Are lawyers and accountants doing enough on climate change?

October 13, 2020 by  
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Are lawyers and accountants doing enough on climate change? Joel Makower Tue, 10/13/2020 – 01:40 When it comes to the climate crisis, it’s not just what you make and sell, it’s what you do, and for whom you do it. That’s the message from several recent reports focusing on the role of service-sector companies in addressing — positively or negatively — climate change. The mere existence of these documents, and the campaigns behind some of them, represent another broadening of the conversation, a clarion call for nontraditional business players to lead, or at least not hinder, efforts to address the climate crisis. But, hopefully, lead. Exhibit A: law firms. According to a new report from Law Students for Climate Accountability, most of the top 100 law firms in the United States “provide far more support to clients driving the climate crisis than clients addressing it.” Its research focuses on the work of Vault Law 100 firms, “the most prestigious law firms based on the assessments of lawyers at peer firms.” According to the group’s scorecard , Vault 100 firms: litigated 286 cases exacerbating climate change (versus three cases mitigating it) supported $1.316 trillion in transactions for the fossil fuel industry received $37 million in compensation for fossil fuel industry lobbying The study analyzed litigation, transactional and lobbying work conducted from 2015 to 2019. Each firm received an overall letter grade reflecting its contribution to the climate problem based on the data in these three categories. Four firms receive an A while 26 received an F. Even among those in the middle, the group found that “some firms contribute far more to the climate crisis than others.” The report is intended to provide law students and young lawyers “with a resource when deciding on their current and future employment,” it said, adding: We cannot ignore the role of law firms in exacerbating the climate crisis, and this report is another step in raising consciousness of how our employment choices shape the world. We, the next generation of lawyers, can choose what firms to work for and where to spend our careers. We can ask law firms how they plan to address their role in the crisis and hold them accountable to do so. Of course, for the firms themselves, it’s mostly about following the money. After all, the $41 million ExxonMobil spent on climate lobbying in 2019 ( according to InfluenceMap ) exceeds the entire $37 million annual operating budget ( 2019 ) of Greenpeace USA. “Climate lobbying” in the report is defined as efforts “to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.” Still, as the group notes, “These firms could use their extraordinary skills to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future, but too many are instead lending their services to the companies driving the climate crisis. Law firms cannot maintain reputations as socially responsible actors if they continue to support the destructive fossil-fuel industry.” It will be interesting to see whether shining a bright light on the nation’s top firms — which generally avoid scrutiny, let alone comparisons with one another — will encourage them to forgo revenue in favor of the greater good. Will job-seeking law students truly shun firms seen as bad actors? And if firms dropped oil, coal and gas companies as clients, would it move the fossil fuel industry even one iota? Suffice to say, the jury is out. Lawyers aren’t the only service-sector firms targeted for their climate ties. A report coming out later this week from the Australia-based Sunrise Project “will reveal that the top 10 U.S. health insurers are all invested in the fossil fuel industry” and will call on insurers to divest from these companies, calling them “the greatest threat to human health.” On a more proactive note , the CFA Institute, a trade group that measures and certifies financial analysts, recently released ” Climate Change Analysis in the Investment Process ,” a report that aims to improve the industry’s understanding on how climate risk can be applied to financial analysis. The report, written by Matt Orsagh, director of capital markets policy at the institute, explains the economic implications of climate change and covers such topics as a price on carbon and the growing carbon markets, increased transparency and disclosure of climate metrics, and how analysts should engage with companies on the physical and transition risks of climate change. And then there are banks and other financial institutions , which have long been the focus of climate activists. That, too, is ramping up. Earlier this month, the Science Based Targets initiative released a framework and validation service for financial institutions “against the backdrop of growing awareness of the material risks posed by climate change.” Fifty-five financial institutions including Bank Sarasin, Amalgamated Bank and Standard Chartered are backing the new certification and already have committed to setting science-based targets. For the first time, those organizations have the opportunity to verify their emissions reduction plans against the goals of the Paris Agreement. I’m fairly certain that campaigns are already ramping up to get the world’s largest financial institutions on board. Follow the money, indeed. Topics Corporate Strategy Policy & Politics Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Are lawyers and accountants doing enough on climate change?

HSBC is latest bank to pledge net-zero financed emissions by mid-century

October 13, 2020 by  
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HSBC is latest bank to pledge net-zero financed emissions by mid-century Cecilia Keating Tue, 10/13/2020 – 00:46 HSBC has become the latest bank to commit to achieving net-zero financed emissions, announcing Monday that it intends to align its portfolio of investments and debt financing with global climate targets by mid-century. The bank, currently Europe’s second largest financier of fossil fuels, has committed to reaching net-zero across its supply chain and operations by 2030, before reaching net-zero across its customer portfolio 20 years later. The pledge does not include any firm commitments to phasing out support of fossil fuel companies, but confirms the bank’s plans to channel between $75 billion and $1 trillion of financing and investment over the next 10 years to support its customers’ transition towards net zero emissions. In an open letter to its clients, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn said the bank had been motivated to ramp up its environmental ambition by customer concern about climate change. “We know this is an issue that many of our 40 million customers care deeply about, particularly in our retail and private banking businesses,” Quinn wrote . “They care as citizens, consumers and business owners. We are committed to developing products that allow them to invest or participate in efforts to bring about a more sustainable global economy.” While the pledge provides limited detail on the measures it will take to slash the carbon emissions of its portfolio or operations, the bank said it would establish “clear, measurable pathways” to net-zero using the Paris Agreement’s Capital Transition Assessment Tool (PACTA). We know this is an issue that many of our 40 million customers care deeply about, particularly in our retail and private banking businesses. HSBC said it would “apply a climate lens” to all its financing decisions and disclose its climate risk in line with the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). It also said it would work with the broader finance sector to create a standard to measure financed emissions and support a functioning carbon offset market. Ben Caldecott, director of the Oxford sustainable finance program and COP26 strategy adviser for finance, hailed the announcement as a “big deal,” noting that HSBC faced particular challenges due to its being more exposed to emerging markets than many of its peers. Elsewhere, the news elicited a more lukewarm response, with a number of environmental campaigners slamming the commitment as “empty” due to its lack of a phaseout timeline for its support of fossil-fuel companies and businesses responsible for deforestation. “HSBC’s net-zero commitment is a bit like saying you’ll give up smoking by 2050, but continuing to buy a pack a week or even smoking more,” said Becky Jarvis, coordinator of campaign group network Fund Our Future UK. “Any further financing of oil, gas and coal expansion today is utterly at odds with a net-zero commitment by 2050. That’s just science, not finance.” Adam McGibbon, energy finance campaigner at Market Forces, said the proposals represented “zero ambition, not net-zero ambition.” “If you want to know what HSBC’s stance on climate change really is, look at what they fund, not their fluffy marketing,” he added. “This is a bank that owns stakes in companies seeking to build enough coal power plants to emit carbon emissions equivalent to 37 years of the UK’s annual emissions.” HSBC, which provided $87 billion in financing to top fossil fuel companies since the Paris Agreement and nearly $8 billion in loans and underwriting to 29 companies developing coal plants between 2017 and Q3 2019, has faced growing pressure from shareholders to cease financing companies heavily dependent on fossil fuels. In May, 24 percent of shareholders voted in favor for an independent resolution that called for clear phaseout targets and in 2019 a group of investors, including Schroders, EdenTree and Hermes EOS, wrote a letter to the bank’s then-CEO urging him to end support of companies dependent on coal mining or coal power. This week’s announcement is the latest in a growing wave of pledges from across the financial sector from banks and investment firms looking to fully decarbonize not just their operations but also their portfolios. In the past month alone, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have made similar pledges, while earlier this year Barclays and Natwest promised to move their investment activities into line with the Paris Agreement. Pull Quote We know this is an issue that many of our 40 million customers care deeply about, particularly in our retail and private banking businesses. Topics Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy Net-Zero BusinessGreen 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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How to ensure circular fashion is good for people and the environment

October 9, 2020 by  
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How to ensure circular fashion is good for people and the environment Annelise Thim Fri, 10/09/2020 – 00:15 This article originally was published in the BSR Insight . The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the fashion industry into disarray, leaving supply chain workers without wages and causing major global brands to file for bankruptcy. In the United States alone, 2.1 million retail workers lost their jobs due to the crisis. In Bangladesh, the garment sector is expected to lose over a million jobs by December, with over 70,000 workers already laid off. While many underlying issues are not new to the industry, the unprecedented situation has made us acutely aware of the fragilities of our current economic system and of just how vulnerable people — especially workers and their communities — are to significant business disruption. As our society looks to build back better by emerging from the crisis with a more resilient and sustainable system, many industries are planning to integrate circularity into their recovery plans. Indeed, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, circular economic models had been sprouting up at increasing speed in the fashion industry, both to counter its enormous environmental impact and to respond to economic opportunities. The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution . Companies, brands and designers are increasingly looking to circular fashion models, including resale, rental and repair, to mitigate these impacts. A strong signal of the circular fashion opportunity: Resale grew 25 times faster than the overall retail apparel market in 2019. While the potential positive environmental impact of a shift to a circular economy is enormous, few organizations are considering the social implications for the more than 60 million people in its value chain . Given the sheer size of the industry and the many ways people intersect throughout production and consumption, social implications, whether positive or negative, are unavoidable. Women, who comprise between 60 to 90 percent of total apparel workers, of whom an estimated 80 percent are women of color , likely will take the brunt of the impact due to their precarious working conditions and existing gender-based discrimination. BSR’s new brief, ” Taking a People-Centered Approach to a Circular Fashion Economy ,” explores the potential social impacts that may emerge from a mainstream shift to circular fashion . The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. Informed by BSR’s research and stakeholder engagement supported by Laudes Foundation , an independent foundation tackling the dual crises of climate change and inequality, the brief proposes opportunities for businesses, policymakers and advisers to design circular fashion business models to be inclusive and fair from the outset. In addition, we provide a set of guiding questions for companies and organizations to practically think through the social impacts of their shifts to circular fashion models, aiming to avoid and mitigate negative social impacts and more consciously target positive social impacts. “The vision of ‘circular economy’ presents an economy that is compatible with nature, but we cannot take for granted that it will be inclusive,” said Megan McGill, senior program manager at Laudes Foundation. “BSR’s work is enabling us to ensure that in our pursuit for a regenerative and restorative economy, we are actively managing and promoting the rights and equity of people touched by the fashion sector.” This current period of complex disruption presents a unique opportunity to leverage the shift to circularity to address some of the global fashion industry’s persistent and pervasive environmental and social issues. By taking a people-centered approach, we can build a more resilient industry and respond to the calls from stakeholders — through safer inputs that increase the health and safety of workers and production communities, enabling creative and dignified employment, and building inclusive models adapted to the needs of a diverse consumer base. Supported by Laudes Foundation, BSR is continuing to explore the impacts of the shift to circular fashion on job opportunities and quality — a topic largely ignored in the circular transition to date and which we begin to delve into in this brief. Our current work aims to explore and develop responses to these impacts in collaboration with fashion companies and broader industry stakeholders. In addition, we will leverage strategic foresight in developing and testing practical recommendations with special focus on the U.S., Europe and India. This brief was developed by Cliodhnagh Conlon and Annelise Thim, with input from Laura Macias and Magali Barraja and with the support of Laudes Foundation. As we delve deeper into this topic, we are keen to hear feedback and learn from others who are working to ensure that the circular fashion transition delivers benefits for people. If you are currently working on circular fashion or would like to learn more about our work, please reach out to connect with the team. Pull Quote The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. Contributors Cliodhnagh Conlon Topics Circular Economy Supply Chain Fashion Supply Chain Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Garment worker in Bangladesh, where the garment sector is expected to lose over a million jobs by December 2020, with over 70,000 workers already laid off. Photo by Jahangir Alam Onuchcha on Shutterstock.

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This is the moment to reimagine public transportation

September 29, 2020 by  
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This is the moment to reimagine public transportation Amanda Eaken Tue, 09/29/2020 – 00:21 Back in April, the city of Seattle temporarily closed off nearly 20 miles of streets to most vehicular traffic in order to let residents bike, walk, jog and skate at a safe social distance during the height of the city’s COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets program was designed to encourage people to travel to essential services and small local businesses — or just to get outside for exercise or fun — at a time when many people felt anxious about doing so. While wildfires ravaging the West Coast and smoke clouding the air across Seattle create yet another barrier to getting outside, these hazy skies also underscore the importance of defending our air quality, right now and for years to come. Then, in early May, something unexpected happened: the temporary closure of these streets became permanent . Mayor Jenny Durkan — one of 25 mayors nationwide participating in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge  — announced that the program’s popularity and success had convinced her to extend it beyond the end of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order. In explaining the rationale for the decision, the head of Seattle’s Department of Transportation described the impact of Stay Healthy Streets as “transformative,” adding that it had revealed a need “to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.”  If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. These days, as wildfires ravage the West Coast and smoke clouds Seattle’s air, residents face yet another barrier to getting outside. These toxic, hazy skies underscore the importance of defending our air quality, right now and for years to come. And we’re not starting from scratch: For years, Seattle’s transportation department and others in city leadership have been working to reduce the health-harming pollution from cars, trucks and other sources. Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets program is the latest in those efforts: In addition to being safe places to walk and ride, these streets are free of polluting cars. Beyond Seattle and wildfires in the west, the COVID-19 crisis has compelled cities all over the world to reconsider — and, in many cases, to reimagine — their previously held ideas about our transportation systems. First and foremost, it has forced them to acknowledge that bus drivers, subway conductors and other mass-transit personnel are essential workers , every bit as crucial to the continued functioning of society as the people who work at our hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies. Indeed, in New York City, public transportation is how most essential workers have been getting to their jobs during the pandemic. And for millions of residents who don’t have access to a car, including a disproportionate number of low-income people and people of color, it’s their primary means of getting around, pandemic or no pandemic. But our current crisis has forced us to admit something else, too: Transportation policy isn’t just about getting people from point A to point B. Rather, it’s inextricably connected to public health, racial and economic justice, climate action and civil society in ways that haven’t always been fully acknowledged, but that are becoming clearer every day. One surprising example? In San Francisco, a professional cellist gave impromptu performances from his doorstep, creating a magical experience for neighbors and people walking by — an experience that was only audible due to the reduction in car traffic.  Seattle’s decision to turn its streets into pedestrian- and bike-friendly zones is just one example of how cities are recognizing that transportation is about regional accessibility just as much if not more than mobility. In doing so, they’re putting themselves on a path towards a healthier, more equitable future. Here are three ways we can reimagine our city transportation systems.  1. Streets aren’t just for cars  Seattle was just one of many cities around the world to open up its streets as it (mostly) closed down for everyday business. From megacities such as London , Paris , and New York to Climate Challenge participants such as Austin and San Jose , officials have discovered the many and compounding benefits that come from redefining thoroughfares to promote walking, cycling and other emissions-free forms of transportation. Adding safe places to walk and bike to our urban landscapes invites people out of their automobiles, resulting in cleaner air and fewer planet-warming greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. But it does more than that: It improves public health by promoting exercise, and fosters community by beautifying our neighborhoods and making people excited to get out of the house and be around one another (while still practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, of course!). It also addresses inequities inherent in public safety: People of color and members of underserved communities are more likely to become victims of automobile traffic violence. In addition, “slow streets” programs in many cities are helping residents rethink what streets are for.  2. Our public transit infrastructure needs — and deserves — investment For decades, America’s public transit systems have languished in the shadow of a $98 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and replacement. These are the very same public transit systems that kept some of our biggest cities from collapsing entirely during the height of the COVID-19 crisis by transporting essential workers to their jobs and allowing people without access to a car to visit their doctors, buy food and obtain medicine. While we’re lauding efforts by cities to get more people moving around on foot or bicycles, we also should be pressuring local, state and national leaders to fill this backlog and update our mass transit infrastructure. And we need to be clear that “updating,” in this instance, doesn’t simply mean replacing the hardware — installing new tracks or buying new buses. Public officials must make investments that prioritize the needs of riders most affected by this crisis by reimagining public safety and promoting public health, affordable housing and economic opportunity in historically marginalized communities. COVID and post-COVID recovery plans need to make this a priority, and the congressional champions of infrastructure bills such as the INVEST in America Act and the Moving Forward Act need to fight hard for adequate funding and a holistic, equitable approach to spending. Which brings us to:  3. Access to safe, effective transit is very much a racial justice issue  Recent incidents of police brutality against people of color, and the mass protests that have occurred in their wake, have led to a long-overdue national discussion of how systemic racism and the legacy of white supremacy continue to permeate our public policy. For many Black and brown residents, transportation already means public transportation: the buses; subways; and light-rail lines on which they rely daily for getting to work, school or essential services. When we neglect these systems, we’re neglecting these communities and in our common humanity, neglecting ourselves. Any efforts to remedy and redress the inequities borne of institutional racism are incomplete if they don’t acknowledge that mobility is a right, and that hampering people’s mobility — be it direct through poor planning, gentrification, redlining or underfunding or indirect through an act of omission — is an unacceptable violation of that right. If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. We’re living through several pivotal moments in American history at once. In responding to the simultaneous crises we currently face, we have a responsibility to not just return to the status quo, but to boldly and intentionally improve public health, racial equity and climate resiliency. Reimagining our transportation systems is the critical first step to shaping a more just future.  Pull Quote If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. Topics Transportation & Mobility Equity & Inclusion NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off In May, some closures that started with Seattle Healthy Streets became permanent. Shutterstock VDB Photos Close Authorship

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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

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