This month, we are very excited to hear from Majda Dabaghi, Director of Inclusive and Green Growth at the world’s largest business organization – the International Chamber of Commerce. She shares her story and her perspectives on climate, inclusive business and driving impact through innovation across all sizes and sectors of business.
Q: Majda, could you tell us a little about yourself and your journey so far?
A: I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, where living in harmony with nature is simply a way of life. We are surrounded by the great outdoors and, with that, comes a respect for what nature has to offer and a sense of responsibility to help preserve it. I grew up biking everywhere, skating on the Ottawa canal (the world’s largest skating rink and best way to commute!); cross-country skiing in winter; canoeing and kayaking in summer.
Some of my early memories of my sustainability journey also connect to nature, from my first Earth Day to a speech about the Ozone layer that I presented in front of the whole school at age 10 or 11. At 15, my family moved west to the ski resort town of Whistler and I had the fortune to continue to be surrounded by majestic natural beauty – this time endless mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean – and to learn about our relationship with the natural world from First Nations communities.
After deciding to become a lawyer and completing my legal training, I moved to London, England, where I focused my corporate law practice on renewable energies – and even helped to develop a solar energy intranet portal in my first year. When it was time for a change after a decade working with corporate law, it seemed like a natural evolution to lead the environmental portfolio at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). ICC is the institutional representative of 45 million companies in over 100 countries and among many activities, leads engagements towards many key international processes, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
As Director of Inclusive & Green Growth at ICC, I bring together my knowledge of both business and the environment to convene private sector input into international policy discussions, and help drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth. I feel privileged to represent business at the highest levels of international negotiations, including as official UNFCCC Focal Point for Business and Industry, and to be able to demonstrate what business can bring to help achieve our collective environmental goals.
What’s clear is that Climate Action is Everyone’s Business and, at ICC, we are helping to support companies of all sizes, sectors and geographies to “future-proof” their business.
Most recently, I worked to launch the SME Climate Hub to support small and medium size enterprises to “future proof” their businesses – and build resilience in the face of increased climate risk, which has already been recognised by key Global Corporates, including Unilever, Ikea and Nestlé.
Q: ICC has been at the forefront of business engagement with key decision makers on a range of issues linked to “Green Growth” for many years – with a special focus on the SDGs, including Climate Change and Biodiversity. Where do you see business adding the most value to those processes?
A: ICC played a key role in providing practical business inputs to help deliver the Paris Climate Agreement and in shaping the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We work continually with our network of companies – representing all sectors and sizes– and with a diverse range of partners to ensure that that these types of issue areas form part of a dialogue and process that works with – and for- business. ICC also recognises and promotes the defining, central role that the private sector plays around the world in promoting sustainable development.
We believe that action from all stakeholders is vital to meeting the challenges and opportunities of the SDGs. In particular, business is a key partner to help develop and implement concrete solutions, but also to help instil in governments the confidence they need to increase their ambition and champion policies that will ensure we achieve our collective goals. The need for meaningful collaboration cannot be overstated.
Q: This is a key year to help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement. How can business get involved in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow later this year?
A: ICC recognises the urgent need to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5° Celsius. The science is clear – if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must cut emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Yet, the most recent UN synthesis report shows that we are not collectively on track to meet this goal. We still have time to act, but it will require a coordinated global effort by all stakeholders – including businesses of every size, sector, and geography.
We have seen a significant increase in the number of companies around the world putting climate at the heart of their operations. In the last year alone, the number of companies that have committed to achieving net-zero by 2050 has doubled through the UN Race To Zero initiative. Net Zero by 2050 has become the new north star to stay in the game. Similarly, we are seeing more companies committed to taking action on biodiversity as can be illustrated through ICC’s partner platform Business for Nature.
We know that climate change and biodiversity collapse will have far more devastating effects on the world and the real economy than the current pandemic, which means every business and business organisation should be taking action to reach net zero by 2050 and to address biodiversity loss.
If the global Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that building resilience is vital for businesses, communities and global economies to survive and thrive in the face of future threats and opportunities, and that work starts now.
Q: It has become ever more apparent in recent years that the role of value and supply chains as well as Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) is essential to driving positive social and environmental impacts and to innovation. As the leading force behind the SME Climate Hub, could you share some of the thinking that is driving that initiative, and how it is progressing?
A: An incredible 90 per cent of business worldwide is driven by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and they employ over two billion people. SMEs are truly the lifeblood of our shared, global economy – and yet on many levels they have been left out of climate action initiatives to date – leaving them deprived of the tools and resources needed to ensure resilience in the face of growing climate risk.
One of the most pressing existential threats to SMEs is climate change, and with 40% to 60% of small businesses never reopening after a natural disaster – such as hurricanes, flood or drought – curbing carbon emissions and building business resilience has never been so important.
About SME Climate Hub
The SME Climate Hub is a global platform that provides a one-stop-shop for SMEs to: make an internationally recognised climate commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emission by no later than 2050. It features practical tools and resources to help business curb their emissions and unlock valuable incentives.
SMEs that take part will not only better manage climate risk, they will also position themselves to become more attractive to a broad range of important stakeholders: customers who are increasingly climate conscious; the thousands of multinationals – including Novozymes – with decarbonisation plans that are increasingly making climate action a procurement criteria; and to the growing number of lenders and investors now addressing climate-related issues directly.
Q: The Month of March recognises and celebrates international Women’s’ Day and this years’ theme is; “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” How do you see the role of women in leadership roles and positions impacting the Climate, Sustainability and Innovation discourse for Business as we seek to “Build Back Better”?
A: People may be surprised to learn that women are often disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Given women’s roles as primary caregivers and providers of water, food and energy across the globe, women are more vulnerable to severe weather events such as floods or droughts. Recent figures from the UN show that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women and girls.
If women are not at the proverbial table making decisions – especially those that exacerbate existing inequalities such as climate change – we, as a society, will not be in a position to squarely and adequately address those challenges. And the outcome of that will be a global community that is poorer, both financially and socially.
Women have led sustainability efforts at home, in their communities and internationally for decades. Back in my home country of Canada, when taking office, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why his first Cabinet was Inclusive and Gender balanced. He replied; “Because its 2015”. Today, in 2021, economic, social, and environmental goals in the post-COVID-19 world will not be achieved without meaningful participation by all genders.
Q: What would be your closing thoughts for us?
A: Achieving a better, balanced future has never been more important – not just for biodiversity, or climate or the environment – but for business and society as a whole. When I reflect on how far I’ve come – from that young girl at school looking to champion environmental causes, to working with international businesses every day to lead global change on climate and environment – I feel a tremendous sense of pride. It’s been a humbling and inspiring journey as I’ve contributed to help support gender equality, powered by women’s leadership and played a small role in helping to preserve our natural world. And now, I’m excited and committed to continue moving forward, making sure that I help to inspire others to make gender, diversity and inclusion, and the SDGs key elements of every goal for a resilient rebuild – our global challenges are, after all, interconnected.
Hi, I’m Jonathan, it’s a pleasure to connect with you.
Since my early teenage years, my interests have revolved around the sustainability agenda. For me, sustainability is rooted in the question of how we as humans can have a balanced relationship with nature, something I term as “The Good Life 2.0”. In its essence, I am driven by the quest to explore the opportunities through which we may enrich our lives, while simultaneously respecting planetary boundaries.
In 2006, I had my first real encounter with climate change when trekking across the Fox Glacier in New Zealand. The colossal mass of ice had shrunk significantly, and the evidence was right there in front of me. A local ecosystem out of balance. It made a permanent impression on me to witness first-hand the complex, interdependent relationship between our societal actions and global climate change.
The environmental crisis should lead to empathy, not apathy. Recently, I was inspired by the book “If We Act Now”, where some brilliant journalists detailed that the immense task of mitigating climate change is feasible and affordable. As the title suggests, we can be optimistic about meeting the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement if we pull the best of our abilities together. It’s about changing old habits for the better. I think the pandemic has exemplified to many of us how important the natural world is to our well-being and that systemic change is actually within our reach.
After becoming a political scientist and having worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment of Denmark, I have seen sustainability rise to the top of the agenda of business leaders and decision-makers around the globe. It is apparent however, that organizations and government, not alone, but in unison, possess the skills to accelerate climate action – just as the authors of the book suggested.
That’s what really excites me about the HelloScience commnunity. That while we are rapidly approaching the climate tipping points, HelloScience can be a leading framework to building a sustainable future. Thanks to its collaborative approach, we can brings the best and the brightest minds from the private sector together with start-ups to create innovative, technological solutions. Solutions that will benefit citizens and enable us to live better lives in concert with our fragile biosphere.
I sincerely look forward to experiencing the ingenuity of the community and see how we can stand on the shoulders of each other. The best is yet to come.
Copenhagen-based Nordetect is an analytical hardware company that produces Lab-on-a-chip devices for environmental and agricultural analysis. With Nordetect, farm managers, agricultural service providers, and indoor growers can remove risk and use valid data that is easy to understand and implement to ensure richer harvests.
This month for our HelloScience Ecosystem update we check-in with Nordetect, who has just closed a $1.5 Million USD seed investment round. Congratulations and best of luck to the Nordetect team! You can read more on TechCrunch and AgFunderNews. CEO and co-Founder Keenan Pinto brings us up to date.
Q: It’s been an exciting year for Nordetect – could you give us a brief update on your journey over the last year?
A: 2020 was an interesting year as we shifted gears to focus on indoor farming as our go-to market segment for our nutrient analysis product. Soil analysis is still an important application and we plan to work on it through partnerships with local stakeholders in target markets, but for now, our focus is on indoor.
Q: Could you briefly explain Nordetect’s Lab-on-a-Chip Technology and why it is an important and impactful innovation?
A: Our product allows growers to monitor their water quality and optimize the use of nutrients. This prevents unnecessary wastage of these chemicals and reduces the burden on wastewater treatment plants. Beyond this, we are working on new applications that are aimed at food safety.
Q: Nordetect has just closed a $1.5M seed investment round – what do you hope to achieve through the new investments, particularly in terms of scale and impact?
A: The new funding allows us to make the necessary investments in process automation to bolster our supply of the product as we tap into the exploding number of farmers turning to new technologies. We are very eager to now start scaling up the manufacturing of our Lab-on-a-chip consumables and deliver to our early customers.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for collaboration and innovation in the AgTech space in the years ahead?
A: We are increasingly seeing larger corporations collaborating with startups through investments, co-development, distribution arrangements, and other similar activities.
Read other startup perspectives
What will the future of cleaning look like? That was the question discussed when the innovation platform HelloScience, Kromann Reumert and others explained their view on future cleaning needs in the wake of COVID-19 at the LiveLab event we hosted in November 2020. Kromann Reumert participated as legal ecosystem partner for the LiveLab challenge. As member of the panel, attorney Heela Lakanval addressed the challenges facing the entrepreneurs following the COVID-19 pandemic and the possible solutions.
“As a part of the HelloScience ecosystem, Kromann Reumert has a unique opportunity to influence and create a sustainable future and contribute indirectly to meeting some of the UN Global Goals. COVID-19 has made us look at cleaning in a new way. Now, it is not just a matter of cleaning in the traditional sense. It is also a matter of security and freedom. It was inspiring to see so many new sustainable cleaning solutions”, says Heela.
“As a lawyer, I provide advice and assistance to entrepreneurs. I outline the legal pitfalls which may come as a surprise to a start-up, focusing on the opportunities provided by the law rather than the limitations.”
– Heela Lakanval, Attorney at Kromann Reumert
“For Skosh, the LiveLab was the start for an interesting journey to explore the full potential of microbial cleaning together with Novozymes and the HelloScience ecosystem.”
– Tom Hackenberg, Co-Founder & CFO at SKOSH
Following the LiveLab Kromann Reumert met with SKOSH in a 1:1 meeting to answer some of the questions that could take SKOSH to the next step expanding their market to Europe. You can follow how this work is unfolding via the HelloScience Collaboration Space.
This month, we turn our Startup Profile to the issue of food waste. Clarity Mapengo is the co-founder of FruityXFusion – developing an innovative alternative to single-use plastics, using rejected fruits. In the following Q&A she shares her experience developing FruityXFusion and her thoughts on building more resilient food ecoystems.
Q: What problem or challenge is FruityXFusion working to solve?
South Africans use between 30 to 50 kg of plastic per person per year. Most plastic waste is single-use and usually ends up in marine ecosystems (entangling and threatening aquatic life forms). Single-use plastics take years to breakdown and even when they do, it is generally into smaller pieces of plastic. On the other hand, 44% of produced fruit and vegetables are lost to landfills, where they result in the production of greenhouse gases that further pollutes the environment. The perishable nature of fruits and vegetables makes it a more mammoth challenge for producers and retailers. Over the years, innovative technologies have been developed to curb the losses; however, the food wastage is still significant.
Q: How are you innovating to solve that challenge?
Our ideology involves designing biodegradable packaging material/utensils made with commercially rejected fruits such as deformed, discoloured, overripe, mechanically damaged fruits. Most of these rejected fruits would otherwise eventually end up in landfills. This alternative environmentally-friendly solution will reduce the utilisation of single-use plastic and size of greenhouse gas-producing landfills. Since this solution is based on abundant raw materials of reduced or zero commercial value, their production and pricing will be comparable to single-use plastic.
Q: How did the idea and insight for FruityXFusion emerge?
As curious scientists, we are always researching the trends around biosciences. In 2018, my co-founder Humbulani Emmanuel Nekhudzhiga and I realised that the quantity of fresh produce disposed of as waste by the local market was too significant to disregard. Most of the products were deemed overripe and commercially unacceptable to consumers. In that very same year, the World Wide Fund for Nature released statistics on the usage of single-use plastics and its impact on the environment – primarily aquatic life. Upon gathering more information about the food waste problem in South Africa, we came across an overwhelming statistic, i.e. 10 million tonnes of food go to waste annually of which 70% is fruits, vegetables and cereals and about 90% of the waste is disposed of as landfills.
While there are technologies upstream (refrigeration, drying, modified atmosphere packaging) to reduce annual fresh produce losses, we realised that actions should also be implemented downstream to reduce food waste accumulation. FruityXFusion became a feasible idea to curb the bizarre statistics (in food waste, global warming and marine life). In 2020 we managed to have a viable prototype and proof of concept.
What are the biggest opportunities for collaborative innovation that you see in the food waste space?
Several key stakeholders in the industrial ecosystem could partner and foster a more practical approach in boosting the circular economy while curbing the challenges of food waste from various points across the supply chain. We believe that if the entire industry collaborates, impactful change is imminent. By entire the industry, we mean the full cycle – from the farmers/producers, companies supplying farming resources, retailers, food product manufacturers, research institutes, start-ups and consumers.
Q: How can we foster collaboration across sectors and across borders to grow innovation around food waste and creating more circular economies across food ecosystems?
Research institutes and start-ups play a huge role in such collaborations. Research institutes can play a decisive role in linking or bridging the gap between educational institutes and the industry. We are all parts of the same wheel seeking to promote sustainable and effective production processes. Within organisations in the food industry space, there is a need to refine the intrapreneurship environment to inspire and allow young minds to bring their ideas to light without feeling exploited. Science and technology are too complex to tackle food waste’s challenges from one angle without possibly neglecting/creating a problem in another space. Therefore collaboration across borders & sectors can assist in curbing the possible challenges from different directions. Governments, industries and research institutes need to make funds available for start-ups because effective entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship is the fastest way to foster innovation around food waste and create more circular economies across food ecosystems
Q: Are there any specific areas where you are interested in exploring collaboration with FruityXFusion?
Apart from already working with the University of Pretoria, we are looking into collaborating with our local farmers’ cooperatives and fruit & vegetable markets. This will help us effectively collect our raw materials and help local farmers get a small revenue from their ‘losses’ as they sell to us this commercially rejected fresh produce before it hits the landfills. We intend to initially reach out to all restaurants at our local the university to foster a partnership and pilot our product before launching it city and nationwide. Eventually, we hope to infiltrate global markets through franchising with some big names in the foodservice sector worldwide.
Q: Could you share a brief overview of your research background? You’ve also been participating in the InnoFood research project – could you briefly share more about your work and research there?
My research background is in starch modification and structure-functional property of food biopolymers. My work is centred on manipulating the structure of food biopolymers using green chemistry to promote micro-and nanostructural changes that will ultimately enhance the nutritional properties of starch and starch-containing food products. Currently I am working on the InnoFood project at the University of Pretoria , where I am working on developing low glycemic index (GI) flours from indigenous African crops (lower glycemic index foods are slower to digest and therefore leave one feeling full for longer). These flours will then be used to manufacture different food products such as instant porridges etc. There is so much potential in African crops, and we are trying to tap into that potential and develop products that can alleviate malnutrition. In a world rampaged by diet-related non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, low glycemic index foods could really positively impact health and well-being.
Q: How can we strengthen the links between research/academia and entrepreneurship/business in accelerating innovation around food ecosystems in Africa and internationally? How can we strengthen collaborative innovation across different sectors and geographies?
I think platforms, projects and programs like InnoFood and UNLEASH (a global platform for SDG Innovation – focusing on bringing together young people across the globe to collaborate on SDG solutions and part of the HelloScience Ecosystem) are already showing us the way by bringing diverse people from around the world to work together for a common cause. We need more of such projects and programs. We are obviously in different development stages and technological ‘savviness’, therefore if we establish projects that bring people from different settings to work together, our problems are half solved. Funding is another crucial part in strengthening the links, as it is difficult to make headway in anything if one has limited resources. Bi and multi-lateral aid can be helpful to strengthen innovation across different geographies.
What are the biggest insights you’ve gained from your work and research around food and food waste?
Everything is interconnected and innovation is vital in tackling challenges around food insecurity and food waste. The inception of FruityXFusion concept made us food scientists tackle food waste and marine life too and that’s just a fraction of how technology and innovation have no bounds.
What would you like to see achieved in building more resilient, sustainable food ecosystems by 2030?
I would like to see young food science innovators being financially supported because I believe they hold the keys for effective transformation. The gaps between various sectors, especially research and the industry must be bridged, yielding a rich, effective and diversified market. I would be elated if by 2030, the global food systems’ key barriers such as fresh produce waste, low productivity, and food insecurity have been tackled. Ultimately we must be a part of a world and communities where improved sustainable food production technologies, food waste management, and business skills are coercive pillars effectively anchoring food ecosystems.
An SDG Pioneer recognized by the UN Global Compact and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Claus Stig Pedersen has led Novozymes Global Sustainability activities for the past decade. He has been central to integrating sustainability into its corporate purpose and strategy and its core business and innovation pipeline, as well as developing the strategic and governance framework that helps Novozymes align and communicate its core business in line with the SDGs.
His own sustainability journey began backpacking and surfing through South East Asia as a student, where many of the beaches he visited were impacted by trash. From environmental activist to a business activist, today at Novozymes his goal is simple: to drive better business for a better world with biology.
Still an avid surfer, we caught up with Claus on the edge of the west coast of Denmark, where days of icy winter storms are often mixed with shorter periods of calm and sunshine. This was the perfect environment to get his perspectives on the next big waves on the sustainability horizon.
Photos by Brian Engblad
It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)
For decades, the sustainability agenda has largely been driven by environmental considerations and challenges, often for business as either as a risk to be managed, or as something to be documented and demonstrate positive, but largely incremental, improvements. That type of approach has served its purpose and served us well, but it’s also largely served its time. Sustainability has mainstreamed into value and supply chains; moved from risk to opportunity; is discussed in financial, societal and governance terms, and is receiving increased attention from consumers, governments and investors.
And businesses are responding in ever growing numbers, reflecting its changed role in society. Looking at the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement, the implementation of the SDGs and responses to COVID-19, it’s also clear that the era of Corporate Social Responsibility is over.
Welcome to a new paradigm – the Socially Responsible Corporate. From the core of a business, driving profits and revenues, companies will be credited and rewarded for making positive social and environmental impacts, based on strategy and on business models that deliver solutions to the world.
All this makes the current “State of Sustainability” an exciting place to be and it’s something that both inspires and energizes me, especially as we can build on strong foundations. That’s also why I have always been an advocate for integrating sustainability into all elements of a business, including strategy and investments in innovation, so that we can understand and incorporate the changing world around us. It’s also why Novozymes has used the SDG parameters for new product development, created internal boards and committees to drive decision-making and, of course, supported the development of initiatives like HelloScience.
If everybody looked the same (we’d get tired of looking at each other)
For leading companies like Novozymes, it’s fantastic to be able to experience how much a positive a contribution gender, diversity and inclusion can make to an organization, especially when it comes to sustainability and innovation.
I’m fortunate to work with a team of experts and, as important as their technical competences are, they represent a whole range of ages, life experiences, nationalities, languages and cultures and we have a strong gender balance as well. This combination brings an amazing range of ideas and perspectives to what we do, and perhaps most importantly keeps us anchored in real-world realities and encourages us to think differently.
If there is one thing that the team members have in common, it’s the value that they place on demonstrating kindness and respect for each other, building relevant boundaries and understanding together. I see a similar approach reflected in the HelloScience community and especially where new ideas are celebrated and championed, regardless of where they have come from. These might be intangible values, but they have a massive positive impact on creating an impactful collaboration.
It’s OK (to not be OK)
The global sustainability community has grown from a physical ecosystem where almost everyone knew everyone personally to also incorporate a digital network – very much like HelloScience.
With Covid-19 and the restrictions this has placed on our ability to interact with each other in real life, a “digital default” has helped many of us stay in contact. But it’s also reinforced the need for us to recognize the way we look at what could be termed Social Sustainability, a nexus of well-being that considers mental, physical and emotional health aspects. This will evolve further and businesses like Novozymes are already developing their own approaches to these issues.
Having this foundation to work from, which also builds confidence and comfort within a community –especially one that is seeking to pushing new ideas forward to make real and radical change through creativity – has some additional upsides.
The single largest sustainability challenge – and opportunity – we face is how to create a carbon neutral world by 2050 in line with Paris Agreement objectives, which require innovation, action and the courage to succeed. So, the more we create a caring, positive and holistic environment to work, collaborate and innovate in, the more we give everyone the confidence and comfort to experiment, learn from both failures and successes, and help us reach that goal.
The kids are alright
I am very conscious of my responsibility to help empower the next generation of leaders and I thrive on the energy that engaging with students brings, as part of my Professorship at Aalborg University, in Denmark. I think it’s important to harness, nurture and support that enthusiasm and curiosity, and especially to encourage different ways of thinking. It’s far too simplistic to call this a “Millennial Mindset”:
Within my own team, I have noticed I often learn the most from the newest and youngest team members, and that some of the freshest, most creative and inspiring ideas come from the oldest ones.
How to best describe this dynamic? Well, I like to think that we work for a cause and not just a company. It’s a great mantra to have and its one that I’m fully committed to as we build next-gen Sustainability together.
Its times like these
With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, the US re-engaging on climate change, and the world’s largest investors driving focus on sustainability, 2021 is off to a cautiously optimistic start.
As the world works to “build back better”, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to spot the next sustainability waves that will shape society, innovation, the environment and the economy.
This isn’t a given, and it requires collaboration and commitment, but I’m more excited than ever by the possibilities in front of us.
Because the world needs business to be sustainable, and that means opportunities for business. For Novozymes, that means better business with biology.
And whilst we work hard to make this happen, let’s enjoy the ride.
How can we build sustainable futures across the Arctic region?
The Arctic Opportunity Explorers program – a collaboration between Sustainia and HelloScience – provided a platform for students from across 11 different countries to form teams and develop innovative ideas to solve SDG-focused challenges. Throughout the program – which ran from September 2020 to January 2021 – teams collaborated together on the HelloScience platform, as they shaped their innovative ideas and received valuable insights from mentors.
We check in with Kelly Lynch – Partner Manager at Sustainia, and project leader of Arctic Opportunity Explorers – to learn more about the key experiences, insights and opportunities that emerged from the program.
Q: How is the Arctic Opportunity Explorers (AOE) working to catalyze collaborative approaches to entrepreneurship?
A: Here at Sustainia, we are committed to facilitating the move from inspiration to action when it comes to tackling sustainability and climate change-related challenges. We see the Arctic Opportunity Explorers as a natural extension of this initiative, and we hope that the program will allow us to achieve this goal by serving as a tool through which we can empower young people to become changemakers in the Arctic.
Students are at the center of the program, and we believe it is important to recognize their potential as it relates to entrepreneurship – especially given their unique combination of skill, innovative thinking, and drive to meet the biggest and most complex challenges we are faced with today. The Arctic Opportunity Explorers program is facilitating student collaboration around sustainable entrepreneurship and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing them with a platform on which to showcase their innovative ideas, as well as by providing them with the groundwork, connections, techniques, and frameworks by which they may be able to achieve true social impact.
THE TEAM CASES
Q: AOE brought together students from across 11 different countries to focus on innovating around
regional challenges in the Arctic. What key insights have you gained through the program –
specifically in terms of how we might continue to foster local-global collaborations around the
A: Producing innovative solutions around the SDGs that are localized and contextually-relevant is fundamental to what we are trying to achieve with the Arctic Opportunity Explorers program. We want to build and support pathways for innovation and entrepreneurship that have the potential to address global challenges, like climate change (SDG 13), while simultaneously ensuring that local concerns and voices are heard and prioritized.
Over the course of this year’s program, the importance of bringing a diverse group of individuals from disparate backgrounds, geographic locations, and academic disciplines together was reinforced. We saw a wide range of creative ideas coming from our student participants, and we believe this diversity of perspective will be a key factor moving forward. In order to create locally-tailored solutions, it is equally important to make sure people living in Arctic communities are included in these conversations, and we found that students from around the world are extremely eager to learn about the realities of life in these regions that are often perceived as remote.
Q: The use of collaborative digital tools and technologies – such as HelloScience – was central to the
Arctic Opportunity Explorers program. In what ways would you like to see these digital tools and technologies grow and evolve in order to further support entrepreneurial collaboration around the SDGs? Were there any particularly interesting examples of how students creatively used these tools
and technologies to enhance their collaborations?
Kelly Lynch, Partner Manager at Sustainia
The importance of a collaborative mindset is paramount, and digital tools may serve as an important lever. The entirety of this year’s Arctic Opportunity Explorers program took place in the shadow of COVID-19, and as such virtual tools like HelloScience were instrumental in allowing the project to move forward and succeed. By facilitating continued interaction between individuals spread across a multitude of time zones and locales, it has shown the great potential for remote work and collaboration moving forward.
In fact, the winning team with the overall best innovative solution was composed of three bachelor’s students spread across the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia who had never met prior to embarking on this challenge. HelloScience served as a platform to share their ideas and journey with each other, and to later showcase the high-quality of their work to a wider audience. This ‘living library’ approach will be important moving forward, and will ensure ideas such as theirs are able to evolve and grow. This will hopefully inspire and facilitate even greater collaboration and cooperation between communities and individuals all over the world.