Environmental Sustainability

The Climate Crisis

The impact of global warming has already been observed on natural and human ecosystems. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report has identified that human activities are estimated to have already caused approximately 1.0° C of global warming in the last 100 years. If the current rate of temperature increase continues, global warming is likely to reach beyond 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 which will cause devastating and irreversible damage to our socio-economic structures and on the natural environment, including increased intensity and frequency of climate and weather extremes (ibid). Climate change impacts people differently, affecting marginalized and vulnerable populations most.

Acknowledging the climate crisis and its impact, there are now global agreements to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and subsequently global warming to 1.5 C. The 2015 Paris Agreement has forged collective action of 197 countries towards limiting GHG emissions by 2030 and has established a reporting and financing framework. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals directly address climate action through Goal 13 but environmental sustainability is a prerequisite to achieving all 17 goals. Citizens all over the world are demanding that climate action becomes a priority area in their government’s mandate.

We are making progress, but we need to act faster.

The Impact of the Climate Crisis

  • Reductions in projected food availability
  • Livestock adversely affected by rising temperatures
  • Increased spread of diseases
  • Water resource availability
  • Risks to livelihoods and economic growth
  • Exacerbated gender inequalities

Climate Risk and Innovation Testing

As innovators we can adapt faster toward environmentally sustainable practices that will contribute toward wider cultural and economic shifts. The result of the COVID-19 pandemic has exemplified how quickly and cooperatively we can respond to a crisis in a united and global way. Let’s use that momentum to tackle the climate crisis.

Climate-related risks can be reduced by scaling and accelerating “far-reaching, multilevel and cross-sectoral climate mitigation” through both incremental and transformational approaches. Innovators around the world are working on this global challenge.

Innovations focused on adaptations that reduce vulnerabilities to both human and natural systems can synergize with sustainable development and improve water and food security, reduce disaster risks, improve health and wellbeing, maintain ecosystem services and reduce poverty and inequality.

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The Global Climate Risk Index developed by Germanwatch identifies the extent to which countries have already been affected by extreme weather events. The Climate Risk Index can be used to assess existing vulnerability to extreme weather events in your testing location in order to better prepare your testing plan for risks and reduce vulnerability to those risks.

Testing and Environmental Sustainability

FIT is committed to Canada’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy which is aimed at eradicating poverty and peacebuilding through the balance of social, economic and environmentally sustainable development. The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goals were developed in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and highlight the need to diversify the voices that contribute toward the design and implementation of development solutions. FIT-funded innovations should consider a broad range of partners and contributors including women, marginalized populations, youth, civil society, Indigenous peoples, multilateral and international organizations, the private sector, foundations, governments at all levels, and other relevant stakeholders.

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What is Environmental Sustainability?

Environmental sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

Innovative solutions can create many opportunities and advantages; however, they can also create challenges and pose new environmental risks such as pollution (air, noise, land, water, waste), land degradation and negative effects on flora and fauna. Additionally, innovative solutions may have negative effects on socio-economic structures including gender roles and responsibilities related to the environment potentially exacerbating existing barriers and/or inequalities.

FIT-funded innovators will assess and monitor their intervention through an environmental sustainability and gender lens, ensuring the integration of a Do No Harm approach, risk mitigation and capitalization of environmental opportunities.

Do No Harm Approach

The Do No Harm approach ensures that innovation design and testing activities avoid exposing stakeholders and beneficiaries, including those who are most marginalized and particularly women and girls, to additional risk or potential negative social, economic and environmental effects.

A Do No Harm approach incorporates the following elements:

  1. The intervention is based on the needs identified by the beneficiaries and stakeholders it is meant to benefit.
  2. The voice of and relationship with beneficiaries, including the most marginalized and particularly women and girls, is respected.
  3. The potential negative social, economic and environmental effects of interventions are understood through an intersectional lens and consider the various identities that people hold and the ways in which those identities create barriers or opportunities.

Environmental Integration into Innovation Testing

As part of the FIT Proposal Application process, FIT has integrated the Global Affairs Canada Environmental Integration Process (EIP) to evaluate the environmental risks associated with each proposed innovative solution and identifies whether an Integrated Environmental Assessment and resulting Environmental Management Plan would be required.

An Integrated Environmental Assessment is used to assess the impact of your testing activities and results on the natural and social environment and is used to develop an Environmental Management Plan (EMP). An EMP highlights any Canadian or host country policy, legal and administrative requirements, identifies the potential negative or positive environmental effects of activities and innovation results, proposes measures to mitigate negative environmental effects, and assigns responsibility within the team. An Integrated Environmental Assessment should be conducted as part of your baseline, in collaboration with the local community and through a gender lens.

By considering environmental effects and mitigation measures early in the testing process, an Integrated Environmental Assessment can support better decision making and result in many benefits, such as:

  • Avoidance or minimization of adverse environmental effects.
  • Opportunities for diverse participation of stakeholders and beneficiaries.
  • Increased protection of human and animal health.
  • Reduced testing costs and delays.
  • Lessened probability of transboundary environmental effects.
  • Informed decisions that contribute to responsible development of natural resources.

Environmental Considerations

Taking on a broader intersectional socio-economic and environmental view allows you to identify the full impact that your testing activities and outcomes have. Below are some environmental and social considerations to ask during the design and testing of your innovative solution.

Environmental Impact

  • What is the ecology of the locality in which you are testing the innovation?
  • How will the testing activities impact the natural environment?
  • What is the positive or negative impact on nearby communities or natural environments?
  • Is the locality experiencing a loss in biodiversity?
  • Do your activities or outcomes contribute to the loss, increase or maintenance of biodiversity?

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

  • How is climate change affecting the locality (environmental and social)?
  • What types of mitigation and adaptation measures are already being practiced?
  • Are there any opportunities to incorporate climate change adaptation or mitigation outcomes into your testing design or outcomes?
  • Has your project considered its own carbon footprint?

Social Impact

  • What is the relationship that women, men, boys and girls have with the natural environment?
  • What is the relationship that marginalized groups have with the environment?
  • What are the power dynamics between women and men when it comes to managing the natural environment?
  • What is the impact of testing activities or outcomes on future generations?

Value of life

Every living being deserves a life free from torture and cruel treatment. Utilizing animals for economic purposes should uphold these values.

  • Do the innovation activities or outcomes have an impact on the survival rates of livestock?
  • What is the care of life requirements for the livestock?
  • Do beneficiaries have sufficient food, water and space for the livestock?
  • Medium and long term, are there risks associated with climate change and the ability of people to care for livestock?
  • Are there any requirements related to hygiene management?

FIT Integrated Environmental Assessment (PDF 7.6MB)

Innovate and Accelerate Climate Action

FIT Innovators as Agents of Change

  • Case Study: Women’s Global Health Innovations – Investing in Re-Usable and Long-Lasting Menstrual Products
  • Case Study: Lestari Sustainable Development Consultants – Helping Farmers Adapt to Extreme and Unpredictable Weather
  • Case Study: Mer et Monde – Integrating Environmental Sustainability into Day-to-Day Operations
  • Case Study: OVO Solar Technologies Inc. – Using sustainable energy to power livelihoods

Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainable Development

7th Generation Principle

Originating from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) peoples, the 7th generation principle is a philosophy in which all decisions are understood by their long-term impact – 7 generations into the future.

Indigenous world views include the concept of collective responsibility for utilizing the land, understanding the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life forms and considers growth, reproduction, and regeneration cycles in all decision making. The interruption of these natural cycles and patterns can be devastating on the natural environment and impact the wellbeing of future generations. Ensuring that an equitable quality of life is possible for seven generations to come can change the way we interact with our human and natural environment.

FIT aligns with the 7th generation principle and asks innovators to consider the broad impact (generational and downstream) of their innovation test.

Women as Agents of Change

The impact of climate change is not gender neutral. Due to socially constructed roles, lack of access to basic knowledge, resources and rights, women and girls are disproportionately affected by extreme climate change events such as droughts and floods. At the same time, women have a critical role in climate change solutions but lack full participation in decision-making processes. Empowering women will be necessary to combat climate change.

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, aimed at the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality, identifies the important role that women and girls play in climate action. Women and girls in developing contexts rely on the environment for fuel, water, food and shelter and are vital to ensuring environmental sustainability. However, due to gender disparities women and girls often have less decision-making power when it comes to the management and use of ecosystems and natural resources. This is due to various factors, including differences in ownership, knowledge, rights and uses. There are three ways in which innovators can ensure that women’s voices are included in innovative climate action;

  1. Understanding the environmental barriers and challenges that women and girls face by conducting a rapid gender assessment at the design phase. See the FIT Rapid Gender Scan For the Social Innovation Space (PDF) for more information.
  2. Supporting women’s decision-making and leadership contributions in climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as in environmental sustainability. Innovators should actively engage women in the design and implementation of their innovation test. Check out the FIT Inclusive Innovation (PDF) resource for some additional information.
  3. Supporting livelihood opportunities for women in the renewable energy sector. In developing contexts, women have the primary responsibility over household energy which presents an opportunity to place them in a central role to reduce global carbon emissions.

Climate Action Innovation Opportunities

Sustainable development balances social well-being, gender equality and women’s empowerment, economic prosperity and environmental protection. Here are some focus areas where innovators can become climate action agents of change:

  • Policy
    • Policies that promote diversification of the economy and the energy sector.
    • Redistributive policies across sectors and populations that protect vulnerable populations and the environment.
    • Policy tools that help mobilize incremental resources, investments, savings, market and non-market-based actors as well as accompanying measures to secure the equity of the transition to a zero-emission economy.
    • National innovation policies and international cooperation approaches that contribute to the development, commercialization and widespread adoption of climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies.
  • Climate Finance
    • Supporting the poorest and most marginalized to address loss and damage related to extreme sudden-onset or protracted climate events.
    • Directing finance towards investment in infrastructure for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Technology
    • Widespread adoption of new and possibly disruptive technologies and practices and enhanced climate-driven innovation.
    • Enhanced technological innovation capabilities, including in industry and finance.
  • Restoring / Protecting Nature
    • Includes protecting or restoring land, water, forests, water systems, biodiversity, animal habitat etc.
  • Education and Capacity Building
    • Education, information, and community approaches, including those that are informed by indigenous knowledge and local knowledge, that accelerate the wide-scale behaviour changes consistent with adapting to and limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
    • Public acceptability strategies that enable or inhibit the implementation of policies and measures to limit global warming to 1.5°C and to adapt to the consequences.
    • Strengthening the capacities for climate action of national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities that support the implementation of ambitious actions implied by limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
  • Social Justice and Equity
    • Establishing social justice and equity to ensure that options, visions, and values are deliberated, between and within countries and communities, without making the poor and disadvantaged worse off.
  • Cross Sectoral and International Cooperation
    • Partnerships involving non-state public and private actors, institutional investors, the banking system, civil society and scientific institutions that facilitate actions and responses consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
    • Cooperation on strengthened accountable multilevel governance that includes non-state actors such as industry, civil society and scientific institutions, coordinated sectoral and cross-sectoral policies at various governance levels, gender sensitive policies, finance including innovative financing, and cooperation on technology development and transfer that ensures participation, transparency, capacity building and learning among different players.
    • International cooperation as an enabler for developing countries and vulnerable regions to strengthen their action for the implementation of 1.5°C consistent climate responses, including through enhancing access to finance and technology and enhancing domestic capacities, considering national and local circumstances and needs.

Adapted from the IPCC 2020 Report