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BW Businessworld

‘We need transformative sustainable innovation’

At the Women Economic Forum 2017, where women from different spheres came to discuss issues of women empowerment and gender parity, sustainable development was a key issue, given the large role played by gender dynamics in sustainability

At the Women Economic Forum 2017, where women from different spheres came to discuss issues of women empowerment and gender parity, sustainable development was a key issue, given the large role played by gender dynamics in sustainability.

During one of the sessions titled ‘Sustainable Development Need in the 21st Century’, Edurne Gil de San Vicente, a sustainability professional from the UAE and an associate at Open Doors Consulting, stressed on the dilemma of raising the standard of living of more than 4 billion people in the world who will entering the middle class, and the enormous stress it places on natural resources.

Vicente went on to elaborate on the pressure on natural resources with increasing urbanization (over 40 megacities in the world which are a habitat to over 10 million people), and the climate change dynamics with rise in temperature globally of 6 degree Celsius.

She then conducted a very interesting activity about water footprint, direct and indirect, where she said that we should be just concerned about the footprint of “visible water, through drinking and bathing and washing, but also the invisible indirect water footprint, through our use of commodities which require water for irrigation, transportation, manufacturing and processing”.

Vicente chose volunteers to stand with a mobile phone, an apple, a water bottle and a pair of jeans, and asked the audience to guestimate the indirect water footprint of the use of these four commodities. With the plastic bottle using 2 litre for the manufacture of the plastic, the apple using 70 litre of water for its irrigation, the mobile phone using 910 litre of water for its manufacturing and the pair of jeans using from 8,000-12,000 litre of water for its manufacturing and processing (given the high water footprint of cotton irrigation), the audience was astounded by how our daily use of commodities has a high latent water footprint which we are unaware of.

“Many people in the world still do not have access to electricity and water and sanitation,” added Vicente, who then went on to present an interesting chart about ecological debt, and stressed that every year, the amount of natural resources needed to sustain the planet is used up quicker and quicker.

“In 1970, the planet’s natural resources would last up till 23 December, while in 2015, by 13 August, all the natural resources were consumed. In 2030, by the end of June itself, the planet will not be able to sustain itself given the rapid rise in consumerism,” Vicente said.

“We are actually wasting 1/3rd of the global food produced, which can be fed two times to those who are suffering from hunger,” she said, going on to elaborate on the need of a “circular economy” and “biomimicry”, to look at the “nature and see how beautiful it is”, while stressing on the need for “collaboration” to deal with many of our world’s challenges.

In the second part of the session, Rashmi Sawant, founder of Culture Aangan recounted her story as a child, and focused on the personalized definition of sustainability, where she said “sustainability used to be a way of life” in her younger days, stressing on the need for a culture of sharing and community participation.

Ruchi Jain, founder and director of Taru Naturals, urged the audience to actually be “conscious of where their food comes from”, and elaborated on her start-up, which aims to “connect farmers to the urban consumers directly”. “Getting one tomato on your plate is a lot of blood and sweat,” Jain said, criticizing the relative oblivion an urban consumer lives in regarding the actual sourcing of his or her food.

The session ended with Sutapa Sanyal, an IPS officer and Arzu Ozyol, CEO of HYDRA Project and Consulting Co, focusing on the gender dynamics of sustainable development.

“Sustainability needs to be looked at from the natural resource part and the human resource part,” Sanyal said, as “gender equality is integral to sustainable development”. “There is a need for multi-stakeholder partnership for the attainment of the sustainable development goals,” said Ozyol, adding that “gender equality is a question of social justice and human rights”.



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