13
Oct
Kate Roche

In the race to net zero, let’s not waste time picking sides

Posted by Kate RocheTagged , , ,

When we talk about the journey to net zero emissions, the scale of the problem looms so large it can start to block out the view of the path ahead. The IEA estimates that global investment in clean energy needs to swell by more than double its current rate to reach the $5trn needed annually to keep us on track by 2030, which is alarmingly close and getting closer every day.

It’s easy to be daunted by figures of such magnitude but achieving our collective goal of carbon neutrality requires a cool head and a rational approach. This becomes critically important in sectors like transport, heavy industry, and energy, where the shift needed to decarbonise is less a step and more a total paradigm shift. Some have argued for immediate divestment from industries like these, but the best gains for carbon reduction are to be made in precisely these spaces. Should we not be encouraging them to transform their business models rather than starve them of the ongoing investment they need to take the leap?

In the last few days, the International Council on Mining and Metals, which represents the world’s leading mining companies, agreed to a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. The Global Cement and Concrete Association quickly followed suit, and in one fell swoop the two groups made a significant step towards accelerating our journey to net zero. Together, cement and mining are responsible for between 11- 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and there are few other industries able to make such a significant impact so quickly. This illustrates just how important it is to bring everyone along on the journey towards a clean energy future, and how easily we might hamstring ourselves if we unilaterally cut off support from the most challenging parts of the energy landscape.

Of course, throwing arms open to corporates and blindly trusting their reports of progress on emission reduction is no guaranteed recipe for success. ‘Greenwashing’ has become a commonly cited barrier to progress in sustainable investment, and businesses are rightly being expected to demonstrate the validity of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) credentials in a space that until recently was largely lacking in any standardised regulation. Calls for science-based climate targets are getting louder as investors and consumers alike demand that major companies set independently verifiable emission reduction goals or risk both reputational damage and competitive advantage. Soon it may well be these metrics, rather than the sector an organisation is situated within, that counts for the most when it comes to climate credibility.

In terms of both infrastructure and capital investment, much of the legwork necessary to get us where we need to be by 2050 will need to be put in over the next decade, so the message is clear: there’s no time to delay. If we’re to get the job done in the limited time available, not only do we need to continue pushing for rigorous regulation and global standardisation of metrics across the entire sustainability system, but we need to couple it with an open-minded approach that welcomes progress regardless of where it originates from. Only by pursuing these twin goals will we be able to harness the high impact, large-scale transformative change of the hardest-to-reach sectors whilst giving consumers, corporates, and investors the confidence they need to drive the clean energy revolution.

Now more than ever, it’s time to keep eyes firmly planted on the big picture and focus on constructive action. The next few years are certain to be full of innovation and progress, and we’ll achieve much more, much quicker, if we make room at the table for everyone.

29
Sep
Chloe Roberts

Is it time to challenge our perceptions of nuclear power?

Posted by Chloe RobertsTagged , , , , ,

The UK has a long civil nuclear heritage dating back to the 1950s. But reputationally speaking, the industry has a tricky past. In the court of public opinion, it has proven unpopular. Despite being stringently regulated, it is viewed as high-risk thanks to the incredibly steep upfront costs of building power sites – take Sizewell C at £22 billion – and sites are slow to build and decommission.

When we hear the word nuclear, we almost instantly think of the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. HBO’s drama Chernobyl also reminded us of the volatility of nuclear plants. Some believe there were a million fatalities from a toxic plume that spread across Europe in April 1986, although the UN directly attributes only 43 deaths to the disaster.

In our more recent history, a catastrophic chain of natural events resulted in a back-up power supply failure to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A tsunami caused by an earthquake led to a radiation leak from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area. There are a lot of mixed views about the impact of this leak, but the dominant reaction to it has been that of fear and uncertainty about the real human impact of such an event.

A slow shift in public discourse

It is hard to forget the past, and the words ‘nuclear’ and ‘disaster’ may be linked in public perception, in no small part because of disasters of the past and reporting in the media. But the tide is turning. According to billionaire philanthropist, technologist and climate change evangelist Bill Gates, nuclear energy is “absolutely” becoming politically palatable.

In a plan put forward last year, Boris Johnson’s government backed the development of “small and advanced reactors which would also lead to the creation of ten thousand jobs. The language around nuclear in the plan is noticeably cautious. What many may not know is that the UK currently generates 20 per cent of its electricity from nuclear – although almost half of current capacity is to be retired by 2025. There’s been a consistent decline in the amount of nuclear energy the UK generates since the 90s, mostly because of ageing plants. But things might swing the other way, or might need to, to manage the ongoing energy crisis.

Read more “Is it time to challenge our perceptions of nuclear power?”

08
Sep
Tani Fatuga

Can social media facilitate social change and political action?

Posted by Tani FatugaTagged , , , ,

Since around October last year, Nigeria has been in a state of political crisis due to citizen revolt and ongoing protests regarding the #EndSARS campaign. The campaign began, intending to end police brutality in Nigeria, but has since expanded to challenge some of the country’s other issues such as corruption, poverty, and injustice.

Being of Nigerian descent and having family and friends that currently live in Nigeria, the #EndSARS campaign has been a huge topic of conversation, especially in light of the Lekki Bridge Massacre where dozens of peaceful protesters were murdered by the government on 20 October 2020. These events led me to start thinking of the key role that social media played in Nigeria’s #EndSARS movement.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the powerful effects of the internet and social media. Similarly to how social media was used in the Arab Spring, during the #EndSARS movement, Nigerian activists used Twitter (and other social media platforms) to raise awareness, mobilise protesters, and discredit government propaganda through real-time information and citizen journalism. The campaign’s use of digital activism allowed it to scale up quickly, resulting in a large amount of publicity and international coverage.

The events of the ongoing ENDSARS campaign have made it difficult to ignore the ambiguity of social media usage in social movements in non-Western settings. The #EndSARS hashtag was first used in December 2017 by Twitter user @Segalink, when an open call was made for Nigerians to protest police brutality and demand for the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – a unit of the Nigerian Police Force that has gained notoriety for its repeated human rights abuses.

Until the 5th of October 2020, much of the campaign occurred online, under the hashtag, #EndSARS, but as soon as a video of the squad murdering a young boy went viral, Nigerians all over the world, including myself, banded together to protest both online and offline.  Since then, the campaign has received significant international coverage and publicity, resulting in the Nigerian government disbanding the unit.

During the ENDSARS campaign, we have seen the integral use of collective and connective action by activists, however, we have also seen the Nigerian government use social media to counter these efforts, calling into question the effectiveness of social media in fostering political reform within Nigeria’s anocracy and third world countries.

The use of mass protesting and digital protesting through social media platforms, predominantly Instagram and Twitter have given Nigerians all over the world a voice that has ultimately disrupted the country’s culture of deference. However, the government still hasn’t reasoned with its people, resulting in little change. These events have made me question the effectiveness of social media in fostering political reform.

In June earlier this year, the Nigerian government accused Twitter, of facilitating ‘activities that are capable of undermining [its] corporate existence’. Their statement came two days after the social media platform removed a controversial post made by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari as the statement was deemed to have violated Twitter community guidelines.

Read more “Can social media facilitate social change and political action?”

25
Aug
Salonee Gadgil

People aren’t voiceless, we just weren’t listening

Posted by Salonee GadgilTagged , ,

The beauty of language is that it is ever changing, evolving as humans evolve and adapting to better suit the times. Words that our grandparents seemed to throw around with not a care in the world, now sound abrasive, misplaced or wrong. Some words and phrases are easy to identify as being politically incorrect; we all know 80% of Snoop Dogg’s lyrics are only acceptable coming from him, in a song, and will get you fired from your job if uttered in the office.

Cancel culture may at times go a bit too far, but in general it’s a good thing that we’re constantly questioning what is and isn’t ok to say. On a side note; John Cleese, often the victim of cancellation, is going to explore wokeness in a new Channel4 documentary called Cancel Me. It promises to be both eye opening and entertaining, if you are so inclined.

It would seem this evolution of language has now sped up. This is perhaps the result of living in a more interconnected world, where we aren’t siloed and are often confronted by views differing from our own, which in turn causes us to interrogate our ways. Since we’re on the subject of Cleese, The Monty Python brand of humour, which once only brought about LOLs, now raises eyebrows. We now look back at the sitcom Friends in horror at the callous fat jokes and transphobia. It took only three decades (yes, that’s how old Friends is, but it’s a drop in the ocean of human social evolution) for this shift. It’s no surprise we find it hard to keep up and are fumbling to find correct words.

If the world of pop culture struggles with keeping up, you would imagine it’s even more challenging within the social sector and world of philanthropy, which by its very nature deals with complex and uncomfortable subject matter. By large, the social sector works towards the eradication of inequalities…of gender, race, income, housing, freedom, rights and so on. There’s no way of getting around talking about people without acknowledging that there are some in a position of power and some who aren’t. The recognition of inequality and hierarchies is important. As they say, the first step towards recovery is admission.

During the pandemic, many of our society’s inequalities stared us in the face, making themselves more visible than they were before. We’ve thought more about people on the margins, those with access to a safe place to isolate or the money to safeguard themselves. We’re thinking and talking more about inequality, which is evidenced in a massive spike in the prevalence of Google search terms, such as ‘systemic inequality’ and ‘vulnerable people’ since the start of the pandemic.

A trend analysis of search volumes associated with the terms ‘vulnerable people’ and ‘systemic inequality’ over the past 10 years.

Read more “People aren’t voiceless, we just weren’t listening”

19
Aug
Stand Agency

Reframing annual leave – a win for mental health, the environment and local businesses

Posted by Stand AgencyTagged , , , , , ,

Whether it’s our environmental conscience, Brexit-fuelled visa uncertainty or – yes, you guessed it – the pandemic, the way we are thinking about holidays has changed.

Firstly, we’ve been forced to reconsider how we approach annual leave. In the past taking days off from work almost invariably meant travel, often travel overseas. Over the past year of course things have been different, and the pandemic forced us to rethink how we use our annual leave entitlement. There’s a reason the Government makes it compulsory for employers to give their staff annual leave – and it isn’t because they want us to be catching flights to exotic locales! It’s because working continuously without any breaks is bad for productivity, results in poor mental health, and the risk of burnout.

The mental health benefits of taking time off are well-documented and understood. In 2020 many employers reported their staff weren’t using up annual leave, hoping to save it up for when international travel resumed. Sadly, for many, this wait wasn’t fruitful and just resulted in unclaimed holiday being lost, and months of break-free work. With this came the realisation that annual leave is more about a break from work than it is about travel.

Read more “Reframing annual leave – a win for mental health, the environment and local businesses”

28
Jul
Salonee Gadgil

So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?

Posted by Salonee GadgilTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, just days after the restrictions in England were lifted, we hosted our first panel event. The discussion brought together great minds: Chartered Psychologist Dr Jennifer Opoku-Lageyre who spoke about her experiences treating patients with trauma and anxiety during the pandemic, Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director of Programmes at Impact on Urban Health, who shed light on what it was like supporting communities in South London during the pandemic and Maccs Pescatore, CEO, Montessori Centre International who shared her views on how lockdowns have impacted Britain’s early years education. The conversation was chaired by Sarah O’Grady, Social Affairs Correspondent at the Daily Express and our Managing Director Laura Oliphant.

It was rich discussion, one that was supposed to last 45 mins, but lingered on for much longer and continued over a few glasses of wine. Our insightful speakers and engaged audience had much to talk about. The discussion swung between being quite pessimistic about the damage done by the pandemic, and optimistic about it being the catalyst we needed to bring about social change. We asked those in attendance what they’d remember most about things that were discussed. What’s the one idea or insight they’d take with them? Here’s what they said they’d be most likely thinking about on the train ride home.

The fact that there is a difference in 12 years of life expectancy within Lambeth borough.  

 We often talk about the great divide between the haves and have-nots in London. But Andy really hammered the message home with this very shocking statistic. It reinforces the need for tailored messaging around things like the vaccine. Can we really be reaching these two very disparate groups of people, one in Dulwich, another on Queen’s Road Peckham using the same public service messages asking them to go take the vaccine? Are we surprised they don’t all behave the same way?

We haven’t seen the economic second wave yet.

 A lot of Andy’s work at Impact on Urban Health is around how life hits health, that is, how housing, jobs and income affect ones physical health. So far, we’ve had the job retention scheme, we’ve had benefits, and suspended evictions. People working in the sector worry that when all these support systems are taken away, there will be a new wave of illnesses from people who can’t eat or live as well, or look after their children because of economic pressures. People have been talking about ‘long covid’, but what Andy’s been worried about is the ‘long pandemic’.

The desire to make decisions begins very young and is fundamental to our development.

Maccs reminded us of just how important early years education is, in developing decision-making skills. When a child goes into a Montessori nursery, they learn to make their own choices about what they want to play with, draw, and so on. This ability to make choices, autonomously, is vital in building a sense of self and resilience. Dr Jen pointed out that over the course of the pandemic, rules have been made for us. This loss of autonomy has been the fundamental cause for why people have experienced poor mental health. Humans strive for autonomy and personal freedom. If adults are suffering from the lack of the freedom to choose, what impact has living under strict guidelines had on small children? Should we really be more worried about the loss of their maths ability during the pandemic, when the real issue may be an ingrained lack of autonomy?

Read more “So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?”

19
Jul
Chloe Roberts

Covid-19 has given us a harsh lesson in education inequality

Posted by Chloe RobertsTagged , ,

Although ‘Freedom Day’ is here, Covid’s effects will, as we hear all too often, be felt for years to come.

One sector that has had more than its fair share to deal with is education. Covid has meant months of missed lessons and face to face contact with teachers and peers for thousands of pupils. Official government data shows that the number of pupils absent from schools in England for Covid-related reasons is at its highest since schools fully reopened in March, with almost 840,000 children out of class last week.

This is of course not to mention the disruption and frustration it has caused for teachers and parents – many of whom were left juggling work, family and childcare.

In Grace’s recent blog, she talked about how Covid has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across all facets of life. However, it has also created a unique moment, amid the chaos, to stop and re-evaluate what we really value, how we do things and how to make things better.

This is all too true of our education system which, Maccs Pescatore, CEO of Montessori Centre International, says “isn’t working as well as it should and hasn’t done for a long time because the sector has been woefully underfunded.”

And while the pandemic has impacted the whole education sector, the early years is rarely spoken about.

Read more “Covid-19 has given us a harsh lesson in education inequality”

16
Jul
Aga Maciejewska

The pandemic of inequalities

Posted by Aga MaciejewskaTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, the Health Foundation’s Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery report made headlines, revealing that throughout the pandemic, the chances of dying from Covid-19 were nearly four times higher for adults of working age in England’s poorest areas than for those in the wealthiest places.

The report is just the latest in the string of evidence that the pandemic has not been ‘a great leveller’, as some people referred to it back in the spring of 2020. The UK has struggled with deep-rooted, socioeconomic inequalities for years. Those have not only contributed to the country’s high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 but have also been exacerbated and made worse, particularly for some groups, including ethnic minorities, women and those on low pay.

Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director for Programmes at Impact for Urban Health, has been working with families in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to understand how various inequalities impact population’s health. As he explains:

“Health inequality is the starkest manifestation of other inequalities – unfairness tends to layer on unfairness. If you’re subject to systemic racism, you are also more likely to be poor, live in lower quality housing and then you’re more likely to get sick. All those things interact. Fundamentally, it’s the inequality that’s the issue and health inequality is just the starkest example.”

Looking at the impact of the pandemic,  Andy has no doubt that it has made the existing inequalities worse and that this might sadly be just the beginning:

“We layered Covid on top of an already very unequal situation. We haven’t really even started to feel the impacts of the economic pandemic and the long-term health effects of it. We’ve seen a lot of policy changes, such as furlough and the uplift of universal credit, designed to help people through the pandemic. When those start to fall away, we will have an economic wave that could have huge long term health consequences.”

 

Read more “The pandemic of inequalities”

02
Jul
Grace French

Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

At its onset, Covid-19 was described as the great leveller. But the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across many facets of life. For many, the situation has never been worse. But we also discovered a renewed intolerance for inequalities, a greater appreciation for those around us, and a desire to cement a better future for all.

This has created a unique moment for change. It’s vital that we examine what’s changed during the pandemic – both the good and the bad – and learn from it, to create a more equal and inclusive society.

Shining a light on mental health, during the pandemic we saw a story of two halves; more people struggling with mental health, and more people speaking up about it. In a year of drastic change and lockdowns the mental health of people of all ages and backgrounds has been greatly impacted. At the same time, mental health is being discussed more than ever and there’s a desire to improve mental health outcomes as we emerge from the pandemic – which itself comes with its own stressors.

The figures speak for themselves. Depression and anxiety levels significantly increased since the pandemic began, but at the same time diagnoses and referrals plummeted in lockdown. This is creating a pressure point – with an anticipated 11% increase in referrals in the next 3 years – a bottleneck of people who urgently need support.

Read more “Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?”

29
Jun
Beth Davies

Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore

Posted by Beth DaviesTagged , , , , , ,

June is Pride Month, a time for celebrating the diverse accomplishments, identities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. With 2020 seeing the queer community face a disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it is perhaps more important than ever for us to show our support and allyship.

Over the years, Pride has become an opportunity for brands to express their support for equal rights and representation, investing heavily in sponsorships, ads, and pride-themed products. But we know consumers are turning a critical eye to the companies they buy from, and brands need to go further than just wrapping merchandise up in rainbow packaging and calling it a day.

So-called ‘rainbow washing’ or ‘pink washing’ is too often the route that organisations take, and many major brands haven’t maintained a consistent enough relationship with LGBTQ+ communities to last Pride Month without some scrutiny. To be honest, it can be a difficult to hold back the cynicism, when even Pret rebrands as ‘Pride a Manger’.

Some 2021 Pride campaigns have certainly struck the wrong chord. Take Bud Light, which brought out an advert replacing the letters in the acronym LGBTQ with ‘Let’s Grab Beers Tonight, Queens’. An ad that erases identities in favour of selling beer, surely had to be designed without any queer people in the room. Also attracting criticism is Skittles, for its attempt at meaningful action which consisted of donating a portion of product proceeds to the media advocacy group, GLAAD. The problem? Skittles limited donations to less than 0.03% of sales during Pride month. 2020 brought with it an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, and tokenistic marketing just won’t fly anymore.

Read more “Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore”