SustainAbility in Habit's founder Filipa Ferreira, has integrated Sustainability in her life since an early age. She grew up in a responsible consumption culture. Reusing, recycling and repairing has always been a part of her sustainable lifestyle. While studying the Economics degree, she was introduced to Sustainable Economic Development by her professors. It stayed with her throughout her international career in Energy and lately as a management consultant, advising also on sustainability.
Making the world a better place by helping organisations and society to become more sustainable is one of her passions.
The long sunny days are gone for the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures are dropping, Peace signs are not showing and the energy sources are becoming less available for this coming winter. The EC has requested a drop in consumption as we’re all in this energy crisis together. To help households reduce their bill, I suggest a few measures which can contribute to reduce your energy bill:
Use LED lamps
Switch off the lights in the places which don’t need light
Keep a moderate room temperature between 18ºC and 21ºC. Openning the windows to reduce the house temperature is a waste of energy, your money and the Planet’s resources. You don’t need to be on t-shirt! Wearing long sleeves at home is cool!
Ventilate your place during warmer moments to maintain a pleasant indoor temperature. Is great to have fresh air but do so wisely!
Open the curtains to the maximum so natural light gets in for longer
Keep your appliances’ plugs out of the sockets
Dry your clothes at room temperature instead of using the dryer
Switch on your wash machine and dishwasher after 22h00
Cook the more energy intensive dishes during the weekend and warm them during the week
Brew your tea and coffee the night before and keep it warm in a thermo bottle. They’re cool too!
As temperatures continue to raise and the energy supply is threatened to diminish, immediate solutions which contribute to reduce the energy usage and costs are needed with urgency. As such, I decided to share some tips with you to do so. Hopefully they can help you reduce your energy bill and our countries’ dependency on Russian energy supply. Whether you’re a household or a company, hopefully my tips help you:
Do your energy intensive activities on the weekends when prices are lower. Cook on the weekend meals which can be kept on the fridge so you only need to warm them up throughout the week, using less energy and reduce your costs. Preferably, eat low fat meals as they reduce the body temperature and the need for low temperatures. Eat seasonal salads and fruit as much as possible.
Make natural air currents at home when temperatures are lower, typically early morning and late in the evening to increase freshness and reduce air con usage.
Close all windows and use blackouts to cut the light and prevent heating your place throughout the day when temperatures increase.
At night switch on as few lights as possible to reduce home light induced heat.
If your windows aren’t energy efficient, do change them to double glaze glasses and efficient frames.
Reduce the temperature of your shower.
Use light fabrics and light-coloured clothes.
Switch your bulbs to LED ones.
Fix the temperature to a regular level.
Roll the curtains down or install blackouts to reduce the building’s temperature.
Allow ventilation to prevent electrical equipment overheating.
Use natural light as much as possible.
Improve your office’s thermal insulation.
Instruct your employees to become energy efficient in the equipment usage and charging cycles.
If your country has large swimming pool capacity. Negotiate with your employees time off during the afternoons so they can work when is fresher and enjoy the swimming pools in the afternoon.
Invest in energy efficient equipment.
With care to your energy bill,
former energy strategic stocks manager and economist
We are a part of this planet history, being the existence of most of us a tiny fraction in its timeline. René Magritte, the surrealist Belgian painter, illustrated so quite well in its “Human condition” paintings, one of which pictured above.
This realistic vision is also myopic to the extent that most cannot see the collective impact of individual similar actions. Those squandering behaviours continue as more of the old or similar products are available at the distance of a shop or a click & collect. Ecstatic by the new items or services purchased consumers may perceive a life in heaven when in fact are continuing the curse on the Planet. René Magritte’s La Malédiction, (The Curse) from 1963 and pictured below, illustrates it quite well.
We do have a chance to switch the surreal curse into a real paradise! Switching from the unsustainable linear production and consumption model to the circular model is a way to achieve so.
Achieving sustainable circular economy models stimulates creativity and innovation in the quest of giving goods a longer life, increasing thus its usage not only in one product but also in subsequent manufacturing processes.
Reducing the national depletion rate gap which spans from January to December is thus a must. The later in the year the better. And the soon we can change those habits, the better. The big depletion rate comes mainly from the 1% who in their culture of wealth demonstrations drive the Planet to a continuous global warming. How about following Bill Gates in donating fortunes to well managed institutions to tackle global causes instead of continuously seeking to being featured in the Year’s wealthiest person. He is donating his to the Gates foundation. Well done Mr Bill Gates.
Human capital has increased globally yet there are nations that prevent it from being used, either fully or partially. This is a waste of resources that should be reduced too as in so doing and well oriented may lead to Natural Capital improvements.
René Magritte gives us a perspective of our existence. We have a chance to act with overlasting impact, too. Would be good that by 2030 the depletion trend we have seen in the last four decades as illustrated in the graphic below is reduced and by 2050 is reverted. Yes, we can! Obama said so and made history! Collectively, Humanity can achieve what is needed. It does request a mindset shift too.
Each year on April 2022 we celebrate our Planet Earth, which as a living system, changes according not only to the intrinsic but also to the extrinsic factors. Many climate scientists have shown through their research that global warming during Anthropocene has been a consequence of Human activity, accelerated by the industrial revolutions.
As awareness raised so did the pressures to move away from exhausting the limited resources our Planet has been offering us so they can be used and consumed for longer allowing future generations to also use and consume them. To do so without reducing socio-economic welfare requires updates on processes, technologies and mindsets. Investment is thus needed. Investing in our Planet, if correctly done, implies an investment in society and consequently an increase in welfare. The latter stemming from for example reduced health problems due to cleaner air resulting from improved production technologies which pollute less too.
Increasingly more investors are aware of this need and opt for responsible alternatives allocating their money in sustainable investments, enlarging the sustainable investment pie. They also show the mindset change investors need to undergo. Yet risks of continuous greenwashing in investment still exists as the OECD recently pointed out, asking for standardisation to make sustainable investments easier to track and compare. The United Nations estimated in 2018 a range of 5 to 7 USD trillion annually needed to meet the agreed SDGs by 2030. Between 2018 and 2020 sustainable assets under management rose 15% according to the World Economic Forum to about USD 35.3 trillion. Yet, this level is behind UN’s expectations by 17% on average, as shown in the graphic below created by me with UN data. The lockdowns imposed as the Pandemic emerged resulted in a slowdown of investment projects as risks of unprecedented recession emerged, and the resulting drop on the global output might explain to a great extent this deviation.
Also due to the Pandemic the issuance of sustainability bonds, green bonds and social bonds, financing instruments for socio-economic and environmental purposes, accelerated to unprecedented levels too. By the end of this year, sustainability bonds issuance is expected to exceed USD 1.5 trillion. Will the pace be maintained and the sun rise through forests expanding our life and our planet’s?
The energy crisis Europe, in particular, has been facing since Q4 2021, as a result of a 21% of primary energy supply shortage led to price surge, which is characteristic of markets in competition. Consumers haven’t been unscathed. Their bill, independently of being industrials, commercials or residents, has therefore increased substantially as suppliers pass through the new wholesale price. For those who have postponed the transformation of their buildings into more efficient ones, the observance of high energy prices may shed some light on understanding the importance of having energy efficient assets. The more efficient they are the less energy they consume.
Several ways may increase assets’ efficiency, from the materials to the volume used. As we celebrate the 2022 International Forest Day, under the topic “Choose sustainable wood for People and the Planet”, we celebrate not only what Nature has given to its People, wellbeing through its forests and sustainable materials through its plants, namely wood but also its sustainable management, as circular economy paves the way to byproducts.
Wood is a natural carbon dioxide store. As trees grow it is absorbed from the atmosphere being increasingly accumulated. Wood is a good insulator, too. As such, controlling room temperature demands less energy than other insulator materials such as silica and Styrofoam widely used across the building sector. A nature-based solution, nanowood, has been developed. It is understood to perform better than the latter in terms of insulation, while also reducing the wood volume needed for that purpose.
Likewise, responsible consumption and production should lead to a better management of forests preventing its destruction as wildfires or deforestation occur. This is the case of Australia, the country with the fastest tree cover loss change in the last two years. According to the WRI, it has experienced 50% and 47% respectively on its forest loss area, trebling its annual average tree cover loss in only two years, from 0.5 million hectares until 2019 to above 1.5 ever since.
Forests with the right type of trees, can also contribute to keep soils moisture and sustain groundwater levels, which are natural sinks of freshwater essential for agriculture, industry and consumers’ pure water supply. Currently 30% of world freshwater is groundwater and the rest surface water being stored in lakes, rivers, wetlands, glaciers and ice sheets, as per the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. Considering the high level of plastic leakage and other pollution our oceans currently face along, the global warming along with the population expansion, it is key to keep a responsible consumption of the natural resources and preserve biodiversity so the ecosystem is balanced.
On March 22nd we celebrate the International Water Day. Potable water is a luxury in many countries and a given in others. Drinking potable water cleans human’s body, impurified triggers infections, as typhoid fever or cholera, to name the two most common waterborne diseases. It is also understood to improve creativity as the brain improves with the toxins that are released after its consumption. Health systems can be less stressed if potable water is supplied, drunken and negatives externalities paid by its polluters. Hence, pure freshwater is paramount for society, governments and businesses. Investing in sustainable infrastructures, which reduce its contamination and allow better supply, can reduce system costs. Why aren’t government and society efforts better focused?
Back in 2019 I was fortunate to attend an International Women’s Day event held at a men’s club, which opened its doors to a women’s event for the first time. I was pleased to witness this change, as a woman who spent over 4 years in a team of 9 men and myself! The venue premises were indeed remarkable and so was the guest speakers’ panel. In the quest for inspiration and networking to make my way back to the Londoner professional circle, I listened to their stories, navigating with them through their journey as they spoke. I thought there could be a space for me once again, in spite of the recent geopolitics change. At the end of the day, we were a bunch of professional women who had been facing the hardship of being a woman breaking boundaries, independently of their socio-economic and professional background. With this bit of fresh air, I felt inspired to carry on my journey. Moved with this positive feeling and having landed in a new place new to us all, I tried to create a space where women with apparent similar interests could also find inspiration to their journey. Yet, geopolitics were thrown in my face.
It also came to my mind the sculpture I came across in the autumn of 2013 in Ottawa, Canada. It represents the inclusion of women as people in Canada’s constitution in 1929, paving the way to a more inclusive workforce and a more equal society. About a century later, progress has been slow along the equality journey. Indeed, some women make other women move forward yet, others make them retreat, especially those who firmly stand for their right of being equally treated in a sexist and classist world disguised as progressive. Multiple researches on this topic show that women typically work harder than men, not because women are less capable but due to the peers’ bias working women need to overcome. On top of that, women earn less. We need to break the bias!
As we celebrate this International Women’s Day, we celebrate the announcement made in January by the European Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, that a minimum of 40% representation of both genders at a corporation’s Board becomes law in the EU. A very welcome step from a strong leader!
To the women and the men, who really practice equality and make the world progress and diminishing the gap. Those with high and low visibility, who take action, speak up and reduce discrimination starting in their direct circle of influence, sometimes risking of losing the “support” they had.
We cannot forget the recently expanded war in Ukraine, continues. The autocratic leadership that has triggered so at a country’s level, have been also seen in corporations for quite some time, paving the way to the populism of the far right and far left, as the subordinates either agree with the leader or are made let go, unjustifiably. Corporate weak leaders, who have dictators as role models and see no boundaries to the means used to get their end, the absolute control and disrespect over others. Hopefully this horrible war can open the world’s eyes and triggers action to also stop the corporate totalitarians who have been making the world a more unequal and less human place. As Gary Hamel says, overcontrolled professionals get suffocated becoming unable to create greater value. Getting people contributing to their growth and then suffocate their work is very far from sustainable! Villarejos, tomatinas, bullfights, fandangos don’t allow progress. If scientists who have been working to find Covid-19 vaccines had been suffocated, today the world would have been in a far worse place.
Cheers to the women and men who grow sustainably, letting also others grow sustainably! A vehicle can only go as far as its infrastructures allow it to move.
Being sustainable means that existing resources will be used in a way that current as well as future generations can access and use them to the same extent permitting similar or better living conditions. So, it’s not only for the future but also for the present! Hence, I’m sharing with you the 3 fundamental reasons why you’ll fall in love with sustainability as soon as you realise the good of it.
Thanks to technological and knowledge improvements the air has gotten cleaner. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 395 million people suffer from chronic respiratory diseases (CRD), over 10 million die annually and 4 million of them do so prematurely. Other sources identify over 500 million of CRD and a 39,5% increase on CRD between 1990 and 2017. The WHO has identified “tobacco smoke, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and air containing microbes, toxic particles, fumes or allergens” as the top sources of unhealthy air. It is known that GHG emissions have soared since the beginning of the Anthropocene as the world was making economic progress, which paved the way to further research and the current knowledge. It has been a trade-off society has incurred. Given that technological developments and policies have enabled an increased renewable energy generation in the energy mix, powering further progress, society has a duty to transit to a cleaner energy mix, doing so reliably and robustly. Aligning stakeholders to do so has been challenging but as more benefits from deploying such technologies are understood less resistance is faced. An illustration of such improvements is the air quality in Beijing, more in the spotlight in the last two weeks due to the 2022 Winter Olympic games. It has been reported that Beijing has improved its air quality implementing very tough measures such as a winter without heating to force replacement of old coal boilers for cleaner versions and halt of the production from polluting sources. In the graphic below, which I elaborate using Air Quality index data, it’s observable that Chinese air improved during 2008 Olympics but retreated 3 years later, to improve again. Recently, the FT published two pictures of the same location of Beijing in 2008 and 2022. The first showing thick levels of pollution and the second a clear sky. Cutting pollution implies fewer toxic particles in the air and an expected improved air quality, which reduces the number of people with chronic respiratory diseases and hence a healthier population, in what concerns CRD, hence a better life quality. Doesn’t that make you happier?
2. Getting wealthier
Sustainable goods and practices are characterised by being durable, which means they last longer than non-sustainable ones being manufactured for multiple uses. They also should be conceived for reparation and re-integration in the manufacturing cycle extending the product and its components life expectancy. This means that instead of spending for example, 30 euros for a sweatshirt every year, you spend for example 60 euros on a sweatshirt which can be used in great conditions for 7 years. In doing so, the materials you’re saving by reusing multiples times the same product are being saved for future generations, so they can also be accessed and used while simultaneously you’re financially saving.
Multiple studies such as the IPCC reports show that climate change will affect geographies with extreme weather events. Knowing the risks to be faced and how to mitigate them, may allow for future savings, which ultimately increase wealth.
It has been shown that being sustainable has benefits for the Planet, the People and the Organisations. Leading organisations such as Unilever have embraced in sustainable practices and improved their revenues as shown in the graphic below, I created based on macro trends data, along with its profits, share value and distributed dividend and yield. Paul Polman, its CEO between 2009 and 2019 has been the face of sustainable leadership pushing for a systemic transformation in businesses and in society.
3. Building better
As a responsible citizen or organization, you embrace in sustainable practices, which include consuming and producing responsibly. Doing so, allows the finite resources to be maintained for a longer period allowing future generations to use them and enjoy high living standards. Aren’t we grateful for the land which has been feeding the world? Or to get to beaches and mountains that have been kept accessible and clean throughout the years by our ancestors? Haven’t we benefited from Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, and millions of inventors, studies, good practices that have been contributing to society’s increased welfare and life standards? So why are we preventing future generations from enjoying the good in our Planet and improve future life standards? Do you want to Build Better? Reach out to me, perhaps I can help you!
In a recent survey to CEOs representing 46% of the world’s geographies, CEOs showed optimism regarding economic recovery. Yet, they also showed concern over its robustness citing cybercrime and health risks as their top priorities for 2022.
In spite of the 2021 economic impacts of Climate Change across the world and increased pledges on Carbon Neutrality and Net-Zero, this global challenge isn’t on many CEOs’ corporate agenda. In 2021 heavy rains destroyed infrastructures in Germany, China and India, to name a few. Consequently, energy supply was severely disrupted, contributing to prices surge. Recently, more investment has been announced on new infrastructures to strengthen energy systems robustness and reliability. During COP26 more pledges were announced. By its last day, a total of 5,545 companies had pledged for Net-Zero in multiple initiatives as the UN’s Race to Zero initiative, the Global Coal to Clean Energy Transition statement, the GFANZ (Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero). Yet, Climate Change isn’t on the top of their priorities.
This survey also found that companies with higher levels of trust from their customers tend to make bolder sustainability commitments, driving change and receiving higher levels of satisfaction. Those companies have lower gender gaps, too.
As more companies realised Climate Change is a joint effort whose risks will be better mitigated with more companies tackling the challenge materially, actions increased. Knowing a company is responsibly managing its assets and values so across its value chain, stakeholders’ level of trust in that management team increases. For example, boards get support from its shareholders. On the opposite side, as greenwashing cases were uncovered, customers who felt misled opted for sustainable solutions and employees left. Companies’ reputation dropped, too, as I could gather in a Corporate Governance research, I conducted in 2020. The increasingly number of pledges, the sustainable initiatives and commitments taken, show companies are becoming more aware of the need to operate sustainably. Doing so strategically, can help the company improve its balance sheet along with positioning among its stakeholders.
As of 30th of January 2022, some of the pledges signed at COP26 have expanded to:
34% of the 2,000 largest publicly traded companies
5,227 companies signed the UN race to zero
totalling 6,380 the number of companies with pledges. However, the lack of common standards, methodologies, reporting and tracking systems make the impact of those pledges difficult to assess decreasing the certainty on how many degrees global warming will be limited by 2050. This misalignment also hampers investors and lenders’ ability to compare and make decisions. How about increasing the usage of corporate power as a force for good on the Planet, People and Profits? Reach out, I am available to help your organisation on that.