SDG 11: Builders Of The Future Generation: Analysis of the Sustainable Development Goal 11

María Arregui Beltrán; Lucía Gómez Fernández; Miguel Lacunza Abecia; Zefanya Jethro Elisha Sitompul; and Muhammad Lazuardi Hafiz

I) Short Introduction.
Constructing and managing is not an easy thing. Many considerations must be done in order to get the best results. Taking the example of a city, then relating it to organizing, developing cities. It does not escape that this is related to SDG 11. SDG 11 “has the meaning of the latest emanation from the thickening of layers of international normative guidelines on sustainable development and urban governance questions” (Helmut and Anél, line 2). Many positive things come from SDG 11, such as “being an analytical framework to explore how the transformative power of urbanization can be and help other SDGs” (Sfss Book series line 5). Also for the extra SDG 11, we get lessons such as looking for alternative resources to reduce or prevent bad things, such as pollution. Then, not only that, but we also get effective and suitable ways from here. And other things too. SDG 11 itself has a vital role in global sustainability, like a badminton racket is indispensable when playing badminton. The critical role taken by SDG 11 is to build and organize cities, as well as regulate population and urbanization to occur, so that later they do not experience significant losses or problems. Things like this make the environment good and not polluted, as well as global sustainability. All of this can work well if the way to implement SDG 11 can be adequately maximized.

II) Description and comparison of the innovations.
SDGs are the way to achieve a better and more sustainable future and can be implemented all over the world because they address all the issues we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The main SDG that is involved in all of our companies is SDG 11. SDG 11 main goals are to make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The stories of these companies are unbelievably motivating and really spreading a positive and exciting energy for our generation to encounter the future ahead.

The first companies being discussed are the one that are most impactful and also beneficial towards the environmental aspects. Sustainable businesses or green businesses are enterprises that have minimal impact or potentially a positive effect on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy. 4ocean is one of the companies that have a direct impact on saving the environment because it works on new technologies in order to make the ocean cleaner than ever before. The technologies enable the company to take trash out of the ocean 24 hour a day. In 2017, this company had recovered millions of pounds of ocean plastic and harmful trash, and has also partnered with many organizations to make a positive impact to our environment.

Another company that has a beneficial impact towards the environment is Aerofarms. This company operates in the algaculture industry, and it produces high quality greens that require less water and have a higher productivity rate.

Another company that is really into the environment is Mamut. It is a Bolivian company that helps building a safe and sustainable city by creating infrastructure from manufacturing recycled products. Nowadays, there are so many businesses that do not rely on materials that are based on recycled products, and Mamut is one of the pioneers in this section. Mamut is not only engaging in SDG 11, but it is also engaged in SDG 9 for their innovation and infrastructure, SDG 12 for being responsible in consuming what kind of material they are going to involve in creating their products Lastly, it is engaged in SDG 13 for helping the climate to be greener and not creating hazardous material.

Another company that is moving in the same industry is Pueblo Chapelco, a company which engages in real estate development that uses and manages the natural resources. This company is related to SDG 11 points that mention promoting cities and human settlement to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. One amazing point that this project mentions is that the living expenses will be very low compared to other real estate developments since the energy will be very cheap. Both, Pueblo Chapelco and Mamut, have similarities in creating a cheaper alternative for the same number of products. This is really beneficial from the financial point of view and also very efficient.

Another observation is that there are several companies that really focus on infrastructure and creating a really fun innovation for them to become a sustainable business and related to SGD 11 goals. The first company that I would like to address is PolyMolding. This company’s aim is to provide an efficient and durable foundation towards infrastructure projects, and thus, creating a greener environment towards the construction industry and using sustainable and harmful free chemicals. This company also reduces the use of heavy machinery. What is really interesting is their innovation on EPS foam, which has a huge impact on the construction industry as EPS foam is rigid and durable, which makes it perfect to use under concrete, cinder blocks, etc. This innovation has created a huge impact on the industry and also the environment because it serves as insulation to prevent heat escaping from buildings and therefore it saves energy cost.

Another business that is in the same industry is Casa para Ensamblar. This company is an innovative business that contributes to the solution of social and environmental problems. It has broken the idea that the housing is expensive and can only be afforded by rich people. This company creates access to decent housing for the low-income people. The main goal of the project is to reduce 60% of the total construction cost by providing a construction technique using a revolutionary and sustainable material (CPM) with a LEGO-like method so in order to create the housing, while at the same time water, cement, or specialized tools are not needed.

The last company on this industry is Hivve technology. It emerged because of the growing education industry where there are more buildings needed in order for the university to deliver the materials. Hiive is a self-contained, low energy, modular classroom with a difference. A new school infrastructure can be very expensive, and this can impact the physical environment and also school learning environment. Hiive came in order to solve this issue by providing a “portable” or modular classroom system that allows for full control over the learning environment, providing light and comfortable setting conducive learning.

Another company that also helps the environment indirectly is OLIO. this company came from the frustration of its owner because over 1/3 food all over the world goes to waste. The creator was able to create a food sharing app, and so far, the business has one million users. It is really important to know the scale of food waste problem towards the environment, food waste is really bad and awful for the environment. It requires a land larger than China to grow food each year in which they eventually go to waste. This means that the land has been deforested, species have been driven to extinction, soil that has been degraded and this all to produce food that is going to be thrown away.

Another aspect of the social development goals is the growth of humanity and how they are treated equally. One of the points that SDG 11 mentions is providing universal access to green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities. This point is related to some companies in terms of human development.

One of the companies is called On My Own. This passionate company is developed by Dr Anita to help disable people live independently and be able to drive by themselves anywhere. The company provides driving lessons for disabled people on customization, and also have a consultation in order to create their custom car. In the last year, a total of 154 families have benefited through car driving and consulting. In the future, this company plans to have a cheaper option/program for the low middle class family.

Another company that has a huge impact on the humanity aspect is Manos Libres, a company that helps former convicts to fit in again in society and have a proper job once again in their life, or in other words, giving them another chance in life to do good things.

Cirklo is also one of the companies involved in helping humanity’s growth. This company creates projects, services and platforms that drive positive changes in the environment. It has developed a tool to facilitate discussion and detect hypotheses on how to increase the collection and recycling of PET plastic waste. Related to SDG 11, Cirklo works with Bonafont in mapping the value chain of garbage in Mexico and they are planning to the most leveraged spaces in which they can implement the system to generate inclusive recycling projects in Mexico.

Lastly, there are also innovations that focus on energy production to become more efficient compared to the old days. One of those companies is called Juwi, which has an amazing innovation in using renewable energy in electricity production and is hoping to use 100% renewable energy worldwide. Juwi generates around 7,5 billion KW/hour from one thousand wind turbines and around 1700 solar plants.

Another mind-blowing innovation is converting the air and turning it into a healthy drinking water. This is what the company Watergen USA does. One of its reasons of existence is the hard access to clean water that is faced by the majority of the countries in the world. The company has a technology that allows it to create clean water out of thin air. The company has helped in a lot of natural disasters across America as well as in Asia.

Another aspect from energy is also the efficiency of consumption. An example of this is the company Waterfarmers. This company transforms used shipping containers into functioning greenhouses. Their designs are customized and depend on the customer’s needs. Waterfarmers have created a product that is very energy efficient and promotes sustainability, which has created a positive environmental effect. This practice also promotes local agricultural practices and has a huge impact on the ability to buy more locally produced foods.

III) Critical reflection essay.

When we started to investigate in order to do this project, although there was a rough idea of what the Sustainable Development Goals entailed, and where they came from, none of the members of the group knew much about them. There was not a true knowledge about the proposals and more specifically, no one knew about SDG 11, our goal to analyze.

At first, there was a general conviction in the group that the Sustainable Development Goals are something necessary in the world that we are living in, but they were also created to give a good external image of the United Nations. This is because nowadays, if any company does not commit to stopping global warming, or does not do something to benefit the environment, then the society does not like it. This situation is further intensified if we are talking about an international organization such as the United Nations. This idea is clear evidence that we were not well-informed and did not know much about the SDGs and its main benefits for everyone.

More concretely, our Sustainable Development Goal is number 11, which is “sustainable cities and communities.” From the title, we could have a general idea of what the goal was about, but apart from that, we did not know much about it. We were not conscious about the multiple activities that could be done in order to comply with this objective. We have read so many projects that are trying to make cities safer, more sustainable, and inclusive. For example, “On my own”, the project that teaches disable people to drive, so they can move with freedom around the city. Another example is “Casa para Ensamblar”, a project that builds houses with sustainable materials for low-income families.

Another concept that came to mind, which is in almost all literature talking about the new cities and the future of society, is circular economy. This concept of circular economy is widely related to the SDG 11. Basically, it entails that a circular city must be self-sustainable and self-powered. This is, create an environment suitable for a sustainable community, through a sustainable city. Therefore in reality, although the concept of circular economy is very wide, we saw how the idea behind the SDG 11, what really entailed, was a push from the UN in favor of these new conceptual cities, bringing them to life.

As previously stated, we have seen how there are numerous alternatives created from the private sector that share this same aim, the aim of creating new solutions to develop sustainable cities. In some manner, this is the best response that could happen from society, that entrepreneurs and corporations look into this necessary change, not as a set of restrictive measures, but as a new overall framework. This new framework not only allows for adaptation, but as it has been proven along the dynamic, there is a huge window for innovation.

Along the process, when we shared our thoughts about the different companies pursuing this Sustainable Development Goal, the group also came up with other companies or initiatives that they knew either from their country or from other places. This was very interesting, since it shows that there really is a global trend pushing for this kind of initiatives, not only on a governmental level, but also on the societal strata of the population.

This was very revealing, since sometimes as a society we tend to think that international organizations such as the United Nations do not have real power in the world, and only serve as a debate forum, in which nothing really gets done. Obviously, it is known that this is not the case, but many members of society do not see the real impact of the UN in their lives.

Seeing how these SDGs do have an impact in reality through emerging companies is quite revealing. Not only for the mere concept of achieve the SDGs, but probably because we, as young citizens, who are “responsible” for the future, and in which some cases are looking into entrepreneurship or companies with social impact as a possibility in their future career, see that it is possible to demand ourselves some kind of commitment with the environment and society.

The internationalization of all these companies, which acted locally, but looking towards solving a problem suffered by all societies around the world, is one of the key aspects in the project. At the end of the day, the group was composed by students from Indonesia and Spain. However, when the different companies were discussed, we found out that all of them served a purpose not only in the country where they came from, but also in our own countries. This shows us the possibilities and opportunities within this “sector”.

After all the discussions we had about SDG 11 and all the stories that we read, we have observed that we can do more than we think to accomplish SDG 11. It might sound like a typical phrase, but it is actually true. We tend to think that making a city more sustainable is to recycle, or that making a more inclusive city is to do some volunteering. We would not have imagined that even creating small houses with recycled materials can achieve both, creating inclusive and sustainable cities. This has actually motivated us to think “outside the box”, to see if there are any habits in our daily lives that we could modify or implement in order to accomplish SDG 11.

This analysis did also have a personal impact on the team. One of the members of the group wants to create her own company. She had never thought about taking into consideration the SDG 11 when starting her business, but now she wants to create a company that will help to achieve this goal. There are many options: build a sustainable shop that uses renewable resources to have electricity, or hire people with any disability to help develop a more inclusive city. As it has been already mentioned, there are many possibilities to achieve the SDG 11, so there are a lot of activities that the member can do in her future company.

We are conscious, and many experts also affirm, that there is still a long way to go before the United Nations can say that the Sustainable Development Goals have been successfully achieved. Moreover, our goal, the SDG 11, will be complicated to accomplish because to do this, many traditions and ways of acting that are intrinsic to society have to be changed. Nonetheless, we are also aware that “Rome was not built in a day, but bricks were placed every hour.” Success is obtained if we start doing something. Likewise, we can accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal 11: step by step, every day doing a new action, or even changing one, that would help create more sustainable, safer and inclusive cities and communities so that, in the near future we have a better, more prosperous and environmentally friendly world.

IV) Our work as a distributed team: lessons learned.

Working in groups can be difficult sometimes, so having a team with members from different parts of the world, with different time zones, and from different universities can be even harder. However, all the members of the team, we believe that we have worked together well, collaborating with one another and that has turned out to be a very enriching experience for all the team members.

One member believes that this work in group was very interesting as a new experience. The fact that the focus of the group project was the Sustainable Development Goals was a good “coincidence”, since the different countries and corporations of the world need to work together in international teams in order to reach and accomplish these goals. There is a need to a better understanding of the greater picture and what is really relevant.

In general, we worked well together as a team. At first, we were afraid that the cultural differences could become a problem, especially regarding individualism and the avoidance of uncertainty, as these two dimensions are the most different ones between both countries. However, we managed the situation quite well. We were lucky to find individuals that although very different in cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs were the same in work ethic, respect, morals, and team dynamics. For Lucía, “that is why we worked as a team”. Our strategy was one of mutual respect, we valued each other’s time, always meeting at the previously agreed time that could fit our different time zones the best, and had no issues communicating. We prioritized the participation of all team members above finishing quickly and getting on with our days. We all believe that everyone can contribute to the teamwork with their own opinions, allowing us to have different perspectives of the stories we read about and also the ways of working.

A team member says: “what I believe worked the least was also one of the things I liked the most. We would end up off topic discussing our differences, similarities and opinions on whatever we found most interesting that day.” We normally do not have these opportunities in our “conventional” group work. Having the chance of knowing firsthand things from another country about our topic in SDG 11 was incredible.

Nonetheless, working in an atmosphere of different cultures has exposed to us some challenges that might happen during the process of acting upon the SDG’s. Although we did not deal with any big problems in terms of cross-culturality or misunderstanding of that type, it is true that it was a challenge to understand where everyone was coming from. Even in the Spanish sector of the group we had different points of view regarding the same issue, especially due to our place of birth. This was only accentuated when we compared our ideas with our Indonesian colleagues. These differences, which at first looked like an inconvenience, ended up being a strength, since the outcomes that we had, were not only more complete but also, there had a wider focus. In every meeting the issue was tackled from different perspectives and each one of us gave their own opinion on the matter.

In terms of logistics, there was not really a problem. The team decided on a timetable early on, and proceeded to follow as planned. Every Thursday, the team got together and discussed the proposed things. After reaching a conclusion, we talked a little bit about how our week had been, and questions regarding daily life in our respective countries. This helped us connect, understand others better, not only as students who have to do an assignment together, but also, as people who are meeting outside class as friends for the first time.

Finally, for the actual writing assignment we decided to divide the different parts of the job and each to do it on our own. We believe that was the best way to do it as it would allow each person to work at their own pace. And it worked. After a few days working on our own, we met and discussed the different parts of the final essay. This was to ensure we were all on the same page and were able to help each other perfect our work. We believe that this strategy worked very well for us as we were committed to the team and to the dates we set to meet and see how the work was going, and was, at the same time, efficient and a team effort.

VI) References.

Aust, H., & Plessis, A. (2018, June 29). Good urban governance as a global aspiration: On the potential and limits of SDG 11.

Country Comparison. (2021, June 21). Hofstede Insights.,spain/

Science For Sustainable Societies Book Series. (2019, November 14) Link Springer.

AIM2Flourish Companies

Title Business Name URL
On My Own Drive On My Own
4ocean 4ocean
A Second Chance for Former Inmates Manos Libres
Molding a Greener Community PolyMolding
Sustainable Community Pueblo Chapelco
An Agricultural Revolution AeroFarms
A TIREless Effort for a Brighter Future Mamut
Tecnología de Microalgas Salvando Vidas | Microalgae Technology Saving Lives Biomitechía-de-micoalgas-salvando-vidas-microalgae-technology-saving-lives
Innovation Consultancy in Business Transformation and Social Impact Cirklo
The Food Revolution App:  Fighting Food Waste OLIO
Sustainable Housing for All Casa para Ensamblar
Construyendo Contigo CEMEX
Wind and Solar Energy as an Efficient Source of Energy juwi
Creating Clean Water From Air Watergen USA
Urban Agricultural Innovation WaterFarmers
Sustainable Schools Hivve Technology


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Critical Reflections on Innovative Flourishing Businesses in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Copyright © 2022 by María Arregui Beltrán; Lucía Gómez Fernández; Miguel Lacunza Abecia; Zefanya Jethro Elisha Sitompul; and Muhammad Lazuardi Hafiz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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