On the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

The UN Climates Change Conference 2021 took place last November, and the world is still digesting the results of the Glasgow Climate Pact. What is certain is that big things need to happen in all the fields of life for us to have a liveable future on this planet. The global tourism industry is one of the key players in the much-needed change.

The global tourism industry is responsible for approximately eight percent of the carbon emissions of the world[i] Tourism is mostly about intangible experiences utilizing the multifaceted cultural and natural environments. Nevertheless, tourism accelerates nature loss via, e.g., land use, erosion and producing garbage. The division of the carbon footprint of global tourism consists of many sectors of hospitality, even construction and mining, as can be seen in the picture below by Sustainable Travel International.

Picture 1. Carbon Footprint of Global Tourism

More than 300 tourism stakeholders launched the “Glasgow Declaration of Climate action in Tourism” during the climate conference in November[ii]. This is a good start but, of course, still, a modest one considering pre-pandemic travel and tourism accounted for 10.4% of global GDP, being also a significant employer whose’ direct, indirect and induced impacts accounted for 1 in 4 of all new jobs created globally[iii]. However, tourism is and has been a significant socio-economic booster and in many times the sole contributor to well-being in, e.g., rural areas.

Covid-19 pandemic has treated the travel industry severely all over the world with a state of zero tourism for weeks if not months in many destinations. In Finland, tourism and hospitality industries have also suffered greatly, although domestic tourism, especially during the summer months, has been able to compensate for some of the damage. However, Covid-19 has given us all an opportunity to re-think our priorities, values and travel patterns[iv]. The pause also made the consumers realize the positive and negative impacts of tourism[v]. An independent report commissioned by Booking.com argues, “83% of global travellers think sustainable travel is vital, with 61% saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future”[vi]. Results by a study at Turku UAS suggest that the values and travel motivations by Finnish customers support sustainability. As travellers, Finns respect nature and understand the main principles of sustainable tourism. They are also interested in nature and local, authentic culture. More than half are willing to pay more when services and products are sustainable[vii]. However, studies also reveal that a responsible attitude is regrettably unlikely to materialize as concrete and sustainable choices of consumption. For example, every third traveller confessed that their main aim during a holiday is to relax and not to worry about the negative impacts of tourism[viii].

Case Finland

Sustainable tourism cannot be at the discretion of the travellers only. It is the responsibility of the tourism and hospitality companies, Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and other service providers to be in charge of sustainable supply and make it easy for the consumers to make sustainable decisions. The objectives and incentives have to come from the top level. Finland and the City of Turku are both in the forefront of preventing climate change with aspiring objectives. Finland aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2035[ix]. In addition, it wants to be the world’s first fossil-free welfare society as well as a leading sustainable tourism destination. How to get there?

Visit Finland has launched a program called “Sustainable Travel Finland” (STF)[x] designed for Finnish tourism destinations and companies. The idea is that a tourism company first has to be certified by a recognized label. There are approximately 20 different certifications that are accepted currently, varying from national to global and covering various fields of tourism, e.g. accommodation, boat harbours, golf courses and events to whole destinations[xi]. Once the certification is in place, the journey towards STF mark stars. There are seven steps: 1) commitment 2) training 3) development plan 4) communications 5)verification and measuring 6) certification and audit, and finally 7) closing and continuous improvement[xii]. The aim is not only to encourage individual businesses but whole tourism destinations to become sustainable. The “carrot and stick” mentality used by Visit Finland may mean that those companies who are not changing the way they act will not be included in international marketing activities in the future.   

The City of Turku aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2029[xiii]. Its Destination Management Organization, “Visit Turku” together with Turku Business Region – a regional development company[xiv], are the mentors of the local tourism and hospitality industry who advise, train and even help finance the sustainability change in Finland Proper region. It is encouraging to see that the change is happening and sustainable choices are possible. Travellers can search for alternatives, e.g. via Visit Finland’s links: https://www.visitfinland.com/sustainable-finland/sustainable-travel-destinations/

It is not possible to stop travelling altogether. Therefore, it is the duty of the industry to make the change happen, but also the travellers have to stay alert and demand for sustainable solutions.

Written by Susanna Saari, Turku University of Applied Sciences


References:

[i] https://sustainabletravel.org/issues/carbon-footprint-tourism/

[ii] https://www.unwto.org/news/tourism-unites-behind-the-glasgow-declaration-on-climate-action-at-cop26

[iii] https://wttc.org/Research/Economic-Impact

[iv] Glusac, E. (2021) Global Wellness Trend Report. The Future of Wellness. Global Wellness Summit.

[v] Gybels, M. (2021) Sustainable Travel Report 2021. Booking.com

[vi] Gybels, M. (2021) Sustainable Travel Report 2021. Booking.com

[vii] Haapaniemi, T. (2021) Kuluttajien arvomaailma matkailutuotteita ostettaessa. Turun ammattikorkeakoulu

[viii] Gybels, M. (2021) Sustainable Travel Report 2021. Booking.com

[ix]https://ym.fi/en/climate-neutral-finland-2035#:~:text=Government’s%20climate%20policy%3A%20climate%2Dneutral,and%20strengthening%20our%20carbon%20sinks.

[x] https://www.businessfinland.fi/en/do-business-with-finland/visit-finland/sustainable-travel-finland-label

[xi] https://www.businessfinland.fi/suomalaisille-asiakkaille/palvelut/matkailun-edistaminen/vastuullisuus/sertifioinnit–ohjelmat

[xii] https://www.businessfinland.fi/suomalaisille-asiakkaille/palvelut/matkailun-edistaminen/vastuullisuus/sustainable-travel-finland

[xiii] https://www.turku.fi/en/carbonneutralturku

[xiv] https://turkubusinessregion.com/en/

Circular Economy: A Way to Reach Sustainable Development

The world is currently facing environmental degradation and consequently negative repercussions on human well-being. This situation can be mitigated if modern economies and societies are willing to take the finite resources of the planet into consideration and start moving towards an alternative model that can lessen the risk of resource scarcity and respond to climate change challenges, as assured by the Circular Economy (CE) model.

The circular economy “is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.” (European Parliament, 2015). The EU currently places the transition towards the CE model on top of its agenda in order to reduce the 2.5 billion tons of waste it generates annually. (European Parliament, 2015).

The CE measures, such as waste prevention, eco-design and re-use, are expected not only to reduce the total annual greenhouse gas emissions, decrease pressure on the environment, improve the security of the supply of raw materials, increase competitiveness, stimulate innovation; but also, it is expected to save money for the EU companies, boost economic growth as well as add  0.5%  growth rate to gross domestic product (GDP) and create more than 700,000 jobs in the EU alone by 2030 (EU Parliament, 2020).

Source: EU Parliament (2015)

That being said, the European Commission adopted the new circular economy action plan (CEAP) in March 2020. This action plan is one of the foundational elements of the European Green Deal, which aims to attain the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality target and halt biodiversity loss (European Commission, 2021).

Recognizing this, several industries and organizations embarked on more sustainable practices within the new CE framework. However, the businesses and technological innovations alone are not sufficient to achieve a complete transformation to CE. Citizens awareness is crucial in that regard, given that some of the obstacles facing this transformation are associated with attitudes such as perception of sustainability and risk aversion (Ritzén and Sandström, 2017) and cultures, for example, the lack of consumer interest and awareness. Citizens perceive themselves unaccountable for that transition and believe it is only governments and businesses responsibility (Kirchher et al., 2018). Therefore, a paradigm shift cross-cutting the individual behaviors reaching to the collective societal adaption of the CE principles through a bottom-up approach is the viable option to internalize CE principles. This can only be accomplished by education, to equip the people to become themselves the agents of the evolution towards CE (EU Commission, 2020).

The EU-funded TOO4TO project, hence, contributes to this goal by embedding the desired knowledge about circularity and sustainable economy in its modules. The course entails the necessary information about the circular economy, economics, sustainable production concepts and the concept of planetary boundaries. Students will get familiar also with the influence of public policy on the transition process to CE and the techniques of evaluating the business actions in terms of sustainability.

Practically as observed by Rodriguez and Marcote (2020), including circular economy and sustainability into the educational modules of the students altered their perception about their role and contribution to the CE transition and raised awareness with regards to the change in daily habits. As stated by Rodriguez and Marcote (2020: 1361)

“Students have sought out, developed, and provided solutions that have improved their impact on campus (water and energy saving, longer use of devices, less waste and more recycling). This critical view of their consumption is necessary to make the transition to the CE. Students can understand how their purchasing decisions have direct and serious consequences on the planet. They also recognized their inconsistency when shopping without need, just for fashion. The transition to more sustainable consumption patterns and levels will require reinforcing new habits through education”.

Written by Ashrakat Fouda, Global Impact Grid

References:

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/circular-economy-action-plan_en

https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/europarl/circular_economy/circular_economy_en.svg

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/ENVI-PR-652387_EN.html?redirect

https://epale.ec.europa.eu/en/blog/transition-circular-economy-role-education-youth-higher-education

Ritzén, S. and Sandström, G.Ö. (2017), “Barriers to the circular economy – integration of perspectives and domains”, Procedia Cirp, Vol. 64, pp. 7-12.

Kirchher, J., Piscicelli, L., Bour, R., Kostense-Smit, E., Muller, J., Hublbrechtse-Trujens, A. and Hekkert, M. (2018), “Barriers to the circular economy: evidence from the European union (EU)”, Ecological Economics, Vol. 150, pp. 264-227.

Rodrigues, A., Marcote, P. (2020), “Circular economy, sustainability and teacher training in a higher education institution”. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 7, pp. 1351-1366. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJSHE-02-2020-0049/full/pdf?casa_token=0DPVaO9GfywAAAAA:RNd9KN4b72-BJMC_Z1wkZx1oFyGT__8hwsK_-uLnIt_tHqU1zdPydrJuBk76kQI6IKevjgsKyZ89Yg8mYUe3mYjvh0Je_MONPM-R8KxL6MgfSSHtng

Paper cups – are they really “green”?

Paper cups – easily available, fast and hygienic solutions to drinking coffee outdoors are very challenging materials in terms of sustainable utilization. Each country is trying to find ideal paper cups management. What is the best?

Photo by Endlich Grün on Unsplash

Paper coffee cups are available almost everywhere, on airplanes, at petrol stations, in cafes, allowing to take coffee in a fast, convenient and hygienic way. Most consumers consider paper coffee cups to be environmentally friendly. However, one should realize that a 100% paper cup could not fulfill its role. Each paper cup needs to be coated with the polymer layer, which is usually polyethylene, in order to be waterproof, fatty acid resistant and to preserve coffee aroma. It is estimated that 16 billion polyethylene coated paper cups are used each year. Their production uses 6,5 million trees, 4 billion gallons of water and energy of the amount equivalent to the amount of energy required for 54 000 homes [1]. Moreover, only 1% of the disposable cups are recycled. Low recovery of used coffee cups is related with the ineffective and inconsistent recycling schemes with the limited availability of systematic collection points and not adjusted processes of many recycling facilities to process food contaminated waste streams. Due to this fact most of the used coffee cups end at the landfills (where paper is consumed by composting microorganisms and polyethylene is breaking into smaller and smaller pieces, transforming into microscopic fragments that can be transported through whole the ecosystem) or incinerated, while they can be successfully recycled [2]. In order to shift waste management into a sustainable direction, the European Union established a target for all the EU countries to increase the recycling of packaging plastics up to 65% by 2025 and up to 70% by 2030 [3]. What is more, Australia is going to remove the use of single-use plastic by 2023 and Taiwan by 2030 [2].

Hence, the biggest problem is not related with the recycling process itself but with the collection system. Many countries, cities around the world are hardly trying to find the way for a sustainable and efficient paper cups management system.

In the UK, The Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group tried to increase the awareness of the population regarding paper coffee cups recycling, by increasing the access to the information, schemes and facilities for sustainable paper cups recovery. They increased the number of collection points significantly for more than 4500, municipalities that collect paper cups up to 115 and what is more they involved 21 waste collectors who actively participate in a given action [2]. 

Austria introduced the project “myCoffeeCup” which is based on reusable cups available to a wide range of partners willing to reduce the use of disposable coffee cups. Customers drinking coffee from the reusable cups can return them directly to the partner involved in the project or to the returning machines located at the central hubs. Moreover, there is an app created for the purpose of the project which indicates where the participating partners and returning machines are located. Cups used in these projects can be reused up to 500 times [4].

Lithuania focused on the problem of waste cups generation during outdoor festivals and events. Ms. Valdone Šuškevičė initiated a unique startup “CupCup” in order to introduce a reusable cups system in public events and cafeterias. It is already observed that it helped to reduce the amount of given waste by 0.5 t per season [5].

In order to increase the collection rate of reusable cups in Germany, an 1 euro deposit has been introduced within 100 participating businesses  [2].

Similar action is introduced in Poland, where 5 PLN deposit has been introduced for the coffee cups marked with the label “Take!Cup”. Given cups are available in three sizes 0.2L, 0.3L and 0.4L. Moreover, the cup is 100% recycled and does not contain melamine. The idea is similar to the other presented, once someone is taking a cup of coffee in such a container needs to pay a 5 PLN deposit which is returned while the cup returns to one of the partner businesses or can be exchanged for another cup of coffee [6].

Both recovery and recycling of the used coffee cups is technically possible, can be economically viable and can reduce the carbon footprint by 54%. However, even the most efficient recycling or recovery process is always related with the transportation of the material to the recycling plant, additional water and energy usage, thus additional greenhouse gas emission and environmental load. Perhaps the best choice would be to change our habits and instead of taking disposable coffee cups we should bring our own ceramic or heat-insulating mugs or find 15 min a day to drink coffee in a nice place in cafes in a nice company of our friend, book or newspaper?

Written by Magdalena Fabjanowicz, Gdańsk University of Technology

References:

[1] V. Suskevice, K. Grönman; MDPI Proceedings (2019) 16, pp 58
[2] N. Triantafillopoulos, A. A. Koukoulas; BioResources (2020) 15(3), pp 7260
[3] The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, https://www.europarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Eu-plastics-strategy-brochure.pdf
[4] Sustainable Coffee Cups for Vienna, https://smartcity.wien.gv.at/en/mycoffeecup/ (accessed: 03.10.2021)
[5] Bio Plastic Europe, https://bioplasticseurope.eu/news-events/eu-commissioner-virginijus-sinkevicius-opens-1st-meeting-of-the-hiscap-network (accessed 07.10.2021)
[6] Take Cup, https://www.takecup.pl/ (accessed 04.10.2021)

Insights in #CorporateSocialResponsibility and #CSR in Social Media

Engage your stakeholders in dialogue

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not all about charitable activities and events. CSR is not only that businesses take into account the economic, social and environmental impacts of their operations, but also about taking the responsibility. Also, about taking the responsibility in developing the society. This happens by envisioning future plans for socio-economic justice and being conscious about companies’ responsibility for the welfare of society around them. 

CSR manifests in communication with stakeholders. CSR activities that are effectively communicated to stakeholders are likely to have good returns on investments and increase companies’ social legitimacy and reputation.

Social media has become a standard communication tool for companies to inform about their socially responsible activities. Social media has allowed organizations to communicate in entirely new ways through dialogue type of communication utilizing value- and performance-driven motives. However, it is stated that social networking platforms are most utilized in traditional one-way company-to-consumer communication. Unfortunately, this pattern still predominates in the social and digital era where interactivity and engagement are key. It is true that with a monologue type of communication one can campaign participation and spread e-WOM, electronic Word of Mouth. However, participating in dialogues in social media can reduce stakeholders’ scepticism towards the company’s CSR activities and lead to active stakeholder engagement. Moreover, through discussions and listening, companies can hold active dialogues and identify the sentiment of the discussions. This is relevant because emotional messages tend to be diffused more widely than neutral ones. Sharing emotional content is an intrinsic part of social media behaviour. In addition, emotions are used for promoting dialogue and engagement. Therefore, emotions are crucial elements for achieving stakeholder acceptance, commitment, and participation regarding CSR issues.

#CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility in social media

We used hashtag and sentiment analysis to identify the main topics and their sentiment in social media discussions (i.e., Twitter or Instagram) related to corporate social responsibility. We chose hashtags #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility. We used a free version of social searcher and the data was limited to timeline 1.9 – 14.9.2021. Only social media mentions in English were included and inadequate data was removed.

Table 1 shows an overview of the social media posts related to corporate social responsibility during the two first weeks in September.

Table 1 Descriptive statistic of discussions (prepared by the authors, 2021)

Table 1 shows that #CSR is used more often than # corporatesocialresponsibility and it has also more users. Analysis of both hashtags showed that Twitter and Reddit are popular channels. Differences in the chosen channels are found, for example, daily motion is actively used for #CSR but not at all for #corporatesocialresponsibility. Surprisingly, channels like YouTube and Facebook had under 25 posts during the given timeframe.

The form of communication is mainly photographs. Based on the popularity of the posts (e.g. likes, shares) of both hashtags, the posts mainly include videos and photos. Video content is mainly webinars or recorded discussions with experts and company managers. Photos instead are related to campaigns and events and posted as announcements (Figure 1). However, the popularity of the posts reveals that engagement is not at a high level as a whole, because the amount of likes and shares is quite low. This may be due to the short two-week timeframe used. Some of the posts have been published while the analyses were being made, and so the followers have not had the time to react to the posts.  

Figure 1 Emotionally tagged post in Instagram (@biryanibykilo, 2021)

According to the sentiment analysis, the tone in social media posts is mainly neutral or positive. Related to #CSR Twitter and Instagram posts were most positive and Flickr and Reddit most negative. The same results concern #corporatesocialresponsibility.

It was found out that Reddit, Flickr, and Dailymotion are the most active channels based on the popularity count of #CSR when focusing on the social side of communication, dialogue, and interaction. However, Flickr and Instagram are the most active channels for #corporatesocialresponsibility. It should be mentioned that behind most engaging posts we found one organization, Trinity Care Foundation.

In addition, we found out that the most active days for communicating #CSR was Wednesday (38%) and for #corporatesocialresponsibility Tuesday (26%). Sundays were also active days for social media communication concerning both hashtags.

Themes were analysed using word clouds and analysis of words related to the posts. The themes related to discussions can be seen in Fig. 2. The first cloud represents the analysis of #CSR and the second cloud #corporatesocialresponsibility.

Figure 2 Themes related to #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility (prepared by the authors, 2021)

Word clouds are confusingly different. When #CSR discussions focus on business and workplace, #corporatesocialresponsibility discussions strongly indicate Covid -19 related themes.

This study is not enough to give us significant results. Only discussions in English were analysed and in a short timeframe. Moreover, channels like LinkedIn were not included in this study. We also must keep in mind that organisations discuss their responsible actions also without using the hashtag #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility. However, strategic use of hashtags is part of communication in social media. Hashtags are used to reach the target audience and encourage stakeholders in thematic discussions.  These indicative results give us many reasons to focus on communication strategies in the future.

What can we learn from these results?

Firstly, each social media platform is different, and what works on Instagram may not work on Twitter and vice versa. Secondly, the main issue in social media is that it works best for communication that is social in nature and manifests itself in interaction and dialogue. According to the results, communication on corporate social responsibility is mostly monologue style in a neutral tone and this will not engage stakeholders in dialogue. Finally, the good news is that there is a lot of space for strategic communication leading to openness in CSR activities and building a good reputation of organizations.  In addition, if it is in your interest, there is a good opportunity to profile yourself as an expert on CSR. You only need to know where your stakeholders are in social media and especially, what do they value.

Key takeaways!

  • choose appropriate channels
  • engage your audience in emotionally tagged dialogue. Both positive and negatively labelled discussions may lead to positive results.
  • use photos and videos
  • use both hashtags #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility, so people can find you. Add more relevant hashtags into your post to inform the theme you are discussing about.
  • be in active dialogue and listen to your audience! Especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.

To be able to emphasize active stakeholder engagement and hear the bad and good bell will finally lead to an increase of trust in company CSR activities.

Written by Mervi Varhelahti, Rauni Jaskari and Susanna Saari, Turku University of Applied Sciences

References

Bialkova, S. & Te Paske, S. (2020). Campaign participation, spreading electronic word of mouth, purchase: how to optimise corporate social responsibility, CSR, effectiveness via social media? European Journal of Management and Business Economics, 30(1).

@Biryanibykilo (2021) in Instagram. Accessed 20.9.2021 at https://www.instagram.com/p/CTyjPm8PgsW/

Gómez, L. M. (2017). Social media concepts for effective CSR online communication. In Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Era (pp. 193-215). Routledge.

Jalonen, H. (2017). “A good bell is heard from far, a bad one still further”: A socio-demography of disclosing negative emotions in social media. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 6(1).

Kvasničková Stanislavská, L., Pilař, L., Margarisová, K. & Kvasnička, R. (2020). Corporate Social Responsibility and social media: Comparison between developing and developed countries. Sustainability12(13).

Keywords: social media, CSR, corporate social responsibility, dialogue, emotions

The Launch of Dynamic Material Bank for Teaching, Learning and Practicing Sustainability

After one year of intensive work, the result of “TOO4TO” project Intellectual Output 2 (IO2) – Dynamic Material Bank (DMB) (see illustration) – is already prepared and opened for public use since October (2021). It provides information relevant to various target groups wishing to develop and align their business practices with EU-supported SDGs educational institutions (teachers of higher education; students), business representatives, decision makers, researchers.

Currently, the database can be easily accessed via the TOO4TO project website (click here) or www.open.ktu.edu. While preparing the database, there was a close collaboration with Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) IT department experts as the database is delivered through the KTU Moodle system. The construction of the curriculum is built on interdisciplinary and collaboration needs. The preparation process involved not only project partners, but also students and lecturers from different scientific fields and countries. The main information about the Early Development phase and general results of students’ and lecturers’ surveys is provided in the blog post “Dynamic Material Bank for Teaching, Learning and Practicing Sustainability. Early Development“. As a result, the DMB material is classified under six themes which appeared to be most appealing for students and lecturers:

  1. Corporate Social and Environmental Sustainability
  2. Sustainable Resource Management
  3. Climate Change and Sustainability
  4. Sustainable Energy Solutions
  5. Circular Economy, Economic and Sustainability, Sustainable Production
  6. Artificial Intelligence and Sustainability

The material for each theme includes open-access bibliography and active links to various information forms – regulations, policies (EU and global); best practice examples from industry; scientific articles and other scientific publications; software and other tools; reports (global, regional, national or industry level); international research projects (results); updates, insights from the business organizations. Each reference has a connection link identified to the specific UN SDGs or all of them. Therefore, the search of material is based on the sustainability areas, categories, SDGs and key words within the DMB.

Everyone is encouraged to develop a database together. After the launch, project partners, students and all DMB users will be able to make regular updates of the material as the knowledge in sustainability-related matters is not static. Regular updates of all the users will be done in the additional DMB in order all the entries would be reviewed by the administrators (from the technical and thematic point of view) and the periodic updates would be done by the proved and valuable data. Moreover, there will be an opportunity to disseminate, leave recommendations and comments regarding any possible improvements which would increase the usability of the DMB and it’s positive impact as one of the tools oriented to the future of sustainable development. Technical issues regarding the updating and usage are explained in the DMB manual.

As the DMB is created under the Moodle platform, it could be linked to other Moodle courses, and the assignment regarding the updating of the database could be exported to other Moodle courses in different educational institutions.

Further dissemination will be performed by providing link to it via various media. The link can be disseminated further via the databases of libraries and via the newsletter to the interested parties/stakeholders. It can also be disseminated via various social and professional media. Users of DMB are welcome to share the link and information about DMB at their institutions and beyond. 

Written by Inga Gurauskienė and Gabrielė Čepeliauskaitė, Kaunas University of Technology

Climate Change Education

Climate change is one of the most defining crises the globe is experiencing now, and it is unfolding rapidly and in a hazardous manner. In our Earth system, the disasters related to climate and weather extremes were always present. However, currently it is taking a dangerous turn with more frequent and intense climate disasters sweeping the world. No continent is left untouched, with heatwaves, droughts, typhoons, and hurricanes causing mass destruction around the world. 

Speaking of 2021 alone, the West of Germany and Belgium faced extreme rain floods as the increase in greenhouse gases led to increasing temperatures. Since warmer air holds more moisture, it translated into heavier rainfall. As estimated by science magazine, “by 2100, flood damage on the continent could cost as much as €48 billion per year—up from €7.8 billion now” (Cornwall, 2021). The extensive rains did not reach Europe only but also it swept parts of New York, Chinese, Indian and Turkish provinces causing several calamities, millions worth damage, wide range displacements and costing hundreds of lives (Khan, 2021).

As parts of the world are flooding, the other dry parts are getting drier causing droughts across the world. This phenomenon is based on the negative effects of global warming on evapotranspiration which is the movement of water into the atmosphere from land and water surfaces. Accordingly, precipitation has declined in areas such as Australia, Southern Africa, the Sahel region of Africa, Southern Asia, the Mediterranean, and the U.S. Southwest. Consequently, the chances of declining food security, agricultural challenges, poverty and even famine are increasing (Climatehotmap, 2021). Furthermore, the heat waves led to the rage of ferocious fires fueled by global warming and climate change in Canada, California, Italian Islands, Northeastern Spain and parts of Siberia, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine (Washington Post, 2021, Al monitor, 2021).

As asserted by the United Nations, 90 per cent of disasters are now classified as weather and climate-related, costing the world economy 520 billion USD each year, and pushing 26 million people into poverty as a result. Not to mention the physical health challenges caused by the climate change. Nevertheless, as Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out in September, “the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”. (UN, 2021). Considering the complexity of the phenomenon and its repercussions, one of the crucial methods to combat it and promote effective climate action is education (UNESCO, 2021). The United Nations 4.7 (education for sustainable development) and 13.3 (education for climate protection and climate adaptation) complement the same scheme.


Education per the UNFCCC, Paris Agreement, 2015
Retrieved from: https://sepn.ca/the-research/ccec/

A good quality education on climate change education imparts knowledge on climate, climate protection measures, societal climate resilience and develops a strong personal connection to climate solutions. The EU-funded TOO4TO project aspires and firmly embeds all of the above aspects in its curriculum. The project assists the students to comprehend the sophistication of the climate change phenomenon and its consequences. Moreover, it provides the students with the suitable material and techniques to enhance their analytical understanding and innovative skills to come up with policy recommendations or inventive methods that contribute to climate and environment protection on a wider scale. As emphasized by Kwauk and Winthrop, (2021), “leveraging the power of education is potentially more powerful than solely increasing investments in onshore wind turbines or concentrated solar power.

Educational keys for combating climate change.
Retrieved from: https://www.iberdrola.com/social-commitment/climate-change-education

Written by Ashraqat Fouda, Global Impact Grid

References:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/07/europe-s-deadly-floods-leave-scientists-stunned
https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/07/27/floods-in-europe-turkey-china-and-india/
https://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-effects/drought.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/photography/interactive/2021/wildfires-europe-greece-turkey-italy-spain-lebanon/
https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/07/forest-fires-rage-lebanon-syria-and-turkey
https://www.un.org/en/un75/climate-crisis-race-we-can-win
https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-sustainable-development/cce
https://www.brookings.edu/research/unleashing-the-creativity-of-teachers-and-students-to-combat-climate-change-an-opportunity-for-global-leadership/

Dynamic Material Bank for Teaching, Learning and Practicing Sustainability. Early Development

Sustainable management solutions require a number of interrelated knowledge and skills, including economics, social and environmental science. Accordingly, the goal of the Intellectual Output 2 (IO2) of the “TOO4TO” project is to create a Dynamic Material Bank (DMB). A database, which provides quick access to open-access information, a list of up-to-date sources for organizations across different industries and locations. The tool will be useful for academics and, also, for practitioners. Lecturers from different universities will have an opportunity to integrate DMB into sustainability-related courses and those who wish to develop and align their business practices with the EU-supported SDGs. A periodic updating, relevance and applicability of information sources are necessary aspects that make a database dynamic. It will be ensured by providing the possibility of sharing and uploading additional recent sources by any user.

Concerning a broad scope of sustainability topics and possible variations for subtopics, an essential task for project partners was to ensure a consistent process of forming a concept of DMB, which would be applicable in as various study courses as possible. In the beginning, an indicative survey was carried out in project partners’ countries (Finland, Germany, Lithuania and Poland) to realise the need to study the courses oriented towards Sustainable Management, identify areas and fields of DMB. Indicative survey with students was initiated by Gdańsk University of Technology, Poland, and conducted in cooperation with the Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania and Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland. Target groups of the surveys were lecturers and students from different fields of science and studies (management/economics, social science, engineering, IT, arts and humanities, etc.). The first – students’ survey – with general questions was organised in the project proposal stage. Subsequently, a concretised questionnaire was prepared for teachers. The students’ survey was conducted in February and April 2020, with a total of 190 filled questionnaires received, and a second survey, focusing on lecturers, was organised in February and March 2021, with 111 respondents.

Both surveys revealed interesting results about understanding and improving knowledge about sustainability and integrating this topic into specific courses.  Most of the students, from the universities already offering sustainability-related courses, agree that there is a need to improve knowledge in corporate sustainability (Finland – 73%, Lithuania – 87%, Poland – 90%). Also, more than a half of the students, who participated in a survey, would consider taking a course in “Sustainable Management”, if it was offered in their universities (Finland – 85%, Lithuania – 58%, Poland – 90%). The need was indicated by the lecturers to integrate DMB in the courses (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. a) Lecturers’ opinion about DMB integration into their courses, n=109; b) Lecturers’ opinion about DMB integration for literature updates in their courses, n=110 (prepared by the authors, 2021)

The most intriguing and exciting part of both surveys was identifying the most relevant sustainability areas, based on which the E-learning course and DMB were prepared. All the respondents were asked to choose three priority areas out of sixteen practicals for their teaching/learning courses. Each of the areas was offered by the project partners and discussed during the meetings. Figure 2 presents summarised general (total), students and lecturers priorities. Summed up results revealed that TOP 3 topics are Climate Change and Sustainability, Economics and Sustainability, and Sustainable Energy Solutions. The Figure also shows the differences between students and lecturers’ priorities. Most students selected Sustainable Energy Solutions for the first, Climate Change and Sustainability – the second, and Natural Resource Management – the third choice.

Meanwhile, the lecturers prioritised Circular Economy as the primary and first topic; Sustainable Production was the second choice, and Economics and Sustainability – the third one. Consequently, concerning the final summarised results, project partners agreed on six main topics as the bases for the DMB to be developed: AI & Sustainability, Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility, Sustainable Energy Solutions, Circular Economy, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Sustainability. In addition, it is necessary to point out that some of the topics, which were not priority ones, will be integrated into the main ones.

Figure 2. The results of relevant sustainability areas, which could be integrated into the E-learning course and Dynamic Material Bank (prepared by the authors, 2021)

This blog post is oriented to describe the procedures of DMB development, not a DMB itself. At the moment, DMB is under the preparation and final revisions. The structure and final guidelines for using DMB will be presented in our next blog posts! The DMB will be opened in October 2021.

Written by Inga Gurauskiene and Gabriele Cepeliauskaite, Kaunas University of Technology Institute of Environmental Engineering.

Impact of the pandemic on businesses’ commitment to environmental sustainability and climate change issues

The ongoing climate change is one of the driving forces for the activities carried out within the framework of sustainable development. Environmental protection, ecology and the impact of climate change are being discussed more and more often since the effects of climate change are visible in every country [1]. Intensive economic development has contributed to a 50% higher greenhouse gas emission than in 1990, which strongly influences global warming. This warming is a real threat to the socio-economic system because it brings about severe consequences like increased ocean temperatures, which negatively influence the aquatic organisms or forces changes in viticulture techniques that are needed to adapt to the changing climate, which is mostly visible in the Mediterranean zone [2-4]. Some of the most known impacts of climate change are presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Climate change key facts [5-6]

European Union, in the document “Strategy for Sustainable Europe 2030”, set seventeen Sustainable Development Goals for the EU members, which together, with The Paris Climate Agreement (UNCFCCC) stand as a guide for international cooperation for the sustainable development in the economic, social, environmental and governance dimensions. Moreover, recently (14.06.2021) G7, a group of representatives of seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, United States), characterized by the most advanced and industrialized economies across the globe, had a meeting discussing the climate change issues. During the meeting, members of G7 have agreed to support the action of preventing climate change. They stated to renew the collection of $100 billion every year to help developing countries reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The funding would help countries that could be affected by extreme weather and climate-linked disaster. The last commitment of target finance collection was not met, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused economic downturns worldwide [7-8].

Even though COVID-19 caused economic disruptions, we all saw changes that appeared in the environment during the disruptive 2020 while the pandemic had started. Due to the lockdown established in many places, there were significant improvements in air quality expressed in the reduction of particulate matter concentration. Just in the USA, the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) were lower by 49% and 37%, respectively [9].

The pandemic has also influenced the actions taken by entrepreneurs for environmental protection what is presented in detail in the report published by Deloitte Global. The report is focused on the perspectives of entrepreneurs on the climate change issue in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The given study was based on a survey of 750 executives from 13 countries, which took place between January and February 2021. 80% of the respondents declared that they are concerned about climate change, and their organizations are starting to feel the consequences of it, mostly by:

perspectives of entrepreneurs on the climate change issue in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The given study was based on a survey of 750 executives from 13 countries, which took place between January and February 2021. 80% of the respondents declared that they are concerned about climate change, and their organizations are starting to feel the consequences of it, mostly by:

  • operational impact of climate-related disaster;
  • scarcity and the cost of resources;
  • regulatory and political uncertainty;
  • increased insurance cost or lack of insurance availability [10].

Even though the pandemic slowed the actions taken by entrepreneurs in environmental sustainability, 25% of executives declared they will accelerate these actions in the coming months. Currently, there are five actions taken by companies the most often which are:

  • implementation of the public policy positions in the context of environmental sustainability and climate change;
  • setting the requirements to suppliers and business partners to meet criteria of environmental sustainability issues;
  • choosing for production more sustainable/recyclable materials;
  • education of board and senior management regarding climate issues;
  • creation of additional employee positions responsible for the environmental sustainability performance of a company [10].

There are already positive changes visible, and there is a significant increase in the current effort done by companies for the environment, presented in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Largest increase of efforts taken by companies for environmental sustainability [10]

The pandemic has helped entrepreneurs understand that individual actions such as reducing business travel done on a large scale collectively can reduce the company’s impact on the environment. Around 68% of executives are going to limit their carbon footprint by the continuous personal behavior changes [10].

All of that shows that climate change is a rising issue within enterprises. There is an increasing need for well-trained managers that will deal with the current goals and help companies meet the requirements of environmental sustainability. Thus, knowledge and skills in the context of sustainability, environmental protection and sustainable management gathered during the course of sustainable management will be precious.

Written by Magdalena Fabjanowicz, Gdańsk University of Technology

References:

[1]J. Marlon et al., Glob. Environ. Change (2021) 68, pp 102247             

[2] Y. Liu, J. Zang, Y, Qin, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change (2020) 160, pp 1202229

[3] B. Abirami et al., Sci Total Environ. (2021) 791, pp 147905

[4] G.Gutiérrez-Gamboa, W. Zheng, F. Martínez de Toda, Food Res. Int. (2020) 139, pp 109946

[5] UNDP ”Climate Action”, Available: https://www.undp.org/sustainable-development-goals#climate-action (accessed: 15.06.2021)

[6] NASA “Climate Change: How Do We Know?”, Available: https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ (accessed: 16.06.2021)

[7] BBC News, “G7 summit: Leaders pledge climate action but disappoint activists”, Available: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-57461670, (accessed: 16.06.2021)

[8] S.P. Nathaniel, Md.S. Alam, M. Murshed, H. Mahmood, Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. (2021) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-13728-6

[9] R. Nigam, K. Pandaya, AJ. Luis, R. Sengupta, M. Kotha, Sci. Rep. (2021) 11, pp 4285

[10] Deloitte. Report: 2021 Climate Check: Business’ Views on Environmental Sustainability, Available:  https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/risk/articles/2021-climate-check-business-views-on-environmental-sustainability.html

Innovation Pedagogy in Action at May Workshop

What is Innovation Pedagogy?

Innovation pedagogy or Innopeda® as it is called for short, is a strategic approach to modern learning. It was chosen as the preferred approach in the TOO4TO –project for providing a new edge for developing the e-Learning modules and curriculum as part of the project outcomes. 

We at Turku University of Applied Sciences (Turku UAS) have started the development of the innovation pedagogy approach already in 2006. According to Joshi, Storti and Scheinin (2021) the aim “has been to provide competences needed in working life and to promote innovations and regional development. Innopeda® is implemented in all Turku UAS’ sectors and on all study fields. It has effects on all key activities of the university, including learning and teaching methods, working life cooperation and curriculum design, and it has been developed systematically during its lifespan”.  It was only natural that this new pedagogical approach was included in the TOO4TO project plan already early on. 

Innovation pedagogy is based on the cornerstones of learning as seen in figure 1. They are the methods and tools necessary while implementing the learning process. Students, despite discipline, must acquire the core competences of their own study fields in addition to a set of so-called innovation competences.  These competences have five dimensions that focus on creativity, critical thinking, initiative, team working and networking. The final aim is the student’s success in work and in life.

Figure 1. Innovation pedagogy in a nutshell (Konst & Kairisto-Mertanen, 2019)

Innopeda in action

Due to Covid –19 pandemic all the TOO4TO-project meetings have been online so far. This also happened to the Innopeda® workshop, planned to be run for the members of the project already during the kick-off meeting in Poland.  As the time to start planning for the e-learning modules and the curriculum approached, May 12th 2021 was chosen as the day for a full day workshop lead by Turku UAS team. The practical arrangements were done over Teams platform with a pre-assignment for all those attending from the partnering Universities.  In the pre-assignment, the participants considered “Activating learning and teaching methods” and “Multidisciplinary learning environment” to be the most important themes to focus on during the workshop.  A comment from one of the participants: “Teachers can be more than parrots” probably best expresses the expectations for the day.  

True to Innopeda ethos, the day included various activities: a short keynote by the Head of Innopeda Training Center, but most of all working in small groups with discussions using virtual collaboration platforms e.g. regarding evaluation and student assessment as well as the implementation of Innopeda in the future actions of TOO4TO project. The whole group seemed very happy with the workshop day and as the planning of the e-learning modules and the curriculum are already at full speed, the “takings” like self and peer-assessment methods, group learning diaries and virtual hackathons from the day have been included in the future plans. 

Innopeda Workshop participants. Picture by Ela Kurtcu

Written by Susanna Saari, Mervi Varhelahti and Marjatta Rännäli, Turku University of Applied Sciences

References:

Innopeda by Turku AMK (n.d.) Retrieved 9.6.2021 from https://innopeda.turkuamk.fi/language/en/home/

Joshi, M., Storti, A. & Scheinin, M. (2021). Innopeda Quality Handbook. Turku University of Applied Sciences. Unpublished Manuscript. 

Konst, T., & Kairisto-Mertanen, L. Developing innovation pedagogy. Contemporary Educational Researches Journal, 9(3), 74–84. https://doi.org/10.18844/CERJ.V9I3.4224

Implementation of UN SDGs in Small and Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs): The Challenges and Opportunities

“Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance” (Ban Ki-Moon, 2013)[1]. That is why in 2015, 93 countries agreed on 17 goals and 169 sub-goals at the United Nations General Assembly covering three main areas of sustainable development: ecological, economic and social.

 Various studies suggest that a key factor in achieving sustainable development is through implementing corporate social responsibility and systematic sustainability in the private sector. The studies also show that the SMEs account for an overwhelming majority of private sector business and economic activity in both developed and developing countries. Therefore, their impact and significance should be revealed.

 According to the EU guidelines, SMEs can be defined as firms with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euros and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euros (European Commission, 2005). According to the EU Central Bank[2], the SMEs make up to 99.8% of all non-financial companies in the EU, provide 66.6% of jobs and generate 56.4% of added value. Nevertheless, they are currently facing a serious hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic surging situation across the globe. Since that the pandemic has forced around 70% SMEs to shut down their operations. The recovery efforts though are inspired largely by the SDGs through focusing on how to rebuild more inclusive economies and societies, to set a new course for a socially just, low-carbon and climate-resilient world where no one is left behind (Pwc, 2020).

The International Trade Centre report “SME Competitiveness Outlook” (2019) indicates that, the SMEs can contribute to improving the SDGs through four channels: employee impacts (Goals 1, 2, 3, 8), business practice impacts (Goals 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16), sectorial impacts (Goals 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11) and national economy impacts (Goals 1, 8, 9, 10, 17). This confirms the experts’ observations that the SMEs play a key role in achieving the economic SDGs, as well as fostering innovation and sustainable industrialization, in addition to their contribution to the promotion of human development through promoting social progress, addressing income inequalities by providing good-quality jobs and working conditions.

In other words, one may state that SMEs are “a major engine” of economic growth and socioeconomic development. Therefore, their potential contribution to the realization and implementation of the SDGs is vital. This potential however is undermined by various challenges; a limited number of (qualified) employees, scarcity of collaboration between the SMEs, governments and higher education institutions, limited access to finance, lack of knowledge, skills and tools for business model innovations as well as insufficient marketing and strategic management skills. Moreover, with the overwhelming waves of information available and the general lack of expertise compared to larger companies, the SMEs face uneasiness in identifying how they can contribute to the SDGs realization. That being said, it has been proven that there is a wide range of knowledge, educational objectives, capacities and skills development methods implemented within educational initiatives frameworks which can successfully help in filling this substantial gap and achieving the SDGs by 2030. Accordingly, attaining the SDGs requires a much more responsible policy and a much stronger public consensus, association and dialogue with all stakeholders including government, businesses, civil society and higher educational institutes (Belyaeva, Lopatkova, 2020).

In accordance with the EU adherence to the realization and implementation of the SDGs, education is recognized to be one of the main catalysts of overcoming the above-mentioned challenges and attaining sustainable development. Accordingly, several European initiatives are focusing on global partnership and cooperation in this field.

Being one of these initiatives, the EU-funded Erasmus+ project TOO4TO aims at enhancing the knowledge, skills, and capabilities of (future) employees and managers and providing them with a working-life oriented educational tool for promoting sustainable development. This, consequently, will help in addressing the challenges faced by the SMEs in incorporating the SDGs; given that the gap between businesses and higher education institutions will be bridged, employees will be more qualified and informed, and sustainability and innovation will be more integrated in the study programs to help lessen the lack of knowledge on that front.

Thus, if the challenges mentioned previously vanquish and the SMEs engage with the SDGs successfully at the local level, that can help in increasing the global sustainability and the SMEs can contribute about 60% of the sustainable development targets (ITC, 2019).

Written by Ashrakat Ashraf Fouda, Global Impact Grid

References:

Belyaeva, Z., & Lopatkova, Y. (2020). The Impact of Digitalization and Sustainable Development Goals in SMEs’ Strategy: A Multi-Country European Study. Palgrave Studies In Cross-Disciplinary Business Research, In Association With Euromed Academy Of Business, 15-38. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-45835-5_2

COVID-19 Private Sector Global Facility announced at SDG Business Forum. (2020). Retrieved 14 May 2021, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/news-room/press-releases/2020/pwc-joins-global-private-sector-facility.html

International Trade Centre. (2019). SME competitiveness outlook 2019: Big money for small business – Financing the sustainable development goals. ITC, Geneva. Retrieved from http://www.intracen.org/publication/smeco2019/

User guide to the SME Definition. (2005). Retrieved 14 May 2021, from https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/conferences/state-aid/sme/smedefinitionguide_en.pdf


[1] https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2013-09-05/secretary-generals-remarks-g20-working-dinner-sustainable

[2] https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/key/date/2021/html/ecb.sp210301_1~ab924b7e65.en.html