This World Water Week, why not start saying ‘NO’ to Plastic Bottles?

It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water… More than the millions of tons of carbon dioxide emitted or barrels of oil used in the bottling water manufacturing process, it is worth keeping this environmental nonsense in mind before carrying on with your next plastic bottles consumption or purchase – it takes 3 times more water to make the bottle than to fill it…

If this weren’t enough, non-recycled plastic bottles (sadly, a plentiful of them) end up their journey in our oceans, largely contributing to one of today’s most pressing environmental threats: ‘floating landfills’ the size of Europe, killing birds and marine mammals by the millions each year, while micro- and nano debris enter our own food chain with yet unknown consequences to public health… The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated oceans would have more plastic than fishes by 2050!

The worst – or the best – part in all this? You, your family, friends, colleagues, we can ALL do something about it, today! In our journey towards a decarbonized future, it is vital that everyone – businesses, schools and other institutions, individuals – goes “plastic bottle free”. Easy and safe drinking alternatives exist.

In this World Water Week, join me in supporting the Drop It ‘Say No To Plastic Bottles’ campaign, a small but vital step in preserving earth’s most essential and irreplaceable resource and ecosystems, and helping each of us do the right thing.

Find out more on the Drop It Facebook page here:

Pacific Institute, “Bottled water and energy / A fact sheet” and_sustainability/bottled_water/bott led_water_and_energy.html

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2016: Renewables full throttle!

As the first global gathering after COP21 in Paris, the Abu Dhabi  Sustainability Week was an interesting place to gauge the global  temperature, so to speak, on the climate front: will we see a continued  momentum or will the Paris agreement fade away in light of the current  economic and geopolitical instability? I caught a few soundbites to find it out, within a plethora of panel discussions and side events between the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), International Water Summit (IWS) or IRENA’s General Assembly.

The beginning of the end of the ‘Fossil Fuels era’

With the COP21 heroes on stage – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Christiana Figueres (UNFCCC Executive Director), Laurent Fabius (French Foreign Minister, COP21 President) or newly appointed Climate Champion Laurence Tubiana – one would have expected a full plate of triumphant declarations. This wasn’t to be. Well, perhaps just a tea spoon by Ban Ki-Moon “the Paris agreement is a triumph for people, the planet and multilaterism” when Laurent Fabius camouflaged his in subtle reverse psychology: “It would be tempting, despite the French reputation for modesty, to take all the credit. The truth is different: there was a political, economic & technical maturity around the issue”. Overall, a rather sobering mood dominated the week, focused on ways to “turn political ambition into practical action” as noted by Dr Sultan Al Jaber (UAE Minister of State and special envoy on Energy and Climate). Ban Ki-Moon quietly set the scene: “the shift away from fossil fuels must start immediately. Over the next 15 years, trillions of investments will be needed in infrastructures. These investments must go towards clean energy.”

Many of the interventions that followed, fed the sentiment that the green hammer used by Laurent Fabius to seal the Paris agreement, also sealed the fate of fossil fuels. A reality […] Read more

What if we stopped sugarcoating CSR and added a bit of realism to the discussion?

As I was hearing world leaders, at the opening of COP21, competing for the most earnest, lyrical declaration about the imperative to take action on climate change (“for sure this time, cross my heart!”), I couldn’t help drawing a parallel in my mind with the sugarcoating statements you often hear about CSR: “doing well by doing good” is not only a win-win, it’s “a win-win-win-win” as I read once. And, yes indeed, which organization can say ‘no thanks’ to creating value for all its stakeholders and society?

Please don’t get me wrong, I am hoping with all my heart for the most decisive possible action on climate change in and beyond Paris. By my professional activity, you can also reasonably assume I am a strong advocate of CSR. Perhaps, blame a French Cartesian mindset but too much sugarcoating makes me quickly allergic and I tend to be more receptive with a bit of salt and pepper to it (call it realism). Just as it proves somewhat more complex to translate lyrical declarations into an achievable pathway below 2C for our planet, repeating some clichés about CSR does not translate that easily into value creation and opportunities right here and then for businesses. The reality is of course more complex than that.

CSR: dead or alive…?

To many observers, the concept of CSR is at a crossroads. A look back at how little an impact CSR has achieved in society after a few decades of practice (without even mentioning major scandals like VW) is adding fuel to critiques questioning whether the concept is fit for purpose, as eloquently illustrated in a recent debate: “Is CSR dead?”. Meanwhile, notably in the Middle East where CSR is still emerging (and pretty alive, thank you!), the reality for most practitioners I see, is an ongoing struggle to […] Read more

Yalla, time for collaboration, big problems-solving and action!

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” (Albert Einstein). Well, after 55 minutes … and 43 years of dilly dallying, between the moment it was first formulated in Stockholm in 1972 until last month in New York where a set of global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted… world leaders have finally got down to business to solve “the most complicated problem the world has ever faced”: how to ensure prosperity for all in an ever expanding world population and world economy in a finite planet with ever shrinking natural resources.

Building on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) which enabled some progress, particularly in the areas of health and poverty, SDGs set out a much more interconnected framework over the next 15 years, essentially around 5 big ideas: people, planet, prosperity – ie a vision of prosperity that fulfills people’s potential, dignity, equality and respects our natural environment while tackling the urgent issue of climate change – peace (as there can be no sustainable development without it) and partnerships, to strengthen global solidarity and achieve all this in an accountable way, with the inclusion of public-private stakeholders and citizens at a global and local levels.

This all sounds very nice, but why believe this is not just more empty talk? And supposing it is real, how can we practically contribute at a local level, in our private or professional capacities, to these 5 minutes … and 15 years of sustainable development action?

One key differentiating aspect of SDGs, compared with other international agendas, is their inclusiveness: many of the actors, otherwise remote or absent from such processes (that would be us, citizens, everyday professionals) are given a front row seat at the negotiating table … quite a change. Take the climate negotiations, […] Read more

An irreversible transformation towards a more sustainable future is underway. Welcome to “the Age of Clever”!

2055. From the top of the “Global Archive” tower in what is now a melted Arctic amidst a ravaged world, a man, the “Archivist”, looks back at some old footage of the beginning of 21st century, wondering why humanity didn’t save itself when it had a chance before the worst effects of climate change occurred. And so begins the thought-provoking docudrama “The Age of Stupid”.

Why is it that movies and novels providing a vision of the future – like The Age of Stupid, The day after tomorrow, Interstellar, the Mad Max series, etc – are overwhelmingly dystopian? As if it were too much of a stretch to imagine a positive future for a world facing such unprecedented wealth divisions, environmental stress and running off sustainable tracks in so many ways.

Yet it wouldn’t be too hard to repaint a more upbeat vision of our future: see blueprint visions of sustainable cities (eg Paris and its positive energy towers in 2050, by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut, the Eiffel Tower is still there, pfew!). Or simply look no further than all the inspiring policies, initiatives offering us, today, glimpses of a sustainable future.

Tellingly, some of these inspiring stories come from a region largely dependent on its oil and gas reserves: the Middle East. All the more significant then to see Jordan or the UAE being amongst the first countries in the world where solar energy can produce electricity at the same price or cheaper than natural gas! Moreover, since the beginning of August, UAE motorists will also have felt the pinch of significant increases in fuel price at the pump, following the removal of fuel subsidies. Notwithstanding the steady fall in oil prices, it is worth appreciating it in the context of the region: for a country blessed with huge fossil fuel reserves […] Read more