What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

November 19, 2020 by  
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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021 Heather Clancy Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:00 A group of 16 nonprofits dedicated to inspiring climate action has much to give thanks for this week. With little fanfare other than a lengthy Instagram post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $791 million in donations from the Bezos Earth Fund — his $10 billion commitment to funding scientists, nonprofits and “others” that have made it their life’s work to fight climate change. For those of you keeping score, Bezos created the fund in February, although not much is known about who is behind the scenes running things — there’s isn’t even a public-facing web site. This is the first batch of grants bestowed by the organization.  Many of you will be familiar with the organizations that made the cut, and I see no reason not to list them all because they deserve as much attention as possible these days: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund , ClimateWorks Foundation , Dream Corps Green For All , Eden Reforestation Projects , Energy Foundation , Environmental Defense Fund , The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice , Natural Resources Defense Council , The Nature Conservancy , NDN Collective , Rocky Mountain Institute , Salk Institute for Biological Studies , The Solutions Project , Union of Concerned Scientists , World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund . The big green NGOs — EDF, NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and WRI — made out really big, each snagging $100 million. For perspective, EDF’s budget is usually about $230 million annually, so this is not an insignificant sum of money for any of these organizations. Poking more specifically into where the money is dedicated tells us a lot about where we can expect big corporations to prioritize climate action during 2021. With that in mind, here are three of my takeaways from Bezos’s big bets. 1. Climate equity and environmental justice is getting much-needed funding   Five organizations chosen for the grants this week are explicitly focused on addressing climate change through the lens of environmental justice. Three of them — the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, The Solutions Project and The Hive Fund — are receiving $43 million each. I love that all of these groups are laser-focused on local communities and people of color. The Solutions Project, for example, has pledged 95 percent of its funding to the BIPOC community, with 80 percent designated for women-led organizations.  An organization I’ll be researching more closely next year is NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led group that received $12 million. I should also mention that climate justice also permeates the other grants. NRDC, for example, will be using its grant to help advance climate solutions at the state and community level that “strengthen equity and justice at the heart of climate advocacy.” And The Nature Conservancy is using a big chunk of its fund to protect the Emerald Edge old-growth forest in the United States and Canada in collaboration with Indigenous and tribal communities there.   I have to be honest, I’ve been somewhat discouraged over the past few months when I’ve asked corporate sustainability professionals how they’re embedding racial justice considerations into their strategies. While there have been some really meaningful commitments — including Microsoft’s vow to include environmental justice as part of its renewable energy strategy or Apple’s Racial and Equity Justice Initiative — the vast majority of companies I’ve asked outright are struggling with blending justice into their environmental strategies. That needs to change, and these investments have me greeting 2021 with newfound optimism. 2. Anticipate more attention to the potential of ocean carbon sequestration Nature-based solutions for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide were the rage this year, and that sensibility is scattered across the press releases issued by the recipients. The Salk Institute, for example, is getting $30 million for its Harnessing Plants Initiative, focused on the soil sequestration of the world’s six biggest food crops, including soybeans and corn.  But it isn’t all about the land. The money is also supporting a big WWF program to protect and restore mangroves, small trees that grow in the brackish waters along coasts, in Colombia, Fiji, Madagascar and Mexico. What’s more, it includes funds for another solution that is capturing more attention as we stare into 2021: seaweed farming. According to advocates , kelp beds sequester five times more CO2 than terrestrial leafy greens such as kale or lettuce. There’s a movement brewing to use seaweed as a feedstock for fuel alternatives; it’s also finding a place on menus, including at fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, and a role in packaging (such as Loliware, which is making seaweed straws). Note to self: Learn more about seaweed and mangroves. 3. Don’t underestimate the potential of satellites in the fight against climate change  EDF’s grant is largely focused on launching the MethaneSAT , a network for locating and measuring methane pollution around the world and sharing it to ensure accountability.  It should not be lost on any of us that aside from being the CEO of one of the world’s largest retailers and tech companies, Bezos is behind Blue Origin, one of the private space companies that hopes to put people back onto the moon. It’s only natural that he’d explore extraterrestrial climate solutions. EDF isn’t the only organization benefiting here: WRI will be using its grant to develop a satellite-based network for monitoring carbon emissions as well as changes to forests, grasslands, wetlands and farms.   Here’s hoping that all of these initiatives find it much easier to get off the ground under the Biden-Harris administration, which has made addressing climate change — and cultivating clean economy jobs — one of its four priorities. And just think, “only” $9 billion more to allocate from the Bezos Earth Fund. That’s an inspiring sum of money. Topics Innovation Social Justice Climate Tech Equity & Inclusion Carbon Removal Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Emerald Edge, the largest intact coastal rainforest on Earth, spans 100 million acres through Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. It will benefit from the first set of grants by the Bezos Earth Fund.

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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

4 ways businesses can connect with their communities to create a clean economy

November 6, 2020 by  
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4 ways businesses can connect with their communities to create a clean economy Marian Jones Fri, 11/06/2020 – 01:00 Companies often struggle with building community trust as they navigate between profit-making and authentically engaging on climate change and environmental justice matters. Last week at GreenBiz Group’s virtual conference and expo on stimulating the clean economy, VERGE 20 , community leaders and businesses from across the country came together to network, share insights and explore solutions to these challenges. During the panel “Connecting Communities to the Clean Economy,” experts shared their experiences working with private companies, their fights for green jobs and why businesses need to think of themselves as part of the community. The talk featured two women of color and leaders within the environmental and economic justice movement: Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE (founded as the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park); and Rahwa Ghirmatzion, executive director of PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing); with Heather Clancy, editorial director at GreenBiz, acting as moderator. PUSH Buffalo is a nonprofit grassroots community organization working to build and execute a comprehensive revitalization plan for West Buffalo’s West Side. This stimulus plan includes affordable housing rehabilitation, building weatherization and other green infrastructure projects. UPROSE is Brooklyn’s foremost Latinx community organization. Its work involves community organizing, supporting sustainable development and community-led climate adaptation in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Communicating genuinely and authentically listening are two key components. Panelists explained how their community organizations and business partners have successfully collaborated in the past. The conversation provided an insight into how companies can understand the communities they serve, the area they’re in and the people they employ. Communicating genuinely and authentically listening are two key components . Here are four key takeaways: 1. To build real, authentic community trust, businesses must be willing to listen to community concerns and respond with effective community-oriented solutions. Ghirmatzion talked about PUSH Buffalo’s work with a local hiring hall that connects New Yorkers to jobs. This initiative provides both hands-on training for people in the Buffalo area who have been underemployed for long periods of time and employment opportunities in renewable energy projects and green construction. According to Rahwa, at least “99.9 percent of them were folks of color.” For example, a few years ago, about 24 of PUSH’s trainees experienced racist harassment and open hostility from their white coworkers and supervisor. When PUSH brought their concerns to the company’s CEO, the organization investigated the matter and fired the supervisor. Workers and community members alike appreciated the company’s quick action and zero tolerance, Ghirmatzion said. Listening to the community and taking their issues seriously is crucial for building trust, she observed. 2. Private entities should think of themselves as community members and view local residents as political and economic partners. For Yeampierre of UPROSE, the most successful partnerships have been ones in which businesses joined local initiatives and shared the same political and environmental goals as the community. According to Yeampierre, UPROSE has had excellent relationships with some companies and terrible relationships with others. The excellent relationships have been with businesses that seek input from UPROSE on climate adaptation and embrace UPROSE’s best practices for environmental justice and community resiliency. Yeampierre cited two successful partnerships. Sims Recycling Solutions worked with UPROSE from the beginning to become a carbon-neutral state-of-the-art facility that would serve community needs but not be an eyesore or polluting facility on the industrial waterfront. Additionally, UPROSE has received support from Patagonia since 2011. In this mutually beneficial relationship, Patagonia also provides financial support for UPROSE’s environmental work. UPROSE has helped Patagonia have an office culture in which its employees join in UPROSE’s grass-roots organizing. As Yeampierre said, “Sometimes businesses don’t see themselves as part of the community, and see our community as a front for wealth for them.” She encouraged private businesses to view the community they operate in not as a resource but as a partner. 3. Businesses and developers need to embrace resilient thinking rather than viewing job creation and profit-making as their key goals. Yeampierre got a chance to provide a brief overview of UPROSE’s work to protect Sunset Park’s industrial waterfront from land speculation. UPROSE was at the center of a triumphant seven-year-long struggle against the rezoning of Industry City in Brooklyn. However, the rezoning would have created thousands of jobs. Developers viewed this project as a win-win, but activists and community leaders opposed it because the jobs would have been mostly low-paying. Plus, the influx of high-end retail and new office jobs would spur gentrification. Yeampierre argued that waterfronts such as Sunset Park are where we need to start building for “climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience.” “It’s what we call a green reindustrialization of our industrial waterfront,” she added. Businesses should avoid trying to fight long, drawn-out battles that ignore the wishes of the community. Making a resilient New York means investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency retrofits, construction, sustainable manufacturing and food security, all of which would create thousands of jobs. We need these things now, because as Yeampierre said, “We know that climate change is here.” The campaign to preserve the waterfront was a significant victory for industrial communities all over the U.S., who are told they ought to accept new jobs that rely on the extraction of fossil fuels and displacement. Sunset Park’s future could become a model for converting an industrial zone into an environmentally friendly infrastructure through green manufacturing. Businesses should avoid trying to fight long, drawn-out battles that ignore the wishes of the community. Instead, it’s vital to support community-led proposals consistent with a resilient green future from the beginning. 4. Companies can use their communications resources to showcase community climate activists’ voices and a voice in the fight for a just transition . Both UPROSE and PUSH Buffalo are a part of NY Renews, a coalition of over 140 community, labor and grassroots organizations working to end climate change in New York while safeguarding workers. Moderator Clancy asked how being members of this coalition amplifies their work. Both panelists agreed that the legislation NY Renews fights for, such as the Climate Mobilization Act, which passed last year, makes it easier for smaller social justice-based organizations to show their communities it’s possible to have a just transition. This legislation would generate thousands of jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy prices. Companies also can benefit from supporting the work of NY Renews because a just transition is an idea that appeals to workers and communities who fear that the process of reducing emissions could lead to a future with fewer jobs and more poverty. For UPROSE, being in NY Renews “helps us build locally, but it also helps us build the scale, and it helps us create the kind of regional impact that climate change demands. We need to be thinking big and locally,” Yeampierre declared. Supporting or doing similar work as NY Renews, creating green and decent jobs, can help private enterprises show that they want to support resiliency and want communities to thrive. In their closing remarks, both panelists reiterated their earlier comments on authenticity and seeking community input as soon as they start planning a project. Authentic was the word the panelists most used to describe the kind of relationship and behavior they would like to see from businesses. “Authentic” is the characteristic you should want the community to think of your company as, and you should meet that expectation, the tow community organizers observed. That is, authentic businesses genuinely communicate; they find out what their community wants and take the impact they have on the community seriously. People who live in the community can offer many solutions and critical perspectives because they’ve been working on these issues for generations, they concluded. Pull Quote Communicating genuinely and authentically listening are two key components. Businesses should avoid trying to fight long, drawn-out battles that ignore the wishes of the community. Topics Cities Social Justice Corporate Strategy VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A scene from a youth climate protest in San Francisco, California. Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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4 ways businesses can connect with their communities to create a clean economy

To keep going during these difficult times, remember to float

October 12, 2020 by  
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To keep going during these difficult times, remember to float Chris Gaither Mon, 10/12/2020 – 01:45 A couple of years ago, desperate for fitness and community, I joined the master’s swim program at my local pool. I churned up and down the lanes a few mornings a week, and I grew faster and faster, especially on the sprints. Turns out these big feet of mine, size 13 with fallen arches, propel me beautifully through the water. “What a great kick you have,” my teammates would say. And on the next lap I’d kick even harder, arriving at the wall panting and grinning. My coach moved me into the fast lane, and my ego swelled. But on longer distances, I fell apart. To go faster, I must stop working so hard. To maintain my energy, I must embrace ease. To keep going, I must remember to float. I’d start off well enough, keeping pace with lifelong swimmers such as Susan and Sarah. Then, a few laps in, I’d falter. I’d fall so far behind that I’d have to occasionally pause at the wall, embarrassed, to let the leaders pass me. I’d tell myself to work harder. Get those feet moving. Kick more ferociously. One day, as I again dropped behind, my coach began shouting at me from the deck. I couldn’t hear her over my exertions. She yelled louder. “Chris!” she said. “You are kicking too hard!” After the workout, she explained that a strong kick is effective during sprints, but over-kicking on endurance swims slows us down. Our big leg muscles require a lot of oxygen, so we run out of gas quickly. When you kick more lightly, she said, you maintain your energy. So, you can keep going. To prove her point, she had me practice floating. I lay still, face down, arms extended. I relaxed, felt my muscles soften, a sense of peace settling over me. Then, from that place of ease, I began to swim. It felt so different. My strokes were calmer, more efficient. Instead of fighting the water, I allowed it to support my body then slip past me. I understood what the coach was teaching me: To go faster, I must stop working so hard. To maintain my energy, I must embrace ease. To keep going, I must remember to float. It’s 2020, the year that won’t end, and I suspect that many of you, like me, are trying to kick so hard through this pandemic. Everything feels difficult right now. As I write, we are slogging through our seventh month of sheltering in place. More than 210,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus, and it has spread all the way to the White House. Fires continue to ravage the West. Here in Oakland, California, I wake up many mornings to the sight and acrid taste of smoke, visceral reminders of the climate emergency. The poor air quality has kept me off the hiking trails and out of the pool, depriving me, like so many Californians, of the chance to heal our psyches in nature. There is so much to process. So much to do. So much to repair. Earlier in the pandemic, my writing and my work with leaders and their teams buoyed me. I felt a prolonged surge of energy — purpose, focus, a calling to serve others, motivation to create. Those desires feel much fainter now, dim outlines I see through a haze of fatigue, loneliness and sadness. I’ve been trying to muscle through it. Even as I’ve helped my clients notice where they are resisting their current reality, asking them to strip away the non-essential tasks and honoring what they most need right now, I’ve been taking on more responsibilities. I’m kicking so hard in all aspects of my life: as an executive leadership coach, business owner, father, son, romantic partner, friend, citizen, environmentalist, learner, writer. It’s exhausting. I’d been trying to write this latest Sustainable You column for weeks. My intention was to explore the importance of identifying our purpose and letting it shine through in our jobs. Purpose is one of my favorite coaching topics, one I’ve taught in workshops at the Robins Air Force Base and X, the Moonshot Factory, and with individual clients at Apple, Google, Levi Strauss and more. Following my purpose is also what led me to create a coaching practice focused on supporting environmental and social-impact leaders. Yet I just couldn’t get it right. I’d captured pages of notes, blocked off time to write, done Pomodoro timer sessions , unleashed a tangle of thoughts. It just wasn’t coming together, no matter how hard I tried. Then, as I was hiking in redwoods during a break from the smoke, I remembered my swim coach’s instructions. I started asking myself: Where in my life am I trying too hard? Where can I start from a place of ease? Where can I kick more lightly? Where can I float? I started asking myself: Where in my life am I trying too hard? Where can I start from a place of ease? Where can I kick more lightly?   I decided to begin here, with you. I’ll be back next month with that essay about purpose. But for now, I invite you to join me in the water. Wade in and relax. Feel what it’s like to be you, in your body, in this very moment. You don’t need to be strong right now. You don’t need to work so hard. Be still. Let the water hold you. In a few minutes, you will begin swimming again. Set an intention to do that with ease. Whatever you have planned for today, for this week, bring a sense of flow to it. Kick lightly and notice what happens. But for now, let’s stay together for a while. Let’s be here in the water, serene. Let’s float. Pull Quote To go faster, I must stop working so hard. To maintain my energy, I must embrace ease. To keep going, I must remember to float. I started asking myself: Where in my life am I trying too hard? Where can I start from a place of ease? Where can I kick more lightly? 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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To keep going during these difficult times, remember to float

Beyond emissions: The life of a carbon molecule

October 12, 2020 by  
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Beyond emissions: The life of a carbon molecule David Parham Mon, 10/12/2020 – 01:30 Carbon is everywhere. Carbon atoms flow through all living organisms, from the atmosphere to the earth to the oceans and back again. But carbon is also moving constantly through the global economy, which historically has been powered by burning fossil fuels for energy. As a result, carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions have risen dramatically since the industrial revolution, presenting a daunting array of challenges for people, planet and prosperity. As the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), CO2 plays an outsize role in global climate change — for example, it accounted for 81 percent of U.S. emissions in 2018. If human activity, including economic activity, is the primary driver of global warming, it only makes sense that an effective solution must start with changing that behavior. But how does one go about shifting the actions of thousands of businesses around the world? The critical role of emissions data First, let’s be clear: Measuring GHG emissions is incredibly important. GHG emissions are what directly contribute to global temperature rise and are therefore the ultimate target of any action to combat climate change. As a result, this data informs policy decisions, shapes more effective regulation and helps scientists and other experts understand trends and evaluate potential solutions. Metrics that focus on the direct levers available to a company — and measure how the company is using them — provide actionable data to management and decision-useful information to a firm’s investors. GHG emission data also helps business monitor the effectiveness of mitigation strategies, and it helps investors understand broadly how the systemic risk across their portfolio is distributed among exposure to emitters (Scope 1 emissions), energy users (Scope 2) and companies with significant supply chain or use-phase impacts (Scope 3). The value of GHG emissions data to these users is incalculable. However, at the end of the day, we don’t just want to observe the needle — we want to move it. And, especially when it comes to indirect emissions, that often requires a targeted approach — one that explores the important interconnections between the many points along the carbon value chain. Identifying the levers of influence So, how do we catalyze an evolution of carbon-related economic activity all over the world? As with most things in economics, the answer starts with incentives. Companies understand that financial success and thriving markets go hand-in-hand, so they’re naturally inclined to care about how climate change affects their customers, employees, suppliers, communities and more. But caring about an issue and managing it effectively are very different things. Effective risk management is often a function of the degree of control or influence a company has over the risk. With GHG emissions, that is a straightforward proposition for direct emitters. For everyone else, it can get significantly more complicated. According to an analysis of CDP data , just seven industries account for 85 percent of direct Scope 1 emissions. That means a lot of companies — and, indeed, entire industries — need to identify levers of influence that align with their operations, business models and value creation strategies. The questions companies must ask themselves are, “What business opportunities are inherent in this rapidly changing competitive landscape?” “What are the risks if we ignore climate change?” And, “What levers can we pull to help mitigate these risks, realize the opportunities and help society achieve its emission reduction goals?” Accordingly, the indicators companies use to measure and manage performance must capture these risks and opportunities, which often vary from one industry to the next. The microeconomic decisions such metrics enable can exert strong influence on emissions while simultaneously contributing to enterprise value creation. For companies, investors and the planet, it’s win-win. Figure 1. The Life of a Carbon Molecule through the Value Chain Moving along the value chain To illustrate, it may be helpful to trace the life of a carbon molecule through the value chain and explore the specific operational or product-design decisions that might be made at each stage. (See Figure 1, above.) Let’s start with the “emitters,” such as oil and gas companies and utilities. For these businesses, Scope 1 emissions data is actionable business intelligence. This is because they face potentially significant financial risks directly related to their emissions, including from existing or anticipated regulations to limit emissions, restrict or mandate specific energy sources, establish a price on carbon or other measures. Although, in many cases, these companies may pass their increased operating costs or capital expenditures on to customers, this can dampen demand, especially as alternative energy sources and technologies become increasingly competitive. But where direct emitters are in the driver’s seat in managing direct GHG emissions, companies further down the value chain have very different levers of influence. Take energy consumers, for example, such as the industrial machinery and goods industry, which manufactures equipment for a variety of industries, including engines, earthmoving equipment, trucks, tractors, ships, industrial pumps, locomotives and turbines. A company in this industry may benefit from measuring its emissions, but the financial risks it faces are more directly related to other issues: energy pricing and availability; fuel-economy standards; and materials sourcing. By measuring and managing its performance on these industry-specific issues, the company can reduce its own financial and operational risks and exert significant influence on emissions in a variety of ways, including the following: Action Influence on Emissions Financial Impact More energy-efficient manufacturing Reduces upstream emissions from generation Lowers manufacturing costs More fuel-efficient vehicles Reduces downstream emissions during use phase Increases revenue by meeting consumer demand Designing products that minimize the use of critical materials or that may be easily recycled Reduces upstream emissions associated with extractive activities Saves raw materials costs Finally, as another example, automakers face a similar challenge in that the bulk of their emissions are associated with the use-phase of their products — which falls outside their direct control. Nevertheless, a car manufacturer has an important lever of influence in designing products that meet high standards for fuel economy or in diversifying its set of product offerings to increasingly feature zero-emission vehicles. As consumer preferences shift, this approach enables automobile companies to capture market share while also addressing both downstream (use-phase) and upstream emissions (by decreasing the demand-side “pull”). The value of industry specificity As these simple, hypothetical examples demonstrate, companies can face different emissions-influencing decisions depending on the activities in which they are involved or the products they produce. Of course, reality is always messier. For example, when a company is involved in an array of activities or produces a wide range of products, aggregate emissions data can get especially unwieldy. Similarly, companies face different risks related to indirect emissions in their supply chain versus those that result from the use of their products. For these firms and their investors, only industry-specific metrics can help them tease apart the relative contributions of business functions and inform an effective risk management strategy. This dynamic is reflected in how we approach climate-related disclosure at the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Although our standards call for direct emitters to disclose their Scope 1 emissions in 22 industries, we also identify other industry-specific levers of influence. Applying our evidence-based, market-informed standard-setting process to each of 77 industries, we’ve identified metrics associated with the key operational or product-design decisions most likely to influence indirect emissions — topics such as materials sourcing, energy usage, product energy-efficiency and end-of-life management. Because the financial implications of each of these decisions are different, rolling them up into a single indirect emissions metric does not give investors insight into how a company is adapting its operations, business strategy and/or product mix to address climate-related risks and opportunities. Although a single indirect emissions metric may not account for this complexity, measuring factors that affect indirect emissions that are under a company’s direct control helps align incentives and drive mutually beneficial outcomes. For example, consider the financial impact of regulations designed to reduce tailpipe emissions at two points along the value chain (see bottom of Figure 1): The auto manufacturer is likely to face financial risks and opportunities related to regulations targeting the fuel economy of its products. The company can manage this risk at least in part by changing its product mix toward increasingly fuel-efficient or zero-emission vehicles, lowering use-phase emissions. At the other end of the value chain, the financial risk to the oil and gas company is several steps removed. Increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles likely would reduce the use of refined products, which would lower demand for hydrocarbons, which would decrease oil prices, which would impact the resiliency of the company’s reserves, which would impair the value of the assets on its balance sheet, which finally would put downward pressure on its stock price. The company could respond by investing in lower-cost, more resilient reserves or diversifying its business model toward alternative or renewable forms of energy — both metrics in the SASB Standard for this industry. While the ultimate effect is to reduce tailpipe emissions, the levers of control available to companies at different points in the value chain differ. SASB focuses on measuring the industry-specific factor that is most relevant to the financial impact at each point. And because these decisions and impacts are connected through the value chain, in both cases effective management of the issue would support both financial risk-return objectives and emissions mitigation goals. Conclusion The life of a carbon molecule is complicated but important. The point at which a molecule of carbon leaves the value chain and enters the atmosphere as CO2 is driven by a complex and interrelated set of financial drivers. At each point in the value chain, these incentives and the business decisions that result, have significant implications for both upstream and downstream emissions. Such complex systems-level problems require comprehensive solutions, and SASB standards offer an important set of industry-specific metrics that complement existing, widely used measures for indirect emissions. As a leading contributor to climate change, GHG emissions pose obvious threats to human health, infrastructure, natural resources, energy security and even international order. They also create daunting challenges for business. A landmark 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested the price tag of unchecked climate change will run from $54 trillion to $69 trillion. Similarly, a 2019 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that under a “business as usual” scenario, global GDP would drop by 7.2 percent per capita by 2100. Clearly, it’s critical for the world to have access to complete, reliable and timely GHG emissions data. But it’s not enough to simply know how much closer we’re getting to the iceberg; we also need to turn the ship’s wheel. Metrics that focus on the direct levers available to a company — and measure how the company is using them — provide actionable data to management and decision-useful information to a firm’s investors. As a result, they help mobilize global capital markets toward a future in which business can optimize its impacts and offer solutions at scale.  To learn more about SASB’s approach to climate-related disclosure, watch the recording of the recent Climate Week webinar  “Accelerating Change through ESG Disclosure.” Pull Quote Metrics that focus on the direct levers available to a company — and measure how the company is using them — provide actionable data to management and decision-useful information to a firm’s investors. Topics Carbon Removal ESG 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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Beyond emissions: The life of a carbon molecule

Behind New Jersey’s ambitions for clean energy equity and offshore wind

July 9, 2020 by  
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Behind New Jersey’s ambitions for clean energy equity and offshore wind Sarah Golden Thu, 07/09/2020 – 01:00 If you want to know what state-level clean energy leadership looks like, look no further than New Jersey.  Since the beginning of the year, the Garden State has made headlines for three initiatives: its plans to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 ; its investment in offshore wind ; and its proposal to create an Office of Clean Energy and Equity .   All three are commendable in their own right. They show how a state can signal the opportunities inherent in the clean energy economy, and the importance that it works for everyone.  One person at the center of these initiatives is Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. At the end of June, I talked to Fiordaliso to better understand his perspective on the potential of clean energy, the importance of equity within all initiatives and how states can lead the way forward. The interview is edited for length and clarity.  Sarah Golden: I wanted to talk to you about the Office of Clean Energy and Equity. Am I right in thinking this is the first office of this type in the United States?  Joe Fiordaliso: I don’t want to say “yes” to that because I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that it’s the first office for the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). The purpose is to ensure the fact that every community, regardless of income, regardless of where they live, is afforded the opportunity to participate in the green revolution that is occurring in the state of New Jersey. And we cannot be successful, looking at a very selfish perspective, if everyone is not involved. And everyone should be involved because everyone pays into it. And to say it’s only for the super-rich doesn’t sit well with me or Gov. [Phil] Murphy.  Golden: I was taking a look at the timeline. I know [State Sen. Troy]  Singleton introduced the bill in mid-May; you vowed to create this office in June. Is this in any way inspired, or is it rising in prominence, because of the Black Lives Matters movement?  Fiordaliso : No. This has always been our goal. And Black lives do matter, by the way. And this has always been our goal. It’s always been on the governor’s agenda. Environmental justice and, what I get out of the environmental justice theme of the governor, is what I said before — that everyone has the opportunity to participate regardless of their economic standing.  We just passed a very, I think, most impressive energy efficiency ruling here in the state of New Jersey. The BPU did that just a couple of weeks ago now, and I believe it’s the most progressive. This is the one thing that is going to help low and moderate-income folks to participate in the green revolution. So I’m very excited about that. It is really an agenda that is all-inclusive. And I’m so proud of what we’re doing here. So many programs are geared towards those folks that can afford to participate. This is not. This is to afford the opportunity to everybody. And I’m thrilled that we’re taking this approach. I’m thrilled that the governor is one of the most progressive in the country, and we’re following his lead and the lead of many of our legislators. And it really is gratifying.  Golden: Why is it important to establish an Office of Clean Energy Equity in addition to having such a progressive energy efficiency initiative? Fiordaliso : To monitor and ensure that everyone has the opportunity. Many clean energy programs throughout the United States, including originally here in New Jersey, we’re so excited about initiating programs but less excited about tracking those programs. Less excited about ensuring that everyone has the ability to participate. That is extremely important. This office will, I hope, ensure the fact that we are monitoring this closely, and if certain programs are not reaching the general population, then we have to tweak them. Then we have to revise them. Then we have to alter them. But I think this is extremely important to point out, not only our successes but our failures. If we don’t know what our failures are, we can’t fix it.  It’s important for us to seize the moment; carpe diem. Seize the day. That’s our obligation in government right now, seize that day. One of the core missions of this office is going to be to point out the deficiencies and say, “Hey, we’re falling short here. Let’s find out why we’re falling short. Let’s find out why more people aren’t participating. Are there barriers there that we didn’t realize are there?” And fix it. Remove those barriers and continue to move forward. And I think that’s our obligation. We’re not only seeing certain people, we’re serving everybody.  Golden: I’m struck by the opportunities that COVID represents to rebuild the economy. I was looking at an op-ed Singleton wrote; one line that stuck out to me is, “As New Jersey works to establish a path to economic recovery, as elected public servants, we must seize the moment to work toward a future that is affordable, equitable, accessible and sustainable.” There are so many different realms right now where we get to reimagine because everything is starting from ground zero. I’m curious about the moment we’re in to be able to rethink and rebuild things, but also need to justify investments when state budgets are so strained.  Fiordaliso : Very good question. We are in the process of establishing a massive evaluation program to ensure the fact that we’re getting the best bang for the buck, so to speak, out of all of the programs we have in the state of New Jersey because the taxpayers, one way or another, are paying for this. And they have the right to know whether or not we’re spending their money in a good fashion and if we’re not, we’d better adjust the programs and eliminate those that are not giving us the best bang for the bucks. So we’re in this massive program to evaluate every single program. This has given us an opportunity, this crisis that we’re in, because out of crisis, many times, comes good things. We don’t see them initially, but it makes us rethink certain things, and makes us see what we’re doing. These are all things that we evaluate and continue to evaluate more and more as we go down this road to a clean energy economy. We failed to mention, many, many times, that there is economic opportunity in the clean energy revolution. And the clean energy revolution can ignite a massive economic renewal. And every state, I would assume, is looking at an economic renewal after, or during, this pandemic. The programs we’re initiating, they will create jobs.  Let’s take offshore wind as an example. We’ve positioned ourselves with the wind port that was approved [in June] to be the focal point for the supply chain for the entire Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. New Jersey is well-positioned to do that. That brings along 1,500 jobs, that alone, not including the jobs of the wind industry that are in the thousands.  So economic opportunity exists. And it’s important for us to seize the moment; carpe diem. Seize the day. That’s our obligation in government right now, seize that day. Because that opportunity may evade us tomorrow.  Golden: While we’re on the subject of offshore wind, can you talk about the potential for clean energy to jumpstart the economy?  Fiordaliso : I’m going to go back just a little bit, if I may, to solar energy.  In the early 2000s, we started the solar energy initiative here in the state of New Jersey. It has been a very successful program. Like every program, it needed a little boost to get started, and we provided that boost here in New Jersey with grants and incentives and so on. Today, we have over 140,000 solar installations. It has created over 7,000 jobs here in New Jersey, has contributed to the economic diversity here in New Jersey, and we expect the same to occur in the wind industry — but even on a bigger scale.  When we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills. Keep in mind, and California knows this better than anybody, most of the clean energy initiatives have emanated from the states on up. We have gotten very little encouragement from the federal government, and over the past 3.5 years we’ve gotten even less encouragement from the federal government.  Golden: One of the things that I found amazing about the investment in offshore wind and the ambitious targets of 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 is you’re talking about investing in a whole new industry, a new technology and bringing it to the United States. Why is it significant to be embracing a new technology at this moment?  Fiordaliso: It’s significant because it’s going to help us get to our goal. It’s significant because of the economic advancements it’s going to bring to our state. It’s significant because of the jobs that it will bring to our state. And, when we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills.  The jobs that that brings, the investments that that brings, are probably much more than we’re anticipating today. So it is exciting, but it is also something that’s going to transition our economy to a large extent to a whole new, different industry.  So these are the things we’re looking at. It’s the idea that we have to bring our fellow citizens along and help to educate them and the benefits of renewable energy. Not only is it the fact that it might save our planet, not only the fact that we have a moral obligation, I believe, for our children, grandchildren and subsequent generation to improve this earth and try and mitigate the traumatic effects of climate change. Because whether we want to admit it or note, whether the federal government wants to admit there’s climate change or not, it’s here.  Pull Quote It’s important for us to seize the moment; carpe diem. Seize the day. That’s our obligation in government right now, seize that day. When we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Behind New Jersey’s ambitions for clean energy equity and offshore wind

How racism manifests itself in clean energy

June 5, 2020 by  
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How racism manifests itself in clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 06/05/2020 – 00:00 As our institutions strain under the uprising in cities across the country, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the depth of racism in America. I understand why these moments of police violence, the senseless destruction of black bodies caught on tape, would spark a fire that rages across this country. I also know that the tinder has been building for generations and is about so much more than this one horrific moment. Every sector plays a part. Including clean energy.  It’s no secret that there are grave inequities in clean energy. In the spirit of this moment, I turned the microscope on my own sector to ask, how does racism manifest in clean energy?  Manifestation 1: ‘I can’t breathe’ “I can’t breathe” refers to more than police violence. Black communities have been struggling to breathe for decades.  “The right to breathe isn’t just related to surviving interactions with police,” said Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives , an organization that works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities. “It pertains to surviving and being able to breathe clean air.” Dozens of studies document the racial disparity in environmental impacts, and I’ve linked to a number of those below. To name a few, consider that in America black people: Are on average exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people — regardless of income. Breathe 56 percent more pollution than they create. Are exposed to 50 percent higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Are more likely to live near highways, airports, refineries and other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The impacts are also real. African Americans have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma , and are more like to have (and die from) heart disease . It’s no coincidence that African Americans are three times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people. To make matters worse, inequities in health care result in black communities paying almost twice as much in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  In this way, the story of George Floyd is symbolic of many struggles in the black community.  We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. “A cop put his knee in the back of his neck and choked him to death, amid his cries for help. You can hear the dude calling for his mom,” said Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell , an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers. “You look at black people in America and our journey, every opportunity that we’ve had to get ahead has been choked out, fully, over time. Every bit of progress gets choked out.” But here’s the thing: Clean energy technologies exist to reverse this problem. The missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected by dirty energy.  Manifestation 2: Paying more and getting less from energy  More than any other racial group in the United States, African Americans struggle to afford baseline energy needs, a state known as energy insecurity or energy poverty. As a percentage of their income, black households pay upwards of threefold more than white households for energy. They’re also disproportionately affected by utility shut-off policies , leaving them more vulnerable to dangerously hot and cold days.  Why? It’s expensive to be poor. Many solutions that save money in the long run — electric vehicles, rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades — require upfront costs or access to capital that exclude many black communities.  Paying more and getting less means black households are often playing catchup. According to Cox, in some places African Americans pay more for energy than for rent.  “We’re not putting people in a situation where they can succeed if they’re spending that much on their energy consumption,” Cox said.  That’s especially true for a community with fewer economic opportunities.  “We have a lack of jobs, we have a lack of access, we have a lack of money in communities,” said Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator ( LACI ). “Economics are a huge part of it. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination.” Manifestation 3: Myopic clean energy equity programs  Well-meaning programs and incentives can go only so far if they fail to take a broader view of inequalities.  Take, for instance, a California program that aims to increase access to electric vehicles by providing incentives to install a charging station at your home — provided, of course, that you’re a homeowner. That does little to help African Americans who have been systematically denied homeownership through redlining and lack of access to capital.  “Inherently, that’s racist,” said Cureton, who worked with the program while at GRID Alternatives. “Programs like these aren’t targeted at black people. They’re targeted at people who always lived in California, who always had access to capital. Programs like that don’t help to alleviate the systemic racism that is not only within this country but within this industry.” Cureton says that in order for these programs to work better, it’s essential for those who work in clean energy and equity to be able to talk about the shortcomings of policies without fear of losing funding or negatively impacting the organization.  “This equity push, it looks good and it sounds good,” Cureton said. “But for people of color who are suffering right now, it doesn’t feel good. We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity.” All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. To be clear, this critique isn’t to marginalize the hard work of GRID Alternatives — or other equity organizations working to support underserved people, such as Greenlining Institute , The Solutions Project and New Energy Nexus . Rather, it’s a reminder that systems of oppression are intertwined and that support needs to flow to those that understand the complexity of the problem.  “I think people get that there is an issue here,” Cox said. “‘Equity’ and ‘intersectionality’ are, like, the foundation buzzwords of the last four years. It’s where the big-money people are moving with their strategies. I think the next step is making sure the money gets to the right people.” Manifestation 4: Lack of representation  Organizations that design policies, programs and products usually are controlled by white people. That lack of diversity around the table leads to a lack of diversity in solutions.  The clean energy sector and companies with climate goals have tremendous power to change this.  Cox, who grew up in Oklahoma, never considered a job in clean energy. His turning point was when professional peers told him about the sector and encouraged him to get involved. That type of proactive engagement is what is needed to change the racial balance.  “The onus is on these companies to do outreach,” Cox said. “Not just in the big cities, not just at Howard and Hampton, take it to Texas Southern. Go to Dillard. Go into the deep south, go into rural areas, recruit at these community colleges. Tell people about the jobs that are available, and push people into them.” Eldridge echos this sentiment, noting that white professionals are often disconnected from the deep bench of talent in the African American community. “There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue,” Eldridge said. “It amazes me when people say they can’t find people to interview or to have these conversations with, because I see them in the room all the time.” This isn’t alteristic. It’s well documented that companies that embrace diversity perform better and have a happier workforce.  It also isn’t tokenism. Getting the people in the room that understand the black experience is key to finding the policies that untangle the systems of injustice.  “As it relates to shifting power and creating change, your voice can’t be taken seriously if you yourself don’t have an entity that represents you,” Cureton said. “That’s extremely important.” Pull Quote We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue. Topics Energy & Climate Equity & Inclusion Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How racism manifests itself in clean energy

How racism manifests in clean energy

June 5, 2020 by  
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How racism manifests in clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 06/05/2020 – 00:00 As our institutions strain under the uprising in cities across the country, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the depth of racism in America. I understand why these moments of police violence, the senseless destruction of black bodies caught on tape, would spark a fire that rages across this country. I also know that the tinder has been building for generations and is about so much more than this one horrific moment. Every sector plays a part. Including clean energy.  It’s no secret that there are grave inequities in clean energy. In the spirit of this moment, I turned the microscope on my own sector to ask, how does racism manifest in clean energy?  Manifestation 1: ‘I can’t breathe’ “I can’t breathe” refers to more than police violence. Black communities have been struggling to breathe for decades.  “The right to breathe isn’t just related to surviving interactions with police,” said Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives , an organization that works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities. “It pertains to surviving and being able to breathe clean air.” Dozens of studies document the racial disparity in environmental impacts, and I’ve linked to a number of those below. To name a few, consider that in America black people: Are on average exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people — regardless of income. Breathe 56 percent more pollution than they create. Are exposed to 50 percent higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Are more likely to live near highways, airports, refineries and other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The impacts are also real. African Americans have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma , and are more like to have (and die from) heart disease . It’s no coincidence that African Americans are three times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people. To make matters worse, inequities in health care result in black communities paying almost twice as much in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  In this way, the story of George Floyd is symbolic of many struggles in the black community.  We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. “A cop put his knee in the back of his neck and choked him to death, amid his cries for help. You can hear the dude calling for his mom,” said Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell , an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers. “You look at black people in America and our journey, every opportunity that we’ve had to get ahead has been choked out, fully, over time. Every bit of progress gets choked out.” But here’s the thing: Clean energy technologies exist to reverse this problem. The missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected by dirty energy.  Manifestation 2: Paying more and getting less from energy  More than any other racial group in the United States, African Americans struggle to afford baseline energy needs, a state known as energy insecurity or energy poverty. As a percentage of their income, black households pay upwards of threefold more than white households for energy. They’re also disproportionately affected by utility shut-off policies , leaving them more vulnerable to dangerously hot and cold days.  Why? It’s expensive to be poor. Many solutions that save money in the long run — electric vehicles, rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades — require upfront costs or access to capital that exclude many black communities.  Paying more and getting less means black households are often playing catchup. According to Cox, in some places African Americans pay more for energy than for rent.  “We’re not putting people in a situation where they can succeed if they’re spending that much on their energy consumption,” Cox said.  That’s especially true for a community with fewer economic opportunities.  “We have a lack of jobs, we have a lack of access, we have a lack of money in communities,” said Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator ( LACI ). “Economics are a huge part of it. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination.” Manifestation 3: Myopic clean energy equity programs  Well-meaning programs and incentives can go only so far if they fail to take a broader view of inequalities.  Take, for instance, a California program that aims to increase access to electric vehicles by providing incentives to install a charging station at your home — provided, of course, that you’re a homeowner. That does little to help African Americans who have been systematically denied homeownership through redlining and lack of access to capital.  “Inherently, that’s racist,” said Cureton, who worked with the program while at GRID Alternatives. “Programs like these aren’t targeted at black people. They’re targeted at people who always lived in California, who always had access to capital. Programs like that don’t help to alleviate the systemic racism that is not only within this country but within this industry.” Cureton says that in order for these programs to work better, it’s essential for those who work in clean energy and equity to be able to talk about the shortcomings of policies without fear of losing funding or negatively impacting the organization.  “This equity push, it looks good and it sounds good,” Cureton said. “But for people of color who are suffering right now, it doesn’t feel good. We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity.” All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. To be clear, this critique isn’t to marginalize the hard work of GRID Alternatives — or other equity organizations working to support underserved people, such as Greenlining Institute , The Solutions Project and New Energy Nexus . Rather, it’s a reminder that systems of oppression are intertwined and that support needs to flow to those that understand the complexity of the problem.  “I think people get that there is an issue here,” Cox said. “‘Equity’ and ‘intersectionality’ are, like, the foundation buzzwords of the last four years. It’s where the big-money people are moving with their strategies. I think the next step is making sure the money gets to the right people.” Manifestation 4: Lack of representation  Organizations that design policies, programs and products usually are controlled by white people. That lack of diversity around the table leads to a lack of diversity in solutions.  The clean energy sector and companies with climate goals have tremendous power to change this.  Cox, who grew up in Oklahoma, never considered a job in clean energy. His turning point was when professional peers told him about the sector and encouraged him to get involved. That type of proactive engagement is what is needed to change the racial balance.  “The onus is on these companies to do outreach,” Cox said. “Not just in the big cities, not just at Howard and Hampton, take it to Texas Southern. Go to Dillard. Go into the deep south, go into rural areas, recruit at these community colleges. Tell people about the jobs that are available, and push people into them.” Eldridge echos this sentiment, noting that white professionals are often disconnected from the deep bench of talent in the African American community. “There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue,” Eldridge said. “It amazes me when people say they can’t find people to interview or to have these conversations with, because I see them in the room all the time.” This isn’t altruistic. It’s well documented that companies that embrace diversity perform better and have a happier workforce.  It also isn’t tokenism. Getting the people in the room that understand the black experience is key to finding the policies that untangle the systems of injustice.  “As it relates to shifting power and creating change, your voice can’t be taken seriously if you yourself don’t have an entity that represents you,” Cureton said. “That’s extremely important.” Pull Quote We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue. Topics Energy & Climate Equity & Inclusion Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How racism manifests in clean energy

How racism manifests in clean energy

June 5, 2020 by  
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How racism manifests in clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 06/05/2020 – 00:00 As our institutions strain under the uprising in cities across the country, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the depth of racism in America. I understand why these moments of police violence, the senseless destruction of black bodies caught on tape, would spark a fire that rages across this country. I also know that the tinder has been building for generations and is about so much more than this one horrific moment. Every sector plays a part. Including clean energy.  It’s no secret that there are grave inequities in clean energy. In the spirit of this moment, I turned the microscope on my own sector to ask, how does racism manifest in clean energy?  Manifestation 1: ‘I can’t breathe’ “I can’t breathe” refers to more than police violence. Black communities have been struggling to breathe for decades.  “The right to breathe isn’t just related to surviving interactions with police,” said Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives , an organization that works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities. “It pertains to surviving and being able to breathe clean air.” Dozens of studies document the racial disparity in environmental impacts, and I’ve linked to a number of those below. To name a few, consider that in America black people: Are on average exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people — regardless of income. Breathe 56 percent more pollution than they create. Are exposed to 50 percent higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Are more likely to live near highways, airports, refineries and other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The impacts are also real. African Americans have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma , and are more like to have (and die from) heart disease . It’s no coincidence that African Americans are three times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people. To make matters worse, inequities in health care result in black communities paying almost twice as much in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  In this way, the story of George Floyd is symbolic of many struggles in the black community.  We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. “A cop put his knee in the back of his neck and choked him to death, amid his cries for help. You can hear the dude calling for his mom,” said Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell , an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers. “You look at black people in America and our journey, every opportunity that we’ve had to get ahead has been choked out, fully, over time. Every bit of progress gets choked out.” But here’s the thing: Clean energy technologies exist to reverse this problem. The missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected by dirty energy.  Manifestation 2: Paying more and getting less from energy  More than any other racial group in the United States, African Americans struggle to afford baseline energy needs, a state known as energy insecurity or energy poverty. As a percentage of their income, black households pay upwards of threefold more than white households for energy. They’re also disproportionately affected by utility shut-off policies , leaving them more vulnerable to dangerously hot and cold days.  Why? It’s expensive to be poor. Many solutions that save money in the long run — electric vehicles, rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades — require upfront costs or access to capital that exclude many black communities.  Paying more and getting less means black households are often playing catchup. According to Cox, in some places African Americans pay more for energy than for rent.  “We’re not putting people in a situation where they can succeed if they’re spending that much on their energy consumption,” Cox said.  That’s especially true for a community with fewer economic opportunities.  “We have a lack of jobs, we have a lack of access, we have a lack of money in communities,” said Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator ( LACI ). “Economics are a huge part of it. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination.” Manifestation 3: Myopic clean energy equity programs  Well-meaning programs and incentives can go only so far if they fail to take a broader view of inequalities.  Take, for instance, a California program that aims to increase access to electric vehicles by providing incentives to install a charging station at your home — provided, of course, that you’re a homeowner. That does little to help African Americans who have been systematically denied homeownership through redlining and lack of access to capital.  “Inherently, that’s racist,” said Cureton, who worked with the program while at GRID Alternatives. “Programs like these aren’t targeted at black people. They’re targeted at people who always lived in California, who always had access to capital. Programs like that don’t help to alleviate the systemic racism that is not only within this country but within this industry.” Cureton says that in order for these programs to work better, it’s essential for those who work in clean energy and equity to be able to talk about the shortcomings of policies without fear of losing funding or negatively impacting the organization.  “This equity push, it looks good and it sounds good,” Cureton said. “But for people of color who are suffering right now, it doesn’t feel good. We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity.” All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. To be clear, this critique isn’t to marginalize the hard work of GRID Alternatives — or other equity organizations working to support underserved people, such as Greenlining Institute , The Solutions Project and New Energy Nexus . Rather, it’s a reminder that systems of oppression are intertwined and that support needs to flow to those that understand the complexity of the problem.  “I think people get that there is an issue here,” Cox said. “‘Equity’ and ‘intersectionality’ are, like, the foundation buzzwords of the last four years. It’s where the big-money people are moving with their strategies. I think the next step is making sure the money gets to the right people.” Manifestation 4: Lack of representation  Organizations that design policies, programs and products usually are controlled by white people. That lack of diversity around the table leads to a lack of diversity in solutions.  The clean energy sector and companies with climate goals have tremendous power to change this.  Cox, who grew up in Oklahoma, never considered a job in clean energy. His turning point was when professional peers told him about the sector and encouraged him to get involved. That type of proactive engagement is what is needed to change the racial balance.  “The onus is on these companies to do outreach,” Cox said. “Not just in the big cities, not just at Howard and Hampton, take it to Texas Southern. Go to Dillard. Go into the deep south, go into rural areas, recruit at these community colleges. Tell people about the jobs that are available, and push people into them.” Eldridge echos this sentiment, noting that white professionals are often disconnected from the deep bench of talent in the African American community. “There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue,” Eldridge said. “It amazes me when people say they can’t find people to interview or to have these conversations with, because I see them in the room all the time.” This isn’t altruistic. It’s well documented that companies that embrace diversity perform better and have a happier workforce.  It also isn’t tokenism. Getting the people in the room that understand the black experience is key to finding the policies that untangle the systems of injustice.  “As it relates to shifting power and creating change, your voice can’t be taken seriously if you yourself don’t have an entity that represents you,” Cureton said. “That’s extremely important.” Pull Quote We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue. Topics Energy & Climate Equity & Inclusion Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How racism manifests in clean energy

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession 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, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Comments Off on Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession 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, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

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