What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’

July 22, 2020 by  
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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’ Heather Clancy Wed, 07/22/2020 – 02:00 Who is responsible for emissions? Where did they originate? How can we be sure? A global coalition fronted by former Vice President Al Gore promises granular insights and data into those sources — down to individual power plants, ships or factories. Climate TRACE (short for Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) intends to use a massive worldwide network of satellite images, land- and sea-based sensors and advanced artificial intelligence to generate what it’s describing as the “most thorough and reliable data on emissions the world has ever seen.” The long lag it takes to calculate this information today is untenable if countries and the corporate sector hope to act quickly, the group wrote  in a blog about the initiative, co-authored by Gore and Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of coalition member WattTime. “From companies looking to select cleaner manufacturing suppliers, to investors seeking to divest from polluting industries, to consumers making choices about which businesses to patronize, one thing is clear: a reliable way to measure where emissions are coming from is necessary,” they wrote. “Climate TRACE will empower all of these actors.”  Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide. Climate TRACE is just the latest example of the former vice president’s decades-long commitment to educating the world about the climate crisis, through The Climate Reality Project, and to investing in technologies and solutions that could address it, through Generation Investment Manager.  Emissions monitoring using advanced technologies is something all members of the coalition have been working on for some time, but breakthroughs in software and processing technologies — as well as the will to take action more quickly than mid-decade — prompted the coalition members to step forward with the goal of making its first report before the United Nations COP26 conference in 2021. Candidly, Gore is the reason I’m on the corporate climate beat, so I was inspired by the invitation to interview him as a virtual keynote session for SEMICON West , a conference focused on members of the semiconductor industry. “There are real indications that this COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the shift toward more sustainable technologies and as much as anything else, I would say there has been a very dramatic change in attitudes,” Gore told me at the beginning of our chat, prerecorded before the Climate TRACE announcement.   To be clear, the data isn’t encouraging. As Gore related during our conversation, 19 of the 20 hottest years “ever measured with instruments” have been in the last 20 years — and 2020 is on pace to dethrone the current record holder for hottest year on record. What’s more, Gore observes that we’re still emitting 152 million tons of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours. The consequences of that imbalance are felt in water cycle disruptions, sea-level rises, far stronger storms and the spread of tropical diseases northward, he noted. “It’s a real horror story and since our civilization has been built up almost entirely during this climate envelope, if you will, that has persisted since the end of the last ice age, the fact that we’re changing those conditions so radically poses an existential threat to the survival of human civilization as we know it.” But advances in processing, communications and data analysis technologies give Gore hope that humans still can take meaningful action, especially with new resolve and urgency borne out of the COVID-19 crisis, Gore told me. “This can be the stimulus we need for sustainable prosperity in the wake of the pandemic as we finally come out of it, so it’s so important that this tremendous industry has awakened to this challenge and is providing tremendous leadership,” he said.   Following is a partial transcript of our conversation, which picks up after Gore’s opening remarks. The comments were edited for clarity and length.  Heather Clancy: Do you see any long-term changes emanating from the COVD-19 crisis that could help the world deliver a zero-carbon future? Are there nuggets of hope in the response that you can point to specifically? Gore:   Well, you have to go country by country, and I don’t want to dwell too much on the response here in the United States right now. I’m a recovering politician, and I don’t want to stray back into that field. The longer I go without a relapse, the less likely one becomes. But you can find examples of hope and optimism in many country’s response to the pandemic and their success should be emulated elsewhere. I’ll leave it at that. But there are many realizations that are coming from this. We now know that the burning of fossil fuels is a precondition for higher mortality rates under COVID-19. There was a study of 324 cities in China showing a linear correlation between the infection rate and the death rate from COVID-19 compared to the amount of fossil fuels burned in those locations. A Harvard study showed the same thing here in the U.S. and even if you go back to the 1918-1919 [flu] pandemic, there was a very thorough study just 18 months ago showing that the amount of coal burned in cities throughout the U.S., again, was correlated precisely with the death rate from the great flu pandemic a little over 100 years ago. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. Now we’ve already also seen with COVID-19 a rapid reduction in travel and an increase in working from home and I’m sure many of the people listening to us, Heather, have had the same experience I know you and I have had. That is thinking, “Wow, this stuff works pretty well. Maybe we don’t have to make all of those airplane flights that we have been chained to for all this time,’” and there are many other examples. There are real indications that this COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the shift toward more sustainable technologies and as much as anything else, I would say there has been a very dramatic change in attitudes. I don’t want to sound Pollyannish, but I really believe there has been a kind of a general awakening.  The gains from the LGBTQ community of the last several years are being consolidated. The gains demanded in gender equity over the last several years are also being consolidated, and I think, again, the shocking new awareness on the part of so many of the inequities and injustices that communities of color have been experiencing for a lot of reasons. I mean, they are much more likely to be downwind from the smokestacks and downstream from the hazardous waste flows, but they also have much less access to quality healthcare. Their housing, by and large, is not the same. They don’t have the Zoom-able jobs like we do right now on average. Incomes, I mean, it takes 11.5 typical Black families, average Black families to make up the net worth of one white family, average white family in the U.S. and these statistics have remained unchanged for 50 years. We’ve got to change that, and I think there is a general increase in awareness, an awakening if you will. One jokester called it The Great Awokening. I don’t think I’ll use that phrase as my own, but I do think there is something to it. I think that the rising generation is demanding a better future, and if they knew all that you have planned and underway in this industry, they would feel so good about it. I’m going to do my part to make sure they do find out about it. Clancy: What foundational technologies do you see coming out of this moment of destruction that could really make an impact? And let’s go to the semiconductor industry. What positive developments do you see happening where they could really make a difference? Gore: Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide … These have been already essential in, well, take increasing the range of Tesla’s electric vehicles and actually that’s another mark of the change. Tesla just became the most valuable automobile company in the world, surpassing Toyota. That’s pretty impressive.  I’ll mention one more: Innovations around how semiconductors are packaged, that’s also been a prominent trend and essential in enabling the next generation of algorithms which power things like drug discovery, which has got our attention right now, and smart electricity grids which are much more power efficient. Environmental leader Al Gore. Clancy: What could get in the way of these advances? What concerns should the industry have from an environmental standpoint as they take these to the mainstream? Gore: Well, we are seeing a challenge to the efficacy of self-government. I don’t want to sound too highfalutin on this, but really here in the U.S., we have seen what can stand in our way when we pretty much know what to do and we just have to get our act together and think and act collectively to do it and when we let partisanship get out of bounds and when we don’t accept the authority of knowledge, when we tolerate an assault on reason and when we allow powerful players in the economy to embark on information strategies that are intended to put out wrong facts. I started to say alternative facts but, again, I don’t want to trip over all of those controversies. But it is a problem, seriously, and we have seen that spread to some other countries like Brazil and the Philippines and Hungary, not to mention Russia. Democracy itself is the most efficient way of making collective decisions because it allows us to harvest the wisdom of crowds. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. So I do believe that we are seeing a number of positive developments, and I do have a lot of confidence in this rising generation that is insisting that we get on with these solutions. Clancy: You referenced data centers and cloud computing services earlier, particularly for enabling things like artificial intelligence — which we need for drug discovery, we need for so many things, so many applications related to conservation and climate change. But these things use a lot of electricity. How can the tech industry address this? Gore:  New technologies, innovation efficiency — including some of the new developments that I’ve already mentioned — will help, but we’ve got to go into this with our eyes wide open. Applied Materials has told us that, has told the world that their studies indicate that we could actually see a very large increase in the amount of energy used for information processing and that makes this challenge even more urgent. But I do continue to be optimistic, very optimistic on the ability of this industry to rise to the challenge and there are some things the industry could do, and I know some of these have been discussed.  First of all, collaborate across the industry from semiconductor equipment makers to software companies with academia to think about how to deliver a step change in the efficiency of data center semiconductors. It’s been encouraging already to see cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence to effectively reduce data server energy use by significant amounts without any changes to hardware. I’ve been following for a few years now Google’s use of its DeepMind Division to dramatically reduce energy use in server farms, again, without any new hardware. That’s awfully impressive… Now they had the advantage of a lot of structured data to work with. They’re Google, after all, so they got a lot of structured data but there are thousands of use cases where that same approach can also be used.  Secondly, reduce the electricity required to manufacture semiconductors. I’ve been amazed at the increasing amount of power required to manufacture these ever-smaller chips, and I would join with others in encouraging all of the equipment manufacturers to work together to reduce carbon emissions in the manufacturing of these advanced semiconductors and finally continue decarbonizing the power supply on which the data centers operate… Clancy: I want to go back to something you referenced in your opening remarks, which is the environmental justice issue. It’s well-documented that climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. How can the tech industry act internally and externally to change this to get rid of that digital divide that prevents progress? Gore: Well, I think first of all, this awakening that I talked about has affected people in the semiconductor industry. You look at these protest marches around the U.S. The vast majority of those marching are white and two-thirds of the American people now say they support the Black Lives Matter movement, a dramatic change compared to just two months ago. And, of course, George Floyd’s murder was a turning point but it’s also reflective of the changes that we have seen more broadly in our society. I mentioned already the fact that the communities of color are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, and there are many reasons for it. But it’s wise for every industry, particularly a cutting-edge industry like this one, to respond very effectively to the rising demands from two groups.  First, younger employees who want their work to have meaning. Many of the executives listening to us have already long since learned that when they interview the best and brightest to join their firms, they find that the job applicants are interviewing them. They want to know whether or not the company shares their views on sustainability and shares their views on diversity. I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. And, by the way, I mentioned the wisdom of crowds earlier. I don’t want to emphasize it too much, but we’ve studied that a lot at Generation, and the scholars tell us and the evidence proves that you benefit tremendously in your collective thinking from as much diversity as possible on every matrix except one.  You don’t want any diversity on values. But then if you have different life experiences, different points of view, different religious traditions, different ethnicities and all of the rest orientations, that adds to the ability of any company to make better collective decisions. And so for the tech industry, specifically, it’s long been known that this industry has work to do in order to deal with the struggle to become more racially and culturally diverse. We’ve seen software companies make some very encouraging efforts to broaden their hiring funnels through apprenticeships and scholarships, but that could probably be increased in the semiconductor industry also. Clancy: Speed is of the essence in the fight against the climate crisis. How can the tech industry and the government work together maybe like in the area of research and development but also more broadly to make the most of this moment? Gore: Well, I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. I want to encourage others to adopt and embrace a science-based target to make sure that their activities and their emissions reductions plans are in keeping with what the global scientific community, the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says is necessary to stay below a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperatures. Look, this is an existential threat to our society, and I know I’ve used that phrase, but we’ve got to accept that and we have got to take leadership and make sure that we’re doing everything we can. It’s just unbearable to imagine a future generation living with the kinds of consequences the scientists tell us would ensue if we don’t solve this crisis. And imagine them looking back at us in the year 2020 and asking, “Why in the hell didn’t you do something about it? Didn’t you hear the scientists? Couldn’t you hear Mother Nature screaming at you?”  Every night on the TV news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, practically. We’re appropriately focused on the pandemic now, but even now we’re seeing these extreme weather events and the increasingly dire forecasts from the scientists. So I’m encouraged by this industry, and I think that the science-based targets approach is a really great step, and I’d encourage everybody to adopt them. Pull Quote Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide. I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. Topics Climate Change Innovation Social Justice Technology Racial Justice Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’

Paul Polman: ‘Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail’

July 22, 2020 by  
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Paul Polman: ‘Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail’ Deonna Anderson Wed, 07/22/2020 – 01:30 As people across the United States and the world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice, the business community has an integral role to play in both the dialogue and the solutions to these social issues. Last week, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman urged business leaders to be courageous in their response. “What COVID has done is a few things that we weren’t really able to get across until then. COVID has made clear that there cannot be healthy people on an unhealthy planet,” said Polman during his webcast conversation with Joel Makower, co-founder and executive editor of GreenBiz. “People are understanding how much more the relationships between biodiversity, climate, inequality — may I add racial tension to that? And I think it is not surprising that more people are asking now for a more holistic solution.” He noted that citizens, employees and executives alike want better solutions. Polman is co-founder and chairman of Imagine , a “for-benefit” organization and foundation, which he started in 2019 with Valerie Keller, CEO for the organization; Jeff Seabright, former chief sustainability officer of Unilever; and Kees Kruythoff, chairman and CEO of the Livekindly Company. Imagine’s mission is to mobilize business leaders to tackle climate change and global inequality.  During the webcast, Polman noted that one reason he co-founded Imagine was to help break down obstacles for companies trying to deliver on their sustainability commitments. “It’s difficult for individual companies now to do what the public at large expects from them. They might not have the skill. They might not have the capabilities. They might have the government working against them with policies, which still is the case in many places,” Polman said. “What we’re focused on now is, ‘Can we bring these CEOs together, at industry level, across value chains to make them more courageous leaders to drive these transitions faster?’”  Polman has spent decades at the helm of big corporations — in various roles at P&G and most recently as CEO of Unilever — and he’s known for his optimism.  In Polman’s work at Imagine, he aims to bring together key stakeholders who can make a big impact in their industries. “We carefully select the industries that we believe have the biggest impact on the Sustainable Development Goals, especially around climate change and inequality,” Polman said of Imagine, noting that the organization has started with the fashion industry and is starting to make traction in the food and finance industries. The COVID-19 pandemic puts Imagine’s efforts in the travel industry on hold. While Imagine is choosy for now about which organizations it is working with, Polman said there will be room for more collaborators in the future. “As these initiatives become bigger, we can include others in the circle, so to speak,” he noted. In the meantime, here are three major takeaways from last week’s conversation between Polman and Makower.  1. Companies that are focused on ESG performance are better off. “I think now it is clear … that if you want to maximize your shareholder return, it leads you automatically to a more responsible ESG, multi-stakeholder type business model,” Polman said. “That’s what the numbers keep telling us, and that’s also where the fiduciary duty is starting to move to.” In addition to meeting the expectations of financial stakeholders, there is also the need for companies to meet the needs of their employees. Right now, in particular, there’s an enormous tension within companies because employees want their C-suites to deliver on their promises — for example, truly embedding diversity and inclusion throughout their work in a way that is intentional and sustained. Companies that have not invested in their employees or their value chains “see that their relationships are broken now,” Polman said. “These are moments of truth where I think you can see what right corporate behavior leads to and what wrong corporate behavior leads to.” 2. Our social model is broken. The people who are most marginalized such as communities of color and those working in service industries have suffered most from the COVID-19 pandemic. Polman noted that people are starting to realize the importance of social cohesion. Moreover, their awareness about our broken systems is increasing. People in lower paid jobs “have disproportionately paid for this crisis and yet these are the people that we need the most,” he said. “These are the people that provide us healthcare, transport, agricultural products and the list goes on.” What COVID has done is a few things that we weren’t really able to get across until then. COVID has made clear that there cannot be healthy people on an unhealthy planet. For some, including government officials and corporate leaders, there’s a sense of urgency to create a better, greener economy. Polman notes that this push is being driven by corporate leaders’ deep understanding that “businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail.” There continues to be a need to operate within our planetary boundaries and move to a more inclusive, sustainable form of capitalism, Polman said. 3. The real Black Swan has been the lack of leadership. The coronavirus pandemic has done a lot of damage, but Polman said that government leaders, their lack of leadership and inability to work together have been the major reason for the extent of the crisis. Polman noted that governments around the world are trying to put rescue packages in place that could help with the “greening” of society. But that’s not enough. “The other half still needs to catch on,” he said. In addition to discussing government leadership, Polman said corporate leaders must show courage. That leadership needs to be moral and human, he said, in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past. For example, Polman pointed to the 2008 financial crisis in which the U.S. federal government rescued the wealthy but left others behind to figure it out on their own. “It needs to be a leadership with more empathy and more compassion,” Polman said. At the end of the webcast, this question was asked: At a moment in time when all hope feels lost, how can a person stay hopeful? “I’m a prisoner of hope. And the second thing is I believe in the goodness of humanity,” Polman answered. “I’m hopeful for the young people because they have a higher sense of purpose and they’re going to play a bigger role. And I’m actually hopeful because of us having waited so long, the cost of inaction is now clearly higher. … And we need to translate [the hope] into action and resources.” Pull Quote What COVID has done is a few things that we weren’t really able to get across until then. COVID has made clear that there cannot be healthy people on an unhealthy planet. Topics Leadership Social Justice Corporate Social Responsibility Racial Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, speaking during the World Economic Forum panel on ending poverty through gender parity at Davos on January, 24 2015. Source:   Paul Kagame Flickr Paul Kagame Close Authorship

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Paul Polman: ‘Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail’

Transform to Net Zero: Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks team up on corporate climate alliance

July 22, 2020 by  
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Transform to Net Zero: Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks team up on corporate climate alliance Cecilia Keating Wed, 07/22/2020 – 00:20 A clutch of major multinational corporates including Microsoft, Danone, Nike, Unilever, Starbucks and Mercedes-Benz together have launched a new forum dedicated to sharing resources, tactics and strategies aimed at speeding up the business community’s transition to net zero.  The Transform to Net Zero initiative launched Tuesday will see members of the coalition — which also include Danish shipping giant Maersk, Indian information technology company Wipro and Brazilian beauty company Natura & Co — collaborate on research, guidance and roadmaps to help businesses slash their carbon emissions in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming trajectory. The group, which expects to complete its work by 2025, aims to encourage businesses around the world to adopt science-based climate targets that address the environmental impact of their full value chains, sometimes known as Scope 3 emissions. They also have committed to share information on investing in carbon-reduction technologies and to collectively push for public policies that accelerate the net zero transition. Microsoft president Brad Smith said that the initiative would help companies at all stages of their decarbonization journey turn climate commitments into “real progress” towards net zero. The business world of the future cannot look like it does now. “No one company can address the climate crisis alone,” he added. “That’s why leading companies are developing and sharing best practices, research, and learnings to help everyone move forward.”  The nonprofit business network BSR is serving as the initiative’s secretariat and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is also assisting with the initiate as the single non-corporate member. EDF president Fred Krupp said that the initiative held “huge potential” to address growing disparities between corporate talk and action on climate change. “The new initiative holds tremendous potential for closing these gaps,” he said. “Especially if other businesses follow in the coalition’s footsteps, leading by example and using the most powerful tool that companies have for fighting climate change: their political influence.”  The founding members confirmed that they would make all findings public and encouraged other companies to sign up over the weeks, months and years to come. Many founding members of the Transform to Net Zero initiative already have set their sights on achieving net zero emissions. Consumer goods giant Unilever has committed to achieving net zero across its value chain by 2039 while Microsoft has committed to an industry-leading goal of becoming “carbon negative ” by 2030, replacing more carbon into the atmosphere that it generates.  Meanwhile Unilever CEO Alan Jope also welcomed the launch of the new forum. “The business world of the future cannot look like it does now; in addition to decarbonization, a full system transformation is needed,” he said. “That why we’re pleased to join other leading businesses as a founding member of Transform to Net Zero so we can work together and accelerate the strategic shift that is needed to achieve net zero emissions.” Pull Quote The business world of the future cannot look like it does now. Topics Commitments & Goals BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Illustration of a smokestack Shutterstock cubicidea Close Authorship

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Transform to Net Zero: Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks team up on corporate climate alliance

Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’

July 20, 2020 by  
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Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’ Cecilia Keating Mon, 07/20/2020 – 00:30 Earlier this year, Danone became the first listed company to become an “enterprise à mission,” a new type of corporation created by a 2019 French law. The pioneering governance structure will see the food giant officially entrench environmental, social and societal objectives into its bylaws, alongside more typical profit goals. Danone, founded more than a century ago and famously declared an asset of national importance by the French government in 2005, has long prided itself on being a purpose-led business. Its new status is the latest in a string of moves the company has made to boost its environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials as it works towards meeting a highly publicized aim of becoming one of the first B Corps certified multinational. Eric Soubeiran, the company’s vice president of nature and water cycle, explained that weaning the company off intensive farming is at the core of its new sustainability mission. Danone, which owns a range of household brands including Volvic, Evian, Actimel, Alpro and Activia, is first and foremost a dairy company, after all. “If you really want to do sustainability well in a company, you need to know your business well,” Soubeiran said. For a food company, that means knowing how and where you source your ingredients, what your customers want, and understanding the provenance of your direct and indirect carbon emissions. “Concretely, when you look at Danone, 60 percent of our carbon footprint is from agriculture,” Soubeiran acknowledged. “Eighty-nine percent of our water footprint is from agriculture. [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. That is why it’s very important for us to have an opinion about the agriculture model we want.” [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. As such, the company is working with farmers worldwide to adopt a regenerative approach to farming that encourages healthier soil and ecosystems, better water stewardship and a broader diversity of cultivated seeds and crops. Danone is providing training to farmers in France to make the switch to new techniques to meet a goal to rely on 100 percent regenerative farming in the country by 2025. And in order to encourage the approach beyond its supply chain, Danone recently founded the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) initiative, a cross-sector effort to improve the private sector’s approach to biodiversity. The strained food production system is begging for reform, argued Soubeiran. “It is very clear in Danone’s vision that the food system is broken,” he reflected. The practices ensconced in the “green revolution” of the 1970s, he said, have “intensified agriculture practices to a point where we have created a situation where food has become a commodity. And by definition, a commodity has no value or very limited value. That’s why [as an industry] we are focused on volume, not quality, and how we have reached a point where we accept the fact that 30 percent of all food produced globally is wasted.” The transition away from intensive farming, he stressed, not only can prevent the loss of wild species, create better working conditions for farmers and livestock, end monocropping and protect local ecosystems, but is also a lever that Danone must pull if it is to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by mid-century in line with global climate goals. Soubeiran has experience disrupting what he dubs “linearalized” food chains and moulding them to be more sustainable. In a previous role at Danone, he was charged with managing the company’s milk supply during the period when France liberalized its previously tightly controlled milk market. The company decided to eschew a price mechanism focused on volume and set its milk price based on the cost of production, giving Danone leeway to firm up production conditions with farmers. “We wanted to stabilize our relationship with farmers so that we could discuss the way they were farming, talk about sustainability and animal welfare,” Soubeiran explains. “It’s hard to do that when you have huge [price] volatility.” Indeed, Soubeiran is under no illusions that the wholesale transition to regenerative farming comes at a cost premium, despite growing interest in sustainable products from customers across Danone’s markets. “There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing,” he said. “That’s why Danone has signed the green recovery appeal at the European level, because we believe the transformation and the renegotiation of the agriculture policy is instrumental to that.” There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing. An additional stream of financing is targeted at helping farmers improve the quality of what they are producing while keeping prices down for the customer, Soubeiran explained. As such, in May the company urged the EU to use its upcoming Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies to establish an EU Common Food Policy that provides incentives to farmers to switch to regenerative practices. These, the company suggested, could range from crop and livestock insurance that minimizes the risk of lower yields through the transition process; “innovative multi-stakeholder financing mechanisms” or carbon bonds for agricultural products with pricing adjusted to reflect soil carbon sequestration performance; and guarantees of “first loss” inspired by the renewable energy sector that would allow farmers to fund the transition to more resilient agricultural systems. Soubeiran contends that the coronavirus has, in some respects, made his mission easier, given that the animal-originating coronavirus has underscored how ecological systems support human life. “If we protect biodiversity, we are basically protecting the diversity of DNA,” Soubeiran mused. “There’s also a sanitary aspect to it, given that we’re protecting corridors of biodiversity. While that was not that obvious six months ago, that’s obvious now for everyone.” He points out more than 65 percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic — transmitted to people from animals. But, while the zoonotic coronavirus has turbocharged public understanding of biodiversity and served as a “call to action” for Danone’s corporate sustainability initiatives, Soubeiran concedes that on a practical level the pandemic has hampered the firm’s ongoing efforts to transition farmers to regenerative practices. For example, when social distancing regulations were at their most demanding, trips to train farmers on new practices and discuss investment and financing plans became logistically impossible. On the bright side, however, the crisis has underlined the resilience of Danone’s direct sourcing model, he says, which minimized supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. The firm sources 75 percent of products directly from suppliers, Soubeiran explained, adding that the model is a major boon in a world where collaborations and knowledge-sharing between multinationals and their suppliers are critical to meeting carbon targets and other joint sustainability objectives. Soubeiran contends that there is a healthy appetite from company shareholders for Danone’s growing file of sustainability initiatives, in particular its decision at the close of last year to publish carbon-adjusted earnings per share (carbon EPS) in its quarterly reports. The metric sends a very strong message to shareholders that the company “has done its homework” on counting its Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, according to Soubeiran, as well as exposing them to the invisible cost of carbon. Danone, banking on the assumption it reached peak emissions in 2019, is confident that its carbon-adjusted EPS will rise over the years to come. And investors are engaging with the approach — in 2018, Soubeiran estimates he had 70 interactions with shareholders; last year, it had more than doubled to 190. Moreover, in late June, 99 percent of shareholders backed Danone’s motion to become an “enterprise à mission,” a turnout dubbed “mind-blowing” by Danone chief executive Emmanuel Faber. “Huge kudos to our shareholders after today’s unanimous support of the change of Danone’s by-laws to incorporate health, planet, people and inclusiveness objectives as part of our mission,” Faber enthused. “You showed evidence that finance can change the world. It is on us, boards and CEOs, CFOs to engage finance on what matters. It responds. Big time.” Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer. Over the coming months, Soubeiran will focus on steering a cross-sector effort to improve the private sector’s approach to biodiversity, dubbed the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) initiative. The coalition, launched by Danone at last year’s UN COP climate conference, counts consumer goods heavyweights L’Oréal, Google, McCain, Walmart, Kellogg, Nestlé and Unilever. The companies have promised to work together to scale up regenerative agriculture practices, to increase the number of ingredients sourced in order to reduce the world’s reliance on a handful of crops, and to better protect local ecosystems through nature restoration and eliminating deforestation. The group is developing a framework for action that will be unveiled at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, postponed six months to January in the wake of the pandemic. The initiative has been inspired by “systems thinking,” Soubeiran explained, and will focus on specific actions that can be monitored instead of overarching science-based targets or percentage-based goals. “With OP2B the focus is on action, action that can trigger a transformation,” he said, adding that that the single-issue, action-orientated initiative is “quite a new way of collaborating” for Danone. Overall, Soubeiran is buoyed by the boundless opportunities’ biodiversity boosting initiatives present to food companies looking to enrich their portfolios — a fact underlined by this week’s World Economic Forum study highlighting how a nature-focused recovery could deliver over $10 trillion of economic gains . “Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer,” Soubeiran reflected. “But biodiversity is about more: More choice, more taste, more experience. It’s a very interesting topic and creates a positive spin on sustainability.” Pull Quote [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing. Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer. Topics Food & Agriculture Leadership COVID-19 Biodiversity Regenerative Agriculture ESG COVID-19 BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Workers fills up milk storage tank at a Danone dairy plant in Normandy, France, April 2008. Source:  Photoagriculture Shutterstock Photoagriculture Close Authorship

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Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’

It will take personal sustainability to meet the global challenges we face

July 6, 2020 by  
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It will take personal sustainability to meet the global challenges we face Chris Gaither Mon, 07/06/2020 – 02:15 Earth Day, when we remember the planet’s fragility and resilience, was when I finally understood that I had nothing left to give. It was April 2017. After two decades of striving in my career, I had risen to a role of great impact: a director on Apple’s Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives team. My boss, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, had entrusted me with orchestrating the company’s annual Earth Day celebration. And, wow, had we stepped up our game that year. We released a 58-page environmental responsibility report and a series of animated videos about Apple’s environmental achievements, posing curious questions such as “Do solar farms feed yaks?” We turned the leaf on our logo green at hundreds of Apple stores around the world. Even bolder, we announced ambitions to make Apple products out of entirely recycled or renewable materials. I drank beer and hugged the brilliant people from so many Apple teams who had pulled all of this off. I smiled. But mostly, I wanted to fall into bed. To inspire Apple employees, we created an hour-long presentation for Lisa to deliver in Town Hall, the campus theater where the first iPhone was announced. And we brought musician Jason Mraz to play an Earth Day concert on the green lawns of One Infinite Loop. Whew. Surrounded by thousands of my colleagues as Mraz performed, I drank beer and hugged the brilliant people from so many Apple teams who had pulled all of this off. I smiled. But mostly, I wanted to fall into bed. Insistent inner voice That wasn’t new. The enormity of my job, leading strategy and engagement for Lisa’s team, usually left me exhausted — especially after Earth Day, when I felt like one of Santa’s elves just after Christmas. What was different? This time, when I told myself I’d bounce back soon, I knew I was lying. Underneath my sheen of accomplishment and pride, a quiet and insistent inner voice told me I was depleted. Cooked. Burned out. That voice was right. As May deepened, so did my sadness and fatigue. The physical and emotional crisis overwhelmed me. Nearly every day, I sat in my glass-walled office and tried to avoid eye contact with my colleagues so they wouldn’t see my tears. I felt like I was failing at everything. I couldn’t gain any momentum on projects. My well of creative energy had run dry. My body no longer allowed me to pretend that this hard-charging life was right for me. Previous injuries flared up, sending lightning bolts of pain along the nerves in my hands, feet and back. As I tried to ignore the pain, my body kept turning up the volume: a 3 out of 10, then a 4, then a 7. My body seemed to be asking, “Can you hear me now?” The pain reached a 10 that spring of 2017. And still I tried to soldier on. Don’t be an idiot, I told myself. Your boss served President Barack Obama, and now she reports to Tim Cook. You have a wonderful team. You have a great title and lots of stock in the world’s most valuable company. Even better, you get to tell stories of the powerful work Apple is doing on climate action, resource conservation, natural-disaster relief and HIV prevention. You show others what’s possible. You become what Robert Kennedy (whose photo hangs on the wall of Tim’s office, alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s) called a “ripple of hope,” spreading inspiration through customers, investors, suppliers, policymakers and industry. Listening to your spirit So what if you feel down? Most people would kill for this job. Suck it up. Here’s the thing: You can’t think your way through an existential crisis. You can’t talk your way out of burnout. You need to listen, deeply, to your spirit. You need to honor what it’s telling you. And my spirit was telling me something profound: For the previous few years, I’d devoted myself to corporate and planetary sustainability. But along the way, I’d completely lost my human sustainability. Only when I hit the depths of my crisis did I understand that I needed to quit the job I’d worked so hard to get. Only when I hit the depths of my crisis did I understand that I needed to quit the job I’d worked so hard to get. I’d let the burnout go for so long that stepping off the corporate treadmill was the only way I could truly recuperate from the punishment of two decades of high-stress work, long commutes, poor health habits and time away from my family. So that’s what I did. I sat across from Lisa in her office, swallowed hard past the lump in my throat and told her I was leaving to recover my well-being. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. In the three years since, I’ve come back to life. I’ve gotten well. I’ve crafted a career of purpose and meaning. I’m an executive coach who helps leaders — especially environmental sustainability leaders — nourish and inspire themselves so they can keep doing the work they love. Why am I telling you this story? Because, my friends, I see myself in you. I see you suffering under the weight of the environmental crisis. I see you struggling with weariness, depression and burnout. I see you decide you can’t take a day off when the planet is burning. I see you sacrifice your own sustainability for planetary sustainability. I get it. You keep going because you have a big heart. You’re called to do this work, maybe by your love of wildlife or natural places, or by a deep desire for racial and economic equality. The problem is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or creativity that you need to do great work. And great work, maybe even transcendent work, is critical right now. That’s why I’m starting this series with GreenBiz. I’ll be writing regularly about ways you can tend to your human sustainability. Purpose. Love. Natural beauty. Breath. Poetry. Stillness. Rest. I’ll use as examples things my clients and I get right, things I get wrong (so, so wrong) and things I still struggle with every day. My hope is that you’ll reconnect with that wise voice inside you, and the spark that brings you most alive, so you can be at your absolute best. Because, to find solutions to our most pressing problems, the world needs you at your best. Pull Quote I drank beer and hugged the brilliant people from so many Apple teams who had pulled all of this off. I smiled. But mostly, I wanted to fall into bed. Only when I hit the depths of my crisis did I understand that I needed to quit the job I’d worked so hard to get. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The author with Lisa Jackson at the Apple campus, Earth Day 2017. Photo courtesy of Chris Gaither.

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It will take personal sustainability to meet the global challenges we face

Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

June 11, 2020 by  
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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand Heather Clancy Thu, 06/11/2020 – 01:00 Not-so-news flash: The venture capital community has an abysmal track record when it comes to funding entrepreneurs of color.  Here’s the backstory in numbers. According to the nonprofit investor network BLCK VC, just 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are black (that data comes from the Harvard Business School). Just as shocking, although maybe not surprising given the tech industry’s troubled past on diversity writ large, 80 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor on their staff.  Over the past week, big-name firms SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz took baby steps toward addressing this, but far more needs to be done — especially when it comes to finding and funding climate tech. The specifics: SoftBank has created a separate $100 million fund specifically dedicated to people of color: Cool, but that amount is minuscule alongside the $100 billion in the SoftBank Vision Fund.  The new Andreessen Horowitz effort is a donor-advised fund launched with $2.2 million (and growing) from the firm’s partners with a focus on early-stage entrepreneurs “who did not have access to the fast track in life but who have great potential.”  Let’s cut to the chase. These are well-intentioned gestures, but they don’t even begin to address the bias that pervades the VC system, at least the one that exists in the United States. “Black entrepreneurs don’t need a separate water fountain,” observed Monique Woodard, a two-time entrepreneur and former partner at 500 Startups who backs early-stage investors, during a BLCK VC webcast last week that was livestreamed to more than 3,000 people. (She wasn’t specifically addressing the two funds.) “You have to fix the systemic issues in your funds that keep black founders out and keep you from delivering better returns.” What’s wrong with “the system”? Where do I begin? One black venture capitalist on the webcast, Drive Capital partner Van Jones, likened getting involved in the VC community to a track race in which you’ve been seeded in lane eight and handicapped with a weight vest and cement boots. “There is no reason we should be having the conversation today that we had in the 1960s,” he said during his remarks.  Elise Smith, CEO of Praxis Labs, a startup that develops virtual reality software for diversity and inclusion training, tells of putting on “armor” to engage with the predominantly white ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs — where her experience has been questioned repeatedly and her mission described as niche or as a passing fad.  Smith says one of the biggest issues faced by black founders: the inability of many investors to recognize problems faced by communities of color. “What happens when the problem you want to solve isn’t one that is faced by the people who make decisions about what is funded?” Or, as Garry Cooper, co-founder and CEO of circular economy startup Rheaply. puts it: “I have to overachieve to achieve.” He adds: “You are running a race twice as hard as your white counterparts.” He knows firsthand. Rheaply, which makes software that helps organizations share underused assets, raised $2.5 million in seed funding disclosed in March from a group led by Hyde Park Angels. Cooper started speaking with potential investors more than a year ago and was struck by how difficult it was for him even to score an introduction. While he has praise for his “committed” funding partners, Cooper is the only black founder represented in his lead investor’s portfolio. “It’s shameful that I know all the black VC founders in Chicago,” he said.   Along with some of his allies, Cooper is sketching out what he describes as a “pledge” intended to help expose this issue more visibly. The idea is to encourage hot startups — regardless of the race or gender of the founders — not to seek funding from firms that don’t represent the black community on their team of investors or within their portfolio. Stay tuned for more details as they are finalized, but Cooper says the response to this idea so far has been gratifying. As a climate tech startup founder, Cooper agreed with my personal conviction that any VC firm funding solutions to address climate-related technology solutions must pay particular attention to the issues of equity and inclusion. And yet, when I’ve asked well-known VCs about their strategy for this, none has offered specific strategies for recognizing the needs of people of color in the ideas they consider. I must admit: I never have asked any of them specifically about their strategies for funding entrepreneurs of color. But this is something I’m going to change. “The problems are so enormous, we need every brilliant committed mind thinking about this,” Cooper said.  That sentiment is echoed by Ramez Naam, futurist and board member with the E8 angel investor network, which recently launched the Decarbon-8 fund dedicated to supporting climate tech. Naam said investors funding climate tech startups must recognize the intersection between the climate crisis and the crisis of racial justice. That’s why Decarbon-8 will be intentional about seeking entrepreneurs of color. “We think that means it also makes sense to find entrepreneurs and teams who are minorities that are in the groups that are most impacted themselves. Because if we are going to help some people build companies in this, and they’re going to profit, as the entrepreneurs should, we’d like some of that to go back into those people, in those communities.”  Truth. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Topics Finance & Investing Climate Tech Environmental Justice Diversity Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rheaply founder and CEO Garry Cooper.

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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

June 11, 2020 by  
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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand Heather Clancy Thu, 06/11/2020 – 01:00 Not-so-news flash: The venture capital community has an abysmal track record when it comes to funding entrepreneurs of color.  Here’s the backstory in numbers. According to the nonprofit investor network BLCK VC, just 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are black (that data comes from the Harvard Business School). Just as shocking, although maybe not surprising given the tech industry’s troubled past on diversity writ large, 80 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor on their staff.  Over the past week, big-name firms SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz took baby steps toward addressing this, but far more needs to be done — especially when it comes to finding and funding climate tech. The specifics: SoftBank has created a separate $100 million fund specifically dedicated to people of color: Cool, but that amount is minuscule alongside the $100 billion in the SoftBank Vision Fund.  The new Andreessen Horowitz effort is a donor-advised fund launched with $2.2 million (and growing) from the firm’s partners with a focus on early-stage entrepreneurs “who did not have access to the fast track in life but who have great potential.”  Let’s cut to the chase. These are well-intentioned gestures, but they don’t even begin to address the bias that pervades the VC system, at least the one that exists in the United States. “Black entrepreneurs don’t need a separate water fountain,” observed Monique Woodard, a two-time entrepreneur and former partner at 500 Startups who backs early-stage investors, during a BLCK VC webcast last week that was livestreamed to more than 3,000 people. (She wasn’t specifically addressing the two funds.) “You have to fix the systemic issues in your funds that keep black founders out and keep you from delivering better returns.” What’s wrong with “the system”? Where do I begin? One black venture capitalist on the webcast, Drive Capital partner Van Jones, likened getting involved in the VC community to a track race in which you’ve been seeded in lane eight and handicapped with a weight vest and cement boots. “There is no reason we should be having the conversation today that we had in the 1960s,” he said during his remarks.  Elise Smith, CEO of Praxis Labs, a startup that develops virtual reality software for diversity and inclusion training, tells of putting on “armor” to engage with the predominantly white ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs — where her experience has been questioned repeatedly and her mission described as niche or as a passing fad.  Smith says one of the biggest issues faced by black founders: the inability of many investors to recognize problems faced by communities of color. “What happens when the problem you want to solve isn’t one that is faced by the people who make decisions about what is funded?” Or, as Garry Cooper, co-founder and CEO of circular economy startup Rheaply. puts it: “I have to overachieve to achieve.” He adds: “You are running a race twice as hard as your white counterparts.” He knows firsthand. Rheaply, which makes software that helps organizations share underused assets, raised $2.5 million in seed funding disclosed in March from a group led by Hyde Park Angels. Cooper started speaking with potential investors more than a year ago and was struck by how difficult it was for him even to score an introduction. While he has praise for his “committed” funding partners, Cooper is the only black founder represented in his lead investor’s portfolio. “It’s shameful that I know all the black VC founders in Chicago,” he said.   Along with some of his allies, Cooper is sketching out what he describes as a “pledge” intended to help expose this issue more visibly. The idea is to encourage hot startups — regardless of the race or gender of the founders — not to seek funding from firms that don’t represent the black community on their team of investors or within their portfolio. Stay tuned for more details as they are finalized, but Cooper says the response to this idea so far has been gratifying. As a climate tech startup founder, Cooper agreed with my personal conviction that any VC firm funding solutions to address climate-related technology solutions must pay particular attention to the issues of equity and inclusion. And yet, when I’ve asked well-known VCs about their strategy for this, none has offered specific strategies for recognizing the needs of people of color in the ideas they consider. I must admit: I never have asked any of them specifically about their strategies for funding entrepreneurs of color. But this is something I’m going to change. “The problems are so enormous, we need every brilliant committed mind thinking about this,” Cooper said.  That sentiment is echoed by Ramez Naam, futurist and board member with the E8 angel investor network, which recently launched the Decarbon-8 fund dedicated to supporting climate tech. Naam said investors funding climate tech startups must recognize the intersection between the climate crisis and the crisis of racial justice. That’s why Decarbon-8 will be intentional about seeking entrepreneurs of color. “We think that means it also makes sense to find entrepreneurs and teams who are minorities that are in the groups that are most impacted themselves. Because if we are going to help some people build companies in this, and they’re going to profit, as the entrepreneurs should, we’d like some of that to go back into those people, in those communities.”  Truth. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Topics Finance & Investing Climate Tech Environmental Justice Diversity Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rheaply founder and CEO Garry Cooper.

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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community

June 8, 2020 by  
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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community Jarami Bond Mon, 06/08/2020 – 02:11 Dear Sustainability Community, I come to you again. It’s been three years since writing my first article for GreenBiz, ” Why diversity is the key to unlocking sustainability .” I provided a quick glimpse of the anxiety and pain that the black community feels daily and actionable steps that the sustainability community could take to advocate for diversity and stimulate unprecedented change. I write to you again today with heavy grief and a set of earnest pleas: As sustainability professionals, we must lead the cultivation of a more inclusive, equitable and safe world for all. We not only must steward the environment, but also explore ways to meet the needs of the vulnerable and create healthy platforms for people of all backgrounds to embrace commonalities, celebrate differences and heal tensions. If not us, then who? Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Say their names. These are just a few of many precious lives ended tragically and prematurely by people sickened by the venom of racism. The victims were not dangerous. They were not threats. They were unarmed. In their final seconds, they were powerless and vulnerable, diminished to a point where a cry for mother was the only hope. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Please know that these narratives are not new. They are just now being videotaped and disseminated globally across social media platforms. These narratives leave me and so many in my community numb, angry, speechless, depressed, traumatized, exhausted, afraid, emboldened and so on, all simultaneously. We have been crying out for centuries, for generations. We continue even today. My good friend Joel Makower asked some poignant questions in his recent open letter . Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, to make the world a better place? I ask you to reflect with honesty on your answers to these questions. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to expand your social and professional circles. It’s time to listen. It’s time to ask questions. It’s time to engage with empathy. It’s time to study how our nation has systemically oppressed, crippled and stolen from the black community. It’s time to explore the part you have played. As you shift your posture toward this crisis, your friends, family and colleagues may look at you funny. You may have to swim upstream. I acknowledge the looming tension you may be anticipating in this polarizing moment, but I promise you that it is miniscule juxtaposed to the generational anguish through which our community continues to persevere. However, I do promise that you would not be alone in your newfound, countercultural advocacy. If you care — if you want to see justice, equity and restoration for my community, here are some actions you can take. Believe me. I encourage you to begin by picking one, two or more items from this list and leaning in wholeheartedly. Donate to your local  NAACP chapter, Black Lives Matter and the United Negro College Fund . Before voting, understand politicians’ positions on environmental and social justice as well as criminal justice reform. Hold elected officials accountable once in office. Fight against voter suppression and gerrymandering. Find and support black-owned businesses Push for your company to hire people of color. Ask your company’s HR department to hire more people of color in leadership positions. Call out workplace bias and discrimination when it happens. Promote truly inclusive workplaces. Watch movies and read books that can help educate you on the black experience and race in America. Do research to better understand and process your own biases and privilege. Learn the difference between  equality and equity . Stop appropriation . Many non-black people enjoy the social currency and financial profit derived from embracing elements of our culture, while simultaneously devaluing our very lives. Remember that silence is deadly. Address friends and family who spread ideals laced with racism and discrimination, no matter how subtle. If you witness racism and violence against, record and share the incident. Digital evidence can help protect us against people such as Amy Cooper who weaponize racism, putting innocent black lives at risk. I hope this list gives you actionable ways to get the ball rolling. Your voice and support hold weight and can go a long way in changing the narrative for my community. Don’t let the overwhelming number of ways to get involved hinder you from taking that first step toward real action. For more ways to get involved, I encourage you to explore this robust article, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice,” written by Corinne Shutack on Medium. In closing, I believe in us. As a community of purpose-driven professionals, we have an opportunity to help lead the conversation and lean into actions that provide hope for a better future. I would love to hear from you. You can find me at @jarami_bond on Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn . Pull Quote If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Topics Social Responsibility Environmental Justice 30 Under 30 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Jarami Bond

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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community

Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession 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, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

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