From clean energy to gender equality, these innovators are changing the world

Workers clean solar panels at Noor III near the city of Ouarzazate, Morocco, November 4, 2016. Picture taken November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal - S1AEULCGPCAA

Clean, affordable energy is one of the major development goals as defined by the United Nations. Image: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Erica Viegas
Partnerships Manager, Forum Foundations, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit

From using local trash to fuel cities, to creating climate investment funds, to helping new mothers break glass ceilings, young people are proving that there are many different approaches to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. On September 24 and 25, Young Global Leaders—a peer network of next-generation innovators and thought leaders—will gather in New York to add their voices to sessions and workshops at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit. Their aim is to find new partners and mentors to further grow their projects. These leaders are inspiring others to think creatively about their social impact, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals:

Resourcefulness, resilience, and grit: three words that Zubaida Bai says mothers exemplify. “The opportunity of entrepreneurship should be open to all. Women, no matter where they come from, the color of their skin, or their maternal choices, should have access to capital. They should be judged on the strength of their ideas, and their ability to deliver,” she says. Through the launch of the Happy Woman Foundation, she empowers women to achieve success and wield public influence, with real resources and financial support to remove barriers. Her “Endow, Educate, Elevate” model is already yielding capital support that will impact 100,000 women by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, Gaurav Mehta’s Dharma Life is using a tech-reliant finance framework to help donor organizations fund female entrepreneurs, with the twin goals of sourcing income and raising women’s status in society.

Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2017, World Economic Forum

Addis Ababa is home to Africa’s first waste-to-energy facility, the Reppie project. Here Samuel Alemayehu and his company, Cambridge Industries, convert 420,000 tonnes of municipal waste a year into 185GWh of electricity—supplying power to more than 30% of the city’s households. This eco-friendly model will expand to three more African cities by the end of this year, replacing massive garbage landfills that would otherwise release toxins into rivers and methane into the air. In Morocco, Mustapha Mokass is helping his home country harness the power of solar and wind energy. In 2011, he founded the sustainability advisory and investment firm BEYA Capital, based in Casablanca, which specializes in climate and carbon finance.

91 percent of the world’s population live among pollution levels that exceed World Health Organization guidelines, with disastrous consequences for the health and life expectancy of children in particular. Through the Clear Air Fund, Jane Burston is connecting resources from funders interested in climate change, children and health to tackle the issue. This new institution will deploy philanthropic capital to a variety of projects, including monitoring the state of the air, developing policies for clean energy and transport, mobilizing the public, and supporting communications campaigns.

Others are helping organizations take more responsibility to tackle climate change. Jaime Nack runs Three Squares Inc., a sustainability consulting firm that creates comprehensive sustainability plans and training for corporate entities, government agencies, and academic institutions, ensuring that even the largest events and concerts meet the gold standard of sustainability.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala launched the Pristine Seas project to protect 20 of the ocean’s wildest places by 2020. These areas offer a glimpse of what the ocean looked like before boating, fishing, pollution and travel took their toll. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 13 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of over 4.5 million square kilometers.

Chef David Hertz is a driving force behind the Social Gastronomy Movementin Brazil and worldwide. This movement uses the power of food to bridge inequality and encourage the hospitality sector, food industry, and health systems to become more sustainable. His latest project involves launching hubs in major cities that will help to cut food waste, provide skills training for the food industry and promote food education - including raising awareness that great produce doesn’t need to look picture-perfect to be delicious.

In an effort to “make public service a force for good”, Lindiwe Mazibuko, former South African Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader, is launching the Apolitical Academy. It’s a bootcamp for young people (aged 25-40) who want to turn their civic-mindedness into an ethical life. Teaming up with other Young Global Leaders, she aims to dismantle bad models and empower concerned youth to address issues like corruption with personal integrity and morality, regardless of their political ideologies. Speechwriting, fundraising, and media training are all part of her curriculum.

The former South African Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader is launching the Apolitical Academy. Image: Lindiwe Mazibuko

These are a few of the many examples of how Young Global Leaders are driving themselves—and encouraging others—to do more and be more. While working toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, they continue to forge change and design creative solutions. Follow their work using #SDI18 on Facebook or Twitter.

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Related topics:
LeadershipSocial InnovationSustainable DevelopmentEnergy TransitionEquity, Diversity and InclusionNature and BiodiversityEducation and Skills
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