Gold Stevie Award for RISE-HSBC Sustainability Partnership

RISE engages volunteers, students, and local community members in sustainability projects across Egypt
RISE engages volunteers, students, and local community members in sustainability projects across Egypt

AUC’s Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) was recently recognized for its implementation of the Sustainable Water and Waste Management in Egyptian Communities program at the 2015 International Business Awards, where RISE’s corporate partner, HSBC Bank, received a prestigious Gold Stevie Award for Corporate Social Responsibility Program of the Year in the Middle East and North Africa.

The award establishes the RISE-HSBC partnership as a model for the region, highlighting their work to promote water conservation and sustainable waste removal in some of Egypt’s most remote villages, said Tina Jaskolski, head of RISE’s research unit. “HSBC has been extremely supportive of RISE’s sustainability projects throughout Egypt,” she said. “RISE's mission is to act as a leader for sustainable resource management solutions in Egypt and across the Middle East through research, education and community development. With HSBC’s support, we are now closer to fulfilling this goal.”

Launched in 2014, the Sustainable Water and Waste Management in Egyptian Communities program looks to be a landmark venture for RISE, Jaskolski affirmed. In the past year alone, the program has been successfully implemented in eight villages throughout Egypt, laying the groundwork for its expansion through the HSBC Flagship Program. Over the next three years, RISE aims to benefit 27 villages and 30 schools, serving more than 100,000 people in total. To accomplish this goal, RISE will engage the help of approximately 700 volunteers in more than 427 days worth of training sessions and community-based projects.

Jaskolski attributes the organization’s success to its creative hands-on approach, “At RISE, there’s always room for ideas from locals, team members, volunteers and students,” she explained. “If you have an idea, you have the opportunity to plan your own project, find funding and then do it. You’re part of every step and get to see your own idea come to fruition. It’s very gratifying and rewarding for all involved.”

This creative environment complements the organization’s broad approach to sustainability, tackling a wide range of issues within a single project. “We promote sustainability in all of our work, such that environmentally based projects often intersect with other sectors like health and education,” Jaskolski pointed out. “The AUTARCON water filtration systems in El Heiz and Abu Minqar, for example, provide safe drinking water sustainably by taking into account unique challenges these communities face. These projects then improve the long-term health of the local community, in this case by providing safe drinking water.”

Community engagement is also key to RISE’s success, noted Jaskolski. By involving volunteers, students and locals in its work, RISE aims to increase awareness about sustainability on a larger scale, “When people invest their time and energy in our projects, they become invested in sustainability as a whole,” she said. “They take what they learned back with them and become the teachers themselves. In many ways, we’re training the trainers.”

Employees from HSBC, for example, collaborate with RISE on a number of projects, bringing enthusiasm to RISE’s community outreach initiatives, Jaskolski explained. “We had an HSBC volunteer trip last year, where the team lined irrigation canals in another Western Desert oasis.  It was a really good group, so we were excited to work with them again this year,” she declared.

Looking into the future, Jaskolski believes recognition from international organizations like the International Business Awards will benefit not only RISE, but sustainability initiatives across Egypt. “Sustainability is a growing sector, with corporate sponsorships growing each year,” she said. “But there is still a gap to be filled. Recognition like the Gold Stevie Award offers businesses further incentive to get involved. In the end, it’s not only a success for RISE or for HSBC; it’s a success for all of Egypt.”