Google becomes retroactively carbon-neutral

September 15, 2020 by  
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Google announced that it has now invested in enough high-quality carbon offsets to essentially erase its carbon footprint , compensating for all the carbon the company ever emitted. Google first became carbon-neutral in 2007. The goal is for all of Google’s offices and data centers to run on carbon-free energy by 2030. “We’ll do things like pairing wind and solar power sources together and increasing our use of battery storage,” said chief executive Sundar Pichai, according to BBC . “And we’re working on ways to apply AI [ artificial intelligence ] to optimize our electricity demand and forecasting.” Pichai’s plan could create 12,000 more jobs over the next five years. Related: Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon “Today’s announcement, combined with Google’s promise in May to no longer create artificial intelligence solutions for upstream oil and gas exploration, shows that Google takes its role in combating climate change seriously,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. This is all good news. However, the idea of offsetting all the company’s past use of carbon may not hold up when you take a closer look. Google’s offsets have so far focused on capturing natural gas that escapes from landfills and pig farms. As BBC points out, isn’t this something governments should be enforcing already? Planting trees to capture carbon dioxide, a popular offset strategy, also has its problems, such as ensuring that those trees never burn down or are felled. Google’s fellow tech giants have also announced plans to reduce or eliminate their carbon use. Microsoft plans to be carbon-negative by 2030. Amazon said it will be carbon-neutral by 2040, and Apple plans to have an entirely carbon-neutral business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030. And where the giants lead, smaller companies are apt to follow. Via BBC Image via Pawe? Czerwi?ski

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The CrossWater is a solar-powered mode of public water transportation

August 27, 2020 by  
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You know those chugging, air-polluting boats that take an hour to load, an hour to make their way across the river and another 45 minutes just to unload? Forget them. The CrossWater is here, and it could revolutionize the way people travel on the water. This is an invention you have to see to believe. And once you do see it, you’re going to be looking for it to come to a waterway near you. The makers of CrossWater hope to make water transportation cheap, accessible, fast and safe for everyone. That includes making water travel safer for the environment, too. After all, that’s something that is truly shared by everyone. Related: Cool retro boats restored with electric motors Think of the CrossWater like a horizontal elevator, moving side to side instead of up and down. Specifically, the CrossWater is made to… cross water. It floats, glides and skims right across water , moving rapidly to get users where they need to be as quickly as possible. The CrossWater is fully self-driving and all-electric . Forget about harmful fumes that you have to breathe in while you travel on the water with a motorized boat. The CrossWater is carbon-neutral and extremely simple. In fact, you don’t have to do anything at all. There are no oars to move and no sails to turn. You just step inside and let the CrossWater quickly carry you exactly where you need to go. Each CrossWater vessel holds 15 people at a time and is programmed to travel between platforms quickly. The interior includes a 32- or 49-inch touchscreen with a selection of apps including YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix and Google Maps. The sound system has 19 speakers, and each CrossWater is fully climate controlled. Not a bad way to get across the water, right? The CrossWater has been designed to work effortlessly on lakes, canals and rivers. Water vehicles like this can help reduce the number of vehicles on the road. CrossWater hopes to get 1 million vehicles on the waterways by 2025. Soon, it may start replacing ferry services around the world. + CrossWater Images via CrossWater

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The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance

August 24, 2020 by  
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The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance Joel Makower Mon, 08/24/2020 – 02:11 One silver lining of this horrific moment is the rise of loans, bonds and other financial instruments linked to sustainability outcomes. In this sense, “sustainability” is broadly defined to include environmental issues as well as social ones. And, more recently, a new subcategory of, yes, pandemic-related issues. Indeed, the pandemic response is being financed in part through bonds designed to fund development of vaccines or treatments, support healthcare systems fighting the outbreak or provide relief efforts, such as for cities and counties facing budgetary challenges due to lost revenues and emergency spending. As of the end of May, governments, banks, companies and others raised just over $150 billion globally from selling pandemic bonds, according to research by BNP Paribas, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “These instruments will contribute to the economic recovery of many sectors and will emphasize socially focused measures targeting specific segments of the population,” BBVA, the Spanish multinational financial services company, wrote recently. When the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. Pandemic bonds join a growing list of sustainability-linked financial instruments that have been gaining the attention of investors worldwide. The bonds alone come in a veritable rainbow of flavors: green bonds; climate bonds; sustainability bonds; social bonds; ESG bonds; blue bonds (related to oceans); and more. Last month, German company Henkel, which specializes in chemistry for adhesives, beauty care and laundry products, issued a “plastic waste reduction bond” to fund projects related to the company’s efforts to reduce packaging waste. There are, no doubt, other flavors, with more to come. And yes, each of those flavors has a more-or-less specific purpose. Green bonds are used to finance projects and activities that benefit the environment. Sustainability bonds are used to finance projects that bring clear environmental and social benefits. Social bonds are aimed at achieving positive economic outcomes for an identified target population, with neutral or positive impact on the environment. (Nasdaq offers definitions and criteria for each type of bond here .) By whatever name, money is pouring in. Last week, Moody’s Investors Service raised its forecast for 2020 sustainable bond issuance to as much as $375 billion, a category that includes green, sustainability and social bonds. Companies are jumping in with such regularity that it is rarely newsworthy anymore, except when it is. A few examples from 2020: In February, Verizon’s green bond drew orders equivalent to eight times the $1 billion the company sought to raise. “Within 25 minutes, orders had already exceeded the $1 billion mark,” said James Gowen, the company’s vice president and chief sustainability officer. By that afternoon, more than 300 investors had ordered more than $8 billion in debt. Also in February, investment firm Neuberger Berman announced a $175 million sustainability-linked corporate revolving credit facility, the first North American financial services firm to do so. The loan will be benchmarked annually against several criteria, including that the company maintain an “A” rating or higher for its ESG integration on each module for which is scored by the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment. This month, Visa issued its first green bond, totaling $500 million, to be used to fund energy-efficiency improvements, expanded use of renewable energy sources, employee commuter programs, water efficiency projects and initiatives that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals . But the big kahuna of bond sales took place earlier this month, when Alphabet, the parent of Google, issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds , the largest sustainability or green bond by any company. (It was one part of a larger, $10 billion bond offering.) The proceeds are intended to fund a laundry list of initiatives, including energy efficiency, clean energy, green buildings, clean transportation, circular economy products and processes, affordable housing, purchases from Black-owned businesses as well as from small and midsized companies, and to support “health organizations, governments and health workers on the frontlines.” Like a growing number of bonds, Google’s hew to the Green Bond Principles and the Social Bond Principles , both promulgated by the International Capital Markets Association. Loan arrangers It’s not just bonds. Sustainability-linked loans — sometimes called ESG-linked loans — are also garnering interest . Last year, the issuance of sustainability loans (which includes social as well as green loans) jumped 168 percent to $122 billion, according to BloombergNEF . Sustainability-linked loans may sound similar to the similarly named bonds described above, but they’re not. Rather than raising funds for a particular category of projects or initiatives, the proceeds of sustainability-linked loans can be used for general business purposes. However, their interest rate is tied in part to the borrower’s sustainability performance. It requires the borrower to set ambitious and meaningful “sustainability performance targets” and report regularly — at least annually — on its progress, ideally with independent verification. Such loans have a built-in pricing mechanism, in which the interest rate drops if the borrower achieves its goals; it may rise if the goals aren’t met. So far, 80 percent of sustainability-linked loans have been made in Europe, although the practice is expanding in other countries. One company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance. Late last year, building controls company Johnson Controls linked the pricing of a $3 billion line of credit to its ESG performance. The deal was underwritten by a consortium of 18 major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays and Citibank. The sustainability performance targets are tied to employee safety and to greenhouse gas emission reductions from customer projects as well as from Johnson Controls’ own operations. In February, JetBlue Airways announced a sustainability-linked loan deal with BNP Paribas, the French banking group, amending an existing $550 million line of credit. The interest rate is tied to the airline’s ESG score as calculated by Vigeo Eiris, a U.K.-based provider of ESG research and services. In yet another case, one company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance, according to Mallory Rutigliano, green and sustainable finance analyst at BNEF. All of this is expected to continue to grow, with no apparent ceiling, as various types of instruments gain popularity based on a combination of hot-button issues and a hedge against risk. For example, it’s probably not surprising that in today’s climate of social and racial inequities, not to mention the pandemic, social bonds are currently a hot property. According to S&P Global , “We expect social bonds to emerge as the fastest-growing segment of the sustainable debt market in 2020. This stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the global fixed-income market, for which we expect issuance volumes to decline this year.” As with any growing market, there’s a need for standardization of definitions and metrics. But that’s inevitable. For now, let’s celebrate that financial institutions are — finally — beginning to hold companies accountable in ways that can directly affect their their bottom line. And when the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. Pull Quote When the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. One company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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What the urban exodus in San Francisco bodes for car dependency and public transit

August 19, 2020 by  
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What the urban exodus in San Francisco bodes for car dependency and public transit Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 08/19/2020 – 01:45 For someone living in San Francisco for over a decade, the latest numbers showing an exodus from the notoriously hard-to-live-in city are jaw-dropping. Housing vacancies are skyrocketing. Rent prices are dropping. Parking spots in my neighborhood are suddenly empty. The numbers are complicated but also worrisome when it comes to encouraging car-dominant housing in a state that has seen the relentless rise (until very recently) of transportation-related carbon emissions.  San Francisco is unique in that the city had some of the highest housing prices in the nation, combined with serious urban issues such as an entrenched homeless crisis and a difficult school system. Many residents were already on the edge of ditching the city before the pandemic, and the squeeze of the public health crisis — and its negative affect on transit, nightlife and density worries — have become too much for many. Other high-priced cities, such as New York, are facing similar trends. I get it. I, too, have longed for greener pastures. And who knows, maybe I’ll join in the farewell.  But anecdotal evidence suggests that former San Francisco residents are fleeing for the suburbs and even more rural areas in the state. Tens of thousands of tech workers employed by Google, Apple, Twitter and more are planning to work from home until at least summer 2021 and maybe permanently.   A rise in the traditional suburbs built around car ownership is not the answer to any state’s ingrained housing and transportation problems. They can theoretically live wherever they want while working online. Homes in Tahoe — San Francisco’s northern mountain paradise — are flying off the shelves .  A strong demographic trend of families moving from regions where they don’t need to rely on car ownership to regions where they do could exacerbate California’s transportation emissions issues. Car sales in the Bay Area already have been on the rise in recent months as families buy “COVID cars” and avoid transit, ride-hailing and carpooling.  But the shifting demographic numbers are also complicated. If many workers are no longer commuting at all, will that result in a sustained, long-term dampening of California’s transportation emissions? It sure did during the shelter-in-place period this spring.  We just don’t know yet what the bigger picture looks like, how city services such as transit will adapt to our new world and just how long this whole thing will last. In addition, some smaller cities, not nearly as expensive as San Francisco and New York, have not seen the same type of exodus. Seattle, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Miami haven’t yet seen a sizable shift from urban to nearby suburban housing. I’m also hoping tech and innovation could provide new tools that could help. Fast broadband connections and services such as Zoom, of course, are enabling telework. But a substantial rise in electric vehicles also could help combat the emissions associated with a growth in car ownership. Perhaps we might see more new car-free communities , such as Culdesac Tempe in Arizona, prove popular for residents and lucrative for developers. What we do know is that a rise in the traditional suburbs built around car ownership is not the answer to California’s or other states’ ingrained housing and transportation problems. We need to think of new solutions that prioritize residents’ needs but also don’t embrace a car-dominant future. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote A rise in the traditional suburbs built around car ownership is not the answer to any state’s ingrained housing and transportation problems. Topics Transportation & Mobility Public Transit Featured Column Driving Change 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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Ulta Beauty is bringing refillable containers back to the cosmetics industry

August 18, 2020 by  
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Ulta Beauty is bringing refillable containers back to the cosmetics industry Jesse Klein Tue, 08/18/2020 – 02:00 The beauty industry has a plastic waste problem. And it knows it. A quick Google search brings up articles from Allure , National Geographic , Forbes , Teen Vogue and 31,800,000 other results about the issue.  It seems those concerns finally have reached a critical mass, inspiring a sustainability makeover at three of the biggest beauty brands in the business — Sephora, Natura & Co, and Ulta Beauty. Last year, Sephora launched Clean at Sephora , a label that originally screened for 13 ingredients considered “unclean” but in July was expanded to over 50 substances, including butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), sulfates, mercury, talc, aluminum salts and lead. The company announced a partnership Aug. 17 with the Environmental Defense Fund to continue the reduction of toxic chemicals in its products.  Sephora reported that 94 percent of its products contain no high-priority chemicals laid out by its chemical policy , and 13 percent more products on its shelves release ingredient information compared to last year. Sephora also recently took action on the racial justice issue by becoming what it believes is the first beauty company to commit to giving 15 percent of its shelf space to Black-owned brands per the 15 Percent Pledge  — however, it hasn’t given a timeline for when it will complete that goal.  Natura & Co., which recently announced its 10-year Vision 2030 sustainability plan, is prioritizing initiatives including habitat protection and reimagining its packaging. The strategy expanding preservation of the Amazon rainforest to 7.4 million acres from its current 4.5 million , having fully circular packaging by investing $100 million in developing regenerative solutions, and decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions. Ulta Beauty also recently announced a new overarching sustainability initiative, Conscious Beauty. The program commits to elevating cruelty-free and vegan products highlighting these brands in-store. Ulta, like Sephora, is planning a Made Without list that will tag products free of parabens, phthalates and 25 other chemical categories. Ulta also ran an advertising campaign in 2018 highlighting diversity in beauty including different races, genders and even a model in a wheelchair . In the past few years, the company has added black-owned brands such as EleVen by Venus Williams , Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross and Juvia’s Place . But Ulta’s marquee pledge is getting to 50 percent recycled, bio-sourced materials or refillable containers by 2025.   According to the Ulta press release, the cosmetic industry produces 120 billion packaging units every year across the globe. And with 1,264 retail stores across 50 states , Ulta is a large contributor to this issue. Many tubes of mascara and lip gloss and tins of powder, blush and eyeshadow can’t be recycled at all.  Loop sees an opportunity with the high-priced luxury makeup brands sold by Ulta. “We know the packaging in beauty is a challenge,” said Dave Kimball, president of Ulta Beauty. “But we think we could be part of the solution.” To get to that 50 percent goal, Ulta has teamed up with reusable packaging darling Loop from TerraCycle. Loop distributes products including Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Pantene shampoos and Clorox wipes in refillable containers. When customers buy the product online, they put down a deposit that is returned when the consumer mails the containers back via a designated tote. Loop already has U.S. partnerships with Kroger and Walgreens , and it is planning to offer in-store drop-off locations by the middle of next year. That’s something it also hopes to do with Ulta in the future.  Right now Loop offers refillable containers for groceries. Courtesy of Loop. Loop sees an opportunity with the high-priced luxury makeup brands sold by Ulta that it doesn’t have with the ones sold at your neighborhood grocer or pharmacy.  “Beauty products need to have packaging that has a beauty aspect because beauty is about beauty,” said Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle. “There’s this huge opportunity for epic design that is unique to the beauty category. Doing things that can’t be done when you have a cheap disposable package.”  There’s this huge opportunity for epic design that is unique to the beauty category. Beauty products in the 1950s came in beautiful glass, gold, silver, crystal and ceramic bottles and containers that were refillable. Since the 1960s, the amount of plastic packaging on everything, not just cosmetics, has increased 120 times. As the industry moved to disposables, cosmetic packaging designers typically prioritized more function over form. The Ulta-Loop partnership could spur a return to a previous era for the industry, the partners believe.  “It’s going to allow packaging innovation in a way that’s never been done before,” Szaky said. “Because the beauty brands are willing to be brave and push the envelope.”  While Loop already has a few partnerships in the cosmetic space — including with brands such as Pantene, REN and The Body Shop — Ulta is the first collaboration focused specifically on the lucrative world of makeup.  “We’re going to really leverage the relationships and the influence that we have in the industry to help drive change as [Loop is] building their packaging and their supply chains,” Kimball said. Ulta Beauty hopes to have a Loop drop off point in store like this. Courtesy of Loop. Loop will use Ulta’s connections in the beauty world to create innovative new packaging designs for Ulta’s in-house brand and other consumer favorites; the exact brands have not yet been nailed down. According to Szaky, Loop plans to tap the best and most creative designers for the project. Ulta has a unique power to pressure its vendors to take up sustainable initiatives such as this to get better placement in-store. And Loop can use Ulta’s connections to expand its own portfolio. In the end, there will be a joint website to sell the products before transiting to Ulta.com with a Loop-specific section. “It’s going to take multiple efforts to really attack this,” Kimball said. “There’s a packaging opportunity that we collectively have as the industry, and we think it’s important for Ulta Beauty to be a leader in helping drive it forward.”   Pull Quote Loop sees an opportunity with the high-priced luxury makeup brands sold by Ulta. There’s this huge opportunity for epic design that is unique to the beauty category. Topics Retail Circular Economy Zero Waste Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Plastic lipstick tubes, eyeshadow palettes and foundation bottles are a huge problem for the industry. Courtesy of Unsplash, Jazmin Quaynor.

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Digital technology, green finance in vogue among fashion’s sustainability trendsetters

August 5, 2020 by  
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Digital technology, green finance in vogue among fashion’s sustainability trendsetters Phylicia Wu Wed, 08/05/2020 – 01:00 The key to long-term success in the fashion industry is to start trends and continually push the envelope — a philosophy that also applies to its ESG priorities. The $2.5 trillion industry accounts for about 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions when considering the entire value chain — higher than the entire iron and steel manufacturing industry combined, for comparison. Without any intervention, that figure is projected to increase more than 60 percent by 2030. However, there is a growing and collective awareness of environmental impact across the industry. Companies are discovering sustainability is not just a fad, but a new standard that is here to stay.  A proliferation of greening initiatives from industry players has emerged with public announcements of policies to tackle this issue, measures to address their supply chain footprints, promotion of circular economy practices and encouragement for sustainable brands growing increasingly popular. However, despite these various green initiatives from several early trendsetters in the fashion industry, formidable challenges lay ahead on the path to scaling up sustainability — especially when it comes to supply chain strategies. The lack of environmental impact information and outdated technology are two ubiquitous issues plaguing industrial supply chains in general, but they are especially significant in the context of the fashion industry.  Due to highly price-competitive environments, upstream supply chain participants have little motivation to invest in improvements. Downstream supply chain participants that rarely have a personal stake, such as powerful brands and retailers, hardly encourage prioritization of sustainability upstream. These dynamics have led to the development of stagnant supply chains largely unable to respond to the urgency of the fashion industry’s significant carbon footprint.  Given that most emissions are produced along the supply chain, companies’ inability to monitor and track this data means that there is not a starting point to begin improving their environmental footprints. In particular, inadequate data collection infrastructure along the supply chain has resulted in a shortage of environmental data and information transparency. According to the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index survey, while 78 percent of brands have policies on energy and carbon emissions, only 16 percent publish data on the annual carbon footprints of their supply chain. Given that most emissions are produced along the supply chain, companies’ inability to monitor and track this data means that there is not a starting point to begin improving their environmental footprints.  The reluctance to upgrade to new technology can be partly attributed to thin operating margins of fashion supply chains leading to inefficiencies along the entire chain. One of the most candid illustrations of inefficiencies caused by antiquated technology is in the manufacturing process, where conventional practices still take 2,700 liters — or three years’ worth of drinking water — to make a typical cotton T-shirt.  Traditional manufacturers abide by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage, while the ultimate retailer of the shirt has no direct ties to the manufacturer. Thus even if the manufacturer had a sustainability policy, it would be difficult to enforce. When both upstream and downstream participants of the supply chain are at odds with modernization, it prevents the changes needed to respond to the climate impact of the industry.  But it is not all doom and gloom. This is where green finance and technology come in. Their dual adoption can begin to address the environmental data gaps and also boost efficiency for production processes in the supply chain that would usher along a much-needed evolution of the fashion industry towards greater sustainability.  Digital technology will play a pivotal role in addressing information transparency and environmental reporting in the fashion industry by facilitating data collection along the supply chain. Using blockchain and cloud-based technology, a number of startups are already laying the groundwork.  For example, blockchain platform Provenance helps trace and certify supply chains to enable ethical procurement decisions. Another startup, Galaxius, offers a cloud-based system that tracks supply chain activity from fabric orders to garment delivery. Beyond startups, fashion luxury giant Kering Group launched an app called My EP&L that tracks carbon emissions, water consumption and air and water pollution along its supply chain to educate designers and students on sustainable design principles. Recently, Stella McCartney and Google Cloud announced a partnership to determine the environmental impact of various types of raw materials. All of these efforts contribute to advancing data collection at different points along the supply chain and have the potential to provide unprecedented levels of transparency for the industry. Dated technology in the production phase of the supply chain creates significant challenges in two ways. The first is in more eco-friendly product material innovation. New textiles, alternative raw materials and sustainable dyeing methods are made possible through scientific and technological ingenuity.  For example, Tencel, a super-absorbent fiber made from wood pulp, offers a great alternative to synthetic activewear. Lenzing Group, producer of Tencel, also uses a closed-loop production process and sustainable dyeing technology in which solvents needed to make the fiber are recycled over and over again to produce new fibers. But the higher costs associated with upgrading machinery to produce more eco-friendly materials typically associated with such innovations hinders their wider acceptance.  The second challenge relates to upgrades and updates to the supply chain that boost efficiency, promote better resource allocation, identify potential cost savings, predict demand and provide other benefits that mitigate the industry’s environmental impact.  Startups such as Optoro and ShareCloth use artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies to digitize processes to lower excess inventory and reduce textile waste. However, similar to the cost barriers that impede wider adoption of eco-friendly materials, these new technologies depend on customized machinery or entirely new production facilities, which may be more capital-intensive and require considerable new capital expenditures when compared to traditional manufacturing processes.  Just digital technology for supply chain improvements will not be enough. Fashion will need green finance to drive large-scale transformation. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that commercializing and scaling these innovations will require $20 billion to $30 billion of financing per year.  The Boston Consulting Group estimates that commercializing and scaling these innovations will require $20 billion to $30 billion of financing per year. Promising green finance developments in the fashion industry already are underway. Traditional lenders have begun to ink green bonds and sustainability-linked loans. In November, Prada became the first fashion company to sign a $59 million sustainability-linked loan with Crédit Agricole.  Under the terms of the loan, Prada can pay a reduced interest rate if it achieves targets related to the number of LEED Gold or Platinum-certified stores, the number of training hours employees receive, and the use of Prada Re-Nylon (regenerated nylon) in the production of goods. In February, VF Corporation closed its $591 million green bond, marking the first green bond issued in the industry.  Private equity investors are also paying attention to startup fashion brands. Just last year, The Carlyle Group made its first foray into the industry by acquiring a stake in Jeanologia, and Permira acquired a majority stake in the ethical fashion brand Reformation. In September 2019, the $30 million Good Fashion Fund launched, representing the first investment fund focused solely on driving the implementation of innovative solutions in the fashion industry.  Brands also have started to form corporate venture capital arms to create opportunities for green finance. Examples include Patagonia’s Tin Shed Ventures, launched as a $20 million fund in 2013, and H&M’s CO:LAB, which has made investments ranging from $1 million to $20 million in sustainable fashion.  Prada, by scaling and incentivizing its regenerated nylon technology through its green finance partnership with Credit Agricole, serves as a pioneer for the industry. However, the solutions offered by advancements in technology and green finance admittedly will need more buy-in from companies across the fashion world.  Some ideas that can move fashion in a greener direction include establishing long-term business strategies that incorporate plans for sustainable solutions, employing creative approaches to applying sustainability across supply chains and developing best practices for environmental data monitoring and reporting.  A recent press release from Google and WWF Sweden announcing plans to create an environmental data platform, the latest green financing deal by Moncler for up to $472 million that is tied to its environmental impact reduction targets and a similar arrangement by Salvatore Ferragamo for up to $295 million are welcome steps in the right direction, even in the midst of a global pandemic.  The future is indeed hopeful as sustainability continues to be championed across the industry and its supply chain. Green finance and digital technology will be increasingly critical drivers for the development of greener and more sustainable supply chains. The fashion industry always has been creative, innovative and bold in its designs; now is the time to channel these qualities to secure a fashionable future that is green and sustainable. This article was adapted from the Paulson Institute’s three-part series on sustainability in the fashion industry. Pull Quote Given that most emissions are produced along the supply chain, companies’ inability to monitor and track this data means that there is not a starting point to begin improving their environmental footprints. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that commercializing and scaling these innovations will require $20 billion to $30 billion of financing per year. Topics Corporate Strategy Supply Chain Fashion 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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AI doesn’t have to be a power hog

July 30, 2020 by  
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AI doesn’t have to be a power hog Heather Clancy Thu, 07/30/2020 – 02:15 Plenty of prognostications, including this one from the World Economic Forum, tout the integral role artificial intelligence could play in “saving the planet.”  Indeed, AI is integral to all manner of technologies, ranging from autonomous vehicles to more informed disaster response systems to smart buildings and data collection networks monitoring everything from energy consumption to deforestation.  The flip side to this rosy view is that there are plenty of ethical concerns to consider. What’s more, the climate impact of AI — both in terms of power consumption and all the electronic waste that gadgets create — is a legitimate, growing concern. Research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests the process of “training” neural networks to make decisions or searching them to find answers uses five times the lifetime emissions of the average U.S. car. Not an insignificant amount.  What does that mean if things continue on their current trajectory? Right now, data centers use about 2 percent of the world’s electricity. At the current rate of AI adoption — with no changes in the underlying computer server hardware and software — the data centers needed to run those applications could claim 15 percent of that power load, semiconductor firm Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson predicted in August 2019 . Although progress is being made, he reiterated that warning last week. At the current rate of AI adoption — with no changes in the underlying computer server hardware and software — the data centers needed to run those applications could claim 15 percent of that power load. “Customized design will be critical,” he told attendees of a longstanding industry conference, SemiconWest . “New system architectures, new application-specific chip designs, new ways to connect memory and logic, new memories and in-memory compute can all drive significant improvements in compute performance per watt.” So, what’s being done to “bend the curve,” so to speak? Technologists from Applied Materials, Arm, Google, Intel, Microsoft and VMware last week shared insights about advances that could help us avoid the most extreme future scenarios, if the businesses investing in AI technologies start thinking differently. While much of the panel (which I helped organize) was highly technical, here are four of my high-level takeaways for those thinking about harnessing AI for climate solutions. Get acquainted with the concept of “die stacking” in computing hardware design. There is concern that Moore’s Law , the idea that the number of transistors on integrated circuit will double every two years, is slowing down. That’s why more semiconductor engineers are talking up designs that stack multiple chips on top of each other within a system, allowing more processing capability to fit in a given space.  Rob Aitken, a research fellow with microprocessor firm Arm, predicts these designs will show up first in computing infrastructure that couples high-performance processing with very localized memory. “The vertical stacking essentially allows you to get more connectivity bandwidth, and it allows you to get that bandwidth at lower capacitance for lower power use, and also a lower delay, which means improved performance,” he said during the panel. So, definitely look for far more specialized hardware. Remember this acronym, MRAM. It stands for magnetic random-access memory , a format that uses far less power in standby mode than existing technologies, which require energy to maintain the “state” of their information and respond quickly to processing requests when they pop up. Among the big-name players eyeing this market: Intel; Micron; Qualcomm; Samsung; and Toshiba. Plenty of R&D power there. Consider running AI applications in cloud data centers using carbon-free energy. That could mean deferring the processing power needed for certain workloads to times of day when a facility is more likely to be using renewable energy. “If we were able to run these workloads when we had this excess of green, clean, energy, right now we have these really high compute workloads running clean, which is exactly what we want,” said Samantha Alt, cloud solution architect at Intel. “But what if we take this a step further, and we only had the data center running when this clean energy was available? We have a data center that’s awake when we have this excess amount of green, clean energy, and then asleep when it’s not.” This is a technique that Google talked up in April, but it’s not yet widely used, and it will require attention to new cooling designs to keep the facilities from running too hot as well as memory components that can respond dynamically when a facility goes in and out of sleep mode. New system architectures, new application-specific chip designs, new ways to connect memory and logic, new memories and in-memory compute can all drive significant improvements in compute performance per watt.   Live on the edge. That could mean using specialized AI-savvy processors in some gadgets or systems you’re trying to make smarter such as automotive systems or smart phones or a building system. Rather than sending all the data to a massive, centralized cloud service, the processing (at least some of it) happens locally. Hey, if energy systems can be distributed, why not data centers?  “We have a lot of potential to move forward, especially when we bring AI to the edge,” said Moe Tanabian, general manager for intelligent devices at Microsoft. “Why is edge important? There are lots of AI-driven tasks and benefits that we derive from AI that are local in nature. You want to know how many people are in a room: people counting. This is very valuable because when the whole HVAC system of the whole building can be more efficient, you can significantly lower the balance of energy consumption in major buildings.” The point to all this is that getting to a nirvana in which AI can handle many things we’d love it to handle to help with the climate crisis will require some pretty substantial upgrades to the computing infrastructure that underlies it. The environmental implications of those system overhauls need to be part of data center procurement criteria immediately, and the semiconductor industry needs to step up with the right answers. Intel and AMD have been leading the way, and Applied Materials last week threw down the gauntlet , but more of the industry needs to wake up. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote At the current rate of AI adoption — with no changes in the underlying computer server hardware and software — the data centers needed to run those applications could claim 15 percent of that power load. New system architectures, new application-specific chip designs, new ways to connect memory and logic, new memories and in-memory compute can all drive significant improvements in compute performance per watt. Topics Information Technology Energy & Climate Artificial Intelligence Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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AI doesn’t have to be a power hog

Semiconductor firm Applied Materials puts supply chain at center of new commitments

July 28, 2020 by  
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Semiconductor firm Applied Materials puts supply chain at center of new commitments Heather Clancy Tue, 07/28/2020 – 02:00 The sustainability ambitions of the world’s largest cloud software companies — Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce — have been well-documented. The broad semiconductor industry’s position to date, however, has been less transparent and less ambitious, with the highly visible exceptions of AMD, IBM and Intel.  That stance is shifting, as the sector contemplates the explosive growth projections for connected computing devices, including sensors, smartphones, tablet computers and personal computers, not to mention the massive server hardware needed to process artificial intelligence algorithms.  By 2030, there could be a half-trillion such devices “at the edge” of the digital networks driving business innovation around the planet, Applied Material President and CEO Gary Dickerson noted last week in a keynote address during a virtual edition of the industry’s annual conference, SEMICon West .  The association behind the gathering, SEMI , projects semiconductor revenue could reach $1 trillion by that same timeframe, more than double last year’s sales of about $470 billion. It previously took 20 years for the industry to double in size.  The big question for the sector at large and Applied Materials specifically, Dickerson said, is how to support accelerating growth without dramatically increasing the industrywide carbon footprint associated with creating all those components — currently estimated at 50 million metric tons of CO2 annually across more than 1,000 fabrication facilities worldwide (a.k.a. “fabs”).  We are going to hold our supply chain to the same standards that we hold ourselves in the areas of environmental impact, labor standards, and diversity and inclusion. “I’ve been amazed at the increasing amount of power required to manufacture these ever-smaller chips, and I would join with others in encouraging all of the equipment manufacturers to work together to reduce carbon emissions in the manufacturing of these advanced semiconductors and finally continue decarbonizing the power supply on which the data centers operate,” former Vice President Al Gore  told me last week , when I asked him how the semiconductor industry could step up. Applied, which specializes in materials engineering, sells equipment and services used in the production of virtually every new chip and advanced display in the world. It generated more than $14.6 billion in annual revenue in 2019, and Dickerson estimated its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions — mainly from the power used to run its labs and factories — was the equivalent of 145,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2019. (Disclosure: Al Gore’s investment firm, Generation Investment Management, holds a position in the company. Applied was responsible for my invitation to lead an interview with Gore last week during the same conference.) “The first thing we need to do is decouple our growth from our environmental impact,” Dickerson noted. “If we double or triple the size of our company, it would be irresponsible to double or triple our carbon footprint!” That conviction resulted in the company’s decision to adopt a series of new policies designed to shore up its environmental, social and governance (ESG) story, including a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy worldwide by 2030 (by 2022 for its U.S. operations) and to cut its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 50 percent over the next decade. Moreover, Applied has created a sweeping new initiative intended to bring other companies in the semiconductor supply chain along for the ride. “We are going to hold our supply chain to the same standards that we hold ourselves in the areas of environmental impact, labor standards, and diversity and inclusion,” Dickerson said. “We’re introducing a sustainability scorecard into our supply selection process, alongside our traditional metrics for performance, cost and quality.” Making improvements of this magnitude and — at the same time — driving the technology roadmap forward is not easy and requires deep partnerships with customers. The new program, SuCCESS2030 (short for Supply Chain Certification for Environmental and Social Responsibility) will extend to all aspects of Applied’s operations, from procurement to packaging. It will now require these shared commitments from its suppliers, according to the press release about the program: A shift to intermodal shipping to reduce the industry’s reliance on air freight, aiming for an interim emissions reduction of 15 percent by 2024. A transition to recycled content packaging, with a target of 80 percent of such materials within three years. The complete elimination of phosphate-based pretreatments for metal surfaces within four years. The creation of a diversity and inclusion strategy to increase Applied’s spend with minority- and women-owned businesses by the same time frame. (There is no disclosed percentage for this goal.) “The response has been great, and we have six key partner suppliers already signed up to help us kick off this program,” Dickerson said. Those companies are Advanced Energy, Benchmark Electronics, Foxsemicon Integrated Technology, NGK Insulators, Ultra Clean Holding and VAT. Technically, Applied doesn’t yet have an official emissions reduction target in place for its Scope 3 footprint, but the company has joined the Science Based Targets initiative with the intention of doing so within two years, according to Dickerson. To improve its own competitive story with customers, Applied will use risk scenario analysis recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and it has adopted a new “ecoUP” policy that includes a “3 by 30” goal for improvements in its own manufacturing systems on a per-wafer basis: a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption, a 30 percent cut in chemical consumption and a 30 percent increase in “throughput density,” the number of wafers that can be produced per square foot of cleanroom space. “Making improvements of this magnitude and, at the same time, driving the technology roadmap forward is not easy and requires deep partnerships with customers,” Dickerson said. Among those actively working with Applied on the new approach include Intel and Micro Technology, which is stepping up its own commitments. The latter intends to dedicate 2 percent of its annual capital expenditures over the next five to seven years — about $1 billion — on environmental and social stewardship.  Pull Quote We are going to hold our supply chain to the same standards that we hold ourselves in the areas of environmental impact, labor standards, and diversity and inclusion. Making improvements of this magnitude and — at the same time — driving the technology roadmap forward is not easy and requires deep partnerships with customers. Topics Information Technology Corporate Strategy Technology Manufacturing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Applied Materials Close Authorship

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Semiconductor firm Applied Materials puts supply chain at center of new commitments

Tracking climate data in real time

July 20, 2020 by  
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Climate TRACE, an alliance of climate research groups, is developing a new tracker using artificial intelligence that would allow the public to access international climate data in real time. They hope to have it ready to unveil at the COP26 climate change meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. The finished tracker will track all global greenhouse gases in real time. Third parties will verify the data, and the information will be available free to the public. Related: This sustainable luxury smartwatch monitors climate change “Currently, most countries do not know where most of their emissions come from,” Kelly Sims Gallagher, a professor of energy and environmental policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, told Vox . “Even in advanced economies like the United States, emissions are estimated for many sectors.” Gaining this information, she said, could help countries devise smart and effective policies to mitigate emissions and chart progress on their goals. The effort began last year, when U.S.-based WattTime , U.K.-based Carbon Tracker and some other nonprofits made a successful grant application to Google.org, which is Google’s philanthropic arm. Google gave them $1.7 million for their mission of using AI and satellite data for real-time tracking of global power plant emissions. Other nonprofits and environmental crusaders, including Al Gore, heard about the effort and became involved. Now, the Climate TRACE (which stands for Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition includes a handful of niche organizations with important things to offer. For example, Hypervine employs spectroscopic imagery to chart blasting at quarries, and OceanMind tracks global movements of ships, extrapolating carbon emissions based on engine specs. For years, the lack of accurate climate data has caused friction between countries, who waste time arguing over monitoring, reporting and verifying data. Sometimes a country later reveals that they reported inaccurate data, such as when China admitted in 2015 to underestimating coal usage by 17%. Such revelations breed suspicion between countries who need to work together to solve our climate crisis. “It will empower the people who really are interested in reducing their emissions,” Gore said of the new climate tracker. “It is extremely important for this effort to be independent and reliable, and for it to constantly improve.” + Climate TRACE Image via William Bossen

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Tracking climate data in real time

#degrowth art series exposes greenwashing in the food industry

July 20, 2020 by  
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While reaching for products with an “eco-friendly” label may seem like the better choice in any situation, well-intended consumers should always be aware of “greenwashing” — the process of conveying false or misleading impressions about how environmentally sound a product is (typically with the intention to overcharge). The presence of greenwashing often comes from a business’ PR or marketing team to persuade buyers that its products are eco-friendly. It doesn’t just apply to products, either; greenwashing tactics are sometimes used to convince the public that a company’s policies and procedures are sustainable, as well. Enter Quatre Caps, an image studio from Spain that aims to bring social awareness back to food. Quatre Caps’ new art series, #degrowth, reflects on consumer-projected concepts and habits, such as carbon footprints and local consumption. The two trendiest goals in the food market, healthier diets and environmentally friendly consumption, tend to be grouped under the same umbrella despite not pursuing the same objective, according to the studio. Related: Explore eerie wonders at the Museum of Underwater Art Eco-labels, mainly the labeling systems used for food and consumer products to determine levels of eco-friendliness, have increased rapidly in recent years. These labels can be quite misleading, Quatre Caps says. The studio believes the key to restructuring the buying process and becoming more aware of the negative externalities of choice in purchasing comes from being faster and smarter than offending advertising agencies. Doubting initial information and doing the research as to which companies and products are truly eco-friendly is one way to achieve this, and understanding that good intentions aren’t the same as good actions is another. This thoughtful art series is aptly named, as the term “degrowth” is based on critiques of the global system which pursues growth at all costs, regardless of human exploitation and environmental destruction. The #degrowth collection is a reflection of the different carbon footprints that certain consumer-based choices produce, depending on factors like origin, agricultural technique and packaging. + Quatre Caps Images via Quatre Caps

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#degrowth art series exposes greenwashing in the food industry

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