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Ten inspiring ideas from the SDG Future Lab

The United Nations Global Compact Young SDG Innovators programme has been engaging young talent within companies to develop business innovations that deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the recent UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, held virtually in June, 10 teams from 10 different countries were selected to showcase their breakthrough innovations — from energy to fashion; finance to streaming — in the SDG Futures Lab session. The teams received feedback from a panel of experts and discussed how to push forward with their solutions to deliver on the SDGs.

Here are the 10 solutions that were presented:

  • ‘Eco-design Stage Gate’ – Team GSK, United Kingdom

Addressing the impact that plastic packaging from the pharmaceuticals industry has on the environment, Team GSK devised an ‘Eco-design Stage Gate’ to ensure recyclability and reusability of packaging materials, reducing carbon footprint and waste by focusing on a more eco-friendly product design.

  • Fabric loss minimization in textile manufacturing – Team DBL, Bangladesh

Team DBL from Bangladesh focussed on the textiles industry. By eliminating excessive manufacturing processes for some materials, designing specific fabrics that require fewer treatments and minimizing fabric loss from pin holes in viscose fabric, this significantly reduces water consumption, carbon emissions and chemicals used — consequently reducing resource and energy consumption in textile manufacturing.

  • Energy security in remote communities – Team Hatch, United States of America

Directly addressing environmental as well as societal concerns, Team Hatch has worked to provide energy security to remote communities in the United States and Canada which would normally rely on diesel as their only source of power. As diesel can be expensive and unreliable, Hatch is planning to promote sustainable power through power purchase agreements and enabling Indigenous communities to attain equity ownership.

  • Renewable energy as a currency – Team Sicredi, Brazil

Team Sicredi Uniao recognizes that, while renewable energy is becoming popular in Brazil, the market is still largely inaccessible as it has few players and high prices with no tax incentives. Their project creates a system between credit unions, technology and clients producing renewable energy which ultimately allows the clients to sell any excess energy back to the credit union through a cooperative. This cycle reduces waste as well as costs, promoting “renewable energy as a currency”.

  • ‘Green Stream’ – Team Nuuday, Denmark

Team Nuuday from Denmark is working on giving the opportunity to the client/consumer to adopt greener habits and become more socially responsible. The team noticed that streaming service users, while generally eco-consciously driven, were largely unaware of the huge carbon footprint that online streaming contributes to. Nuuday is therefore introducing a ‘Green Stream’ service which allows for an automated download of the users’ choice — rather than streaming during peak hours in the evening — and therefore, using a more green energy mix.

  • ‘Re-X’ – Team Zorlu Holding, Turkey

Team Zorlu Holding is also offering the public a chance to ‘greenify’ their habits through the use of electronic devices. We often treat our electronics as temporary and disposable, contributing to landfill and waste of resources, but Zorlu Holding is challenging this “culture of consumption”. By introducing the “Re-X” platform, clients are encouraged to reuse, recycle and repurpose their electronics through a marketplace system where experts are also on hand to help with repairs and other advice to prolong the life of devices.

  • FDA Foundation – First Ukrainian International Bank (Team FUIB), Ukraine

Team FUIB saw an opportunity to use non-working funds — $1 million USD in the Ukrainian bank system every year — from clients closing accounts which have too small of sums remaining to be worth cashing out. Rather than see this money go to waste, Team FUIB will offer clients the opportunity to channel this money into a social enterprise fund. These social enterprises will receive mentoring from FUIB in addition to the funds so that social impact and income generation is maximized.

  • Project ‘INNWAI’ – Team Rotoplas, Mexico

Team Rotoplas from Mexico is addressing access to water issues through its “water innovation hub which seeks to … connect talent and innovation with water necessities in Mexico and Latin America”. Project ‘INNWAI’ will act as a platform to launch challenges for solutions to water needs, offering funding for the best proposals and support from Team Rotoplas experts for the implementation.

  • ‘Connect the Unconnected’ – Team Nokia, Lebanon

Focusing on future workers and opportunities, Team Nokia is developing a solution to improve digital skills education for young people in Lebanon. The project’s aim is to “facilitate the access of education and information, being one of the key enablers for the economic prosperity of individuals and communities”. By implementing a STEM programme with an emphasis on robotics, Team Nokia is investing in the technology-driven careers of Lebanon’s future generation.

  • Mind-set shift – Team Investec, South Africa

Team Investec from South Africa is also investing in education, with the objective of creating “a mind-set shift that brings the SDGs as a foundation for sustainable business”. By investing in education within businesses as well as externally in school programmes — thereby integrating this learning into practice and then facilitating this process with partners — Investec hope to accelerate change towards delivering the SDGs.

Although varying widely, these 10 ideas all harness the ingenuity and momentum that businesses need to become more sustainable. These young professionals are driving change in their companies and beyond — demonstrating an optimism for the future where a more sustainable world is possible.

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