Examples of Sustainable DevelopmentAlthough sustainable development is defined in multiple ways, the most often cited definition of the term comes from the Bruntland Report titled, “Our Common Future.” According to the report, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” From this particular definition, sustainable development can be reduced to two key concepts: needs and limitations. Needs refers to those in need—the world’s poor.  The limitations are those “imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.” Though many examples of sustainable development exist, the leading models are discussed below.

Top 5 Examples of Sustainable Development

  1. Solar Energy: The greatest advantages of solar energy are that it is completely free and is available in limitless supply. Both of these factors provide a huge benefit to consumers and help reduce pollution. Replacing non-renewable energy with this type of energy is both environmentally and financially effective.
  2. Wind Energy: Wind energy is another readily available energy source. Harnessing the power of wind energy necessitates the use of windmills; however, due to construction cost and finding a suitable location, this kind of energy is meant to serve more than just the individual. Wind energy can supplement or even replace the cost of grid power, and therefore may be a good investment and remains a great example of sustainable development.
  3. Crop Rotation: Crop rotation is defined as “the successive planting of different crops on the same land to improve soil fertility and help control insects and diseases.” This farming practice is beneficial in several ways, most notably because it is chemical-free. Crop rotation has been proven to maximize the growth potential of land, while also preventing disease and insects in the soil. Not only can this form of development benefit commercial farmers, but it can also aid those who garden at home.
  4. Efficient Water Fixtures: Replacing current construction practices and supporting the installation of efficient showerheads, toilets and other water appliances can conserve one of Earth’s most precious resources: water. Examples of efficient fixtures include products from the EPA’s WaterSense program, as well as dual-flush and composting toilets. According to the EPA, it takes a lot of energy to produce and transport water and to process wastewater, and since less than one percent of the Earth’s available water supply is freshwater, it is important that sustainable water use is employed at the individual and societal level.
  5. Green Space: Green spaces include parks and other areas where plants and wildlife are encouraged to thrive. These spaces also offer the public great opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, especially in dense, urban areas. According to the UW-Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning, advantages of green spaces include, “helping regulate air quality and climate … reducing energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces … recharging groundwater supplies and protecting lakes and streams from polluted runoff.” Research conducted in the U.K. by the University of Exeter Medical School also found that moving to a greener area could lead to significant and lasting improvements to an individual’s mental health.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: World Bank , International Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentGreen Living, Science Daily, Project Evergreen, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Photo: Flickr

Poverty_Agriculture Olam International
Agri-business firm Olam International has pledged to help eradicate global poverty and mitigate climate change impacts that threaten food security.

Olam International is a world-leading firm operating in 70 countries, supplying food and raw materials to over 16,200 customers worldwide. Its business model is based on ensuring that profitable growth is achieved in an ethical, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable way.

The agri-business knows its responsibility to the earth, as changing weather patterns are affecting crops and communities. The organization realizes that climate change will threaten food security by creating less than ideal conditions for optimal food production, thus threatening the world’s chances to end global poverty.

According to Olam, “Ensuring we and our 4 million farmer suppliers, the vast majority of whom are smallholders in emerging markets, are implementing mitigation and adaptation measures to achieve the 2°C goal is therefore integral to our strategy.” In addition, the company has adopted four of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations.

“Based on our configuration of assets and our capabilities across the 70 countries that we operate in, we have chosen four of the SDG Goals where we believe we can create a real impact,” said Sunny Verghese, the chief executive of Olam, at the U.N.’s High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Olam is prioritizing mitigating climate change through multiple goals: reducing GHG emissions from their farming and processing operations, adapting their own farming operations to build in climate resilience, encouraging farmer suppliers and logistics providers to improve their GHG emissions intensity and collaborating at a sector level to speed up implementation of climate-smart practices.

Olam will accomplish these goals through public, private and plural society partnership. Verghese said at the debate that a U.N.-to-private-sector partnership is key to successfully implementing the SDGs.

Verghese went on to say, “If after all of this hard work and overwhelming effort, if we are not going to be leaving a better place for our children, what is the point of it all?”

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr


Global Development Lab Act
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations announced the introduction of the Global Development Lab Act. It was introduced by Senators Ben Cardin and Johnny Isakson on March 4, 2016. This bipartisan legislation states that the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid could be significantly enhanced through the use of scientific and technical innovations and by involving the private sector. As a result, there would be more low-cost and common-sense solutions to development challenges such as improved health outcomes and reduced global poverty.

Established in April 2014, USAID’s Global Development Lab builds upon the belief that innovation, technology and partnership can accelerate development impact fast, cheap and sustainably.

“The Lab’s role is to rethink assumptions and harness the power of the crowd and America’s leading research institutes and universities, coupled with the democratization of science and technology, to lead to new breakthroughs that it can bring to scale,” Alex Dehgan, USAID’s former chief scientist said interviewing with Center for Global Development. “If the Lab isn’t pushing boundaries, it isn’t creating discomfort, it isn’t attracting new solvers (including from the developing world), it will fail to achieve its promise.”

The Global Development Lab Act (S. 2629) establishes five key duties: (1) increase the application of science, technology, innovation and partnerships to cultivate and gauge new ways to end extreme poverty; (2) discover, test and scale development innovations to increase cost-effectiveness and support U.S. foreign policy and development goals; (3) leverage the expertise, resources and investment of businesses, private organizations, science and research organizations, and universities to increase program impact and sustainability; (4) utilize innovation-driven competitions to expand the number and diversity of solutions to challenges of development; and (5) support USAID missions and bureaus in applying science, technology, innovation, and partnership approaches to decision-making, obtainment and program design according to the legislation.

On March 4, 2016, in a press release, Senator Isakson stated: “The Global Development Lab Act would provide the integration of science, technology into our development solutions for eradicating poverty. The USAID Global Development Lab has created cost-effective solutions to solve challenges around the world. Through public and private coordination, we are leveraging the resources of business, non-governmental organizations, science and research to advance greater global health and economic development.”

The House version of this legislation (H.R. 3924) was introduced by Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-TX, and Michael McCaul, R-TX, on Nov. 4, 2015. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a consideration and mark-up session for this legislation on Feb. 24, 2016.

Summer Jackson
Photo: USAID

The process of collecting contributions in the form of ideas and services is not a new phenomenon. In fact, crowdsourcing has historically been used to solve challenging innovation problems.

Companies have for a long time used consumer wisdom to tackle tough scientific and technological challenges, design new products, generate marketing ideas and increase customer satisfaction. Platforms like the Heineken Ideas Brewery, BMW customer innovation lab and My Starbucks Ideas show how major organizations are successfully tapping into the power of the crowd to co-create innovative concepts.

Beyond simply a new approach to research and development, some companies have taken crowdsourcing a step further. Organizations are now using the powerful platform to tackle social challenges in the areas of sustainability and poverty reduction.

Unilever Foundry Ideas is a crowdsourcing platform that was launched by a corporate giant, Unilever in 2015. Through the platform, Unilever seeks to make sustainable living mainstream by sourcing ideas from customers and entrepreneurs. An article in CSR Asia talks about the success of Unilever Foundry ideas highlighting how it has generated over 300 ideas to encourage recycling of bathroom products, reduction of water dependency while doing laundry and invention of concepts for more luxurious and sustainable showers for the future.

“Big social, environment and economic issues are so huge that no one organization or company or group can solve them alone,” says a Unilever Foundry Ideas representative. “Aspects of sustainability affect all of us and so all of us have ideas.”

General Electric has the open innovation branch of its Ecomagination program. This is a collaborative problem-solving environment.

Open innovation posts a variety of challenges and creates an open call to the global brain, a growing community of over 400 million, to submit creative ideas to tackle these challenges. Contributors of winning ideas normally receive cash prizes, internships and future collaboration opportunities.

Open innovation has so far fielded challenges in the areas of solving water scarcity through Water Reuse and managing chronic disease by developing wearable monitoring technologies to mention a few.

BASF, one of the world’s leading chemical companies, has the co-creation platform the Creator Space. In 2015, Creator Space conducted a tour in six cities around the globe, Mumbai, Shanghai, New York, Sao Paulo, Barcelona and Ludwigshafen. Creator space aimed to develop solutions for problems that citizens in the different cities were facing. It did this through enlisting inputs from government officials, NGOs, the society as well as artists.

In Mumbai, for example, BASF Creator Space was tackling the challenge of water accessibility. According to a white paper on the Mumbai visit, a holistic approach has been developed to augment Mumbai city’s plans to revamp the on-grid water infrastructure.

Coca-Cola takes part in the crowdsourcing space by hosting an annual grant challenge known as “Shaping a Better Future”. For the grant, Coca-Cola has partnered with the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum to scale proven solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

There are over 500 Global Shaper hubs around the world that comprise of young people with an exceptional drive to make a contribution to their communities. They have a focus on matters such as bettering the environment, kick-starting civic engagement and eradicating poverty to name a few.

Coca-Cola offers five 10,000 dollar grants through the program to accelerate the most impactful and promising Global Shaper hub projects.

François Pétavy, eYeka CEO notes that crowdsourcing often has its beginnings in the creation of better products and experiences, but often results in a more collaborative and sustainable world.

June Samo

Sources: BASF 1, BASF 2, Coca-Cola,, CSR Asia, Entrepreneur, GE 1, GE 2, Open Innovation, Unilever

USAID has implemented a CityLinks program, which enables officials in developing countries to connect with their U.S. counterparts and collaborate on sustainable solutions for their cities. As part of the program, USAID has partnered La Cieba, Honduras with Somerville, Massachusetts to share practices on adapting to climate change.

The partnership was decided at a conference in Somerville where Oscar Montes, Director of the Municipal Office of Environment in La Cieba and Somerville’s Director of Sustainability and Environment Office Oliver Sellers-Garcia discussed the issues their cities currently face.

During the event, Montes explained that an increase in storms, shrinking coastlines and intensifying floods are impacting an already vulnerable city. He also shared satellite images of La Cieba’s eroded coastline, mothers carrying children on their shoulders through flooded streets, houses crumbling into the ocean and shopkeepers using buckets to empty water out of their markets.

“Oscar says that the hardest hit parts of La Ceiba are those in the urban center, where most of the population lives in the flood zone,” Sellers-Garcia said at the conference, USAID reports. “When there are flash floods from the nearby rivers and streams, the neighborhood groups notify the city. Guys, this is something we can actually learn from La Ceiba and start doing here.”

Somerville’s director of Capital Projects and Planning, Rob King also explained to Montes how Somerville is adapting to the increase in rainfall which causes the sewer systems to be overwhelmed with sewage and results in storm water runoff that gets dumped into local bodies of water.

King suggested that La Cieba put holding tanks underground as they have done in Somerville. While the solution is expensive, it will temporarily capture storm water that would otherwise flood the city’s sewage system. Plant and grass filled mediums in the roadways would also work, but would create less room for pedestrians, King said.

Though both Montes and King know there are no easy answers, this partnering through USAID is helping to increase resilience and prepare communities for climate change.

Kerri Whelan

Sources: USAID, ICMA
Photo: Wikipedia

Corporate Social ResponsibilityCommunity Capital Management, Inc. (CCM) is one of the top fixed income impact investing managers in the United States that prides itself on corporate social responsibility.

CCM reported that the company’s CRA Qualified Investment Fund Institutional Shares (CRANX) ranked among the top one percent of all performers out of 309 government funds during 2015.

According to PR Newswire, CRANX saw about two percent returns in 2015, exceeding the average return for its category. Out of 301 funds, investment research group Morningstar rated the share class with four stars for its $1.8 billion asset portfolio across its three share classes.

“We are equally proud of the Fund’s bespoke impact portfolio and community impact performance, having invested $512 million in 2015 and $5.8 billion since inception in bonds financing economic and environmentally sustainable initiatives,” said CCM chief investment strategist David Sand.

CCM offers shareholders the ability to customize their investments to align with social or environmental missions, in addition to participating in open-ended bond funds that provide liquidity as a part of their corporate social responsibility.

Funds like CRANX offer investors the chance to facilitate change through impact investing – making investments that bring about a social or environmental change as well as a financial return.

CCM’s impact investments have brought great change to areas within the United States. For example, $283 million helped to fund job creation and small business development, $354 million was invested for environmental sustainability and neighborhood revitalization, $33 million helped to create affordable health facilities and 320,000 affordable rental housing units were created.

Canyon Crossing is one of these complexes that offers 180 rental properties to low-income residents of Salt Lake County in Utah. The construction of these buildings, along with the state’s other efforts over the last 10 years, has resulted in a rapid reduction of homelessness throughout the state, according to the Department of Workforce Services (DWS).

According to the African Development Report of 2011, the private investment sector is the driving force behind economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa. The report finds that 80 percent of Africa’s production, two-thirds of total investments and 75 percent of total credit to the economy comes from private sector investments.

Barron’s reports that the popularity of impact investing has grown in the last 10 years and current trends indicate an increase in international impact investing. A survey conducted by Fidelity Investments found that a quarter of respondents plan to invest their impact portfolios overseas.

“Impact investing has the potential to channel significant amounts of private capital to solutions to the world’s most intransigent challenges. Last year was a banner year for impact investing and set the stage for 2016 to be a year of tremendous growth and progress,” said Global Impact Investing Network CEO, Amit Bouri.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: African Development Bank Group, Community Capital Management, Inc., Department of Workforce Services, Forbes 1, Forbes 2, PR Newswire
Photo: Huffington Post

SustainableThis year, 190 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) endorsed by the U.N. to help eradicate poverty in a maintainable manner.

The goals focus on reducing hunger and inequality as well as increasing good health, quality education and economic growth around the globe. All of this must be done sustainably. But what exactly does sustainable mean?

The word sustainable or sustainability is used more than 75 times in the SDGs and has really become a buzzword among ecologists, researchers and policy makers.

Douglas Beal, who is the managing director of the Boston Consulting group, points out that sustainability was first used in the business world and really just means “longevity—something that can continue.”

The programs and public policies developed and instilled to accomplish the standards set through the SDGs must be able to be maintained long term in order to make prolonged effective progress.

While the SDGs are a recent set of targets, sustainable development is not a new goal.

The concept first appeared during the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report Our Common Future in which they stated that sustainable development is that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

So while we need to feed people through agriculture in order to end hunger and starvation, we must also ensure that we do not deplete natural resources in the process.

These conflicts occur in almost every aspect of our social, political, economic and environmental spheres, which is why development goals must balance meeting our current needs while still guaranteeing that we can continue to meet those needs in the future.

Some of the ways we can work to avoid depletion is through innovations that create renewable and clean energy. Natural resources are limited; they take far more time to be replenished than the amount provided by how fast we need them. Therefore, part of the sustainable aspect of our future will need to include renewable energy.

Sustainability is more than a noble goal or a catchy buzzword, it is a requirement for creating development that not only lasts but also improves our global policies and thereby our future.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: World Bank, Global Giving, NPR
Photo: Flickr

Outreach International, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sustainability to end poverty, aids impoverished communities in six major ways: finding effective ways for communities to obtain clean water, fighting world hunger, promoting education, providing affordable health care, empowering businesses and encouraging sustainable community initiatives.

Outreach International was founded in 1979 with the goal of investing in people rather than projects. While working with communities to create sustainability and decrease poverty, it utilizes individuals’ untapped potential and creativity to empower them to become leaders, practice sustainability and create projects themselves that they can use to benefit the community around them.

Since its inauguration, Outreach International has assisted 10 impoverished communities to defeat poverty. It has worked with hundreds of thousands of people to create permanent change and make the world a more sustainable place.

Working in countries all over the world, Outreach International has reached the corners of countries like Haiti, Nicaragua and India, with its work spanning multiple continents.

Its sustainability projects include creating cleaner ways to dispose of waste, providing housing to those affected by disaster and establishing eco-friendly and cost-effective mechanisms to ensure water is free of insects and vermin.

In 2014 alone, Outreach International worked in 105 communities with 498 community-led actions, benefitting a total of 54,154 people.

Of this total, 20% has gone to education, 13% to health, 17% to community development, 18% to hunger, 11% to providing access to clean water and 21% to the startup of businesses in impoverished communities. In the last 30 years, Outreach International has touched the lives of 350,750 people.

Outreach International believes that projects don’t end poverty, people do, and that’s why it has dedicated itself to not only providing aid to those in need but helping them become the best they can be so they, too, can assist others.

It also believes that simply giving a community a gift does more harm than good, especially if the receivers aren’t educated on how to maintain, cultivate or repair the gift. Outreach International uses its resources to not only create short-term solutions to poverty but also create ways to change it forever.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Outreach International, GIVE, Mobility Outreach International
Photo: footmeetmouth

bolvia poverty
There’s an estimated 10,500,000 people living in Bolivia. Fifty-three percent of them live in poverty. Bolivia has a lower gross national than its other South American counterparts due to issues with sustainability. Located in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Sustainable Bolivia works with 36 local organizations to improve environmental and economic sustainability.

Its primary goal is to secure human and financial capital for organizations in Bolivia to thrive and give back to the surrounding community.

Sustainable Bolivia also allows students and professionals to volunteer, intern and learn Spanish or Quechua, a commonly spoken indigenous language in the Americas. All proceeds earned from Sustainable Bolivia’s language schools go toward projects benefiting the community.

Sustainable Bolivia’s extensive volunteer and internship program allows people from around the world to travel to Bolivia and participate in community enhancement projects. Its mini-grant program provides funding to volunteers and interns — usually an average of $75 per month — to fund projects or purchase necessities for their chosen organizations.

Another major program started by Sustainable Bolivia is its scholarship program. Qualified Bolivians, who would otherwise not be able to earn an education, may receive the necessary funds to attend university based on financial need and academic achievements.

Some of the local organizations Sustainable Bolivia works with comprise of Alerta Verde, which works to increase environmental conservation, Bolivia Digna, an education-based organization using education to help children and youths in underserved communities and Mano a Mano, which builds schools and health clinics in marginalized communities.

In addition to these projects and partnerships, Sustainable Bolivia also features multiple residency programs, a film project and an organic garden. The aims of the residency programs are to improve the local art scene by celebrating culture in Bolivia and to provide dedicated artists with a studio to work in.

The film project documents the efforts created by Sustainable Bolivia and its partner organizations to promote fundraising and raise awareness for pressing issues in Cochabamba. Lastly, the organic garden serves the purpose of promoting environmental sustainability and cultivating and consuming food in a healthier way.

Sustainable Bolivia has improved the lives of many since its inception. In testimonials from Sustainable Bolivia volunteers and interns and Bolivians directly impacted by the project, Sustainable Bolivia has been described as a “wonderful volunteer community” and a “great resource” for the local Bolivian community of Cochabamba.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Sustainable Bolivia, Idealist,, Matador Network
Photo: World Vision

Changes to Food for Peace to Increase Sustainability
Sixty years after being put into effect, the Food for Peace program faces congressional reform that will lower costs and provide sustainable support for those living in conflict-ridden countries. Currently, law requires that food aid be grown in and shipped from the U.S. – a mandate that increases costs 25-50 percent more than they would be on the current market. Advocates for reform criticize the program for its inefficiency and helping American shipping and farming businesses profit from such programs.

Shipping firms, farms and some NGOs form an “iron triangle of special interests” that have benefited from international aid and attracted criticism from politicians in both parties. Between 2004 and 2013, 88 percent of USAID funding was used to harvest and ship food- a huge cost that decreased the amount of food the organization was able to provide by 64 percent.

A system designed this way is not only inefficient in properly allocating resources, but also counterproductive in affecting any kind of change in the countries that need it most. Daniel Maxwell, professor and research director at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, commented, “We need to support local agricultural producers and markets, or at a minimum, not undermine them.” Reformers advocate for changing the system to implement locally grown and shipped food resources rather than those from the U.S.

Senators Corker and Coons, who are cosponsoring the reform of the bill, have estimated that such changes could expand the program’s reach by 12 million people and free up $440 million through local, sustainable production. Providing support for local growers and shippers will strengthen local economies rather than keeping them reliant on international resources, empower and employ more people, and create a more sustainable rebuilding of communities.

Eric Munoz at Oxfam America says that a program created 60 years ago is not useful or appropriate for current times. Indeed, when 60 million people per year are in need of food aid, expansion of resources and lowering costs is more greatly needed than ever. Many farmers believe they have a right to profit from food aid programs and would suffer from reforms, but experts estimate such programs amount to only 1 percent of agribusiness profits.

For policy changes that would so greatly impact those in need, lessening the profits of huge farming businesses in the U.S. seems trivial. Worrying about this profit loss is “an inappropriate way of viewing the rationale of providing emergency assistance and foreign assistance, particularly assistance that is meant to address food insecurity in complex crises like Syria or South Sudan,” says Munoz.

Corker and Coon’s reform bill will see congressional debate in September.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IRIN 1, IRIN 2
Photo: Flickr