An initiative is bornIn the spirit of social entrepreneurship, Davis and Au teamed up to bring the 7dayring to Canada. With their combined specializations in human resources, marketing, and accounting and their a mutual passion for “doing good” with business, the 7dayringproject was born! The process is simple: the project purchases Kassahun’s rings from Ethiopia, sells them in Canada, covers its distribution and operation costs, and donates the proceeds to the Girl Fund of Imagine1Day, an organization in Ethiopia dedicated to gender equity and girls’ education. here to visit the 7dayringproject’s website, learn more about their story and business model, and purchase a ring or two!
Why initiatives like the 7dayringproject matterIn 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a series of commitments that aim to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change. Two specific goals of the SDGs are the deliverance of quality education and gender equality. In development work, it’s well known that empowering women and girls is key to breaking the cyclical nature of poverty, and to empower is to educate. Due to harmful gender stereotypes, poverty, and early pregnancies and marriage, many girls and young women don’t complete their educations. According to UNESCO statistics, 31 of 57 million children not in primary school are girls while 493 million of the world’s illiterate population are women. Just how important is girls’ education and how much does it really contribute to fighting poverty? UN Women notes that improved education accounts for 50% of economic growth in OECD countries, a group of wealthy Western nations, in the last fifty years. Half of that growth statistic is a result of more women in higher education. For developing countries, ensuring girls are able to obtain and complete primary and secondary educations will be a difficult task, as they must also deal with other dimensions of poverty, such as health, to render education effective. In spite of this, the value of ensuring girls’ educations is no less important. In a PR statement, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova confidently states, “We know increasing the education of adolescent girls and young women carries impact across generations. We know education is the best cure against transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. We know it is the best way to avert child marriage. We know if all women completed primary education, we could reduce by 70 per cent the number of women dying in childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa – saving over 100,000 lives every year.”
Panel Members: Christie Stephenson: Western Canada, Purpose Capital. She has spent the past 15 years involved in impact investing and social enterprise as an investor, board member, mentor, and through her work in the socially responsible investing field. She spent 14 years at Canada’s leading socially responsible investing firms Sustainalytics and NEI Investments, where she managed the environmental, social and governance evaluations program. She has also served on the boards of numerous social enterprises. Robert Crawford: UBC Professor and Arts One Program Chair. Professor at UBC since 1995, focusing on international relations, political philosophy, and international political economy. His Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and States in the Modern Era course evaluates the perceived benefits and costs of foreign direct investment in select countries, regions, and industries, while analyzing the effectiveness or desirability of various attempts to control, limit, and regulate MNC behaviour. He has taught at SFU, UVIC, published two books on international relations, and is the UBC Arts One Program Chair.
What’s so important about COP21?Climate change has begun to be a front and centre issue for both developed and developing countries today; meetings like COP serve as valuable opportunities for the global community to work together towards a common goal of reducing the effects of global warming. Within COP21 is the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), a platform where countries and non-governmental actors discuss their respective interests in order to reach an agreement on cooperative climate change action. The LPAA highlights in a statement both the mounting threat of climate change against agriculture and the fact that agriculture accounts for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions, major contributors to global warming. This is a key concern for Fairtrade because many of their partners’ livelihoods are agricultural. The LPAA proposed initiatives focusing on four areas: soils in agriculture, food losses and waste, sustainable production, and resilience of farmers. Partnerships developed within the LPAA will commit money and technical knowledge towards supporting farmers in developed and developing countries to become key actors in the global drive to reduce climate change.
Fairtrade farmersThe farmers featured in Fairtrade’s video series are members of cooperatives – jointly-owned businesses that share profits with members, in their countries – partnering with Fairtrade to ensure that members receive fair payment for their goods. Generally, Fairtrade partners are farmers or artisans who partner with the organization as a way to combat the highly competitive nature of free trade that would pay them very low prices for their work. These competitive prices are not enough for them to survive on. With agriculture as their livelihoods, they understandably have many concerns about climate change and how COP21 decisions will directly affect them.
Their thoughts on COP21The farmers in Fairtrade’s videos express a sense of urgency about COP21. From Kenya to India to Mexico, climate change is affecting small-scale farmers in devastating ways. “It doesn’t rain when it should, and it rains when it shouldn’t,” says Luis Martínez Villanueva, a representative from Mexico. Changing weather patterns are problematic for farmers, driving down production by causing droughts and crop diseases. With falling production, farmers’ incomes are falling, too. Facing such grim realities, farmers set their hopes high for COP21. Victor Biwot, a tea farmer from Kenya, says he’d like to see more activities spearheaded by developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to support African farmers to adopt energy efficient methods. A representative of the Suminter India Organic Farmers Consortium, Benny Mathew, demonstrates that solar power allows farmers to dry 500g of seeds using 250kg instead of 1500kg of firewood. By using a more sustainable energy source, farmers in Kerala, India are able to do more work at less cost to the environment. Making moves towards greener energy use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions may seem like moving a mountain, but to small-scale farmers, it will be life-changing. “We need to have high expectations even if we don’t reach them,” Villanueva continues, “small changes in big countries mean that small countries can have high hopes.”
Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.
March 17, 2015: Over 50 participants – ranging from UBC students and faculty, practitioners and community members joined some of Vancouver’s most known ecological economists for a discussion on how to move towards more sustainable models to drive the economy.
As the discussion around the environment increases, some economists and scholars are challenging the very foundations of economic models created to distribute resources. They are doing this through a new discipline called ecological economics.
What is Ecological Economics?
Ecological economics aims to improve and expand economic theory – the distribution of resources in an efficient way – to include the earth’s natural systems, human values and human well-being. These are factors that some say are often times excluded from traditional economic models. Most economists refer to these costs as “externalities.” Ecological economists want to change that model.
The concept of ecological economics encompasses topics including, but not limited to:
Interdisciplinary thinking – the environment (e.g. earth, biosphere), social issues (e.g. poverty, inequality), time (e.g. long term impact of human activities) and sustainable development all form part of ecological economics. It is a model that challenges the focus on human-made capital (money).
Planetary boundaries – economies should respect biophysical limits. Economic growth is not sustainable because the Earth and its resources has limits.
Sustainability – ecological economists generally reject that all natural capital (e.g. water, arable land, species) can be substituted or purchased by human-made capital. There is a focus to preserve and protect resources instead of depleting them.
Environmental economics is not the same as ecological economics.
Environmental economics is the mainstream model that essentially puts a price on natural capital (e.g. resources). Ecological economics instead has a strong emphasis on sustainability and sees the economy as a subsystem of the environment.
Panel discussion: Moving towards a more sustainable economic model
Three of Vancouver’s most known ecological economists joined a diverse audience to address how society, individuals and policy makers can move towards more sustainable and inclusive economic models.
The panelists included:
Tom Green: Vancouver-based ecological economist with a PhD (UBC). Associate Faculty with at Royal Roads University, visiting faculty at SFU, former post doc at Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Michelle Molnar: Economist at the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), and VP for Programs at the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE). Professor at BCIT, MA (Public Policy), MA (Philosophy); BA (Economics & Philosophy).
Michael Barkusky: BA (Honours) in Economics; MBA, and the CGA designation (since 1985). He is the Secretary-Treasurer of CANSEE. Diverse experience in a wide range of sectors as an employee and entrepreneur.
After panel introductions and a question and answer period, participants worked together through breakout sessions on how to move towards more sustainable economic models – from a local, international, policy and corporate perspective.