Following the money: A sustainable finance odyssey

December 8, 2020 by  
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Following the money: A sustainable finance odyssey Joel Makower Tue, 12/08/2020 – 02:11 I’ve been following the money this past week. “The money,” in this case, is the sprawling and spiraling world of sustainable finance. The occasion, as you may have guessed, was our announcement  Nov. 30 of our newest annual event:  GreenFin , taking place in April. It drew the attention of a number of friends, colleagues and veritable strangers who wanted to discuss the event’s themes, tracks and topics. The ensuing conversations — and, no doubt, many more to come — are a continuation of the learning journey I’ve been on for the past few years, seeking to understand the role of the financial sector in advancing sustainability solutions and a clean, decarbonized economy. For someone who’s quickly out of his depth when it comes to money matters, it’s been a steep learning curve. Even still, last week’s conversations were a real eye-opener. Let me explain. In 2019, when we first started holding our GreenFin Summits — the precursor events to GreenFin 21 — the focus was relatively narrow: the role of environmental, social and governance (ESG) data in the investing world. Specifically, the alignment of company ESG reporting with the needs of investors, particularly institutional investors and pension funds, which are increasingly viewing high ESG scores as a proxy for good management and reduced risk. This by itself is a complex topic. There is a lack of consistency among various ratings methodologies, a cacophony of ESG standards and frameworks, and a lack of clarity about which data is, in fact, material. “So, sustainable finance is about aligning and harmonizing the needs of both investors and companies,” I concluded some time ago. Not so fast. It was soon evident that the topic of sustainable finance was bigger than just ESG and investors. Hence, the addition of sustainability-linked finance — bonds and loans with terms tied to environmental (and, in some cases, social) outcomes. That’s the realm of banks and other financial institutions. “OK, then,” I ventured. “Sustainable finance covers how ESG scores are being used by investors as well as by financial institutions to determine risk and, thus, capital allocation.” I was getting warmer, but just getting going. For one thing, ESG data is just that: data. It must be sourced, verified and scored consistently across companies to be meaningful to investors, banks and other interested parties. We’re just not there yet. Did I mention the cacophony? Implements of instruction ESG data, it turns out, isn’t being used solely by investors and lenders. It is increasingly becoming a management tool as companies take ESG data, both structured and unstructured, and apply artificial intelligence to assess potential business decisions. “They create a virtuous ESG Loop, where goal-setting, bench-marking and course-correcting reinforce sustainability,” wrote Richard Peers, founder at ResponsibleRisk Ltd, a London-based consultancy, in the blog Finextra . Me again: “So, the ESG data that serves as the foundation for sustainable finance is increasingly driving not just investment decisions but also management decisions.” Yes, but sustainable finance is far bigger than just the companies seeking capital to expand their operations or invest in clean technologies and other things. In fact, companies may represent a relative pittance compared to what’s needed to finance public infrastructure: all those airports, highways, ports, water districts and other critical needs for which cities, states, provinces and nations routinely drop a billion dollars here and there. Can ESG data help ensure that they are built in a manner that makes them resilient in a climate-changing world, even mitigate the threats of droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and all of the other calamities in the first place? Sustainable finance can help. There’s gold in all that green: a bond’s quarter- to a half-point lower interest rate for a green 30-year, billion-dollar bond could translate into tens of millions of dollars in lower costs, money that could go to any number of other worthy causes, or into taxpayers’ pockets. Me: “OK, I think I’m finally getting it. Sustainable finance is a way of deploying investment capital to create sustainable outcomes at a societal and economy-wide level.” Well, almost. Financing the transition If you broaden the aperture a bit more, you’ll see a much, much bigger opportunity: to finance the transition of the global economy to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. According to a 2019 report, Climate Finance Strategy 2018-2023 , from the Hewlett Foundation: To put the world on the path to solving climate change, the current level of funding for climate-friendly activities must be tripled to at least $1.5 trillion annually. Fortunately, the multi-trillion-dollar capital sources needed for climate already reside in the current global financial system many times over. Based on publicly available data, it is estimated there is nearly $250 trillion of commercial capital available globally in five primary capital pools (Asset Owners, Retail Bank Deposits, Development Finance Institutions (DFI)/Multilateral Development Banks (MDB), Private Equity and Venture Capital). That’s a monstrous opportunity, and it broadens the definition of “sustainable finance” even further to include vast pools of capital to take on humanity’s most pressing challenges. In other words, the capital it will take to get from here to sustainability. “So, sustainable finance is how we align capital flows with the opportunity to address the world’s biggest social and environmental problems,” I concluded. I’m still not sure I’ve nailed it, but I’m getting closer. At minimum, I’ve taken a much broader view of what sustainable finance means and what GreenFin could address. To be sure, we won’t be addressing all of these things at GreenFin 21; I’m guessing it will take a couple of event cycles to find our footing. We’ll focus, as my learning journey did, primarily on ESG investing and green bonds and loans. But my quest for understanding has helped to create a roadmap of how this event — and the convening power of GreenBiz and its remarkable community — can meet the moment. Over time, I suspect, much of this will become commonplace, simply the way business and finance are conducted. We’ve seen that in many other aspects of sustainability, from renewable energy purchasing to the circular economy. Visionary ideas become commonplace and, eventually, the status quo. And at that point “sustainable finance” will become, well, just finance. I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin ESG Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Following the money: A sustainable finance odyssey

To achieve net-zero, let’s agree on one definition of success

September 28, 2020 by  
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To achieve net-zero, let’s agree on one definition of success Peter Boyd Mon, 09/28/2020 – 01:30 Reaching the 2015 Paris Agreement goals requires bold action from all sectors and levels of our society. But any chief sustainability officer will fall short of their responsibility if they simply cite net-zero as a strategic goal. High ambition on its own may sound good. But without describing the emissions their organization is responsible for and the end-state they consider successful, an ambitious claim may be disingenuous. At the other extreme, a cautious, crystal-clear set of climate goals is too incremental in this time of emergency. So how to combine the necessary level of ambition with appropriate clarity to inspire potent action? We suggest leaders spell out an organizational definition of net-zero to enable the Paris Agreement’s aim of net-zero global emissions by mid-century. How should a software company or a city mayor think about its duty to reduce emissions and remove them from the atmosphere? The concept of “net-zero carbon emissions” may feel clear enough at a global scale: Carbon output at a level in balance with natural and engineered means of absorption. However, at the scale of countries, cities, institutions and companies, defining net-zero emissions is tricky. Why focus on the responsibilities of organizations and communities? After all, it is the world that needs to achieve net-zero emissions. If we are to maximize the probability of a just transition to a sustainable society, all actors should explain what they mean by net-zero before they describe their intended timeline and actions for achieving it. In that sense, no single organization’s emissions matter much. But if entities think their emissions do not matter, we are all in trouble. To reach and then surpass net-zero emissions globally, most entities need to be on a reduction and removal path that pulls down the trajectory of global emissions. It is a bit like voting: A single vote almost never sways an election; but the duty and mass activity of voting are vital to the health of a democracy. In this sense, each of our emissions is, in fact, important.  If climate actions were as easy to count as votes, this would be easy. Here we argue for a consistent definition of “net-zero” that enables organizations, companies, cities and countries to set transparent targets and track their progress. If we are to maximize the probability of a just transition to a sustainable society, all actors should explain what they mean by net-zero before they describe their intended timeline and actions for achieving it. In that spirit, we suggest four measurable criteria that, when applied together, elevate an undertaking of net-zero (lower case indicating general use of the term) to be worthy of capitalizing to “Net-Zero.” In this refreshed, robust definition, a strategy for “Net-Zero” greenhouse gas emissions can earn its capital letters if it is: Fully-scoped , Science-based , Paris Agreement-compliant and Cumulative. Each descriptive term imparts an important dimension of clarity, while reinforcing the ambition. Net-Zero can be a powerful goal at the sub-global level if entities embrace a concept that is: Fully-scoped: The goal articulates the entity’s scope of responsibility. This should include all greenhouse gas emissions from Scope 1 (owned and controlled sources); Scope 2 (indirect and purchased sources); and Scope 3 ( value chain emissions — both upstream and downstream) that the entity has the ability to influence. Science-based: It incorporates an absolute target for the entity’s own emissions reductions — assuming bold, appropriate responsibility for emissions reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement and at least proportional to its contribution to climate change. Paris Agreement-compliant: The entity specifies if and to what extent carbon credits and external investments in carbon reduction and removal factor into its strategy. Any offsetting investments should be linked to the global carbon budget as defined in the Paris Agreement. Cumulative: The target acknowledges the entity’s historical emissions of greenhouse gases, not just their current level. By analogy, if a customer ate at their favorite restaurant for years without paying, then started paying as they went, the establishment would reasonably expect the customer to settle their old tab at some point. Cumulative responsibility puts rational boundaries around a historical debt. Our hope is that ambitious, clear targets help entities not only achieve “Net-Zero” emissions but progress beyond that marker to a restorative role in society — ideally well before 2050. Together, it is possible to achieve “Net-Zero” emissions across the globe. To do that, it is crucial to rally around one definition of success. This definition should include bold and clear concepts of scope; assume proportional responsibility of definite, ambitious reductions trajectories; include only Paris Agreement-compliant carbon credits or investments; and assume historic responsibility When clearly defined, “Net-Zero” will be an increasingly powerful conceptual tool to focus the world’s response on the climate crisis. For our full paper, visit this link . To share your views and inform future work, please complete our survey and feel free to share with others: bit.ly/DefineNetZero . Pull Quote If we are to maximize the probability of a just transition to a sustainable society, all actors should explain what they mean by net-zero before they describe their intended timeline and actions for achieving it. Contributors Casey R. Pickett Topics Corporate Strategy Net-Zero 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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Seven ways to inform better decisions with TCFD reporting

September 28, 2020 by  
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Seven ways to inform better decisions with TCFD reporting Steven Bullock Mon, 09/28/2020 – 00:00 This article is sponsored by Trucost, part of S&P Global . The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is helping to bring transparency to climate risk throughout capital markets, with the aim of making markets more efficient and economies more stable and resilient.  Many stakeholders are involved in the initiative, across corporations and financial institutions. Each can apply TCFD reporting intelligence to inform better decisions in different ways. Image of seven stakeholders; Source: Trucost, part of S&P Global. 1. Finance director: Developing a business case to increase capital expenditure on carbon-mitigation projects  A global manufacturing company wanted to undertake a carbon pricing risk assessment to understand the current and potential future financial implications of carbon regulation and related price increases on operating margins. The finance director felt the results could strengthen the business case for investment in low-carbon innovation at operational sites around the world. He used the carbon pricing risk assessment in Figure 1 to illustrate the differences the company might see in its operating margins under different climate change scenarios and highlight where investment in carbon-mitigation projects would matter most.  2. Purchasing manager: Minimizing supply chain disruption by identifying suppliers vulnerable to physical risks A global energy company wanted to undertake a physical risk assessment to understand the firm’s potential exposure to climate hazards, such as heatwaves, wildfires, droughts and sea-level rise that could lead to supply chain disruptions and increased operating costs for the business. The purchasing manager felt the results could help identify raw material suppliers that may be affected by these hazards and provide an opportunity to speak with them about steps they are taking to address these risks. As shown in Figure 2, a physical risk assessment can pinpoint vulnerable sites that could cause problems down the road.  3. Sustainability manager: Setting science-based targets for company greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions  A global beverage company wanted to quantify its carbon footprint for its own operations and global supply chain. The sustainability manager saw this as an excellent starting point to set science-based targets for a reduction in emissions, with the targets reflecting the Paris Agreement and carbon reduction plans for countries in which the company did business. As shown in Figure 3, targets could help the company understand the reduction in emissions needed to move to a low-carbon economy and enhance innovation. 4. Investor relations manager: Publishing a TCFD-aligned report  A large consumer goods company wanted to assess the firm’s climate-related risks and opportunities in accordance with the recommendations of the TCFD. Using four core elements — governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets — the TCFD assessment helps quantify the financial impacts of climate-related risks and opportunities. The investor relations team wanted to report these findings alongside traditional financial metrics to publicize that the company was taking steps to manage climate-related issues. To illustrate what could be done, the team pointed to the TCFD report shown in Figure 4 completed by S&P Global for its own operations.   5. Portfolio manager: Screening a portfolio for carbon earnings at risk using scenario analysis An asset management firm wanted to test its investment strategy by assessing the current ability of companies to absorb future carbon prices so its analysts could estimate potential earnings at risk. Integral to this analysis is the calculation of the Unpriced Carbon Cost (UCC), the difference between what a company pays for carbon today and what it may pay at a given future date based on its sector, operations and carbon price scenario. A portfolio manager wanted to use the findings, such as those shown in Figure 5, to report these estimates of financial risk to stakeholders and engage with portfolio constituents on their preparedness for policy changes and strategies for adaptation.  6. Chief investment officer (CIO): Using TCFD-aligned reporting as a way to engage asset managers on climate issues A large pension plan wanted to undertake a climate change alignment assessment of its global equity and bond portfolios to understand how in sync it was with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and where there could be potential future carbon risk exposure. The CIO wanted to publish the results and use the findings, such as those shown in Figure 6, to engage with the firm’s asset managers to determine how they were integrating climate risk into investment decisions. 7. Risk officer: Assessing exposure to climate-linked credit risk  A large commercial bank wanted to estimate the impact of a carbon tax on the credit risk of companies in their loan book. The Risk Officer felt this would add an important dimension to the assessment of creditworthiness. Figure 7 highlights the changes that might be seen in quantitatively derived credit scores for the materials sector under a fast-transition scenario. This shows a rapid increase in carbon tax, with companies reacting in various ways. Some invest in greener technology to meet the reduction targets in 2050 (green bars), while others do not invest and pay a high carbon tax or experience lost revenue resulting from bans on the use of certain materials (red bars). There are many more examples of how TCFD reporting is helping organizations inform better decision-making and capture new opportunities in the transition to a low-carbon economy.   Please visit spglobal.com/marketintelligence/tcfd or watch our on-demand webinar to learn more.   Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Sponsored Trucost, S&P Global Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article On Taking action to keep the world green; Source: Trucost, part of S&P Global.

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Elephants should be recognized as legal persons, argues Connecticut lawsuit

November 16, 2017 by  
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Should elephants be viewed as legal persons in the eyes of the court? A new lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) argues yes. The group says three elephants, owned by a traveling Connecticut zoo, should have “the fundamental right to bodily liberty” and be placed in an animal sanctuary instead. Beulah, Karen, and Minnie are three elephants owned by the Commerford Zoo in Goshen, Connecticut. The animals give rides and appear in circuses, fairs, weddings, and movies. They’re between 33 and 50 years old, and the zoo has owned them for at least 30 years. But according to the NhRP, the United States Department of Agriculture has cited the zoo more than 50 times for not adhering to the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act. People have described the elephants as sick or sad, with one Yelp review describing facilities as a “stockyard of despair.” Related: New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal status as a person NhRP filed the lawsuit with the Connecticut Superior Court, requesting the elephants be released to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 sanctuary, where NhRP says “their right to bodily liberty will be respected.” NhRP founder and attorney Steven Wise said the case isn’t about animal welfare, but animal rights , saying in a statement, “What they are doing is depriving Beulah, Karen, and Minnie of their freedom, which we see as an inherently cruel violation of their most fundamental right as elephants. If Connecticut common law courts truly value autonomy, as previous rulings suggest they do, they too will see their situation in this light and order the elephants’ release from captivity.” Commerford Zoo owner Tim Commerford told The Washington Post, “It’s not right to rip them from my family, from their home.” According to The Washington Post, legal personhood has been applied to corporations in the United States, a New Zealand river , and chimpanzees and a bear in Argentina and Colombia. But Pepperdine law school professor Richard Cupp told The Washington Post it’s better to help captive animals with expanded animal welfare laws. Giving legal personhood to animals could loosen the definition, he argued, which could harm vulnerable humans. He said, “It would not surprise me if these animals could be put in a better situation. But we should focus on human responsibility…Our expansion of animal protection laws has been dramatic over the last 20 or 30 years. I’m arguing that should continue.” Via the Nonhuman Rights Project ( 1 , 2 ) and The Washington Post Images via Joel Mbugua on Unsplash and Anne Zwagers on Unsplash

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How it works: Biodegradable battery

August 10, 2011 by  
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Rina Nag: Biodegradable battery Eco friendly batteries Most of you want to have a long battery life so that you can use it to the fullest and need not to dispose it very quickly. Batteries which offer longer life are less harmful for the environment and in order to follow “Go Green” concept these batteries are perfect for usage. In the local stores you can always find two types of batteries; Rechargeable and Normal. Normal batteries you can use for a shorter time and need to dispose early. Now instead of buying these normal batteries, you can select rechargeable batteries which offer more service then the normal one. Both rechargeable battery and charger are available in the electronic retail shops. You can use rechargeable batteries more than 100 times unlike normal batteries as you can charge it again and again once it indicates low charge. Now, in order to support global warming concern you can always think about eco friendly products and when discussing about batteries; explore sugar powdered batteries which are lightweight biodegradable batteries. Sugar batteries are introduced as eco friendly product and it offers longer shelf life than the lithium batteries. Now if you want to know little more about these biodegradable batteries, explore this article to have a basic concept on this product. What it is: When coming for the definition of biodegradable batteries, it can be defined as lightweight batteries that include biodegradable components like glucose and anything sugary. It offers paper thin appearance with excellent long shelf life. Such a product has been invented by the researchers of Mintree to offer great support to the environment as well as its customers who can experience a longer usage. Materials used: The researchers have developed this battery that includes tree sap, flat soda pop and anything that is sugar. Scientist introduced and developed batteries from living things that uses sugar as a fuel and some specific enzymes from nature. Any sweetened drink can be the best option for sugar powered batteries. Fizzy sodas are not that good option for these biodegradable batteries as the carbonation often weakens the power cell. Apart from fizzy drinks any other source that uses sugar as a fuel can considered as the best option for sugar powered batteries. How does it work: These biodegradable batteries have been introduced for supporting environment and they are powered with the support of a sugary fuel. Enzymes from nature, flat soda pop and tree saps are used to produce these power cells. Mintree and her team mates included enzymes from nature that are capable of exploring charges from sugar which in turn generate electricity in these power cells. This natural enzyme is placed into membranes that is produced from crustacean extracted commercial compound. Now the integration of this membrane is done into the fuel cells to produce biodegradable batteries. Like any other fuel cell, these batteries combine sugar as a fuel. This sugary fuel combines with water which acts as by product and air that supports generating electricity. The sap from a tree, soda pops and any sweetened drink mixes are perfect to run these biodegradable batteries. With lots of researches it is found that the best result is obtained by combining table sugar with water. The best part is when into usage these sugar powered biodegradable batteries offer 3-4 times longer service when compared with lithium ion batteries.

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Architects plan shipping container infrastructure for California

August 10, 2011 by  
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Ritu Mathur: (RE)configured Assemblage Designed by We-Designs.org Shipping containers are generally used in shipments or at best the old shipping container are used for storage in huge godowns but now a New York based practice We-Designs.org , along with XP& Architecture , is planning a huge building parallel with the long beach of California which will link the City of Long Beach, Long Beach Blvd and Broadway Area. The project is named as ‘(RE)configured-Assemblage’. Picture Gallery (RE)configured Assemblage (RE)Configured-Assemblag Designed by We-Designs.Org The idea is to create a huge space for people to nurture communal relationships and interaction at a big scale in the boulevard. The shipping containers will be interlocked in such a way that this pattern will generate open courtyards to enjoy sunny days and soft breezes coming from the beach. The four stories of the urban landscape will have provisions of art galleries, shops, cafes and even an educational center to create a compact place for visitors to enjoy their leisure in a holistic manner. While the building has been designed to be solely made for the purpose of entertainment and fun, the developers have not forgotten to create this entertaining space in a responsible way. Various eco friendly systems have been integrated in the design of the building. The outer skin of the structure is made entirely from unfolded containers which are suitable for South California climate as this layer helps in protecting the interior container from excessive sunlight. The inner skin of the containers help in saving on HVAC consumption and helps in natural ventilation through out the building. Besides, the green roof of the containers and the recycled gray water help in nurturing and watering plants. Moreover, re-adapted containers have also been used as furniture/planters, which will be installed at the edges of the building on the ground floor. Via: Designboom

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Architects plan shipping container infrastructure for California

Jay Walljasper’s Field Guide to the Commons (Podcast)

January 7, 2011 by  
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You know the word, but do you really know what the commons is? Hint: you’re a stakeholder.

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Creative Energy Conservation with Switches Too Gross to Turn On (Video)

July 16, 2010 by  
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Image via Make A clever designer has come up with great ways to get us to conserve energy. They built switches that keep us from wanting to, or being able to turn the electricity on in the first place.

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Creative Energy Conservation with Switches Too Gross to Turn On (Video)

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