On 4 February 2021, ITC’s Youth & Trade Programme in collaboration with the Trade 4 Sustainability & Development team (T4SD) organised part 4 of the Ye! Enterprising Youth: Sustainability mini-series. In the last episode of this series, we discussed “Innovative ways to embrace sustainability”. Throughout this mini-series, we aim to provide practical and actionable insights to young entrepreneurs on sustainability, certifications, trade, trends, and markets, as well as address why having sustainability integrated into your business model can lead to greater profitability.
In part 4, we introduced the trends in sustainability, and shared insights on how innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand with concrete examples. In addition, the experts took questions from the young entrepreneurs about the toolkits and platform on sustainability. Here are some highlights and key takeaways.
What are the top trends in sustainability?
Leveraging Blockchain for sustainability
Until recently, Blockchain has been recognized mostly in relation to its potential to decentralize and track financial transactions. However, in this episode we discussed its emerging role in sustainability. Blockchain can help companies improve their sourcing and recycling practices, and enhance transparency and traceability within supply chains.
In 2019, as part of an initiative with the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production, ITC launched a pilot to explore if and how Sustainability Map (www.sustainabilitymap.org) can provide a transparency and traceability platform. Based on the results from this pilot, the platform demonstrated the huge potential for utilizing Blockchain to visualize relationships between goods and product flows among different actors in the value chain. This, in turn supports operational activity that is more transparent and therefore enhances traceability of products.
Leveraging digital platforms for sustainability
Leveraging the IT infrastructure of Standards Map, T4SD has developed an online tool for Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform for the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA). It provides one single industry aligned solution to help companies meet their sustainable sourcing targets across value chains and monitor progress at farm level. The online tool saves time and resources for SAI Platform member companies and their suppliers by sharing one reference – FSA – and not having to duplicate assessments across value chain entities using different codes, schemes and frameworks. This innovative platform shows the power of collaboration and innovation for sustainability.
How can SMEs innovate to achieve sustainability?
Let’s look at an example of an SME from Peru.
PEBANI INVERSIONES S.A is a Peruvian company with 21 years of experience specialized in the production and export of medicinal plants, superfoods, oils & resins, and natural ingredients.
PEBANI is a member of ITC T4SD Hub Peru. The T4SD Hubs are a network of hubs that offer concrete, scalable solutions for the most pressing sustainability issues, including climate resilience and resource efficiency.
The problem - PEBANI’s team has the vision of building a company that can contribute to environmental sustainability, while ensuring decent working conditions to their employees. Although their clients in the US and Europe valued their high-quality organic products, the company was facing challenges in reducing the energy and water consumption.
The solution – The T4SD Hub RECP coaching programme.
The RECP stands for Resource Efficient Circular Production. In practice, RECP entails the identification of current inefficiencies, followed by the development of preventive environmental strategies to processes, products and services, in order to increase efficiency and reduce risks to both humans and environment.
As demonstrated in the flow chart below:
After consultation with the experts and local hub, PEBANI adopted the following key measures:
- Placed aerators to reduce the water flow rates at the water taps
- Installed monitors and sensors to avoid continuous lighting in downtime
- Replaced high power lights with energy efficient LED bulbs
- Installed more efficient drying systems
The results – PEBANI was not only able to save 5% of their costs in water and energy, but also to increase their sustainability performance. This cost-effective transition will make their company more attractive to customers and investors who value sustainability in the market.
If you are interested to know more about ITC T4SD Hubs, click here.
Questions from the youth entrepreneurs
Q: Can RECP be customized in accordance with sectors?
Yes. The T4SD Programme provides coaching to the companies in the T4SD Hubs. The approach and content of RECP coaching program are tailor made, in collaboration with the partner hubs in the country. Nevertheless, as a widely accepted methodology, the essential structure and workflow of RECP will remain similar across countries and sectors.
Q: Is the SAI Platform FSA (Farm Sustainability Assessment) accessible to everyone?
Yes. For anyone who is interested to do a self-assessment, you can access it freely. On the other hand, with respect to the market connection function on the SAI platform, it will be invite-only for the companies to submit their assessment results. In other words, it is only by the requests/approval from the buyers, can their supply companies undertake the FSA and submit the results to their buyers for review.
Q: Does the innovation always require applications of high-cost technology?
Not necessarily. The experts emphasized that the innovation is not only about technology. Innovation is about thinking and doing things differently. Contrary to what most people would have assumed as the prerequisite for innovation, i.e. demand of huge investment, in practice some simple actions or small changes in daily operations can be sufficient to make a huge difference.
For example, the T4SD team helped a garment factory in Morocco improve their working condition and their employees’ production, by increasing the installation of air ventilators on the roof of their factory. This simple change allowed their workers to work more comfortable as full time in high temperature, which in turn increased 30% of their productivity.
Another example is the application of low/no cost technology in agriculture. For famers who want to reduce the use of fertilizer and minimalize the pollution in the nature, they can use a smart phone application, take a photo of their crops and upload it to Google Doc or Google Images. As a result, the farmers can have the visual comparison between their photos and those with actual deceases in Google database. It is, therefore, a useful but low-cost technology to aid the diagnosis and decision making in fertilization tasks.
So, don’t be afraid to think innovatively and share your ideas with your community. You never know, a perfect innovation for you could be just around the corner!
Tools and networks offered by ITC T4SD Programme
Lastly, if you haven’t registered your business on ITC Virtual Network, check it out now. It is open to all and free to use. By registering your company in the Network, you will benefit from
- Access to new business opportunities
- Share of your contact information with buyers looking for your sustainable products or services
- Engagement in sustainable production and trade
- Self-assessments against specific standards to see where you stand on your sustainability journey
For more information about the registration on Virtual Network, click here.