieve reusability. Writing Sustainable Code is key. Code in such a way that it caters the current needs effectively while it is also easier to extend in the future. Code reuse is not the same as code duplication. We should be clear in this distinction 🙂

Learnings – Reusing what others have already experienced, learnt, proved can certainly save time, effort and ultimately money. Create demand and supply patterns of knowledge/learnings within your teams and explode it further to the organizational level. Build learning labs, knowledge repositories, communities of learning. We cannot afford to learn everything on our own. Share, reuse, reform is the way to go.

Recycle:- defined as “to use something again for a different purpose.”

Code – Recycling software is processing existing/dormant code to help produce new software to prevent waste of development effort, potentially reduce software cost. This is generally seen as a specialist work.  Using dead/unused code for a different purpose needs a specialist so generally development teams do not spend time and effort doing this research. Open source codes, codes from legacy systems are good recycle candidates.

Ideas: –  Life long learners never ditch good ideas no matter they materialise or not. They simply journalise those ideas. One of your team member came up with a great idea to help manage a project, but it did not work out. It can very well be used somewhere totally not related to your work. Listen to ideas, brainstorm those ideas, understand the ideas, journalise ideas, use ideas and recycle ideas.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle certainly helps organizations go Lean and Green !

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