Are lawyers and accountants doing enough on climate change?

October 13, 2020 by  
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Are lawyers and accountants doing enough on climate change? Joel Makower Tue, 10/13/2020 – 01:40 When it comes to the climate crisis, it’s not just what you make and sell, it’s what you do, and for whom you do it. That’s the message from several recent reports focusing on the role of service-sector companies in addressing — positively or negatively — climate change. The mere existence of these documents, and the campaigns behind some of them, represent another broadening of the conversation, a clarion call for nontraditional business players to lead, or at least not hinder, efforts to address the climate crisis. But, hopefully, lead. Exhibit A: law firms. According to a new report from Law Students for Climate Accountability, most of the top 100 law firms in the United States “provide far more support to clients driving the climate crisis than clients addressing it.” Its research focuses on the work of Vault Law 100 firms, “the most prestigious law firms based on the assessments of lawyers at peer firms.” According to the group’s scorecard , Vault 100 firms: litigated 286 cases exacerbating climate change (versus three cases mitigating it) supported $1.316 trillion in transactions for the fossil fuel industry received $37 million in compensation for fossil fuel industry lobbying The study analyzed litigation, transactional and lobbying work conducted from 2015 to 2019. Each firm received an overall letter grade reflecting its contribution to the climate problem based on the data in these three categories. Four firms receive an A while 26 received an F. Even among those in the middle, the group found that “some firms contribute far more to the climate crisis than others.” The report is intended to provide law students and young lawyers “with a resource when deciding on their current and future employment,” it said, adding: We cannot ignore the role of law firms in exacerbating the climate crisis, and this report is another step in raising consciousness of how our employment choices shape the world. We, the next generation of lawyers, can choose what firms to work for and where to spend our careers. We can ask law firms how they plan to address their role in the crisis and hold them accountable to do so. Of course, for the firms themselves, it’s mostly about following the money. After all, the $41 million ExxonMobil spent on climate lobbying in 2019 ( according to InfluenceMap ) exceeds the entire $37 million annual operating budget ( 2019 ) of Greenpeace USA. “Climate lobbying” in the report is defined as efforts “to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.” Still, as the group notes, “These firms could use their extraordinary skills to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future, but too many are instead lending their services to the companies driving the climate crisis. Law firms cannot maintain reputations as socially responsible actors if they continue to support the destructive fossil-fuel industry.” It will be interesting to see whether shining a bright light on the nation’s top firms — which generally avoid scrutiny, let alone comparisons with one another — will encourage them to forgo revenue in favor of the greater good. Will job-seeking law students truly shun firms seen as bad actors? And if firms dropped oil, coal and gas companies as clients, would it move the fossil fuel industry even one iota? Suffice to say, the jury is out. Lawyers aren’t the only service-sector firms targeted for their climate ties. A report coming out later this week from the Australia-based Sunrise Project “will reveal that the top 10 U.S. health insurers are all invested in the fossil fuel industry” and will call on insurers to divest from these companies, calling them “the greatest threat to human health.” On a more proactive note , the CFA Institute, a trade group that measures and certifies financial analysts, recently released ” Climate Change Analysis in the Investment Process ,” a report that aims to improve the industry’s understanding on how climate risk can be applied to financial analysis. The report, written by Matt Orsagh, director of capital markets policy at the institute, explains the economic implications of climate change and covers such topics as a price on carbon and the growing carbon markets, increased transparency and disclosure of climate metrics, and how analysts should engage with companies on the physical and transition risks of climate change. And then there are banks and other financial institutions , which have long been the focus of climate activists. That, too, is ramping up. Earlier this month, the Science Based Targets initiative released a framework and validation service for financial institutions “against the backdrop of growing awareness of the material risks posed by climate change.” Fifty-five financial institutions including Bank Sarasin, Amalgamated Bank and Standard Chartered are backing the new certification and already have committed to setting science-based targets. For the first time, those organizations have the opportunity to verify their emissions reduction plans against the goals of the Paris Agreement. I’m fairly certain that campaigns are already ramping up to get the world’s largest financial institutions on board. Follow the money, indeed. Topics Corporate Strategy Policy & Politics 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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Are lawyers and accountants doing enough on climate change?

How to Design for the Future

September 9, 2020 by  
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How to Design for the Future   How do we design for the future amid the disruptive present? Speakers Tim Brown, Chair, IDEO Lauren Phipps, Director & Senior Analyst, Circular Economy, GreenBiz Group Holly Secon Wed, 09/09/2020 – 13:17 Featured Off

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How to Design for the Future

Network Effect: From Neurocircuits to Circular Economies

September 9, 2020 by  
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Network Effect: From Neurocircuits to Circular Economies Structuring circular economies like a neural network enables our transition from linear use, lowers risk through collective action and unlocks low-hanging circular wins. Hear from neuroscientist turned circular economy start-up founder Garry Cooper, whose company, Rheaply, is generating millions in savings for partnered organizations by scaling corporate reuse and facilitating circular materials flows. Speakers Garry Cooper, CEO, Rheaply Holly Secon Wed, 09/09/2020 – 13:14 Featured Off

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Network Effect: From Neurocircuits to Circular Economies

A Conversation about Chemical Recycling

September 9, 2020 by  
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A Conversation about Chemical Recycling What is chemical recycling, and how does it factor in to the circular economy? Speakers Mark Costa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Eastman Chemical Company Joel Makower, Executive Editor, GreenBiz Holly Secon Wed, 09/09/2020 – 12:02 Featured Off

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A Conversation about Chemical Recycling

Circularity 20 Closing: Where do we go from here?

September 9, 2020 by  
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Circularity 20 Closing: Where do we go from here?   Lauren Phipps, Director & Senior Analyst of the Circular Economy at GreenBiz Group, discusses what’s next in her closing thoughts. Holly Secon Wed, 09/09/2020 – 11:42 Featured Off

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Circularity 20 Closing: Where do we go from here?

Award-winning solar home with spectacular desert views asks $5.35M

August 28, 2020 by  
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On the edge of the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas, an AIA award-winning home has hit the market for $5.35 million. Designed by PUNCH Architecture and built by Bugbee Custom Homes, this custom, 3,270-square-foot residence embraces the breathtaking desert landscape with carefully framed views and an indoor/outdoor design approach. The luxury Montana Court home is built largely with natural, modern materials and is topped with solar panels as well as a living roof. Recognized by the American Institute of Architecture’s Las Vegas chapter for its architectural innovation and design, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath luxury home keeps the spotlight on the southern Nevada desert landscape with a restrained palette and contemporary aesthetic. The two-story home is built into the mountainous landscape and blends in with the desert with a natural materials palette, which will develop a patina over time. According to the real estate firm, The Ivan Sher Group, this site-sensitive approach is an exception to the typical Las Vegas luxury home, which tends to stand out from the background rather than complement it. Related: Sustainable desert home has a small water footprint in Nevada “This is a home for those who fully appreciate nature and the outdoors, in addition to the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip,” said listing agent Anthony Spiegel. “There are panoramic views of Blue Diamond’s stunning mountain and desert scenery, and at night you can see millions of stars light up the sky. This home is also nearby one of the top biking trail systems in Southern Nevada, allowing residents the convenience to ride at any time.” Located in the small town of Blue Diamond, the Montana Court home is nestled among Joshua and Pinion trees, cacti, creosotes and rock formations in a setting that offers complete privacy in the outdoors. The exterior is wrapped in weathered steel that will evolve as the home ages. The home also includes a 1,200-square-foot garage, outdoor shower, barbecue area, fire pit and multiple sheltered outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition to the indoors through full-height glass doors. + 4 Montana Court Listing Images courtesy of The Ivan Sher Group

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Award-winning solar home with spectacular desert views asks $5.35M

How Businesses Can Overcome Barriers to Achieving Climate Goals

June 15, 2020 by  
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How Businesses Can Overcome Barriers to Achieving Climate Goals Join us and discover the findings of research conducted by NRG Energy and GreenBiz Group, examining key plans and actions businesses are taking to address climate change. The research represents responses from hundreds of business executives and thought leaders, revealing that many are taking the right steps to reach their goals. A range of factors, however, threatens to disrupt progress including a lack of attention to risk, developing consistent resilience and financial disclosures such as those recommended by the TCFD, and a general need for greater expertise. In this one-hour webcast, GreenBiz Vice President and Senior Analyst John Davies will lead a wide-ranging discussion, showing you how: Risk management and sustainability efforts converge as climate change disrupts businesses and challenges green goals New reporting standards gain traction with demands for greater transparency Existing standards like those of the TCFD have been addressed by companies like yours Scenario analysis becomes the preferred approach to set science-based targets  Collaborations with energy service companies help achieve emissions reductions Moderator: John Davies, Vice President & Senior Analyst, GreenBiz Group Speakers: Greg Kandankulam, Senior Manager, Sustainability, NRG Energy Edwin Anderson, Partner, Oliver Wyman Emily Bosland, Manager, CSR Strategy & Reporting, Verizon If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. taylor flores Mon, 06/15/2020 – 16:09 John Davies VP, Senior Analyst GreenBiz @greenbizjd Greg Kandankulam Senior Manager, Sustainability NRG @gregkandankulam Edwin Anderson Partner Oliver Wyman Emily Bosland Manager, CSR Strategy & Reporting Verizon gbz_webcast_date Tue, 07/14/2020 – 10:00 – Tue, 07/14/2020 – 11:00

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How Businesses Can Overcome Barriers to Achieving Climate Goals

The unmasking of Corporate America

June 15, 2020 by  
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The unmasking of Corporate America Joel Makower Mon, 06/15/2020 – 02:11 The past two weeks have seen an outpouring of concern and commitment by companies about racism in the United States. Pronouncements on company social media accounts often take the form of graphics — white type against a black background seems to be de rigueur in the current environment. It’s all a welcome sign but also treacherous territory. For one simple reason: Words, no matter how compelling, compassionate or committed, aren’t enough to undo the injustices and structural challenges employees and others face when it comes to race and equity. Companies are being asked to show, not just tell. And hypocrisy, or lack of action, is being called out. Consider the backlash already on social media. As companies post their support for Black Lives Matter and racial justice in general, activists are asking these companies to also post a picture of their leadership team and/or board of directors. Words, no matter how compelling, compassionate or committed, aren’t enough to undo the injustices and structural challenges employees face when it comes to race and equity. You can probably guess why: Corporate board and leadership teams are all too often overwhelmingly white and male. And while gender diversity has improved significantly over the past few years —  according to Institutional Shareholder Services , 45 percent of new board positions among the Russell 3000, representing 3,000 of the largest U.S.-traded stocks, were filled by women in 2019, up from just 12 percent in 2008 — racial diversity has not.  According to the 2019 Registry of Corporate Directors published by Black Enterprise magazine, there were just over 300 African-American board members among S&P 500 companies, out of nearly 4,500 board seats overall. That’s progress, but barely. (Full disclosure: GreenBiz Group’s six-person leadership team, four men and two women, is all-white.) Board seats and leadership positions are only one aspect of corporate performance on diversity and inclusion, but it’s a critical one, as modeling behavior starts at the top. Companies are responding in a range of meaningful ways: devoting tens of millions of dollars to racial justice initiatives (Apple, Google, NBCUniversal), establishing an internal committee to advance racial equity and justice solutions (Walmart), committing that black candidates are on the succession list for all senior-level positions (Estée Lauder), as well as pledging to direct more investment capital to minority entrepreneurs, publicly advocating for action at the state and local levels, and developing anti-racist workplace initiatives, among other things. But there are also corporate statements that risk being seen as window dressing. Take the Business Roundtable, a group of companies whose 2019 Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation has received copious press coverage. Earlier this month, the group tapped seven of its board members to form a committee on “racial equality and justice solutions.” As Politico reported : Critics pointed out that there are no specific benchmarks or funding. The committee is led by two black and five white executives from Eaton, Vista Equity Partners, AT&T, Marriott International, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase and Johnson & Johnson. Most of these companies have no more than two people of color on their boards. … A spokeswoman for the Business Roundtable said the group is “committed to taking thoughtful action on issues of racial injustice,” which includes “CEOs listening to their employees, customers and members of the communities they operate in, with the goal of strengthening unity and justice.” The spokeswoman also noted that 19 of the group’s more than 180 CEOs are people of color, while another 19 are women (just one of whom is nonwhite). Which begs the question, not just for the Business Roundtable but for all companies: What actually will change as a result of these statements and commitments? How will progress be measured and tracked? Who will be holding companies accountable? Probably not Wall Street. “Your standard research analyst is not going to ask, ‘Please articulate your efforts to become an anti-racist, multicultural organization,’” Erika Karp, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital and a Wall Street veteran, told me last week. “You’re not going to hear that on an analyst call.” She added: “But I think you should.” I asked Karp, whose firm published a 2018 research report, “Investing to Advance Racial Equity,” how she’d like to see companies judged, and whether company actions could be boiled down to the kind of environmental, social and governance metrics analysts are coming to expect from publicly traded companies. Instead, Karp pointed me to an undated, but presumably recent, matrix pulled from the psychoanalytic world: “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Institution.” It plots companies across six stages, from Exclusive (“a segregated institution”) to Fully Inclusive (“a transformed institution in a transformed society”). The continuum tracks companies from monocultural to multicultural to anti-racist to anti-racist multicultural. Most companies, from my perspective, can be found in the early stages of the continuum, such as Passive (“tolerant of a limited number of people of color with ‘proper’ perspective and credentials”) and Symbolic Change (“makes official policy pronouncements regarding multicultural diversity”). The tougher stuff is yet to come. Said Karp: “This came from the psychoanalytic world, but it might as well be from McKinsey.” In many ways, we’ve seen this movie before. The anti-racist continuum could be applied, with only modest modification, to corporate sustainability or social responsibility, from reactive and recalcitrant polluters at one end, to proactive and regenerative beacons at the other. And, as with sustainability, how a company is perceived on racial justice and equity is a delicate dance between showing and telling — that is, meaningful actions paired with stories, with great care given to not let the latter get too far ahead of the former. When the two are unaligned is when companies find themselves called out on social media and beyond. For most companies, having an open dialogue is a critical first step, but if things don’t progress from there, it will be more than a lost opportunity — it increasingly will become a risk factor. That’s a lesson of this moment: Be careful out there. Show, don’t just tell. I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote Words, no matter how compelling, compassionate or committed, aren’t enough to undo the injustices and structural challenges employees face when it comes to race and equity. Topics Leadership Marketing & Communication Diversity 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 Group

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The unmasking of Corporate America

Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

April 6, 2020 by  
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As one of the most beautiful states in the country, Maine offers an infinite number of advantages. But the state’s notoriously frigid winters often leave new residents desperate to find some respite from the long, cold months. After spending a few years in a drafty home where she and her family lived in multiple layers of clothing, author Jessica Kerwin Jenkins and her husband decided to build their own energy-efficient home. The result is an incredible barn-inspired structure that uses solar power and multiple passive features to keep the stunning interior living spaces warm and cozy throughout the year. Once they set out to build a new home, the couple researched passive house concepts that would suit their family’s needs, which included a comfortable living space where they wouldn’t have to dress in 10 layers of warm clothing for six months out of the year. With the help of a local architect, the couple set out to build an extremely airtight structure that used solar power and passive strategies to create an energy-efficient home with a minimal carbon footprint. Related: Beautiful Maine home uses passive solar principles to achieve near net-zero energy Located in the quaint community of Blue Hill, the beautiful home is tucked into an old blueberry field just minutes away from a secluded cove. The incredibly idyllic setting set the tone for the design, which focused on creating something that would fit the region’s style but also reap the benefits of modern sustainability. As for aesthetics, Jenkins explained that she and her husband were both intrigued by the traditional Japanese practice of shou sugi ban . But they ended up cladding the home in something that would pay homage to the local seaside community — pitch tar. Typically used to weatherproof ships’ masts, the material is durable, low-maintenance and highly insulative. Additionally, the jet-black exterior allows the home to both stand out and blend in with its natural surroundings. “We always wanted to do a black house, which seems really dramatic — but there are so many evergreens here that it disappears into the tree line,” Jenkins said. The house is topped with a 26-panel, 7.8 kW solar array on the pitched roof, generating more power than the home uses. The exterior is punctuated with an abundance of triple-paned windows that, thanks to the home’s southern orientation, provide optimal solar gain to keep the interiors warm. At 2,288 square feet, the four-bedroom home is quite spacious. Plentiful windows and high ceilings add to the modern feel of the living spaces. For an extra touch of warmth, the home is equipped with a radiant floor heating and an air exchanger that pulls in air from outside and passes it through a filter. This stunning, eco-friendly home set in an unbelievable location, not far from Acadia National Park, can be all yours for just $585,000 , as it is currently listed for sale. + Christopher Group Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Bruce Frame Photography via Christopher Group

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Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

GreenBiz names 2019 VERGE Vanguard award winners

September 16, 2019 by  
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GreenBiz Group today named the 2019 VERGE Vanguard, honoring 20 dreamers, pioneers, entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, business leaders, policymakers and investors on the cutting edge of sustainability and technology.

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GreenBiz names 2019 VERGE Vanguard award winners

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