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Why Is Sustainable Development Important?

08 Mar 2022 - 6 minutes to read

Why Is Sustainable Development Important?

International Womens Day 2022 has kickstarted this 'So She Did...’ series – an opportunity to celebrate the incredible women and girls in our community and inspire aspirational females to believe that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. Women have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and although we've seen improvements in representation in recent years, we still have a long way to go. 

Over the coming months, we’ll be hearing from women and girls across a spectrum of age groups, ethnicities, backgrounds and industries. We'll learn from women who have trailblazed their way to the top, ones who are still figuring it out and those who are just getting started. Tramshed Tech is soon to expand to new locations across Wales and beyond and we want women to be front and centre in this growth.  

On this episode of 'So She Did...', Jess Phillips, Enterprise Innovation Manager at Tramshed Tech spoke to Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales about how the choices we make today can shape a more resilient, diverse and equal Wales and world for future generations. We’ll give you a flavour of what was discussed here but for the full talk, head over here.


How can we act today to ensure a more diverse, inclusive and equal Wales and world for future generations? 

32% of companies in the UK are currently owned and led by women, a remarkable shift considering that in 2017, this was just 17%. Although this is great progress, we still have a long way to go. 

The wellbeing of Future Generations Act requires Welsh Government and other public institutions to demonstrate how they are making decisions around social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being that meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 


“The gender pay gap has just increased in Wales which is a huge problem and we have big future trends coming at us which have some real gendered slants, such as who will benefit from automation and artificial intelligence? If we do it right, it has the potential to improve equality but if we do it wrong, it’s got the potential to exacerbate it.”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 


We need to think long term and consider how to integrate Wales wellbeing of future generations into our plans. 


What key challenges and opportunities have you faced as a woman in business? 

When I was appointed to the role of Future Generations Commissioner, instead of the narrative being around Wales being the first country to appoint a Future Generation Commissioner, or the role being taken by a young woman, instead it centred around an inappropriate tweet that compared me to Sharon Stone.  


“As women, it’s so important that we extend the ladder behind us”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 


Sometimes women can be their own worst enemies and I think that if you get to a position of power, you have a moral obligation to extend the ladder behind you.  

I’m not from a privileged background. I’m from Ely in Cardiff and I got pregnant at 22 by accident in my final year of University. I’ve lived on low incomes and worked my way up - I have five children and the struggle to juggle is real! 


“A lot of the micro businesses that women are setting up are formed around a complex jigsaw of life management such as the school run, caring responsibilities for elderly relatives etc”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 


As communities, we should be targeting women who have brilliant ideas (often known as mumpreneur ideas, if you’re a mum!) that they’ve kept under wraps for years because they don’t know where to go with them. Women must trust themselves and believe in their ideas and communities like Tramshed Tech provide a safe space to do that. It is also valuable to reflect on inspiring female entrepreneurs and proven success stories around being a Mumpreneur.  


“My mum inspired me because I always thought she was the power behind the throne. She was doing all the work but not getting any of the credit and I really noticed that growing up.”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 



How can businesses and communities innovate by cross pollinating and building more innovative and diverse connections not only to improve wellbeing but also, the economy? 

The collaboration between public and private sector is really important, especially regarding problem solving and the ability to cross-fertilise ideas. A fitting example of this is when the public health consultant was seconded to the local council to lead on the transport strategy. When you apply a public health lens to a transport problem, you are able to get a completely different perspective.  


“As a society, we have huge challenges – climate change, the future of work, an aging population, so cross pollination of expertise and ideas is crucial. We need to pair tech experts with people who really understand communities and behavioural change.”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 


Workforce diversity is as important for economic prosperity as it is for tackling inequality, that’s something that’s not often considered. I’d highly recommend a book called Invisible Women for anyone interested in gender biases and the gender data/pay gap. It covers how we live in a world largely built by men, for men and by doing so, we are systematically ignoring half a population.  


Why is International Women’s Day important? 

Sometimes we have a perception that gender equality is done. A lot of my generation and younger generations believe that they can achieve whatever they want. I’m 100% behind this approach, however sadly that’s not always the reality.  

We think there could be 60,000 jobs created in low carbon industries in Wales alone over the next two years, but we must take purposeful action because at the moment, the vast majority of people going into those industries are white males and not only will women miss out but the skills that we need women to bring in to fill the massive gaps in those industries, won’t happen. 


“We’ve got loads of young climate ambassadors such as Poppy Stowell Evans who are doing an amazing job in calling out decision makers on not protecting their interests in the future which is really powerful”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 


International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to discuss these issues and concerns and helps us to pave a brighter future for younger generations. 

Sustainable development, innovation around climate, supporting an ageing population and changing the ways of work have snowballed in recent years thanks to technology. What are the most exciting developments you’ve seen in this space? 

There's some interesting work that I've been involved in around developing something called a National Nature Service. This explores how we create more job opportunities and target them at women, disabled people, black, Asian and minority ethnic groups who are sometimes absent in certain industries, whether that be forestry, community food growing programme etc. We’re looking at how we level the playing field and get people with the skills into those industries.  


“If you ask why five times, generally you’ll get to the route of the problem”  

- Jess Phillips, Enterprise Innovation Manager 


There’s also some really interesting work that’s been done within Welsh Government around a gender review, whereby they are analysing their budgets to understand who are benefiting from them and who are not.   

Climate is a huge one. It is fundamental that we ask ourselves why is sustainable development important? Is sustainable development possible? And, what measures and actions do we need to put in place to deal with climate and natural emergencies to understand how to contribute to sustainable development. 


“We’ve got loads of young climate ambassadors such as Poppy Stowell Evans who are doing an amazing job in calling out decision makers on not protecting their interests in the future which is really powerful”  

- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 


We have enormous opportunities within green technology. To my point about the public health consultant leading on the transport strategy; traditionally, a challenge around congestion would have led to more roads being built, but a new perspective has led to investment into active travel which is not only good for our wellbeing but also for air pollution.  

We then need to work with the private sector so to ensure that when we're creating these new active travel routes, we're incorporating engineering solutions which builds in green infrastructure. We need to green and clean former concrete jungles. 

Finally, we must all commit ourselves to protecting the interests of future generations, and acting today for a better tomorrow and improving public health. 


Listen to the full conversation:

You can also hear more about Sophie Howe with her Ted Talk: Lessons on leaving the world better than you found it | Sophie Howe