The Evolving Economy

Sustainability: What will your impact be?

As the impact of human activities on the planet continues to rise on the global agenda, sustainable living and responsible investment have become the clarion calls of our time. The latest video in our partnership series with AXA Investment Managers features two innovative SMEs, Entocycle and TerraCycle, meeting the sustainability challenge head-on through pioneering work in the global food system and recycling sectors, respectively.  

The Earth’s population is expected to increase from nearly 7.7 billion today to almost 10 billion by 2050, according to U.N. forecasts. This considerable, 30 percent expansion, is happening as the world’s agricultural systems combat increasing water scarcity and dwindling land resources.

Finding new ways to provide nutritious food to nearly 10 billion people by 2050 without destroying our planet is one of the greatest leadership opportunities of our generation, according to a report by the World Bank and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for the 2019 World Economic Forum.

The report notes how the global food system is the least disrupted sector in terms of technology, policy and business-model innovation. It highlights how the sector lags far behind energy and health, in attracting commercial investment, as well as public and philanthropic capital. Food is rarely a top priority for policy makers, yet its impact on the well-being of people and the planet is unsurpassed.

One company aiming to make a difference is Entocycle. Launched in 2014, the company stated mission is to develop the world’s most efficient and sustainable way to produce protein and the firm’s insect farm produces environmentally friendly insect protein to feed farm animals.

Founder and CEO Keiran Olivares Whitaker explains how the farming and fishing industries currently rely on two main sources of protein: soy and fishmeal. By farming insects to turn organic waste into animal feed, Entocycle has produced a more sustainable source of protein. The company harnesses automation and “machine vision” to enable it to operate at scale.

“We’re facing a protein challenge. We need to feed a much larger, growing population, and a population that is shifting, on a global scale, to eating more meat,” says Whitaker.

“We tear down rainforests and we dredge the oceans empty. We can’t keep doing things the same way. We need an engineering revolution that enables us to go back to a more natural food system. The farmers of tomorrow are the engineers of today.”

Recycling for Tomorrow

Recycling is another essential part of creating sustainable living and in preserving the planet’s biodiversity. We have never had such a good understanding of the importance of responsible consumption and the impact that consumer waste is having on the environment. The U.N. reports that an estimated 900 metric tons of plastic waste enters our oceans every hour.

One group, TerraCycle, has been working for the last 18 years toward the goal of “eliminating the idea of waste” by recycling the “non-recyclable.” Laure Cucuron, General Manager, TerraCycle Europe, says a greater awareness of the mounting sustainability challenges has produced more inquiries and more positive action from both the public and multinationals. 

Whether it’s coffee capsules from homes or offices, pens from a school or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility, TerraCycle can collect and recycle almost any form of waste. The U.S. based company now has operations in 20 different countries, and partners with major consumer product companies, retailers, manufacturers, municipalities and small businesses.

TerraCycle’s latest innovation for spring 2019 is an e-commerce platform, called Loop, that offers zero-waste packaging options for some of the world’s favorite consumer products. Major partners include P&G, Unilever, Nestle, PepsiCo, Mondelez, Coca-Cola and Danone. Together they hope to reinvent how everyday essentials are packaged. 

“Technically, everything is recyclable,” says Laure Cucuron, General Manager, TerraCycle Europe. “What is very good about single-use plastic is the convenience. TerraCycle is currently working on solutions to keep this convenience but with durable packaging. Instead of single-use, it can be used hundreds of times.”

Cucuron believes that the march toward greater responsibility among corporations, and awareness in responsible consumption among individuals is not a trend, but a new way of thinking.

“We don’t realize the power that we have when we purchase products,” she says. “Every time we purchase a product, we actually make a vote for the future. Preferring a product that has a positive impact is actually a vote for a better climate.”


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