Our Mission

To inspire the business community to act, invest in and learn about Sustainability, by presenting issues and solutions from entrepreneurs and businesses, who are directly addressing sustainability today.

We strongly believe that Entrepreneurs are the driving force for change. Sustasia is the platform where entrepreneurs come together to educate themselves and discuss the current business issues, challenges and solutions surrounding sustainability today. This forum endeavors to inspire efforts and encourage thoughtful analysis on the status quo of business today, and its impact on the global environment.

Equality – Why Sustainability REALLY matters… ~ April 14th, 2011 by deepak.m

When talking about sustainability, the focus is on primarily on clean energy, carbon and the environment.  While all this is tremendously important, I want to bring into this word a much larger definition.  Its  about the direct repercussions of our ‘business as usual ‘ life; this added dimension is the heart of the reason for my interest in sustainability.

As I watch on the news, the brave people fight and literally die for change in the Middle East and the recent hunger strikes and demonstrations in India against corruption, I can’t help but connect the dots, with how ‘business as usual’ is suffocating and unfairly penalizes billions of people, in the same way that the environment is treated.  I have heard so many arguments that businesses shouldn’t care about sustainability, that its not their function; but I question this – I ask, ‘What allows me to do business so easily while others are disadvantaged?  Is it because I’m smarter or better?’ No.  More often than not, its because I work in places with easier business laws or, in effect, I work in places where the low wages, lack of transparency, lack of safety, etc, are ‘outsourced’ to other countries.

Sustainability ultimately is about equality – thats what it means to me.  Warren Buffet is famously quoted as saying that he has had his opportunities due to the ‘luck of the ovarian lottery’, born at the right place at the right time.  The majority of us arrogantly assume that their wealth or their status is due to their hard work.  We all need to study history, with an open mind, and look at the world in snippets of 10, 20, 50 yrs, and put where we are and why we have done what we have done, in perspective.  An excellent book to put our own national identities in perspective is Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond.  The world has evolved by some effort and a lot of luck, in my opinion.

The world is in an interesting point of its history today.  We have large numbers (billions) of relatively young people, who are educated, connected and globally aware and furthermore, more people are living in cities than in the country, which means they have better access to information.  They are all demanding a better quality of life – that doesn’t mean just the environment, but means access to opportunities too.    All this equates to demands for equality – opportunities for all, not just the privileged.

I digress.  My point is that once we start applying the same standards that we expect from ourselves to everything we do in life, as we are demanding about the environment, then the goal of true Sustainability will be achieved.

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Johan Rockstrom: Let the environment guide our development ~ October 9th, 2010 by deepak.m

TED TALK – Human growth has strained the Earth’s resources, but as Johan Rockstrom reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine “planetary boundaries” that can guide us in protecting our planet’s many overlapping ecosystems. (From TED)

This fascinating talk puts together the many subtle and often obtuse global environmental issues, into a manageable and digestable, thought framework.  - Deepak

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Beer and Soda ~ October 9th, 2010 by deepak.m

sustainable beer?

Look closely at these two trucks.  A common site around the world.  The green one (behind the red one) transports Carlsberg beer, and the red one transports sodas, this one, from Coca cola.  These refillable barrels are sent to pubs and restaurants all over the world, and plugged into their taps.  Imagine the millions of kilos of packaging material that has been saved using this system!  It is a system that been tried and tested, and more importantly, managed by the manufacturer or their distributor.

Other companies, in their attempts to reduce waste and green their businesses, have attempted similar refill concepts.  The primary goal is to cut down on the packaging waste that is caused by disposable or daily use products.  The Bodyshop is one large orgnaised company that attempted this, way back in the 1990’s and it wasn’t a success.  Most marketers and product companies now realize that it was a failure because the onus was on the consumer to remember to bring a bottle to re-fill each time.  This won’t work.  It boils down to one word, convenience, which is the basis of consumerism in developed, affluent and rich societies. This is why this image is so interesting.

Seems we DO have a working system to manage the refill process. Why is this system successful?  It is because it is managed by the corporate.  There is no responsibility on the end consumer to do anything except enjoy the product.

I believe that this will be a new type of industry created, where teams of people especially around cities, will work work with either large brands or with the supermarkets, chain stores, etc, purely to manage the refill systems for the end consumers.  It is the only solution to reduce the dumping of wasteful, used-once packaging, thereby easing the damage we’re doing to our planet.

See my earlier article – Retailers must do more!

- Deepak

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A greener blueprint for industry – FT.com ~ July 18th, 2010 by deepak.m

An excellent article from the Financial Times, May 20th, 2010 issue, discussing the recent accessibility of The Cradle to Cradle design system.

“Different methods to assess the ecological friendliness of products and proceses pose a big challenge for business – Peter Marsh”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d0df2f02-6370-11df-a844-00144feab49a.html

Cradle to Cradle Design System

Cradle to Cradle Design System

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The (LED) light in my head went on. ~ June 2nd, 2010 by deepak.m

Today, in my hotel room in Bangalore, India, I noticed that the bulb in my bedside table lamp was a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.  The CFL bulb was a vast improvement from the old (can I call them old now?) incandescent light bulbs, in terms of energy efficiency and durability.  But now even the CFLs are being replaced by a new technology, the LED light technology, which is even better.

This got me thinking.  LED light technology is rapidly advancing and is proving its superiority over the CFL bulbs and its only a matter of time before everyone responds in a big way, to replace the CFL bulbs. Hundreds of millions of bulbs may be replaced, with many companies, looking to push their green agenda, taking this route to energy efficiency.

See some old articles about CFL bulbs and how companies replaced the old technology at the time:
Wal-Mart Pledges to Sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescents in ‘07 – Greenbiz.com – 2007
How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World? One. And You’re Looking At It. – Fastcompany.com – 2006

This poses a conundrum.  While any new technology will show its tremendous benefits, in this particular case, in energy efficiency, the environmental replacement costs are huge – we need to dispose of the old technology to replace it with the new one.  In many instances, the CFL bulbs are made with mercury in them – very dangerous.  What’s the solution?

Well, I think you can see where I’m going with this.  What if all technology was designed to be completely or partially recycled?  This would solve the problem of waste caused by technological obsolecence.  Imagine if all those old TVs, computers, mobile phones, etc, could all be recycled?  WOW, now we’re getting somewhere.

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Transparency: Which Countries Invest the Most in Alternative Energy? ~ May 30th, 2010 by deepak.m

An article and infographic from GOOD in collaboration with OPEN.   Very revealing! Click on picture to view the flash file and link to the article.

transparency

What is GOOD? GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006 we’ve been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn.

What is OPEN? Open is an independent design studio that creates rewarding experiences for people who look, read, and think.

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Ben Cohen – Founder of Ben and Jerry’s – on responsible business – Economist Interview ~ May 27th, 2010 by deepak.m

A great interview from a great businessman.  Some notable quotes:

” business is now the most powerful force in the world…a recent phenomenon”
” Ben and Jerry’s will purchase all of its ingredients on a fair trade basis ”
” a business can meet the needs of society and make a profit at the same time”

Thanks to The Economist for this video.

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What sort of city do we want Hong Kong to be? – Maggie Brooke ~ May 27th, 2010 by deepak.m

A recent Letter to the Editor in the South China Morning Post, by Margaret (Maggie) Brooke, who has just joined Sustasia’s board of advisors.

The “updated” branding of Hong Kong announced recently has triggered wider debate as to what are Hong Kong’s aspirations as a city and what is our vision for the future?  Whilst having blue and green ribbons on our logo to represent blue sky and a sustainable city is all well and good, has the government or the community really any idea of how we will achieve these objectives or whether, based on current governance and legislative constraints, we can in fact ever do so?

A sustainable city is more than just “green” buildings, improved air quality and a reduced carbon footprint, welcome though these objectives might be – rather it is a way of life, an attitude, even a philosophy.  This is what makes “sustainability” difficult for many to understand and why governments find it so challenging to embrace, involving as it does long term comprehensive strategic city planning and management policies on the one hand and a series of complex, diverse, detailed and location based action plans which resolve specific but integrated issues on the other.

“Sustainability” as a concept is the only way forward given the need to address climate change and the practical implications that this will bring even if tackled on an international basis now with both commitment and determination.  So how should a city start on the path to true sustainability (which in this context might be defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”)?

First and foremost there needs to be commitment to a vision, a goal which, although expressed succinctly, is understandable and accepted by the both Government and the community as the long term target.  This vision should then be expanded so the government and community can agree of what it means to be a sustainable city and a road map should be drawn up showing how such a vision will be delivered.  Significant improvement in air quality and circulation, a high quality built environment, improved energy efficiency, a reduced carbon footprint, more greening and a better street environment, continuing improvements in the area of public transport together with development of a circular economy, improved water quality, reduction in the heat island effect, a climate change impact policy – all these areas need to be addressed as well as the maintenance of our internationally based economy, our relevance and competitiveness, and our international appeal as a tourism destination .

In many ways these are all separate issues but at the same time they are all interdependent so that before tackling any one of them a matrix of interrelationships needs to be created so that no policy or action in one area will have unexpected and unfortunate implications in others.   In Hong Kong it is likely that such a matrix will show that changes in some specific areas of legislation – the Town Planning Ordinance, the Building (Planning) Regulations for example, or the way in which the Government funds projects and their ongoing maintenance and management will require more than one amendment as they underlie several of the key challenges to becoming a truly sustainable city.

It is appreciated that such a broad based and fully integrated development strategy is challenging to envision and even more challenging to capture and define so that a robust delivery mechanism with specific, interlinking plans of action and realistic targets and milestones can be drawn up.  However, if Hong Kong is truly going to reflect its “updated” branding, this is a necessity as blue skies and genuine sustainability are not going to be achieved unless appropriate policies and supporting legislation are in place and such a strategy has the support and buy-in of both the community at large as well as all sections of Government.

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Project Kaisei – Guest Article ~ May 10th, 2010 by deepak.m

I had the pleasure of connecting with Doug Woodring, founder of Project Kaisei, that I have written about here.  I am copying his email below.

Project Kaisei was launched about 18 months ago to focus on the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean. We started from Hong Kong and San Francisco simultaneously, thus bringing a different angle to an environmental cause, as we were approaching it from both sides of the Pacific, and in fact, both sides causing the problems. Project Kaisei (”Ocean Planet” in Japanese and the name of our namesake tall ship) really represents a wake-up call to what we have been doing since the proliferation of plastic use, which has been growing significantly since the 1980s. Unfortunately, no one country or user is to blame. We all are, whether land-locked or bordering the sea. The North Pacific Gyre is thousands of square miles in size, and shows us that there actually is “no away.” Away is in our ocean, and now the ocean is telling us that it is saturated from our pollutants, and enough is enough. The ocean tries to tell us this by washing plastic onto all of our beaches, killing marine life, and impacting the ecosystem as all sizes of life mistake plastic for food at some point in their quest for food. When this happens in small doses, we don’t notice it, just like smoking, or breathing air pollution – but it gets us in the end.

Project Kaisei is building global awareness to draw attention to the issue, not only of plastic in the ocean, but how we are using, or mis-using it on land. Roughly 90% of all plastic produced does not get recycled. This should be seen as an opportunity. Approximately 50% of what is used is for disposable products – things that get used for maybe only 30 seconds, but which can last hundreds of years. Is this necessary?

Project Kaisei is forming a global collaborative effort to bring together science, technology, innovation, policy and education to help come up with solutions that can clean up some of what is in the ocean, but also prevent it from getting there in the first place. This includes new remediation technologies that can turn plastic into fuels, or new degradable materials that can at least limit the harm done to the ecosystem if the products find their way to nature. We are already matching new materials to large multinational companies, and helping to shorten time to market lifecycle of products and technologies that are needed today, not tomorrow, to start bringing solutions. If one leader in an industry changes, others will follow. For the leaders who change, and are part of Project Kaisei, all can benefit from the global publicity that our project is generating. The world wants to know who is helping. This is a big opportunity for companies that can see the light. Come join us, if you are one of them, and spread the word to those who are, if you know of any who can help us “right” some of the wrongs that have been happening on our watch, without us even knowing it.

Doug Woodring
Co-Founder/Director
Project Kaisei – www.projectkaisei.org
Hong Kong

Bird filled with plastic - they confuse it for food

Bird filled with plastic - they confuse it for food

(photo credit to Chris Jordan)

Google Earth Hero : http://www.google.com/earth/changetheworld/#a

Project Kaisei – August Expedition, on the New Horizon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwZxg5HPV8g

I would like to add another video, from TED.com, by jeremy Jackson, titled: How we wrecked the ocean.  I am amazed by our lack of awareness and inability to change our habits – see this and enlighten yourself further.  May 05, 2010 —  In this bracing talk, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse. Astonishing photos and stats make the case.

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A Look Inside the Most Sustianable Company on earth – Interface ~ May 10th, 2010 by deepak.m

An interview by Marc Gunther, Senior Writer of GreenBiz.com, with Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface.

Mr. Anderson is famous for proving and creating awareness for, the business case for sustainability. I had briefly written about him when I launched Sustasia.com here.

His company is a successful global manufacturer of carpet tiles, which in the majority of peoples minds would seem to be a very old fashioned business. This is intriguing as most of the companies here in Hong Kong / China are old fashioned manufacturers, and therefore his example is extremely relevant to us.

The interview is ‘real’, i.e., he is very matter of fact about the challenges and difficulties in creating a sustainable enterprise. His company is still evolving but the business community at large can learn form his example. Read more about what his company is doing – http://www.interfaceglobal.com/Sustainability.aspx

Quote:
…there’s really only one institution on earth that’s large enough and powerful enough and pervasive enough and wealthy enough to really change all that, and it’s not government and it’s not the church and it’s not education. It is the institution of business and industry, the very institution doing the damage, my institution. So I took all that in. I took it very, very seriously. I made that speech to that little task force and challenged them to lead our company to sustainability and beyond to make interface eventually a restorative company, to put back more than we take from the earth and do good for the earth, not just “no harm.”

This interview was published on October 01, 2009 and can be found here.

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