My name is Frederike and I am 21 years old. Together with nine other students from Lancaster University Management School, I was chosen to attend to WBCSD in Chennai, India this October. Vanakaam is Tamil and means hello. When I first heard that I will be attending the conference, the first thing I did was typing in YouTube and searching for “Hindi for Beginners”. After a few days and a few new Hindi sentences in my head I found out that in the south of India, Tamil is the predominant language. So “Tamil for Beginners” it is now 🙂 .
I am moving into my second and last year at LUMS studying European Management, a Double Degree program which I will be finishing off back home in Germany at ESB Reutlingen.
Originally, I am from a small village in the south of Germany about a twenty minutes car drive from Stuttgart, the home of Mercedes and Porsche. I grew up in a Christian environment and have always been surrounded by people who highly value Fairtrade, organic and GEPA. When I was getting older I realised that Fairtrade not only exists for coffee and honey, nearly everything can be produced Fairtrade and sustainable. I am a very proud owner of a second generation Fairphone!
With his voluntary work for the international microfinance cooperative Oikocredit, my father taught me that working for a business or a bank does not mean that you are a merciless rip-off artist. When implemented correctly, businesses and banks can be sources of help and development. Business can change and improve. One of the reasons I pursue a career in international management. This summer I am interning with Europeans Sustainable Bank of the Year 2013, the GLS Bank in Bochum, Germany. A bank, whose canteen is 100% organic, who has a windwheel and bees on the top of their roof and whose predominant colour is green. Every client can decide where they want their money to be invested in. Culture, Renewable Energies, Schools, Organic Agriculture, and others. In addition, every financially supported project gets published. Everything is transparent, comprehensible.
I am trying to include sustainability in my everyday life, starting by buying as much organic and local as my student budget allows. You will never find my taking a plastic bag from the shops and I am a big fan of second-hand things. I believe in small changes making a huge difference.
The WBCSD is an amazing opportunity for me to see sustainability in a different context and to broaden my knowledge about the application of sustainability in a business. I am also looking forward to socialising with business leaders from around the world and hear about their approach to sustainable work.
So, see you in Chennai, Ceṉṉai nīṅkaḷ pārkka!
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Below you can dig into my winning essay about sustainability in cities. Have a read and please let me know your thoughts!
Eco-Hipster Trend or Essential Change in Thinking?
Birkenstock shoes are the new prêt-à-porter, the hessian bag is fashion statement number one and everyone is experimenting with chia seeds, quinoa, and goji berries. Hands down, are we all mutating to a hippie life? Walking through city districts like the Neustadt in Dresden, Germany let you realise that this generational change is born in cities. Earlier in the century hippies lived separated from the society, in communes outside of town. Today, the agglomeration of creativity and individuality created a generation which can be called the eco-hipster. A mixture of old traditional hippies and young people who do want nothing else than to change the world and make it a better place to live. The will to change their habitat towards a greener and more sustainable area seems natural and completely conforms with their attitude.
Cities are the future. The UN forecasts that by 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities (United Nations, 2013). Modern cities already consume ‘80% of global material and energy supplies’ (Action2020). The danger posed by cities to the climate is enormous and is a thorn in the side of governments. Paris COP21 in December closed with an agreement to limit the yearly temperature rise to 2°C and goes even further by leaning it towards 1.5°C. Taking into account the rising trend of rural depopulation, this UN climate goal represents a new challenge for modern city planners if we do not want to end in an eco-disaster. The city as the epi-centre for creativity is the ideal inspiring environment to start combatting climate change.
First of all, the base of everything is innovation, creativity, people who try to give objects, buildings, and processes a second, deeper meaning. South African-born Douzan Doepel belongs to this new group of architects which are able to combine functionality, design, and sustainability. Together with other various prominent partners, the Dutch architect’s office designed the Dutch Windwheel, a modern adaption of the classic national symbol. With a combination of shops, apartments, and a hotel, the project is exceptional as the windwheel is more than just a tourist attraction raking in money for Rotterdam (Doepel, 2016). It is seen as Europe’s symbol for sustainable city planning.
Secondly, every new project needs an investor, or better, several. Building sustainable is expensive. To keep the circle sustainable and green from start to end, alternative financing methods such as housing co-operatives or sustainable banks like Triodos-Bank or GLS-Bank should be considered. Financing such projects with commercial banks or dubious derivate, stock or bond trades would destroy the whole idea of sustainability. Here we arrive at the crux of the matter. Usually, a sustainable project cannot match the classic yield of commercial one. Why, then, might investors still commit themselves? Well, on the one hand, it solves one’s conscience to do something for the planet. On the other hand, conventional yield, measured in money or time-saving, is not contemporary anymore. Today, yield should have a deeper, more forward-looking sense. We should see it as yield if our grandchildren are able to live on a non-destroyed planet as a result of an investment in the development of a city. Yield should not only be measured in economic terms, also in social ones. Investing in the development of a sustainable city probably does not make you rich, but it definitely makes you a better, forward-looking person.
The third point is guidelines, facts, or an index which measures the performance of the city itself and its planners. The sustainable cities index, developed by design, engineering, and management consulting firm Arcadis measures the successfulness of fifty cities in three categories. PPP – People, Planet, Profit. Along with the classic measurements in relation to people and planet it also considers profit. This third category takes into account the importance of available investment in the city. On these criteria, the city of Frankfurt tops the rankings. Action2020 from WBCSD is only a suboptimal guideline for sustainable cities. It sets out the general problematic areas which need to be included in the planning process but it fails to make clear assumptions of what a sustainable city should look like. Sustainability, both as a concept and in its material form, can be stretched which makes it vulnerable to misuse or green-washing. How, then, can the WBCSD protect the original meaning of sustainability?
Let us now look at examples of cities which successfully implemented the above-explained arguments. Vauban, a district of the German city of Freiburg was created to offer living in a ‘co-operative, participatory way which meets ecological, social, economic and cultural requirements’ (Delleske, 1998-2013). The district tries to decrease emission by reducing the number of cars in it. The inhabitants have to park their cars at the edges of the district. They are allowed in the district only for loading and unloading. Vauban itself produces more energy than it needs. The inhabitants supply the surrounding districts of Freiburg with green electrical current. The houses in Vauban are either passive homes or plus energy houses. On a far larger scale is the city of Los Angeles. In 2013 the city appointed a Chief Sustainable Officer whose only job is to lead LA towards ecological excellence. The city invests in transit, renewable energy and water efficiency (Arcadis , 2015). They developed different metrics which, for energy efficiency, are the most ambitious ones for an urban area in the US (Arcadis , 2015). Opposing the co-operative and social idea of sustainability out of which the development of Quartier Vauban originated, the city of LA seems to not changing their habitat out of conviction, but more because being sustainable is a trend and a marketing instrument.
To conclude, it is never wrong to follow a good trend. But it takes deep conviction for the ecological lifestyle to build and plan a sustainable city which is a fighter in the battle against climate change. The base is innovation and creativity, followed by green investment and completed with guidelines and measurements. The Eco-hipsters are the pioneers in a complete societal rethinking which is necessary to keep the planet alive.
Arcadis , 2015. Sustainable Cities Index 2015, s.l.: Arcadis.
Delleske, A., 1998-2013. vauban°de – Der Freiburger Stadtteil mit Flair und Lebensqualität. [Online]
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Diermann, R., 2016. Stadt, Land, Strom. Green City Life (1), pp. 46-49.
Doepel, D., 2016. Students4Sustainability l The Dutch Windwheel | Duzan Doepel. Delft: Studium Generale Delft.
GLS Bank, 2016. GLS Bank. [Online]
Available at: https://www.gls.de/privatkunden/english-portrait/
[Accessed 11th July 2016].
Kasioumi, E., 2011. Sustainable Urbanism: Vision and Planning Process Through an Examination of Two Model Neighborhood Developments. Berkeley Planning Journal 24 (1).
Lange, K., 2016. Kohle ohne Kohle. Green City Life (1), pp. 18-19.
Neukirch, A., 2014. Nachhaltigkeit und Rendite, Bochum: GLS-Bank.
United Nations, 2013. The Millenium Development Goals Report 2013, New York: United Nations.
United Nations, 2013. World Economic and Social Survey, New York: United Nations.