The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all member states of the United Nations, provides a common plan for peace and prosperity for countries and the entire planet, adopting a vision that combines the present and the future (United Nations, 2020)
Agenda 2030, in particular, is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All the 17 goals are interrelated and incorporate the global challenges we face every day, such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice (United Nations, 2020). Socially, they could be seen as an urgent call to action by all citizens and their countries. They, taking a broad view, take into account the action of both developed and developing countries. Among them, the main objectives assume that the end of poverty must be accompanied by strategies aimed at improving health and education, reducing inequality and stimulating economic growth, but, of course, without forgetting climate change or the sustenance of natural resources.
Each goal has specific targets that need to be achieved before 2030. To achieve these goals, it is vital that all parts of society contribute, including governments and the private sector. Nearly halfway through to the deadline, some of the objectives are growing and strengthening rapidly. The impact of achieving the proposed objectives is measured by improving people’s quality of life, eliminating poverty and curbing climate change. Those companies that join these global goals and efforts are partners in building a better world and are legitimate deserving of being rewarded and valued.
For this project, we were assigned SDG 7, “Affordable and clean energy”. According to the latest 2020 SDG report, more clean energy is needed now than ever before, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic (Tracking Energy Progress, 2022). It is estimated that around 620 million people would still lack access to electricity if the world continues to move at the current rate (Tracking Energy Progress, 2022). For SDG 7 to be achieved, there must be greater political commitment, long-term energy planning, more funding, as well as adequate policies and incentives to implement the use of new technologies.
In this paper, we will further discuss and analyze some great and innovative ideas developed by flourishing businesses. All these firms with their employees have a passion to contribute and they are working hard to help achieve the SDGs by 2030.
2. Description and comparation
During this project, we have been reading several interesting stories about companies contributing toward the SDGs, and mainly towards SDG 7, “Affordable and clean energy”. Goal 7 with its related targets is about ensuring that everyone has access to affordable and reliable as well as sustainable energy (United Nations, 2022). This is an extremely important goal, as 759 million people lack access to electricity and one-third of the world’s population use cooking systems that are both inefficient and dangerous (United Nations, 2022).
It is not only vital to work towards providing the world’s population with reliable and affordable energy, but also important that the energy is provided from sustainable sources. Sustainable energy is defined as an energy supply that fulfils current requirements without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their own (JHU, 2022). The most known sustainable energy sources are renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric power as well as solar and wind power. Renewable energy is produced from existing resources that over time naturally replenish themselves (JHU, 2022). This is of great importance as their environmental impact is far smaller compared to fossil fuels which are a major source of CO2 emissions today. Hence, it is necessary to prioritize renewable energy in order to maintain a healthy environment.
The stories read for this project provide some great examples of flourishing and innovative ideas that are implemented to address the issues related to the SDGs, including SDG 7. One thing that several of them has in common is that the innovations had a positive impact on the environment and involved cost savings whilst also contributing to society. For instance, Juwi pioneered the use of wind and solar energy as a cost-effective source of energy. They work on different projects intending to help others replace their unsustainable energy sources (AIM2Flourish, 2022a). In a similar vein, Rural Spark’s innovative idea to provide energy kits to inhabitants of rural villages has provided the villagers with a reliable and clean energy source at affordable prices (AIM2Flourish, 2022b). This is in line with the work of SunColombia, which has contributed to SDG 7 by providing more than 10 000 families and 600 schools in rural villages with clean electricity (AIM2Flourish, 2022c). With their innovation, SunColombia has been able to reach the vulnerable and supply them with electricity to improve the quality of their life.
While the examples above are more or less directly related to providing clean electricity to people and companies, other firms have provided inspiring solutions to contribute to SDG 7, just in a slightly different way. For instance, Tusti’s innovation allows for a more efficient way to clean plastics at a lower cost and by consuming less energy. This innovation also reduces the amount of non-recycled plastic and chemical waste (AIM2Flourish, 2022d). Another interesting example is Catalina Sea Ranch. They work to replace non-renewable petroleum-based fuels with renewable fuels with their innovative idea to grow seaweed that is turned into biofuel. This innovation is also creating value by lowering the acid concentration and carbon dioxide in the water. Hence, the innovation does not only limit air pollution, but it also reduces water pollution.
While the discussion above only provides some examples of the stories we have read, the stories have a lot of commonalities. One similarity is all the innovative business leaders behind the projects with a vision of making the world a better place. We identified that the leaders of the companies may not have the traditional view of doing business where making the largest profits is the most important factor. Instead, they focus on how they can contribute and make a positive impact on the environment and society. While the businesses all are different and their method of contributing vary, the outcomes are easy to relate to the 5 Ps of sustainable development. All the projects have in one way or another contributed to people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. Especially the three first Ps are very applicable to the stories we have read. Because of the projects, the quality of life of the people involved has been improved, the damage to the environment reduced and the solution provided at a reasonable price. In addition to this, the two latter can be related as well. Economic development is significantly correlated with peace, as studies show that a low income increases the likelihood of conflicts (Cortright, 2016). In this sense, improving the life of people and increasing their income level can be seen as an important factor to accomplish peace in the most vulnerable parts of the world. Finally, in terms of partnership, the stories show that when working together you may accomplish great things as the innovations are not a one-man show but done in collaboration with other like-minded.
In the current fight against climate change, it is critical to use clean and renewable energy to limit the damage caused to the planet. We have read multiple examples of small organizations taking SDG 7 as inspiration and turning it into something impactful. While these innovations have been successful on a small scale, it is important that they receive the recognition they deserve to be able to implement on a larger scale.
3. Critical reflection
At the beginning of the semester, we carried out an initial sustainability mindset survey using the Sustainability Mindset Indicator (SMI). The aim of the survey is to identify and map the sustainability mindset of each participant. Through the 36 questions, we were able to develop three dimensions of our mindset related to sustainability: cognitive, behavioral and affective.
Having answered the questions, each one of us received a summary indicating our own situation. We were advised not to read it until the end of the project, in order to make a critical comparison of our situation. Once we had the opportunity to read it, many of us were surprised by the result. Firstly, because of the depth of analysis achieved through a few simple questions. Secondly, and more importantly, because of the difference between the results of the first and second survey.
One conclusion we have drawn as a group is that, when answering the survey the second time, we had in mind other perspectives and experiences that we did not previously have. We believe that the stories we have read and discussions we have had, have given us the opportunity to include a sustainable point of view in many aspects of our lives. At first glance, it is easy to believe that to be “sustainable” we simply have to carry out appropriate actions for the environment, such as recycling, reducing our consumption and so on. But all these stories have shown us how sustainability goes much further. It covers all the fields collected in the 5 Ps: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, since, despite being all oriented towards the same SDG, we believe that its results are also reflected in other areas beyond this.
The project has made us reflect on many things that we used to see as distant. Specifically, SDG 7 “Affordable and clean energy” that was assigned to our group may seem difficult to obtain by an individual who probably does not have the means or resources to achieve it. For instance, when we think about “clean energy”, we often think about large infrastructures with solar panels or other sources of renewable energy. However, because of the stories we read, we have opened our minds to other paths on how to achieve the same goal and understood that only you only need one creative mind is to create something impactful. For instance, SunColombia is a small company that has provided more than 10,000 families with electricity in rural areas. It offers opportunities to remote communities to have access to energy creating an impact on the quality of life and the way in which they develop their activities (Suncolombia, 2022).
Something that also caught our attention is that the majority of our companies were small companies that we had never heard of before. This point was key to realizing that any contribution, no matter the size, contributes. However, we were also frustrated to think about the low national or global recognition that these companies had had, since, as we say, none of us had heard about these companies developing such innovative solutions. It is something that must be advanced, to make people aware that, by consuming products in these types of companies, they are achieving with their contribution many things that are beyond purely monetary.
From now on, we will try to look at which companies actually contribute and which ones try to portray themselves as more sustainable than they actually are. That is, we will try to transfer the ideas that these stories have given us to our own field, promoting responsible consumption. One of the main ideas that we came up with, which can contribute to generating clean energy, for example, is the use of ways of transport that are respectful of the environment. That is, it is in our hands to choose how we commute, what type of car we want to use in the future or start promoting more urban transport. If we encourage companies that invest their effort in these kinds of initiatives, we will see that there are going to be many more flourishing histories and businesses all over the world.
The main lesson we draw is a positive vision of the future, where things can be done in many ways and there is always one in which no one is harmed. That is the one that must be chosen. It is not enough to win prizes for “best management” or “best performance” if, as a consequence, you are damaging the planet or the situation of other people. As much as companies are economic activities, they will always need people, land or stability to be able to function. Therefore, a long-term vision of reality must be adopted, and in this way be aware that a sustainable world is one that takes into account everyone.
It must be said that thanks to this assignment we have learned how to work with people from, literally, the other part of the world. We had a huge time difference that made things even harder for us to work as a team. But thanks to the technologies, we found a way to make it work, and we were reunited in weekly zoom meetings. Moreover, as a result of working with people from other countries, we found ourselves to be more organized with the way we worked because we all had to adapt to the needs of all members of the group, because we worked as a whole, not only individually.
Apart from learning how to work with people that live in different countries, we have learned the truth about what sustainability really means. Before we started this project, most of us thought about sustainability as the typical act of recycling paper, plastics, and so on. But in the end, we now think in a broader way and understand that we must go beyond that simple thought. We understood the importance of reuniting economic growth, environmental steadiness, and social advancement, guaranteeing that every person has the same opportunities and can channel a better life without putting the planet in danger.
What we take from this whole project is a very rewarding experience. Firstly, we got the opportunity to work with people with different cultural backgrounds, and secondly, we have been able to delve deeper into a topic, which at first may not seem very striking, but if you put effort and desire, you end up discovering a very interesting world. Thanks to the support of the teachers and the information provided, the project became much more enjoyable and interesting. We have learned that not everything is based on recycling, that the planet can be helped in many other aspects and that there are many companies, which do not have the recognition they deserve, that help in very peculiar ways.
If we had to answer whether we have acquired new skills and knowledge or if our previous beliefs have changed, we would have to say that we indeed have. Firstly, related to skills and knowledge, the research done throughout the project has not only allowed us to gain new knowledge on the topic but also taught us how to collect valuable and useful information. Because of the stories we read we have a better understanding of the SDGs and how firms can work with them to be able to contribute in their own way. As we now better understand how different companies can work towards the SDGs we can start and try to give them the recognition they deserve.
4. Our work as a distributed team
This project has been a cross-cultural collaboration between three members at IPTM in Indonesia and three members at Universidad de Navarra in Spain. As a team, we have had weekly digital meetings over the course of five weeks. In addition to that, we have communicated through WhatsApp on a regular basis.
Overall, the project has been a great experience from start to end and it has been enjoyable to work with such a diverse team. We believe that by working in a diverse team the discussions have been more insightful and that they have led to a broader understanding of the topic as people came with different opinions and experiences due to their backgrounds. Additionally, it was a great experience in terms of communication as we had to work professionally in a language that we were not used to working with.
It was important for us to find a suitable strategy that would allow us to finish the project on time. The strategy that we found to work as a team and have used was to have weekly meetings where every group member attended prepared. In the meetings, we discussed topics assigned by the professors which were related to the SDGs in different ways. At the end of the meetings we always had a briefing about the upcoming week and divided any work that needed to be done until the next gathering. Between the meetings, we were all working on our individual topics and stayed in touch on WhatsApp.
Several team members expressed that they in the beginning were a bit worried that it would be difficult to find time to meet with the group because of the time difference. In the end, however, all members agreed that this had not been an issue during the project. During the first week, we found a time slot that worked for everyone and stuck to that as much as possible. We also had good communication throughout, and all participants were flexible with their schedules if we had to change the meeting time due to exams. However, we are well aware that this could have been more challenging if we had had a participant from Canada. Further, another challenge that several members expressed was related to communication as the working language was not the mother tongue of any participant. However, this was handled well, as all members showed respect and were patient with each other. Finally, it would have been great to meet and work in person, but thankfully the online experience was a positive one and we managed to build a good group dynamic from the beginning. To establish a good group dynamic we got to know each other before starting with the project and made sure to have our cameras on during the meetings whenever it was possible. Because of this, we worked very well as a group and all participants respected each other and the internal and external deadlines.
Overall, we as a group are very happy with the group dynamic, the learning experience and the outcome of the project.
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