On 3 July, the Livelihoods Fund held a large gathering in the Jardin d’Acclimatation near Paris to bring together project managers and employees from the companies that support the Fund. On this occasion, Livelihoods and the Veolia Environment Institute held a press conference to present the fruits of their combined efforts: a special issue of a publication called FACTS Reports, entirely dedicated to the Livelihoods Fund. This close collaboration highlights the hard work by the Fund and its project managers to improve the environmental and social footprints of the companies involved, as well as the expertise and best practices of field workers.
An environmental fund meets a scientific journal
First, let us briefly introduce both parties. We have already talked about the Livelihoods Fund several times here on down to Earth (you can read about it here and here). As Bernard Giraud, president of Livelihoods Venture, sums up:
Of the 1 billion people who suffer from malnutrition in the world, 80% are small farmers, breeders or fishermen. They depend heavily on their ecosystems to survive: there is a direct link between food safety, income and the state of the ecosystem.
The mission of the Livelihoods Fund, created by Danone and now supported by 7 other companies (Schneider Electric, La Poste, CDC Climat, Crédit Agricole, Hermès, SAP and Voyageurs du monde), is thus to help communities preserve and restore their own ecosystems. It is also an efficient way for these companies to curb their environmental impacts: as Laura Palmeiro, VP Finance Nature at Danone explained, they are all engaged in carbon reduction programmes. “Reducing is the first, indispensable step. But to go further, we also need to compensate our carbon emissions,” i.e. to buy carbon credits. Bernard Giraud agreed: “It is impossible to emit no carbon at all.” Carbon neutrality, a goal for several of the partner company brands (evian and La Poste, for instance) is thus the result of two related actions: reduction and compensation.
The Livelihoods Fund provides a solution for the latter need. It supports projects that take action in three main ways: ecosystem restoration (e.g. by replanting trees and mangroves in devastated areas), agriculture & agroforestry (e.g. by planting fruit trees and helping farmers cultivate and sell their products) and rural energy (e.g. by replacing energy sources that are costly to the environment and people’s health with cleaner, more efficient sources). As a result of these actions, over the course of two years, 23,000 ha and 120 million trees have been planted. It means that 7 million tons of carbon are set to be sequestrated by these restored ecosystems: that makes up for high-quality carbon credits. And that is how the companies who finance the fund earn a return on their investment.
FACTS (Field Actions Science) Reports is a journal that publishes “results of field practices to capitalise knowledge and to distribute innovative know-how acquired from experience.” It is published by the Veolia Environment Institute: as Georges Valentis, Managing Director of the Institute explains, its mission is to lead forward-looking reflection on environmental and society issues. “The future is being made in the field, thanks to concrete actions led by the architects of the future: field actors. FACTS Reports is an indispensable prospective tool for the Institute.” This is why the journal has developed a very rigorous “peer review” methodology, based on that used by scientific publications. All the articles in FACTS Reports are written by field actors, and are reviewed before publication by their peers, i.e. other field actors, in independent committees. This methodology is also used for the papers featured in FACTS Reports’ brand new special issue, dedicated entirely to Livelihoods.
Sharing expertise on very specific questions
“Why Livelihoods? Because it ideally matches our criteria, » says Georges Valentis.
It is about field innovation, on environmental and development issues, and it brings together people that are passionate about what they do.
And these passionate “architects of the future” have written the issue. Some of them were here at the press conference: Bernard Giraud and Jean-Pierre Rennaud of Livelihoods Venture, and David Hogg of the Naandi Foundation, who works on agroforestry projects in India’s Araku region. They highlighted how demanding and fascinating it was for all the field actors to write about what they do every day, while George Valentis said he could not thank them enough for their hard work and for complying with FACTS Reports’ “weighty standards”. In total, the special issue includes 15 articles, written by over 30 authors. They tackle very specific questions, such as the expectations of the carbon market, the link between carbon intensification and poverty reduction, ways to scale up agroforestry and thus achieve food security and environmental protection, how to develop access to clean energy, etc. All in all, they strive to answer social business’ most crucial question: how do you generate social, environmental and financial benefits simultaneously? To the companies supporting it, the Livelihoods Fund seems to be part of the answer.
Even though the Livelihoods special edition comes in print version, the journal is first and foremost a free, international online publication, which means that all the articles featured in the issue are also available on the journal’s website. Its content is designed as food for thought for other field actors, who might find in these articles the answers to some of their questions and challenges. But even if you are not a field actor on development issues, nor an environmental or social project manager, you will definitely learn from this read. It offers a glimpse of the Livelihoods Fund’s mission and the reflections that all the project managers lead on the field. It also bears witness to people’s engagement in projects that are meaningful for communities, for the environment and for companies: at the Livelihoods gathering in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, more than 400 people from partner companies and the projects were here to share their enthusiasm and their willingness to commit to the “Friends of Livelihoods” network. The Fund is set to exist for twenty years; they will surely be creative ones.
(Photo from: ©Hellio & Van Ingen and ©Nicolas Gauduchon)