The power of being SMALL

“In OECD countries, SMEs play a major role in economic growth, and provide most new jobs. According to OECD’s Small and Medium Enterprise Outlook, over 95% of enterprises in OECD countries are SMEs, which account for 60-70% of employment in most of these countries.”[1]

That Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) stand for these huge figures is for me a great opportunity. Just imagine the huge and positive effect would have if all these SMEs founded their business in a social and environmental approach where their actions and decisions are based in a strong and inspired Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy.

On another blog post I referred to Malcolm Gladwell and his book The Tipping Point. I have to bring it again because I believe that if all SMEs acts as an responsible business in social, environmental and economic aspects very soon we can reach Gladwell’s Tipping Point, “(…) that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”[2]

Moreover, knowing that SMEs and Microenterprises also create 80% of pollution socked me and shows me the importance of working with SMEs in building awareness of the value of creating CSR strategies in the core of the business to create a meaningful social impact.

When companies implement strategic CSR they can find that the benefits are enormous. CSR braced corporate and brand reputations and enhanced trust with key stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, investors, etc.) By including CSR in the core of the company, they can improve risk management, revenues and reduce costs from efficiency improvements.

What makes easier to SMEs to create CSR initiatives is that usually SMEs are managed by their owners, who are also often their founders. Probably entrepreneurs, that have other more motivations than making money, started a good number of SMEs. This close connection between managers and owners means that commitment to purpose is more effective and is probably the best way of making CSR the core strategy of a business.

Another advantage for CSR implementation is that personal relationships in SMEs are easier to built and more often to happen. Internally, employees are likely to all know each other and because they all represent sort of a family, the relation with management people is closer and more flexible than in a large company.

SMEs are for me a great opportunity to prove that when businesses are fostered under responsible guidelines and with a CSR strategy that pursues a meaningful social impact, different and more positive results will bring for both company and society. If 95% of enterprises in OECD countries are SMEs, working with them and all of their employees, investors, suppliers and customers mean influencing a good number of people that will act better, responsible and aware of the impact their daily actions mean to the environment and to the society.


[1] http://www.oecd.org/countries/georgia/42072908.pdf, p.11.

[2] Michael Gladwell, The Tipping Point.

 


Time for the Tipping Point

“Do not pretend that things will change if we always do the same. The crisis is the best blessing that can happen to people and countries, because the crisis brings progress. Creativity is born from the distress, as the day is born from the dark night. It is in crisis that invention, discovery and large strategies are born. Who ever overcomes crisis, outdoes himself without being overcome (…) There’s no challenge without a crisis. Without challenges, life becomes a routine, a slow agony. There’s no merit without crisis. It’s in the crisis where we can show the very best in us. Without a crisis, any wind becomes a tender touch. To speak about a crisis is to promote it. Not to speak about it is to exalt conformism. Let us work hard instead. Let us stop, once and for all, the menacing crisis that represents the tragedy of not being willing to overcome it.”

Albert Einstein.

Was Einstein an entrepreneur?

Because by reading again his words I can say he is describing the sprit of social entrepreneurship, where a problem can be the inspiration for creating solutions with a positive social impact. As he says, times of crisis are opportunities more than obstacles in our way, is the right moment to use creativity and innovation to create change.

Einstein opens saying, Do not pretend that things will change if we always do the same.” Perhaps some had heard him and have begun doing things differently. And although many more are not aware of the world conflict yet, social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs and sustainable companies are all around the world.

We are witnessing the business revolution and the two scenarios in which is preforming. For one side, companies have finally realized that they cannot grow in a world full of hunger, within an unequal society and a damage environment. Some of them are now aware of the benefits that bring to do sustainable business with a positive social, economical and environmental impact and where corporate responsibility strategies guidance all their actions. For the other side, we are seeing how idealists and innovators are considering the crisis and problems as the opportunity to create business that solves those social issues.

Therefore, maybe if they all -sustainable business, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs- continue doing things in a different way, what Einstein was encouraging us to do, can actually materialize one day soon.

Hopefully, one can say that capitalism approach is changing. I want to be positive and think that values are again the base for all relations. Brands and companies are now developing their strategies, vision and actions based in their values; employees are being empower by their companies to do more than a task but also to innovate, give something to the community and share their knowledge for the social good; consumers are buying more than a product, they are relating with brands in which they trust and have respect because of how they are acting towards social and environmental issues.

Social media and new technologies had empowered consumers; nowadays they are the ones that drive the market and construct the dialogue. This can be also the opportunity to position social entrepreneurship initiatives and sustainable actions as big part of the solution for the global crisis. The collaboration era is about all getting together to change, empower and generate action and we have the influence of social media as a channel to achieve it.

Each day companies are more inclined towards developing business plans based in sustainable practices, more employees are willing to volunteer, more people is recycling, more bicycles are being used, but steel we live in a world ruled by inequality. However, I want to focus in the solution and be positive. I want to believe that together, social entrepreneurs, sustainable business, brands, society and governments, who are working for a meaningful social impact will reach soon the tipping point.

“The Tipping Point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”

Michael Gladwell

 


The land of few is the future of all

Five months in Madrid far away from Colombia, and maybe few days less since I am cursing this master in Sustainable Development and Corporate Responsibility, has been more than enough for me to see how most of the development issues we have considered, are reflected in my country in a big problematic. My objective, more than going further and analyzing the conflict in Colombia through these blog posts, is to try to find solutions while being critical and constructive. By the way, at the end of the master I am going back to my country willing to be part of the change.

 

In this chapter: land property.

Colombia is a country with a high land concentration, it’s GINI coefficient for land (a measure of land concentration that ranges between 0 and 1, where 0 represents total equality) is 0.87, one of the highest in the world.[i] More over, the land has an under-utilization for agricultural proposes; only the 22.7% of the land surface with agricultural potential is used for crop establishment. In contrast, of the 39.2 million hectares used today in livestock, only 21 million are eligible for it. [ii]

Although this problem has historic reasons, the armed conflict in the country has increased this situation because of the high rates of dispossession and forced displacement. An estimated 6.6 million hectares were stripped by violence in the past two decades, this constitutes 15% of agricultural land area. Due to the before mentioned conflict, the government created in 2011 a new law called Ley de Restitución de Tierras. This is a legal procedure looking to restore the land and formally recognize the victims of dispossession and forced abandonment that have been presented since January 1 of 1991 during the internal armed conflict.

Picture: www.semana.com

It is important to take into account that this law seeks to restore just 2 million hectares of the total territory stripped, which is between 6.6 and 10 millions. Besides, until December of 2012, the administrative unit in charge of the enforcement registered 31.111 return applications that corresponds to 2.246.664 hectares. However, in one year of the law validation, they have restored less than 1% of the land claimed by the victims.[iii]

Furthermore, the rural population in Colombia does not only live in poverty, they live in misery. A well-known magazine in Colombia called Semana, published a shocking report[iv] in 2012 about the rural land in the country and revealed some of these figures:

Taking this context into account, one can say that the rural issues in Colombia are not only about the armed forces and the more than 5 million inhabitants displaced by the violence. The situation is about how the government has wrongly valued the land, how economic priorities related to industrialization have prelate above the rural development and how farmers and their knowledge have been forgotten.

Picture: www.vanguardia.com

The Millennium Development Goals seek for a world without hunger, but in Colombia 12.6% of the population lives in hunger despite the fact that the economic growth has increased in almost 4% and that the land is sitting there waiting to be harvested for food production. “The FAO estimates that worldwide there are about 2.600 million hectares usable for agriculture that are not being used for cultivation. Of these, 900 million are in seven countries: Brazil, Congo, Angola, Sudan, Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia. The land of Colombia are being targeted investment speculative international.”[v]

My conclusion about the rural reality in Colombia is that we need more than just a law for returning the land and more than a peace agreement to recuperate the trust and confidence. We need to ensure the protection of farmers, their properties and their Human Rights. We need to invest in rural development and boost the work of small holders yields to improve food production, we need to reduce inequality and create opportunities, also for the rural population. This means to also to take civil society into account for decisions and peace agreements. All in all, for me our best asset is our land, and although all these ideas cannot develop from one day to another, I believe we have a great opportunity in our hands and land is waiting for our assertive actions.

” We will not solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting knowledge and experimentation of farmers and peasants and increased revenues to help smallholders and contribute also to rural development”

Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.


[i] Nazih Richani, Cuadernos Colombianos”, September 26, 2011. Retrieved from: https://nacla.org/blog/2011/9/26/latest-undp-report-colombia-its-rural-economy-stupid

[ii] Oidhac (Oficina Internacional de Derechos Humanos – Acción Colombia, “Tierra en Colombia: entre despojo y negocio”, Marzo, 2013, p. 3.

[iii] IBID. p. 5.

[iv] http://www.semana.com/especiales/pilares-tierra/asi-es-la-colombia-rural.html

[v] IBID. p.3.

http://restituciondetierras.gov.co/

http://www.srfood.org/es


Monoculture: one thing that could change everything

 

“Something is going seriously wrong. We are trying to protect the world’s ecosystems from climate change. And now, on our first humble steps towards this goal we are about to create a subsidy system for mono-culture plantations–thereby turning wide stretches of land into biological deserts.”

Greenpeace International, SBSTA-18, June 2003, Bonn, Germany

 

The monoculture is the practice of growing one heavily concentrated crop, rather than the rotation of various crops through a farmer’s fields over time. For some companies that see the activity from a commercial perspective is an efficient and profitable way to cultivate, but seen from and ecologic point of view, is a total disaster.

Diversity is the essence of all ecosystems and monoculture is breaking that principle. If there is less vegetal diversity consequently animal diversity also decreases, the insects and animals that used to feed from other vegetable species disappear and thus also their predators.

Furthermore, monoculture damages considerably the soil, it losses fertility because the land as is always absorbing the same nutrients of the same specie and therefore the need of using fertilizers and chemicals to enrich it while water pollution increases. At the same time, plagues are more common in monoculture, fact that forces the use of pesticides that contaminates the air, the land and also the water.

Due to the influence of so called developed countries, the monoculture is nowadays present in more under development countries that regrettably are the ones that control the agricultural production because of negotiations as Free Trade Agreements. These types of policies pledge good results for agricultural sector and the economy of an entire country, but in the future stand for immense losses.

Monoculture is generating an environmental imbalance where diversity and a self-sufficient and sustainable ecosystem have been replaced by a homogenous, artificial and untenable environment. More over, in countries that agriculture represents almost 15% of their GDP will mean not only economical impacts for the future and for families in rural areas, but also the loss of a tradition and a deep respect for land and biodiversity.


What biodiversity is losing because of illicit crops in Colombia

All the cocaine that is consumed around the World is produced in three countries: Colombia, Perú and Bolivia. Even though the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime sates in its 2012 World Drug Report stands that “there has been an overall decline in a global manufacture of cocaine, prompted by a major decline in cocaine manufacture in Colombia in the five-year period 2006-2010”[i] the country at the 31 of December of 2011 still has 48.000 hectares in its territory which means a reduction of 25% compared to the year before. Further, 80.000 farmers’ families in Colombia depend on illicit coca bush cultivation to survive and the figures in this same report show that while the crops reduced in 25%, the production of cocaine reduced only 10%.

Although all these facts are important to understand the situation of illicit crops in Colombia, what really concerns me is the environmental impact that the process itself of creating, maintaining and harvesting a crop of cocaine or marihuana implies in itself, as well as further action of fumigating the illicit crops, a strategy define in 2000 with the implementation of Plan Colombia. This plan was a bilateral agreement between the governments of Colombia and the United States with the objectives of generating social and economic revitalization, ending the armed conflict in Colombia and creating an anti-drug strategy in which the eradication of illicit crops was done through the fumigation of the area with glyphosate.

The glyphosate is a herbicide used in agriculture because it’s action blocks an essential metabolic pathway for plant growth. Because of the objective of this post, I’m not going expand on the components of the glyphosate, I just want to highlight that the herbicide is a patent of Monsanto and that the scientific magazine Chemical Research in Toxicology published a study in which it’s noted that the Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, is lethal for human cells and  “stimulate cell death of human embryos, which could cause defects, abortions, hormonal problems, genital or reproductive, as well as various types of cancer”[ii].

The negative environmental effect of drug production in Colombia begins when farmers need to destroy approximately four hectares of forest to plant one hectare of cocaine. In fact, “30% of annual deforestation in Colombia corresponds to the action because the implementation of cocaine crops”[iii]. Moreover, they use insecticides and fungicides to control plagues and sicknesses in the crop and also chemical fertilizers to improve results. All these substances that illicit crop farmers introduce daily into the ecosystem cause much harm to it. For example, the loss of the resource as a source of water and food, human and animal poisoning, soil contamination, persistence of the substances in the food chain, influence on insects and flora and to add one more, packaging waste and residual products, to name just a few.

Furthermore, the fumigation of the same crops is being done in many more territories than the ones with cocaine or marihuana crops, thus affecting the way other food plantations and the work of hundreds of rural workers in the country. Besides, due to the presence of revolutionary armed groups in the zone, who are the owners of the drug trafficking business, the pilots of the airplanes that did the fumigation couldn’t fly at low altitudes because these guerrillas could attack them. Additionally, they were positively evaluated if their tanks return without glyphosate, the reason why on many occasions they release all the product in just one area, making the environmental effect of the herbicide into biodiversity and habitat worse.

One can say that the strategy of fumigation has important political concerns that prevail in front of the ecological heritage of the country and the large effects that the act has in environment, conservation of flora and fauna, and public health. What is more disturbing is that by evaluating the strategy of the fumigation of illicit crops, we can see that it is directly affecting the farm workers that have been forced by the armed groups to leave their traditional food yields to work with drug production in order to survive. The problematic then begins with the existence of the armed groups outside the law that from 60 years have been affecting the social, economic and political life of the country and the creation of the drug traffic as their business for subsistence.

Despite the political problematic, the way in which it has been tackled hasn’t been so effective. The fumigation with glyphosate began 25 years ago and now we can see that the production of drugs in Colombia is still a reality. In fact, the United States government based in CIA studios said, despite the large financial investment and the enormous cost of spraying operations in 2003, it represented only in practice eradicating 30,000 hectares.”[iv]

Among 195 nations, Colombia is the country with the second highest biodiversity on Earth, and the first worldwide in flora and fauna per square kilometer even with the huge challenges described. The presence of the drug crops in the country and the conflict with armed forces has more than political, social and economic consequences; the environment has been directly affected and is now a key factor to evaluate and stop the loss of the biodiversity and all it’s environmental potential.

References


[i] UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2012, New York, 2012, p. 12

[ii] http://www.change.org/es-LA/peticiones/presidencia-de-la-rep%C3%BAblica-de-colombia-detener-la-fumigacion-de-las-selvas-colombianas-con-glifosato

[iii] Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores Colombia. (1999). Diplomatic mail for peace No 8. En Jelsma(2001). The vicious circle of the chemical and biological “war on drugs”. Retrieved from: http://worldcom.nl/reports/drugs/vicious.pdf

[iv] http://www.tni.org/es/article/las-fumigaciones-de-los-cultivos-il%C3%ADcitos-en-colombia-un-fracaso-disfrazado-de-%C3%A9xito

[v] http://www.sibcolombia.net


Responsible business for successful societies

“…I believe that it is part of building good sustainable businesses to help establish safe, secure, stable and peaceful societies. Business thrives where society thrives.”
Peter Sutherland,

Chairman BP and Goldman Sachs around “The business of peace”

One day you wake up and as usual you take a shower, have some breakfast and brush your teeth. Then you go out, take your car, or maybe a bus or the metro, for sure there will be a traffic jam or the metro will be crowded, you probably wont make it on time. Maybe while you are walking someone in the street asks you for money, possibly you see some garbage in the street, one or two people riding bikes and a pedestrian fighting with a man in a car.

Then you finally get to work. While you are sitting you realize that you left your laptop on for all night and perhaps one of your fellow workers arrives telling some news about an attack in Israel or a community in Africa that doesn’t have access to water and electricity.

But now is time to work, so you just forget about all these stories and visions for one more day at the office. Most of people go to work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day; at the end you spend more time at the office than at home. So the question is: Do all these hours of work contribute with something good to your country? Or is it just doing the opposite? By saying this I don’t mean that you must work in Green Peace or that you have to be a volunteer in Africa. Businesses are business and you need a job, a house, food and a family. But what if the company that you work for could think not only in it’s own benefit and profit, but also in all the society, the environment, the communities and all families in poverty, like the one of that woman asking you for money at the morning.

We are used to think the government must take care of that situation, but reality shows us that we all; citizens, companies, civil society, public and private sector, must care.

For example, Colombia is a country with 47 million inhabitants and according to the Agencia Nacional para la Superación de la Pobreza Extrema (ANSPE) 14 million live in poverty, this is 32% of the total population. Almost 836.000 families do not have access to drinking water, and because of the armed conflict, 5 million of people have been displaced from their own land by violence. Despite all, Colombia is considered an emerging economy and an economic power in the region. The GDP by 2012 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was US$378,713 millions. Taking into account that by 2000 this same figure was less than US$100,000 millions, this positions Colombia as the fourth biggest economy in Latin America nowadays. Although the world economy faces a difficult moment and most countries in Europe have recessive tendencies, Colombia reached in 2012 important growth rates in exportation achieving 7.6%.[1]

Source: Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia ANDI

Moreover, we can see two different realities, an emerging economy with an unequal distribution of wealth that keeps the 32% of the Colombians living below the poverty line and 10% in extreme poverty. This is also reflected in the results of the Millennium Development Goals for Colombia, where we can see that the country, although is working to achieve the goals, has very different results than the economics indicators.

As I have said, poverty is the biggest challenge mainly because the inequity, but to analyze just some of the Millennium Development Goals, we can see that although in the past two decades school places have been incremented in 2.178.000, Colombia seats in the ninth position between eleven countries in South America that have average schooling ages between 15 to 24 years. Likewise, speaking about gender equality and taking into account that 51% of the Colombian population are women; in average they just achieve 12% of the positions of popular election. To give one more example, in the infant mortality goal, between 1998 and 2011 the life of almost 6.000 children under one year were saved reducing thereby the infant mortality rate, even though nearly 8.000 children die annually.[2]

To see how is possible for a Colombian company to contribute to development; here is the case of Tiendas Juan Valdez, the Colombian brand of coffee world knows. Juan Valdez Café is a powerful initiative of PROCAFECOL S.A., the holding that administrates the shops, that lead to this brand, its owners and producers, to conquer with the quality of their product to consumers worldwide store.

Coffee has been for over 100 years one of the main engines for economic and social development in Colombia. The trade union for coffee, through the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) has constructed a model of economic and social development that has positioned Colombian coffee as the best in the world, generating millions of dollars in revenue and transferring direct benefits to Colombian coffee growers. The model is based on the collective savings and becomes a reality thanks to the Fondo Nacional del Café, that has been focused on ensuring the welfare of coffee farmers and their families through the provision of public goods, such as technical assistance, scientific research, promotion and advertising, value added business development or the warranty of purchase that guarantees the commercialization of the crop to market.[3]

Going back to the daily routine I described and to the idea that all of us can contribute by these activities to create a better place to live far from discouraging statistics, comes the idea of making business and companies a key performer of development by the implementation of better and responsible business practices. Companies in Colombia have a good economic context to construct for their business a sustainable model that benefits not only society and the countries development, but also their own industry.

In fact the UN Global Compact has established a commitment of how business can support the Millennium Development Goals and the UN General Secretary, Kofi Anan supports that “At a time when more than
1 billion people are denied the very minimum requirements of human dignity, business cannot afford to be seen as
the problem. Rather, it must work with governments and all other actors in
society to mobilize global science, technology and knowledge to tackle the interlocking crises of hunger, disease, environmental degradation and conflict that are holding back the developing world.”[4]

Furthermore, business have a more important goal than generate profit and contribute to national GDP’s, they have the assignment of creating wealth for areas as human rights, labor standards and environmental performance. For me the strategy must not be to pursue profit to achieve social benefits, but pursue societal benefits to achieve profit. In fact, the publication Business and the Millennium Development Goals of The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, has established a framework for action for companies in which are defined three spheres of influence that contribute to impact development: Their core business activities – in the workplace, 
the marketplace and along the supply chain; their social investment and philanthropy activities; and their engagement in public policy dialogue and advocacy 
activities”.[5]

Colombia is an example of a so called developing countries that lives a good economic moment and has inmense opportunities to show how business can help development. I believe that when a company creates a strategy of sustainablity that is the heart of the organizational culture, is creating a new society, aware of the world’s economic, social and environmental problems and capable of changing their own every day life to the benefit of all.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY


[1] Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia ANDI, Colombia, Balance 2012 y perspectivas 2013, Retrieved: 30/11/2013 from http://www.larepublica.co/sites/default/files/larepublica/andi.pdf

[2] Retrieved: 23/11/2013 from http://www.semana.com/especiales/objetivos-desarrollo-milenio-colombia/index.html

[3] Consejo Empresarial Colombiano para el Desarrollo Sostenible CECODES, Sostenibilidad en Colombia, Casos empresariales 2011. Pag 81

[4] Nelson, Jane and Prescott, D Business and the Millennium Development Goals, a framework for action”, The International Business Leaders Forum, 2003. p. 1

[5] IBID. p. 4


The enemy of the recycling culture in Bogotá

Bogotá is the capital city of Colombia and the largest city in the country in terms of land area. It is one of the biggest in Latin America and figures among the 30 largest cities of the world and the third-highest capital city in South America at 2,625 meters above sea level. With an area of 1.587 km², 7.363.782 inhabitants and a GDP of 140,9 million dollars (24.5% of the national GDP), Bogotá was ranked 54th in the 2010 Global Cities Index.

Furthermore, the capital issued 10,873,331 tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO²) a low rate if it is compared with the 77 million tons of CO² in the Australian capital, the 62 tons in Santiago de Chile and Mexico City, the 58 in New York and 23 in Buenos Aires and Toronto. Just Quito and Lima are below Bogotá, with 2.6 and 2.5 million tones per year. Three years ago, the city produced six tons of recyclable waste per year and only recycled the 10% of it. Additionally, Bogotá has the biggest open-air dump of Latin America that is called Relleno Sanitario Doña Juana. According to 2010 figures, at Doña Juana are arranged daily more than 6000 tons in which approximately 60% is organic waste, and the remaining 40% is inorganic waste within which most are potentially recyclable materials.

Moreover, because the private companies do not do the process of recycling and the citizens are not used to separate the waste, a community of recyclers separated the garbage and did their own harvest of recycle materials informally and before these companies picked up, of course very late in the night or even at early morning hours. These recycling workers are citizens who for many years had worked without social recognition and the whole family has being a productive unit (women, children and men). Most of them do this activity in precarious conditions, under difficult circumstances and recover the materials in bins or garbage bags, with transportation that require great physical effort, without proper management of occupational risks, low knowledge of market dynamics and with almost no chance of improving their marketing channels. Despite the fact that these recycling activities generate income for their livelihood, the recyclers are isolated from the social network of the city as well as of the community organizations that could help them to overcome the conditions of life determined by a job with large and strong social stigmas: working in the street and working with waste.

About a year ago, the mayor or Bogotá launched a program called Basura Cero. This program was created by the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg and has come under some criticism, particularly as a model unwanted in the private sector. This situation resembles the general opinion created in Bogotá with the implementation of the new model of garbage collection, basically because this program is based in the recycling and seeks to develop recyclers as the protagonist, what affects the business and the income private companies received from collecting more waste, not recycled, of the homes of 7 million inhabitants.

Basura Cero is a program and action plan, which aims to ensure that non-recyclable solid waste usable will not be buried or cremated, but recycled and returned in a 100% into the production cycle. More than this, the program pursues to promote a conscious culture of responsible consumption. Also, the fact of integrating the recyclers into the program as formal workers gives them the chance of having capacitation for the specialization of their knowledge and to generate productive opportunities. Basura Cero is an inclusive project with a bottom-up strategy in which through social innovation the city will benefit by the creation of a new culture of conscious consumption and recycling, the progressive ending of the landfill and the creation of new jobs that formalize the important work that more than 13.000 recyclers do in the city.

Despite all the improvements that the program could bring to the city, the environment and the society, private companies decided to be against it. The mayor wanted to begin with the implementation of Basura Cero, but because of the dates of contract completion with the private companies, he had to extend it until the new activities could begin. Private companies took advantage of the situation and came together to decline the last extension of the contract so that chaos in the garbage collection were generated. The chaos actually occurred the 18th of December of 2012, for almost 3 days the garbage wasn’t recollected, the city collapsed and citizens where aggravated. Besides citizens were ignorant of what was really happening, so for them the program was a fraud and the responsible of all the waste in the streets.

All in all, the emergency situation was solved, the garbage was picked up but the Mayor had to made big decisions. He invested money to rent and buy harvest garbage trucks, hired other company for the recollection work and with time began working with the recyclers. The education campaign was launched and Basura Cero began despite the initiative proposed to remove the Mayor because of this event. One year later, the past 9th of December the Mayor was dismiss by the Public Affairs control agency (Procuraduría). He has been reproached of giving the tender for garbage collection without warranties and also of fouling in the implementation of the cleanness scheme for the city.

Basura Cero TV Commercial

After all, I can conclude that political conflicts and business interests of a few can also affect the urban planning of a city. Environment and the future of a whole community are now in risk because of the battle for power and the lack of respect for democracy. During a year of discussions and researches, the city continued generating waste, the open-air dump probably has more waste and CO² emissions were still produced. This situation for me is the evidence that priorities are the self-benefit of some, that companies are not committed with development and that business are more important than the environmental future of a city.

References
1. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/node/373401#sthash.QzgHcMIw.x6sqLSv8.dpbs
2. Corredor, Marta, “El sector reciclaje en Bogotá y su región: oportunidades para los negocios inclusivos”, Serie Guías Sectoriales FUNDES. Retrived from: http://www.fundes.org/uploaded/content/publicacione/1511074433.pdf


Change for good at The Warsaw Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are performed each year and are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties in which they evaluate progress in dealing with climate change, and since 1990 it is also the scenario to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol.

The Warsaw Climate Change Conference of 2013 took place from the 11 to 23 of November in Poland. It included the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as the 9th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9).[1]

Furthermore, this event also held forums, workshops and showcases in which specific topics were developed, environmental projects exposed and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions all around the world were shared, far from the debate and decision making that happens in the other meetings of the Conference.

Although meetings between countries are important and decisions, covenants and agreements about the best way to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is the first objective of this conference, I believe these other activities have special value because of the ideas on environmental innovations and projects that are exposed. All these projects clearly show the awareness of civil society organizations for the environmental concerns around the world.

A great example is the platform of Momentum for Change, launched by the UNFCCC at COP 17/CMP 7 in Durban in December 2011. The UNFCCC objective was to build momentum for developing climate management by enhancing the visibility of successful projects that measurably improve the quality of life for the benefited people. In addition, there are so-called ‘Lighthouse Projects’ that have the potential to be replicable and taken to a greater scale. “These ‘Lighthouse Projects’ are beacons of opportunity, pointing the direction towards fulfilling the objectives of the Convention”.[2]

In my opinion, this above-mentioned initiative is the best opportunity to address ideas for climate change that may be lost amongst the challenges of limited capacity, resources and political will of each country involved. It is the perfect way of balancing the conversations, meetings and tough decisions that take place in the UNFCCC with new inspiring ideas that remind us that although climate change is a real and urgent problem, there are also organizations and people all around the world that are doing something to improve this reality.

 

“(…) Highlighting and enhancing the positive  developments in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation, will increase innovation, motivation, hope, passion and capacity for further change.”[3]

 

 

A great example of Momentum for Change in the finance for climate friendly investment set is the project Eco-Casa, which promotes low carbon housing in México. Rapidly expanding cities in Mexico are bringing with them increased energy demand and inefficient transport patterns. Mexico’s residential sector currently accounts for about 16 per cent of total energy use and 26 per cent of total electricity use, but sustainable housing requires investment. This activity is helping Mexico tackle climate change by unlocking financing to build low-carbon housing and increasing the amount of mortgages for low-carbon housing.[4]

The project is based in the fact that a badly designed home deteriorates the quality of life of its inhabitants and may generate an additional expense of 1,000 KWh per year, representing about a 600 kg of CO2 emission into the atmosphere each year. The Eco-Casa project helped build 27,600 houses and 1,700 others funded in seven years, achieving reduced energy expenditure in Mexico.

Eco-Casa is an example of how can projects cannot only enable a global shift to environmental progress, but also gives sustainable growth. This project is also an economic strategy in which a whole community benefits from money savings while climate-friendly development is created. These kind of examples shows us that it can been done more than just agreements, we can begin acting and changing reality.

All in all, UNFCCC is a framework that bonds key performers for global change, innovations and projects that establishes satisfactory solutions to improve quality life in the world and resolutions for environmental and climate change. As Momentum for Change initiative states, is change for good.

 

 


[1] http://www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb12594e.pdf

[2] http://www.climatechange-theneweconomy.com/momentum-for-change.php

[3] http://www.climatechange-theneweconomy.com/momentum-for-change.php

[4] http://unfccc.int/secretariat/momentum_for_change/items/7848.php



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