2015: Year Zero of Sustainable Development?

Published: Feb. 17, 2016

By Esben Alslund-Lanthén of Sustania for Thompson Reuters Foundation News

About Powering Agriculture

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that increase agriculture productivity and stimulate low carbon economic growth in the agriculture sector of developing countries to help end extreme poverty and extreme hunger.

While the term sustainable development was coined some 35 years ago, COP21 and the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) can prove to be the turning point for a global sustainable transition. But the transition requires skillful entrepreneurship and development of scalable business models to deliver on the triple bottom line. Sustainia is now looking for sustainable solutions for the SDGs.

Peter Kimani is a Kenyan small hold farmer. With the income from his farm in Ngecha, Northwest of Nairobi, he is able to support his family. Until a few years ago, Peter did not have an irrigation system, which made his farming entirely dependent on the rainfall in the region. Peter’s annual income amounted to USD 600. This changed once he decided to invest in one of SunCulture’s irrigation systems. The possibility of watering crops multiplied Peter’s production and today Peter Kimani and his family have an annual income of more than USD 18,000.

SunCulture was one of 10 finalists for the Sustainia Awards 2015. The company has developed a sun-powered drip irrigation system that works by pumping water up into an elevated tank from where the water is distributed directly to the roots of the crops. SunCulture delivers savings of up to 80 percent water while quadrupling crop yield. Through a partnership with a bank, SunCulture offers attractive loans making the system more affordable for small holding farmers.

Sustainia is on the lookout for solutions for the SDGs

The belief that the right business model can create lasting development is the idea behind SunCulture. By selling an irrigation system to a farmer like Peter Kimani—instead of providing the systems through aid, for example—SunCulture is responsible and dependent on providing the exact service Peter needs. With 1.4 billion people living in rural poverty, there is an urgent need for business model innovation across sectors and industries to support the sustainable development.

The UN’s 17 SDGs create meaningful aspiration and are setting the world on a sustainable trajectory towards 2030. When examining how SunCulture impacts the SDGs, the business model addresses several of the goals, i.e. putting an end to hunger, creating inclusive economic growth and fighting poverty. There is an urgent need for business model innovation across sectors and industries to support the sustainable development in rich and poor countries alike.

For 2016, the solutions referenced in the Sustainia100 will be evaluated on their impact on the SDGs in order to inspire business, society and citizens to take joint action in rich and poor countries alike. To find the best sustainable solutions for the SDGs, Sustainia has launched a campaign, running to 2 March, where you can submit a solution for the Sustainia100. You may also be in with a chance of being a finalist for the Sustainia Award.

The SDGs create new global markets

According to the Global Opportunity Report by Monday Morning Global Institute and DNV GL, the re-thinking of business models will play a major role in achieving the SDGs and businesses will increasingly take on the role as ‘the new activist’. But a shift in business conduct will not suffice and governments must get on board and create regulation that pushes for, rather than hinders, sustainable development.

With the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, 2015 saw the greatest opportunity yet to take climate action and to shift the world toward sustainable development, and now is the time for entrepreneurs all over the world to innovate and scale business models to ensure that 2015 is remembered in history as the turning point for sustainable development.

You can submit solutions to the 2016 Sustainia100 here: http://www.sustainia.me/submission-form

Related News & Events: 
Jul. 20, 2017

SunCulture's founders, Charles Nichols and Samir Ibrahim, started SunCulture by borrowing money from friends and family. Now their irrigation are changing farmers' lives. Find out more about their business, vision and philosophy in this Q&A with How We Made It in Africa.

Jul. 6, 2017

SunCulture is one of this year's Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative (AAI) grant winners! Working with Microsoft, SunCulture plans to build a digital platform for farmers that will provide data on crops that's been collected from connected sensors and cameras in the field.

Apr. 24, 2017

SunCulture was chosen as a New Energy Pioneer by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This is an especially big feat, since this year there were 170 applicants—a record number. Winners were honored at the New Energy Finance Future of Energy Summit in New York. Congratulations to everyone at SunCulture!