Managing Director of Yunus Environment Hub Christina Jäger sat down with Professor Abdul Hannan Chowdhury to talk about the work of the Yunus Environment Hub during the tenth episode of the Yunus Centre web lecture series.
Prof. Muhammad Yunus himself opened the session. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate reminded everyone to use the revelations the year 2020 has brought in the upcoming year to tackle the worsening problem of climate change. His excitement for the Yunus Environment Hub actively promoting the social business methodology for this purpose was apparent.
Moderator Professor Abdul Hannan Chowdhury eloquently led through the session as Christina Jäger shared her experiences and gave insights into different projects run by the Yunus Environment Hub. The Co-Founder and Managing Director explained the process of creating the Yunus Environment Hub as a spin-off from the Grameen Creative Lab. Initial workshops on Circular Economy and plastic recycling with Prof. Yunus and his creative advisor Hans Reitz received tremendous feedback and led to the creation of the Plastic Lab, a creative laboratory to raise awareness and design solutions for plastic pollution. Field trips to visit social business entrepreneurs and communities affected by environmental mismanagement followed together with situational analyses and awareness creation activities. All of which laid the foundation upon which the Yunus Environment Hub can now contribute expert knowledge and run various social business programs around the world.
Zero Plastic Waste Cities
One flagship program is the Zero Plastic Waste Cities Program, a modular social business approach to municipal solid waste management. This makes scaling and replication of proven social business solutions feasible to create larger impact. Miss Jäger highlighted that recycling efforts are vital to a more circular economy but merely one step of many to move away from the current take-make-dispose paradigm. Keeping materials circling within the biological or technical cycle as long as possible and avoiding production of unnecessary plastic in the first place must be addressed and form an integrated approach. Here, social businesses play an important role, as they put the problem in the focus while ensuring better working conditions employees and stakeholders such as waste pickers who are responsible for large parts of recycled materials in many developing countries.
Shifting focus to the Yunus Environment Hub efforts in Colombia, Miss Jäger explained the strong connection between peacebuilding efforts in the country and environmental protection. Lack of environmental rights, climate change and production of illicit crops all hold potential for conflict. In this context, the Yunus Environment Hub has actively supported social business entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector with a focus on formalizing job opportunities and creating access to markets in rural and remote settings. A recent Social Business Idea Competition for Colombian Students has raised awareness around the methodology to create innovative solutions for a green recovery from the current pandemic in Colombia. Webinars, individual mentoring and a final pitch day with over 130 participants supported the early-stage entrepreneurs in developing and growing their ideas.
Past success and future challenges
Previous success stories include the collaboration with private actor BNP Paribas. Through a social business intrapreneurship program, Yunus Environment Hub helped set up social business spin-offs led by BNP Paribas employees such as ClimateSeed – a platform to offset unavoidable carbon emissions in SDG-related projects of your choosing and GreenOn, which aims to improve energy efficiency for French companies looking to renovate their office buildings.
For the upcoming years, Christina Jäger sees the main challenges and societal responsibilities in decarbonizing our economies and reversing biodiversity losses. This is only possible through extensive collaboration. Yunus Environment Hub is a platform to connect different stakeholders and their interests. By contributing its expert knowledge on social business, it can act as a catalyst for change through new innovative solutions.