Jan 3 2017

Goodbye from the LSE Sustainability Blog

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The LSE Sustainability Blog has come to an end and we will no longer be publishing new posts on this site. However, you can still explore our blog posts or visit our website for more information about sustainability at LSE.

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May 4 2016

The secret lives of the LSE bees

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Lucy Woods joins LSE Beekeeping society on one of their weekly visits to the LSE Bees bees picand reports back on what she learnt. 

In London’s rare afternoon sun, urban beekeeper Claire Ratinon leads a small group of curious visitors, covered head-to-toe in protective gear, around three bee hives on the roof of LSE’s Connaught house.

First, Claire warns not to stand in front of the hives. Bees can travel over 20 miles per hour, making 3,000 trips pollen foraging trips and nectar a day. With each hive home to 50 – 100,000 bees, it’s best not to get in their way.

Travelling up to 3 miles from home, bees navigate with an internal GPS. Bees use the position of the sun and the earth’s magnetic field bees to know where they are in relation to their hive.

Safe from whizzing bees, Claire then passes the ‘bee smoker’ to a volunteer. Bees communicate by releasing lots of different pheromones. The ‘bee smoker’ is a hand operated, steam punk-looking, funnel and pump machine for wafting smoke into hives, which prevents bees from smelling an alarm pheromone, keeping the hive calm.

Almost every member of the hive is female. The queen bee controls the sex of each baby bee, making a handful of male ‘drone’ bees from unfertilised eggs, with all fertilised eggs becoming female ‘worker’ bees. The worker bees receive 75% of their genes from the queen bee, making the hive a family of super-sisters.

To find out more, volunteers study the hive’s bottom board; a wood chip board, pulled out from under the hive like a crumb tray from under a toaster. The bottom board is the hive’s dustbin for larvae shells, dirt and unwanted pollen.

From this board, different types of pollen the hive are collecting can be identified. Bees pollinate numerous fruits, vegetables, nuts and crops, with a third of the UK diet dependent on bee pollination. LSE’s hives themselves produce roughly 130 jars of delicious home-made honey, every year.

But one of the most important things to watch out for on the bottom board are varroa mites. A few mites are fine in a big hive, says Claire, but a lot of mites means it’s icing sugar time. If a fatal mite infestation is suspected, bees are sprinkled with icing sugar; bees like to be clean and the sugar encourages them to clean each other, knocking any pesky mites off in the process.

Mite infestations is just one hypothesis for why bees in the West are mysteriously disappearing. Native UK bees have declined since 1950, from 50 species to 25. In the US, the bee decline has even led to a national government strategy.

Former LSE student and LSE Ideas staff, Alexander Soderholm said after meeting the LSE bees, that bees are “related to air pollution and climate change, the whole ecosystem is dependent on bees, [volunteering at the beekeeping society] is such a good cause.”

There are lots of sustainability issues connected to bee populations. Non-native bee species, increased use of insecticides and pesticides, genetically modified crops, loss of habitat, monoculture and bees not adapting to climate change are all reasons speculated to be causing the rise of ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’. But scientists are not quite sure yet why numbers of bees are falling at such a rapid pace.

One way Claire says climate change affected the LSE bees this year, is they foraged earlier than usual due to the unseasonably warm winter in London this December.

Bees only forage for a few weeks at a time before being replaced with a new cycle of younger bees, and only when the temperature is right (spring and summer). If bees go out to forage too early in the year it can be disastrous. The lack of available pollen in winter makes it harder to feed the hive and replenish forage-cycles. Without enough foragers and food, the hive is unlikely to survive long.

As well as pollen, bees collect toxins from plants and flowers sprayed with insecticides when they forage. Large amounts of toxins collected and stored in hives can be fatal. Over the last few years, the European Commission has put different moratoriums, regulations and bans on suspected bee-killers, the class of insecticides called: ‘neonicotinoids’.

beespic2As if changing climates and humans weren’t enough, Claire explains to the volunteers that bees themselves secretly plot to kill each other. When a queen bee is failing, getting old or weak, worker bees conspire to commit regicide. Worker bees hide, and feed, five secret larvae, feeding them larger amounts of royal jelly than is given to normal worker bee larvae. The excess royal jelly creates five rival queen bee-larvae.

The gruesome plot culminates when the first queen bee larvae hatches, stings and kills the other four larvae, and then seeks out the current queen bee for a fight to the death.

“It’s very hard not to anthropomorphize bees!” Claire adds.

Things aren’t much easier for drone bees. The queen bee will fly out of the hive only once to mate with drones. In mid-air, drones compete to mount the queen. But as drone bees exist solely to mate, once the drone’s mission is complete, they die. The queen bee moves onto the next drone, leaving a trail of corpses and storing genetic material to take back to her hive for making baby bees later.

Any drones that don’t give up their lives and genetic codes are banished. With no stings and no foraging abilities like their sister worker bees, drones are shoved out of the hive and left to die so as not to waste honey, says Claire.

The secret hive-lives of conspiracy, toxins, mites, exclusion and sexual suicide takes place on many rooftops in London, with ten urban hives per square kilometre. As well as at LSE, there are hives at the British and Natural History Museums and London Fashion School, with every honeybee hive producing it’s own, unique-tasting honey.  There’s also bee trail, counting bees for citizen science, in King’s Cross.

Asking former student and LSE Ideas staff, Quynh Le Vo if it’s worth visiting the LSE hives, she said: “You’re saving the planet at lunch time! I will definitely come again.”

LSE student or staff? Want to visit LSE Bees? Contact the LSE Beekeeping Society

lucyejwoodsprofileLucy EJ Woods is a journalist specialising in energy and environment. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @lucyejwoods 


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Apr 14 2016

Oxford University Press Blog: Could a tax on animal-based foods improve diet sustainability?

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The global food system is estimated to contribute 30% of total Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In this context, the EU has committed to reducing GHG emissions by 40% relative to 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80% by 2050. Apart from the necessary policies of citizen information and production regulation, could a consumer tax on the most Greenhouse gas-emitting foods be a relevant tool to improve diet sustainability? Could it combine greener and healthier diets with a limited social cost?

Fiscal policies are commonly used in the energy sector to enhance more sustainable options (through a carbon tax in some Nordic countries) or in nutrition to limit the consumption of unhealthy foods . Animal-based products, and in particular livestock, are the highest GHG emitters, and reducing their consumption could bring associated benefits in environment and nutrition. Indeed, red and cooked meat are primary sources of saturated fats, which are related to an increased risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Reducing meat consumption also raises a health inequality issue since these risks place a higher burden on lower socioeconomic populations.

To address these questions, we have drawn two hypothetical environmental fiscal policies, one including and one excluding nutritional concerns. The first step consists of relating the food basket purchased to its GHG emitting potential and to a nutritional score expressing its “degree of healthiness”, (see Figure 1.) The second step consists of conducting an econometric study on food-at-home purchase choices. Changes in food purchased were used to compute the implied changes in environmental (i.e. CO2 for climate change, SO2 for air acidification, N for eutrophication) and nutritional indicators, as well as in food cost. The last step relates to measuring, for two tax scenarios, the impact of changes over four income and four age classes, thus considering equity concerns.


Figure 1 by France Caillavet, Adélaïde Fadhuile, and Véronique Nichèle, used with permission.

We used a French nationally representative survey at the household level to analyse food-at-home purchases from 1998 to 2010. Our work shows that consumers are sensitive to the price of  animal products and that a 20% price increase induces them to restrict their consumption, therefore reducing GHG emissions. However the content of the diet in some essential nutrients linked to animal products is also affected. A first scenario taxing all animal products (meats, fish, animal fats, cheese, other dairy products) reduces emissions by 7.5% for CO2, 14.5% for SO2 and 8.4% for N, but simultaneously degenerates diet quality (-0.3%) (see Figure 2.) In a second tax scenario, the diet adequacy score changes are favourable (+1.2%) when fish and dairy products other than cheese are not affected by the price increase. This second scenario still induces a 7.0% CO2 decrease, as well as 13.2% SO2 and 6.6% N reduction. The carbon reduction represents 99kg CO2 eq/year per household, which is close to the emissions produced by a 700km run with a Renault Clio. Therefore, beneficial synergies between environment and nutrition goals may be achieved through the design of a tax.


Figure 2 by France Caillavet, Adélaïde Fadhuile, and Véronique Nichèle, used with permission.

The main counter argument of a tax is its social cost. The second scenario, which improves the quality of the diet, induces a loss of 4% in the budget for food-at-home consumption, i.e. 61 euros/year per household. This relative impact is smaller than the impact on emissions. However, social equity is also affected; such a tax is regressive. For example, we observe that this tax generates higher losses for the two lower-income groups, particularly for households with middle-aged heads. In a cost-benefit analysis, a higher monetary cost of food for some population groups could be acceptable if it were compensated by higher nutritional effects, but this is not the case; the reduction in nutritional inequalities across households is very limited.

Sustainability is a multidimensional concept and taking into account the environment, nutrition, and social equity dimensions leads to the necessity of trade-offs, as illustrated here in the case of a taxation policy applied to animal-based foods. Some environmental benefits must be exchanged for securing nutritional goals, and there will be some extra cost for the consumer. Therefore, a tax scenario needs to involve a compensatory mechanism. Our results raise two further policy issues. First, the trade-off between environment and nutrition could be improved by using proportional tax rates on both levels of emissions and nutritional contents, on the basis of combined healthy and sustainable guidelines. Second, the loss in purchasing power could be compensated by using the revenue of the tax. A fiscal policy combining subsidies with taxes could address differing nutrient needs and purchasing behaviours among households, as well as equity issues. A price policy is among the more persuasive signals to be addressed to consumers to modify their diet, and can fulfil simultaneously environmental, nutritional and equity goals.

France Caillavet is a Senior Researcher at INRA–UR1303, ALISS, Ivry sur Seine, France. Adélaïde Fadhuile is Assistant Professor at the University of Grenoble–Alpes, INRA–UMR1215, GAEL, Grenoble, France. Véronique Nichèle is an Economist at INRA–UR1303, ALISS, Ivry sur Seine, France. Their article “Taxing animal-based foods for sustainability: environm ental, nutritional and social perspectives in France”  from the European Review of Agricultural Economics is free to read online for a limited period of time. 

This article originally appeared on the Oxford University Press blog on 10 April 2016. See the original post here and follow them on Twitter @OUPAcademic 

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Mar 22 2016

Global Youth at COP21: Video Series

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Fannie Delavelle - small Can innovation outpace climate change? How can cities and business engage in climate action? Is the issue of climate change a crisis of power and inequality?  Is there a trade-off between climate action and economic growth? How has the influence of lobbies such as the oil industry evolved in the last decades? Can innovation outpace the rapidly changing climate? In this video series, ‘Global Youth at COP21’, Fannie Delavelle asks COP participants these questions, and more, sent to her by youth from around the world. 

Last December, 195 countries reached an unprecedented agreement on climate change. Now that three months have passed since this victory, parties are faced with another, perhaps greater challenge: ensuring the implementation of the pledges made at the summit, now that the media spotlight and public attention has moved to other issues.

Bottom up initiatives will be crucial to achieving the goals set by each party, as climate change is a global challenge with local roots. Global youth have become a key actor at the local level, inspiring communities around the world to adopt environmentally friendly ways of living. All over the world, youth initiatives have grown, driven by determined young people eager to support climate action and have their say in COP negotiations.

This eagerness to impact change and be involved in deciding the future of our planet inspired me to set up an initiative aimed at bringing the voice of the global youth to the climate negotiations.

Young people from all around the world were invited to send me questions about climate change. I got lots of replies from every corner of the world: from Ethiopia to China, from Peru to Bulgaria, from the US to Australia, young professionals responded enthusiastically.

During the second week of COP21 in Paris, I asked high-level participants to answer their questions. You can discover the answers in the “Youth voices to COP21” video series, composed of four segments:


Part 1 – The negotiations

Part 2 – Developing countries

Part 3 – Business

Part – 4 Career tips from COP21 participants

These videos highlight the importance of implementing the pledges made at COP21 even as the dust has now settled.

The high-level participants who contributed to the videos include:

  • Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (former Vice President of the World Bank Group and Special Envoy for Climate Change)
  • Fran Pavley, California Senator representing California’s 27th State Senate district
  • Alexis Gazzo, Partner at EY, Cleantech & Sustainability services
  • Bambang Susantono, Vice-President at the Asian Development Bank
  • Clifford Rechtschaffen, Senior advisor for California Governor J. Brown, working on climate, energy, and environmental issues
  • Balgis Osman-Elasha, Climate Change Expert at the Compliance and Safe Guards Division of the African Development Bank
  • John Roome, Senior Director the World Bank Group’s Climate Change Global Practice
  • Joël Pain, Executive Director ‎at EY – EMEIA Sustainable Finance Leader
  • Jonathan Grant, Director at PwC, Sustainability & Climate Change


These videos were made by Fannie Delavelle, who graduated from a dual Master’s degree in International Political Economy between the LSE and Sciences Po Paris. Following a placement at the European Commission, she was appointed trade attachée at the Embassy of France in Washington DC in 2015. Follow her on Twitter @FannieDelavelle or find her on LinkedIn  

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Mar 18 2016

COP21 & the Greening of Paris: Célia Blauel comes to LSE

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“There were some days when I thought: wow, this is so great! There are people from all over the world, coming to Paris, to save the planet.  And then, there were days when I thought: but wait, if this is the twenty-first meeting, what are they doing that it needs twenty-one meetings?!” 12828302_958724254176489_4799014404388482640_o

This is how Célia Blauel, Paris’ Deputy Mayor for Environment describes the lead up to the most monumental climate change event ever held in Paris: COP21.

In an LSE lecture theatre earlier this week, many people sat listening to Blauel’s insights into hosting COP21.

Acting on climate change is “about health improvement, about rebuilding cities for a better quality of life, and tackling energy poverty and creating jobs,” says Blauel.

Since COP21, Paris is “on the road to building a low carbon city,” with a 10-year climate change action plan.

Paris climate policies

Part of the 10-year plan is retrofitting energy-inefficient housing.  Every year, 500 Parisian social houses will be refitted and 1,000 private sector buildings will be given retrofitting advice.

In response to air pollution that has left Paris at a standstill, the city is boosting public transport and cycling.

Paris is also renovating public places, especially tourist attractions, to be car-free, and an electric car sharing system is being introduced.

There is a ‘Restricted Circulation Zone’ being developed so that “the most polluting cars will not have access into Paris anymore, step by step, by 2020 there will be no diesel car access,” says Blauel.

In terms of energy, Paris has 50,000 square metres of solar (PV and thermal) panels installed, and an online ‘solar potential map’ on the way. Paris’s government administration buildings are also “100% green energy now” says Blauel.

Blauel then introduced the audience to something new in the city’s climate change policy: ‘adaption strategy’.

“It is how to live with climate change impacts: drought, floods, and hurricanes.”

In the event of a serious flood, for example, in “just 3-4 days, there would be nothing to eat in Paris!” says Blauel.

Adaption plans include protecting food supplies by linking rural and urban areas for food supply, and rebuilding local production.

Paris has also re-municipalised its water distribution. “Water is a common good; it is not for commercial use; it is for the public,” says Blauel.

On financing climate policy, Blauel says she is “fighting for new rules, outside of the banking system.” To help with finance now, Paris received financial help from the Rockefeller Foundation’s ‘Resilient Cities’ programme.

“When we met [Rockefeller] they wanted to work with us on terror and crime, and I thought: they are American, they see terror everywhere; they are crazy, but they have money so…”

“Then we had Bataclan.”

“For 48 hours I didn’t know how to go on with COP21,” Blauel says. “But the people of Paris are amazing; they were going out the next day.”

After the attacks, there was a temporary ban on public demonstrations, meaning that many marches were cancelled.

Cancelled marches are important when reducing 80% of Green House Gas emissions is dependent on more participatory decision making, says Blauel.

Blauel expressed much frustration during COP21: “we are tired to see you [COP21] negotiate: do something concrete.”

“We should throw out some of the politicians we have now for more courageous people.”

The lecture was then followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

Asked what universities like LSE can do, Blauel replied: “Universities are really interesting, like the 350.org/divestment movement, it got so high, in just 6 months. Then it came to France, it was created and spread.”

“I’m interested in what LSE can give, to take ideas and to be inspired […] to take ideas from wherever.”

Asked what she would do if she found herself in an elevator with London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, Blauel would tell him: “Stop doing what you are doing; stop playing with fire on the EU! It is time to take responsibility, to behave properly.”

Talking to the audience after the event, Darren Gill, an LSE postgraduate student in City Design and Social Science, says: “It is useful to not have technocrats but officials, trying to convince others to think about this and to bridge it to the real world.”

Georgina Knock, a researcher for BUPA and the NHS, says the lecture “Inspired me to get into politics. I had not thought of it before, before I thought I could just help to assist policy makers – but why not be one myself?  I loved it; really inspired and genuine, I really enjoyed it.”

Graham Stevens, chair of Bluegreen UK, says “It was very interesting to hear what Paris is doing – the re-municipalisation of water is incredibly good news, in London we have an Australian bank and Chinese investors looking after our water! I would come to an LSE event again.”

lucyejwoodsprofile Lucy EJ Woods is a freelance journalist specialising in energy and environment. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @lucyejwoods 



This event was organised by LSE Cities and LSE European Institute. Listen to the podcast here.

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Mar 14 2016

Oxford University Press Blog: understanding producers’ motives for adopting sustainable practices

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Why would agricultural producers engage in practices such as conservation, animal welfare, waste management, or organic farming? The literature hints that economic, social, and personal motivations are drivers of adoption. Sustainable practices are welcomed by farmers if there is a potential increase in profitability through more efficient processes, or as a source of differentiation (i.e. labelling). From a social perspective, sustainability has become a license to operate in food supply chains, where long-term viability depends on the fit between firm and society values. In addition, personal motivations are becoming more relevant, since we are undergoing increasing awareness on the importance of sustainability.

Image by Andres Trujillo-Barrera.

Image by Andres Trujillo-Barrera.

This raises the question: how can policy-makers help to increase the likelihood of adoption of sustainable practices by agricultural producers? Should the focus be placed on economic incentives, or on programs that promote awareness and education on the benefits of sustainability? Is it better to emphasize standards, regulations, and enforcement? The design of effective programs that stimulate adoption requires an understanding of producers’ motivations and decision-making processes, besides the analysis of underlying market conditions.

An example of the use of economic incentives can be found in the Netherlands, where the Dutch government offers tax benefits to farmers that obtain a certificate on sustainable livestock practices as part of Maatlat Duurzame Veehouderij (MDV) program. Under MDV, farmers can write off up to 75% of their investment on certified stables. In order to obtain the certificate farmers must comply with strict standards on emissions, energy use, and animal health, among other items. More than 3,500 MDV stables have been built since 2007, making it an important contribution to the Dutch livestock sector.

We have developed a model explaining the relationships between economic, social, and personal expected rewards, and the adoption of sustainable practices. We tested the model by interviewing 164 hog farmersin the Netherlands asking whether they built (or were in the process of building) an MDV stable, their motivations to do so, and their financial risk attitudes. We also evaluated the effect of perceived tax benefits, the size of the farm, and the education level of the farmer.

We found that expected economic rewards and perceived tax benefits were the main drivers for the decision to build a certified stable, while expected social and personal rewards and the level of education of the farmer did not influence the adoption. So why did personal and societal rewards not matter much for Dutch hog farmers? Is that something to be expected for similar industries?

Market conditions for hog farmers in the Netherlands do not differ much from those of many other (agricultural) sectors. In recent years, margins have been low, and the number of farms decreased to almost a half of those seen in the early 2000’s, with most of the small farms exiting the market. On top of a strong competitive environment, an increase in guidelines and policies expected to become legislation soon are driving the decision to adopt sustainable practices. As a result, it is not surprising that farmers focus on tax benefits and other expected economic rewards.

Although tax benefits and tighter legislation seem more persuasive than education under the current market conditions, it is important to highlight that there is room to raise the awareness about benefits and costs of sustainable practices, as well as building clear standards for the stakeholders in the industry, such that an agreement on the value of sustainability can be reached. In that regard, we also find a role for risk attitudes on the decision to adopt. When farmers perceived higher financial risk, their willingness to adopt decreased, while on the other hand more risk-tolerant farmers were more willing to adopt. As such, it is important to educate farmers on the potential financial risk of the investment, and is worth considering a market segmentation approach to policies, such that each policy scheme can be targeted to the risk profile (tolerance) of each group.

Andres Trujillo-Barrera is Assistant Professor of marketing and consumer Behaviour at Wageningen University, Netherlands, Joost M.E. Pennings is Professor of Finance and Marketing at Maastricht University and Wageningen University, Netherlands, and Dianne Hofenk is Marketing Intelligence Analyst at EDM, Netherlands. Their article “Understanding producers’ motives for adopting sustainable practices: the role of expected rewards, risk perception and risk tolerance” in European Review of Agricultural Economics is free to read online for a limited time.

This article originally appeared on the Oxford University Press blog on 02 March 2016. See the original post here and follow them on Twitter @OUPAcademic 

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Mar 4 2016

Hi Naomi – Welcome to LSE Sustainability!

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Hello everybody!


I’m Naomi Alexander-Naidoo and I’ve recently joined LSE as Sustainability Engagement Officer. For those of you who I haven’t met yet, I thought I’d share a little bit about me, what I’ve been up to during my first weeks at LSE and what I’ve got planned for the upcoming months.

I grew up in Oxford and then Glasgow, before moving down to London to do my BA next door at King’s College London (we can still be friends, right?). After that, I spent some time travelling and working for a sustainability communications consultancy in Brussels, before relocating to Utrecht in the Netherlands. There, I did a Master’s in philosophy with a focus on environmental ethics and an honours programme in sustainable innovation. It was during this time that I first got interested in sustainability at universities and the role of universities in sustainable development, as I interned at the university’s sustainability hub and became involved in the Dutch student environmental movement. After graduating, I continued to work there for a few months before returning to the UK and starting here at LSE.

Over the last few weeks, I have been busy meeting all the Green Impact teams and hearing about the great work they have been doing to ‘green up’ their departments over the past year. I’ve been really impressed by the enthusiasm and motivation of all the teams, and their creative and fun ideas for projects –  including clothes swaps, upcycle workshops, vegetarian lunches and waste awareness events. Whilst many teams have already completed their projects, I’m looking forward to joining some of the remaining activities in the next few weeks.

During the upcoming months, I will be continuing to coordinate Green Impact, ensuring that as many of our teams as possible get the award they are aiming for. I will also be organising the audit, where we recruit student volunteers to assess our teams and the great work they have been doing, and (very importantly!) our annual Celebration of Sustainability event.  Alongside this, I will be working on developing our online and social media presence, so we reach more students and staff from across LSE, and exploring more ways to engage the LSE community in sustainability. So, if you have ideas you’d like to share or you want to get involved, get in touch!

Naomi Alexander-Naidoo is the Sustainability Engagement Officer at LSE. Email her on n.alexander-naidoo@lse.ac.uk

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Feb 19 2016

Free film screening: The True Cost of Fashion

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AF-profile - Copy







Abi Fasoranti




On Wednesday 24th February, the IMT Green Impact Team and LSESU Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics Society will be hosting a free screening of Andrew Morgan’s documentary The True Cost.

The True Cost pulls back the curtain on the untold story of the clothing trend known as ‘fast fashion’ and reveals what effects the clothes we wear has on those who make them and on our world.

True cost banner

Second only to oil, fashion is the most polluting industry in the world. Consumerism has led to the purchase of 500% more clothing than just two decades ago. As clothing prices continue to decrease, environmental and human costs grow, revealing that The True Cost of such bargains is very high indeed.

In order to do our part in helping to combat this, the IMT Green Impact Team recently organised a ReLove Fashion Swap Shop as a way to promote the idea of sustainable fashion choices and the reduce clothing waste. The event was a success with many garments finding new homes and lifecycles as opposed to being disposed of.
A team from TRAID was also present on the day to offering workshops on how to make your very own tote bag from old t-shirts- a great way to show how creative up cycling can be.

Tote bag - small

Such actions are steps in the right direction in making ethical and sustainable fashion choices. The True Cost is an engaging way to keep you well informed on such a prevalent issue.  

We hope to see you at our free screening of The True Cost. The screening will be taking place at 6pm in CLM.3.04 with light refreshments (popcorn) provided. Join us as we go on a journey around the world and into the lives of the people behind fashion.
Who really pays the price for our clothing?


About the author:

Abi Fasoranti is currently a postgraduate student studying Comparative Politics at LSE.  When she isn’t studying or working (as a Student Communications Assistant & Helpdesk Analyst) she loves to travel.  

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Jan 25 2016

From Fast to Slow: ReLove Fashion at LSE

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Sophie McGrath - small










By Sophie McGrath

On Monday 8 February, the IMT department’s Green Impact Team will be hosting a special event, LSE ReLove Fashion, to raise awareness about making sustainable fashion choices.

ReLove Fashion will feature a free swap shop, running between 10am – 3pm in the LSESU Venue (Saw Swee Hock Building) , where you can bring along clothes you no longer love and pick out a new look from other donated items, as well as two ‘t-shirt tote bag’ workshops taking place from 12-1pm and then 1.30-2.30pm.

Run by TRAID*, the workshops will show you how to make practical use of unloved clothing by fashioning a tote bag out of an old t-shirt. All materials will be provided and if you’d like to take part it costs £5 per workshop. To book your space, please see the Eventbrite page.

Why get involved?

Disposable, fast fashion is having a major negative impact on both the environment and the working conditions of low-wage workers.

ReLove Fashion aims to reduce clothing waste, encourage LSE staff and students to make more ethical and sustainable fashion choices, and supports the TRAID Second-hand First initiative.

Relove Fashion image

The implications of ‘fast fashion’

The dangerous working conditions in low-wage developing countries that facilitate the fast fashion conveyor belt is facing increasing scrutiny.  The Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013 in Bangladesh where 1,133 garment workers died helped bring to light the human cost of disposable fashion. However, since then it seems like little progress has been made in shifting the fashion industry away from fast-fashion to a more sustainable focus.

Workers are still subject to unsafe workspaces, low pay, long hours and underrepresentation by trade unions. In addition to the health and safety aspect of the issue, workers are subject to unfair conditions, which disproportionally affect the most vulnerable such as women, whose voices ceases to be heard. Often, women are asked to agree to not fall pregnant whilst employed by the factory.

There is also the environmental cost of textiles consumption; the average UK consumer sends 30kg of clothing to landfill every year on top of the increasing shipment by air or sea of clothing from the Far East to the west. The carbon footprint of textiles in unbeknown to the generation brought up on fast fashion.

‘Slow fashion’: where to shop ethically

Consumers hold a lot of power in determining the direction the fashion industry takes. It is only when the fashion industry realizes that consumers hold an expectation of brands to produce ethically, that brands will shift the emphasis away from cheap, fast fashion at the expense of rising production costs.

There are a host of both well-known brands and smaller retailers that are increasingly committed to ethically produced fashion so you can shop with a clearer conscience. A few examples of fashion brands who focus on sustainability are:

People Tree

A pioneer of sustainable fashion, People Tree are 100% Fair Trade across their supply chain.


This global brand has implemented a ‘fair living wage’ policy, in which they aim to have this wage in place by 2018 that will cover ‘the worker and their family’s basic needs and a discretionary income’. H&M also has an in-store textile recycling initiative and Conscious Collection that uses sustainable fabrics. You can find out more information about their commitments here.

New Balance

The trainer brand holds environmental sustainability as one of its key strategies; its looking to create products while eliminating waste. They also ensure their suppliers sign their Code of Conduct and undergo a compliance inspection. On top of this, they are an active member of the Fair Labour Association and have a team of professionals who conduct unannounced checks on suppliers worldwide.

For a more extensive overview, The Guardian have put together an Ethical fashion directory of UK clothing brands. Additionally, The Good Shopping Guide tells you what brands to trust or avoid based on their sustainability record.

*TRAID is a charity which focuses on preventing clothing waste by aiming to make the disposal, production and consumption of textiles more sustainable. You can get involved by taking their #secondhandfirst pledge and commit to sourcing part of your wardrobe second-hand.

About the author

Sophie McGrath is a recent LSE Economic History Graduate, currently working in LSE’s Information Management Technology (IMT) Divsion, as Student Communications Assistant and IT Help Desk Analyst before she goes traveling in South America.

Posted by: Posted on by Jon Emmett Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Jan 13 2016

COP 21 sends low-carbon signal to businesses

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Fannie Delavelle - small


Reporting back from the COP 21 UN climate summit in Paris, Fannie Delavelle found the international gathering to be a huge opportunity for organisations from across the globe to make new connections, seeking innovative solutions to shared challenges.  But not everyone sees eye to eye, there are still major barriers to collaborative relationships developing between key groups of institutions. 


 Connections and partnerships

Beyond the ambitious agreement reached in Paris, the conference was an opportunity for business, NGOs and subnational entities to connect and build partnerships. This was as important an outcome of the COP as the agreement itself. Knowledge and experience sharing are crucial to ensure the rapid uptake and dissemination of clean technologies, and to enable the identification and replication of best practices. The launch by BP of its own carbon trading scheme in 1997 was for instance key in demonstrating the system’s feasibility, leading several other companies as well as subnational entities and countries to design similar mechanisms. Similarly, the creation by Bill Gates of the Breakthrough Energy coalition, a network of billionaire entrepreneurs committed to funding innovations on new energy mixes will boost R&D in clean technology through a ripple effect, as companies hasten to become first movers in introducing new energy efficient technologies.

At the subnational level, the successful experience of California on climate change mitigation was at the centre of many conferences at COP21, giving the opportunity to representatives from other subnational entities to learn from this experience and engage into partnerships in order to create a multiplier effect. Both the causes and impacts of climate change can be found at the local level, making local involvement in climate action a key element in reaching the 1.5°C target. Furthermore, subnational authorities can be instrumental in fostering support for climate action from the bottom up, by proving the feasibility of green growth models and making them more acceptable to the wider public. The example of Canada is particularly revealing: while the federal government was until recently very weak on climate action, the involvement of Canadian provinces in international partnerships to reduce their carbon emissions such as the Western Climate Initiative is likely to have played a role in the recent election of a more environmentally friendly government, who announced that it will design a new, more ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).


Sending a message to business

As Secretary John Kerry declared in his final speech in the plenary, a main success of the agreement was its ability to send a clear message to the private sector, that the world’s governments are now united in their decision to follow a low carbon economy pathway. This signalling effect, along with the more precise commitments made in INDCs, is likely the most important outcome of the conference. The ripple effects of the agreement on company strategies and investor concerns will be essential to mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts. By signalling this global will to advance toward green growth models, COP21 will encourage greater investment from the private sector in R&D on clean technology, and further increase critical investor interest on the matter, thereby driving companies down the low carbon pathway.

The agreement, while not sufficient to reach the 1.5°C target, represents a stepping stone towards intensified action and partnerships between local, national and business entities. A South Africa delegate cited Nelson Mandela during the last plenary: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”, referring to the challenges which will be faced during the implementation of the agreement and the necessary ratcheting up of national targets over the years.


Building trust between NGOs and the private sector

Among these challenges, one was particularly striking throughout the conference, namely the lack of exchanges and discussions between certain constituencies that have emerged throughout the last decades. While knowledge exchange and cooperation flourished during the COP within the confines of particular interest blocs, constructive discussions between the BINGO (Business and Industry) and ENGO (Environmental NGOs) constituencies were not as mainstream as I had expected, each side tending to remain within their own boundaries and avoiding a confrontation of their views with the other side.

While the relationship between NGOs and the private sector, which used to be combative rather than collaborative, has greatly evolved in the last years, with an increasing number of NGOs engaging in close partnerships with business, for instance on private environmental standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council, many vocal NGOs still tend to systematically differ from business in their views of climate change and their sense of international priorities. These two widely different worldviews co-existed at the COP, but rarely interacted. I often had the feeling of moving from one quite impermeable bubble to another, for instance when having the choice between attending conferences on the mutual benefits of trade and climate action organised and attended by an overwhelming majority of private sector representatives, and events demonstrating that free trade is not compatible with environmental protection, almost exclusively attended by NGOs.

While the relationship between NGOs and business has undeniably improved in recent years as both sides have grown to understand the mutual benefits they could gain from such partnerships – for instance to improve their public image or bolster supply chains for the private sector, and for NGOs gaining access to financial resources- I was struck by the large degree of distrust which dominated relations between business and NGOs on many occasions at the COP, the latter tending to portray business as ‘the enemy’ and the former regarding NGOs as a nuisance – at the expense of cooperative approaches which have proved to be mutually beneficial.

Fannie Delavelle graduated from a dual master’s degree in International Political Economy between the LSE and Sciences Po Paris. Following a placement at the European Commission, she was appointed trade attachée at the Embassy of France in Washington DC in 2015. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fanniedelavelle

Posted by: Posted on by Jon Emmett Tagged with: , , ,