Sustainable Development Goals - Are We Reducing Waste or Wasting Our Time?

To think that I first heard about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at a foreign exchange conference from institutional investors, really exemplifies the progress Sustainable Business is making in today’s society.

My recent visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York left me contemplating questions such as: where is the global economy currently sitting in comparison to historical statistics? What approach are the UN taking to ‘bridging the gap’ between the private and public sectors? Are companies really taking action to advance societal goals?

 

First, (for those who are not aware) the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been designed by the UN to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. There are 17 interconnecting individual goals that address the global challenges we face.

1.       No Poverty: 836 million people live in extreme poverty. What you can do: Donate what you don’t use.

 

2.       Zero Hunger: Over 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted. What you can do: Avoid throwing away food.

 

3.       Good Health and Well-Being: More than 5 million children still die before their fifth birthday each year. What you can do: Vaccinate your family to protect them and improve public health.

 

4.       Quality Education: 617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills. What you can do: Help children in your community to read.

 

5.       Gender Equality: In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working; in 39 countries, daughters and sons do not have equal inheritance rights; and 49 countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence. What you can do: Call out sexist behaviour and language.

 

6.       Clean Water and Sanitation: Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s population. What you can do: Avoid wasting water.

 

7.       Affordable and Clean Energy: 13% of the global population still lacks access to modern electricity. 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. What you can do: Use only energy efficient appliances and light bulbs.

 

8.       Decent Work and Economic Growth: 470 million jobs are needed globally for new entrants to the labour market between 2016 and 2030. What you can do: Buy from green companies that are equal opportunity employers.

 

9.       Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Basic infrastructure like roads, information and communication technologies, sanitation, electrical power and water remains scarce in many developing countries. What you can do: Think of innovative ways to repurpose old material.

 

10.   Reduce Inequalities: Inequalities based on income, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, religion and opportunity continue to persist across the world, threatening long term social and economic development as it potentially breeds crime, disease and environmental degradation. What you can do: Raise your voice against discrimination.

 

11.   Sustainable Cities and Communities: Rapid urbanization is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment and public health. What you can do: Bike, walk or use public transportations to keep our cities air clean.

 

12.   Responsible Production and Consumption: Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050 the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles. What you can do: Recycle paper, plastic, glass and aluminium.

 

13.   Climate Action: Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. What you can do: Educate young people on climate change to put them on a sustainable path early on.

 

14.   Life Below Water: Coastal waters are deteriorating due to pollution and eutrophication. What you can do: Avoid plastic bags to keep the oceans safe and clean.

 

15.   Life on Land: 2.6 billion people depend directly on agriculture, but 52 per cent of the land used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation. What you can do: Plant a tree and help protect the environment.

 

16.   Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year. What you can do: Use your right to elect the leaders in your country and local community.

 

17.   Partnerships for the Goals: A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. What you can do: Get the SDGs in Action app to learn about the Goals and ways to help achieve them.

 

Reading through this list, I am sure you are thinking something along the lines of – “seems ambitious” – and yes, it will not be easy.

However, it would surprise you how far we have already come.

One of my favourite books is Factfulness by Dr Hans Rosling. Dr Rosling researches and analyses all the statistics gathered by the UN and uncovers the current status of the global economy. He investigates areas such as poverty, increasing population, equality, child mortality rates (a significant indicator of an economy’s overall health) and much more. The most surprising part is, the book is very uplifting.

For example, the majority of the world live in middle-income countries. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has almost halved. 80% of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease. Over 80% of people in the world have some access to electricity. These facts merely scratch the surface of what he has uncovered with his insightful research.

After meeting with Abraham Joseph from the United Nations, he shared similar stories regarding progress in many countries. Australia does very well with environmental care and the Netherlands and Japan are doing well with disaster risk management. For one month every year the UN gather statistics from all over the world with ODA as its primary source.

As for Partnerships for the Goals and ‘bridging the gap’ between the private and public sectors, Abraham speaks regularly to the private and academic sectors giving practical advice in what they can do to contribute. He has been doing this since January 2016 all around the world.

An organisation has also been created called the UN Global Compact – “The world's largest corporate sustainability initiative”. The UN Global Compact serves to encourage companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles. There are 10 principles to adhere to for membership under subjects such as human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The organisation then has 32 portals to offer support to companies from various industries.

The structure and support are there for any companies and/or individual professionals wanting to make a difference. Here in Australia, we also have an organisation called Future Business Council (for businesses) and Future Business Generation (for individuals) who have created a supportive network/community that concentrates on 6 key focus areas:

1.       Australia: Global Future Business Leader – position Australia as global hub for future business innovation and to become the internationally preferred supplier of sustainable goods and services.

2.       Materials and Manufacturing – encourage the growth and competitiveness of companies that produce high quality, innovative and ethical goods.

3.       Transport, Energy and Infrastructure – enhance critical infrastructure and improve the supply chains that underpin all productivity and efficiency across the entire economy.

4.       Agriculture and Food – strengthen Australia’s natural advantage in agriculture and food production and ensure the resilience and long-term viability of the sector.

5.       Education, Science and Skills – focus on education as an asset for Australia that enhances quality of life, spurs innovation and creates the skills and knowledge we need for the future.

6.       Innovation, Business Models and Start-ups – support the growth of innovative business models in Australia and seek to foster start-up friendly business environment for entrepreneurs.

These focus areas encourage companies and individuals to act on advancing societal goals. With the thousands of members within the ever-expanding Future Business Council and Future Business Generation, it is no wonder that Australia is getting recognised globally for its environmental care. Their research, publications and events are continuously contributing to the UN SDGs.

 

In summary, we are making progress.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we are in the best state we have ever been in. So, why not try to make it even better?

The Time is Now

Now is the time to allow your business to be everything you have always wanted it to be.

When a business is first brought to life, the end goals seem so clear and ambitious. You think to yourself, “One day I will have ‘this many’ employees and be earning ‘this much’ profit per year…”. Then, the business starts and has its ups and downs, tangents and plateaus i.e. the zig-zagging, squiggly life of entrepreneurship. You made it through the first year of business and things are starting to fall into place. You keep plodding along for the next couple of years – you have grown somewhat and are comfortable enough. Your time is consumed running your business and dealing with day to day issues that arise. From time to time you ponder about when you will take that next step to push further again…

Not now, I will wait until things become a bit steadier”.

“Not now, I will wait until my employees have been here longer and are more reliable.”

The list of excuses goes on. Instead of “not now” try “yes, now”. The time is now.

Eckhart Tolle makes a distinction between psychological time and clock time. He refers to clock time as purely a practical source. It exists to organise a time to meet someone at a certain place, to measure the length of time, to distinguish a moment from another moment etc. Psychological time is when we get caught up in thoughts and ideas of the future and the past, enabling our mind to be constantly existing outside of present time. This creates anxiety, fear, depression etc. Psychological time is what we need to disregard. Therefore, he constantly states that every moment you live and every goal you achieve all occur in present time. Not in the past or future; when it happens, it will be in that present moment or when it happened, it was in that present moment. Hence, aside from the use of clock time, the only other useful time is the present. The now.

Now is the time to start recognising how your days are spent. Days are spent, just like money. However, money circulates. It comes in, it goes out, comes in again etc. Days on the other hand, get spent one day at a time and never come back. The good news is, just like money, you can choose what you spend it on. It’s fascinating that people are happy to seek professional advice on money and will create budgets to ensure they know where every dollar goes, however, very few people will even take a moment to consider how their days are spent and whether they are ‘financially’ viable.

You could have your day planned to a tee, knowing how you are going to spend your time working towards your goals. Then something unexpected happens: there’s been a glitch, someone’s made a mistake, there’s a new employee starting, someone hasn’t showed up today etc. so your plans go out the window. We’ve all been there. However, the fact is: Unless you can predict every moment in life, there will always be something unexpected happening. Therefore, these situations simply become excuses.

It all comes down to how you prioritise. When you spend money, you prioritise what money needs to be spent first and then work out what you have left to spend on other areas. Your days should be spent using this same mentality. Spending your days continuously in a haphazard way not serving your ambitions will leave you broke.

Make a change now.

If you are having trouble managing your time and/or committing to the changes you want to make in your business, contact jaya@jayalesley.com

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The Business of Trading

It fascinates me how the general population perceive financial markets. Some see them as prestigious as they believe the financial markets can only be understood by the highly intelligent ones. Others perceive them as scary as it is glorified gambling where money disappears. Then, there are the ones who are intrigued by them and wish they could make millions from the markets like they were on Wall Street. Funnily enough, the financial markets are just like any other market in this world. A market where you buy and sell product in order to make a profit – whatever that product may be. Therefore, your trading account is simply your business in another market. Run your trading account as you would a successful business. Here are 5 key components:

Every business will have its competitors. The customer will decide whether to choose business A, B C, or D. Let’s say they go with business A. Therefore, business A has taken a profit which would have otherwise belonged to the other businesses B, C or D. Some people don’t like the fact that a winning/profitable trade creates a loss for another trader and will therefore be happy taking a smaller profit. However, they need to be trying to get those profits as large as possible. Just like in business, you are trading to make a profit. You can support your competitors/co-traders and work together from time to time like other industries do but at the end of the day you are there to grow your business. Make your profits as large as you possibly can.

React to your current situation. You should always be proactive so that you can be ahead of the game and know your options when situations present themselves. However, there is no denying you also need to be reactive. You need to react to feedback. In business, feedback can be in the form of customer reviews, system errors or loss of time and money. The latter two are also true for trading. React accordingly and play defensively. You need to consistently block the losses and let the profits run. React to what is in front of you.

It is all about management. Despite what many people think, trading is not about being right all the time. It is all about financial management. Any successful business owner would know from experience that financial management is key for survival in the business world. Your losses in trading are your costs in business that you need to minimise and ensure their value. The value lies in the methods and criteria used to select your entry point in the market. Manage your finances as you would in any other business and know what it costs to “open the doors”. After all, you need to afford to trade another day.

What can be measured, can be managed. If it is all about management, then it is also all about measurement. Analysis in trading and business is essential. You should know your business inside out from every angle. With anything in life, the better you understand a situation, the easier it is to direct the outcome. If your business is failing to meet distribution targets, you can find a solution once you assess the supply chain. You need to know everything you can about the situation first, before you manage it and provide a solution. If your trading isn’t providing the results you would like, analyse your system to identify where you are getting results and manage accordingly. Measure the process and the results to then analyse.

Self-sabotage. In business, trading and life itself humans are known to self-sabotage. This can be for many reasons. Sometimes it is a familiarity of failure. Many people don’t like change and if they succeed it will generate some changes in their life. This then presents a fear of the unknown and, in some cases, a subconscious need to be in control. Some people feel unworthy of success or have bad habits that are detrimental to their success. Another contributor is a need for excitement – positive or negative. Both, business and trading are not the thrill that can often be inferred. Work on your mindset by choosing your thoughts, discovering your fears and altering your perspective. Learn how to become comfortable with change and build the courage required to succeed. Understand how your mind works. 

When you’re ready to learn more about business psychology, strategy and/or financial management email jaya@jayalesley.com

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A Non-Plastic Girl, In a Plastic World

Plastic is everywhere.

“Put your rubbish in the bin!” I am constantly telling my 3-year-old daughter. “You should never leave your rubbish on the floor”, as I think to myself I am teaching her the right thing. After all, that’s what was always drilled into us at school – don’t litter!

Not the right thing.

After my latest read, I am now thinking to myself, why does she have rubbish to begin with?

 

I used to think I played my part when it came to disposing rubbish. I recycled what was recyclable and I even had a compost bin for fruit and vegetable scraps. However, I never gave much consideration into what happens to the rest of the garbage that gets taken by the truck each week. I have since realised I am not alone in this. I also never considered what resources went into creating everything that I was throwing out. Or, how fruit and vegetables gain their nutrients from the soil they grow in, which gets depleted when overused – I will elaborate on this one another time.

Growing up in suburbs and cities, we become so utterly detached from the bigger picture. We are simply a small arc of the full circumference. We buy whatever we want from wherever we want and throw it out when we are done with it. We all live in a community and play our individual part, so it is not necessary to know how the full circle works. However, our “community” is so big that, most of the time, we don’t even know the full name of our next-door neighbour let alone where anything we consume comes from or where it goes once we’re finished with it. If you’re wondering ‘why would we need to know these things?’ The answer is another childhood lesson.

We need to know how our actions affect others.

We need to know the resources that go into creating the plastic wrappers and what problems it causes for our planet. We need to know what processes our clothing went through before we found it and thought it might be something comfortable, stylish and appropriate to wear to work. We need to be mindful of the countless plastic toys our children ask for as the new craze hits the school playground.

Most of all, we need to teach our children to look at the bigger picture.

Don’t teach them to put rubbish in the bin. Teach them how to avoid having rubbish to begin with. Teach them how to shop at an organic bulk foods store, to store staples in reusable glass jars and to make as many consumables as they can from scratch.

It feels strange to us because it’s different. If you are someone who doesn’t like change, the good news is, it’s only different once.

Yes, plastic is everywhere. But it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. One step at a time, there will be less and less as we all contribute in whatever way we can.

As Anita Vandyke stated in ‘A Zero Waste Life’, “When people ask me, ‘What is the hardest part of living a zero waste life?’ I always say the same thing – it’s that I can no longer be ignorant of the state of our planet.”

Ignorance is bliss until it slaps you in the face.

Then suddenly you’re alert, wide-eyed and filled with perspective.

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