Breaking the stigma

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This past week has been Mental Health Awareness Week.

Just like with climate change and the climate emergency we are currently experiencing, we need to speak of mental health. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental illness every year.

Recently there has been a surge in mentioning of the word climate change in media and peoples awareness and concern for the impacts and how we will all be affected has increased. This is a good thing. Because if we don’t speak of something, it is as if it does not exist.

Same thing goes for mental illness. And while I notice a fair amount of talk about mental health in media, I feel there is still a stigma surrounding the topic. Don’t you?

It should be as normal to say to someone: Gosh, I feel rotten because of this bad cold, as to say: You know, I don’t feel great today, can we chat about it, please? Yet, how often when asked How are you?, we automatically respond: Fine thanks and you?, and we don’t necessarily listen very well to the response either. The curse of busyness.

I have dodgy knees. They partially dislocate (it’s called subluxation, apparently), both of them, though luckily it has never happened on both knees at the same time. It’s something which has happened to me on and off since the age of 10. So, I’ve learnt to live with it. I know my limitations.

I also have chronic urticaria. This means that sometimes when I’m stressed I get itchy spots and swelling, not unlikely an allergic reaction. It can be treated with anti histamine. I never know when it will come and for now, I haven’t experienced it for about two years.

I also have depression. Like my urticaria I can treat it with medication, and this helps. Like with my dodgy knees I know what to do to help me feel better. Most of the time it is not noticeable, not when I’m dancing around the kitchen to The Lion Sleeps Tonight (I mean, how can you not?!). That’s the thing with mental illness, it doesn’t show.

Neither does climate change.

But to break the stigma, to make it normal for everyone to talk about, to support each other to live with it, to do something about it, we need to talk about it.

 

I am grateful to Nadiya Hussain whom through her honesty and bravery in the programme Nadiya: Anxiety and me, gave me the strength to write this blog, to show others that mental illness can affect anyone – and together we can break the stigma. You can see the programme here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00053fy/nadiya-anxiety-and-me

 

 

 

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What climate emergency means to business

On 1 May 2019 the UK Government made a national declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency. But what is this and what does it mean to businesses?

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What is a climate emergency?

In the wake of Extinction Rebellion protests across London and elsewhere, school strikes for the climate and Greta Thunberg’s visit to the UK Parliament (Greta Thunberg is the 16-year old activist from Sweden who has been on school strike for the climate every Friday since August 2018), the UK Government became the first country in the world where a bipartisan parliament has declared a climate emergency. Globally 52 million citizens in nine countries are covered by local governments that have declared a climate emergency. 26 million of these people live in the United Kingdom. (These figures are correct as of 9 May 2019.)

There is no exact definition of what it means to declare a climate emergency, although many areas say they want to be carbon neutral by 2030. Furthermore, it has been likened to putting the country on a “war footing” and to have climate and the environment at the very centre of all government policy, rather than being on the fringe of political decisions. The UK Government’s declaration of a climate emergency did not come with any greenhouse gas reduction targets but have since been followed by a report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) the independent advisor to the government on climate change) which, to date, has not been committed to by the Government. The CCC report recommends UK to set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

What Climate Emergency means to business

To declare a climate emergency and the fact that climate change is now making headline news (although cats are more often mentioned than climate change in a year’s worth of TV programming according to British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Bafta) is unheard of in my 20+ year long career in the renewable energy and sustainability industry. In all my discussions with fellow sustainability professionals there is full consensus that this is truly exciting times; there seems to be a momentum, a hint of change in the air this spring of 2019.

Climate change has been discussed in scientific circles for more than 30 years and the clear majority of experts agree that the warming trends over the past century is due to human activities like burning fossil fuels, clearing of land and forests for agriculture and so on. Climate change causes higher surface temperatures, warming oceans, melting ice sheets, sea-level rise, more extreme weather events like storms, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, and more. Current global policies on climate change has set us on a trend to reach up to a 4.4-degree Celsius average temperature increase by the end of the Century. In 2015 most countries in the world agreed to limit global temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C, in the so called Paris Agreement on climate change.

The urgency which by we need to act has coined the phrases “climate emergency” and “climate crisis” – in particular as leaders are seemingly very slow to make changes to achieve the targets agreed in Paris. At least up to now.

The declaration of a climate emergency, the climate protests and climate change in main stream media (media mentioned “climate change” more in April than it did in almost any previous month) means that clients, customers, consumers and citizens are increasingly concerned about what is happening to the planet and how this will affect us. The proportion who say they are “very” or “fairly” concerned about climate change has reached its highest point since 2008. 63% agree with the statement: “We are facing a climate emergency.”

If you are concerned about something and agree that there is an emergency – it is also very likely that you want things to change. It is not likely that you will want your burning house to continue to burn down to the ground, right? Whether this change and action come from national or local governments and other authorities as legislation and regulations, or if it comes from pressure from clients, customers, consumers and citizens, the results are the same. Businesses will have to change too.

What the forward-thinking business owner, shareholder or investor can do is to take advantage of this heightened awareness from their stakeholders and act early, showing leadership in their sector. Have you seen the WWF ads on television? They are acting now for more members to join their cause to fight climate change. The other day I spotted this ad in the London underground:

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These guys act now for more customers. iPhone ads are showing pictures of nature. This is not a coincidence. With increased awareness of climate change, species extinction and biodiversity loss, organisations and businesses are engaging now to win customers, to win you over to their side.

The point that I would like to make is, that as to these increased calls for action, business has a choice. It can either be a leader, taking relevant and impactful action now. Or it can be a follower trying to play catch-up with the rest of the field, merely focusing on compliance, likely to lose out on winning new customers and supporters as well as engaging with their existing employees and attracting new ones.

For years studies have shown that organisations that set sustainability at its heart, from a financial, social and environmental perspective, perform better than those that don’t. In 2012 The Guardian matched a sample of 180 US-based companies, 90 of which were classified as high-sustainability and another 90 as low-sustainability, finding that companies that manage their environmental and social performance have superior financial performance and actually create more value for their shareholders.

The choice sits with the business. And I know which type of company I would bet my money on.

 

Don’t know where to start? Ready to take action?

Carolina Karlstrom, Jade Advisory Ltd, is an independent sustainability consultant and climate coach, helping organisations to reduce their environmental footprint. Get in touch now for a free 20 minute carbon strategy discussion and be a leader in your sector

http://www.jadeadvisory.com #jadeadvisory

 

Tech for Good – an SDGs MeetUp

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When there is a lack of legal regulations and business is slow to respond (or have less interest in doing so) we, the people are left to take action. We can successfully do so by making responsible choices and putting our money where we think they make the most good. But this can be challenging with so much information at the end of your finger-tips; what to trust? How can we find the correct data to help us make the daily choices we are faced with? And when we are standing there, in the super market isle, ready to make that purchase, how do we know it’s the most environmentally friendly option? Does it have palmoil in it? What is the carbon footprint of the product? Was it responsibly made?

 How do we find the time to make the right choice?

These questions and many more we explored at our last Sustainable Development Goals Network MeetUp in London. 37 people were gathered in the room, kindly provided by Mott MacDonald, to hear our speakers share their innovations and show how tech can support you in your daily choices; to help you be a more responsible and aware consumer, in ways that will ultimately lead to less impact on our climate and planet and support sustainable use of resources. Our speaker panel was made up of Jo Hand, Giki, Alex Robertson, Poseidon Foundation and Oliver Bolton, Almond. Providing a very different angle to tech and the SDGs (or to use their full name, the Sustainable Development Goals) we also had the pleasure of hosting Nermeen Mustafa, CellBio-London Training Academy.

phone-and-shopping-bags.pngWith 52% of our personal carbon footprint coming from goods and services that we buy our money drives a lot of our impact and can therefore also be a significant force for good. Technology can be used for raising awareness, educate, create action and reward the mass market helping us all to become more conscious consumers. Giki, Almond and Poseidon Foundation all have fantastic solutions to the conundrum that today’s citizens are facing, and they are presenting it at the tip of your fingers in their tech for good apps. Tech that will make you feel less helpless and confused and supports meaningful action in your day to day life. Giki is a mobile app which that informs you about the products you buy and the companies you buy them from, just by scanning the bar code. This includes whether the products have sustainable palm-oil or not. Poseidon Foundation uses AI and blockchain to quickly analyze the carbon footprint of any product or service, and then process carbon credits in fractions small enough to rebalance the product or service at point of sale – i.e. you pay for the carbon footprint you are causing by purchasing a specific product. Almond is a real-life game designed to ‘educate, activate and reward’ individuals for reducing their negative impact; through buying challenges, action challenges and offsetting challenges.

learningThe presentations from these three organisations show that education is essential for a sustainable future. But how do we bring education to all parts of the world, to those who might lack the financial means and that don’t have access to the educational resources that people in developed countries may have? Nermeen shared her story, of education in her home country Egypt and in the UK, which made her want to support people with less means to still have access to great education – and she is doing it via a network of senior lecturers across the globe and online laboratories when the real equipment platform is not available, changing the way of teaching.

At the end of the event, the room was buzzing with discussions and new connections were made. I truly hope that this event, with a particular focus on quality education (SDG 4), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and climate action (SDG 13), also will result in new collaborations and partnerships (SDG 17) – so that we, in the words of David Attenborough, “…can do what we humans are very good at – change the world”.

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If you would like to join the SDG Network MeetUp in London, or in Milton Keynes, or your organisation would like to join us for an upcoming speaker panel, get in touch! carolina.karlstrom@jadeadvisory.com

 You can stay in touch with all upcoming events by registering here:

> London: https://www.meetup.com/SustainableDevelopmentCommunity/

> Milton Keynes: https://www.meetup.com/Sustainable-Development-Network-Milton-Keynes/

 

Sustainable fashion – a SDG Network MeetUp event

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Sustainable fashion. What do you think of when you hear this? I was thinking fabric made out of mushrooms and second-hand clothing. At the SDGs Network MeetUp, I discovered that it can indeed be all of this and also so much more. From our five panel speakers myself and Ilma (who were hosting the event) and all our participants got to hear of several different facets to the wide topic of sustainable fashion and engage in a lively discussion.

We enjoyed listening to:

Roberta Lee, who is a sustainable stylist and have created the Ethical fashion directory. She encourages all her clients to wear each item of clothing at least a hundred times and she has a vision of a world where working with a stylist is not considered elite but part of what we do to find our style and thereby shopping more ethically and consciously.

Lulu O’Connor, the clothes doctor who would like to see repairing and altering becoming mainstream again (like it used to be when our parents and grandparents grew up). Because as Lulu says, repairing is part of the natural journey of a garment.

Cara Lester-Smith representing the initiative Stop Shop Challenge. Cara and Rochelle, the duo behind the online initiative, are fashion fanatics and both feel passionately about equality, sustainability and creating an eco-friendlier environment. I personally engaged in a no-new-clothes-for-a-year challenge two years ago and it’s a brilliant way to brake the shopping habit and appreciate what you have already got.

Irene De Pasquale from Betsy’s Closet Swap Shop, an initiative which encourages and arranges events where you can swap those unwanted clothes in your own wardrobe for something new to you, from someone else’s wardrobe, making unwanted clothes used and loved again. She would love to have a community hub of knitting, sowing and swishing, educating children why this is great for the planet and importantly to show how fun it can be.

And, finally, Kenny Jackson-Forest, the fifth speaker panel member adding a little to the gender balance of this almost all-female speaker event, representing Eluxe – the first ever sustainable fashion magazine, dreaming of a world where sustainable fashion is the norm.

 

It struck me how all these different approaches together are part of a bigger system to make the huge industry of fashion sustainable. And indeed, you might even ask if it is possible to make the fashion industry sustainable, with the rise of so-called fast fashion and daunting facts like Britons binning clothes worth £12.5 billion in 2017. That is a staggering 300,000 tonnes of textiles ending up in landfill!

All speakers warmly recommended “The True Cost” for anyone who hasn’t seen it already. It is a ground-breaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing? Despite the huge issues, all our panelists were very positive, noticing increased awareness and action, leading to a shift away from fast fashion and towards more sustainable business models.

There was so much to take in; from discussions on man-made fabric vs natural fabric, wearing items for longer, designing for consumption, to holding a clothing diary, wearing 10 pieces of clothing over 10 days to discover new combinations in addition to the main passions of our speakers relating to their business model or initiative.

Zero.waste.London summarised it brilliantly on Instagram! Thank you Zero.waste.London and I am sharing the quote here as it also reflects the view of one of our attendees:

 

Overall, the main message for me was to be more aware and think about what sustainable fashion is to you personally and how this aligns with your values, making steps of change accordingly.

I was also super impressed by the young woman in our audience who had created her own jacket out of textile waste – amazing!

To learn more and keep up to date with the latest sustainability trends and get inspiration on how you can make a difference for a more sustainable wardrobe, check out our speakers on social media and given them a follow:

@betsysclosetswapshop @stopshopchallenge @robertastylelee @clothes.doctor @eluxemagazine

 

To join us at a future SDG Network MeetUp event, register here:

https://www.meetup.com/SustainableDevelopmentCommunity/

Stepping into the vegetable patch

The month of January is increasingly becoming known as #Veganuary. That means to shift your diet for a whole month and only eat vegan food, cutting out all food that comes from animals, including diary and eggs. That can be a big ask of many and I wanted to try something less onerous in the spirit of my motto that no one can do everything, and we can all do something – I decided to go vegetarian for all of January. Here is what I discovered.

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New flavours and colours

I have for a longer period of time been what some like to call a flexitarian, meaning I have been cutting down on my meat intake, doing Meat-Free-Monday and so on. I also introduced this with my children, which at first was met by some resistance, but now is just part of what we do for dinner at mum’s. To go fully vegetarian didn’t seem like a massive step and I was excited about trying it. So, New Year’s Day – vegetarian food it was!

Cooking and eating vegetarian for the whole of January has opened my eyes to lots of new food. Being a vegetarian is not just about eating salads or meat “substitutes”, though I must say I really do like vegetarian sausages and prefer them to the pork original, it is so much more. In fact, I would say that the meat substitutes (perhaps apart from the veggie sausages!) are the low-down in vegetarian food for me, I much rather have the dishes that are created as fully vegetarian not aiming to imitate “normal” food. For example, how does chickpea and roasted parsnip curry, halloumi stroganoff, butternut squash and sage risotto, roasted cauliflower with parmesan, roasted hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, sound?! I could make this list much longer – but that would make me really hungry! Find some good websites, you can search for ‘vegetarian food’ in your browser, I personally like bbcgoodfood and a couple of Swedish ones. You will discover lots of flavours and colours with your vegetarian food!

Health

Eating vegetarian can make it so much easier to get your five-a-day. I am certainly finding it a much healthier choice. There are numerous articles and studies pointing to the benefits of more fruit and veg in your food and more importantly for me – I can feel the difference. Bloated tummy – bye, bye! And a vegetarian diet makes me feel sufficiently full, not overly so as I find that meat can do to you. Speaking of my tummy… be aware that a vegetarian diet may have lots more fibre in it than what your body is used to, in particular you might want to be careful with the cauliflower, broccoli and a few others, at least in the beginning. Fibre gets your tummy going! That’s all I am going to say.

Going vegetarian for January had a positive spin in making me think what else I chomp on and as a result I am currently testing what it is like to ditch refined sugar for a month.

To a low carbon future

Very often being “sustainable”, as in considering your environmental, social and financial impacts in all that you do, have clear win-win’s as the environmental, social and financial benefits go hand in hand. Often in the short run and sometimes, we have to consider the bigger picture and think more long term to see all the benefits. But take eating vegetarian for example. I have discovered that buying vegetables, whether fresh or tinned, for my vegetarian dishes is cheaper than meat, as just discussed it is better for you – and you reduce your carbon footprint. So the planet benefits too. In fact, there was a study not long ago, which highlighted that veganism (completely removing all food from animals, including eggs and diary) is the single best way for an individual to reduce her environmental impact on earth. It can reduce your carbon footprint from food by up to 73%. That’s a lot. This is because of farming and agricultural impacts on our planet to make the food that we eat. And it is not just reducing carbon emissions it is also about reducing global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. Avoiding animal products is far better than trying to buy sustainable produce according to this study and, so the researchers say, it even has a bigger impact than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car. Wow. You can read about it here.

Now it is February and I am still going strong on my vegetarian diet. I am not sure that I will never ever eat meat again, but my preferences have shifted, and I do think that a future where we will eat no meat at all could be quite possible. And my tummy? Yes, it has calmed down.

Growing with a network

1,000+ members. 10 MeetUps. 27 inspiring speakers. SDGs Network MeetUp in London.

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When joining the Sustainable Development Goals Network (or SDGs Network for short) in October 2016, I knew that I was moving on from my corporate role as Head of Sustainability for an international renewable energy developer. I was however unsure of what my next steps would be. Joining the SDGs Network seemed like a good place to meet likeminded people and widen my network of contacts. Perhaps it would help me to figure out what to do next.

The months past and truth be told, I hadn’t been able to join a single event yet. It was just a case of bad timing. And then, there was a message from the MeetUp platform; the organiser of the Sustainable Development Goals Network was stepping down and would any member like to pick it up, or the network would cease to be.

Oh. That would be a shame. Especially as I hadn’t participated yet…  A thought started taking root… What if I took over as the organiser? Could I run this network? What would it be like? What could we do? Would anyone join? Questions were mounting, and I did not have any answers to most of them. Well, there was only one way to find out; click the button in that message and accept to become the new organiser! Why not?!

I guess there are many ways a new project, a new idea or a new process can start. It can be through thorough planning over a long period of time or like in this case, more of an impulse, a gut feeling that I might be on to something good. This in combination with a desire to do something, to create, to act and not just mull it over to perhaps identify several reasons of “no, I can’t because…” – instead embracing the opportunity with a “yes, and..!”.

That was at the end of March 2017. Now, almost two years later, the SDGs Network has more than tripled in numbers and we have reached the landmark of 1,000 members! We have held ten successful MeetUps and heard from 27 inspiring speakers with one common goal: wanting to make our planet a better place for all and contributing to at least one of the Sustainable Development Goals in one way or another. I have also engaged with two women who are co-organising the events with me, which is very useful and being a team helps to keep the events inspiring and at a high standard. We have learnt of food waste, rowing across the Atlantic as a means of raising awareness of plastic pollution, women entrepreneurship, London as a National Park, city farms and gardens, how to use gaming and tech for sustainability and so much more. Importantly we provide a space for likeminded people to meet each other, a tribe to seek strength from, where our attendants (and us too!) can find inspiration and carry on with the important work of changing the world to a better place.

So, what is the moral of this story? Well, to grab an opportunity if it feels right for you. To be courageous and do what you are passionate about and last but probably most important in my view; to try things out. If it doesn’t work, you will still learn something new. About yourself and what makes you tick. You can always try again and do it differently. This is action learning in first person, i.e. working on a problem or an issue that concerns you, taking action and learning from it. In my case the question started with what shall I do next and changed over time to now being what more can be done with the SDGs Network, in terms of achieving the Global Goals here in London? How do we create community action and what might this look like?

At our most recent SDGs Network MeetUp in November last year we asked our participants for some feedback. An amazing 60% of respondents said they were interested in joining a group to discuss how we as a community can take a step further and create action towards achieving the SDGs in London together. So, while the SDGs Network MeetUps will continue in its current format, with inspiring speakers and networking opportunities, we will also be a group of people setting out on an action learning adventure together. The SDGs Network has grown, and I have grown with it, excited about engaging with the community in a new way. My gut feeling tells me this is right and I am very curious to test this new action out, what will happen next?

 

If you would like to join the SDG Network MeetUp and be part of the network and tribe, please register on the MeetUp platform or get in touch with me: https://www.meetup.com/SustainableDevelopmentCommunity/

If you have a tribe building experience to share, I would love to hear from you! Please do get in touch: carolina.karlstrom@jadeadvisory.com

What lies beyond the tribe?

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I have been to yet another sustainability event. If you, like me, are a sustainability professional or is interested in joining the sector and may therefore have attended a few of these, you probably know what I am talking about. An event where we discuss purpose, collaboration, innovation, circularity and even the need for a new paradigm. There were lots of fantastic people at this event, doing amazing things at the forefront of sustainability; CEOs, co-founders and innovators of cool start-ups. Have you noticed something about these events though? They are all pretty much the same.

A place where we preach to the converted and where we hear the leaders share what they do, a new study perhaps which does not necessarily reveal something startlingly different but actually more of the same old stuff. I say “we” because I take part in these events too.

So, what to do about it?

Firstly, I want to say that despite my criticism, I see a space for these gatherings. I truly believe there is a need in all of us to find and be with our tribe – in this case other sustainability professionals and people who care about the current and future state of our planet. These places can be cocoons of comfort and support, where you will find that you are not alone in your challenges. You may also get inspiration and ideas from your tribe as well as an opportunity to share experiences. I believe it strengthens us as humans in the roles we have as agents of change. Because initiating change is hard, wherever you do it.

I saw this very clearly when being part of the organisation and facilitation team for the inaugural She is Still Sustainable, an event for mid-career women working in or aspiring to work in sustainability. This was what we all wanted – a supportive network. I also see it in the Sustainable Development Goals Network MeetUps that I organise with two other inspirational women on a regular basis – in fact the connection with others is one of the big things with the MeetUp. The connection, because you never know who will be at a MeetUp and the connection is the first step to the creation of a community, a tribe.

Connecting with people is one thing, to create a community and build a tribe requires more. And then yet again more to move into action. How do we do this? Often, I hear how different networks state that they are not about talking, they want to act. This is easier said than done.

Now at this stage in this blog, I am sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping to find the answer to of what lies beyond the tribe. Because I can’t share this with you. Instead I will ask you on a journey along what might be a short or a long path towards creating a network and to create real change.

I am sure some of you may have been through this before and perhaps you are part of a community which successfully moved into action and change for a better now and a better future. I am truly in awe. What I intend to do is to create a series of blogs on how I took on the organisation of the SDGs Network MeetUp, hopefully providing some tips and ideas along the way to how you could do something similar in the community where you live or work. Then I will follow up with an experiment… Recently I held a discussion with my co-organisers on what more can be done with the SDGs network, in terms of achieving the Global Goals here in London. How do we create community action and what might this look like?

I don’t know where this will lead or what will happen. I don’t even know what to do next! But I am very excited about finding out. I hope you will come along on the journey and if you have stories to share about your own community action, please do share them. I would love to listen and learn. Because that is what tribe fellows do.

 

If you would like to join the SDG Network MeetUp and be part of the network and tribe, please register on the MeetUp platform or get in touch with me: https://www.meetup.com/SustainableDevelopmentCommunity/

If you have a tribe building experience to share, I would love to hear from you! Please do get in touch: carolina.karlstrom@jadeadvisory.com

This blog is recycled 🙂 and is also available on my LinkedIn profile. Feel free to follow me to see what more I am up to: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolinakarlstrom/