Innovation and CSR: Two Drivers for SMEs Success

Innovation in a business context can be understood as the process which transforms new ideas into new values for customers. In the past, innovation was not considered a key aspect in companies’ strategy; as they focus all their efforts on providing products and services assuring its quality in order to maintain their position in the market. Nevertheless, enterprises’ activity will not be this way anymore. In the current context of globalisation and internationalisation, organisations need more than good quality products to differentiate from their competitors. Thus, innovation plays a key role to improve efficiency and effectiveness through new processes and management practices.  On the other hand, consumers have also changed their consumption patterns, as they are more informed than before and have a wide range of products to choose. Additionally, innovation allows society to enhance their standards of living by offering new opportunities to improve their lives.

Despite what people might think about innovation, it does not all depend on financial resources. SMEs are pioneers on driving innovation for many reasons. First, they have a better knowledge of local resources and supply chain. Then, they are well aware of the needs and problems of the communities. Moreover, as they are smaller than big corporations, they can easily adapt to changes. Therefore, SMEs should leverage on all their advantages over big companies; in order to achieve a competitive advantage and contribute to a better society by driving innovation along the entire value chain [1].

In the World Bank Report (2009) [2], innovation has been viewed as a key factor of economic growth and development. Furthermore, innovation in SMEs has also been supported by the European Commission; through some programs such a Horizon 2020 [3], they help SMEs by direct financial support and indirect support to increase their innovation capacity.  Another European program is Project Young SMEs, which promotes entrepreneurship and brand-new companies (see video below)

An opportunity for innovation that many SMEs are incorporating into their strategy is ecological and social sustainability. Moreover, social and ecological improvements are demonstrated to lead to economic sustainability, understood as profitable growth.  According to the IMP³rove Assessment [4], when companies use sustainability as a drive for innovation, three aspects are generally considered: economic sustainability, production and manufacturing methods that are fully ecologically and socially sustainable, and application methods that are fully ecologically and socially sustainable. The first one assures the economic growth of the company. While, ecological sustainability refers to the respect to the environment and the maintenance of natural resources.

This way, SMEs which incorporate these three aspects of sustainability into their innovation strategy in a holistic way are proven to be more profitable. On one hand, businesses that improve their energy and material efficiency, could become more effective and reduce their costs. On the other hand, by promoting social sustainability, these organizations could also improve their reputation and its image with consumers.


References:

[1] http://www.industryweek.com/blog/innovation-key-driver-smes

[2] World Bank (2009) Innovative Firms or Innovative Owners? Determinants of Innovation in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. The World Bank Development Research Group. Finance and Private Sector Team

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/innovation-smes

[4] https://www.improve-innovation.eu/


Towards a Low Carbon Transition: Review of European Renewable Energy Targets

Background

In November 2010, the European Commission adopted its actual Energy Strategy, which, together with the EU Climate and Energy Package of 2009, defined the energy priorities for 2020 and set long-term actions to be taken. The main objectives of the strategy were set in 2009 and consist of reducing GHG emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels, increasing the share of renewable energy to 20% and improving 20% energy efficiency (European Commission, 2011). These decisions have been taken in a context in which energy prices are continuously increasing and a high dependence on energy imports exists. At the same time, energy related emissions account for almost 80% of the EU’s total GHG emissions (European Commission, 2011). For these reasons, renewable energy sources play a key role in both decreasing GHG emissions and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

Renewable energy production has considerably grown during the past years, especially in those Member States which have developed supportive policies. Some EU level initiatives which has promoted this improvement were the “Green electricity Directive” and the “Biofuels Directive”. On one hand, the first one fixed an overall EU target of 21% and individual national indicative targets for the RES shares in the final electricity consumption to be achieved by 2010. On the other, the “Biofuels Directive” established that all Member States should have ensured at least 5.75% of their total transport fuel consumption came from biofuels and other renewable fuels (European Commission, 2010).

In December 2008, the new legal framework promoted by the Renewable Energy Directive established for the first time binding targets; which aim to achieve the overall 20% renewable energy target for the European Union by 2020. At the same time, the Directive also set individual targets for the share of RES in final energy consumption for each Member State.

Hence, there has been an increase in the renewable energy share in the final energy consumption of the European Union; rising from 8,5% in 2005 to 13% in 2011 (European Commission, 2012). This progress has been due to the significant investments that the majority of Member States have made during the past years in renewable sources of energy. Nevertheless, the economic crisis has had a great negative impact on those policies that promote RES. This way, the outlook for 2020 seems highly pessimistic for some Member States; especially for Malta, the Netherlands or the UK (see figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Member States progress towards 2020 targets in renewable energy consumption

 

Current situation

Therefore, one of the main constrains to expand the share of renewable sources have been economic issues. In particular, those related to cost-effectiveness; as renewable energy sources generally cost more than conventional energies. Thus, the EU should further promote policies to support the future development of those technologies in order to drive down the costs in the future.

For these reasons, many theories about what is the best way to reduce costs of the low carbon energy transition have emerged. Basically, there are three complementary approaches to assist the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies. The first option is by subsiding renewables until they become competitive. The second one is by making fossil fuel technologies uncompetitive through taxes or regulations. And the third, by promoting innovation in renewable energies sources in order to reduce their costs in the medium-long term. The latter seems the most viable option, as the other two are considered highly expensive. Therefore, innovation could be encouraged by two ways:

  • Developing public deployment policies. Public policies such as subsidies could reduce long term costs in renewable technologies, as subsidies could lead to innovation.
  • Promoting RD&D. Public expenditure in RD&D is demonstrated to stimulate innovation.
Heretofore, both measures have been implemented by Member States; however, the majority of them in an unbalanced way. Generally, public expenditure on deployment has been two orders of magnitude larger than expenditure on RD&D support ( Zachmann G., Serwaah A. and Peruzzi M., 2014).


Future trends

Therefore, it is obvious that long-term investments are required in order to achieve the decarbonisation targets proposed for the upcoming years (see figure 2 below). This way, it is unlikely to achieve 40% carbon cuts by 2030 and 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels without an ambitious innovation plan in all Member States

Figure 2: EU Decarbonisation scenarios-2030 and 2050 range of fuel shares in primary energy consumption compared with 2005 outcome (in %) Source: European Commission (2010)

 

In January 2014, a new target on RES share was proposed by the European Commission as part of the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies; which consists of 27% rise by 2030. However, there is an important difference compared to 2020 target. This is a fully binding goal for the EU as a whole but not at the member state level. This modification has been included after the recent experience with the current 2020 framework; which has demonstrated that renewable energy policies also require market integration, high levels of investment, cost-efficiency and undistorted competition (European Commission, 2014).  As those aspects are difficult to achieve, the European Commission has given greater flexibility to Member States to decide the most cost-effective way to promote the transition towards a low carbon economy.

This variation has been welcomed by the UK, as Cameron had a key role pushing this new policy. Consequently, the UK will not have a renewable energy target beyond 2020. They consider that the best way to reduce CO₂ emissions is a matter of national sovereignty. This way, the UK believes that cap and trade would deliver the most cost effective option instead of national mandatory targets, as a result of current uncertainties. Thus, apart from renewable energy sources, the UK government aims to achieve its target of reducing 40% CO₂ emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels also through nuclear power, energy efficiency, an expansion of the use of gas or carbon capture and storage.

At this point, a question arises:  what is the way to reduce CO₂ emissions in order to reach the targets proposed by the EU for 2020, 2030 and 2050? Should the EU fix a renewable energy target for each Member State as they did for 2020? Or should each Member decide by which technology they attain the emissions cuts imposed by the EU? What is clear is that every country has a specific situation. Moreover, there are other available technologies to reduce CO₂ emissions apart from renewable energy sources. For these reasons, the best option could be that each Member State could decide what the most cost-effective way for them is, in order to promote the low carbon transition.

 

References:

European Commission (2010), Communication. Energy 2020: A Strategy for Competitive, Sustainable and Secure Energy

European Commission (2011), Introduction. Energy 2020: A Strategy for Competitive, Sustainable and Secure Energy

European Commission (2012), Europe 2020 Targets: Climate Change and Energy

European Commission (2014), Questions and Answers on 2030 Framework on Climate and Energy

UK Government, Department of Energy & Climate Change (2011), UK Renewable Energy Roadmap

Zachmann G., Serwaah A. and Peruzzi M. (2014), “When and how to support renewables? Letting the data speak” in Bruegel Working Paper, Februery 2014

Social Enterprises in Times of Crisis

We are witnessing a rapid growth in the number of social entrepreneurs in Spain in the recent years as never seen before. At this moment, Spain is facing a desolate social and political situation: unemployment rate has surpassed 26% (more than 55% per youth), public budget cuts are constant, a number of national banks have collapsed, an increasing dissatisfaction with the public authorities exists… This context has resulted in an opportunity for social entrepreneurs, who have been attracted by the challenge of solving social problems and helping more vulnerable groups in times of crisis.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) [1], there were 747 social entrepreneurs in Spain in 2009. That was equivalent to 0,53% of the working population, a low figure compared to other countries such as UK or EEUU. Despite the fact that finding official data regarding the people working in that sector in Spain is difficult, there is evidence that the number social entrepreneurs have increased; which vary from small companies selling organic food to enterprises that employ disable people.

As example of the growing role of social entrepreneurship in Spain; Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 2011. “There are at least three times more Ashoka Fellows in Spain than in any other sovereign debt countries: Spain is beginning to call social entrepreneurs to action, and they are responding”, Bill Drayton said [2]. Ashoka is an international network which supports projects that cause positive social impact. The election of Bill Drayton can be seen as the recognition of the key role that social entrepreneurs are playing in Spain during those years of economic crisis; filling a gap that traditional companies and the State have abandoned. This way, social enterprises are considered agents of change, for the reason that they could lead to a more sustainable economy; as they are based on values of solidarity, cohesion, inclusion empowerment and innovation.

On the other hand, the European Union has also recognized the importance of the social economy. This sector employs more than 11 millions of workers in the EU, accounts for 4.5 % of the active EU population and contributes for 10 % of the European economy (GDP) [3]. On the other hand, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso said “Social business can be indeed a very powerful agenda for change. To deliver better outcomes for the common good. To show that it is possible to do things more responsibly and more fairly, whilst still being a success on the market. And to become a real engine of growth in the EU. Europe must not only be part of these changes. Europe should be in the lead.”

For these reasons, the European Commission recently approved the “Social Business Initiative”; which aims to support the creation and development of social enterprises, focusing on facilitating the process of finding funds.


Therefore, social entrepreneurs are crucial actors in today’s context, as they are helping to create a more inclusive society and to promote sustainable growth. This way, social enterprises are likely to become indispensable players in the near future, not only increasing its number but its relevance.


References:

[1] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2011) Report on Social Entrepreneurship: Executive Summary

[2] https://www.ashoka.org/story/spain-social-entrepreneurship-finding-strength

[3] European Commission (2014) The Social Business Initiative of the European Commission


Frogtek: Helping Shopkeepers in Mexico and Colombia

Frogtek is a social enterprise which helps small shopkeepers in emerging markets in Colombia and Mexico to control and improve their business by tools in mobile devices. Frogtek main product is called Tiendatek, which consists of a tablet or a mobile phone and a barcode scanner, which register transactions and provide metrics.

Frogtek main objective is to help shopkeepers to better manage their inventory and improve their profits. Currently, there are about 800.000 shopkeepers in Mexico and 500.000 in Colombia. They are usually micro entrepreneurs without education, purchase power and business knowledge. Most of them cannot afford a cash register or other electronic tools. This way, they cannot record their transactions or track their sales or expenses despite they use a notebook. As a consequence of these limitations, shopkeepers generally do not know how to optimize their decisions and improve their profits. Moreover, this lack of technology also creates management problems with suppliers and customers.

For these reasons, Frogtek designed Tiendatek, a simple Android app which offers various services to store owners. This product allows shopkeepers to record their expenses and revenues, track their inventory, register card payments, manage supply orders and access to financial personalized recommendations. The latter works with a Marketing Analytics tool, which provides answers to critical business questions and procures data to evaluate their competitive position. To obtain this product, micro-retailers have to pay around 300€ by installments for the equipment and the training to use it. Besides, Frogtek has a partnership with Kiva, which allows shopkeepers to receive funds to acquire the product through crowdfunding initiatives in the whole world.

The project was launched in 2008 by David del Ser while he was a student at Columbia Business School, based on a collaboration with Women’s World Banking. David is a Spanish social entrepreneur who has been named Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. During 2008, Frogtek formed its team and was looking for potential customers and funding. The second year, the prototype was created and they started working with shopkeepers in Bogotá. In 2010, Frogtek started offering the service and launched its first big project in México. In 2013 they had almost 300 active users, registering half a million sales each month. Currently, they have presence in around 700 shops in Mexico and Bogota. Frogtek’s team is formed by more than 35 people working from Mexico, Colombia, Spain and the United States.

During this process, Frogtek main partners have been mobile operators, hardware providers, integrators, banks (BBVA-Bancomer), payment providers, consumer-goods companies (Unilever or Bimbo) and shopkeeper associations. One of their most important partnerships is with some consumer-goods companies, as they are trying to contact new shopkeepers through them and ease the selling process. For the upcoming years, they are planning an international expansion to new countries. Regarding the fund collection, economic resources come from the selling process and from the different awards which they have received during those years. Some of them are Echoing Green Fellow 2009, Open Talent BBVA 2010, Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2011 or GSMA’s Global Mobile Awards Women Base-of-the-Pyramid Apps Challenge in 2011.

The stakeholders  benefited more from Tiendatek are shopkeepers. However, Tiendatek also influences positively to their customers and suppliers, as Frogtek seeks to target the entire value chain. On one hand, customers are receiving more advanced development techniques when acquiring goods at these shops. On the other hand, suppliers get more reliable and up-to-date information about what to provide to their clients. Additionally, Frogtek have always been directly working close to micro retailers, including their suggestions and experiences into their strategy. This way, Frogtek tries to achieve the best bottom-up approach possible. Other stakeholders are their partners, the shopkeeper’s employees or their donors.

As a result, important improvements have been achieved during those years. Firstly, shopkeepers know best their needs and command their business. Having more control over their inventory has allowed them to maximize their profits. Secondly, they know who the best suppliers are; and who offer the best and the cheapest product. Moreover, as a result of the knowledge that Tiendatek provides, they have more ability to negotiate with them than before. Thirdly, micro-retailers have improved their image towards its customers, as they are seen as “modern businesses”. Additionally, robberies from their employees have decreased as a consequence of the greater control over their products.

Nevertheless, the short life of the project needs to be taken into account to measure Frogtek success. This way, it is important to analyze how the impacts of this product on micro-retailers evolve, promoting a real change on how shopkeepers operate during the next years and achieving to empower them.


How can we face the sustainable food production challenge?

One of the most important tests that the food industry is facing today is the sustainable production challenge. Currently, 870 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition; and the majority of them are living in rural areas. Besides, the world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion people by 2050. Additionally, the economy will triple the size due to the economic growth of developed countries; which will highly increase food demand. Satisfying the basic needs of those people will suppose a great challenge for agriculture, as food production should rise and the way that food is produced should be transformed.

On the other hand, agriculture is also being threatened by the impacts of climate change, ecological degradation and natural resources scarcity. Yields are drying up due to the overuse of the past decades. However, there is huge potential for yield growth in developing countries by small-scale agriculture; which could meet the sustainable production challenge while delivering agricultural development for people in poverty [1]. Furthermore, climate change poses a serious risk for food production. Firstly, rising temperatures will affect negatively yield growth. Secondly, extreme weather events could have a big impact on poor farmers and its crops.

At the same time, higher incomes and increasing urbanization have caused a larger demand of products like meat, dairy, fish, fruit, and vegetables; which require a bigger use of scarce resources such as land, water or atmospheric space.  In this context, food production must be doubled in the next 40 years to feed 9 billion people, and this challenge must be achieved in a truly sustainable way within environmental boundaries [2].

For these reasons, the Food Footprint should be reduced in order to lessen greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity losses and water pollution. The Food Footprint is based on the Ecological Footprint, which is the sustainability indicator which measures the total environmental pressure of the human population in the environment [3]. This way, the Food Footprint is the segment of the Ecological Footprint which is due to food production. The Food Footprint consists of these elements: land used for food production, land required to absorb carbon dioxide food emissions and sea area needed for fishing.

 

Some of the solutions propose to accomplish a sustainable food system are reducing biofuel demand for food crops, improving soil and water management, making fertilization more efficient or improving the feed efficiency of ruminant livestock [4]. However, what can we do as consumers to promote sustainable behaviors patterns at this scenario and reduce our Food Footprint? Some of the measures proposed for individuals are the followings:

Tackling these challenges is not going to be an easy path. Nevertheless, some changes can be made at both political and individual levels in order to build a better future in terms of food equity, security and sustainability.  As responsible citizens, we can start reducing the impacts of our consumption and making pressure on governments, as a previous step to achieve medium and longer-term solutions.


References:

[1] OXFAM INTERNATIONAL (2011) Growing a Better Future: Food justice in a resource-constrained world

[2] Foley, J. “Can we feed the world and sustain the planet? A five-step global plan could double food production by 2050 while greatly reducing environmental damage” in Scientific American, November, 2011

[3] ISAUK Research & Consulting (2007) A Definition of ‘Carbon Footprint’

[4] World Resource Institute (2013) Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A menu of solutions to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people by 2050


Green buildings, a way to reduce environmental degradation

Source: World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Buildings are everywhere: we live in them, we work in them, we buy in them… They are both in towns and in cities. However, they are more common in the latter. Currently, 51% of the total population lives in cities and this percentage is estimated to increase in the upcoming years. By 2030, this proportion will reach 60%, and 70% by 2050 [1]. This increase will be due to several factors, such as the constant spread of cities in emerging countries and the growth of the global population, which is expected to reach between 8.3 and 10.9 billion by 2050 [2].

The raise of world population, and the consequent increment in the number of buildings, will have a negative impact on the environment and on the use of energy and resources. Nowadays, buildings use around 40% of global energy, 25% of global water, 40% of global resources and they emit approximately 33% of GHG emissions [3].

Source: Energy Technology Perspectives 2008, IEA 2008

As a solution to this problem, alternative sustainable buildings are now emerging. Green building refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from sitting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition [4]. This way, green buildings aim to reduce the environmental impact of the edifices by efficiently using resources such as energy or water, and reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation.

Source: World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Green buildings certification bodies have arisen too. An example is LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is a program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. In this context, the role of green building certifications is crucial to promote sustainable buildings as these certifications can have very positive outcomes for companies that support and promote sustainability as a way to acquire credibility and reputation.

These reasons explain why green buildings can play an important role to reduce environmental degradation. We cannot continue damaging the environment as we have been doing during the last decades. The proliferation of green buildings is an suitable tool to reduce the human negative impact on the environment and to promote an efficient and effective use of natural resources.


References:

[1]http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/

[2]http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45165#.Uu0v-D15Png

[3]http://www.unep.org/sbci/AboutSBCI/Background.asp

[4]Yan Ji and Stellios Plainiotis (2006): Design for Sustainability. Beijing: China Architecture and Building Press. ISBN 7-112-08390-7


Biodiversity Loss and Invasive Species: The Case of Pot-Bellied Pigs

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), we can understand the term biodiversity as “the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact”. This way, biodiversity is crucial for human-beings because it provides society a wide range of goods and services. However, the role of biodiversity is generally underestimated and it is possible to note how the world is losing biological diversity during the last decades as a result of human activity.

Alteration and fragmentation, over exploitation of wild species populations, climate change, pollution or invasive species has resulted in biodiversity loss. I am going to focus on how invasive species contribute to biodiversity loss. Invasive species are organisms or plants that are introduced deliberately or inadvertently into a new environment, where they are not native. Invasive species do not have a negative effect only on the environment, but also on the economy and health.

“Invasive alien species have great impacts on biodiversity – at times determining dramatic declines in species’ populations. The latest scientific data on invasives needs to be taken into account when prioritising action by the EU. It is essential to know where and how species arrive into Europe, how they are spreading, and their actual and potential impact to ensure that action is effective”, said Piero Genovesi, Chair of IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group.

Source: CC: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arrozconnori/356889253

One of the last examples of invasive species is the pot-bellied pig. A pot-bellied pig is a kind of domesticated pig
originating in Vietnam. During the last years, the popularity of pot-bellied pigs has grown and many people have acquired these types of pigs as pet fads. However, the unawareness of their owners has led to their abandonment. Pot-bellied pigs are not miniature pigs as people believed, they usually weigh around 50 kg when they fully grown and will live between 12 and 18 years. Moreover, they require a special care: good quality pig food, regular vaccinations, etc.

For these reasons, many of them are abandoned in the countryside by their owners. In the case of Spain, some of these abandoned post-bellied pigs have bred with species of wild bores. As a consequence, a new type of pig has appeared in 17 Autonomous Communities. This is dangerous for biodiversity, because of the number of wild bores could be reduced and this new breed could damage crops.

This example can raise awareness and prove the responsibility of human behaviours for biodiversity loss. Human-beings cannot ignore the value of biological diversity and they should be more aware of respecting biodiversity in order to avoid habitat damages, loss of resources and economic losses.


References:

http://exoticpets.about.com/cs/potbelliedpigs/a/pbpexpect.htm

http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/?14098/Science-first-say-235-experts-on-the-EU-proposal-on-invasive-alien-species

http://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/fauna-flora/20140120/54398257224/cerdos-vietnamitas-asilvestrados-nueva-amenaza-para-el-medio-natural.html

http://www.unep-wcmc.org/

http://www.wwf.org.uk/


Food Security: Present and Future Challenge

I have always been concerned about managing resources in a limited world; specially, those which satisfy basic human needs, such as food or water. However, even though resources are scarce, I am strongly convinced that a proper management of them could produce an equal allocation. Moreover, as a sociologist, I always enjoy linking issues with external factors like demographics, economics or politics. For these reasons, I have decided to write a post about food security, and what is expected in the near future due to an increase in the world population.

The agriculture and food industry are fundamental sectors for every society in today’s world. Nowadays, 870 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition; and 98% of them are living in developing countries. Nevertheless, this problem is not rooted in the lack of food, as the current food production levels could feed around 12.000 million people. In addition, about 25% of that food is thrown away after being purchased. This demonstrates that hunger is not a problem of productivity, but a problem of poverty originated in a shortage of access.

On the other hand, we are going to face new challenges in the next coming years. The world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion people by 2050. Satisfying the basic needs of those people will suppose a challenge for governments and society.

Additionally, the economy will triple the size due to the growth of developed countries.

Due to this tendency, the demand of food will increase seriously as the result of population growth and economic development. For those reasons, it is likely that prices will rise. That’s why hunger problems will probably expand in the coming years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the demand of food will increase by 70% until 2050. The world could develop this big capacity, but some changes are needed in order to feed the whole population.

Firstly, regulation over food and agriculture need to be excluded from the World Trade Organization jurisdiction. The market is determining the unequal distribution of food around the world, because economic interests prevail over basic needs satisfaction. Planet resources are being exploded, but these resources are unequally distributed. These unsustainable patterns must be stopped.

Secondly, developed countries need to change their way of thinking and acting. It is necessary to tackle the issue of wasted food and esthetic requirements in supermarkets. Moreover, developing countries could improve their technology in the agricultural sector in order to optimize their production.

Therefore, hunger is one of the most important problems at this moment. Wide-spread hunger could be an actual scenario in the upcoming years for the above-mentioned reasons. However, we can deal with it by changing our practices.


References:

Díaz Salazar, R. (2002) Justicia global: Las alternativas de los movimientos del Foro de Porto Alegre, Icaria Editorial, Intermón Oxfam.ISBN 8484521621

FAO (2009) How to Feed the World in 2050

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (2010) Population: One Planet, Too many People?

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (2013) Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not

OXFAM INTERNATIONAL (2011) Growing a Better Future: Food justice in a resource-constrained world


Impacts of the Olympic Games on Madrid Neighborhoods: Lavapiés Case Study

Imagine that the Olympic Games are going to be celebrated in Madrid in 2020. What effects could have this big event on Madrid neighborhoods? Madrid has a population of 3.237.937 people (Padrón 2012, INE) and it is composed by twenty one districts. Besides, each one of these districts consists of different neighborhoods. One of these neighborhoods is Lavapiés, officially called Embajadores, which belongs to Madrid’s “Centro” district.

Source: Dirección General de Estadística de Madrid

Lavapiés has a population of 48.477 (Padrón 2012, INE) residents and more than a 30% (Padrón 2012, INE) of these people are migrants. It has a population density of 490 persons/ha (Padrón 2012, INE). That is really big, because the average population density of the city of Madrid is around 54 persons/ha (Padrón 2012, INE). According to the housing market, more than 35% (Censo 2001, INE) of the houses are rented in the neighborhood. The importance of the rental market and cheaper prices than in the rest of the city center are some of the reasons that attract migrant people to Lavapiés. The most important problems of Lavapiés are the followings:

1. Street-dirt accumulation. Streets are generally dirty compared with other areas in Madrid. Nevertheless, I personally believe that this problem is not due to a lack of action by municipal cleaning services because they do their activity regularly.

2. Lack of public spaces, such as parks, squares, sport areas or playgrounds. This way, children don’t have a place where they can play safely and people cannot practice sport because there are not any areas prepared for doing this kind of activity. On the other hand, the few squares that exist are not designed to favor this use. For example, the square in the next photo is Cabestreros Square, one of the biggest squares in Lavapiés. However, it doesn’t have any green space or sport area.

 

Source: Ayuntamiento de Madrid

3. Housing quality. Houses are generally small, old and they are in bad conditions. About 65% (Censo 2001, INE) of the total dwellings of Lavapiés were built before 1920. On the other hand, only 7,4% (Censo 2001, INE) of the total houses in Madrid were constructed before this date. This way, people of high purchased power that used to live in the city center have moved to other areas with best housing quality in Madrid. As a result, there are more houses available for renting than in the rest of the city. Moreover, houses are generally overcrowded and that has provoked an increase in the use of public spaces in the neighborhood.

The celebration of the Olympic Games in Madrid would have a positive effect on Madrid neighborhoods, especially in Lavapiés. The problem that the Olympics would solve is the shortage of public spaces in the neighborhood. These sportive big events always have a big impact on cities transformation, because new infrastructures are built and these ones can be used by all the citizens. Therefore, more public spaces such as sport areas or green spaces would exist in Lavapiés due to the reorganization of urban space provoked by the Olympics. Moreover, these kinds of events tend to result in stronger citizenship feelings.

Madrid could take advantage of the Olympics celebration because this competition is not only addressed to the elites. The Olympics could drive sportive practices over the whole population. This way, citizens would feel part of the society by practicing sportive activities. For this reason, the transformation of Madrid’s public spaces is an essential step that should be taken by the local authorities. In Lavapiés’ case, these measures could improve the insertion of people on risk situation of local exclusion, such as immigrants or people of low purchased power. For instance, the Olympic Park of London 2012 was built in a low-income neighborhood in order to improve the situation of the population that lived in the area. However, London 2012 was not exempt from critics.

Thus, Madrid City Council could take some particular measures to increment the areas to practice sports in the neighborhood. For example:

Therefore, the celebration of the Olympic Games in Madrid could have a positive impact on the different neighborhoods, and particularly in Lavapiés. Some of its mains problems could be solve through the agenda of the Olympics’ for the above-mentioned reasons.


References:

Ayuntamiento de Madrid: Área web de información estadística.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística: Censo 2001.

Instituto de Estadística de la Comunidad de Madrid.

Nomenclátor Oficial y Callejero de la Comunidad de Madrid: nomecalles.org

Padrón 2002-2012 del Municipio de Madrid.

http://viveroiniciativasciudadanas.net/2013/04/25/procomunes-urbanos/


Warsaw Climate Change Conference: Incorporating Loss and Damage into the Agenda

The 19th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC took place last month in Warsaw. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty that was signed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. One of the decisions settled in Warsaw was the development of a new mechanism to deal with “loss and damage”. “Loss and damage” alludes to repairable damage or permanent loss caused by the impacts of climate change; such as changing landscapes, rising seas, economic losses, stronger storms or floods.

This new mechanism can be understood as an admission by developed countries that climate change impacts are unstoppable. Especially after the Typhoon Haiyan, which occurred in the Philippines some days before the UNFCCC Convention started. Naderev “Yeb” Sano, the Philippines negotiator, made a great impact on the different parties with his speech during the Conference. Moreover, he was on a hunger strike until the conference made important progress on the issue.

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

Mohamed Adow, an observer from Christian Aid, said: “In agreeing to establish a loss and damage mechanism, countries have accepted the reality that the world is already dealing with the extensive damage caused by climate impacts, and requires a formal process to assess and deal with it, but they seem unwilling to take concrete actions to reduce the severity of these impacts.”

An important aspect of the debate was the fact that “loss and damage” may constitute a third pillar for the UNFCCC structure. The UNFCCC is currently structured in two pillars. The first pillar is mitigation, based on cutting emissions and issue targets. On the other hand, the second pillar is adaptation, which is aimed at preparing for climate change impacts. During last years’ climate meeting in Doha, a number of parties called for a compensation mechanism in terms of “loss and damage”. The United States were against compensation mechanism, and the European Union was in favor of “loss and damage” under the context of mitigation and adaptation. Nevertheless, during the Warsaw edition, the EU has not stated “loss and damage” under adaptation and mitigation. However, other countries like China have called for “loss and damage” as a third pillar.

As a result of the discussion, it was decided to establish a mechanism to support most vulnerable countries with greater protection against loss and damage. Besides, parties have started to develop the “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage, which will begin next year. This new climate agreement will appear at the next UN Climate Change Conference in Peru, and a final commitment may be made in Paris in 2015.

Therefore, environmental protection should not only consist of mitigation as cutting emissions, valuation of harmful actions or behaviors or using economic instruments like taxes. Supporting the countries suffering climate change impacts is crucial to fight it. This way, developed countries should compensate developing countries for the disasters that they have speeded up.  Nevertheless, we should take into account that these international declarations do not establish a real framework of rights and obligations.


References:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2013/11/20/79805/addressing-loss-and-damage-in-warsaw/

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2013/nov/25/climate-change-warsaw-rich-countries-blame-paris-deal

http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=2755&ArticleID=9711

http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/warsaw_nov_2013/in-session/application/pdf/fccc.cp.2013.l.15.pdf



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