Thoughts from the One Young World Summit 2014

This year, Kate Hofman, co-founder of GrowUp Urban Farms, a ClimateKIC supported start-up, attended the One Young World Summit in Dublin. One Young World is an annual event, gathering together over 1200 young people from more than 190 countries, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. At the Summit, delegates debate, formulate and share innovative solutions for the pressing issues the world faces.

This is my second year at One Young World, making me a returning ambassador and confirming to me that it is absolutely impossible to share everything that I’ve heard, experienced and learnt over the 4 days of the summit in anything less than a Peter Jackson-style three-part film epic. So I’m not going to try. You can see a round-up of the sessions and talks that I attended on Storify here, and check the One Young World website for more details on the counsellors and delegate speakers who spoke.

The first thing you need to know about One Young World is that it isn’t your average conference. This is a summit where world leaders including Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof, Michael Moller and Mary Robinson aren’t just addressing the conference – they’re “keynote listeners”, onstage to introduce the delegate speakers (all of whom are under the age of 30) and field questions from the audience on topics ranging from youth employment to rape, from the workings of the UN to climate change and climate justice.

One session that resonated with me at a professional level was the presentation by Elio Leoni-Sceti, the CEO of Iglo Group (best known in the UK for Birdseye frozen peas and fish fingers!). He shared with us the work that Iglo are doing to close the loop in their business model and take a circular economy view of business.

He started by stating that today you can’t be a food company and be irresponsibly sourcing your ingredients – you don’t deserve kudos for responsible sourcing, you shouldn’t be in business if you’re not doing it. A fairly bold statement from the company that (unbeknownst to you) brought you Findus horse lasagne. But it would seem Iglo have learnt from that experience and now they’re digging deep into how they can change their business model and encourage their customers to change their habits to reduce food waste.

Iglo’s research suggests that easting more frozen food can cut food waste in the home by up to 47% – either through buying frozen food or freezing food after you’ve cooked it. Since fruit and vegetables is where the majority of food waste occurs, this really could have a significant impact on household food waste. They’re also encouraging the supermarket partners to think about a “buy one, freeze one” model of promotion which would also help at the point of sale.

But Iglo isn’t expecting customers or retailers to do all the work – they’ve looked at their own supply chain and are moving towards a “100% resource utilisation” model for their core products: fish fingers, spinach and peas. This means making sure that everything gets used and nothing is wasted. For example when it comes to fish fingers, only the fillet is used for the final product, but the “fish frame” (the bones and skin etc.) is used to make fish meal – a key ingredient in fish feed.

That’s obviously something that’s of particular interest to us at GrowUp Urban Farms. We’re always looking for innovative ways to improve the sustainability of our production method for fish and salads – and it’s great to see a large company like Iglo making such a positive move.

There were far too many other excellent talks and sessions at One Young World to describe them all – you can find most of them on the One Young World YouTube channel – but there were two other sessions that I’d recommend checking out:

A challenge from former Dragon’s Den dragon Doug Richard, on why he loves entrepreneurship and hates the consequences of it when companies grow too big and lose their social and moral compasses.

Yeonmi Park and her incredible story of her life in North Korea and eventual escape to South Korea, where she now campaigns against human rights abuses and tries to bring the world’s attention to the problems in the communist dictatorship.

One Young World gives young leaders the opportunity to see the innovation and chance that young people are bringing about across a world in which climate change is already having devastating effects on communities. It’s a unique experience and an inspiring couple of days, reminding me that there is plenty of work for us to do!