Connecting Microfinance to Environmental Sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line

As a former student of Environmental Science and a strong advocate for environmental (as well as economic and social) sustainability, I am constantly striving to align my work and experiences with the precepts of sustainable development, defined by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

While I, and probably many others, would argue that microfinance and financial inclusion are undeniably a part of sustainable development, it is often hard to see the direct connection.  For this reason, it is especially exciting when I run across an event or report that directly exemplifies the link.

For example, in the recent climate negotiations at the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference, in Durban, South Africa, several initiatives were agreed upon that support the triple bottom line (economy, society and environment) in developed and developing countries. One major decision that came out of the summit was the establishment of the Green Climate Fund, which will channel money from developed nations to developing and vulnerable communities to assist with clean energy programs and adaptations to climate change and extreme weather events.

Another example is a report recently published by CFI, “Microfinance and Energy Poverty,” that discusses the role of MFIs and savings groups in bringing affordable, renewable energy devices to off-grid populations in Africa.  The NewEurope Post, a European newspaper, also recently put out an article that stresses the importance of microfinance in supporting cheaper and environmentally friendly energy solutions (e.g., solar hot water heaters, housing insulation, and small-scale solar panel systems).

In 1987, the UN commission put forth two concepts that further define sustainable development: 1) “the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given” and 2) “the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

I often return to this definition for motivation and inspiration. I love that the examples above clearly show efforts to address the needs of developing communities while also considering the environmental impacts of such initiatives.  I hope to hear from anyone who has more examples of this connection!
Image credit: Landlogics

Have you read?
The Future is Green
Bloomberg Cites ‘Microfinance and Energy Poverty: Findings from the Energy Links Project’
Artisanal Solar Lamps


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