20 Sep Environmental sustainability leads to economic development

Research has shown that environmental degradation is a critical obstacle to development and economic growth: if the world continues to live on the brink, or outside of its ecological limits, it will be increasingly difficult to achieve prosperity, justice, equity and a healthy life for all. Recently an alarming number of fires in Brazil – half of which are located in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest – have drawn international attention and proven how local environmental issues can affect the entire planet and require coordinated global action.

As the world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, our dependence and impact on the environment will increase issues like climate change, deforestation, desertification, loss of biodiversity, scarcity of natural resources and pollution. This will threaten not only our health, but also our present and future economic growth. Natural and human-made disasters increasingly affect workers’ health, ability to work and employability. In the United States, temperature extremes are predicted to lead to the loss of almost 2 billion labour hours annually by 2090 in the agricultural, construction and other outdoor sectors, costing nearly $160 billion in lost wages, according to a recently released report. Young people are particularly affected and face major decent work deficits worldwide: in 2018, more than 1 in 5 young people were not employed or furthering their skills through education or training (NEET). And the gender gap is clear, with 30% of young women around the world in a NEET situation, more than double the rate for young men (13%).

That is why Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International’s EQWIP HUBs project embraces the need to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, #8 of the Sustainable Development Goals. By offering gender-responsive and environmentally conscious employment and entrepreneurial training for youth in 6 developing countries, we are on a mission to change 100,000 lives by 2020. Together, we are creating resounding, sustainable change.

Case Study: Randu Natural Baby Knitwear

After graduating from the EQWIP HUBs entrepreneurial program in Surabaya, Indonesia, Eka applied for and was awarded a Youth Innovation Fund (YIF) grant. The marketing and financial workshops, mentoring services and funding provided as part of the YIF helped Eka launch her business venture: Randu Natural Baby Knitwear. Randu provides handmade and personalized products for babies and uses only environmentally friendly materials. The threads and yarns are made of naturally dyed cotton, which allows them to biodegrade naturally and without harming the environment. And success is apparent: on average Randu is receiving over 20 orders a month and this number is on the rise. By educating itself and its customers, businesses like Eka’s help demonstrate and encourage sustainable consumption and production practices, all while creating improved, sustainable economic outcomes for young entrepreneurs.

And Eka is not the only young entrepreneur to be inspired to incorporate eco-conscious design and practices through EQWIP HUBs’ environmental workshops. Most of the entrepreneurs supported and funded through the YIF are also tackling environmental challenges. 62% of all YIF recipients identify their businesses as green initiatives.

Local organizations benefit from their partnership with EQWIP HUBs as well. Since the project was launched, in-country partners are reporting an increase of 21% in their ability to include environmental sustainability into their programming. Most partner organizations have also started including environmental conservation in their core planning structures. For example, UNTAG in Indonesia is now working towards an eco-campus certification.

Canadian volunteers help support the environmental and livelihood goals of the EQWIP HUBs project. Environmental Sustainability Officers and Advisors at each HUB help raise awareness and spark innovation among youth participants by leading educational activities and workshops that help participants become aware of their economic footprint and identify green business opportunities.

EQWIP HUBs is powered by two leading international youth agencies, Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International, and is funded, in part, by Global Affairs Canada. As part of Canada’s Volunteer Cooperation Program, EQWIP HUBs seeks to increase the capacity of local partners to provide sustainable and impactful youth programming and enhance Canadians’ participation in, and understanding of, its global development efforts.

Visit Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International to learn more about how they empower young women and men to take charge of their lives and get involved today.