Scotland’s International Development Alliance (simply known as ‘the Alliance’) brings together a wide array of organisations that are united by a commitment to a fairer world, free from poverty injustice and environmental threats. Typically, this has been seen as the proviso of charities and NGOs, but increasingly there is interest from businesses in understanding their impact and in enacting purposeful business models. The Alliance’s new CEO, Frances Guy, is determined to capitalise on this interest.
Frances has had a singularly impressive career: as a diplomat, she represented the UK Government as Ambassador to Yemen and Lebanon, she was the UN Women’s Representative in Iraq, and most recently was based in Jordan as gender team leader in the United Nations Development Programme regional office.
2021 saw Frances return home to Scotland and a new role heading up the Alliance. It comes at an important time for Frances and for the organisation: COP26 is an opportunity to showcase the incredible work of the Alliance’s members, to build support for their future work, and to capitalise on Frances’ experience in the international policy and diplomatic arenas to advance the profile of the Alliance and to make a positive step-change for climate change mitigation.
For Frances, it is simply not possible to talk about climate change without, at the very least, acknowledging the impact our actions have on others beyond our border. The international development community is highly attuned to these impacts but, she argues, so should the business community.
There is power in recognising that our path to prosperity has created, and continues to create, a lot of carbon emissions. We cannot continue down that path, nor can others in countries far from Scotland. Rather, we need to find a way to help others to prosperity whilst not having the same carbon impact that we have had. To do so means changing our behaviour but it also means developing, implementing, and scaling new technology – which is both exciting and necessitates some serious cross-learning.
For example, mobile phone transmitters across Africa have typically been powered by diesel generators. There is now a commitment from the telecoms giants that within the next five years these transmitters will be powered entirely by renewable energy. This is a very short-term commitment. It is also a highly unusual one in part because this is a short-term, unilateral commitment from multiple countries and companies, and in part because some telecoms companies are looking at how to implement this commitment in a more innovative way.
Rather than simply install new renewable energy sources just for the phone transmitters, the telecoms companies are working in conjunction with development organisations, like the United Nations development programme but also local charities to link up micro-grid electricity to power local villages as well as transmitters and, as part of a commitment to gender equality, to work with groups of women to manage the micro-grids to guarantee the supply.
Such partnerships are truly transformative. This way of working demonstrates how innovative technology works at scale, and is also an example of how, imaginative implementation strategies can help reduce inequalities, secure livelihoods, and transform communities.
Leadership, to Frances, is about inspiration: we can and should feed off others’ inspiration and learn from most diverse areas of the world. This is the future; after all, if we don’t deal with climate change, we lose our planet, and the businesses that adapt the quickest are going to thrive.
The Alliance is keen to engage with the business community and welcome new members. So, if you’re looking to make a positive impact in low income communities, and help enact a fairer future, then the Alliance’s door is yours to knock on.
Learn from others. Learn from those in different communities, different sectors, different countries and different businesses to you. Don’t assume that we know it all – innovation abounds in places that we may not expect it to.
Developing new, green technology is amazing. How you install and manage that technology for long term sustainability can also be amazing. The example from the telecoms companies shows just how positive a difference it is possible to make when working in partnership with others and having a commitment to communities.
Did you know that Scotland is a member of the ‘Under2 Coalition’? This is a group of state and regional governments that are committed to keeping global temperature rises well within 2°C. And have you ever heard of the UN Global Compact? It’s a voluntary initiative from the UN that over 12,000 CEOs committed to sustainability. Familiarising yourself with policies and initiatives like this can help inform you and push for greater change.
It is a massive challenge to reduce our emissions but to do so we must be optimistic and all commit to changing our individual and organisational ways. We all need to analyse our impact: go beyond what you think is just necessary to reduce your emissions There are a lot of resources available to help analyse your impact and there are also a lot of organisations that could be a great partnership to help you develop alternative ways of doing business.
The Alliance has brought together an online photo exhibition to tell the stories of people on the front line of climate change and what this really means for them. Listening to these stories demonstrates that what we do in the more developed world affects people everywhere. If you need to see a reason why you should be make the shift to a net zero business, https://facingthecrisis.scot/ is a good place to start.