From golf to gardens: Houston’s new botanical garden opens

September 23, 2020 by  
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It’s a loss for golfers but a big win for  plant  lovers. After decades in the planning stage, the  Houston Botanic Garden  finally opened September 18 on the former Glenbrook Golf Course in southeast Houston. The garden serves as yet another draw for locals and visitors to explore Sims Bayou, a watershed area near Hobby Airport that already includes miles of walking and biking trails and countless places to launch canoes. “The  garden  will showcase international and native plant collections, educational classes for children and adults, and provide engaging programming that will embrace the garden and natural settings,” said Justin Lacey, director of communications and community engagement at Houston Botanic Garden. The international firm West 8 designed and managed the overall garden project, with Harvey Cleary Builders as the general contractor. Houston’s Clark Condon designed the garden’s planting and soil, with installation by Landscape Art. Related: Failed Palm Springs golf course is being repurposed Building a garden By the time Nancy Thomas, past president of the Garden Club of America, and the late Kay Crooker formed the nonprofit  Houston  Botanic Garden in 2002, they’d already been talking about it for years. The two women dreamed of a massive botanic garden that would rival those of other metropolitan cities. But like all massive projects, the garden took a lot of planning and plenty of  money . It wasn’t until 2015 that the Houston City Council unanimously approved a plan for the garden to take a 30-year lease on Glenbrook Golf Course. Garden supporters had to raise $20 million by the end of 2017 to claim the city-owned property. The garden has been built from the ground up. First, the garden team analyzed how long-term golfing had impacted the soil. Maintaining perfect-looking greens meant decades of intensive mowing and regularly applying  pesticides  and herbicides. In 2018, the horticulture staff quit applying chemicals to the golf course and cut the Bermuda turf very short. They tilled to a depth of about six inches, added compost, and seeded the land with cover crops like tillage radish and white clover. In 2019, gardeners worked on the drainage system and specially blended  soils  for the garden’s different areas. Planning for tropical, sub-tropical and arid plants, the gardeners sought the right mix to keep all the flora happy. The staff’s 30-year master plan includes conserving water, promoting biodiversity and providing habitat for butterflies, birds and other wildlife. Garden designers integrated the plans into the surrounding Sims Bayou, allowing for the flooding and intense weather events so prevalent in Houston. Themed gardens The botanic garden will be organized into smaller themed gardens. Landscape architects picked about 85% of the plants showcased because they grow easily in Houston. The architects hope that this may inspire visitors to up their home  gardening  efforts. “In one area, we are assessing the rate of success for simply spreading seed, versus spreading seed and  compost ,” Joy Columbus, the garden’s vice president for horticulture, wrote in an article about the garden’s opening. “In another, we are spreading seed, compost, and a liquid biological amendment. Our goal is to provide home gardeners with a menu of choices – including the cost, both monetary and in sweat equity – and the opportunity to see the results for themselves on our property.” Visitors will drive over a bridge crossing Sims Bayou then cruise down tree-lined Botanic Boulevard to enter the garden. Once inside, they can explore rare species from the Houston region and around the world in the Global Collection Garden, learn about practical uses for plants in the Edible & Medicinal Garden and gain knowledge of water purification and flood control in the Stormwater Wetlands Garden. The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden features forests, floating gardens, a play area, a picnic grove and the chance to get close to aquatic and carnivorous plants (but not too close). A one-acre Culinary Garden will thrill both gardeners and chefs. For those who lack the yard space at home, the botanic garden plans to have room for about 100 raised  vegetable  beds in a community garden. Events in the garden One of the botanic garden’s goals is to connect Houstonians across different cultures and ethnicities. The events schedule reflects this aim. For example, Celebrating Latin America on the opening weekend will include demonstrations of uses of cacti and succulents in  Mexican  culture, a mariachi performance and a talk on the aesthetic aspects of Latin American cooking by Adán Medrano, author of the cookbook “Don’t Count The Tortillas: The Art Of Texas Mexican Cooking.” In October, the Celebrating Asia event will feature an outdoor educational demonstration on ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, a virtual lecture on Vietnamese gardens in Houston and performances by Dance of Asian America. What about golf? But what about the  golf course? Americans aren’t as keen on golf as they used to be. Since 2007, golf courses have closed faster than new ones have opened. Theories about golf’s decline in popularity vary, but the sport doesn’t seem to have caught on with millennials, who might be put off by the sport’s exclusive reputation. Or maybe it’s because Americans work longer hours than workers in many other countries, according to  The Center for American Progress . This leaves Americans with significantly less time for lengthy rounds of golf. But botanic garden visitors will probably be too busy learning about plants or sampling a cooking demo to bemoan golf’s demise. Instead, they will happily enjoy the course formerly known as Glenbrook’s 132 acres of rolling hills and draping Spanish  moss . + Houston Botanic Garden Photography by Michael Tims Photography

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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

September 23, 2020 by  
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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 09/23/2020 – 01:50 If you needed any more evidence that America’s vehicle fleets are driving toward zero-emission status, it’s this: Walmart just announced that it will electrify and zero out emissions from all Walmart vehicles, including long haul trucks, by 2040.  That includes more than 10,000 vehicles, including 6,500 semi-trucks and 4,000 passenger vehicles. Up until this point, Walmart largely had emphasized fuel efficiency , although it also ordered several dozen Tesla electric semi-trucks for a Canadian fulfillment center.  Why the change? Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives and sustainability at Walmart, told GreenBiz that “more needs to be done,” and Walmart wanted to set the ambitious goal of zero emission “In order to get to zero, we need to transition the fleet,” Freeze said.  The semi-trucks will be the trickiest vehicles to adopt zero emission technologies, be that batteries, hydrogen or alternative fuels. Some heavy-duty truck fleets are opting for swapping in alternative fuels today, while the electric semi-truck market matures (check out this webcast I’m hosting Oct. 1 on the city of Oakland’s circular renewable diesel project). Expect Walmart’s 4,000 passenger vehicles to go electric much more quickly. Passenger EVs today can help fleets reduce their operating costs (less diesel fuel used) and maintenance costs, leading to overall lower costs for the fleets.  Walmart is just at the beginning of its zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) journey, but the strategy with its announcement is to “send a signal” to the market. “We want to see ZEV technology scaled, and we want to be on the front lines of that trend,” Freeze said.  Jason Mather, director of vehicles and freight strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund, described Walmart’s new goals in a release as “a critical signal to the industry that the future is zero-emissions.” However, these commitments only cover Scope 1 and 2 zero-emission commitments, not Scope 3. Of course, Walmart isn’t the only big company using ZEV goals to send market signals. Last year, Amazon announced an overall goal to deliver all of its goods via net-zero carbon shipments, and the retailer plans to purchase 100,000 electric trucks via startup Rivian.  Utility fleets will be another key buyer for electric trucks. Oregon utility Portland General Electric tells GreenBiz it plans to electrify just over 60 percent of its entire fleet by 2030. Utilities commonly use modified pick-up trucks, SUVs, bucket trucks, flatbed trucks and dump trucks. PGE says that 100 percent of its class 1 trucks (small pickups, sedans, SUVs) will be electric by 2025, while 30 percent of its heavy-duty trucks will be electric by 2030. Its entire fleet includes more than 1,000 vehicles. “It’s really important for us as a utility to be doing this. At the end of the day, we’ll be serving our customers’ electric fleet loads,” said Aaron Milano, product portfolio manager for transportation electrification at PGE. “It’s necessary that we learn and help our customers through this process.” I’ll be interviewing PGE CEO Maria Pope at our upcoming VERGE 20 conference , which will run half days across the last week in October, virtually of course. Tune in for a combination of keynotes and interactive discussions with leaders such as IKEA’s Angela Hultberg, Apple’s Lisa Jackson, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Amazon’s Kara Hurst, InBev’s Angie Slaughter, the city of Seattle’s Philip Saunders and the Port Authority New York and New Jersey’s Christine Weydig.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Walmart Close Authorship

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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

September 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 09/23/2020 – 01:50 If you needed any more evidence that America’s vehicle fleets are driving toward zero-emission status, it’s this: Walmart just announced that it will electrify and zero out emissions from all Walmart vehicles, including long haul trucks, by 2040.  That includes more than 10,000 vehicles, including 6,500 semi-trucks and 4,000 passenger vehicles. Up until this point, Walmart largely had emphasized fuel efficiency , although it also ordered several dozen Tesla electric semi-trucks for a Canadian fulfillment center.  Why the change? Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives and sustainability at Walmart, told GreenBiz that “more needs to be done,” and Walmart wanted to set the ambitious goal of zero emission “In order to get to zero, we need to transition the fleet,” Freeze said.  The semi-trucks will be the trickiest vehicles to adopt zero emission technologies, be that batteries, hydrogen or alternative fuels. Some heavy-duty truck fleets are opting for swapping in alternative fuels today, while the electric semi-truck market matures (check out this webcast I’m hosting Oct. 1 on the city of Oakland’s circular renewable diesel project). Expect Walmart’s 4,000 passenger vehicles to go electric much more quickly. Passenger EVs today can help fleets reduce their operating costs (less diesel fuel used) and maintenance costs, leading to overall lower costs for the fleets.  Walmart is just at the beginning of its zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) journey, but the strategy with its announcement is to “send a signal” to the market. “We want to see ZEV technology scaled, and we want to be on the front lines of that trend,” Freeze said.  Jason Mather, director of vehicles and freight strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund, described Walmart’s new goals in a release as “a critical signal to the industry that the future is zero-emissions.” However, these commitments only cover Scope 1 and 2 zero-emission commitments, not Scope 3. Of course, Walmart isn’t the only big company using ZEV goals to send market signals. Last year, Amazon announced an overall goal to deliver all of its goods via net-zero carbon shipments, and the retailer plans to purchase 100,000 electric trucks via startup Rivian.  Utility fleets will be another key buyer for electric trucks. Oregon utility Portland General Electric tells GreenBiz it plans to electrify just over 60 percent of its entire fleet by 2030. Utilities commonly use modified pick-up trucks, SUVs, bucket trucks, flatbed trucks and dump trucks. PGE says that 100 percent of its class 1 trucks (small pickups, sedans, SUVs) will be electric by 2025, while 30 percent of its heavy-duty trucks will be electric by 2030. Its entire fleet includes more than 1,000 vehicles. “It’s really important for us as a utility to be doing this. At the end of the day, we’ll be serving our customers’ electric fleet loads,” said Aaron Milano, product portfolio manager for transportation electrification at PGE. “It’s necessary that we learn and help our customers through this process.” I’ll be interviewing PGE CEO Maria Pope at our upcoming VERGE 20 conference , which will run half days across the last week in October, virtually of course. Tune in for a combination of keynotes and interactive discussions with leaders such as IKEA’s Angela Hultberg, Apple’s Lisa Jackson, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Amazon’s Kara Hurst, InBev’s Angie Slaughter, the city of Seattle’s Philip Saunders and the Port Authority New York and New Jersey’s Christine Weydig.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Walmart Close Authorship

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A corporate water strategy manifesto: We can and will do better

September 23, 2020 by  
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A corporate water strategy manifesto: We can and will do better Will Sarni Wed, 09/23/2020 – 01:30 We have decided to craft this brief manifesto to challenge the status quo, accelerate innovation, solve wicked water problems and achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The pandemic has strengthened our resolve to do better. Our observations and point of view for 2020 so far are: The pandemic has been an accelerator of trends, such as the digital transformation of the water sector, attention on lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, and the appalling underinvestment in water infrastructure in the U.S. and globally. The recent interest and commitment to water pledges has diverted scarce resources and funds from actions such as watershed conservation and protection, reuse, technology innovation and adoption, public policy innovation, etc. The corporate sector has too narrow of a view of the opportunities to solve wicked water challenges. We no longer can be silent on the tradeoff between pledges versus actions. The belief that more of the same is unacceptable. We also believe that scale of investment in solving wicked water problems is grossly inadequate, whether at the watershed level, supply chain, operations or engagement on public policy and with civil society. The statistics on water scarcity, poor quality, inequity and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain appalling and unacceptable. We held these beliefs before the pandemic, which have only accelerated this year and prompted us to share our view. Most important, the statistics on water scarcity, poor quality, inequity and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain appalling and unacceptable. For example: About 4 billion people, representing nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year ( Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2016 ). 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030 ( Global Water Institute, 2013 ). Globally, it is likely that over 80 percent of wastewater is released to the environment without adequate treatment ( UNESCO, 2017 ). The World Resources Institute has revised its predictions of the water supply-demand deficit to 56 percent by 2030. Our intention is not to offend or not acknowledge the work done to date by those dedicated to solving water. Instead, it is to push all of us towards doing better together, not more of the same. All of us means the private sector, governments and civil society (community groups, NGOs, labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations and foundations). None of us is doing the job required fast enough. We realize this is hard, complex work and that your efforts are important. We do believe the answers exist but not the fortitude to take on big water risks and make the necessary investments. So, consider the questions below and let’s do more, invest more and scale efficient and effective solutions. Less talk, more action. For businesses: Is sustainability and water stewardship integrated into your business or is it a fringe activity from a sustainability, corporate social responsibility or water team? Does it support your business strategy? If the answer is no, your efforts will be underfunded and understaffed because they, at best, create partial business value. How many “non-sustainability” colleagues from other areas of your business participated in sustainability or water-related conferences/webinars over the last five years? If not many, see the question above. Do you have a water replenishment/balance/neutrality/positive goal? If yes, why, and do you believe these goals actually solve water problems at scale and speed to have an impact? Did you commit to these goals because your competitors have done so, for communications, or to drive the needed improvements at the local level? Is your goal designed to improve access to water and sanitation for everyone at a very local level? Asked another way, in five or 10 years when you claim success, will you have really improved water security in that basin? Can you more effectively use your resources to improve water policies or leverage resources by working collaboratively with others? Water is not carbon, it isn’t fungible and as a result, achieving water-neutral or water-positive goals can be misaligned with watershed impacts. We believe these kinds of goals are complex and can lead to chasing numbers that may not yield the desired business, environmental and community benefits. See WWF for important considerations before developing and issuing them. For all: Are the pledges, memberships and carefully worded water stewardship statements and goals on path to produce the necessary long-term results? Do we really need more private-sector pledges? How about fewer pledges, more actions? In the last five years, from all the water conferences you attended, how many ideas did you take back and implement? Why not take those travel dollars you’re saving in 2020 and what you’ll save in the future because you found new ways to work and invest in actions with others at the basin level? We believe in learning by doing. When did you last talk with a government agency in charge of water or wastewater about improving policies (allocations, cost of water, enforcement of water quality standards, development, tax dollars for green and grey infrastructure, etc.)? We believe improving water-related policies is the ultimate prize, and we need to start taking action, now. How much time do you spend on positioning your organization as a water stewardship leader? Too often, we sustainability professionals at NGOs, businesses and trade organizations get bogged down with labor-intensive marketing and communication efforts instead of focusing on execution. Let your actions speak for themselves. The bottom line: Less talk, more action and investment. Let’s recommit and focus so we can solve water in our lifetime. It is possible. Pull Quote The statistics on water scarcity, poor quality, inequity and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain appalling and unacceptable. Contributors Hugh Share Topics Water Efficiency & Conservation Water Scarcity Water Operations Featured Column Liquid Assets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots

August 27, 2020 by  
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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots Heather Clancy Thu, 08/27/2020 – 00:02 This week marks the launch of the first regional chapter of the ambitious global movement to plant 1 trillion trees  — a natural climate solution seen as critical for helping draw down the earth’s carbon debt, and an idea that has been spreading like wildfire since it was planted in January in Davos, Switzerland. There are more than two dozen launch partners for the new U.S. branch of 1t.org, spearheaded by the World Economic Forum and American Forests. Collectively, the group — which includes tech giants Microsoft and Salesforce, consumer products companies Timberland and Clif Bar, financial services powerhouses Bank of America and Mastercard and the cities of Detroit and Dallas — hopes to grow more than 855 million trees covering 2.8 million acres. It’s a bold goal, especially poignant in the context of the devastating forest fires raging in California, which have claimed more than 1.2 million acres (and counting) as of Tuesday afternoon. “That is a reforestation debt that is now due and owing,” said Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, when we chatted earlier this week. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American forests and forest products are responsible for capturing 15 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions captured from burning fossil fuels. By conserving, restoring and growing trees, the country has the potential to capture double the emissions, estimates a study advanced by The Nature Conservancy. The 1t.org organization, which includes a bipartisan stakeholder council with representatives from governments, businesses, nonprofits and academia, was created to scale the collective resources of those making tree-related commitments, Daley said. As an example, a tool for calculating the carbon emissions that could be reduced through specific reforestation efforts is under development. It’s also working on scaling financing mechanisms. A controlled burn to stop incoming wildfire in Mendocino, California. Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.   The chapter is also prioritizing efforts that can “remedy gross inequities” by bringing trees back to urban neighborhoods and by placing the potential for job creation at the center of plans, Daley said. The World Economic Forum estimates that sustainable forestry management has the potential to create up to 16 million jobs by 2030 — and more than $230 billion in new economic opportunities.  There’s also a very clear environmental justice issue to address. The map of tree canopies across the United States closely mirrors income, race and health issues — with low-income communities sorely lacking. “We are not going to plant as many trees in cities, but every one of them will have an impact,” Daley said. “It is central to our vision.” The city of Dallas , for example, is pledging to conserve and restore close to 14.8 million trees as part of its urban forestry management plan. Tucson, Arizona, is planning to plant 1 million over the next decade. Detroit and Boise, Idaho, are pledging fewer, but they’re also part of the launch. Salesforce wrote headlines in January for its commitment to restoring and planting 100 million trees; Mastercard is looking to restore or protect the same number over the next five years through its Priceless Planet Coalition . The effort links the activities of cardholders to forest conservation initiatives. For example, corporate cardholder accounts can influence donations to the fund with through spending. Mastercard’s partners in the effort include Citibank, Santander UK, Saks Fifth Avenue and American Airlines. Kristina Kloberdanz, chief sustainability officer for Mastercard, said her company became involved with 1t.org because of its expertise in forestry issues. “We know the business we are in,” she said. “We are not the experts in tree planting. It’s really important to us that we do this right. That we galvanize and motivate. This is bigger than any one of us.” When I asked Kloberdanz what sorts of initiatives Mastercard plans to prioritize, she said agroforestry — where tree preservation is incorporated into broader agricultural strategies — is part of the plan. “We are most interested in planting where there is going to be a benefit to the climate, but we’re also interested in the community and biodiversity benefits as well,” she said. Topics Forestry Carbon Removal Social Justice Natural Climate Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Kuldeep Singh, nursery manager for the L.A. Moran Reforestation Center in Davis, California. Courtesy of American Forests Close Authorship

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The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance

August 24, 2020 by  
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The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance Joel Makower Mon, 08/24/2020 – 02:11 One silver lining of this horrific moment is the rise of loans, bonds and other financial instruments linked to sustainability outcomes. In this sense, “sustainability” is broadly defined to include environmental issues as well as social ones. And, more recently, a new subcategory of, yes, pandemic-related issues. Indeed, the pandemic response is being financed in part through bonds designed to fund development of vaccines or treatments, support healthcare systems fighting the outbreak or provide relief efforts, such as for cities and counties facing budgetary challenges due to lost revenues and emergency spending. As of the end of May, governments, banks, companies and others raised just over $150 billion globally from selling pandemic bonds, according to research by BNP Paribas, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “These instruments will contribute to the economic recovery of many sectors and will emphasize socially focused measures targeting specific segments of the population,” BBVA, the Spanish multinational financial services company, wrote recently. When the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. Pandemic bonds join a growing list of sustainability-linked financial instruments that have been gaining the attention of investors worldwide. The bonds alone come in a veritable rainbow of flavors: green bonds; climate bonds; sustainability bonds; social bonds; ESG bonds; blue bonds (related to oceans); and more. Last month, German company Henkel, which specializes in chemistry for adhesives, beauty care and laundry products, issued a “plastic waste reduction bond” to fund projects related to the company’s efforts to reduce packaging waste. There are, no doubt, other flavors, with more to come. And yes, each of those flavors has a more-or-less specific purpose. Green bonds are used to finance projects and activities that benefit the environment. Sustainability bonds are used to finance projects that bring clear environmental and social benefits. Social bonds are aimed at achieving positive economic outcomes for an identified target population, with neutral or positive impact on the environment. (Nasdaq offers definitions and criteria for each type of bond here .) By whatever name, money is pouring in. Last week, Moody’s Investors Service raised its forecast for 2020 sustainable bond issuance to as much as $375 billion, a category that includes green, sustainability and social bonds. Companies are jumping in with such regularity that it is rarely newsworthy anymore, except when it is. A few examples from 2020: In February, Verizon’s green bond drew orders equivalent to eight times the $1 billion the company sought to raise. “Within 25 minutes, orders had already exceeded the $1 billion mark,” said James Gowen, the company’s vice president and chief sustainability officer. By that afternoon, more than 300 investors had ordered more than $8 billion in debt. Also in February, investment firm Neuberger Berman announced a $175 million sustainability-linked corporate revolving credit facility, the first North American financial services firm to do so. The loan will be benchmarked annually against several criteria, including that the company maintain an “A” rating or higher for its ESG integration on each module for which is scored by the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment. This month, Visa issued its first green bond, totaling $500 million, to be used to fund energy-efficiency improvements, expanded use of renewable energy sources, employee commuter programs, water efficiency projects and initiatives that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals . But the big kahuna of bond sales took place earlier this month, when Alphabet, the parent of Google, issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds , the largest sustainability or green bond by any company. (It was one part of a larger, $10 billion bond offering.) The proceeds are intended to fund a laundry list of initiatives, including energy efficiency, clean energy, green buildings, clean transportation, circular economy products and processes, affordable housing, purchases from Black-owned businesses as well as from small and midsized companies, and to support “health organizations, governments and health workers on the frontlines.” Like a growing number of bonds, Google’s hew to the Green Bond Principles and the Social Bond Principles , both promulgated by the International Capital Markets Association. Loan arrangers It’s not just bonds. Sustainability-linked loans — sometimes called ESG-linked loans — are also garnering interest . Last year, the issuance of sustainability loans (which includes social as well as green loans) jumped 168 percent to $122 billion, according to BloombergNEF . Sustainability-linked loans may sound similar to the similarly named bonds described above, but they’re not. Rather than raising funds for a particular category of projects or initiatives, the proceeds of sustainability-linked loans can be used for general business purposes. However, their interest rate is tied in part to the borrower’s sustainability performance. It requires the borrower to set ambitious and meaningful “sustainability performance targets” and report regularly — at least annually — on its progress, ideally with independent verification. Such loans have a built-in pricing mechanism, in which the interest rate drops if the borrower achieves its goals; it may rise if the goals aren’t met. So far, 80 percent of sustainability-linked loans have been made in Europe, although the practice is expanding in other countries. One company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance. Late last year, building controls company Johnson Controls linked the pricing of a $3 billion line of credit to its ESG performance. The deal was underwritten by a consortium of 18 major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays and Citibank. The sustainability performance targets are tied to employee safety and to greenhouse gas emission reductions from customer projects as well as from Johnson Controls’ own operations. In February, JetBlue Airways announced a sustainability-linked loan deal with BNP Paribas, the French banking group, amending an existing $550 million line of credit. The interest rate is tied to the airline’s ESG score as calculated by Vigeo Eiris, a U.K.-based provider of ESG research and services. In yet another case, one company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance, according to Mallory Rutigliano, green and sustainable finance analyst at BNEF. All of this is expected to continue to grow, with no apparent ceiling, as various types of instruments gain popularity based on a combination of hot-button issues and a hedge against risk. For example, it’s probably not surprising that in today’s climate of social and racial inequities, not to mention the pandemic, social bonds are currently a hot property. According to S&P Global , “We expect social bonds to emerge as the fastest-growing segment of the sustainable debt market in 2020. This stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the global fixed-income market, for which we expect issuance volumes to decline this year.” As with any growing market, there’s a need for standardization of definitions and metrics. But that’s inevitable. For now, let’s celebrate that financial institutions are — finally — beginning to hold companies accountable in ways that can directly affect their their bottom line. And when the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. Pull Quote When the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. One company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest

August 12, 2020 by  
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Indigenous communities in Brazil leverage technology to protect the Amazon and its resources. For a long time, Indigenous communities have protected the forest from illegal loggers and poachers. As aerial images show, the lush areas protected by Indigenous groups sharply contrast the struggling surrounding regions. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe, located in a remote area of the Amazon, specifically makes strong efforts to protect the forest. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe’s work is not isolated. Hundreds of Indigenous communities across South America help conserve nature. South America serves as home to about 40% of the world’s vegetation. Indigenous groups offer surveillance to areas of forests targeted for developments, farming, mining or logging. As Bitaté Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, coordinator of the Association of the Indigenous People Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, said in an interview, “When they kill a jaguar it is the same as they will do with indigenous people in the future. Killing the jaguar, they also kill us like deforestation , mining, intoxication. It gives me deep sadness to receive the news that a jaguar has been killed. We don’t kill the jaguar. When we see the jaguar in his habitat it is a beautiful thing to see, we just admire the presence.” The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and other local groups now use drones to survey the forests. Such technology makes it possible for the villagers to monitor large areas of the forest and navigate tough terrain. Communities in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador are quickly adopting this technology for similar purposes. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe first came into contact with the outside world in the 1990s. Since then, the tribe has integrated technology into its forest management practices. Today, one of the nine Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe villages has wifi connection, while four other villages have electricity. The  WWF UK  in association with WWF Brazil and  Kaninde Association of Ethno-Environmental Protection  funded the drones used by the tribes. Kaninde, a Brazilian NGO, works with Indigenous communities to integrating technology into forest conservation efforts. Via Independent Image via Pexels

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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

August 3, 2020 by  
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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis Maddie Stone Mon, 08/03/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Grist and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. One of the starkest inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic is the difference between the digital haves and have-nots. Those with a fast internet connection are more able to work and learn remotely, stay in touch with loved ones and access critical services such as telemedicine. For the millions of Americans who live in an internet dead zone , fully participating in society in the age of social distancing has become difficult, if not impossible. But if the pandemic has laid bare America’s so-called “digital divide,” climate change will only worsen the inequality that stems from it. As the weather grows more extreme and unpredictable, wealthy urban communities with faster, more reliable internet access will have an easier time responding to and recovering from disasters, while rural and low-income Americans — already especially vulnerable to the impacts of a warming climate — could be left in the dark. Unless, that is, we can bring everyone’s internet up to speed, which is what Democratic lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis are hoping to do. Buried in a sweeping, 538-page climate change plan the committee released last month is a call to expand and modernize the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure in order to prepare it, and vulnerable communities around the country, for future extreme weather events and climate disruptions. The plan calls for increasing broadband internet access nationwide with the goal of getting everyone connected, updating the country’s 911 emergency call systems and ensuring cellular communications providers are able to keep their networks up and running amid hurricane-force winds and raging wildfires. This plan isn’t the first to point out that America’s internet infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade , but it is unusual to see lawmakers frame better internet access as an important step toward building climate resilience. While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal.   To Jim Kessler , executive vice president for policy at the moderate public policy think tank Third Way, this framing makes perfect sense. “You’ve got to build resilience into communities but also people,” Kessler said. “And you can’t do this without people having broadband and being connected digitally.” While the internet is often described as a great equalizer , access to the web never has been equal. High-income people have faster internet access than low-income people, urban residents are more connected than rural ones, and whiter counties are more likely to have broadband than counties with more Black and Brown residents. We’re not just talking about a few digital stragglers being left behind: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that more than 18 million Americans lack access to fast broadband, which the agency defines as a 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed. Monica Anderson , who studies the digital divide at Pew Research Center, says that many more Americans have broadband access in their area but don’t subscribe because it’s too expensive. “What we see time and again is the cost is prohibitive,” Anderson said. A lack of broadband reduces opportunities for people in the best of times, but it can be crippling in wake of a disaster, making it difficult or impossible to apply for aid or access recovery resources. Puerto Ricans experienced this in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which battered the island’s telecommunications infrastructure and left many residents with terminally slow broadband more than a year after the storm had passed. Three years later, with a global pandemic moving vast swaths of the economy online for the foreseeable future, internet-impoverished communities around the country are feeling a similar strain . To some extent, mobile networks have helped bridge the broadband gap in recent years. More than 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, with similar rates of ownership among Black, white and Hispanic Americans. Nearly 40 percent of Americans access the internet primarily from a phone. As far as disaster resilience goes, this surge in mobile adoption is good news: Our phones allow us to receive emergency alerts and evacuation orders quickly, and first responders rely on them to coordinate on the fly. Of the 240 million 911 calls made every year, more than 80 percent come from a wireless device, per the FCC . But in the age of climate change, mobile networks are becoming more vulnerable. The cell towers, cables and antennas underpinning them weren’t always built to withstand worsening fires and storms, a vulnerability that Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have all acknowledged in recent climate change disclosures filed with the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). And when these networks go down — as nearly 500 cell towers did during California’s Camp and Woolsey fires in 2018, according to the new House climate change plan — it can create huge challenges for emergency response. “Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet,” said Samantha Montano , an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. “We’re pretty reliant on them.” Democrats’ new climate plan seeks to address many problems created by unequal and unreliable internet access in order to build a more climate-hardy web and society. To help bring about universal broadband access, the plan recommends boosting investment in FCC programs such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund , a $20 billion fund earmarked for broadband infrastructure deployments across rural America. It also calls for increased investment in programs such as the FCC’s Lifeline , which offers government-subsidized broadband to low-income Americans, and it recommends mandating that internet service providers suspend service shutoffs for 60 days in the wake of declared emergencies. Broadband improvements should be prioritized in underserved communities “experiencing or are likely to experience disproportionate environmental and climate change impacts,” per the plan. As far as mobile networks go, House Democrats recommend that Congress authorize states to set disaster resilience requirements for wireless providers as part of their terms of service. They also recommend boosting federal investments in Next Generation 911 , a long-running effort to modernize America’s 911 emergency call systems and connect thousands of individually operating systems. Finally, the plan calls for the FCC to work with wireless providers to ensure their networks don’t go offline during disasters for reasons unrelated to equipment failure, citing Verizon’s infamous throttling of data to California firefighters as they were fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018. Kessler of Third Way said that Democrats’ climate plan lays out “the right ideas” for bridging the digital divide. “You want to be able to get the technology out there, the infrastructure out there, and you need to make sure people can pay for it,” he said. The call for hardening our internet infrastructure is especially salient to Paul Barford , a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2018, Barford and two colleagues published a study highlighting the vulnerability of America’s fiber cables to sea level rise, and he’s investigating how wildfires threaten mobile networks. In both cases, he says, it’s clear that the telecommunications infrastructure deployed today was designed with historical extreme conditions in mind — and that has to change. “We’re living in a world of climate change,” he said. “And if the intention is to make this new infrastructure that will serve the population for many years to come, then it is simply not feasible to deploy it without considering the potential effects of climate change, which include, of course, rising seas, severe weather, floods and wildfires.” Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet.   Whether the House climate plan’s recommendations become law remains to be seen. Many specific ideas in the plan already have been introduced to Congress in various bills, including the LIFT America Act , which would infuse Next Generation 911 with an extra $12 billion in funding, and the WIRED Act , which would authorize states to regulate wireless companies’ infrastructure. Perhaps most significantly, House Democrats recently passed an infrastructure bill that would invest $80 billion in broadband deployment around the country overseen by a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. The bill would mandate a minimum speed standard of 100/100 megabits per second for federally funded internet projects, a speed stipulation that can be met only with high-speed fiber optics, says Ernesto Omar Falcon , a senior legal counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit. Currently, Falcon estimates that about a third of Americans have access to this advanced internet infrastructure, with a larger swath of the country accessing the web via older, slower, DSL copper or cable lines. “It would connect anyone who doesn’t have internet to a 21st century line,” Falcon said. “That’s a huge deal.” The infrastructure bill seems unlikely to move forward in a Republican-controlled Senate. But the urgency of getting everyone a fast, resilient internet connection isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the idea that internet access is a basic right seems to be gaining traction every day, even making an appearance last week in presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan . With the pandemic continuing to transform how we work, live and interact with one another, and with climate change necessitating even larger transformations in the future, our need to be connected digitally is only becoming greater. “I think every day the pressure mounts, because the problem is not going away,” Falcon said. “It’s really going to come down to what we want the recovery to look like. And which of the problems COVID-19 has presented us with do we want to solve.” Pull Quote While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal. Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Social Justice Technology Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Worker on the site of an ecological disaster.

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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

Workplace EV charging: Lessons from sustainability trailblazers

July 14, 2020 by  
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Workplace EV charging: Lessons from sustainability trailblazers Marsha Willard Tue, 07/14/2020 – 01:30 Businesses are reaping the environmental and social benefits of providing electric vehicle charging for employees. That’s according to research published last week by Presidio Graduate School (PGS) and ChargePoint, providers of the world’s largest EV charging network. Last fall, a research team from PGS conducted a study on workplace electric vehicle charging practices. In addition to a review of the current literature, the team interviewed sustainability leaders in 24 organizations across the United States. The findings reveal that while still most common in Europe and in U.S. coastal states, the speed of EV adoption makes creating the charging infrastructure an imperative for both the public and private sector. Leading organizations have made a solid business case for providing workplace charging and other EV related employee incentives or benefits. Below are some key findings of the study: Employers recognize that demand for charging will only grow; in many cities such as Portland and San Francisco EV charging in workplace parking lots is already both an expectation of employees and a city mandate. Business plays an important role in facilitating EV adoption; providing EV charging to employees is increasingly easy to justify to corporate executives.  Providing charging at the workplace increases employee satisfaction and makes it easier to attract and retain workers. Supporting EV commuting and investing in EV fleets help organizations meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.  Employers are worried less about upfront costs and are thinking long-term about strategies to optimize their investment.  Key strategies to maximize benefit To get the most out of the investment in workplace charging stations, the corporation and other organizations participating in this research study focused on these four key implementation strategies: 1. Assure availability What the study participants learned is that while you may not see a lot of EVs in your parking lots now, they are coming and they catch on faster once workplace chargers become available. Bank of America, for example, saw a 50 percent increase in the number of EV commuters in just one year after installing chargers, reinforcing the theory that EV adoption is mostly hindered by a concern about being able to charge away from home. In trying to determine how many chargers to provide, the participating organizations often underestimated the demand and recommended thinking ahead when planning. Once available, chargers become an important amenity to employees. Study participants reported not only increased satisfaction with the workplace, but ncreasingly, an expectation that chargers be available making them part of nearly all our participating organizations’ recruiting and retention packages. In trying to determine how many chargers to provide, the participating organizations often underestimated the demand and recommended thinking ahead when planning. Some progressive cities such as Salt Lake City and Duluth, Minnesota  are beginning to mandate chargers in all new construction. The required number varies from 1 to 5 percent of spaces depending on the jurisdiction. Forward-thinking businesses, such as those in our study, believe these requirements are conservative and plan to expand the number of available chargers. LinkedIn, for example, which covers about 10 percent of parking spaces with EV chargers, is building toward a target of 20 percent. 2. Allow dynamic pricing Most study participants saw value in providing free charging for employees. What they have learned is that it not only builds employee satisfaction, but also encourages EV adoption. While there is a strong commitment to providing free charging, an increasing number of organizations are opting to charge fees for lingering at the stations. In an effort to optimize the use of the charging stations, it is common to assess a fee after a car has been parked at a charger for more than four hours. This is made possible by using “smart” chargers — chargers connected to a network that allows managers to not only tailor fee structures but to send alerts to users as well as monitor usage and capture greenhouse gas-related data.  3. Optimize energy management Study participants understood that the expected increase in demand for workplace charging will require more attention to power management. In addition to meeting the extra demand without over-tapping their capacity, they also want to assure the most efficient use of the charging infrastructure. Power management features available on some chargers enable site managers to maximize the number of charging ports before having to upgrade existing wiring or panels. These systems also enable management to assure that charging EVs never exceed the maximum aggregate electrical load, thus avoiding potential peak load charges. These systems also enable managers to control when and how much energy is being tapped to maximize consumption during those times of the day when renewable power is most plentiful. Organizations serious about using an EV program to lower their carbon footprints may find an increasing need to invest in renewable power. 4. Source from renewable power Most study participants power their chargers with lines from their existing building panels, so the electricity comes from the same generation source as their buildings. This is the most cost-effective method for powering the chargers, but it links the carbon impact to the generation source provided by the region’s utility. If the local utility is powered mostly by coal generation plants, the carbon savings may be negligible.  Organizations serious about using an EV program to lower their carbon footprints may find an increasing need to invest in renewable power. Amazon, for example, plans to increase its renewable energy usage from 40 percent to 100 percent by 2030 . Bank of America already sources 91percent of its energy from renewable sources and will be rolling out on-site solar generation at more than 60 of its locations in the next two years. A number of the research participants already have invested in their own on-site generation, and 55 percent report that they are looking to add or expand this capability in the future. When self-generation is not feasible, organizations have increasing opportunities to source renewable energy through their utilities.  Electrification of vehicle fleets will markedly reduce greenhouse gasses. Employers have much to gain and much to offer in this transition. Offering on-site, electric vehicle charging not only will contribute to the infrastructure needed to speed this transition, but also benefit companies that offer this amenity.  To hear a fuller story from one of our study participants, visit the recording with Erik Hansen of Workday. Pull Quote Organizations serious about using an EV program to lower their carbon footprints may find an increasing need to invest in renewable power. In trying to determine how many chargers to provide, the participating organizations often underestimated the demand and recommended thinking ahead when planning. Topics Transportation & Mobility Infrastructure Electric Vehicles ChargePoint Collective Insight Thinking in Systems Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Herr Loeffler Close Authorship

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Workplace EV charging: Lessons from sustainability trailblazers

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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