The Impact of Sustainability on Poverty Reduction


Earth Day falls every year on April 22 and aims to diversify, educate, and activate the world in the fight to protect our environment. With rising global temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, and decreasing amounts of arable land, there is an increasing urgency to spread awareness and mobilize action to mitigate and even reverse human impact on the environment. Acknowledging the importance of environmental issues is also increasingly important in the fight against poverty, as those with the least money are often the most affected by environmental changes and disasters.

The History of Earth Day

The first Earth Day was held in 1970, starting on college campuses and sparking attention that spread outward into communities across the US. At the time, the public had only begun to realize the impact of industrialization and pollution on the environment and, consequently, human health. Earth Day unified many activists who had previously been fighting individually for specific environmental causes. Over 20 million Americans—10% of the total population—participated in that first Earth Day, attending protests and rallies. This demonstration of support led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency that same year and numerous laws aimed to protect the environment and human health. Years later, in 1990, the creators of Earth Day decided to take the movement global, mobilizing more than 200 million people worldwide and bringing environmental issues to the world stage.

FINCA client looks across the earth at sunset

Today, more than 190 countries acknowledge Earth Day. With over 1 billion people worldwide recognizing this day of action, it has become the largest secular observance in the world. And this global attention could not come any sooner, as climate-related events and natural disasters displace millions yearly. In fact, the World Bank predicts that if we continue at our current rate, more than 200 million people will be displaced by 2050 due to environmental reasons. This could push 130 million people into poverty, undoing decades of development successes.

But it’s not too late. Many organizations like FINCA and individuals are doing their part to protect the environment and even reverse the adverse effects of pollution.

How FINCA Fights Poverty with Sustainability

Although FINCA’s mission is to alleviate poverty, many environmental issues are deeply intertwined with poverty. Climate change and its related issues disproportionately affect people in poverty. Because of this interconnectedness, FINCA also partners with social enterprises that are doing good for the environment. In fact, FINCA and our partners actively contribute to 15 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

FINCA partner East Africa Fruits (EAF) is just one example of a social enterprise we work with that makes a huge environmental impact. Food loss and waste contribute to an estimated 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And in Africa, post-harvest food loss is nearly 40% due to inadequate supply chains and food storage. To address these issues, EAF implemented an innovative farm-to-market supply chain model to reduce food spoilage, increasing farmers’ profits. These methods are expected to cut post-harvest food loss in half, reducing the greenhouse gases emitted by spoiled food by the same amount.

Another way FINCA and our partners positively impact the environment is through solar energy. Nearly 800 million people worldwide live in areas that do not have access to electricity. In these regions, people often rely on high-polluting fuels—such as charcoal, kerosene, or wood—to light their homes and cook food. FINCA actively supports projects and organizations providing solar energy to people living off the grid. FINCA has offset more than 13,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions through our efforts to expand solar energy access. Additionally, 95% of clients with solar home systems report experiencing improved health and safety due to clean energy sources.

How to Get Involved on Earth Day and Beyond

While organizations like FINCA and our partners are doing what we can to create a more sustainable world, individuals also play an essential role in protecting our environment. Below are just a few ways you can get involved on Earth Day or any day:

  • Learn—Take some time to read about an environmental issue affecting your region, country, or the world. Often, small things you can implement in your daily life can help mitigate your impact.
  • Educate—Many people are unaware of how their actions can impact the environment. Spread awareness by posting on social media or talking to friends and family about the actions they can take to help.
  • Volunteer – Look for a local conservation or education group and ask how you can help. Many organizations host group cleanups and other workshops, seminars, or volunteer opportunities on Earth Day and year-round.
  • Donate – Donate if you find a local, national, or international organization doing work you are passionate about. In addition to looking for volunteers, organizations always have operational costs and often rely on support from passionate individuals to continue doing their excellent work.

These are just a few ideas, but there are many more opportunities to get involved in the fight to protect our environment. While Earth Day is an important day for education and action, we hope that people will take what they learn on this day and incorporate it into their daily lives. If everyone treats every day like Earth Day, there is no limit to what we could accomplish.