Can we finally standardize ESG standards?

January 19, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Can we finally standardize ESG standards? Tim Mohin Tue, 01/19/2021 – 01:00 Most GreenBiz readers are well aware of the complex sustainability reporting landscape. It seems like every year new reporting standards or frameworks are added to the overstuffed workload of the corporate sustainability professional. As the former chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), I had a role in the ongoing movement to “standardize the standards” that companies use to report their sustainability results. I also worked on the corporate side (Intel, Apple and AMD) and have a deep appreciation of the work that goes into these reports. Over the years, there has been more talk than action on reducing confusion and burden in the reporting space. To be fair, some of the burden is self-inflicted by companies that insist on publishing 100-plus page sustainability reports. Over the years, there has been more talk than action on reducing confusion and burden in the reporting space. As we enter 2021, there are strong signals of meaningful change in the sustainability reporting world. Three main trends are emerging: Mandatory disclosure: Policymakers are increasingly requiring ESG disclosure around the world . For example, the European Union (EU) will tighten its “Non-Financial Reporting Directive” in 2021 , which requires environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure from companies with more than 500 employees doing business in the EU. And it’s likely that the incoming U.S. administration will introduce new ESG mandates as well. Investor demand: There were record inflows to ESG investment funds in 2020 and the total tops $40 trillion — larger than the entire U.S. economy . Major asset managers such as BlackRock are using their ownership stake to pressure companies to improve their ESG disclosures. Consolidated ESG standards: Recently, four leading ESG standards organizations — GRI, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB); CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project); the Carbon Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB); and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) — declared their intent to collaborate . While this is a welcome signal, all of this work could be rendered moot by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation’s proposal to develop ESG standards . One hundred twenty countries use the IFRS Standards as the foundation for company financial disclosure, making it more than likely that these countries will endorse and require companies to use the new ESG standards. The IFRS Foundation received more than 500 comment letters on its sustainability standards proposal with many key stakeholders in support . Given the momentum, the IFRS Foundation seems well-positioned to accomplish the elusive goal of a single global ESG standard I have stated publicly and will reiterate here that I strongly support the IFRS action. A globally accepted ESG standard will improve the quality and comparability of disclosure, unlocking investment and trade that will improve, rather than ignore, the sustainability needs of society. But there are several key challenges to address: 1. Materiality: The mission of the IFRS Foundation is “to develop standards that bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to financial markets around the world.” The concerns of financial markets are a subset of the broader concerns of sustainability. The IFRS Foundation must adopt a broader view to create transparency for sustainability issues that may not yet be financially material to companies or investors but are very important from a sustainability lens. Many companies already report on ESG matters beyond the scope of financial materiality and, as we saw in the pandemic, the definition of materiality is fluid and dynamic. It’s crucial that the IFRS articulates a strategy to straddle the boundary of “dual materiality,” enabling transparency on issues important for financial reasons and important to people and the planet. 2. Comparability: Many have criticized the lack of comparability in sustainability disclosures. Sustainability, unlike financial matters, includes a vast array of disparate issues that are not easily compared. An example is reporting on gender diversity vs. greenhouse gas emissions: Both are well within the scope of sustainability reporting, but obviously can be neither compared nor offset. As such factors cannot be reasonably merged into a sustainability score, they must be compared within the boundaries of the topic. The IFRS should emphasize the inherent lack of comparability between disparate ESG issues. To enhance ESG comparability, the IFRS should consider the concepts in the International Business Council/World Economic Forum report: ” Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism: Towards Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation .” It outlines a series of universal metrics drawn from existing ESG standards. Setting aside the selection of the metrics, universally required disclosures will provide greater consistency of reporting across sectors and thus increase the quality and comparability of reporting. 3. Capabilities: The IFRS’s competency and credibility in the development of globally accepted financial disclosure standards makes them a natural hub for this work. But, because they have little experience with ESG issues, they will need to hire staff with sustainability credentials. And as they develop the standards, the IFRS must engage recognized experts in each respective topic that represent all relevant sectors, geographies and stakeholders. Blending sustainability expertise with the IFRS core competencies will not be easy, but is essential for the success of this proposal. 4. Technology: The sad fact is that the tools for gathering, auditing and reporting sustainability information are poor. The IFRS should incorporate the latest reporting technology into its sustainability standards. Information technology will not only reduce the burden of reporting, it will make it more actionable. Technology also will improve the quality of reporting, thus making it more reliable for investors and stakeholders and thus more effective in driving sustainability benefits. After 35 years working in this field, it’s rewarding to see the rapid maturation of the sustainability movement. By taking on ESG standards, the IFRS Foundation is forging a path toward a global common language for sustainability. It is also confirming that sustainability has moved into the mainstream of global commerce. In essence, this signals the alignment of capitalism with the needs of people and our planet — and not a moment too soon. Pull Quote Over the years, there has been more talk than action on reducing confusion and burden in the reporting space. Topics Standards & Certification ESG GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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How My Green Lab is cleaning up R&D

January 19, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

How My Green Lab is cleaning up R&D Elsa Wenzel Tue, 01/19/2021 – 00:30 Solutions to the world’s biggest problems, including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, are studied in research laboratories across the globe. But as sterile as those labs may appear, they have a dirty secret: immense carbon footprints. Labs burn through five to 10 times more energy per square foot than offices, an impact that may be magnified tenfold for clean rooms and other specialized facilities. For instance, 44 percent of the energy use of Harvard University is derived from its laboratories, which take up less than a quarter of campus space. Labs also send massive amounts of water down the drain and discard possibly billions of pounds of single-use plastics every year. A unifying force is needed that creates standards and fosters a space for strategies and best practices, according to James Connelly. That’s what he wants to deliver as the new CEO of My Green Lab, which works with life sciences leaders including AstraZeneca and Agilent. “It’s sort of a surprising fact how much energy and water and materials that laboratory spaces consume,” Connelly said. “It’s been ignored by the green building world a little bit because it’s difficult to address. So the unique aspect of what My Green Lab does is, it was created by scientists, for scientists to help work on behavior change and a transformation of how the labs are actually operated and how science and research is performed.” We’re seeing an acceleration of interest and excitement about sustainability through the pandemic, an overall awakening of the life science industry to sustainability. At universities and corporations alike, addressing emissions and waste in labs can significantly drive down costs and further sustainability commitments. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if half of America’s labs shaved off 30 percent of their energy use, the total savings would be equivalent to the annual energy use of 840,000 homes.  “My Green Lab is a brilliant project because it reaches out to change behavior and mindset of scientists in the lab,” said Pernilla Sörme, risk management lead in global safety, health and environment at AstraZeneca, which expanded Green Lab Certification to seven sites across its global portfolio. The nonprofit is the first consolidated effort to educate researchers about sustainability in laboratory operations. Its Green Lab Certification already has labeled more than 400 labs. Last year, the Colorado Department of Agriculture became the first government lab to reach “green,” the highest of five levels. If that sounds similar to green building standards, such as LEED, that’s by design: My Green Lab is gunning to become the leading sustainability advocacy group in the life sciences, globally. Connelly comes to the growing organization by way of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), which he helped expand into the world’s leading proponent of regenerative, healthy and equitable building design —  managing its Green Building Challenge and Living Product Challenge before serving as VP of projects and strategic growth. Projects and progress My Green Lab’s 15 partners and sponsors include biotech giant Genentech, MilliporeSigma and USA Scientific. The nonprofit also has teamed up with the EPA to bring the Department of Energy’s Energy Star label to ultra-low temperature freezers used for COVID-19 vaccines, applied first to equipment sold by Stirling Ultracold, another sponsor of My Green Lab. My Green Lab also runs the ACT “eco-nutrition” label for lab equipment. (ACT stands for Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency). It was created to help procurement officials and scientists with purchasing. The organization is working directly with manufacturers, including scientific instruments maker Thermo Fisher, to set benchmarks on products and packaging design. The label rates the sustainability of products consumed in laboratories including beakers, pipettes, bottles and equipment such as autoclaves and chemicals. The ratings represent data from the GreenScreen safer chemicals benchmark as well as details on packaging and product handling at the end of life. Last April, diagnostics equipment leader Agilent signed up as a My Green Lab sponsor and also to have its instruments certified for ACT. “We chose to work with My Green Lab because, like them, we understand the importance of building a more sustainable scientific industry,” said Darlene Solomon, Agilent’s chief technology officer and senior vice president. “In many cases, product developments in support of sustainability also reduce laboratory risk. As we see the importance and value that our customers place on sustainability growing, the ACT instrument labels from My Green Lab will play a major role in helping those customers to make more informed, sustainable decisions for their analytical laboratory.” The number of standalone lab-greening efforts has grown since Harvard-trained neuroscientist Allison Paradise created My Green Lab in 2013, from about 10 to 90 groups that engage tens of thousands of scientists around the world. “We’re seeing an acceleration of interest and excitement about sustainability through the pandemic, and that represents the general overall awakening and awareness of the life science industry to sustainability that My Green Lab is really helping to catalyze,” Connelly said. “It’s important because it’s a growth industry that’s going to be incredibly important to our future as a society, and to managing things like COVID or in the future other diseases that may come down the pipeline.” My Green Lab is a brilliant project because it reaches out to change behavior and mindset of scientists in the lab. Through certification and education programs, My Green Lab enlists scientists and facilities professionals to clean up the carbon impact of labs. Lately, the group has been publicizing ways to green the cold chain for COVID-19 vaccines , which require sub-North-Pole temperatures. Its Laboratory Freezer Challenge, entering its fifth year, has gotten professionals from hundreds of labs to reduce the energy consumption of their deep freezers. Higher efficiency energy systems in the green building industry don’t address the “guts” inside a lab that really drive energy consumption, Connelly noted. “That’s something I’m really excited about, to dive in deeply and see how quickly we can make an impact on these types of operations in buildings that have such a dramatic impact on climate change.” And because the higher-level sustainability goals of many organizations still haven’t moved down into their R&D labs, that means plenty of low-hanging fruit for scientists and their colleagues to pluck.  Noted energy hogs inside labs include ultra-low temperature freezers — which can eat up as much energy as a house — and chemical fume hoods for ventilation. The University of Glasgow’s Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation blames 42 percent of its energy consumption on centrifuges alone. In many cases, product developments in support of sustainability also reduce laboratory risk. As for the overuse of single-use plastics, the University of Exeter estimated that academic researchers produced plastic waste equivalent to 5.7 million two-liter soda bottles each year.  Thankfully, Connelly has seen more companies thinking through how to change the supply chain of plastics, produce them in a more sustainable way, figure out ways to reuse or recycle them in laboratories, and change the way lab professionals manage plastics. “There’s a ton of innovation happening,” he said. Based on case studies, My Green Lab estimates that participants in its Green Lab Certification can achieve reductions of 30 percent in energy use, 50 percent in water use and 10 percent in waste. AstraZeneca AstraZeneca was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to pursue Green Lab Certification at multiple sites, starting about two years ago. The company already had achieved LEED certifications in America and ISO 14 001 certification in Europe, and its R&D site leaders found a global strategy to steer sustainability in My Green Lab. Reducing waste and energy in its labs aids AstraZeneca’s sustainability targets, issued a year ago, of zero carbon emissions by 2025 and negative carbon emissions by 2030 across its value chain. That includes moving toward 100 percent renewables and a fully electric fleet. The Green Lab Certification has created a framework and a new way of working that becomes second-nature for AstraZeneca’s scientists, Sörme said. “You start thinking, do I actually need to use a high-grade solvent or can I use a low-grade solvent that’s more environmentally friendly?” And scientists can share ideas across the global sites, which is driving innovation in product development as well as employee engagement. “We also have a lot of fun activities,” she said. “For instance, we got our scientists in the U.K., because they love doing research, to do a bit of an inventory. They did ‘a day in the lab’ to find out how much they used plastic-wise. That’s the state we want to be at when people come up with ideas on their own and want to share that.” Each AstraZeneca lab site has a green team with scientists, facility managers, health and safety managers and procurement professionals. A survey kicks off the Green Lab Certification process, reaching out to every scientist, not just key leaders. There’s a lot of best-practice sharing on novel ideas, such as for recycling lab gloves and reducing water use, Sörme noted. A lab in Boston might share solutions for a site in Cambridge, U.K., to adapt locally. Quick-win practices have included changing freezer filters annually and installing LED lights. AstraZeneca in 2019 credited Green Lab with helping it reach a 97 percent recycling rate of biological waste at a facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and sparking the recycling of tens of thousands of plastic centrifuge tubes and serological pipets in Cambridge. The company is exploring how to raise the temperature of ultra-low temperature freezers from minus-80 to minus-70 degrees Celsius to achieve significant energy savings. In a separate effort, AstraZeneca was a winner in the 2020 Freezer Challenge run by My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories. Systemic issues My Green Lab’s intention to address systemic issues by creating an ecosystem of programs echoes the approach taken by the ILFI, which was initially considered aspirational by many in the mainstream building establishment yet has been embraced by the likes of Microsoft and Google and making headway in Asia and Europe. Connelly hopes to see a similar growth trajectory at My Green Lab, which has an ambassador program and accreditation program in development. It’s worth noting that ILFI was an early advocate of identifying social equity as a root cause behind environmental problems, releasing its JUST Label behind building products in 2014, following its Declare Program in 2012 targeting “red list” chemicals of concern in building products. “We want to start driving equity into our program and elevating it to the same position as efficiency and waste reduction and water reduction,” Connelly said of My Green Lab. Pull Quote We’re seeing an acceleration of interest and excitement about sustainability through the pandemic, an overall awakening of the life science industry to sustainability. My Green Lab is a brilliant project because it reaches out to change behavior and mindset of scientists in the lab. In many cases, product developments in support of sustainability also reduce laboratory risk. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Eco-Design COVID-19 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off My Green Lab is helping scientists address the massive energy costs of running high-tech labs. Shutterstock Choksawatdikorn Close Authorship

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The Wzai 2.0 smart plant can give anyone a green thumb

January 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Have you ever found yourself with a struggling houseplant, demanding to know why it won’t thrive? Let the Wázai 2.0, the world’s smartest bonsai , turn you into a master home gardener. Finally, you can have a plant that tells you exactly what it needs and when. This smart bonsai plant comes with its own monitoring app to update you on the plant’s needs. The app monitors and provides real-time information about your plant. This includes monitoring how many hours of sunlight your plant gets, so you know when to make changes to keep your plant healthy and happy. Wázai 2.0 will even alter how frequently the plant gets watered and monitor the soil for optimum moisture levels. As the product’s Kickstarter page explains, “Unlike other automatic watering pots, Wázai doesn’t water on a set schedule but will adjust its watering frequency according to the soil moisture rate, making sure your plant gets what they need.” The bonsai also includes a huge water tank that holds 1.8 liters and gives you notifications when the tank needs refilling. Additionally, a vacation mode allows the app to more carefully regulate the water to keep your plant alive while you’re gone. You can even start using the app before you pot your plant. Wázai will monitor the average sunlight in the area for three days and recommend ways to keep your new plant healthy and happy. Equipped with an enormous plant database, the app can find the specific water and light needs for more than 80 different types of plants. Wázai works both indoors and out, due to waterproof and anti-UV features. All you need to keep it powered is four AA batteries , which can last for up to six months. Though still a burgeoning startup, Wázai 2.0 has already earned accolades in the form of an iF Design Award. To support the project and secure your own Wázai, check out the Kickstarter page here . + Wázai 2.0 Images via Wázai 2.0

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The Wzai 2.0 smart plant can give anyone a green thumb

Cobalt-free batteries will make EVs more affordable

January 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

If the high price tag is all that stands between you and your dream Tesla , you might be able to afford one in a few years. Panasonic is working on making new, cobalt-free batteries that will bring down costs and make Tesla vehicles more environmentally friendly. “Two or three years from now, we will be able to introduce a cobalt-free, high energy-density cell,” said Shawn Watanabe, head of energy technology and manufacturing at Panasonic of Japan, during a session at CES 2021 , the world’s largest tech and consumer electronics expo. CES went virtual this year because of the pandemic. Related: Tesla: the real environmental impact Cobalt is used in the cathode — “negatively charged electrode by which electrons enter an electrical device,” according to Dictionary.com — of lithium -ion batteries. While cobalt now accounts for only 5% of the cathode, the material still has a high cost, both in dollars and human suffering. Much of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sometimes via child slavery. Tesla and other companies have found more ethical sources of cobalt elsewhere, but Tesla has been accused of tolerating maiming and deaths of kids in the DRC. Whether or not these claims are substantiated, the less cobalt, the better. “Reducing cobalt makes it harder for us to manufacture, but ultimately does reduce the negative environmental impacts of batteries and reduce the cost,” said Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America, as reported by Nikkei Asia . Because batteries usually account for 30-40% of an electric vehicle’s cost, and much of that is for cobalt, consumers can expect less expensive cars once the cobalt-free battery becomes the norm. Currently, Teslas range from just under $40,000 for the least expensive Tesla Model 3 to nearly $80,000 for the Model X. Tesla founder Elon Musk announced plans last September to introduce a $25,000 electric vehicle in three years. Via Nikkei Asia and Clean Technica Image via Dylan Scarsone

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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

January 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership Terry F. Yosie Mon, 01/18/2021 – 02:00 The aftershocks of the Jan. 6 insurrection to block Congressional certification of the U.S. Presidential election will reverberate for many years. In the short run, there may be additional efforts to violently disrupt President-elect Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20, in addition to domestic terrorism activities aimed at state and local governments and other institutions. Such concerns have re-focused public expectations that leadership across all major institutions, public and private, must take sustained actions to support democracy. The Jan. 6 insurrection has transformed the nation’s political conversation and moved the support for democratic values to the top tier of advocacy. It has subsumed and reset the context for other key national priorities such as responding to the pandemic, climate change, economic renewal and social justice. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Not coincidentally, these same values enable enactment of core elements of the sustainability agenda for environmental protection, economic development and social responsibility. The accelerating debate over how best to protect and strengthen democracy bears close watching as a major barometer for the success of policies to advance sustainability. Political donations that undermine democracy Companies that make political donations, and institutions and individuals that receive them, are presently engaged in a frantic scramble to identify whether these funds are connected to groups associated with white nationalism, violence and sedition, or disruption of the election process. Numerous embarrassing examples already have emerged from leading U.S. institutions. They include: Comcast, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft and PepsiCo made contributions to the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), the fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which raised about $18 million in 2020. The RLDF actively participated in attempting to prevent the certification of the U.S. Presidential election, including the use of robocalls encouraging people across the country to assemble in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to march on the Capitol. The RAGA executive director subsequently has resigned. A large number of U.S. corporations provided political donations to two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House of Representations that sought to block certification of the Presidential election. Individual companies are belatedly recognizing that individuals on the rapidly expanding “sedition” list prepared by law enforcement authorities received their donations. Carnegie Mellon University, which for many years has accepted funds from the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation (a major funding source for many anti-environmental and right-wing political causes), established a fellow position at its Institute for Politics and Strategy for Richard Grenell, a senior Trump Administration official, who aggressively and publicly lobbied to overturn the U.S. election results. Good governance in donation practices In the midst of this political firestorm, a growing number of organizations, chiefly corporations, are examining whether their donations support anti-democratic politicians. Their practices include: Suspending immediately all corporate and employee contributions to any member of Congress who voted in objection to the certification of the Presidential election. Leading companies such as healthcare provider Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, Dow Chemical and Marriott International have publicly announced this decision. Dow has further committed to suspending its political donations for the next election cycle (two years for a member of the House, six years for a senator). Reviewing the bylaws and governing policies of political action committees (the unit within a company that is legally authorized to collect and distribute political donations) to evaluate their consistency with a firm’s values and determine the criteria under which currently suspended political contributions can be reinstated or permanently revoked. This outcome will depend, in part, upon whether suspended political recipients re-affirm or reverse their position on electoral certification. Determining whether any recipients of political donations are identified on a law enforcement “seditionist list” subject to potential criminal or other penalties. To their chagrin, some American-based companies have determined a match between their donation recipients (as compiled by the U.S. Federal Election Commission that tracks political contributions) and individuals placed on the federal government’s sedition list. In the short run, these decisions will financially disadvantage Republican elected officials, as 139 members of Congress and eight senators from their party voted against certifying the presidential election results — even after the insurrection had occurred. Beyond these financial decisions are public statements by a limited number of business leaders who have called for the resignation of President Donald Trump. Most prominent has been Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. The insurrection “was a clear and present danger to our democracy … and we couldn’t stand for that,” he said. No other prominent business association has echoed Timmons’ declaration. Longer-term reforms Conventional behavior for financing the U.S. political system will await the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president and assume that momentous policy debates in the U.S. Congress over curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, reviving the economy, investing in infrastructure that decarbonizes the economy and reforming immigration practices will slide the public’s current focus on political donations to the periphery. Several initiatives to manage the advocacy process can be implemented to raise the bar in support of democracy. They include: Redefining the criteria for advocacy donations so they are aligned with a company’s central values and promote pro-democratic policy objectives. Such criteria should be approved by the board of directors and should apply to both direct company contributions and allocations provided through a foundation. Expanding the transparency of political donations so they are approved through the corporate governance process and are included as part of the annual financial audit. The list of external recipients should be made accessible through a public website. Identifying and publicizing universities, think tanks and individuals that receive funding to generate studies, organize seminars or establish fellowships to research and publish on issues related to democracy, labor, regulatory or sustainability issues. Integrating the pro-climate change and sustainability efforts of asset managers, investors and non-governmental organizations directly with pro-democracy advocacy. Organizations such as Climate Action 100+ are well-positioned to add support of democracy to their current suite of environment, social and governance (ESG) priorities. Mobilizing a coalition of lawyers, thought leaders and political representatives to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This 2010 edict opened the floodgates for a dramatic expansion of money to influence political campaigns and regulatory policy decisions by prohibiting government from restricting independent expenditures for political communication and enabling donors to shield their identities. The adverse consequences of this decision continue through the ever-increasing amount of contributions to candidates and causes, much of it unaccounted for, anti-environmental and anti-democratic. Offsetting the discouraging news of political insurrection and the corruption of democracy is the hopeful indicator of expanded voter participation. Most Americans have a growing recognition of the fragile state of their country and are committed to a course of peaceful collaboration to address a growing list of problems. This is reflected in higher rates of voter participation in both the 2018 mid-term and 2020 Presidential elections. While encouraging, two election cycles do not represent a longer-term trend. Expanding pro-democracy advocacy can provide a rising tide for a number of economic, environmental and social justice proposals that lead to a more equitable and just society. Such is the means to grow a continuing pro-democracy majority while marginalizing extremist points of view. Pull Quote At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

January 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects? Gloria Oladipo Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:15 With carbon emissions expected to rebound this year, 2021 presents another opportunity for companies to invest in climate-saving initiatives that move the corporate world closer to a net-zero future, especially carbon removal projects . While some companies already have started investing in these solutions on a larger scale, questions remain about how to conduct the process equitably. In other words, what environmental justice considerations should companies evaluate when investing in these opportunities? There’s a good reason to ask. Historically, carbon removal projects have a legacy of potentially reifying inequality; projects in the Global South become responsible for hosting said projects and their associated consequences while countries (and companies) in the Global North use these initiatives to meet their carbon reduction targets. Examples of this dynamic include projects such as a hydroelectric plant in Guatemala ( later linked to egregious human rights abuse ) and forest preservation projects in Brazil ; both offered Western companies opportunities to gain carbon offset credits, but the reality of their impact from a human rights standpoint was less understood.  Ugbaad Kozar, senior policy advisor at Carbon180, discussed these disparities and the power imbalance associated with carbon removal measures. “There’s a long history of Global South countries inheriting the burden of hosting projects that have benefited wealthier countries in reaching their climate targets,” Kozar said. “These projects can lead to inadequate payments, loss of local control over natural resources, loss of ability to use their land for other livelihood purposes.” A number of safeguards developed by NGOs can aid companies deciding whose carbon removal projects to invest in, Kozar said.  Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. For example, in 2005, the “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancement of carbon stocks” (REDD+) system was created as a social and biodiversity safeguard to make sure carbon removal efforts didn’t harm biodiversity and that its benefits were given to local communities. Elsewhere, the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance , a partnership spanning several international environmental NGOs, created “Climate, Community and Biodiversity” standards to ensure land-based projects respected community stakeholders and their cultures, and nurtured biodiversity, among other goals.   However, as argued by Holly Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo, these safeguards have not been carried out without issues. REDD+ social safeguards have had mixed results ; the impact of the safeguards sometimes have been difficult to monitor and interventions made based on the safeguards had mixed results, she noted. Looking forward, that means companies have an opportunity to be even more progressive in establishing their own standards for equity considerations related to carbon removal, according to Kozar and Buck.  “Companies are even poised to play a role in having even more ambitious standards because some of those safeguards haven’t always been working out as well as intended … [companies can make] sure that theoretical co-benefits are actually delivered upon and [pay] more attention to who reaps the benefits from these projects,” Buck said.  Where to start? Before analyzing equity considerations related to their external carbon removal work, companies should first ensure they cultivate a workplace culture of justice within their organizations, Buck and Kozar said. This type of internal work is not only critical to unseeding racism in general (demonstrated as more carbon capture companies focus on making meaningful contributions to environmental justice ). Among other things, the Clean Air Task Force  also is following projects in California and Texas to determine how carbon capture technology might play a role in reducing local air pollution, with a view to releasing its research after this year to front-line communities. it’s an important first step for companies hoping to address oppression in their environmental work.   “It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce. Doing so allows for opportunities to refute and rethink contextual perspectives and to understand the drivers of inequity and injustice,” Kozar said.  It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … In addition to creating equity within the workplace, companies investing in carbon removal projects must be committed to transparency about the process itself, all associated data, community involvement and an equitable distribution of resources. Carbon removal projects can be an opaque process, shrouded in litigation and inaccessible information; community members where carbon removal projects are located should be made aware of the process and included in the discussion of the project’s effects. “With industrial removal, some of the questions at the project site are: Are people happy with the industrial facility? Is it impacting them? … Are they seeing any benefit from it or just having to live next to a waste disposal site?” Buck said.   Most important, benefits need to be equitably distributed, ideally problem-solving for legacy effects of climate change that often occur in marginalized communities. For instance, a strategy of planting trees not only could address removing emissions but also help cool neighborhoods, reduce pollution, provide shade and have other benefits, an example Kozar provided.  Buck also cited the importance of government involvement to help ensure benefits are given equally. She noted how the California government helps redistribute funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program to vulnerable communities.  Overall, while the increase in companies investing in carbon removal programs signals a positive shift in more climate-friendly thinking, it’s critical to participate in these solutions in a way that centers and benefits oppressed communities, Buck and Kozar advised.  “Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and whi ch solutions will be deployed. As the industry emerges and scales, key players need to prioritize transparency and accountability, ensuring they do not ignore legacy pollution that harms marginalized communities,” Kozar said.  Pull Quote Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … Topics Carbon Removal Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Courtesy of Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

January 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates John Elkington Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:45 Bill Gates has a new book in the pipeline, ” How to Avoid a Climate Disaster .” Vital reading, particularly in a year that should see Glasgow hosting the COP26 climate summit. But if I could propose one additional New Year’s resolution for Gates, it would be to send another book to all COP26 delegates: Kim Stanley Robinson’s ” The Ministry for the Future .” Sci-fi fans know Robinson as a giant in his field, but I literally stumbled across his work. I had acquired a second-hand copy of his 2017 novel “New York 2140,” coverless and so somewhat unappetizing. I was using it as a doorstop, hence the stumbles. At 600-plus pages it loomed like the Eiger, but once in I was unstoppable. Wanting more, I ordered “The Ministry of the Future,” clocking in at a more modest 564 pages. If I had to give a prize for the best writing, it would go to “New York,” but if the prize was for giving readers confidence that we can crack the climate challenge, I would choose “The Ministry.” True, some early sections read like novelized versions of an MBA course on sustainable development, but stick with it. “The Ministry” is set in the time of COP58, a world where our worst climate nightmares are materializing. Indeed, the book opens with a disaster leaving perhaps 20 million Indians dead. It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Science fiction, if you think about it, is all about perspective. In that vein, when I was trying to creep up on companies back in the 1970s, I pictured myself using a periscope. Later, when we had breached the corporate gates, even finding our way into boardrooms, it felt as though we were putting corporations — their leaders, cultures, technologies, business models and supply chains — under the microscope. We still do that sort of work but reaching for our telescopes — to track the trajectories of entire constellations of economic actors, with an eye to spurring systemic change. Still, alongside those different lenses and optics, I have long ached for some form of kaleidoscope — a compound lens delivering more information the more it is shaken, whether by the user or by reality. Decades ago, creeping up on the future, I began to stalk sci-fi authors. I had a fascinating early exchange with John Brunner, author of “Jagged Orbit” and “Stand on Zanzibar.” When I complimented him on the dystopian vision in the second book, which seemed to be increasingly realistic, he replied, uncomfortably, that he had hoped that the terrifying vision would wake people up in time. A later thrill involved interviewing Frank Herbert back in 1983. Denis Villeneuve’s film of Herbert’s magnificent “Dune,” perhaps the best sci-fi novel I have read, is due out in October. I genuinely can’t wait. Meanwhile, one thing Herbert told me stuck in my mind: “If you’re managing and fixing, you’re locking down today, you’re not getting into tomorrow. You’re preventing tomorrow.” A linked idea that has been rattling around my brain recently features an A.I.-enabled resource pooling all key solutions proposed in sci-fi novels — to tap into the collective creativity of some of the brightest minds of all time.  That idea, in turn, had me stumbling across an experiment launched by David Brin, another of my favorite sci-fi authors since I read his novel “Earth” in 1990, when he already was talking about the possibility of bringing mammoths back from extinction. Like it or not, such ideas are bounding forward, as I learned when talking to people such as Ryan Phelan of Revive & Restore a couple of years ago. Another case of fiction teetering on the edge of science fact .  It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. For a couple of decades, William Gibson has been my favorite contemporary sci-fi author, with the impossibly distant future of his early book “Neuromancer” gradually hauling back in later novels until it eerily mutates today’s realities. Or, as Gibson famously put it in the last century, “The future’s already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” To which I often add, “Yet.” Someone else who achieves this trick is Ramez Naam — whose “Nexus Trilogy” I strongly recommend. As it happens, I met Naam — in his role as a radical energy analyst — at a VERGE event in San Jose, California, in 2016.  Now, with China looming, I have been reading sci-fi (in translation) by such authors as Liu Cixin . It’s fascinating how as cultures rise, technologically and economically, some begin to produce world-class sci-fi. Europe did it with authors such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, America with everyone from Isaac Asimov to Kurt Vonnegut.  New Year’s resolutions are an attempt to shape the future. I don’t do them, but if I did one candidate for 2021 would be to pour myself heart and soul into a new Volans project, the Green Swans Observatory . The idea here is to turn every lens we have — periscopes, microscopes, telescopes — onto the emerging regenerative economy. Scanning for what’s working, what isn’t (yet) and what needs to be tried next. Once again, I’m pondering where the sci-fi kaleidoscope fits in. So I called David Brin, inspired by his TASAT database — the acronym standing for “There’s A Story About That.” The idea, the website explains, involves: “Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow.” A fantastic experiment, TASAT, although when you search the database for terms that feature routinely in The Ministry for the Future they rarely show up. Yet. True, the “Dune” series of novels focuses on the regeneration of planets such as Arrakis, but can TASAT-style initiatives help us all boldly go toward a truly regenerative future? Perhaps that’s one more resolution for Gates, or for another future-oriented billionaire or foundation: to help turn TASAT into a globally accessible portal to the ever-expanding universe of sci-fi wisdom. At a time when every second business book seems to include words such as “reimagining,” “reinventing” or “resetting,” we will need all the help we can get. Pull Quote It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Topics Innovation Leadership Books Featured Column The Elkington Report Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit: gatesnotes.com

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started 

January 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started  Lauren Phipps Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:15 By now, you know the problem: Nearly 250 billion single-use cups are used globally every year — most of which end up in a landfill — and the environmental, economic and social costs are mounting. And that’s just cups. You also know the solution: In addition to recyclable and compostable alternatives, reuse models are quickly emerging as a fundamentally better alternative to single-use ones, not to mention that converting 20 percent of the world’s disposable plastic packaging into reusables is a $10 billion opportunity.  So…now what?  If only this were just a matter of procurement. Far more complex are the systems surrounding cups and other disposables: platform design; customer adoption; retail implementation; collection; sanitation; end-of-life management; and, of course, selecting the right cup itself. That’s before you get to sustainable materials and production methods. Thanks to a new report by Closed Loop Partners, the path from conception to pilot and scale for a reusable and refillable packaging model — in this case the cup — has been spelled out to help you get started. It’s not a blueprint per se, but rather a collection of insights and learnings from the NextGen Consortium’s initial pilots with Starbucks and McDonald’s, done in collaboration with the design firm IDEO.  Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind when designing a new reuse system:  Design: Convenience, integration into existing systems and environmental impact must be aligned from the start, at the design phase. Consider the cup’s journey from sign-up and point of sale, to use at retail, customer handoff, point of return, washing and sanitizing, pickup and delivery. In-store inventory management (display and stackability of bulkier cups, storage, accessibility) — all will need to be designed into the system. Environmental impact is based on materials sourcing and manufacturing, the number of uses before a cup is decommissioned, and its end-of-life plan, so each element must be considered.  Collaboration: Engage baristas, staff and other key stakeholders who don’t often play a role in corporate decision-making processes. The employee buy-in and ease of integration into existing cafe workflows can make or break the success of a system. Determining the appropriate logistics partners also will be crucial at every step of a cup’s existence. Be sure to engage with local policymakers as well to ensure your program’s adherence to health and safety codes, and to help shape future policy to enable reuse models.  Implementation: Systems will need to be flexible to adapt to unique cafe environments, market needs and cultural considerations. Incentives and fee structures will need to adapt to the particular policy environment in which a cafe sits, which will likely change over time.  Adoption: When considering the overall cost of new systems, account for an investment in education, storytelling and customer acquisition. This will take time. Consider the motivations of customers and design the system accordingly, all while ensuring a seamless customer experience. Evaluate and adjust along the way.  “We are on the cusp of a reuse revolution,” says Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, in the report. “Reuse will be a growing part of the plastic solution portfolio used by brands and retailers. It’s certainly not going to solve the whole plastic waste challenge, but as more of these models come to market, we are excited to see new solutions that collectively build reuse back into our cultural and behavioral norms.” Sure, many headlines about reuse are still in pilot phase, but brands and retailers have to start somewhere. On top of designing a workable system — one that considers consumer demand and readiness, cultural differences and financial barriers — it’s important to remember that the humble cup is a primary touchpoint for brand engagement. For most consumers that don’t (yet) bring their own cup to a Starbucks, for example, a change to the design and user experience could have negative visceral, emotional and Instagrammable implications.  Pilots are a great place to begin, so long as they are just the start.  Topics Circular Economy Circular Packaging Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Six of the cups tested as part of the NextGen Cup Challenge. Image courtesy of NextGen Consortium

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Earth911 Reader: 2020 Ties Hottest Year Record

January 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Eco, Eco Tech

The Earth911 Reader collects and comments on useful news about … The post Earth911 Reader: 2020 Ties Hottest Year Record appeared first on Earth 911.

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Earth911 Reader: 2020 Ties Hottest Year Record

5 radical visions for a 2050 food system

January 15, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

5 radical visions for a 2050 food system Jim Giles Fri, 01/15/2021 – 01:30 Just over a year ago, the Rockefeller Foundation put out a global call for proposals for radical reform of our food systems. More than 1,300 teams from 119 countries responded. The pile of submissions was whittled down to 79 semifinalists and then, last week, to 10 “bold ideas for tackling some of the world’s most pressing food systems challenges.” Each winner was awarded $200,000 to pursue their vision for reform. The winning proposals cover a dizzying range of locations and issues — from food sovereignty on a Native American reservation to plant-based diets in metropolitan Beijing. But as I read them, the commonalities seem as prominent as the differences. Embedded in the ideas is an emerging consensus on the critical ingredients for food system reform, regardless where it takes place.  I encourage you to browse the final selection and see for yourself, but here’s my reading of that consensus: Food systems must connect to local communities. There’s a stunning example of this need in the proposal from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota . The reservation occupies almost 2,000 square miles, yet has just three grocery stores. There are plenty of local farms, but most grow commodity crops such as soybeans. The result is a food desert surrounded by fertile land. Technology is part of the solution. Agtech is often associated with highly efficient yet unsustainable practices, but the same tech can benefit sustainable approaches. In their vision of a holistic food system for the Netherlands , for example, Wageningen University researchers imagine farmers using drones to precisely target nutrient use. At the Stone Barns Center in upstate New York, the team wants to build a cold storage lab dedicated to extending the season for local crops . It’s got to be regenerative. Almost every winner made it clear that regenerative agriculture is central to their vision. That was predictable given that the foundation sought proposals for a “regenerative and nourishing food future,” but it nevertheless reflects the growing importance of regenerative ag in food policy. (And perhaps the waning importance of organic?) From linear to circular. Circular processes — the transformation of crop residues into compost, for instance — are a common feature of food system reform. But the Wageningen team ups the ante with a rallying cry for circular agriculture, circular cooking and circular chefs: “By 2050,” they write, “we have replaced the wasteful, linear model of our current food system with a circular one.” Among other things, this includes limiting livestock to numbers that can be supported on food waste and food byproducts. Which brings us to… Plant-based diets. No surprise to hear entrants from North American and Europe advocate for this: These are regions where a reduction in emissions from meat production is seen as an essential way to reduce the climate impact of food. Perhaps only because I know less about food debates elsewhere, I was interested to see entries from China and Nigeria that also placed alternative proteins at the heart of their visions.  Before I sign off, I’ll mention one other, more controversial, commonality. Many visions are either explicitly or implicitly pitched in opposition to Big Ag . I see where this comes from: Chemical inputs and monocultures and livestock farming have undeniable negative impacts. But Big Ag is more than that. It brings efficient land use, which prevents native ecosystems being converted to farmland, and sophisticated supply chains that provide year-round abundance at low prices. I don’t say this to gloss over the sector’s problems, but as we imagine a better system, we shouldn’t ignore the benefits of the current one. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off At the Stone Barns Center in upstate New York, the team wants to build a Cold Storage Lab dedicated to extending the season for local crops . Courtesy of Stone Barns Center Close Authorship

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