To B or not to B? More tech companies should ask themselves that question

June 25, 2020 by  
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To B or not to B? More tech companies should ask themselves that question Heather Clancy Thu, 06/25/2020 – 02:00 Fifth Wall, the biggest venture fund dedicated to funding disruptive ideas in real estate and retail, this week revealed that it has become a Certified B Corporation (B Corp) — a move that requires it to embed concerns about equity, inclusiveness and sustainability into its portfolio. The disclosure caught my attention not just because it’s a relatively unusual move but because it’s the second company from the tech world that has made such a gesture: WeTransfer, the well-known file sharing service, also has adopted similar changes to its business model.  For Los Angeles-based Fifth Wall — whose portfolio includes sustainable footwear company Allbirds and “gear for good” company Cotopaxi (both B Corps), smart-bike firm Lime and a slew of other startups that beg my attention — the adjustment reflects that reality that buildings and real estate account for an estimated 40 percent of raw materials consumption and 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.  “We recognize that today’s announcement is a small step and that there is a lot more work to be done,” said Fifth Wall co-founder and CEO Brendan Wallace in a statement. “As a member of the venture capital and technology ecosystems, we’re hopeful this commitment will be shared by our peers and ultimately catalyze an industry-wide shift in mindset.” The catalyst was the $200 million Carbon Impact Fund that the firm announced earlier this year — and that is preparing to launch in collaboration its limited partner base, which includes big names such as CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, Hines and Marriott.  “What needs to be done is a collective action problem,” wrote Fifth Wall partner Tyson Woeste in a blog about the fund. “By convening the world’s largest and most forward-thinking real estate leaders in this alliance, we can collectively take responsibility and bold, proactive actions to identify, develop, and adopt critical new technologies to reduce the industry’s GHG footprint.” Keep in mind that the fund was announced before the COVID-19 pandemic sent shock waves through the real estate world. As the economy restarts, many believe that the sector is in for a massive reboot, as companies reconsider the safety and necessity of mammoth corporate campuses and begin allowing a chunk of their workforce to work permanently from home. “Over the next few years, sustainability and decarbonization issues will be a dominant theme for every company in real estate and the technology companies that support the industry,” Woeste noted this week. We believe in accountability for the products and technology we put into the world, and we will strive to push our peers to transform our industry into a more responsible one. Right now, there are an estimated 3,300 Certified B Corps. When I spoke with WeTransfer CEO Gordon Willoughby about why the Amsterdam-based company decided to join their ranks, he said the move created more supervisory clarity. WeTransfer appointed its first non-executive chairperson, British businesswoman Martha Lane Fox, as part of the shift, which took about six months to pull off. “We believe in accountability for the products and technology we put into the world, and we will strive to push our peers to transform our industry into a more responsible one,” he said in a statement. To be clear, many of these policies aren’t yet baked into WeTransfer’s strategy. For example, Willoughby told me that the company is in the process of setting renewable energy policies — that plan will include recommendations for sustainable energy suppliers for employees who work at their homes.  One of the more intriguing policies it already has adopted, however, is a 20 percent discount on advertising rates for other B Corps. Considering that half of WeTransfer’s revenue comes from ad sales, that’s not a token gesture. The company’s original file-sharing service serves about 50 million monthly users, with more than 1 billion files sent per month. Are these two companies outliers? I prefer to think of them as the leading edge. After all, Danone, the world’s largest B Corp , has proven that it’s possible to make the shift, although it certainly won’t take just six months. Here’s hoping. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote We believe in accountability for the products and technology we put into the world, and we will strive to push our peers to transform our industry into a more responsible one. Topics Corporate Strategy Standards & Certification Technology Venture Capital Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off WeTransfer CEO Gordon Willoughby Courtesy of WeTransfer Close Authorship

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To B or not to B? More tech companies should ask themselves that question

Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

June 25, 2020 by  
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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right Paolo Natali Thu, 06/25/2020 – 00:30 According to polls, it was  mid-March  when most of us in the United States understood the severity of COVID-19. At the same time, we collectively were searching for data to drive lifesaving decision-making. Close all business and keep people inside homes? Or allow some degree of freedom? What would be the exact growth curve of virus cases, and most important, how could we flatten it? By early April, a consensus had emerged around the role of accurate data, even if it could not help contain a first wave of infections. This lesson on the importance of actionable data did not go unnoticed for those of us working on industrial decarbonization. With growing consensus on the gravity of the climate crisis, countries and companies are adopting carbon reduction targets. If we are to learn from the pandemic, there’s one critical element for any effort to have a chance of success. Less catchy than a target reopening date, and perhaps more like an immunologist telling you to get tested: Do we have the right data to act upon? Pressure is growing to take action The question is relevant because there is mounting pressure to take action against the climate crisis. Pressure to make emissions visible has been around for a while: Consumers want to know how much carbon is embodied in the products they buy. Investors are concerned about the viability of long-term assets in high emissions sectors at risk of being hit by negative policy or market developments. For example,  one chocolate bar  could emit as much as 7 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 30 miles in a non-electric car. Alternately, if the cacao is grown alongside agroforestry or reforestation, the same bar could have zero or even negative emissions via the trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If consumers knew the difference, would they pay a premium for the climate-smart chocolate? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. This year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, made thundering news in his  annual letter to investors , touting, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Since then, the asset manager  backed two proposals  at the annual general meetings of both Chevron and Exxon, related to the manner these companies conduct themselves in relation to Paris Agreement targets. Earlier in the year in Australia, investors at both Woodside Petroleum and Santos passed annual general meetings motions to  adopt a “Scope 3 ” (indirect emissions) reduction target. This trend of shareholder and consumer scrutiny has strengthened in recent months, and most S&P 500 companies — in fact, 70 percent of them — already make climate-related disclosures to the reporting platform CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Translating demands into dollars Yet, to date, there is no way to exactly translate these demands for action into dollar figures. You walk around trade conferences (or, more likely these days, Zoom workshops) and everyone is asking: What’s the premium that a consumer is willing to pay for low-carbon products? Is a bank really willing to decline loans for an investment that fails to fulfill certain sustainability standards, for example as pledged by the 11 global banks that signed the  Poseidon Principles  for shipping finance in 2019? If the European Union agrees on a border price for carbon, what should it be? All of this pricing talk begs the question: How can we have such discussions without clear metrics that everyone can stand by? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. For a start, while financial accounts are reported via one of two standards — U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) — a variety of methods can be used for carbon accounting (CDP accepts 64 of them). While financials make the performance of a chemicals company comparable to an iron ore miner, the carbon accounting metrics differ in a way that is difficult to reconcile. This becomes a problem for an automotive company, which needs to combine the performance of both to make an accurate declaration about the carbon content of a product that has over 30,000 parts. It is also a challenge for a fund manager who needs to combine stocks of different sectors, and has a fiduciary duty to use financially material metrics to do so; or for a commercial banker who lends money to different asset classes, and needs to determine the amount of “climate risk” involved in each investment decision. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. Remember the core of the coronavirus debate: The number of confirmed cases are better known than the total number of cases. This uncertainty generates debatable data, upon which it is difficult to make decisions that will have an enormous impact on the destiny of societies. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. And if the cost of those gases to a community and ecosystem isn’t clearly visible, conversely, how can we measure good interventions so that investors feel confident to put their money toward them? This is particularly ironic because market demand for product sustainability creates a win-win situation for everyone involved: make a plan to increase product sustainability, shape the world to be a better place. In most cases, low-carbon technologies are either readily available, such as in the case of low-carbon electricity and carbon-neutral concrete, or less than a decade away, such as hydrogen-based trucking. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t it happening? And most importantly, what needs to happen? Harmonizing the efforts The current ecosystem of reporting is built on bottom-up efforts that are not harmonized. The previously mentioned CDP has a large database of disclosures. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has a widely adopted set of metrics that companies use to report (including to CDP). The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has — you guessed it — standards solid enough to guarantee “financial materiality,” that is, to allow the analyst in the above example to “buy with confidence” when making investment decisions based on sustainability. The Science-Based Targets Initiative promises to take all this to the next level and link carbon disclosures to the trajectories that companies need to undertake in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Companies that need to report emissions lament that this is too complex or that it doesn’t allow apples-to-apples comparisons due to discrepancies in the way different methods prescribe calculations. Investors lament that they can’t base financial decisions on current metrics, because they aren’t reliable or standardized. Consumers still have to see eco-labels that are truly credible. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. As confusing as it sounds, the good news is that between existing methods, standards and platforms, the elements of a functional system do exist. Despite the gloomy portrait that we often read in the news, of a humankind sleepwalking toward climate disaster due to a selfish inability to act together, this ecosystem actually represents a wonderful testament to the ability of society to recognize a challenge and address it. The importance of climate alignment A few years ago, the Smart Freight Center introduced the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, creating a common guidance for logistics companies to report in a unified manner. The GLEC Framework is a guidance that specifies how disclosures need to be made in each of the existing methodologies and platforms. Once a company discloses according to the GLEC Framework, analysts will be able to compare a disclosure made for different purposes using different methods, and trace back what it actually means. It is urgent that this expand to supply chains at large. It is also imperative that the emissions accounting focus shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. With unified and simplified standards, companies will be able to be easily ranked based on their actual and projected contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement, thus keeping climate change at bay. Why do this? To reap the benefits of being in sync with what stakeholders request more and ever louder. This is only wise, considering that not even a global pandemic and looming economic recession has silenced these requests. According to a recent Deloitte  report , 600 global C-suite executives remain firmly committed to a low-carbon transition. They are perhaps finding opportunity in shifting from risk and need clear data to make their decisions. Pull Quote A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. Contributors Charles Cannon Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Data Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute 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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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

Ocean energy: Will Hawaii take the plunge?

June 15, 2016 by  
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With constrained land resources, developers are turning their attention offshore.

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Ocean energy: Will Hawaii take the plunge?

Food Waste Fail? Millennials Aim To Eat By Example

April 25, 2016 by  
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Food waste is a subject that is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. It’s a huge problem, and it has been swept under the rug for a long time. However, it’s time for us to open our eyes to what’s happening and step up to make a…

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Food Waste Fail? Millennials Aim To Eat By Example

Denis Hayes has beef with the modern food system

February 10, 2016 by  
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Earth Day founder Denis Hayes is turning his attention to the shortcomings of industrialized agriculture.

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Denis Hayes has beef with the modern food system

Standing Desks Help Kids Lose Weight at School, Improve Attention Spans

September 29, 2014 by  
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It’s widely known that sitting is bad for your health , but a new study of elementary school students reveals that standing desks can actually reduce obesity in children while improving their attention spans. Texas A&M associate professor Mark Benden tested out the theory by introducing “stand-biased” desks into the classrooms of 480 elementary school students in the College Station Independent School District. Each student donned a sensor on their arm to record their “step count” and “calorie expenditure” over a period of five school days. The results? Giving kids more standing time during class time helped them burn more calories – up to 15 percent more than traditional desks – and also seemed to improve their attentiveness. Read the rest of Standing Desks Help Kids Lose Weight at School, Improve Attention Spans Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: attention , Desk , education , exercise , lose , movement , obesity , span , stand2learn , standing , weight

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Is ‘Low-Profit LLC’ the Next Big Label for Responsible Businesses?

February 17, 2012 by  
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As Benefit Corporations pick up steam in the business community, more firms are focusing their attention beyond the single bottom line, and L3C structure just emerging in the US could help advance even more businesses toward sustainability.

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Europe-US Partnership Creates Huge New Market for Organic Foods

February 17, 2012 by  
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A deal brokered this week between the world's two largest markets for organic foods provides mutual recognition to each region's organic certification, lowering barriers to expanding a $50 billion market for organic food sales.

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Europe-US Partnership Creates Huge New Market for Organic Foods

Furniture Companies See The Forest For The Trees (Photos)

October 27, 2011 by  
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© Qubique It seems that finally somebody managed to take furniture fairs to another level. Not only is Qubique held at the re-used airport Tempelhof in Berlin, it also traded boring lectures for high quality products and shows this week. 2 brands have caught my attention already for their responsible use of wood and timeless furniture design. The German brand Thonet, responsible for quite a few design classics , uses only wood from forests that are located at no more than 60 km around their factory. The Spanish company

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Furniture Companies See The Forest For The Trees (Photos)

Environmental Activist Shot in Brazil, Eighth Since May

October 27, 2011 by  
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Stephen Messenger / CC The struggle between environmentalists and deforesters has once again turned violent in Northern Brazil with the recent killing of an Amazon activist, the eighth to be assassinated in the region since May. Farmer Joao Chupel Primo, an outspoken protester of illegal logging in the rainforest of the Brazilian state of Par?, was shot in the head by two assailants. Although police have yet to identify the motives of those responsible, the murder bears troubling similarities to acts of violence committed against other environmental leaders in recent months…. Read the full story on TreeHugger

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