San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit

October 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit Elizabeth Stampe Tue, 10/13/2020 – 00:22 San José is rolling out the green carpet for biking, thanks to the city council’s unanimous passage of the Better Bike Plan 2025 . With the plan’s adoption, the city commits to building a 550-mile network of bike lanes, boulevards and trails to help thousands more people ride safely. The plan is realistic about the past, acknowledging San José’s sprawling 180-square-mile spread, its car-oriented layout and its inequitable history of transportation decisions, which continue to shape people’s lives. But the plan also looks ahead, aiming to create a city where anyone can comfortably bike to any neighborhood.  The planned network includes 350-plus miles of protected bike lanes, 100 miles of bike boulevards and 100 miles of off-street trails. Already, the city has built over 390 miles total.  First, make it safe The numbers are impressive. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  With this plan and its creation, the city lays out a thoughtful approach to who feels comfortable biking, who doesn’t and how to invite more people out onto bikes. Many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. For too long, bike lanes — not just in San José but nationally — have been created for the few people who feel fine biking on a street full of fast traffic, protected by only a line of white paint. The new plan acknowledges that’s often not enough for people to feel comfortable, instead offering “the evolution of a bike lane,” first by just widening that painted lane into buffer to create more separation from traffic, then putting parked cars between bikes and traffic when possible, and then building a whole raised curb between cars and the bike lane. Sometimes, instead of adding miles, it’s important to go back to make existing miles of bike lanes better and safer. The plan emphasizes that many of San José’s quiet residential streets can connect to create a “low-stress” network of “bike boulevards,” along with safe ways to get across the big busy streets. To create the plan, city staff talked with residents. They also partnered with community-based organizations such as Veggielution , Latinos United for a New America (LUNA) and Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation (VIVO). At meetings and focus groups in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English, city staff and partners asked residents: What would help make them more likely to bike?  Paramount across communities was concern for safety.  Build quick, aim high  The city already has shown that it can move quickly. With its Better Bikeways project and with the assistance of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, San José will have built 15 miles of protected bike lanes between 2018 and 2020.  The “quick-build” model is impressive. A few of us from the Climate Challenge got to tour San José’s downtown by bike last year with Mayor Sam Liccardo and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). We pedaled along new green lanes, protected by sturdy green posts and complete with ingenious bus islands that are wheelchair-accessible and allow bus riders to cross bike lanes safely. The green posts that protect bikers look reassuringly solid but they’re actually plastic, making them low-cost, easy to install yet imposing enough to form a kind of low wall between bikes and car traffic. It felt safe. Now the trick is to build out from downtown, connect to neighborhoods and get more people using them.  The city has set ambitious goals for “bike mode share,” which means the percentage of all trips people take in the city by bicycle. San José’s current General Plan aims for 15 percent bike commute mode share by 2040, and its Climate Smart plan seeks to reach 20 percent by 2050.  These are tall orders. Today, just 1 percent of commute trips in the city are made by bike, although a city survey found that 3 percent of people reported biking as their primary way of getting to work and even more residents using a bike as a backup mode of transportation. Of commute trips to downtown, 4 percent are by bike. These numbers might sound small, but it’s important to consider that bike commuting is on the rise: Between 1990 and 2017, San José saw a 28 percent increase in commute trips made by bike. But not all trips are commute trips; in fact, in San José, only one in five trips are to and from work. That’s especially true in these teleworking times. Encouragingly, the plan notes that 60 percent of all trips people make in the city are less than 3 miles long. Those short trips, combined with the city’s mild climate and flat terrain, make biking a good option, creating the opportunity for the city to achieve its bold goals. The Better Bike Plan 2025 includes a five-year action plan of prioritized projects to implement and coordinates with the city’s paving program to save money. It offers a range of costs to make these changes, from quick and temporary to more permanent, that total roughly $300 million.  The prioritized projects listed in the plan — the list of streets where bike improvements will go — were chosen with three aims: Increase biking mode share: Areas where bicycle trips are most likely, based on factors such as population, employment and connections to transit, downtown and the existing bike lane network. Increase safety: Projects that will fix “high-injury” streets where collisions are most serious and frequent. Increase equity: Low-income and historically underserved neighborhoods, also called “Communities of Concern,” especially just to the south, east and north of downtown. People living in these neighborhoods are likely to have fewer transportation options, less access to a private car and may be essential workers, required to show up at a job in person every day. More safe, healthy, affordable transportation options are needed, and soon. What comes next: A time for action In this difficult year, many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. Biking nationally has boomed . San José has launched an Al Fresco program that repurposes streets for outdoor dining. In March, nearby Oakland launched the nation’s first and most ambitious “Open Streets” program along its planned bike network, acting quickly to make those streets safer by discouraging most car traffic. Oakland’s Open Streets program also creates more safe outdoor areas for people in neighborhoods with less access to open space, reduces crowding at Lake Merritt and other parks and frees up more space for social distancing than sidewalks typically offer. Oakland recently released a report to help cities in the Bay Area and beyond learn from its example.  San José has a less dense footprint than Oakland, but its residents still have a great need for safe, affordable transportation in these times. The city can take its thoughtful Better Bike Plan as a starting point to act quickly, and rebuild its streets to bring safe biking to all. Pull Quote Many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. A city survey found that 3 percent of people reported biking as their primary way of getting to work. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A shark appears in a San Jose bike lane, a nod to the local ice hockey team. Shutterstock Anna MacKinnon Close Authorship

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San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit

San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit

October 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit Elizabeth Stampe Tue, 10/13/2020 – 00:22 San José is rolling out the green carpet for biking, thanks to the city council’s unanimous passage of the Better Bike Plan 2025 . With the plan’s adoption, the city commits to building a 550-mile network of bike lanes, boulevards and trails to help thousands more people ride safely. The plan is realistic about the past, acknowledging San José’s sprawling 180-square-mile spread, its car-oriented layout and its inequitable history of transportation decisions, which continue to shape people’s lives. But the plan also looks ahead, aiming to create a city where anyone can comfortably bike to any neighborhood.  The planned network includes 350-plus miles of protected bike lanes, 100 miles of bike boulevards and 100 miles of off-street trails. Already, the city has built over 390 miles total.  First, make it safe The numbers are impressive. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  With this plan and its creation, the city lays out a thoughtful approach to who feels comfortable biking, who doesn’t and how to invite more people out onto bikes. Many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. For too long, bike lanes — not just in San José but nationally — have been created for the few people who feel fine biking on a street full of fast traffic, protected by only a line of white paint. The new plan acknowledges that’s often not enough for people to feel comfortable, instead offering “the evolution of a bike lane,” first by just widening that painted lane into buffer to create more separation from traffic, then putting parked cars between bikes and traffic when possible, and then building a whole raised curb between cars and the bike lane. Sometimes, instead of adding miles, it’s important to go back to make existing miles of bike lanes better and safer. The plan emphasizes that many of San José’s quiet residential streets can connect to create a “low-stress” network of “bike boulevards,” along with safe ways to get across the big busy streets. To create the plan, city staff talked with residents. They also partnered with community-based organizations such as Veggielution , Latinos United for a New America (LUNA) and Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation (VIVO). At meetings and focus groups in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English, city staff and partners asked residents: What would help make them more likely to bike?  Paramount across communities was concern for safety.  Build quick, aim high  The city already has shown that it can move quickly. With its Better Bikeways project and with the assistance of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, San José will have built 15 miles of protected bike lanes between 2018 and 2020.  The “quick-build” model is impressive. A few of us from the Climate Challenge got to tour San José’s downtown by bike last year with Mayor Sam Liccardo and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). We pedaled along new green lanes, protected by sturdy green posts and complete with ingenious bus islands that are wheelchair-accessible and allow bus riders to cross bike lanes safely. The green posts that protect bikers look reassuringly solid but they’re actually plastic, making them low-cost, easy to install yet imposing enough to form a kind of low wall between bikes and car traffic. It felt safe. Now the trick is to build out from downtown, connect to neighborhoods and get more people using them.  The city has set ambitious goals for “bike mode share,” which means the percentage of all trips people take in the city by bicycle. San José’s current General Plan aims for 15 percent bike commute mode share by 2040, and its Climate Smart plan seeks to reach 20 percent by 2050.  These are tall orders. Today, just 1 percent of commute trips in the city are made by bike, although a city survey found that 3 percent of people reported biking as their primary way of getting to work and even more residents using a bike as a backup mode of transportation. Of commute trips to downtown, 4 percent are by bike. These numbers might sound small, but it’s important to consider that bike commuting is on the rise: Between 1990 and 2017, San José saw a 28 percent increase in commute trips made by bike. But not all trips are commute trips; in fact, in San José, only one in five trips are to and from work. That’s especially true in these teleworking times. Encouragingly, the plan notes that 60 percent of all trips people make in the city are less than 3 miles long. Those short trips, combined with the city’s mild climate and flat terrain, make biking a good option, creating the opportunity for the city to achieve its bold goals. The Better Bike Plan 2025 includes a five-year action plan of prioritized projects to implement and coordinates with the city’s paving program to save money. It offers a range of costs to make these changes, from quick and temporary to more permanent, that total roughly $300 million.  The prioritized projects listed in the plan — the list of streets where bike improvements will go — were chosen with three aims: Increase biking mode share: Areas where bicycle trips are most likely, based on factors such as population, employment and connections to transit, downtown and the existing bike lane network. Increase safety: Projects that will fix “high-injury” streets where collisions are most serious and frequent. Increase equity: Low-income and historically underserved neighborhoods, also called “Communities of Concern,” especially just to the south, east and north of downtown. People living in these neighborhoods are likely to have fewer transportation options, less access to a private car and may be essential workers, required to show up at a job in person every day. More safe, healthy, affordable transportation options are needed, and soon. What comes next: A time for action In this difficult year, many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. Biking nationally has boomed . San José has launched an Al Fresco program that repurposes streets for outdoor dining. In March, nearby Oakland launched the nation’s first and most ambitious “Open Streets” program along its planned bike network, acting quickly to make those streets safer by discouraging most car traffic. Oakland’s Open Streets program also creates more safe outdoor areas for people in neighborhoods with less access to open space, reduces crowding at Lake Merritt and other parks and frees up more space for social distancing than sidewalks typically offer. Oakland recently released a report to help cities in the Bay Area and beyond learn from its example.  San José has a less dense footprint than Oakland, but its residents still have a great need for safe, affordable transportation in these times. The city can take its thoughtful Better Bike Plan as a starting point to act quickly, and rebuild its streets to bring safe biking to all. Pull Quote Many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. A city survey found that 3 percent of people reported biking as their primary way of getting to work. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A shark appears in a San Jose bike lane, a nod to the local ice hockey team. Shutterstock Anna MacKinnon Close Authorship

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San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit

To keep going during these difficult times, remember to float

October 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

To keep going during these difficult times, remember to float Chris Gaither Mon, 10/12/2020 – 01:45 A couple of years ago, desperate for fitness and community, I joined the master’s swim program at my local pool. I churned up and down the lanes a few mornings a week, and I grew faster and faster, especially on the sprints. Turns out these big feet of mine, size 13 with fallen arches, propel me beautifully through the water. “What a great kick you have,” my teammates would say. And on the next lap I’d kick even harder, arriving at the wall panting and grinning. My coach moved me into the fast lane, and my ego swelled. But on longer distances, I fell apart. To go faster, I must stop working so hard. To maintain my energy, I must embrace ease. To keep going, I must remember to float. I’d start off well enough, keeping pace with lifelong swimmers such as Susan and Sarah. Then, a few laps in, I’d falter. I’d fall so far behind that I’d have to occasionally pause at the wall, embarrassed, to let the leaders pass me. I’d tell myself to work harder. Get those feet moving. Kick more ferociously. One day, as I again dropped behind, my coach began shouting at me from the deck. I couldn’t hear her over my exertions. She yelled louder. “Chris!” she said. “You are kicking too hard!” After the workout, she explained that a strong kick is effective during sprints, but over-kicking on endurance swims slows us down. Our big leg muscles require a lot of oxygen, so we run out of gas quickly. When you kick more lightly, she said, you maintain your energy. So, you can keep going. To prove her point, she had me practice floating. I lay still, face down, arms extended. I relaxed, felt my muscles soften, a sense of peace settling over me. Then, from that place of ease, I began to swim. It felt so different. My strokes were calmer, more efficient. Instead of fighting the water, I allowed it to support my body then slip past me. I understood what the coach was teaching me: To go faster, I must stop working so hard. To maintain my energy, I must embrace ease. To keep going, I must remember to float. It’s 2020, the year that won’t end, and I suspect that many of you, like me, are trying to kick so hard through this pandemic. Everything feels difficult right now. As I write, we are slogging through our seventh month of sheltering in place. More than 210,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus, and it has spread all the way to the White House. Fires continue to ravage the West. Here in Oakland, California, I wake up many mornings to the sight and acrid taste of smoke, visceral reminders of the climate emergency. The poor air quality has kept me off the hiking trails and out of the pool, depriving me, like so many Californians, of the chance to heal our psyches in nature. There is so much to process. So much to do. So much to repair. Earlier in the pandemic, my writing and my work with leaders and their teams buoyed me. I felt a prolonged surge of energy — purpose, focus, a calling to serve others, motivation to create. Those desires feel much fainter now, dim outlines I see through a haze of fatigue, loneliness and sadness. I’ve been trying to muscle through it. Even as I’ve helped my clients notice where they are resisting their current reality, asking them to strip away the non-essential tasks and honoring what they most need right now, I’ve been taking on more responsibilities. I’m kicking so hard in all aspects of my life: as an executive leadership coach, business owner, father, son, romantic partner, friend, citizen, environmentalist, learner, writer. It’s exhausting. I’d been trying to write this latest Sustainable You column for weeks. My intention was to explore the importance of identifying our purpose and letting it shine through in our jobs. Purpose is one of my favorite coaching topics, one I’ve taught in workshops at the Robins Air Force Base and X, the Moonshot Factory, and with individual clients at Apple, Google, Levi Strauss and more. Following my purpose is also what led me to create a coaching practice focused on supporting environmental and social-impact leaders. Yet I just couldn’t get it right. I’d captured pages of notes, blocked off time to write, done Pomodoro timer sessions , unleashed a tangle of thoughts. It just wasn’t coming together, no matter how hard I tried. Then, as I was hiking in redwoods during a break from the smoke, I remembered my swim coach’s instructions. I started asking myself: Where in my life am I trying too hard? Where can I start from a place of ease? Where can I kick more lightly? Where can I float? I started asking myself: Where in my life am I trying too hard? Where can I start from a place of ease? Where can I kick more lightly?   I decided to begin here, with you. I’ll be back next month with that essay about purpose. But for now, I invite you to join me in the water. Wade in and relax. Feel what it’s like to be you, in your body, in this very moment. You don’t need to be strong right now. You don’t need to work so hard. Be still. Let the water hold you. In a few minutes, you will begin swimming again. Set an intention to do that with ease. Whatever you have planned for today, for this week, bring a sense of flow to it. Kick lightly and notice what happens. But for now, let’s stay together for a while. Let’s be here in the water, serene. Let’s float. Pull Quote To go faster, I must stop working so hard. To maintain my energy, I must embrace ease. To keep going, I must remember to float. I started asking myself: Where in my life am I trying too hard? Where can I start from a place of ease? Where can I kick more lightly? Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Sustainable You 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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To keep going during these difficult times, remember to float

California governor issues executive order to conserve 30% of state land by 2030

October 9, 2020 by  
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On Wednesday, October 7, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an executive order to reserve 30% of state land for conservation by 2030. The governor said the move will help preserve biodiversity and prevent further destruction of vulnerable ecosystems. Gov. Newsom explained that the executive order corresponds with existing plans to conserve at least 30% of state land. Following the executive order, state agencies will be required to boost and maintain soil health, restore wetlands , manage forests to reduce fire risks and create more parks and green spaces for cities. The governor said California would be the first state to carry out this type of land conservation. Related: No new gas-powered cars by 2035, California governor says “This is a critical part of the climate change conversation, and it’s so often omitted,” the governor said. “When we talk about climate change , we get so consumed by energy and industry, commercial and residential side of this equation, and we forget our working lands. We forget our natural lands. We forget about species and we forget about animals, and plants, and insects. All of these things that truly make life not only worth living but life even capable of living.” The executive order is just one of many measures that have been put in place by the state to curb environmental degradation. Last month, the governor made an executive order to phase out gas-powered vehicles in favor of zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The executive order does not make it illegal for residents of California to own gas-powered cars or even resell them as used cars. It only aims at ensuring that gas-powered cars are phased out moving forward. “I don’t know of any other state in this country that’s been more forceful and forthright in establishing and anchoring a consciousness around climate change,” Gov. Newsom said. “We just want to fundamentally reconcile the fact we’re no longer living in the 19th century, and we don’t need to drill things or extract things in order to advance our economic goals and advance our mobility needs.” Via ABC7 Image via David Mark

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California governor issues executive order to conserve 30% of state land by 2030

Inside Beautycounter’s quest to transform its mica supply chain

October 5, 2020 by  
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Inside Beautycounter’s quest to transform its mica supply chain Joel Makower Mon, 10/05/2020 – 02:11 First in a two-part series. This story begins, as so many supply-chain stories do, at a mine, the beginning of a journey in which a commodity — mica, in this case — finds its way into an extraordinarily diverse array of quotidian things: attic insulation; brake linings; car paint; concrete; electronic capacitors; epoxies; fertilizers; gypsum wallboard; LED lights; molded rubber; oil and gas drilling fluids; plastics; printing inks; roofing shingles; and toothpaste. And somewhere down that list: cosmetics. The mine in question — actually, thousands of them — can be found in the eastern Indian province of Jharkhand, just over 200 miles west of the cultural hub of Kolkata. Jharkhand — and Bihar, its neighbor to the north — boast one of the world’s richest veins of mica as well as a complex ecosystem of players large and small that provide the shiny, shimmering rock to global markets, including to a maverick California cosmetics company called Beautycounter. But, as the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. Mica mining has become a growing problem for the image- and brand-conscious cosmetics industry. Its relentless pursuit for safe and effective ingredients has animated a wide range of efforts to understand and, when necessary, improve the sourcing practices for mica and thousands of other ingredients. In some cases, that means substituting them with new, less-problematic ones. Procuring those ingredients can involve complex supply chains, in which families, small businesses and entire communities in far-flung parts of the globe grow, mine or otherwise source raw materials. From there, the materials may wend through a maze of intermediaries: collectors; brokers; distributors; processors; and an assortment of others who ultimately transform them into whatever specifications the market demands. Along the way, materials from one site may be commingled with those from others, complicating companies’ and their customers’ efforts to understand where, exactly, they came from and the conditions under which they were produced. The complexity of tracking and tracing all these ingredients can obscure detrimental environmental and social impacts, from pollution to bribery to slavery. And child labor, in which small children, often recruited because of their ability to fit into small spaces, do difficult, dangerous work for low pay. In some cases, they are the only thing standing between their families and starvation. Which brings us back to mica. In cosmetics, mica is commonly used as a color additive to provide the glitter and shimmer consumers expect in such products as blush, eye shadow, lipstick and foundation. (The mineral’s name comes from Latin word micare, which means to glitter or pulse.) It is also common in skincare products, particularly those marketed as brightening or illuminating, and is used as a bulking agent and to increase viscosity. Mica flakes, photo courtesy Beautycounter Mica is mined in more than 35 countries, but about 25 percent of the world’s supply comes from deposits found in and around Jharkhand, in what has been dubbed the mica belt. Jharkhand is also home to the highest level of poverty in India, which has led children to join the labor force in order to enable their families to put food on the table. About 35 percent of the population of Bihar and Jharkhand live on less than 50 cents per day, according to one report . “The mica in India is optically very distinct,” Leonardo Bonanni, founder and CEO of New York-based Sourcemap, a supply-chain mapping software company, explained to me. “People buy it just like they buy cocoa from West Africa: It has that special profile that they’re looking for. It’s one of the highest quality, if not the highest quality, in the world.” What’s been less chronicled is the arduous journey companies go through to clean up their mica supply chain. In recent years, the story of mica and child labor has been well-told, thanks to investigative reporters, activist groups and concerned companies. What’s been less chronicled is the arduous journey companies go through to clean up their mica supply chain, including the often-grueling work it takes to trace the mineral from its source all the way to products, then make the necessary changes to ensure it meets a company’s ethical and performance standards. And to communicate all this to its customers and stakeholders in a simple, compelling and reassuring way. In that regard, mica is just one of many commodities in corporate supply chains that face social and environmental challenges, not to mention byzantine routes to market, leading to increased scrutiny of companies, and especially consumer brands, perceived to be less than responsible or transparent. And while each commodity can have its own unique challenges, the lessons learned in one can inure to the benefit of others in today’s interconnected business world. School of rock The past few years have brought a rise in concern over child labor in mica mining in Jharkhand. Investigators have documented children as young as 4 — some working alongside their parents and siblings — hammering rock from walls in illegal mines, then carrying heavy loads through slippery tunnels. Above ground, children sort the mica flakes from the rock and transport them to makeshift collection facilities, some of them in abandoned mines. None of them attend school. A Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation in 2016 found children “dying in crumbling, illegal mica mines … but their deaths were covered up.” A year later, the Indian government legalized mica mining in an effort to allow the sector to be regulated, root out child labor and ensure better wages and conditions for mine workers of all ages. Child labor, however common, remains illegal, and many makeshift mines are unregulated. Children working in a mine in Jharkhand, India. Photo via Danwatch. Cosmetic companies, the most visible consumer brands using mica, have been under pressure from advocacy groups to clean up their mica supply chains, in part, by eliminating child labor. A number of both large and smaller brands have taken on the mica issue, some more effectively than others. Those efforts remain a work in progress. Only about 18 percent of mined mica goes into cosmetics. The electronics industry is the biggest user, with about 26 percent, followed closely by the paints, pigments and ink sector, at 24 percent. But cosmetics, to date, has been the sector most under scrutiny for its mica sourcing practices. Enter Beautycounter . The 7-year-old privately held company, based in Santa Monica, California, sells 150 or so products directly to consumers through its website, brick-and-mortar stores and more than 50,000 independent consultants. Its founder, marketing executive Gregg Renfrew, built the company around an ethos of “clean” and safe cosmetics by scrutinizing even the most commonly used ingredients. “We are focused on safety for human health. First and foremost, that’s our primary platform,” Renfrew told me during an on-stage interview in 2019. The company has banned more than 1,800 ingredients from its formulations due to health and safety concerns. About three years ago, Beautycounter’s concerns began to expand to include the well-being of those in its supply chains. It set out to try to change the sourcing methods for three ingredients it felt were particularly problematic: palm oil; vanilla; and mica. Back to the source To begin, the company needed to understand the provenance of its mica: where it came from and the various parties who touched it, both literally and figuratively, on its way to being incorporated into Beautycounter products. That turned out to be no small feat. “Traceability is the key to expose secrets and make sure that you can actually understand how people are treated when they’re mining or farming the ingredients that you use,” Lindsay Dahl, Beautycounter’s senior vice president of social mission, explained to me recently. “And while we commend the work that has happened by some of the other traditional beauty players, we actually didn’t see anyone that was taking what we felt was an adequate dive to really understand how to trace the mica supply chain.” Dahl and her team began to audit their suppliers and realized “just how little has been done to understand where and how mica is sourced and ultimately ends up in products.” Dahl and her team realized just how little has been done to understand where and how mica is sourced and ultimately ends up in products. One relatively easy option could have been to use only mica mined in the United States, which boasts high environmental and social standards, at least compared to those in India, Madagascar and other places that mine mica.  For example, German chemical company BASF operates an open-pit mica mine in Hartwell, Georgia, that it says meets its high standards and has no child labor. The Hartwell mine is the largest source of mica to Beautycounter. But it isn’t that simple. Some of that has to do with the nature of the mineral itself. Mica is the name for three dozen or so phyllosilicate materials whose crystalline structure can be split or delaminated into thin sheets or flakes. Different types of mica are used for different applications, depending on whether the need is for a material to be elastic, flexible, hydrophilic, insulating, lightweight, reflective, refractive or opaque, among several other qualities. Identifying the desired attributes for a given product can be tricky. For example, when used in eyeshadow and blush, the nature and quality of the mica can determine how long it stays on one’s skin. In the case of a tinted moisturizer, one of Beautycounter’s most prominent products, the company tried sourcing domestic mica, “and it just made people’s faces look super shiny,” Dahl said. Another workaround would be synthetic mica, made in a lab, which is said to be brighter and more uniform in color and finish. Several cosmetic brands, such as Aether Beauty, Jane Iredale and Lush, boast that their use of manufactured mica eliminates child labor problems. It’s not a guarantee: In 2016, Lush discovered natural mica in a range of mica pigments it had been told were synthetic. (It can be equally complicated for consumers. Mined mica may be listed on a product ingredient list as mica, muscovite, potassium aluminum silicate or by its chemical name, CI 77019, whereas the lab-made version may show up as synthetic mica or synthetic fluorphlogopite.) Beautycounter uses domestically mined mica whenever possible. “That’s actually how we start our product development process,” Dahl explained. “And if that mica doesn’t perform, then we go to our other vetted suppliers.” In many of those other cases, mica sourced from Jharkhand is the way to go. Dialing for details In 2018, Dahl and her team set out to understand its mica supply chain, including how much verifiable information was available about working conditions and child labor. All of its mica suppliers were able to produce third-party certification attesting to ethical labor practices, but it was unclear what, if anything, was behind those certificates. Lindsay Dahl, Beautycounter’s senior vice president of social mission. “It was clear right away if a supplier even knew where their product was coming from and where it was sourced, because there were so many middlemen,” Dahl explained. “And if you don’t even know where your product is sourced, how can you actually hand us a certificate that says, ‘We feel confident’?” That year, Sasha Calder, Beautycounter’s sustainability director, began asking hard questions about child labor in a series of phone audits. “For some suppliers, there are so many middlepeople that we still don’t know,” Calder told me. “And for those suppliers, we’re no longer working with them because they didn’t have that traceability from the mine all the way to our formulas.” In some cases, mica went through “at least 10 different layers and levels of suppliers,” she said. “That very initial step was the real wake-up call that pushed us into action to say, ‘It’s time for us to take a deep dive,’” Dahl said. One goal of the phone-audit exercise, Calder said, was to determine “if our partners or suppliers were willing to have us on the ground to see whether what they were sharing on the phone was legitimate.” In short order, it was time to go. On the ground Calder ventured to Jharkhand in January 2019 to see what she could learn about which suppliers were in compliance with Beautycounter’s human rights and safety standards. “We found that the mica industry was much more complicated than anything we thought,” she said. “All of our research didn’t prepare us for the complexities on the ground.” Her experience there did not inspire confidence. Beautycounter sustainability director Sasha Calder in Jharkhand. Calder returned home with recommendations for which suppliers were willing to uphold standards and which weren’t, and where and how the company needed to reformulate ingredients from some suppliers or, with others, put in place a set of initiatives to be compliant with both international law and Beautycounter’s own standards. For the next several months, Calder and her colleagues worked closely with suppliers to implement those plans. In some cases, suppliers unwilling to make the necessary changes were summarily dropped. Top-down, bottom-up Calder returned to Jharkhand in November 2019 to see how things were going. This time, she invited Leo Bonanni from Sourcemap to join her. Bonanni is no stranger to this type of exercise, having investigated coffee and cocoa supply chains from Mexico to Madagascar and throughout West Africa. “Mica runs into the same problems as cocoa in the sense that a lot of it is informal, a lot of families extracting mica for their own subsistence,” Bonanni explained to me. “It’s a cash product. You can’t eat it, you can’t wear it, so it has to be traded. And that means there are a lot of vulnerabilities. The people who mine mica might be getting very low prices compared to what it goes for on the market.” With cocoa, Sourcemap keeps tabs on a half a million smallholder farmers in West Africa, where child labor is common. In Jharkhand, Bonnani observed, “You have an analogous problem — hundreds of thousands of artisanal miners of mica. Child labor and malnutrition are endemic. At the same time, these huge multinational brands and even the traders are fully aware that they’re sourcing from these places, but they lack that accountability to the ‘first mile,’ as we call it.” Why don’t we apply those lessons from cocoa, which is not an easy supply chain to trace and monitor, to mica? Bonnani thought: “Why don’t we apply those lessons from cocoa, which is not an easy supply chain to trace and monitor, to mica?” In tracing supply chains to ensure ethical practices, Sourcemap works in both a top-down and bottom-up fashion. The top-down part is something it calls supply-chain discovery — essentially starting with the brand to find out what it knows about its suppliers, and its suppliers’ suppliers, the kind of exercise in which Beautycounter already had engaged. “It’s a cascading process that allows a brand, no matter where it is in the world, to find out where their raw materials are sourced,” Bonnani explained. The bottom-up part is on the ground, as Bonnani did in traveling with Beautycounter to Jharkhand, “Going there and trying to figure out what mechanisms can we put on the ground to actually make that supply chain visible, make it transparent,” he said. Bonnani quickly determined that, while mica mining in India shared some qualities with cocoa farming in Madagascar, it lacked some qualities of the cocoa world.  For example, he told me, “In the cocoa industry, there’s been increasing support from all the stakeholders, including even the local governments, to put in place traceability and to account for risks of child labor. In mica, we are still missing many of the key players at the table — basically the people we would need to put pressure on the producers so that they have to become transparent about where they actually source the mineral. “There’s a huge black hole that consists of a whole series of local warehouses and processors. And that’s where we lose visibility between the mine and the exporter.” Fanny Frémont agrees. The executive director of the Responsible Mica Initiative , she has been working on behalf of her organization’s 60 member companies, including cosmetics and personal care brands such as Burt’s Bees, Chanel, Clarins, Coty, L’Oréal, LVMH, Sephora, Shiseido and The Body Shop. Its membership also includes automakers, pigment companies, chemical companies, pharmaceuticals and other mica producers and consumers. (Beautycounter is not a member.) The group has been working since its founding in 2017 to help companies across a range of industries clean up their mica supply chains. The organization and its members have set out to map the flows of mica, starting at the mines. “Each member’s supply-chain participant must then adopt workplace environment, health, safety and fair labor practices that include a prohibition on the use of child labor,” according to its website. The Paris-based organization tracks 57 percent of the mica exports from India, according to Frémont, and has been working with the Jharkhand government to enforce existing regulations and enact new ones. But Frémont told me that the mica initiative doesn’t plan to require traceability by its members. That’s a blind spot, Bonnani said. “Until we have traceability, we won’t be able to account for any of the risks in the mica supply chain, let alone child labor, one of the biggest ones.” Next:  How transforming the mica supply chain transforms lives I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote What’s been less chronicled is the arduous journey companies go through to clean up their mica supply chain. Dahl and her team realized just how little has been done to understand where and how mica is sourced and ultimately ends up in products. Why don’t we apply those lessons from cocoa, which is not an easy supply chain to trace and monitor, to mica? Topics Supply Chain Consumer Products Leadership 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 School children in Jharkhand, India.   Photo by Mohammad Shahnawaz, via Shutterstock.

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Presidential debate gives 10 minutes to climate change

October 1, 2020 by  
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It seemed like the whole 90 minutes would be spent slinging insults about family members, interrupting and telling each other to shut up. But with 10 minutes to go of the first 2020 presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace said, “I’d like to talk about climate change .” The results were revealing. Whether or not you agree with Joe Biden’s plans for getting the U.S. out of its environmental mess, just about any viewer would have to admit that Biden has a plan. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump works hard to avoid the topic. Related: Biden vs Trump on environmental issues and climate change “I want crystal clean water and air, we now have the lowest carbon … if you look at our numbers now we are doing phenomenally,” Trump said during the debate, adding that people were very happy that he withdrew the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord immediately on taking office. When pushed, Trump admitted there might be something to climate change. He then repeatedly turned the conversation to California’s fires , blaming the state for lack of forest management. Wallace tried to steer Trump back to the topic. “But sir, if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama Clean Power Plan, which limited carbon emissions in power plants? Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards that are going to create more pollution from cars and trucks?” Trump again brushed off the question, this time talking about the safety of new cars. When Biden got his chance to speak, he gave a quick sketch of his $2 trillion green energy plan , which would include replacing federal cars with electrical vehicles and weathering millions of homes to cut heating and air conditioning needs. Trump repeatedly interrupted, insisting that Biden’s plan was synonymous with the much-maligned Green New Deal and saying it would cost $100 trillion. The 10-minute climate change debate was a surprise to viewers, as it wasn’t on the pre-released list of debate topics. The six planned topics were the economy, Supreme Court, coronavirus pandemic, race and violence in cities, election integrity and the two candidates’ past records. While climate change is relevant to people planning to continue living on Earth, it’s not the top issue in most voters’ minds. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 68% of Biden supporters cited climate change as “very important,” compared to 11% of Trump supporters. Overall, 42% of voters cited climate change as very important. The top three issues, according to the Pew poll, were the economy, healthcare and Supreme Court appointments. Via EcoWatch , HuffPost and Grist Image via Milkovi

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Presidential debate gives 10 minutes to climate change

California votes to protect Joshua trees

September 29, 2020 by  
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This week, the California State Fish and Game Commission unanimously voted to protect Western Joshua trees. In a move that is first of its kind, the Joshua trees will be protected for a year under the  California Endangered Species Act . During this year of protection, researchers will analyze threats to the species. The Western Joshua trees are beautiful, tall trees that are native to Southern California. They have become the first plant species in California to be granted protection from climate change. The vote now means that all the Joshua trees in the state will not be harvested for any purpose for a period of one year. In the meantime, a team of researchers will be looking into the state of affairs of the trees. After one year of research, the commission will have to make a decision as to whether the trees will be protected permanently or not. Related: Water pollution inspires the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to improve water quality The petition that has been approved was submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity , which raised concerns over the increasing threat of climate change. The petition cited heatwaves and worsening drought among the main reasons to protect the trees. In two previous attempts, the commission put off voting. Members of the commission were conflicted based on an outpour of public comments for and against conserving the trees. While conservationists have been pushing for protection, developers have put up a spirited campaign against such a move. But recent fires and extreme weather events seem to have jolted members of the commission into reality. According to Brendan Cummings, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the vote is a big win for the trees and the environment at large. “This is a huge victory for these beautiful trees and their fragile desert ecosystem,” Cummings said. “If Joshua trees are to survive the inhospitable climate we’re giving them, the first and most important thing we can do is protect their habitat. This decision will do that across most of their range.” The decision to protect these trees will not be enough if efforts are not made to reverse the effects of climate change . According to recent research, only 0.02% of the Joshua trees’ habitat in Joshua Tree National Park will remain habitable if the current state of greenhouse gas emissions is maintained. The research suggests that even drastic measures taken to curb emissions would keep only 18.6% of the habitat viable for the trees’ survival. The damage done to the Joshua trees is already massive. In August alone, a wildfire damaged about 43,000 acres of the Mojave National Park, burning over 1.3 million plants. Via Gizmodo Image via Pixabay

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California votes to protect Joshua trees

The durable Solo New York backpack can accompany all of your adventures

September 28, 2020 by  
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Back in July, Inhabitat introduced readers to the Solo New York brand, a sustainable fashion company making bags out of recycled plastic water bottles. Since then, we have had the opportunity to use the popular Re:vive Mini Backpack ourselves, testing it out on more than a few outdoor adventures. With the environmental tolls of fast fashion becoming more and more apparent, sustainability has certainly become a buzzword in the textile and fashion industries. Solo New York’s recycled fabric production starts with discarded plastic bottles. Through an environmentally friendly process, the plastic bottles are finely shredded and re-spun into durable and lightweight recycled PET polyester yarn. According to Solo New York, this recycled material reduces energy use by 50%, water use by 20% and air pollution by 60%. Related: Each purchase of this bag made from recycled plastic helps plant trees The Re:vive Mini Backpack is just the right size for a day trip. We took one on a hike down to McClures Beach in Point Reyes, California in the height of summer. Despite its seemingly small size, it easily held a small beach towel, a large water bottle, keys, wallet, sunglasses and a tube of sunscreen with room to spare. The short fabric key clip built into the top of the bag helped keep us from digging around in the bottom for keys (always a plus), and the bag itself was so lightweight that it was easy to forget it was even on. When a sandwich mishap produced a small stain on the outside of the backpack , a simple dose of spot-cleaning made it good as new — a great characteristic if you plan on using the backpack in your everyday life. Another feature we noticed was the versatility of the design; the heathered gray material on the outside and the subtle black camo on the inside are just as appropriate for a big city subway or the office as they are for exploring a national park. Apart from aiding our fight against plastic pollution, this backpack also proved itself as a great conversation starter. Once people found out that it was made from recycled plastic bottles , most couldn’t believe that the fabric could be so soft and similar to other popular textiles like cotton or polyester. The sturdiness of the plastic fiber is apparent in its durability as well, so it is easy to tell that the bags are designed to last a long time. The mini backpack measures 14″ x 9″ x 4″ and weighs only 0.57 pounds. Priced at $24.99, it is affordable, too. Along with the aforementioned key clip, there are also adjustable shoulder straps and a front zippered pocket to hold more quick-grab items like cellphones and wallets. According to the company, the first run of the Re:cycled Collection was responsible for recycling more than 90,000 plastic bottles, and the line is still continuing to expand with new bags. As of September 2020, the collection features four backpack versions priced from $24.99 to $64.99, a laptop sleeve, two carry-on-size luggage pieces, a briefcase, a tote and a duffel. Solo New York was founded by John Ax, who arrived to the U.S. in 1940 with his family. They only had $100 and the clothes on their backs. As a skilled craftsman, he began rounding up leather pieces and scraps that were destined for the trash from local tanneries to turn into sellable goods. His small company, which eventually became known as the United States Luggage Company, thrived for decades before rebranding as Solo New York. Today, the company has already set solid, transparent goals to become even more sustainable in the future. The goal is to eliminate plastic from all packaging by the end of 2020. Hang tags are already printed on 100% recycled and biodegradable material with a recycled cotton string and a completely biodegradable clasp. The Solo New York headquarters on Long Island takes advantage of New York’s average of 224 sunny days per year with 1,400 rooftop solar panels (producing enough energy to power 87 homes). Plus, the company has a zero-tolerance plastic water bottle policy for its employees, instead offering filtered smart fountains and water dispensers throughout its locations. Solo New York has also partnered with the United States National Forest Foundation, pledging to help aid in reforestation by planting one tree per every bag purchased from the Re:cycled collection. Customers also have the option of taking the “Green Pledge” and promising to say no to plastic bottles for the following 30 days. For every pledge signed, Solo NY will plant a second tree. Overall, we think any of the bags from this sustainable collection would be a great gift option for the Earth-lover in your life, especially for the upcoming holiday season. Even for someone who hasn’t found their stride in sustainability quite yet, the gift of a Re:cycled Collection bag or backpack is sure to be pretty eye-opening as to how far recycling can really go. Even better, if more people pivot to eco-friendly bags, that means we can help cut down on the number of plastic items being manufactured and distributed globally, leading to fewer toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere, less resources spent and less waste produced overall. + Solo New York Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Solo New York. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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The durable Solo New York backpack can accompany all of your adventures

No new gas-powered cars by 2035, California governor says

September 25, 2020 by  
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California Governor Gavin Newsom’s new executive order bans the sale of all new gasoline-powered cars and passenger trucks by 2035. After that, only zero-emissions new cars will be sold in the state of  California . Californians will still be able to own, drive, buy and sell used cars that run on gas. Over half of California’s current carbon emissions come from transportation. The governor’s office foresees a 35% drop in  greenhouse gas  emissions once the new policy goes into effect. Related: 17,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat, rare wildflowers of Nevada, destroyed “I don’t know of any other state in this country that’s been more forceful and forthright in establishing and anchoring a consciousness around  climate change ,” Newsom said in a press conference Wednesday. “We just want to fundamentally reconcile the fact we’re no longer living in 19th century, and we don’t need to drill things or extract things in order to advance our economic goals and advance our mobility needs.” Priorities stressed in the executive order include setting new health regulations around oil extraction and the communities affected by it, stopping hydraulic  fracking  permits from being issued by 2024 and planning a statewide rail and transit network. The California Air Resources Board is formulating regulations for medium and heavy-duty vehicles to be zero emissions by 2045. “This is an economic opportunity: the opportunity to transform our  economy across sectors, the opportunity to accelerate innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunity to bring more companies here into the state of California,” said Newsom. Not everyone favors this turn away from gasoline, and Newsom will likely face political, legal and commercial challenges. In the past, President Trump has objected to California setting its own auto  emission  standards that differ from federal rules. The California New Car Dealers Association released a statement saying that the state’s citizens should have more of a say in this matter. While electric cars are better for the environment than those fueled by gasoline, the lithium necessary for electronic vehicles’ batteries causes another set of problems. Mining for  lithium  affects communities and ecosystems from northern Tibet to the salt plains of Chile to Nevada’s desert. Hopefully, better batteries and the planned statewide rail and transit network catch on and drive down demand for every person to own a private car. Via ABC7 and Salon Image via Pexels

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The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission

September 21, 2020 by  
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The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission Gil Friend Mon, 09/21/2020 – 01:00 The world (well, most of it) attacked COVID-19 as if it were a true global emergency: with extraordinary speed, scale and scope. With real collaboration and a healthy dose of courage, some gutsy decisions were made both in government and business. Getting billions of people to don masks, allocating trillions of dollars and putting massive human safety nets in place around the globe in record time is no task for the faint of heart. Yet we haven’t responded to other planetary catastrophes with the same speed, scale, scope and coordination. This year’s Climate Week commitments notwithstanding, we haven’t shown the same guts and drive on climate as on COVID. But what if we did? That is the challenge posed by the COVID Covenant. Take climate change — in the grand scheme, a far greater and decidedly more existential emergency than the current pandemic. While some targets have been set, some progress made and some portion of the public enrolled, the world has not become galvanized to meet it. This is a threat we know will affect billions of people and displace hundreds of millions more through sea-level rise, desertification and other disastrous impacts by the time our children are grown. The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. We could talk about why we haven’t acted, but the real question is about what we will do going forward: How will we provoke the world into attacking carbon as it has the virus? And climate is not the only major threat we face. The social infrastructure that has left many millions without access to healthcare in the middle of a major pandemic certainly threatens global stability. Inequality and injustice are worldwide disasters as well. These are all global issues that underpin all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and they are all soluble. Yet our planetary response to them has been tepid at best. Going big The COVID Covenant was created to kick the world into overdrive, to accept no less than the huge, unprecedented commitments required to deal with these issues, to make what seemed impossible, possible. In short: to go big. Developed by a cadre of sustainable business veterans, the COVID Covenant represents an all-in community of influential business leaders, municipal leaders and individuals who — after a long, deep breath — have committed to doing far more, far faster than they ever believed they could, and to turn on the sirens and the flashing lights for others while they’re doing it. Each has committed to the COVID Covenant. They have declared they are going big. That’s the price of admission. The COVID Covenant I solemnly commit to do what is necessary, at the speed, scale and scope that is necessary, to ensure we don’t go back to a broken system — an overheating, divided, unequal world — and build a resilient, equitable, healthy world in its place. Before the ink is dry on this Covenant, I will begin creating economic, social and governmental change at speed, scale and scope. I will practice, and advocate for, unprecedented levels of collaboration and I will mobile mobilize my organization(s), city, company and others in my circle of influence to do the same. We know what a real emergency response looks like now, what it feels like — the immediacy and urgency of it. And still, when this pandemic eventually ends, will most organizations return to their pre-coronavirus goals, such as to reduce emissions by 20 percent in five years, say, or to be carbon neutral by 2050? Will they continue with health care and wages as usual? Or will they go big, to get it done now?Demand and lobby hard to ensure everyone has health care, and for a far more equitable wage structure? Will they catalyze others to do the same? If, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, we have a maximum of eight years of carbon left in our 1.5 degree Celsius carbon budget, then a goal of neutrality 30 or 40 years from now no longer looks like leadership. Like heroism. Like going big. Instead, it looks like thinking small. If — or more likely, when — the next pandemic hits, or Florida is underwater, or California is burning, or whatever the next disruption is — can we afford to have millions of people in food lines within a few days of a shutdown, or for millions to lose their jobs or not be able to access health care? The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. If the COVID Covenant can get those who are crawling toward progress to walk instead, if it can get the walkers to start jogging and the joggers to sprint, then we have a chance. (Those already sprinting? Time to turn on the jets — let’s see commitments that make Microsoft’s aim to remove all the carbon it has ever generated look like last year’s news.) The world has progressed — a bit — on climate. A few short years ago, climate targets were not science-based, and carbon-neutral commitments were rare. Most corporations were not reporting to GRI or SASB or thinking about TCFD. Now, thousands of companies are reporting, hundreds have set science-based targets and many corporations and communities already have committed to neutrality — though, as we’ve noted, their goals are too modest and too slow. The goalposts have moved, but nowhere near fast or far enough. Further, faster The message of the COVID Covenant is, “It’s great you say you’ll do this cool thing in 20 or 30 years, but that’s not soon enough. What if you treated it like the emergency it is and committed to getting the job done fast? What would it take for you to do it in 10 years? Five years? Three?” The COVID Covenant is seeding a community of collaborating competitors, of peers, experts and cheerleaders, sharing best practices, modeling what going big looks like and how to get there, offering feedback and advice, and trumpeting its work to the world. What this community does and becomes is up to those who commit to it — we’re confident that a group of people and companies whose uniting purpose is to go big will do more than just commit. The community might generate new business relationships among its members, new research or new public-private partnerships. However the collaboration evolves, it will be a vehicle for greater change and impact — picking up the gauntlet thrown down by the coronavirus, climate change and widening social inequity.  Those who’ve committed to the COVID Covenant include Andrew Winston, Hunter Lovins, John Izzo, Gil Friend, Daniel Aronson, Catherine Greener, Daniel Kreeger, Amy Larkin, P.J. Simmons and Phil Clawson.  Read more and make your own commitment here . Pull Quote The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. Contributors Daniel Aronson Topics Climate Change Leadership COVID-19 COVID-19 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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