Bill McKibben reflects on brand advocacy, the final frontier of climate leadership

November 3, 2020 by  
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Bill McKibben reflects on brand advocacy, the final frontier of climate leadership Mike Hower Tue, 11/03/2020 – 01:30 Four years ago today, many corporate sustainability professionals — regardless of political leanings — stood shocked as they watched Donald Trump clinch the presidency in one of the biggest upsets in American presidential history. Many of us feared for the future of climate action, and pretty much every other social and environmental issue. We were right to worry — things are, to be blunt, looking pretty terrible from a federal climate policy perspective. The Trump administration has abandoned all semblance of U.S. leadership on the climate crisis during the very years when we needed to be taking the most decisive actions to curb emissions. It axed the Clean Power Plan, gutted the National Environmental Policy Act, weakened the role of scientific evidence in environmental policy and withdrew the United States from the historic Paris Agreement — a decision that takes effect Nov. 4 — among an endless list of other anti-climate actions. Meanwhile, the climate crisis has continued to devastate communities across the country with record-shattering extreme weather events — from hurricanes and floods to droughts and wildfires. With the latest science telling us that we have until 2030 to take the necessary actions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we can’t afford four more years of what we’ve seen — or, rather, haven’t seen — over the past four years. I think probably corporations would be wise to be very humble in their storytelling. “If we don’t get much of the work done by 2030, we probably aren’t going to get a chance to do much afterward because it’ll be too late,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org , last week during a VERGE 20 keynote. While McKibben praised the proliferation of voluntary individual and corporate actions to address the climate crisis, he emphasized that this wouldn’t be enough. “It’s very good that corporations are moving to electrify their delivery fleets, but I will tell you … the fleets I care about most are the fleets of lobbyists being deployed on Capitol Hill,” McKibben said. “It’s time to make sure those guys aren’t spending all their time trying to get the next tax break and to make sure they are falling in line behind the things we need to do to have a liveable planet.” While it’s true corporate sustainability continued to advance climate action even during the Trump administration — and likely will continue to do so regardless of who sits in the White House over the next four years — the climate crisis won’t be solved by a hodgepodge of voluntary actions. It will require sweeping policy change, and businesses can and must play a central role in making this happen. “I do think that it’s most impressive when you get people cooperating across industries to tell a story together,” McKibben said. “But I also think that companies can really start … if they really have a genuine story to tell, as part of the story of their own progress towards understanding what justice and solidarity are coming to mean. We’ve got to move out of a world where we see it simply as a zero-sum game where companies fight with each other to be the biggest or the best or grow the fastest, or whatever. People have to understand that at this point in Earth’s history and human history, this requires something much deeper, more profound. I think probably corporations would be wise to be very humble in their storytelling.” Change the narrative, change the game One of the most powerful ways businesses can help advance climate policy is by helping to counter the false narrative that climate action and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive. Years of misinformation campaigns bankrolled by Big Oil first worked to sow doubt over whether the climate crisis was even real. While the United States still has a significant number of people who downplay or deny the climate crisis, six in 10 Americans view it as a major threat — up from 44 percent from 2009, according to Pew . This change in opinion is likely in large part because the impacts of the climate crisis — such as extreme weather, floods and wildfires — have been too gargantuan to ignore more than a sudden increased love for science. Meanwhile, those who oppose climate action have shifted their strategies. The narrative has changed from denying the climate crisis outright to acknowledging its existence while claiming that taking action to address it would hurt the economy. “The big issue on climate is getting influential companies to influence policymakers and counteract the negative influence of those who are trying to preserve the status quo,” said Bill Weihl, executive director at ClimateVoice , recently during a thinkPARALLAX Perspectives virtual panel event, ” Brand Advocacy: The final frontier of climate leadership ,” which I moderated. There’s plenty of negative influence to be countered — since the Paris Agreement was signed, companies such as Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and others have spent over $1 billion in direct lobbying against climate policy in the United States. “The big challenge big companies face as they think about brand advocacy is political risk,” Weihl said. Many companies fear that if they speak up on an issue such as the climate crisis, they might draw unwanted regulatory attention to another aspect of their business, which could hurt their bottom line, he added. Moving forward, companies must find the courage to overcome this fear because they are uniquely positioned to help change the national conversation on the climate crisis. Today, Americans are more likely to trust companies than the federal government, a factor largely influenced by the corporate response to the pandemic, according to an Axios-Harris poll . Values-driven policy action Many companies abstain from brand advocacy out of fear of alienating employees or customers by being “too political,” said Will Lopez, vice president of Customer Success at Phone2Action , a digital advocacy company, during the thinkPARALLAX virtual panel. But brand advocacy done correctly is a natural outgrowth of a company’s values that inspire employees or customers to act. “When we work with organizations that talk about brand advocacy, we’re looking at organizations that are mobilizing their customers or internal employees on policy issues that are relevant to their values and policy initiatives,” he said. “Your customers already value your product and values.” Martin Wolf, director of sustainability and authenticity at Seventh Generation , concurred. “Companies should advocate for issues and policies that align with their mission and values,” he said. This shouldn’t be done to sell more product, Wolf said, but to put in front of the public who you are so that consumers can join you in advocating for some endpoint. “Make sure that what you do advocate for is aligned with positions you’re taking outside of the consumer space because if there’s a lack of alignment, you are going to be subjecting yourself to criticism.” During the thinkPARALLAX panel, Michael Millstein, global policy and advocacy manager at Levi Strauss & Co . said that, before advocating on an issue, the company puts the policy up to a test of whether it is consistent with its core values and if the benefits of weighing in on this outweigh costs and risks. “Climate policy clearly passes this test,” he said. Uniting sustainability and government relations In many large corporations, corporate sustainability and government relations operate in separate siloes. This lack of unity leads to, at best, disjointed and, at worst, contradictory policy actions. As I wrote in GreenBiz earlier this year, one of the best ways to ensure alignment in corporate sustainability and government relations teams is by making sustainability central to business strategy. One way Levi’s does this, Millstein said, is by holding both its policy and corporate sustainability teams responsible for addressing sustainability goals. While materiality assessments, for example, typically are the domain of corporate sustainability teams, at Levi’s the policy advocacy team also has a mandate to address material issues. “This helps us all be on the same team,” he said. Business schools and sustainability people are taught to speak the language of finance and the CFO, but the CFO and other people aren’t taught how to speak the language of morality, humanity and ethics. If a company effectively makes sustainability core to business strategy, there naturally won’t be a conflict between departments, said Darcy Shiber-Knowles, director of operational sustainability and innovation at Dr. Bronner’s , during the thinkPARALLAX panel. If capitalism is a force for good, then the term “corporate sustainability” shouldn’t even exist, she said. “Corporations ought to be sustainable and inherently socially responsible,” Shiber-Knowles said. “So to have one department that is not in alignment with another department focused on long-term sustainability doesn’t make good business sense.” Yet many companies operate far from this ideal — the financial bottom line trumps the sustainability team’s agenda every time. “Business schools and sustainability people are taught to speak the language of finance and the CFO, but the CFO and other people aren’t taught how to speak the language of morality, humanity and ethics,” Weihl said. The next four years While uncertainty shrouds the future political environment around the climate crisis, one thing companies can bank on is growing expectations from all stakeholders to better engage on climate policy, among other issues. Just as silence is complicity in the ongoing movement for racial equality, the same could be said of the climate crisis. “The No. 1 thing that will come out of the election, regardless of who wins, is that the appetite will still be there from consumers and organizations to do something about climate change,” Lopez said. Millstein agreed. “The outcome will influence what’s on the table, but there will be opportunities regardless,” he said. Remember to get out there and vote — and don’t stop there. We are the last generation that can do something about the climate crisis before it’s too late. Another four years of a Trump administration certainly would be a setback for the planet and everyone living on it, but it doesn’t mean game over — any more than a Biden victory means we can sit back and relax. Democracy is difficult and demands our constant civic engagement in order to realize desired outcomes. We owe it to ourselves and everyone who comes after to fight for policy change that addresses the climate crisis and secures a better future for all. Pull Quote I think probably corporations would be wise to be very humble in their storytelling. Business schools and sustainability people are taught to speak the language of finance and the CFO, but the CFO and other people aren’t taught how to speak the language of morality, humanity and ethics. Topics Policy & Politics Marketing & Communication Corporate Strategy VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Nancie Battaglia Close Authorship

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Bill McKibben reflects on brand advocacy, the final frontier of climate leadership

How to value solar plus storage

November 3, 2020 by  
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How to value solar plus storage Adam Aston Tue, 11/03/2020 – 01:00 In the wake of California’s summer of wildfires, blackouts and planned outages, many consumers and businesses are clamoring for more resilient options. The crisis has turbocharged interest in systems that deliver power even when the grid is down. Solar plus storage is fast emerging as a top choice, both at scale on the grid and also “behind the meter,” installed in a home, apartment or commercial building.  “Solar plus battery storage can provide value in two ways: first, energy reliability for customers during emergency power outages, and second, during non-emergencies, to help the grid balance demand and generation,” said Dawn Weisz, chief executive of California utility MCE, during a breakout session at last week’s virtual VERGE 20 event.  Founded in 2008 as California’s first not-for-profit, community choice aggregation program, MCE today serves over 1 million residents and businesses in four San Francisco Bay area counties: Contra Costa; Marin; Napa; and Solano. When it comes to reliability, solar-with-storage systems offer the ability to charge a battery that can keep the power on during an outage. “It’s worth a lot to know you can keep your power on, especially for customers that have medical needs that rely on electricity,” Weisz said. “And those that need electricity for heating, cooling, and to keep food fresh.”   Solar plus storage also helps the wider grid and environment by letting consumers shift the time when they consume solar power: by storing solar energy when it’s abundant during the day, and using it at night, in place of power generated from fossil fuels. “Behind-the-meter storage lets you optimize solar consumption, taking up excess output during the day, and discharging it in the evening, when demand spikes,” explained Michael Norbeck, director of grid services business development at Sunrun, a San Francisco-based provider of residential solar systems and services.  Indeed, absent storage, too much solar can become a challenge, when supply exceeds demand. In California, “We started to see so much solar going onto the grid that our ability to use it was diminishing,” Weisz said.  In extreme cases, that can mean curtailing output: switching off the excess power flowing from solar farms. Storage can put that excess output to good use, flowing it back onto the grid when needed. “It’s in California’s best interest to be sure we’re using as much of those electrons as we can,” she said. “More batteries will help eliminate curtailment.”  It’s no secret that the cost of solar energy has plummeted. In an October analysis of the levelized cost of energy — a measure that blends the full cost to finance, build and fuel an energy system over time — investment bank Lazard calculated that large-scale grid solar beats all fossil fuel options on cost, even absent any subsidies. Even rooftop solar, installed on homes or commercial buildings, is close to par with power from conventional sources such as natural gas peaker plants, coal and nuclear.  Meanwhile, battery costs have followed a similar downward path. Average market prices for battery packs plunged by 87 percent in real terms in the decade to 2019, reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). MCE commercial battery storage project in partnership with Tesla and the College of Marin. The installation is estimated to save the college $10,000 per month on electricity bills. Courtesy of MCE. Yet even as prices continue to fall, making these systems accessible to more consumers and businesses, concerns persist about equal access. Weisz noted that even as prices for combined systems fall, the market is following in the footsteps of early solar, when panels were installed first by wealthy customers but lower-income customers couldn’t afford the systems.  As a not-for-profit dedicated to community energy services, MCE has tapped state subsidy programs, grants and other funding sources to extend the benefit of solar plus storage. “We don’t want to replicate the same patterns of disenfranchising our lower-income customers,” Weisz said.  For its part, Sunrun has pioneered a pricing strategy that can guarantee power prices below the grid average, thereby reducing customers’ long-term costs. For instance, to minimize both installation costs and monthly fees, Sunrun’s most popular plan, BrightSave Monthly , leases panels to homeowners for $0 down, paid for via a long-term, stable price.  With wildfires emerging as a nearly year-round threat to western states, the resilience that solar plus storage offers is growing in importance. Sunrun’s systems have grown increasingly responsive to remote management. When grid conditions grow unstable, Sunrun’s systems can island themselves and call on a reserve portion of the battery to support critical needs.  Panels recharge batteries during the day, which can then discharge at night, even when blackouts can stretch from hours to days or even weeks. “During the wildfires last year, we had a customer on uninterrupted power for over 142 consecutive hours, or nearly six days,” Norbeck said.  Topics Renewable Energy Energy & Climate Solar Energy Storage VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A building powered during blackout. Courtesy of Sunrun

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Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility

November 3, 2020 by  
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Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility Holly Secon Tue, 11/03/2020 – 00:30 Swedish home furnishing company IKEA isn’t just focusing on what’s happening inside your home anymore. The company is also thinking about what’s happening in the streets outside. That is, the company is pumping cash into a new sustainable mobility program. For the company known for its delicious meatballs and DIY shelves, the investment isn’t actually that surprising. It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA. “The No. 1 reason that a consumer is not an IKEA customer is accessibility,” Angela Hultberg, head of sustainable transportation at IKEA, said last week on the virtual stage of GreenBiz Group’s clean economy conference, VERGE 20 . It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA.   The furniture giant is starting with a sustainable mobility strategy in urban areas, which has several dimensions, Hultberg explained. Many of IKEA’s customers live in cities and don’t have access to large vehicles that would allow them to travel to IKEA and return to their homes with furniture. Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated a shift from brick-and-mortar business to e-commerce, but diesel delivery trucks bring air and noise pollution into these downtowns. All the while, transportation emissions have risen around the world in the past few years to over 24 percent of global CO2 emissions . “So we need to figure out — how can we get the customer to us in a convenient, affordable and sustainable way?” she added.  The company plans to make 100 percent of its last-mile deliveries be zero-emission by 2025. In addition, IKEA wants its operations in five cities around the world — Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai, which already met the goal — to be zero-emission by the end of this year. Specifically, that includes shuttle buses, electric fleets and EV charging stations powered by 100 percent renewable electricity for customers. IKEA climate commitments and cities The furniture giant’s commitments have the potential to move markets: IKEA has 433 stores in 53 countries, and it hit 2019 global retail sales of about $45.5 billion .  The company has been reorienting towards a sustainability strategy that it’s calling ” climate positive “: by 2030, the goal is to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than the entire IKEA value chain emits. IKEA has invested about $2 billion in total in clean energy — at the end of last year, it earmarked $220 million on green energy, reforestation and forest protection projects. Its sustainable transportation focus is part of its long-term sustainability plan. Specifically, Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities where it does business. Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities they’re in. “We have goods we need to deliver to people — in a sustainable way,” she described. “As air pollution is on the rise, cities all over the world are looking to close city borders to fossil fuels. If we can’t deliver, that’s a huge problem.” More than 100 cities around the world, ranging from San Francisco to London to Addis Abada, Ethiopia, have committed to create and implement inclusive climate action plans in line with keeping global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius through the C40 Cities initiative . These cities have committed to science-based targets to cut emissions in sectors that are some of the biggest urban emitters: buildings ; transportation ; and waste . That means low-carbon deliveries for businesses that want to operate in these locations. “So it’s about futureproofing our business,” Hultberg said. Sustainable mobility in cities will provide support for not only IKEA’s Millennial, urban-dwelling customers, but also for young, car-free employees.  “We know that young people don’t want to go on public transportation more than 30 minutes, and they don’t want to walk more than four blocks,” she said. “So that means that they want a job that is close to where they live so if you’re an employer and your workplaces are kind of remote, you risk losing out on talent. We can’t have that.” Equity matters, too Sustainable mobility commitments are important to Hultberg and IKEA as a whole because it’s not just an environmental issue, it’s also a social issue, she said.  “If you can’t afford a car and if you don’t have good and reliable public transportation, you can’t get to work,” Hultberg said. “Maybe you can’t even get a job because it’s just too far, and then you’re stuck in a very negative spiral of poverty. In many parts of the world public transportation isn’t safe, especially for women. So if you can’t get in a bus to go to school, or to get to work, then what?” IKEA is known for its affordable furniture solutions. Making sure that those who turn to IKEA for the cheaper, stylish product are able to come shop there is critical for the company’s core business. For example, the company is pushing its electric fleet partners to go electric, and investing in low-carbon fuel technologies. In addition, IKEA already has implemented free shuttles in New York City to help customers reach the store. “Mobility is a prerequisite for business and really for everything in society,” she said. Pull Quote It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA. Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities they’re in. Topics Transportation & Mobility Shipping & Logistics VERGE 20 Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flickr Brendan Lynch Close Authorship

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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

September 25, 2020 by  
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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet Heather Clancy Fri, 09/25/2020 – 00:30 As with virtually all gatherings of the climate community during the COVID age, this year’s Climate Week was convened as an online event — one hosted from more than 20 countries across myriad time zones rather than its usual host city of New York.  Instead of running between Manhattan locations, attendees platform-hopped among more than 450 presentations, panels, screenings and other events, including those hosted by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, while iconic structures such as the Empire State Building turned their lights green to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. As is their wont, many companies used the occasion to proclaim updated commitments — the buzzword du la semaine was “net-zero” with Walmart declaring a zero-emissions target by 2040 along with a big clean fleet promise and a pledge to “protect, manage or restore” at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030. GE made headlines with its decision to stop making equipment for new coal-fired power plants to focus on its renewables business (although it doesn’t say anything about fixing the old ones).  More than 1,500 companies are committed to net-zero emissions, triple the number that had made those pledges by the end of 2019. Morgan Stanley offered its own twist with a promise to reach “net-zero financed emissions” by the critical 2050 timeframe. The intention is to align its portfolio with the goals of the Paris Agreement. (Morgan Stanley, along with Bank of America and Citigroup, has agreed to deeper disclosure.) In other words, stop financing the emitting stuff, as it has been criticized for in the past. The biggest national-level news of the week came out of the United Nations General Assembly, where Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country aims to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Given the country’s status as the world’s largest emitter, the development is essential for progress against climate change.  While words aren’t action, the commitment stands in sharp contrast with the extensive environmental protection rollbacks adopted by the Trump administration, which has announced its plan to pull out of the Paris climate accord. At the state level, California Gov. Gavin Newsom put the transportation industry on notice with his executive order banning new gasoline-powered vehicles after 2035. Newsom also was named to a two-year term as co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, a network of states and regions looking to integrate the Paris Agreement goals with a mind to social justice.  On the other side of the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a superpollutant found in refrigerators, air conditioners and other cooling equipment. And the mayors of 12 cities — representing 36 million residents — announced their plans to divest from fossil fuels. Among the signatories to the C40 campaign: Berlin, Bristol, Cape Town, Durban, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. Throughout the week the heightened attention to supporting nature and biodiversity and to going beyond carbon emissions reductions was also a frequent theme — with a particular focus on the role of science-based targets in driving corporate action.  The Science Based Targets Network has created new guidance for companies interested in setting goals for land and freshwater use, biodiversity or ecosystem impacts using science-based principles, as many are doing to set emissions reduction targets.  “The best companies in the world are no longer satisfied with ‘doing better’,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, in a statement. “They insist on ‘doing enough’. That’s what science-based targets provide them.” Wondering what you missed from your home office? Below is a curated list of notable corporate commitments and campaign updates that emerged during Climate Week.  Accounting bigwigs suggest ‘universal’ ESG metrics Four iconic accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC  — teamed up with Bank of America to develop and release a set of standard metrics and disclosure frameworks that companies can use to report on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The new guidance, released by the World Economic Forum as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit , focuses on four pillars: Treatment of employees, including diversity, wage gaps, and health and safety Dependencies on the natural environment related to emissions, land and water use How a company contributes to community well-being, including what it pays in taxes Criteria for accountability  Amazon signs more Climate Pledgers, curates sustainable products shopping site Five more companies have signed the Climate Pledge, an initiative orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism : retailer Best Buy ; engineering firm McKinstry ; professional sports club Real Betis ; energy firm Schneider Electric; and manufacturer Siemens . This gesture commits them to reaching a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040, one decade before the deadline for the Paris Agreement.  The mighty e-commerce retailer also created a new “Climate Pledge Friendly” shopping section on Amazon.com dedicated to showcasing consumer products that hold one or more of 19 sustainability certifications such as Cradle to Cradle, Energy Star and Fairtrade.  The focus is on grocery, household, fashion, beauty and consumer electronics options — and some initial brands showcased are Burt’s Bees Baby, HP Inc. and Seventh Generation. Amazon also created its own externally validated certification, Compact by Design , which will recognize products designed to require less packaging, which makes them more efficient to ship.  Jenny Ahlen, director of EDF+Business, praised Amazon’s new strategy but said it doesn’t go far enough. “Certifications are a good starting point for companies to help shoppers make more informed and sustainable choices,” she wrote in a blog about the announcement. “But to truly make progress on creating safer, more sustainable products, retailers — Amazon included — need to work with their suppliers to improve the quality of all the products they sell and share that information with shoppers. Calling out a small portion of products that have met environmental standards isn’t enough.”  Climate Group tallies up more members for RE100, EP100  Beverage and snack company PepsiCo set a new global target to source 100 percent of its electricity for company-owned and controlled operations using renewable power by 2030, and across its entire franchise by 2040. (It expects to reach this goal for its U.S. operations by the end of this year.) This move could result in the equivalent of removing 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca amped up its renewable energy with a deeper commitment to addressing industrial heat by joining the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, dedicated to decarbonizing tough-to-abate manufacturing and production processes. Currently, 13 percent of AstraZeneca’s power load comes from combined heat and power, and the company has committed to identifying renewable alternatives by 2025. Two energy-centric campaigns managed by the Climate Group welcomed new members this week. The EP100 initiative , which encourages companies to commit to higher levels of productivity and revenue while using less energy, has more than 100 members, with Japan’s Daito Trust Construction among the latest joiners. The RE100 , which represents more than 260 companies committed to using 100 percent renewable power, added new signatories including Intel , ASICS (the apparel company), pharma firm Sanofi and manufacturers SKF and VELUX .  Formidable food purveyors forsake food waste A group of powerful food retailers including Kroger , Tesco and Walmart and food service company Sodexo created the “10x20x30” initiative , which commits them to convincing at least 10 of their suppliers to halving food waste and loss by 2030. The effort is part of Champions 12.3, a group focused on addressing the challenge of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by the end of this decade.  One example of the actions we might see as a result is Walmart’s move to source cucumbers that use a coating provided by startup Apeel that extends their shelf life through a natural coating that extends shelf life. “Cutting food loss and waste in half  — from farm to fork — by 2030 will require ambitious, collection action,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability for Walmart, in a statement. “The 10x20x30 initiative is accelerating progress by aligning and training shareholders across the industry on how to dramatically reduce food waste.” IKEA, Unilever, others bring 1.5 Celsius mindset to supply chains The Exponential Roadmap Initiative in Stockholm launched the 1.5 Degrees Supply Chain Leaders initiative , a group of multinational companies that have set targets to halve their absolute GHG emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions across their supply chains by 2050 — in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Initial supporters include BT Group , Ericsson , IKEA , Telia and Unilever . Among the commitments is making climate-related targets and performance a “key supplier purchasing criteria” by this time next year.  “To tackle the climate challenge, it is not enough for us to collaborate with the big global suppliers,” said Mikko Kuusisto, senior director of strategic sourcing for Telia, in a statement. “We need to engage also with the smaller, more local and often nonlisted companies to get them to commit to halving their emissions by 2030.” To help facilitate that transition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative teamed up with the International Chamber of Commerce, the We Mean Business coalition and the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign to create the SME Climate Hub . The website will provide a set of resources intended to help smaller suppliers take these steps, including measurement tools, best practices frameworks and services.  Mars, Carrefour giants cultivate new coalition for forests The Forest Positive Coalition of Action, which includes close to 20 companies with a collective market value of $1.8 trillion, is a CEO-level group under the umbrella of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) vowing to address key commodity supply chains that often contribute to deforestation. Among the actions they are advocating include joining forces for forest conservation in “key production landscapes,” policy initiatives and regular reporting.  Aside from sponsors Mars and Carrefour , the list of participants includes Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Danone, Essity, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Jerónimo Martins, METRO AG, Mondel?z, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Walmart. The launch was greeted with skepticism by environmental NGOs including the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), SumofUs, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Amazon Watch, which notes that the involved companies so far have fallen short on deforestation commitments and on protecting the rights of Indigenous people. “We’ve see 10 years of inaction, half-measures and greenwashing from the CGF, while human rights defenders and frontline communities have been putting their lives on the line to defend forests from rampant corporate expansion,” said Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner at RAN, in a statement. Microsoft shares ‘positive’ vibes for water Building on its “carbon negative” pledge in January, a goal that will see it remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it historically has emitted, Microsoft is applying that same mindset to its water strategy. Only in reverse. Its new commitment will see it reduce the per-megawatt consumption of water related to the energy that powers its operations and also focus on water replenishment in 40 “stressed” regions in which it operates. The goal is to replenish more water than it uses by 2030. That will inspire measures such as: Wetland restoration Removal of impervious pavement Installation of on-site rainwater collection and water recycling systems across its newest offices, including the new Silicon Valley campus, the redesign at its central campus in the Seattle area and facilities in India and Israel A heightened focus on evaporative and “adiabatic” (outside air) cooling technologies for its data centers AI for Earth technologies, such as a project called Vector Center, for helping measure water risk and scarcity  It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s new strategy prioritizes not just availability but also accessibility, the issue of safe drinking water and sanitation. Were there other announcements this week? Sure, and I’m also sure I’ll get plenty of emails about what I “missed.” While I am grateful for every company that commits to taking practical, meaningful, un-greenwashed action, the common thread of the visions advanced above is that they set the bar higher — even if just a little bit. That’s what we need to move entire industries to support taking action on the climate crisis. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A moment in time for the climate clock on the metronome in New York’s Union Square.

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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid

September 4, 2020 by  
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Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid Sarah Golden Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:30 I’ve written about my high hopes for microgrids and my disappointment at the speed of deployment (due in part to COVID-related slowdowns that stalled construction).  But don’t be confused. Like a swimming duck, a lot has been happening with microgrids under the surface. New third-party financing options for microgrids in which the energy offtaker does not own or maintain the asset — known as energy-as-a-service (EaaS) or microgrids-as-a-service (MaaS) — are making microgrids accessible to small businesses with small energy loads, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie . While not a new structure (EaaS has been around for the better part of a decade), the research shows the market is maturing. Increasingly, financers are investing in small-scale microgrids that are less than 5 megawatts, a size better suited for on-site power generation for, say, medium to large commercial buildings or a mid-sized industrial facility.  This is kind of a big deal, as financial innovations are as important as technological innovations for clean energy technologies to proliferate. Solar is the classic example; it took off once people could get it without upfront costs.  Here are three forces that, together, finally could get you that microgrid you’ve been eyeing.  1. Microgrid portfolios are opening up new financing models Once upon a time, microgrids were bespoke and built on a project-by-project basis. That required legwork by financers to assess the technology risk and business models, which only made sense if the projects were bigger — say, 10-20 MW minimum.  Increasingly, microgrid service providers are selling a portfolio of microgrids — that is, deploying multiple microgrids with similar (if not identical) components at different locations. The homogenization of the microgrid technologies allows investors to streamline due diligence and finance the portfolio in aggregate. Examples include projects at Stop & Shop , which recently announced it will install microgrids at 40 of its grocery stores in Massachusetts using Bloom Energy fuel cells, and H-E-B , which plans to install microgrids at 45 locations in Texas through Enchanted Rock . We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. “The financer is basically betting that that set of controls and that technology is the same or similar across the portfolio, so they’re able to quantify and manage technology risk,” said Isaac Maze-Rothstein, microgrid analyst at Wood Mackenzie and author of the report, in a phone conversation. Just as beneficial to financers, providers can replicate their microgrid-as-a-service business model for different customers, as Enchanted Rock has done in Texas.  “For the financer, they’re evaluating a single business model across a portfolio of diverse customers,” Maze Rothstein said.  2. Standardization is driving down costs — and increasing investors’ appetite The predictability of the microgrid technologies in a portfolio makes them cheaper to site and install. While bespoke microgrids required on-site construction, the modular microgrids are essentially prefab, ready to be installed when they arrive on site.  As a result, the distributed energy resources (be they renewable, energy storage or fossil-based) are becoming the lion’s share of the capital costs for microgrids. The cost of renewable technologies has fallen precipitously in the last decade and is expected to get cheaper.  The aggregated portfolio of microgrids and lower costs are piquing investors’ interest — and not just the usual suspects, such as utilities.  “You also have infrastructure investors who have historically focused on oil and gas and midstream investments who are looking for above-market returns with the reliability of an infrastructure investment,” Maze-Rothstein said. Because the mass potential size of the new market (companies that want energy reliability, need less than 5 MW and don’t want to pay upfront costs), microgrid supermajors are partnering with investors to roll out projects. Earlier this month, for example, Schneider Electric announced a partnership with Huck Capital to serve commercial buildings. 3. Energy resilience is driving more customers to microgrid as a service model  No PR campaign could have better educated companies on the need for energy resilience than recent extreme weather events. From floods to hurricanes and wildfires, businesses are starting to understand the cost of inaction.  Enter MaaS, which promises resilience without upfront or ongoing costs, a much cheaper option than buying or renting backup generators or interrupting operations. In addition, on-site microgrids can save customers money on electric bills.  “We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally,” Maze-Rothstein said. “Many people, if you’ve lived in California in particular and you’ve had regular power outages of various types, you start looking at resilience options.”  A study from Rocky Mountain Institute shows that businesses affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California would have saved money if they had bought solar plus storage outright. With microgrid-as-a-service, customers can get the resilience benefits and not even fork over the cash.  And as more companies hear about these financing options through press releases and news articles (hi!), the more common they will become.  This is in contrast to microgrids owned by the offtaker (such as utilities), which are more often driven by economics and renewable integration.  Pull Quote We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. Topics Energy & Climate Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An aerial view of an Enchanted Rock microgrid site. Courtesy of Enchanted Rock Close Authorship

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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

September 4, 2020 by  
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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts Bryn Baker Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:00 On Aug. 14 and 15, the California electric grid operator made the incredibly rare decision to proactively shut off parts of the electricity grid, resulting in limited rolling blackouts affecting businesses and homes throughout the state. Forced outages are a tool of last resort, employed in circumstances of incredible stress to the grid and done to protect against more widespread outages. Record heat for several days across parts of the state strained the power grid so much that it started rationing electricity, for the first time in almost 20 years. Notably, temperatures reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley — the hottest recorded temperature on the planet in more than a century.  While the immediate cause is still being investigated, we do know that California’s grid was experiencing multiple, coincident stressors — high demand, generators not performing when called upon and energy imports not showing up. Rather than thinking of these events as a one-off stroke of bad luck, consider that this soon might be the new normal. And not just in California. Climate change is driving more extreme weather events, including heat waves, everywhere, all while the grid faces increasing demand from electrification of cars, buses, businesses and homes. How should businesses and other large customers be thinking about the increasing strains from climate change with an evolving energy resource mix? Some have suggested clean energy is the scapegoat for the recent blackouts. However, not only was clean energy not the source of the problem , it’s the solution. Clean and renewable energy is core to charting a path forward.  Time to ditch fossil fuels-centric planning In the last 30 years, about one-third of coastal Southern California homes added air conditioners. Higher temperatures put more stress on traditional fossil-fired electric generators, reducing plant efficiency and output, and even caused them to temporarily shut down. In fact, the heat wave last month shuttered a 500 megawatt natural gas unit and a 750 MW gas unit was unexpectedly out of service Aug. 14. Outages of dispatchable fossil generation paired with reduced output from renewables, such as the 1,000 MW reduction in available wind power Aug. 15, resulted in an electric grid unable to meet customer demand. The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. California is actively shifting from a fossil-generation-dependent grid to a system that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by 2045 — an essential step to combat climate change. Corporate customers, cities and governments are lining up behind ambitious clean energy and climate goals. Technological innovation and rapidly declining costs in renewables, storage and other clean energy resources are enabling California’s evolution to a 21st-century reliable , clean energy grid. The state is a leader in solar power, meeting much of the demand during the sunny hours of the day. However, the grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs.  Despite the finger-pointing and calls to move back toward natural gas, including from business groups , the recent experience in California shows that the energy transition shouldn’t be abandoned in the name of reliability Rather smart policy, planning and market designs are critical so that utilities and customers can improve reliability through accelerated deployment of these advanced clean resources as fossil generators retire.  Markets and regional cooperation: Bigger is better California’s electric system is operated by an independent nonprofit organization — the California Independent System Operator ( CAISO ) — that uses competition among power producers to identify the lowest-cost generators that can be used to reliably meet demand. While recent events have been compared to events we saw 20 years ago in California, flaws and fraud responsible then in California’s market design have since been corrected. This time around, the experience suggests that fully expanding wholesale electricity markets throughout the West will be a critical tool to reliably and cost-effectively meet demand in the face of climate change and the energy transition. California may be tempted to go faster alone, but it could get there more reliably and affordably with other Western states.  California’s grid imports electricity from out of state generators, and California’s utilities plan in advance for energy imports that are complemented by in-state generators to meet demand on the hottest days. CAISO does not control the number of imports, which were affected by the recent heat wave that extended beyond California. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Efforts are underway to expand the CAISO market through the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), which allows coordinated real-time operation amongst a number of utilities and already has brought $1 billion in customer benefits, although this is a fraction of the benefits of a full competitive wholesale market. The type of grid event that occurred in August would be best solved by a western regional transmission organization that optimizes electricity generation and demand throughout the West, rationally manages shared operating reserves and plans/promotes interconnected transmission infrastructure. This type of system will be critical to lowering costs to all customers and keeping the lights on, while meeting the clean energy commitments by customers and states. Even CAISO and the California Public Utilities Commission agree that market improvements may well be needed. California’s approach to ensuring enough generation on the system to meet demand on the hottest days is fractured, complex and undergoing revision. As we chart a path forward, we need to embrace creative solutions and use the tools that we know can work. Businesses require reliable, affordable electricity. A growing number of businesses also know that transitioning the grid to clean energy can save money while continuing to provide expected reliability. Embracing innovation and new technology is in California’s DNA; it also could get by with a little help from its friends. By stitching together the West’s electricity system, reliability and a clean energy transition can work in tandem, most affordably for all customers. REBA is organizing related sessions on clean energy markets during VERGE 20. View more information here .  Pull Quote The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Utilities California Electricity Grid 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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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG

July 13, 2020 by  
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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG Mike Hower Mon, 07/13/2020 – 01:30 About six months ago, I wrote that 2020 would be a pivotal year for environmental, social and governance (ESG), and that what happens this year and over the next decade could determine the next century. While it would be the world’s biggest understatement to say 2020 isn’t turning out the way we all thought or hoped it would, I stand by my conclusion. This is a critical time for corporate sustainability. What we do or don’t do will change the world, but for reasons nobody could have predicted in December. The mass climate protests of 2019 and subsequent outpouring of major corporate climate commitments from the likes of Amazon, IKEA and Kering, among others, seemed to indicate that 2020 would be the year of the E in ESG — when corporate climate action hit critical mass. In January, the momentum built as Microsoft committed to becoming carbon-negative and BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink’s now-fabled letter to CEOs called the climate crisis a “defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” The climate crisis even topped the discussion list at the World Economic Forum Annual Summit in Davos. And then along came a global pandemic, and everything changed. As the world went into lockdown, ESG conversations shifted from the E to the S, or social — how companies were responding to COVID-19 in terms of employee health and welfare. The emphasis on the S intensified even further after the murder of George Floyd sparked a movement for racial justice and employees, customers and investors demanded companies take a stand.  As social issues move to the forefront of ESG discussions, 2020 is turning out to be the breakout year for the S. To better understand what this means for the future of corporate sustainability, thinkPARALLAX recently gathered investors and corporate sustainability practitioners from TPG, JUST Capital, Workday, The Estée Lauder Companies and KKS Advisors for a digital Perspectives discussion .  The S moves to the front seat In the long road trip of corporate sustainability, the S mostly has ridden in the backseat — with the E and G commandeering the wheel and Spotify playlist. That’s because social issues are tough to quantify.  While calculating a carbon footprint is comparatively easy, how does one create science-based targets for worker welfare or racial injustice? Sure, an organization can make efforts to diversify its board and workforce, or create programs to improve worker welfare, but this is only a start.  Addressing deeply rooted systemic inequalities requires a much greater commitment and means of measuring success. Until now, companies have gotten by with doing nothing or just the bare minimum. No longer, thanks to the events of 2020. “We’re at a turning point in ESG,” said Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital . “What’s happened in the past three months has done 20 years of S work.”  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:0] Moving forward, corporate board members, investors and executives will be expected to consider worker welfare and complex social issues such as racial inequality. “Companies are scrambling to address these issues, and everyone needs to throw out the manual and completely rethink how they approach equity in the workplace, because something is not working,” Whittaker said.  But as the S takes over the wheel, are environmental issues, the E, getting pushed into the backseat? No, said Alison Humphrey, director of ESG at TPG . “It’s just joined climate in the front seat.” E and S: better together The great thing about ESG is that it isn’t a zero-sum game. A renewed focus on the S actually might help companies do a better job of addressing environmental challenges because the two are linked. People of color or low-income socioeconomic status, for example, are suffering and will continue to suffer first and worst from the negative effects of the climate crisis, says Union of Concerned Scientists .  “There’s so much interesting intersectionality with social justice and climate — they are both so connected,” Humphrey said. “Climate work is hard and exhausting, and many people don’t feel the urgency or balk at the initial cost of the transition or fail to grasp how dependent humanity is on our ecosystems. In many ways, it mirrors many of the challenges with social justice — and you can’t address one without the other.” While measuring social impact remains difficult, this no longer will be an excuse for companies not to try.  “With this sharp focus on how integral social issues are to our ability to achieve an equitable society and make environmental progress, we will collectively need to get a lot better at measuring and communicating the S, just as we have with environmental topics,” said Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy, executive director of ESG at The Estée Lauder Companies. Even before the events of 2020, Workday factored social impact into its environmental sustainability strategy, said Erik Hansen, director of sustainability at Workday. “The events of the past months have illustrated how valuable systems thinking is, and showing that we are a connected, global community. That connection between climate, the environment, people and health.” When Workday installed EV chargers at its headquarters, for example, this was not just so software engineers could come to work in a Tesla, Hansen said. It was also so that the company could minimize environmental impacts such as air pollution, which disproportionately hurt disadvantaged communities. Likewise, as Workday works toward its 100 percent renewable energy goal, the company is advocating for a just transition to clean energy that accounts for those who might be affected economically — such as workers in the fossil fuel industry — and ensure that nobody is left behind. One of the most effective ways to honor the E and the S might be focusing on the G, according to Anuj Shah, managing director at KKS Advisors : “One of the things we’ve looked at is how the G — the governance part — supersedes the E and the S. If you can get the G right, the E and S will follow.”  What racial justice means for business As mass protests erupted across the globe after the murder of Floyd, a chorus of companies voiced support for addressing racial inequality, and some even committed to doing something about it. But what comes next? “We’re at a point where we need to take substantive action, as individuals and as corporations, to deliver on social justice. I’m incredibly proud of the commitment made by The Estée Lauder Companies to promote racial equity, as a starting point for real progress and lasting change,” Dobkowski-Joy said. According to Humphrey, TPG came out with a statement and commitment to take action by first taking a step back to reflect on its role and how it can best address system inequalities as a private equity firm. “The question is, what is your company’s role in rectifying injustice in our system? This needs to come uniquely from each department, a top-down and bottom-up approach.” A hopeful future for ESG Despite the setbacks of 2020, there remains reason for hope. The ongoing global pandemic is shattering the longstanding myth that companies must sacrifice return to be a good corporate citizen — ESG funds are outperforming the wider market during this economic downturn.  And we are learning through much trial and error — emphasis on the “error” — how to address an intractable problem that harms everyone yet that no single government, organization or individual can solve alone. Relentless competition may be giving way to constructive collaboration. And these lessons might still be applied to address the ultimately more existential crisis of the climate.  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:1] “In the midst of this tremendous upheaval, we’re all pulling together in ways which were unfathomable just months ago — and showing that collective action is actually possible,” Dobkowski-Joy said. Climate may begin to take on a new importance as a long-term threat to society as climate risk exposes inequities just as COVID-19 has, Whittaker said. “COVID-19 has taught us the importance of resilience, interdependence and systemic risk and how to address that — and how we can be more effective working together. I’ve seen a lot of collaboration over the last three months, which I wouldn’t have expected to see. I think it has brought out a lot of humanity in business which has all been about profit making.”  Shah of KKS was more cautiously optimistic. “I’m concerned that a lot of companies are going to feel pressure to maximize profits coming out of the pandemic into a new normal. ESG and short termism don’t necessarily go together. Long termism is a prerequisite for ESG.” However, Shah added that he has been inspired by the mass movement for racial justice being driven by the younger generation. As Millennials and Generation Z continue to take over the workforce and enter leadership roles, this activist mindset could change the future of ESG.  Humphrey suggested companies should take a look at business model resilience and how it is intertwined with ESG issues. “Perhaps we can focus less on the rolling back of budgets, which has happened for many companies across the board, and instead on how the pandemic has compelled us to look beyond one-off CSR and sustainability initiatives toward a more strategic, integrated and business-aligned approach to managing these 21st-century risks,” she said.  As we continue to push forward toward an uncertain future, the only certainty is that things will change. And it’s up to all of us to make sure that it’s for the better. Pull Quote What’s happened in the past three months has done 20 years of S work. We will collectively need to get a lot better at measuring and communicating the S, just as we have with environmental topics. Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Environmental Justice 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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The decarbonization promise of indoor agriculture is still in the seed stage

May 22, 2020 by  
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The decarbonization promise of indoor agriculture is still in the seed stage Jim Giles Fri, 05/22/2020 – 01:18 Here’s a tale of two chefs. Both are based in the Midwest and both are preparing a Caesar salad. One uses lettuce shipped from where much of our lettuce is grown: The fields around Monterey, California. The other sources her greens from a nearby indoor farm. Out in Monterey, the farmer used diesel-powered machinery, pumped water, fertilizer and pesticides. At the indoor farm, precision systems provided the lettuce with exactly the amount of water and nutrients the crop requires — and no more. The pickers in California discarded lettuces that didn’t look perfect. That wasn’t an issue indoors: Conditions are so well controlled that almost all the crop met consumers’ exacting standards. Finally, when the crop was packed and ready, the indoor farmer drove 20 miles or so to drop the lettuce at our chef’s restaurant. The Monterey produce had to travel 2,000 miles. Which chef is preparing the more environmentally friendly salad? Let’s start with the bad news. The story above about indoor farming, a tale about a technology can produce dramatic environmental gains — it doesn’t hold true. The Monterey lettuce is currently the better bet, according to a new analysis from the WWF . For places that are food-insecure, this could be a real game-changer. The problem with indoor farming, also known as controlled environment agriculture, is the electric grid. Indoor farms use LEDs to light crops. In St. Louis, Missouri, the focus of the WWF study, two-thirds of electricity comes from fossil fuel plants that pump out health-damaging particulates and planet-warming carbon dioxide. The WWF team combined these and other impacts into a single score that captures total environmental harm. Lettuce grown in St. Louis greenhouses, which supplement LEDs with natural light, scored twice as high as the conventional crop. In a vertical farm lit entirely by LEDs, the difference was threefold. Now to the good news: Our chef who sources from a nearby indoor farm may not be making the best environmental choice today, but she likely will be soon. That’s partly because if we look beyond energy use, indoor ag delivers clear benefits. Indoor systems require little or even no pesticides and generate 80 percent less waste. They use less space, which can free up land for biodiversity. The WWF study found that precision indoor water systems use 1 liter of water to produce a kilogram of lettuce; for field-grown lettuce, the figure is 150 liters. Another reason is that indoor ag’s energy problem is likely to become less serious. Market forces are already adding renewables to the U.S. electricity mix and pushing out coal. Technology improvements in the pipeline also will cut energy use in indoor farms. PlantLab , a Netherlands-based startup, has developed an LED that’s more efficient in indoor ag settings because it emits light at the exact wavelengths used for photosynthesis. New crop varieties from Precision Indoor Plants , a public-private partnership that is developing seeds specifically for indoor use, may require less light to grow. This tech is at an early stage, which makes it tough to quantify future impact. But the data we do have shows that a combination of efficiency improvements and grid decarbonization can make indoor farms a much better environmental choice for some crops. Cutting energy use also will lower costs, making indoor farms competitive on price. It’s fascinating to speculate about what would happen if both these trends came to fruition. Indoor farms likely would diversify, for starters. At present, indoor farms in urban areas profitably can grow leafy greens but little else. If energy costs come down, cucumbers, berries and tomatoes also might make financial sense, suggests Julia Kurnik , director of innovation startups for WWF. When this project ends, key players will already be invested and ready to move ahead with building a pilot system that can be replicated worldwide … With more diverse output, the farms could become local hubs that would strengthen the food system’s resilience to extreme weather events and other shocks. “For places that are food-insecure, this could be a real game-changer,” Kurnik added. Venture capitalists already have seen this future; hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to indoor farming companies in recent years. That’s essential if this industry is to grow, but it’s also great to see an organization such as the WWF in the mix. After studying the potential, the WWF has convened a diverse group of stakeholders to map out the expansion of indoor ag in St. Louis. In addition to business execs and investors, the group includes civic and community leaders. “By working as a group to make those decisions,” explains the report, “when this project ends, key players will already be invested and ready to move ahead with building a pilot system that can be replicated worldwide, making food production more environmentally sustainable.” I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on progress in St. Louis, and with indoor ag more generally. If you know of a particular project or related technology that deserves a mention, drop me an email at jg@greenbiz.com . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter.  Sign up here  to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote For places that are food-insecure, this could be a real game-changer. When this project ends, key players will already be invested and ready to move ahead with building a pilot system that can be replicated worldwide … Topics Food & Agriculture Urban Agriculture 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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CX Landscape proposes futuristic coastal park in response to climate change

May 19, 2020 by  
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Australia-based CX Landscape has unveiled designs for Sea Line Park, a conceptual project to link the eastern and western inner suburbs of Melbourne with a linear coastal park. Designed to serve as a new line of defense against rising waters, the Sea Line Park would comprise three islands, two pontoon bridges and undersea roads to provide a new direct connection between Williams Town to the west and Elwood in the east. The fantastical proposal would also draw power from renewable sources, including tidal and solar power. Bookended by two movable pontoon bridges, the Sea Line Park consists of three curvaceous green islands : two “Sports Islands” flanking a central “Art Island”. The Sports Islands would function as public outdoor recreation space for both active and passive programs. The Art Island serves primarily as an events space and would be home to a large north-facing meadow that can host open cinemas, performances, markets and other events. A naturalistic landscape with pedestrian and cyclist paths would be integrated onto all islands. Related: Olson Kundig solar sail proposal could power up to 200 Melbourne homes with clean energy The linear parks would also house a live seed bank within a series of pods, the design of which is inspired by the diamond-patterned totem polls of the Wurundjeri tribe. Solar panels would cover the exterior of each pod and — along with the tidal power generation units integrated in the two pontoon bridges — provide energy for the entire park. The islands are also punctuated by bubble-like structures that house seawater purification and freshwater storage systems. To address ocean waste, the designers have proposed using submarine robots to collect plastic ocean debris and repurposing the waste as raw material for 3D printing construction materials. “This park will grow, adapt and innovate with the help of cutting-edge technologies, to be resilient and resistant to natural disasters and climate change ,” the designers said. “A self-sustained living hub is suitable for any coastal cities around the world, which can carry the critical resources and civilizations to create a mobile global village.” + CX Landscape Images via CX Landscape

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CX Landscape proposes futuristic coastal park in response to climate change

"Embroidered filtering skin helps library regulate light

January 20, 2020 by  
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French design practice Serero Architectes Urbanistes has recently completed the new Bayeux Media Library, a light-filled cultural institution that connects the northwestern French commune’s historical roots to its future development zones. Inspired by the famous Bayeux Tapestry, the building includes an “embroidered filtering skin” along its north facade comprising a series of multicolored tubes hanging behind the glazed facade to help filter views and light while mitigating unwanted solar gain. Energy usage is reduced thanks to an abundance of glazing outfitted with solar shades as well as an insulating green roof. Located next to the beltway near Bayeux’s dense historic center, the Bayeux Media Library has been strategically located to provide views of the cathedral. To emphasize a connection between the historic center and nearby contemporary development, the architects opted for a “transparent, landscape-building” with a horizontal profile and minimalist design. The glazed library also focuses on the indoor/ outdoor experience with outdoor reading terraces on the south side. At the heart of the contemporary Bayeux Media Library is its reference to the Bayeux Tapestry, a nearly 230-foot-long embroidered cloth dating back to the 11th century that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. “It inspired the design of the media library’s north façade,” the architects explained in a project statement. “Stitch by stitch and thread by thread, embroidery was applied to the fabric to form the tapestry’s semiotic elements. The Boulevard Ware façade of the library is entirely glazed and protected by a ‘filtering skin’ composed of tubes tinted in the natural colors of the woolen yarns in the famous Bayeux Tapestry: beige, brown, bronze green, blue-black and deep blue with yellow highlights.” Related: Near net-zero energy Helsinki Central Library boasts an award-winning, prefab design In addition to the “embroidered” filtering skin on the north facade, the architects added an overhanging roof to shield the interior from unwanted solar gain on the south facade. The glazed east, west, and south facades are also equipped with roller blinds. Skylights let in additional natural light.  + Serero Architectes Urbanistes Photography by Didier Boy de la Tour via Serero Architectes Urbanistes

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