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Global Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

What is Global Goal 9?

This is a big one. Big as in skyscrapers, cargo ships, and building cities. Global Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.  It’s all about building the MOST sustainable future for everyone around the world. As countries build cities or develop economically, Global Goal 9 is here to make sure that this happens in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Here’s what my ideal world looks like in terms of Global Goal 9:

Infrastructure: A world with no slums, where everyone has access to sustainable resilient materials to build a safe, secure home. Where rural communities can access markets because roads have been built.

Innovation: A world where countries have access equal access to cutting edge technology so humans can advance and progress together.

Industry: A world where companies and countries make clean sustainable products using renewable energy and also share innovative knowledge equally with one another. And use raw materials at a sustainable pace.

Is Global Goal 9 achievable?

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There’s something about Global Goal 9 that makes it plausible. It’s not because society discovered trains, planes and automobiles decades ago. And it’s not that it’s not going take any effort or any financial investment. It will.

Do you know what DOES make it plausible?

Goal 9 is going to happen because technological innovation is more common than ever before. Industrialization started out pretty dirty. But people are becoming aware of its negative aspects and now have the power to to develop differently with materials that are more sustainable.

Ask citizens in developing countries and I think they will tell you what and where they need things like access to electricity, power supplies, roads, schools, and other buildings put up. So let’s start building!

What progress has been made?

The Industrial Revolution was AGES ago. Developing countries today should not be using the same technology as industries did over a hundred years ago, and that’s because SO much progress has been made!

When you look at how far technology and innovation has come in just the last decade it’s mind-boggling.

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Communication works at a whole new level today.

There are 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world today. This all happened in the last twenty years.

By the end of 2016, India will have 200 million smartphone users and two years after that Indonesia will have over 100 million.

This expansion of technology is part of the progress that has been made in creating access to education, world markets, and a globally connected society.

Industry has changed too. With access to technology and so much information literally at the tips of fingers around the world, consumers now question products that are inexpensive and ask why.

This has been part of the progression toward “green technology” and fair trade, ethical sourcing, and transparency in how products are made.

55 percent of consumers surveyed across 60 countries said they would rather pay more for products from companies committed to making a positive social and environmental impact.

Infrastructure has expanded to give developing countries the ability to engage in the global market.

The world’s first solar powered road is up and running (and being run on!) in the Netherlands and it’s generating more energy than scientists expected!

global goal 9-b1.jpgMiddle school students in the US race solar powered cars they built.
Image: Flickr: NREL

Who are the leaders of Global Goal 9?

If you guessed the Netherlands, well done. The Netherlands has a pretty fantastic plan for sustainable business and is incorporating innovative technology into government programs. And sustainability issues are part of the school curriculum, too. In addition to this, the Netherlands has high public engagement, and strong public-private relationships, which fosters growth for both sides.

While quite controversial, China has been investing a lot when it comes to infrastructure in Africa. China plans to “directly invest” $100 billion (USD) in Africa primarily in the form of infrastructure development (telecommunications, roads, bridges, etc.) by 2020. China is also willing to invest where other global investors are hesitant, in countries with shaky political structure like Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Syria, and others.

China’s aid and development in Africa may not always be the most sustainable but as my colleague Joe points out in this article, there are some interesting indirect benefits, like gender equality.

For more information on companies making major headway on sustainability and social responsibility in a variety of industries, check out this list of global business leaders.

What tactics will be used to accomplish this goal?

– In the US, chemical companies and even universities have focused on banning toxic chemicals and promoting awareness on how to properly dispose of harmful toxic chemicals. This is important. But, what’s more important is creating alternatives to current toxic chemicals used in certain industries.

Universities should incorporate education on toxicity and environmental health into chemistry education so all future chemists have the tools to create environmentally sustainable chemical products.

– Take an example from the Netherlands again. An active and educated civil society is a powerful thing. A combination of high civil engagement can make a big difference in promoting good governance, and getting projects going in terms of infrastructure.

– Private sector involvement and accountability. The private sector holds a lot of power and resources when it comes to the three I’s of Global Goal 9. Fortunately, corporate social responsibility is becoming more and more important for businesses to succeed.

– Changing laws on patents so technology can be shared universally.

– Access for all to education so everyone has equal opportunity to innovate, create, and build a better future.

– Prioritizing investments for infrastructure in developing countries. Lack of infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to achieving many more of the global goals, like gender equality, education for all, no hunger, clean water and sanitation. Building roads, schools, toilets, sewage treatment facilities, marketplaces, transportation is such a big part of the solution to ending poverty.

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What can you do?

Help finance projects that build roads, schools, businesses, clean water and sanitation systems, and repair damaged infrastructure. There are so many organizations that make it easy to access projects all over the world.

Keep purchasing and asking for products that promote fair trade, are not made by child labor, or by factories with low wages and benefits or dangerous work environments.

If you’re not sure about a product, demand transparency!

Find out where that coconut water, t-shirt, coffee, or quinoa came from and what it took to make it.

Take a trendy hint from celebs like Emma Watson who champions fair-trade and sustainable clothing.

Finally, invest in all those incredible innovations and new technologies to help make them affordable for all. How awesome would a world with solar-powered roads, access to the internet, quality education, electricity, and more be?

Go to TAKE ACTION NOW and call* your member of Congress and urge them to sign the Electrify Africa Act H.R 2847 to help bring electricity to millions in sub-Saharan Africa.

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