Aquaculture becomes a net-positive

February 22, 2021 by  
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Aquaculture becomes a net-positive Heather Clancy Mon, 02/22/2021 – 00:15 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . The practice of farming finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants — by land and by sea — dates back 3,000 years as first the Chinese and then the Romans sought ways to supplement their food supplies with species such as carp and oysters. In more modern times, support for aquaculture has ebbed and flowed along with concerns about animal health and welfare, worries over the effluent pollution caused by wastewater discharges, and the unintended impacts of production infrastructure such as pipes and pumps on natural ecosystems. Now, a wave of technology innovation and funding from an eclectic group of companies ranging from Google’s parent Alphabet, to the Seed2Growth fund linked to Lukas Walton (grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton), to Cargill and Chevron Ventures (both focused on fish-feed ventures) is changing the tide again. In 2018, the last year for which figures were available, worldwide aquaculture production reached an all-time high of 114.5 million metric tons in “live weight,” representing a market value of almost $264 billion, according to a 2020 report by U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That amount accounted for 52 percent of global fish consumption. The annual growth rate will slow over the next decade, but FAO projects aquaculture will supply close to 60 percent of fish consumed globally by 2030. You have to be engaged in aquaculture, you have to be successful in aquaculture, to be successful in seafood. Many factors contribute to this renewed surge in interest in farming fish and sea vegetables. Chief among them are worries over the long-term viability of global fisheries and concern over the fragility of food supply chains, sorely tested by disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States, for example, imports a vast majority of the salmon it eats, with long-term consequences for transportation-related emissions. The most dominant region in the world today for aquaculture production is Asia, particularly China, but Norway (for salmon) and Central America (for tilapia) are also big exporters. “Expanding access to blue food — that is, sustainably grown marine and freshwater organisms including fish, shellfish and sea vegetables — can play an important role in reducing the carbon emissions associated with the food we eat … While sustainable aquaculture alone won’t solve the problem of reducing carbon emissions, seafood is one of the lowest carbon sources of protein available — so it’s a great place to make an impact on the climate crisis in the next five to 10 years,” said Neil Davé, general manager of Tidal , an Alphabet X moonshot project. The Tidal research team is testing artificial intelligence and imaging technology as a means to monitor fish health, spot pests and reduce waste at fish farms run by Norwegian seafood company Mowi , the world’s largest Atlantic salmon producer and ranked ( again ) in November as the world’s most sustainable protein producer by the FAIRR Initiative, which produces research for institutional investors interested in environment, social and governance issues. Digital innovations such as Tidal’s that provide better insights into fish farming operations — alongside new recirculating aquaculture system designs and purification advances, such as the “nanobubbles” generators designed by startup Moleaer — are contributing to rising levels of speculative activity. Over the past four years, for example, more than 20 companies have filed development permits in Norway for new approaches, including several for semi-enclosed or enclosed cages that decrease the potential impact on ocean ecosystems. The number of companies building land-based operations is also growing, notably in the United States. That’s important as more countries consider investing in sustainable domestic sources of production. A recent study by nonprofit WorldFish suggested that “inland freshwater aquaculture and marine capture fisheries have far greater potential to continue to supply most of the world’s aquatic food and contribute to human equity and food security than offshore marine finfish farming.” These self-contained operations are designed to address concerns about wastewater discharges in coastal waters, as well as concerns over viruses, parasites and microplastics that plague ocean and coastal operations. The downside: They are incredibly capital-intensive, costing millions to get up and running. Among the emerging U.S. players are Aquabanq  (a Maine salmon concern), Infinity Blue (a brand raising barramundi with aspirations in Arizona ), Innovasea Systems (based in Boston) and Pure Salmon (which is building an operation in Virginia). Atlantic Sapphire , which is raising Bluehouse salmon on land in southern Florida and has invested upwards of $100 million in the facilities to do so, in November began selling its first fish raised without hormones, antibiotics or pesticides to supermarkets including the Publix supermarket chain. While its initial capacity is limited to about 10,000 metric tons of fish, the company aspires to supply 12 percent of the market by 2026. Its ultimate goal: 220 metric tons annually by 2030 — that’s nearly 1 billion salmon meals. “By producing an increasing amount of seafood sustainably as farmers, the industry can help relieve pressure on wild stocks that might currently be overfished commercially. Raising salmon on land helps to avoid the effect on coastal areas, ensuring the well-being of our planet,” observed Damien Claire, chief sales and marketing officer at Atlantic Sapphire. Publix Super Markets is already making a big bet on aquaculture , not just with salmon but with species such as cobia, shrimp, pompano and tripletail. “You have to be engaged in aquaculture, you have to be successful in aquaculture, to be successful in seafood,” noted Guy Pizzuti, business development director for seafood at Publix. These are farms that bring back to the ocean as they bring back food. Of course, there are other creatures in the sea aside from finfish. One notable difference between the aquaculture industry emerging this decade and the focus of the past is that it’s not all about cultivating more animals. Seaweed is the fastest-growing segment of the industry. It is being considered more often as a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging , which gives farmers another potential buyer. For example, materials pioneer Loliware is creating seaweed straws that will be used by the likes of hotel chain Marriott and fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, which also has put kelp-inspired dishes on its menu. Food startup Akua is using kelp as a staple for jerky and pasta, and Blue Evolution is selling a range of products, including kelp popcorn. And in November, the Bezos Earth Fund made a $100 million grant to the World Wildlife Fund to support, among other things, the development of new markets for seaweed as an alternative to fossil fuel-based products. One nonprofit organization, GreenWave , is even advocating the idea of “regenerative ocean farming.” Its aim is to support the development of polycultural operations that combine a mix of seaweeds and shellfish that require zero artificial inputs. GreenWave’s pitch is that those with access to 20 acres, a boat and startup costs of $20,000 to $50,000 can start their own farm. Not only can these farms revive economic livelihoods for fishing communities that have seen local fisheries decline, they also can provide carbon sequestration benefits. One figure touted by the Eat More Kelp campaign suggests that the process of growing regenerative kelp can capture five times more CO2 than leafy vegetables such as kale or lettuce. “These are farms that bring back to the ocean as they bring back food,” said GreenWave founder Bren Smith. For food retailers such as Publix, the primary environmental benefit of supporting aquaculture includes the ability to offer customers a certified product vetted for ecological considerations such as wastewater management, water quality, effluent discharge and health. Two of the biggest challenges the evolving aquaculture industry must overcome, Pizzuti noted, are customer perceptions over the impact of aquaculture practices and the price premium they still must pay over fish and seafood sold by commercial fishing operations. Still, as more food companies, investors and entrepreneurs cast their ideas into the ocean of aquaculture innovation, the greater the chances for a bountiful, sustainable catch. Pull Quote You have to be engaged in aquaculture, you have to be successful in aquaculture, to be successful in seafood. These are farms that bring back to the ocean as they bring back food. Topics Oceans & Fisheries Food Systems State of Green Business Report Aquaculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Atlantic salmon cage site. Photo by Shutterstock/Leo W. Kowal

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Aquaculture becomes a net-positive

Bill Gates wants you to step up on climate

February 16, 2021 by  
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Bill Gates wants you to step up on climate Elsa Wenzel Tue, 02/16/2021 – 00:00 When you’re one of the world’s richest people, it’s hard not to make a global impact. Fortunately for the climate cause, Bill Gates for the last half-decade has invested considerably toward innovations to push the planet toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “Getting to zero is one of the most difficult challenges people have ever taken on,” he said in a keynote address broadcast at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event Tuesday. “We’re going to have to change the way we make and consume basically everything, and we’re going to have to do it many times faster than energy transitions have happened in the past.” Weaning the world from its annual release of 51 billion tons of planet-changing emissions is the subject of Gates’ latest book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” being released this month. “It’s going to take significant investment and bold innovation,” he told the GreenBiz virtual crowd. “So we cannot only invent new solutions but commercialize them and then scale them up quickly.” What does it mean for you? It means thinking about climate breakthroughs across every area of your business. To that end, Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition, launched in 2015 with its billion-dollar venture arm a year later, has backed some 30 startups in a variety of low-carbon plays, including in greener metal, energy storage and even cultured breastmilk. In January, the star-studded fund — with the likes of Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Jack Ma onboard — said it will double to $2 billion and target 40 more emissions-slashing startups. As one of the world’s foremost techno-optimists, Gates was central to the improbable advances of the personal computer and the recent rollout of COVID-19 vaccines . In his view of a global climate revolution being bigger than the moon landing or eradicating smallpox, cooperation from the business world is pivotal. “It’s about the future we leave for our grandchildren, it’s about the future success of your business,” Gates said in the GreenBiz 21 address. “To meet this challenge, we need your business to join in, and you can be the champion inside your business to create these breakthroughs. Make no mistake, the challenge ahead of us is unprecedented. But I believe we can come up with a plan to overcome it.” What does that mean for your company? Here are clues, gleaned from Gates’ GreenBiz 21 address and other recent statements. Eliminate the green premium Fantastic innovations alone can’t lead to zero emissions unless they reach mass affordability. So Gates seeks to rally people behind wiping out the “green premium,” the high cost of sustainable products and services over polluting ones. Electric vehicles are driving in this direction, marked last month by General Motors’ disclosure that it will stop selling internal combustion passenger cars by 2035; and solar energy is already cheaper than burning coal in many places. Yet a long path is ahead before the green premium disappears across other systems, notably for steel, cement, air travel and buildings. Gates recently noted, for instance, the Swiss firm Climeworks ‘ success with direct-air carbon capture to improve cement-making, but its processes are 10 times more expensive than needed to erase the green premium of traditional cement-making. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition names five “grand challenges” representing an outsize share of the global emissions pie: manufacturing; electricity; agriculture; transportation; and buildings. Elevate the developing world Gates has shared on his podcast how a personal urgency about the climate crisis built over time as he flew to developing nations for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global health and poverty-reduction efforts. As he landed over bustling Lagos, Nigeria, the ubiquitous nighttime fires illuminated to him the need to address how 1 billion people live without electric power . It’s the duty of the developed world not only to develop innovations but also to fine-tune them in such a way that they become affordable to the poorer regions of the world, the philanthropist has said. “We need to be at the point where we can call up India and say, ‘Hey, we have green cement now; don’t use the dirty stuff,'” Gates said in a December episode of the podcast “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions.” Support climate-smart policies Gates recently praised President Joe Biden for re-joining the Paris Agreement: “Now the United States can build on that step by adopting a concrete plan that checks several boxes at once: eliminating emissions while adapting to the warming that is already happening, spurring innovative industries, creating jobs for the post-pandemic recovery, and ensuring that everyone benefits from the transition to a green economy,” he wrote on the Gates Notes blog recently. In December, Gates called for the U.S. to create a National Institutes of Energy Innovation to centralize efforts that are spread out across the National Aeronautics and Space Agency as well as the Energy, Defense and Transportation departments. When it comes to research, clean energy only receives about a quarter of the federal funding as medicine does. Gates would like that to change, too.  Think about climate breakthroughs across every area of your business, and invest in clean energy research and development that aligns with your goals As already mentioned, manufacturing, electricity, agriculture, transportation and buildings are the five major areas Gates repeatedly has identified as needing rapid innovation now. They represent the major sources of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.  There are opportunities in most of these categories for every company to reduce emissions from the top office to the farthest reaches of a supply chain. The Google X “moonshot factory” tinkers with renewable energy and more. Nestlé’s labs cook up plant-based proteins. It’s up to each business to customize and commit to the opportunities for innovation. Support accelerators and incubators by being willing to pilot and demonstrate new technology Breakthrough Energy Ventures, for one, seeks to invest in “neglected areas and enterprises we believe are critical to explore,” according to its website. In addition: “We will only invest in technologies with the potential, at scale, to reduce greenhouse gases by at least half a gigaton every year, about 1 percent of global emissions.” In that spirit: Back innovations that go big. Set a target to become net-zero enterprise, reimagining procurement and supply chains Microsoft, which Gates co-founded, is a best-in-class example. Thirteen months ago, the tech giant set forth the goal of net-zero emissions by 2030 . The icing on that cake: removing by 2050 the equivalent of all emissions it has released. As the tech giant reported last month , so far it has purchased the removal of 1.3 million metric tons of CO2 from 26 projects around the world, representing diverse solutions. Companies hoping to reach a meaningful net-zero commitment should proceed with caution and make sure to invest in significant and measurable improvements, not relying heavily on hard-to-verify, potentially low-quality offsets. Develop innovative financial vehicles to scale green technologies “Because energy research can take years — even decades — to come to fruition, companies need patient investors who are willing to work with them over the long term,” Gates wrote in 2018 . Beyond traditional venture capital, creative tools to accelerate sustainability are gaining hold, including green bonds and special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACS . (There’s a whole new GreenBiz event in April for the emerging green finance space .) “Most of all, it’s going to take courage to see beyond the way things have been done for decades, to identify new opportunities and to build creative partnerships to take advantage of them,” Gates told the GreenBiz 21 audience.  Illustration of the green premium. Pull Quote What does it mean for you? It means thinking about climate breakthroughs across every area of your business. Topics Leadership Cleantech Finance & Investing GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Bill Gates addressing GreenBiz 21

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Bill Gates wants you to step up on climate

Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

January 25, 2021 by  
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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction Chris Gaither Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:30 Before he saw the smoke, he felt it in his throat. It tasted foul. It curled into his nose, his mouth, his lungs. He looked up from his computer. His colleagues were tapping at their keyboards. The smoke hovered around them. He walked to his manager’s door. “This office is filled with toxic smoke,” he said. “Yes,” she said. “Don’t worry. We have a plan.” “What will you do?” he asked. “Install new ventilation? Move us to another space?” “No,” she said. “We’ve hired you an executive coach to help you develop strategies for dealing with the toxic smoke.” “But I don’t want to deal with the toxic smoke,” he said. “I want to get rid of it.” “Work with the coach,” she said. “Leave a few minutes early today. Get a massage. You’ll be okay.” We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. I heard this parable last year, before the pandemic, from a fellow executive coach. It lodged in my gut. I realized that so many of my coaching clients — in big corporations and small nonprofits, sustainability teams and sales departments — were asking me for help dealing with the stress and dysfunction of their organizations. They were breathing the same toxic smoke as everyone around them. Sometimes they were, themselves, pumping that toxic smoke into their work environments. Yet they were suffering alone, trying to solve it alone. Just as I did during my hectic career leading teams at the Los Angeles Times, Google and Apple. If anything, the pandemic has increased the pressure on us to deal with this suffering in isolation. But here’s the thing: Avoiding burnout is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. It’s a leadership challenge, and we are all leaders. Throughout this Sustainable You series for GreenBiz, I have encouraged you to tend to your personal sustainability so you can do great work on behalf of the planet. This kind of self-care remains critical. But it’s insufficient. As environmental sustainability leaders, you are, by nature, systems thinkers. You identify root causes. You craft upstream solutions. You see the forests, not just the trees, and work to improve the ecosystems so the individuals in them can thrive. So, let’s approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. To get to the root cause of the smoke, we need to think bigger. “You can’t expect people to adopt healthy lifestyles when their work environments reinforce or even cause poor habits,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational-behavior professor at Stanford University. Pfeffer is the author of the 2018 book, “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance — and What We Can Do About It.” He writes that companies have created elaborate systems for tracking their progress on environmental sustainability, but they seem to have forgotten to measure the human sustainability of their own employees. Current management practices harm employee engagement and job performance, Pfeffer says, and they increase employee turnover and healthcare costs. There’s even more at stake. To solve global, complex challenges like the climate emergency, racial injustice and species extinction, we must be adaptive leaders. We need to be mindful. Creative. Intuitive. Curious. Willing to experiment, learn and redesign. Open-minded and open-hearted. That’s so hard to do when we’re burned out. Organizational culture is a living, breathing thing. We draw from it, and we feed into it. We’re constantly creating it together. So, when everyone around us is stressed out, exhausted and closed off, it’s easy to shift into that same mode. Our mirror neurons, those evolutionary tools that help us build nourishing social connections, pick up on those signals and encourage us to be like the others. To suffer with the rest. I know this feeling well. I have held, deep in my body, the physical and emotional distress that burnout carries. We can work this way for a while, but eventually we deplete our energy and fall apart. As an executive leadership coach, I have supported many individuals to the other side of this burnout, where they’ve refilled their energy reserves and brought their creativity back to life. I’ve also followed my intuition upstream, seeking the origins of the toxic smoke. I work with full teams and their leaders to help them shift organizational culture: to slow down, reflect on what really matters, call out harmful behaviors, give themselves permission to embrace a more wholesome way of working. Healthy people, healthy planet A healthy earth depends on healthy people. To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves. So, my fellow leaders, let’s set an intention to cultivate human sustainability in our organizations — for the sake of our employees and the communities and natural habitats they’re working to protect. Let’s look for the toxic smoke curling through our Zoom meetings, our email inboxes and Slack channels. Let’s name it, get curious about where it came from, chase it down to its source. Let’s pay close attention to the tone we are setting for our teams. The moods we are carrying into our interactions. The behaviors we are modeling. The harmful ways of being that we are introducing or accepting. Let’s check in on each other. Let’s work to understand how others in our groups are experiencing the world, how they might be suffering differently from us, and offer them support. Let’s talk about burnout and wellness — with our team members, fellow leaders, bosses, even our boards of directors. Let’s gather our teams. Let’s come up with, say, 50 things we could do to improve our health and happiness at work. Then let’s commit to new ways of being together. Let’s craft agreements and hold each other accountable. Instead of trying to manage the toxic smoke in our work environments, let’s get rid of it. Because only when we can breathe can we truly do this critical planetary work. Pull Quote We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Sustainable You 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 Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

How My Green Lab is cleaning up R&D

January 19, 2021 by  
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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 case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers

January 18, 2021 by  
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The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers Marilyn Waite Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:45 Stopping carbon pollution alone will not bring climate justice. Reaching net-zero by 2050 will not either. Neither will achieving 100 percent renewable energy targets. The entire economy is being rebuilt. From electric modes of transportation to climate-smart agriculture, the low-carbon economy creates new roles, companies and workers. It would be regressive if this green economy excluded the very communities disproportionately affected by a changing climate. Moreover, the climate-friendly transition could provide an opportunity to create a more just workforce — one that includes more women and underrepresented people of color at all levels of leadership and ownership. Right now, this opportunity is not so. A 2019 study by the Solar Foundation and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that among all senior executives reported by solar firms, 88 percent are white and 80 percent are men. Another report from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative found that for energy efficiency jobs, women and Black workers substantially lag the national workforce averages. If these trends continue, the low-carbon economy will be just as extractive as its predecessor. Previously, oil and gas companies topped the list of the largest Black-owned enterprises in the U.S. In the 1980s, the largest 10 of these included five energy-related companies , with combined annual sales of about $854 million in 2021 U.S. dollars: Wallace & Wallace; the Vanguard Oil and Service Company; Smith Pipe and Supply Inc.; the Grimes Oil Company; and the Chioke International Corporation. How can the two principal agents in the economy, suppliers and demanders, bring about climate justice? For customers and procurers, one solution is to buy Black. Support women-owned. Go local. That would require an ample supply of green products and services led by women and underrepresented people of color. So where are these suppliers, who are they and what do they have to offer? Historically in the United States, there have been government and corporate procurement programs that support minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). Many qualifying certification schemes exist, ranging from local to national, and from public, free structures to private, paid third-party structures. The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), founded in Chicago in 1972, certifies minority business enterprises (MBEs) through 23 regional councils across the U.S. The requirements? A company must be at least 51 percent owned and operated by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American U.S. citizens. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), founded in 1997, certifies women-owned businesses in the U.S. To qualify, a business must be 51 percent owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women. Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden. While these systems may appear straightforward, they can be troublesome for the business owner. One Black-led cleantech startup was so frustrated with the NMSDC process that the founder gave up — at the time when she applied, NMSDC would not verify her as Black without her parental birth records indicating race. This information can be hard to come by for a whole host of reasons. Relying on 23andMe-style DNA tests also does not seem like a viable option for privacy and other concerns. Another Black founder explained, “Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden.” Others find the whole notion outdated, and most importantly for the bottom line, not helpful for attracting and retaining customers. Can a system established about 50 years ago meet the needs of today? After all, a lot has evolved in the marketplace — the digital age coupled with social media has changed the way businesses interact. The investment landscape, which still systemically and systematically denies access to capital to women and underrepresented people of color, also has evolved since the 1970s. As detailed in a report by the Brookings Institute, only 4 percent of the 22.2 million U.S. business owners are Black, and only 1 percent of Black business owners get a loan in their first year of business compared with 7 percent for white business owners. Finally, the democratization of information has led to a certain public accountability that lends itself to favor self-identification of race, ethnicity and gender. Instead of relying on a paywalled list of suppliers, purchasers form relationships with suppliers through “warm lead” business recommendations, industry vertical networks considered more trustworthy given the focus on subject matter expertise, and other avenues, such as the “crowd,” that help vet potential business partners. Many tech-oriented companies prefer equity to debt, and often can only consider equity at the early stages. The need to offer equity to investors often reduces the percentage of the founder’s ownership below the 51 percent threshold. The need to prove a certain race or gender may be less helpful than just using self-identification; today’s social media mechanisms create some accountability. Many procurement programs that seek to improve representation penalize larger MWBEs. The regulations are also set up to force these businesses to remain small, by putting in place revenue caps of as low as $3 million to qualify and by only having programs for MWBE sub-contractors, as opposed to prime contractors . Perhaps one way forward is to align with the times, where the ecosystem of capital and access to information has evolved. That is, make visible and uplift the MWBEs leading the clean transition, make the list of founders and senior executives open-access, provide early-stage capital (debt, equity, revenue share, non-dilutive grants) for both small and midsize enterprises and high-growth tech startups alike, strategically partner with MWBEs on projects, and remove the red tape that exists in procurement programs to keep underrepresented MWBEs in a subordinate and small position. On the latter point, the wish list for Black women cleantech founders that I spoke to include allowing for more flexibility around equity ownership (51 percent may be too onerous, especially for VC-backed startups), raising revenue caps (let’s say to $100 million), including sustainability and clean energy carve-outs in procurement, and moving away from third-party certification to decide who is a woman and who is a racial or ethnic minority. Black Owners of Solar Services ( BOSS ) is an organization set up to support smart policies that bring about climate justice in the U.S. Below is a list of Black-led companies, both small and midsize enterprises and startups, that are leading the low-carbon transition. Although not as robust as this list , for customers and procurers, this is where you can start. Senior Executive/CEO/Founder    Specialty Company Etosha Cave, Founder and CSO Carbon Economy Opus 12 Lisa Dyson,  Founder and CEO Carbon Economy Kiverdi Donna Sanders, Founder and CEO Energy Efficiency and Buildings Virimodo Donnel Baird, Founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings BlocPower SaLisa Berrien, CEO and Founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings COI Energy Ugwem Eneyo, Co-founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings SHYFT Power Solutions Ajulo E. Othow, Founder and CEO Solar Energy EnerWealth Solutions Dana Clare Redden, Founder Solar Energy Solar Stewards Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Co-founders Solar Energy Volt Energy Jessica O. Matthews, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Uncharted Power Jessica Newton, Founder and CEO Solar Energy OBIPower Ken Wells, CEO Solar Energy O&M Solar Services Kristal Hansley, Founder Solar Energy WeSolar Mark Davis, Founder and President Solar Energy WDC Solar Mina McCullom, President and CEO Solar Energy SynEnergy Monique Dyers, Founder and Managing Principal Solar Energy Ensight Energy Nicole Poindexter, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Energicity Rob Wallace, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Power52 Salma Okonkwo, CEO Solar Energy Blue Power Energy Kellee James, Founder and CEO Sustainable Agriculture Mercaris Nemo Semret, Sara Menker and Sewit Ahderom, Co-founders Sustainable Agriculture Gro Intelligence Tinia Pina, Founder and CEO Sustainable Agriculture Re-Nuble Zuleyka Strasner, Founder Sustainable Agriculture Zero Grocery Pull Quote Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden. Topics Social Justice Racial Justice Corporate Procurement 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 case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers

Q4 2020: Amazon, AT&T, McDonald’s and Starbucks lead the way as clean energy procurement matures

January 14, 2021 by  
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Q4 2020: Amazon, AT&T, McDonald’s and Starbucks lead the way as clean energy procurement matures Sarah Golden Thu, 01/14/2021 – 04:11 After a strange year, corporate renewable procurement deals ended on a high note, with corporations inking some of the biggest, most complex transactions to date. The result was a blockbuster fourth quarter, with more than 7.3 gigawatts of contracts inked — more than any other single quarter since the start of the GreenBiz deal tracker .  The list includes familiar names: Amazon; Google; Starbuck; AT&T; McDonald’s among them. These corporations continued to innovate, inking bigger, more complicated and more holistic energy deals. The roster also included some fresh faces, including Crown and Kimberly-Clark.  Amazon inks largest renewable energy deal to date Web giant Amazon inked what it calls the largest corporate procurement deal to date: 3.4 GW spread over 26 projects across eight countries and four continents. Prior to this announcement, the largest comparable deal was Google’s 1.6 GW deal in September 2019. At the time, I called that jaw-dropping . Amazon just raised the bar substantially.  Among the dozens of projects within the deal is Europe’s largest offshore wind corporate power purchase agreement (PPA), according to the developer, Orsted. The offshore wind project is planned to be 900 megawatts, 250 MW of which Amazon will procure. Last quarter, Orsted inked what it called the largest corporate PPA from a single project: 920 MW of offshore wind in Taiwan. Amazon says it has overtaken Google as the largest corporate user of renewables, and the renewable procurement projects are in service of its climate pledge to reach net-zero carbon by 2040.  This deal also highlights how corporate climate trailblazers are bundling deals to make more of a splash. While the capacity procured here is huge, the average size per project is 130 MW — impressive, but not enough to get headlines on its own. The same could be said of Google’s announcement in 2019, which comprised 18 deals, meaning each averages at about 90 MW per project.     AT&T, Honda are lead offtakers in largest single U.S. solar development Corporations Honda, AT&T, McDonald’s, Google and Home Depot partnered with three Texas municipalities (Bryan, Denton and Garland) to be the offtakers in a massive 1.3 GW solar development. Developer Invenergy says, when complete, it will be the largest solar development in the United States.  AT&T is slated to take 500 MW, bringing the telecommunications company’s total procurements to more than 1.5 GW of capacity. Honda is the second largest offtaker, earmarking 200 MW, followed by McDonald’s with 160 MW.  The deal is an example of an aggregation project, where offtakers jointly shoulder the negotiations, risk and paperwork to streamline the offtake process. The model was spearheaded by Bloomberg, Cox, Gap Inc., Salesforce, Workday and developer BayWa r.e. at the start of 2019. At the time, the structure was unprecedented and inspired webcasts and case studies as others wondered if it could open up procurement opportunities to more types of companies. (The project came online last quarter .) While this new deal doesn’t include any companies new to the renewable procurement game, it reflects how the aggregation model can scale; this solar development is 10 times the size of the BayWa r.e. project.  Starbucks takes a holistic approach to procurements Starbucks announced its sustainability goals for 2030, which the company says puts it in line with becoming a ” resource positive company. ” The initiatives include components to address its carbon, water and waste.  Its fourth-quarter clean power announcement included four new investments in renewable energy, each using a different procurement strategy:  A supply chain virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) — a first for the company — in a move to reduce its Scope 3 emissions  Investments in 23 community solar projects in New York state to supply solar to its stores and the community  A VPPA and a virtual storage agreement (VSA) to provide energy to stories in California  An investment in a wind project in Washington state to power stores and the company’s roasting plant Starbucks does not provide a total procurement figure for the four investments. But the move reflects a trend noted in the Q3 2020 tracker : Corporations are beginning to think about renewable energy within their larger sustainability initiatives.  Notable mentions McDonald’s inked a deal for two wind farms and a portfolio of solar projects with a collective capacity of 1.13 GW . This massive deal is almost three times the size of the fast-food giant’s debut procurements in Q4 2019 , and it is in service of its broader climate and sustainability goals.  Two steel manufacturers made this quarter’s tracker: Evraz North America and Nucor Corporation. The procurement reflects the move for heavy industry to decarbonize on the eve of the Biden administration, which indicated decarbonizing steel as a climate priority.  Microsoft inked a tiny but important deal: its first peace renewable energy credit ( P-REC ), a clean energy deal with co-benefits that support the local community. The deal will directly finance the installation of streetlights in a recently electrified neighborhood in the Congo — and clears the way for more deals to consider energy access in their procurements. The move is in line with a trend identified in Q3 2020 , where companies are embedding social and environmental benefits into the renewable energy procurement process. The P-REC was executed with Energy Peace Partners, a VERGE Clean Energy Equity Showcase honoree . Home improvement giants made a strong showing this quarter, with Home Depot inking two deals (one an aggregation deal for 50 MW, the other a solar plus energy storage PPA for 75 MW) and Lowe’s inking a 250 MW solar deal. My hot take: The two are battling it out for the perception of climate leadership, and I am 100 percent here for this rivalry.  Topics Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements Corporate Procurement Collective Insight Clean Energy Deal Tracker Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of GreenBiz Group Close Authorship

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What’s in store for the future of commuting?

January 12, 2021 by  
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What’s in store for the future of commuting? Marian Jones Tue, 01/12/2021 – 01:00 Despite being in a global pandemic, essential low-wage workers, healthcare providers, knowledge workers and many others have continued to work. However, since the start of lockdowns in March 2020, some 42 percent of the U.S. workforce has been from working home full-time . The continued progression of COVID-19 has required many businesses to postpone their back-to-the-office dates to protect their workers and assuage their health concerns. Of the 42 percent of the workforce able to work remotely, some 73 percent would prefer not to go back due to fears over the disease’s spread. From Twitter to Amazon, major urban businesses have rolled out a variety of different commuting policies as they contemplate going “back to the office.” Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Shopify have shifted to permanent work from home arrangements for some, and Google will be working remotely until at least summer 2021. Environmental researchers have warned that the unprecedented low-carbon levels due to stay-at-home orders could be followed by a surge in car usage as white-collar workers in densely populated urban areas attempt to evade public transportation. Climate scientists expect private vehicle usage to surpass pre-pandemic levels. In May 2020, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) issued an outright ban on public transportation , telling employees they had to take private cars to work. It was an appalling proposal, based on the false impression that public transit spreads coronavirus, and overturned just three weeks later. NYSE is still providing employees with reduced prices on parking , but the stock exchange hasn’t conducted any studies or investigations of what increased car usage might have on Lower Manhattan . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Elsewhere, Bloomberg Media offers large reimbursements for commuting into work — up to $75 per day, or up to $1,500 in a given month. It’s a perk likely meant to encourage the use of private cars. Policies that favor driving to work over mass transit show a disregard for congestion, air quality and cities’ overall livability. If every New Yorker consistently used private cars to commute to work, the city would be unlivable. An expanding number of businesses, seeing no harm to their profitability from remote work, have arranged to switch to permanent work from home. Lilac Nachum, a professor of international business at Baruch College, told me in an interview that it’s the knowledge and innovation-based industries that actually have the least to gain from working from home permanently. While many components of these jobs are the most straightforward to do online and could remain remote, a significant amount of creativity and innovation is lost without face-to-face interaction. As Nachum notes, “what we’ve seen is that the knowledge economy has given a huge boom to the growth of cities. This interaction of people creates the necessary conditions for innovation, exchange of ideas, and creativity. So for those kinds of industries, I think that it is extremely important to get back to work.” Considering that even the knowledge-based industries that on the face of it work remotely need to bring people together, few industries can do well working entirely remotely. “I think we’re left with a small number of jobs that can effectively be implemented remotely, which means companies basically have to prepare, should prepare for returning to the office. Fortunately, the vaccine is just around the corner,” Nachum said. Indeed, the knowledge industry has long been aware of the benefits of sustained in-person collaboration. Pre-pandemic, tech companies, including Google and Facebook, developed plans to create onsite housing at their campuses. Merging offices and housing has been hailed by some as the ultimate perk, a new type of “factory town,” and a green solution to urban transportation problems by alleviating the burden of commuting. However, these new company towns have led to new issues and exacerbated inequality. Under the current status quo, large tech companies have a habit of taking over their immediate areas by driving housing up, spurring gentrification, driving out long-time residents, and increasing homelessness rates. This was the case in Seattle when Amazon moved its headquarters to the city with many of their workers living in close proximity and local businesses reliant on their more affluent workers’ patronage. Regardless of whether or not such company towns benefit the environment by cutting back on commutes, although fraught with other political problems, the issue is relatively moot since creating a company town is not an option for the vast majority of firms. By fall, most workers could be returning to traditional offices . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards , employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. This year, public transit utilization in New York City has dipped as low as 80 percent . Many of us are less than enthusiastic about resuming our old commutes by bus and subway. Even though mass transit creates far fewer emissions per individual per kilometer than cars, people think subways and buses are major carriers for the disease even though there is no evidence to support this. Cars cause congestion, increase commute times for all and lead to urban sprawl. Companies concerned with climate change could increase the appeal of transportation alternatives by developing new initiatives to discourage private vehicle use. Under this scenario, our badly under-used public transit might begin to come back from our fiscal deficit. Public, mass forms of high-density transportation are the future our climate relies on. Now more than ever, we need free, comfortable, and easily accessible public transit to help us recover from both this health crisis and the climate crisis. Pull Quote Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Topics Transportation & Mobility Social Justice Employee Engagement 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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What I learned about water in 2020

December 30, 2020 by  
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What I learned about water in 2020 Will Sarni Wed, 12/30/2020 – 01:30 Last year around this time, I focused on digital technology solutions for water with this essay, ” 2019: The Year Analog Solutions Died .” I stand by this perspective, as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated interest and adoption of digital technologies across the water value chain. However, I wanted to share six new learnings from this pandemic year related to digital transformation along with other observations about the topic of water.   1. Digital transformation is about people: The digital transformation of water was well underway pre-pandemic and accelerated quickly during the past nine months. What was once anticipated to be a multiyear transformation occurred rapidly, with both the utility and industrial sectors scrambling to identify digital technologies and integrate them into their operations to adjust to remote workforces. Two aspects of the digital transformation took on more prominence: the critical importance of the workforce and the role of earth observation science (EOS) technologies. First, the critical importance of people in digital transformation cannot be underestimated. Transformation will stall or fail if there is no alignment between business strategy and culture, and there is a lack of investment in the workforce. The insights on digital transformation from 2019 papers and research came to the forefront (” IWA Digital Transformation ” and ” The Technology Fallacy “). The key takeaways are that successful investments in digital water technologies require a strategy, commitment by leadership, investment in the workforce and establishing and nurturing a culture of learning. The most important from my perspective is creating a culture of learning — it will contribute to attracting and retaining talent. We also witnessed the emergence of EOS technologies to provide real-time water quality, ecosystem health and flood prediction analytics from satellite data acquisition and analytics companies (such as Gybe , 52 Impact and Cloud to Street ). Digital technologies are connecting across the value chain of utilities and industries for a more real-time view of water quality, quantitative evaluations of ecosystems and flood prediction. 2. We need a “skunkworks” strategy for innovation: Innovation in water technology and business models is slow for several reasons. The competition is the status quo (the installed base). In general, organizations “try” to innovate from within, and water is a public health issue, so utilities can’t take risks. We don’t have the luxury of time to wait for innovative technologies and business models to scale. At this rate, we won’t achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, which sets the goal of clean water and sanitation for all. What we need is a skunkworks mindset and strategy. If other industry sectors such as the aircraft and aerospace sectors can innovate quickly and at scale, so can the water sector. For those unfamiliar with the term, the relevant characteristics of a skunkworks project are outlined as a concentration of a few good people solving problems far in advance, at a fraction of the cost of other groups by applying the simple, most straightforward methods possible to develop new projects (paraphrased from Kelly Johnson ). 3. Water is not (just) the water industry: The issues and opportunities related to water are not just about the water industry. We need a more expansive view of the role of water in society and our environment. For example, water has economic, business, social and spiritual dimensions. The water industry sector mostly focuses on economic and business dimensions and rarely, if at all, on the social and spiritual dimensions. I would reframe the narrative to focus on humanity’s relationship with water (especially health and wellness, and natural ecosystems). Water doesn’t come from the tap or bottled water, so let’s protect watersheds and ecosystems. This message needs to be communicated simply and clearly to those outside the water sector. 4. Diversity is critical to solving wicked water problems: Society would benefit from greater diversity in solving water challenges as it is doubtful solutions exclusively will come from the usual suspects (myself included). We need vastly more diversity in age, gender, race, geography and from industry outsiders. Increasing diversity will not happen organically; we need to be proactive and work at it or we are destined to bring the same ideas to the party. As Ben Dukes, a friend and colleague, often says, “What got you here won’t get you there.” 5. Innovation in investing in water remains a challenge: Water technology entrepreneurs and startups continue to be challenged by traditional venture capital and private equity investment models. Water is not cleantech and requires more patient capital, which is in short supply. However, there are encouraging signs as initiatives such as Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 100+ Accelerator and Microsoft’s $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund invest in innovative water and sustainability solutions. The increased interest during 2020 in environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance has also focused more on innovative water solutions. 6. Water is not climate: The statement “If climate is the shark, water is the teeth” is misleading and not helpful. This year, climate change continued to gain traction within the private sector in the form of new commitments and investments from companies such as Amazon, Google and Nestle, among many others. This is certainly to be applauded. However, a cautionary word: Solving climate change will not solve the fundamental issues with water scarcity, poor quality and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The potential and likely failure to achieve SDG 6 can be attributed to public policy failures sch as pricing, allocations and lack of funding. We can solve climate change and water and need to focus on both. There is no shortage of lessons learned from 2020. While it was a profoundly challenging year, we do have an opportunity to do better by critically examining what needs to change in the years ahead. This past year has framed my view of what the future may hold for 2021 as we build back better . I will share my thoughts on 2021 in my next Liquid Assets column. Topics Water Efficiency & Conservation Innovation Corporate Strategy Featured Column Liquid Assets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/ Chepko Danil Vitalevich

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How do you avoid getting distracted and stay focused on the mission?

December 7, 2020 by  
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How do you avoid getting distracted and stay focused on the mission? Trisa Thompson Mon, 12/07/2020 – 00:10 Much has been said, and will be said, about 2020. The word “unprecedented” has been used an unprecedented number of times. We are constantly bombarded by the media, whether it be about politics, COVID-19 or the state of the economy. The media barely lets an hour pass without reporting another late-breaking story. And most of us barely let an hour pass without checking for the next dramatic update. Given the general sense of chaos surrounding all of us, Sustainability Veterans members discussed how we stay centered and focused on the mission while not ignoring the news. We wanted to share our points of view to help you stay focused on accomplishing your own mission. As always, our views are both different from and complementary to one another. We range from the hopeful to the practical. We hope you find some pearls of wisdom here. Practice radical curiosity: I try to stay focused on the big picture. These turbulent and perilous times demand that we practice radical curiosity, seeking to understand both the positions and the underlying interests of those who oppose climate action and regeneration. Some, perhaps many, may join with us if we can empathetically address their losses and fears. With their engagement, we together can learn how to rebuild our economy and democracy with greater equality, justice and health. — Bart Alexander is former chief corporate responsibility officer at Molson Coors. He consults on leading sustainable change through Alexander & Associates and climate change action through Plan C Advisors. Look 10 years ahead: My attention, like many, has been focused on the political and human health events of the day. I am typically an optimist and am using this time to backcast to see the world from 10 years in the future. I see a world focused on massive decarbonization, building not just sustainable, but regenerative businesses and dealing with tough issues like equity. How we all get there excites me and gives me clarity of purpose. — Mark Buckley is the former vice president of sustainability at Staples and founder of One Boat Collaborative. Keep your future grandchildren in mind: Like many sustainability professionals, I am an optimistic systems thinker with a long-term view. I keep my (hopefully) future grandchildren in mind. Since humanity’s well-being and a flourishing economy are both contingent on a healthy environment, I focus my energies on the environmental mission with the longest-lasting impacts, notably climate change and ocean plastification. Protecting the environment brings the most long-term benefit to the greatest number of people, regardless of country, race and/or political affiliation. — Jacqueline Drumheller led Alaska Airlines’ formal sustainability program as sustainability manager and is now consulting. Keep your head down and stay single-minded: When there is a lot of commotion, either externally or in the company, I exercise the simple mantra “heads down.” Rather than try to exist above the fray or even co-exist within it, I tend to be most effective in that place where I can single-mindedly focus on our sustainability goals. I have found that when the dust settles, I am often able to demonstrate some progress while others are just catching their breath. — Cecily Joseph is the former vice president of corporate responsibility at Symantec and serves as chair of the Net Impact board of directors and expert in residence at the Presidio Graduate School. Connect current events to issues: I found the best thing to do was to spend a little time studying what is going on in current events because often I could find connections back to our key issues. The interesting and challenging thing about sustainability is that it is so holistic that the ability to make the connections allowed me to continue to message that our sustainability work could not be pigeonholed into a small, side-bucket-like environment. — Dawn Rittenhouse was director of sustainable development for the DuPont Company from 1998 to 2019. Use events to strengthen the climate narrative: The issue for me is the climate crisis. Current events serve to highlight the fact that this is a crisis tied to everything — Black Lives Matter, COVID, public health, gender inequity, immigration, food security. Far from a distraction, these events help to build a stronger narrative, supported by robust data and models — that investments in a clean, equitable and regenerative economy and unity, not division, are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. — Sarah Severn spent over two decades in senior sustainability roles at Nike, leading strategy, stakeholder engagement and championing systems thinking and collaborative change, and is principal of Severn Consulting. Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves: Focus comes from a sense of empathy and urgency developed over the course of my career. A senior leader once asked why monitoring factory working conditions was so important. My response was that we ultimately speak for those unable to speak for themselves. Whether it’s factory workers, underrepresented communities or future generations of our families, change will only take place if we lead from the front with focus and intent. — Mark Spears retired from The Walt Disney Company after nearly 30 years, spanning a series of finance, strategic planning and sustainability roles. He serves as founder and chief strategist at common+value, a sustainability consultancy. Focus on the opportunities to make change: If we do this right, and I believe leaders will emerge who will, we have the rare opportunity to unite divided peoples, countries and continents to solve the world’s two biggest crises — COVID-19 and climate change. Together, we can do this, and I remain laser-focused on helping in any way that I can. We have no choice but lots of opportunity. — Trisa Thompson, a lawyer, is former chief responsibility officer at Dell Technologies. Stay focused on how you can contribute: We have no choice. Ignoring the myriad distractions is hard (and I often fail!), but we have the opportunity to solve multiple massive problems and improve people’s lives enormously in the process. Focusing on how I can contribute helps me avoid the distractions and gives me hope. — Bill Weihl was Google’s green energy czar, leading climate and clean energy work, then spent six years at Facebook as director of sustainability. In 2020, he founded ClimateVoice. Minimize social media time: In order for me to be my best self, I minimize my social media time and maximize my fresh-air time. I hunker down and focus on supporting myself, my family and my work. — Ellen Weinreb is a sustainability and ESG recruiter, founder of Weinreb Group and co-founder of Sustainability Veterans. Schedule it in: If something is captivating my attention, I first shamelessly ponder whether it can actually help feed the mission by providing evidence or anecdotes, exposing synergies or offering metaphors that aid in communication. Otherwise, I literally schedule a time slot to check it out, only after accomplishing my most important and mission-aligned goals for the day. If I’m distracted, so are others, and having some exposure helps me figure out how to dilute its allure. — Kathrin Winkler is former chief sustainability officer for EMC, co-founder of Sustainability Veterans and editor at large for GreenBiz. Understand and react: Rather than be distracted by current events, sustainability practitioners must understand and react to them (e.g., the emergence of the racial equality movement). Practitioners must also anticipate the next big issue. In a former role, we used an emerging issues process to evaluate the probability and magnitude of the impacts. While no one can predict the future, this process kept us one step ahead. Tim Mohin is the former CEO of GRI and former chief sustainability officer of AMD. About Sustainability Veterans: We are a group of professionals who have had leadership roles in the world of corporate sustainability. We are exploring new ways to further engage and make a difference by bringing together our collective intellectual, experiential, emotional and social capital — independent from any individual company — to help the next generation of sustainability leaders achieve success. Topics Leadership Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage, via Shutterstock

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How do you avoid getting distracted and stay focused on the mission?

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