JPMorgan Chase wants to be the commercial bank for ‘green economy’ companies

April 12, 2021 by  
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JPMorgan Chase wants to be the commercial bank for ‘green economy’ companies Heather Clancy Mon, 04/12/2021 – 00:05 As the world’s largest financial institutions jockey for leadership positions in financing the transition to a clean economy, JPMorgan Chase is creating a team dedicated to building deeper relationships with companies that sell “environmentally-friendly” products and services or that focus on environmental conservation. The new Green Economy team is explicitly tasked with providing services for companies — notably private entities in need of capital — that are poised to benefit from the transition. Part of the commercial banking division, the group will include dedicated bankers led by Brian Lehman, who most recently led the JPMorgan Chase diversified financials team. Their mission is to work with JPMorgan Chase’s existing commercial relationship specialists to accelerate the flow of capital available to organizations that can play a role in decarbonizing other companies and industries. That includes both existing clients, as well as new ones that could benefit from focused new financial innovations. “We have the ability to support businesses at virtually every phase of their life cycle — from raising capital in a Series A all the way to crossing the chasm [to become publicly traded] … There are so many companies that are in need of that value proposition,” Lehman said. The group initially will be focused on four sectors:  Renewable energy, ranging from equipment providers, including microgrid technology specialists, to production and distribution organizations  Efficiency solutions, including manufacturing hardware and software related to the distribution of power and natural resources Agriculture and food technology, such as systems for increasing farm productivity Sustainable finance firms that can themselves provide capital or project finance The latter area might include, for example, carbon credit exchanges and marketplaces. Lehman said these sectors were picked because of their outsized potential to decrease the carbon footprint of the global economy, pointing to estimated emissions reductions related to transitioning to clean energy and to industrial production. “The entire system needs to change, and dramatically, in order for us to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” he said. The creation of the Green Economy team came one day after the publication of JPMorgan Chase’s annual letter to shareholders, penned by the company’s chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon. In his comments , Dimon notes: There’s huge opportunity in sustainable and low-carbon technologies and businesses. While many of these technologies and companies are mature, many more are just getting started and more will need to be created in the coming decades. In addition, all companies will need capital and advice to help them innovate, evolve and become more efficient while staying competitive in a changing world. Of course, JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only big U.S. bank reorganizing its commercial client resources around the opportunity in sustainable finance and the transition to a low-carbon economy. According to several recent news reports , Citigroup is realigning its investment banking resources to help corporate customers — particularly those in chemicals and energy — navigate the transition. It created a sustainability and corporate transitions group a year ago at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest U.S. investment banks — Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — have adopted net-zero financing pledges, both for their own operations and their investment portfolios. While those commitments are a great first step, the reaction among environmental and some investor activist groups has been mixed, with some critics pointing to the lack of specifics surrounding those declarations as well as the ongoing role that these financial institutions play in financing projects linked to the degradation of natural resources or deforestation. Topics Finance & Investing Banking Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Katherine Welles Close Authorship

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JPMorgan Chase wants to be the commercial bank for ‘green economy’ companies

Climate accountability reaches the CFO suite

April 8, 2021 by  
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Climate accountability reaches the CFO suite Emily Chasan Thu, 04/08/2021 – 02:00 Reprinted from GreenFin Weekly, a free weekly newsletter. Subscribe here . It started with intangibles. I spent about a decade of my life writing about corporate accounting before I began focusing on sustainability and sustainable finance. In between all the conversations on accounting for stock options and leases, one megatrend in corporate accounting beat them all: the rise of intangible assets. In the 1970s, when the U.S. accounting rule-making body, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, was formed, tangible assets such as cash, buildings and inventory made up 83 percent of corporate balance sheets in the S&P 500. Just 17 percent of the value stemmed from intangible assets, such as patents, trademarks, brands, software and customer lists. Somewhat rapidly, everything switched . By 1995, almost 70 percent of corporate assets were considered intangibles. In 2020, fully 90 percent of the value of S&P 500 companies stemmed from intangibles. In 2020, fully 90% of the value of S&P 500 companies stemmed from intangibles. That’s the megatrend underpinning the rise of ESG, and the one that has brought it to the forefront for chief financial officers. Corporate reputation is a bigger asset than a plant or a headquarters and a company today means something totally different than it meant 50 years ago. The task of a company in the 1970s was to manage its plants, labor and equipment to get shareholder returns, but today companies get much more value from managing their reputation, brands and data. Those intangibles are much more sensitive to environmental and social risks, which makes ESG issues that much more important for both companies and shareholders. And the choices companies make about what they disclose, invest in and finance have a bigger impact on the future direction of the world. That’s increasingly brought CFOs and the sustainability goals together. And in just the past few years, it’s been elevated to something companies are financially accountable for. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation this year said they want to start seeing better disclosure from companies on climate change. Importantly, the SEC’s enforcement unit’s new climate and ESG task force likely will add more clarity to corporate climate and ESG disclosures. On S&P 500 earnings calls in the fourth quarter, 28 companies discussed climate change and energy policy, outpacing the 19 that mentioned COVID-19 policy, according to Factset . At the same time, the financial markets are creatively building sustainability incentives into loans, debt and financial instruments at an unprecedented rate — an effort to reduce the intangible risks lurking on their own balance sheets. Just the beginning Before the recent rise of sustainability-linked loans, precious few mechanisms in the market could truly hold companies accountable for reaching their sustainability goals. A shareholder proposal, even if it gets approved, often led to reports on how companies were performing — but not necessarily to better performance. The market for these loans, which specifically tie funding to achieving sustainability or environmental goals, is likely to grow twentyfold this year, representing up to $150 billion in financing, JPMorgan said . A better rate on corporate debt when interest rates already are low is a modest incentive, but banks are betting these loans will lead to better ESG performance because missing out on a better deal for your cost of capital can be pretty frustrating for CFOs. I plan to unpack this growing market in my plenary conversation next week at GreenFin 21 , with Enel CFO Alberto De Paoli, AB InBev CFO Fernando Tennenbaum and Pimco CIO Scott Mather. The two corporates have issued billions of dollars of debt with sustainability-linked guarantees and requirements in the past few years, and inquiring minds want to know how much of an impact these loans are having on corporate finance. For CFOs, the multibillion-dollar shift to sustainable debt is really just the beginning. “As custodians of over $14 trillion a year in corporate investment, CFOS are a driving force for achievement of the SDGs,” said Marie Morice, head of sustainable finance at the United Nations Global Compact. “It is increasingly crucial for CFOs to help their companies shape credible, SDG-aligned corporate sustainability strategies.” The corporate spending pool is actually enough to make a dent in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Still, three out of four CEOs and CFOs say their company is underprepared for climate change . And to be honest, there are so many unknowns in climate change that it’s hard to think of many companies that truly would make it through a prepared checklist today: (?) Scenario plans (?) Independent energy supply (?) Negative emissions (?) Supply-chain contingencies (?) Critical business locations protected from flood, heat, fire, storms In a world that is rapidly shifting, when corporate value is more ephemeral than ever before, it’s definitely worth trying. Pull Quote In 2020, fully 90% of the value of S&P 500 companies stemmed from intangibles. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin 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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Climate accountability reaches the CFO suite

Neurological disorder leaves bears in California vulnerable

April 7, 2021 by  
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The  California Department of Fish and Wildlife  (CDFW) is concerned over increasing incidences of bears with rare neurological disorders showing up in residential areas. This follows an incident where a small black bear showed up at a utility building site last month in Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. The young bear was far too small, covered in ticks and looked weak; it did not exhibit normal bear behaviors, instead taking food and pets from humans. The incident in Pollock Pines was not the first of its kind. In the past 12 months, there have been similar encounters, with three other bears showing signs of neurological abnormalities. The bear found in Pollock Pines was diagnosed and euthanized. Related: While humans are away, Yosemite bears come out to play “Any time a wild animal comes into our care, the best-possible outcome is a release back to the wild,” Munk said. “That’s just not possible for these neurologically impaired bears. The second-best outcome would be a long, healthy life at a reputable zoo or wildlife sanctuary, but any inflammation of the brain is going to be significant for the individual bear and may have long-term consequences.” Diagnoses of the affected bears has revealed that they suffer from a condition known as encephalitis. This condition refers to the inflammation of the brain tissue, usually caused by viral or bacterial infection . Scientists have already discovered five novel viruses that could be related to the encephalitis. However, Munk said that the team has not found the exact cause of the condition in the affected bears. “At this point, we don’t know what causes the encephalitis so we don’t know what, if any, health risks these bears might pose to other animals,” Munk noted. Unfortunately, diagnosed bears that have already undergone treatment are not showing signs of recovery. Munk said that even if the animals are sent to animal sanctuaries, they will become a big burden to the facilities. “The few bears like this we have placed do not seem to fully recover, some requiring significant medical management for the life of the bear, which is a huge burden for these facilities that often operate on tight budgets,” Munk said. + California Department of Fish and Wildlife Images via Kirsten Macintyre and Shelly Blair

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Neurological disorder leaves bears in California vulnerable

Studio Gang transforms coal plant into LEED Silver-targeted student union

April 7, 2021 by  
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Riverfront revitalization and sustainable adaptive reuse combine at the Beloit College Powerhouse, a  Studio Gang -designed student union focused on recreation and wellness. Completed last year, the award-winning Powerhouse project included a complete overhaul of the Blackhawk Generating Station — a collection of historic buildings constructed in the early 20th century along the Rock River — as well as the addition of a new field house. The design pays homage to the architectural heritage of the original structures while introducing modern amenities and energy-efficient technologies, including a radiant panel and slab system that harnesses energy from the Rock River.  Located next to Beloit College’s campus near the city’s downtown area, the 120,000-square-foot Powerhouse houses a fitness center and recreational gym, an eight-lane competition swimming pool, an indoor turf field house and a suspended three-lane, 175-meter running track that loops through all parts of the building and takes in different landscape views. The  student union  also includes a coffee shop, student lounges, club rooms, a conference center, a 164-seat auditorium and a variety of spaces for conversation, collaboration and study. A new pedestrian bridge and publicly accessible elevator connect the hilltop college campus with the Powerhouse and the adjacent riverside paths and parks.  To meet  LEED Silver  standards, the architects installed high-performance insulation into the historic portions of the building and added a radiant panel and slab system that draws energy from river water to power Powerhouse’s heating and cooling. An energy-efficient outdoor-air system ensures the highest air quality and comfort indoors. The new field house is wrapped in a polycarbonate facade that lets diffused light in while providing advanced thermal insulation.  Related: University of Toronto Scarborough learning hub to welcome nature indoors “The design retains architectural features and industrial equipment from the original structures while incorporating new  sustainable  practices and lively gathering spaces that encourage students to mix with each other and the larger Beloit community,” said the architects.  + Studio Gang Images © Tom Harris

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Freedom Cove: an off-grid floating homestead at one with nature

January 5, 2021 by  
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Off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia, floats a forested, eco-fairyland of greenhouses, ramps, towers and small buildings, most of them painted fuchsia and teal. It’s the innovative and whimsical off-grid project of two artists, Catherine King and Wayne Adams. King and Adams began constructing Freedom Cove in 1992. They did most of the work themselves, building four greenhouses, an art gallery, dance floor (adorned with an enormous painted lotus flower) and lighthouse, all on 12 connecting platforms. At different times in Freedom Cove’s evolution, they’ve harnessed solar power with photovoltaic panels or used a generator. Water comes from rain and a nearby waterfall. Related: Christophe Caranchini proposes resilient floating houses for Kiribati King is a dancer, painter, wood carver and writer; Adams is a sculptor who carves wood and fossilized ivory and mammoth tusks. They support themselves by selling their artwork and greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables . Fishing also provides much of their diet. This paradise off Vancouver Island may look idyllic to people fantasizing about off-grid living. But Freedom Cove took a huge amount of imagination and experience to build, and it requires a lot of work to keep running. Especially when you think about raising two children here, which King and Adams did. You have to be tough and self-sufficient to live where the nearest town is 45 minutes by boat. Fortunately, they installed internet on Freedom Cove, so King was able to take time away from her vegetables, artistry and myriad other tasks necessary to run a floating homestead to answer a few questions in an interview with Inhabitat. Inhabitat: Okay, basic physics question — how does it float? King:  Our system floats on armored. That is, covered with PVC plastic blocks. That is what makes everything float. Inhabitat: What are your favorite things about living at Freedom Cove? King:  Living in Freedom Cove is special as I am in nature . There is nature all around me. There is peace, quiet. I get to live my life according to the rhythms of nature. I am inspired by nature to be creative. This keeps me whole and healthy mentally, emotionally and spiritually. These are my favorite reasons for loving life here. We have learned to do things by figuring them out ourselves by living off-grid. We have been allowed to think for ourselves about everything. We have been given the opportunity to really be in touch with our inner selves … really live life from this place, create our outer life from our true authentic inner natures. Inhabitat: How do you interact with people on the mainland? King:  We are people people and interact with everyone well. People have come to visit us from all over the planet and we enjoy all those interactions. We have internet since 2013 and that has added to our communication with family and friends. Prior to that, I wrote letters to everyone. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little about how you developed relationships with your animal neighbors? What have you learned from them? King:  We have a good relationship with all the animals around us. The bears walk all around us on low tide, and we have never had an issue with them as we don’t leave anything out that would smell and attract them over to us. Otters, mink, martins, seals go about their lives around us and we enjoy their presence … the otters and seals have even stuck their heads up in our plexiglass square in the floor we have in our living room while they are chasing fish. The fish see us as a protective floating island they can hide under and reproduce under. The water birds swim all around us, and the crows, gulls and buffleheads come to our back window for bread. They enjoy us being here as much as we enjoy them. We enhance nature by our presence. It is a symbiotic relationship. Inhabitat: Tell us about the Freedom Cove Tofino boat tour. King:  While COVID-19 is happening, tours are shut down. Hopefully the spring will open things up again. Browning Passage (250-726-8605), Tofino Water Taxi (250-725-8844) and our son Shane Adams (email us to reach him, freedomcove4@gmail.com) will all bring people out to us. The tour of our place is given by us and is an hour. We ask $10 per person for a donation. We are open for tours (outside of COVID-19) from June to October, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shane asks $150 return trip for the half hour each way boat ride for one person and $25 more for two people and 50 more for three people. People should phone the other companies listed for their costs. They can take more than three people. Inhabitat: Do you rent out space so visitors can spend the night at Freedom Cove? King:  We do not rent space for accommodations. + Freedom Cove Photography by Aaron Mason

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Freedom Cove: an off-grid floating homestead at one with nature

London tree rental service solves a Christmas quandary

December 9, 2020 by  
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People who like to decorate their houses for Christmas often face a tree dilemma: should they buy an artificial, plastic tree or a real, dead one? Now, a new U.K. business saves Londoners from that choice. London Christmas Tree Rental delivers a real, pot-grown tree, lets customers enjoy it for a few weeks, then picks it up in January and takes it back to a farm, where the tree can continue to grow. The tree rental service has enjoyed a roaring success this year. By the first week of December, it was sold out of all four tree sizes, from the three-footer to the six-footer. Related: Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment It’s a lucrative side business for owners Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns, who co-founded the company in 2018. “It all started when walking the streets of London in January and weaving between the Christmas tree graveyards that Jonathan decided enough was enough,” the company’s website reads. “With 7 million trees going into landfill each year for the sake of 3 weeks of pleasure there must be a better way to do Christmas trees.” Rental prices range from about 40 to 70 British pounds, or about $53 to $93 in U.S. dollars. Add in 10 pounds (about $13) each way for delivery and pickup, plus a 30 pound (about $40) deposit, and the rental tree can cost more than many cut or artificial trees. Still, it is a more sustainable option, plus trees that are well-cared for will result in a deposit refund. Customers also have the option for free tree pick-up and drop-off. Tree rental lets consumers feel good about the sustainability of their choices. While artificial trees may be reused for many years, they have a significant environmental cost. “In the U.S., around 10 million artificial trees are purchased each season,” according to the Nature Conservancy. “Nearly 90 percent of them are shipped across the world from China, resulting in an increase of carbon emissions and resources. And because of the material they are made of, most artificial trees are not recyclable and end up in local landfills .” Real, cut trees are a better environmental choice, as only a fraction of the trees grown at tree farms are cut down each year. Growing real trees doesn’t involve the the intense carbon emissions necessary for producing their faux brethren. But psychologically, many people balk at ending the life of a beautiful tree just so it can stand in a living room for a few weeks. It seems like selfish, flagrant domination over nature. And millions of these trees go to landfill after they spend less than a month adorning living rooms. London Christmas Tree Rental urges customers to name their trees, so that these plants feel more like family. If a customer grows attached to their tree, they can arrange to have the same one again next year — up to a point. At seven feet, the trees are transferred from their pots to retire in a forest . + London Christmas Tree Rental Via Upworthy Image via David Boozer

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Can big data, AI and chemical footprinting help the renewable energy sector avoid a toxic waste legacy?

December 1, 2020 by  
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Can big data, AI and chemical footprinting help the renewable energy sector avoid a toxic waste legacy? Krishna Rajan Tue, 12/01/2020 – 01:00 The launch of the digital economy has brought with it an expansion of disruptive technologies such as predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics that are readily being used to transform the marketplace. But can we also use these breakthrough technologies to accelerate the development of safer, more sustainable materials for the renewable energy sector?  Starting with one of the fastest-growing clean energy sectors, solar technology, this is the fundamental question that a unique collaboratory is asking itself. Three years ago, the Department of Materials Design and Innovation at the University at Buffalo, Clean Production Action (CPA) and Niagara Share created the Collaboratory for a Regenerative Economy (CoRE). CoRE recognizes the critical societal importance of scaling clean energy technologies such as solar to address the climate crisis. But to do this sustainably, we need to collectively scale solutions to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and scarce, unrecyclable materials that impede circular economies.  Issues such as toxicity and environmental impact are often an afterthought in the design phase, which is predominantly focused on improving the technical functions and efficiencies of materials. With more than 78 million tons of contaminated waste related to solar panels expected to hit landfills by 2050, this trend needs to be reversed. To improve the life-cycle footprint of solar panels, big data tools can help manufacturers embed human health and environmental criteria into the front end of the design phase of materials and products. We need to collectively scale solutions to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and scarce, unrecyclable materials that impede circular economies. In a recently released report, “Elements of Change: Moving forward together towards a cleaner safer future,” CoRE outlines strategies for renewable energy companies to: Reduce chemical footprints of products, supply chains and manufacturing; Apply machine learning to design techniques for lead-free panels; and  Use big data tools to rapidly characterize chemicals and identify safer solvents. Safely meet demand for renewable energy technologies Solar energy, along with other clean energy technologies, depends on hazardous chemicals and novel materials to reduce costs and optimize efficiencies. Some of these chemistries are unsafe for the environment and human health. For example, solar energy technologies rely on toxic materials such as lead in solar cells and hydrofluoric acid used in manufacturing processes. This is especially harmful for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals throughout the life cycle of renewable energy technologies from production to disposal. The solar energy sector is not alone with this major challenge. More than 2,780,000 workers die globally annually from unsafe and unhealthy work conditions, according to the International Labor Organization. The United Nations Human Rights Commission estimated that a worker dies at least every 30 seconds from exposure to toxic industrial chemicals, pesticides, dust, radiation and other hazardous substances.  CPA’s work with the electronics sector to driver safer chemical is applicable to the solar sector and all clean energy technologies. For example, HP, Inc is a leader in its work to reduce its chemical footprint, documented by its participation in the annual Chemical Footprint Survey. This survey measures a company’s chemical footprint against best practices. It is modeled on the Carbon Disclosure Project, and is open and transparent, providing solar companies with a roadmap to safer chemical use. Apple uses CPA’s GreenScreen to provide guidance to its suppliers on safer substitution of hazardous chemicals used as cleaners and degreasers in its supply chain. GreenScreen is a leading hazard assessment tool that benchmarks chemicals based on performance across 18 human health and environmental end points. Solar companies can use this tool to identify safer solutions to problematic materials such as hydrofluoric acid.  These leading electronic companies even have teamed up with nonprofits such as CPA and academics to form the Clean Electronic Production Network (CEPN), which aims to eliminate exposure to toxic substances in the workplace. This is a massive undertaking related to the manufacturing of computers, electronics and other information technologies. Solar manufacturers work off a similar manufacturing platform that stands to benefit from the tools and resources that CEPN is creating to do full chemical inventories and safer substitution with suppliers. Solar companies today can adapt CEPN tools and strategies, proven effective by electronic companies, and make meaningful progress towards safer chemical use. But there remains a major challenge for all these companies, notably solar — the time it takes to discover new materials relative to their growth projections. This is where CoRE believes AI, machine learning and predictive analytics can play a role in accelerating the process of material discovery to the benefit of human health and the environment as well as optimized technical performance.  Using big data and AI to accelerate material discovery  The development of high-performance materials typically takes decades, sometimes up to 30 years to commercialize a new material. Big data tools can organize the large volumes of disaggregated information companies need to improve the technical, environmental and social performance of materials. Solar companies that participate annually in the CPA Chemical Footprint Survey to measure their chemical footprint and track their performance against best practices, can leverage these tools to map patterns and impacts necessary for decisionmaking and prioritization. For example, the use of lead in solar panels is problematic in the production and disposal of these products. Electronics companies have shown it is possible to design lead-free electronic products, but solar companies are still very dependent on lead-based technologies. This is true even with the next generation of solar panels — for example, perovskite-based solar panels show the potential to increase the efficiency of panels, but their chemistry is dependent on lead. Rational design is a process that bypasses trial-and-error approaches and creates new materials based on a predictive understanding of the fundamental science governing materials performance. CoRE has demonstrated that “data fingerprints” can provide a powerful representation of the characteristics of perovskite crystal chemistry. This is key to overcoming the barriers to safer substitution for toxic elements such as lead.  Data-driven screening tools and machine learning methods can help navigate the complexity of information associated with new and emerging chemicals used in the manufacture of solar devices. This includes harnessing advanced materials modeling and informatics techniques to identify pathways for the rational design of new materials chemistries for renewable technologies (solar energy) that minimize adverse environmental and human health impacts without compromising functionality. Rational design is a process that bypasses trial-and-error approaches and creates new materials based on a predictive understanding of the fundamental science governing materials performance. Searching for the proper chemistry of materials that meet multiple functionality metrics of minimal hazard and enhanced engineering performance requires us to explore a chemical search space that is prohibitively too large to explore and make critical discoveries within a reasonable time frame using traditional methods. CoRE seeks to address this challenge by applying materials informatics and physics-based modeling to fill the gaps in scientific knowledge, which then guides accelerated materials discovery and design for solar technologies. At CoRE, our goal is to gain a greater understanding of how atomic-scale changes in chemistry have a multiscale influence on materials manufacturing, performance and sustainability of solar cells.  The European Commission recently announced a new chemical strategy for its Green New Deal that promises a non-toxic future for its citizens and a plan for zero pollution. The plan includes new investments for green and safer material innovation. This policy will stimulate demand for greener, safer products; putting pressure on renewable energy companies to think more holistically about their lifecycle impacts. By building on best practices established widely in the electronics sector and leveraging the untapped benefits of AI and big data, solar companies can lead the way for the renewable energy sector in transforming their chemical footprints and accelerating the adoption of safer materials.   Pull Quote We need to collectively scale solutions to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and scarce, unrecyclable materials that impede circular economies. Rational design is a process that bypasses trial-and-error approaches and creates new materials based on a predictive understanding of the fundamental science governing materials performance. Contributors Mark Rossi Chitra Rajan Alexandra McPherson Topics Chemicals & Toxics Energy & Climate Solar Consumer Electronics Technology Collective Insight The Right Chemistry Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Sondem Close Authorship

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The best eco-friendly gifts for your grandparents

November 30, 2020 by  
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There’s no denying the holiday season is upon us. Whether that makes you ripple with excitement or reluctance, we have help for at least one of your holiday woes — what to buy the grandparents. Grandparents are notoriously difficult to buy for, but keep in mind that many of our loved ones enjoy useful household goods and homemade goodies. As a bonus, these ideas are even good for the Earth! Homemade bread There are endless variations of homemade bread, from cinnamon rolls to a pumpkin loaf. Make it with wheat flour or cater to gluten-free needs. Add seeds or nuts. Mix in some flax, chia or hemp — and don’t forget to add love! Make your homemade gift pretty with a beeswax or cloth food wrap, either of which can be reused again and again. Alternately, place it into a reusable produce bag that they can take to the grocery store later. Related: 9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents Aprons At the grill or over the stove, aprons take a beating. Supply grandma or grandpa with a new linen apron from Son de Flor . Linen is made from flax, a plant that is gentle to the environment. In addition to enriching the soil , flax requires less energy and water to manufacture into material than cotton. Even better, linen is completely biodegradable. Earth Polo For a classic polo that honors the planet, lean into the Ralph Lauren Earth Polo . Give grandpa one of 13 color options, all manufactured using an innovative fabric made entirely from plastic bottles. In addition, the rich colors are achieved using a waterless process . Organic handmade pasta Even if you haven’t mastered the art of making handmade pasta yourself, you can give the gift of organic food. Semolina Pasta uses semolina milled from organic durum wheat and makes its pastas in Los Angeles. Organic semolina is non-GMO and is grown sans pesticides or fertilizers. The mill sells by-products to the dairy industry, and there is nearly zero waste in the Semolina Pasta kitchen. For $25, you can put together a gift box filled with three pasta shapes of your choosing. Upcycled cribbage board For the grandparent who enjoys classic game time, give the gift of cribbage with the added benefit of reusing materials off the street. The Upcycled Cribbage Board from Art of Play is made from maple and other hardwoods. The unique inlay in the top is created using upcycled skateboards . Eliminating plastic in the design, the pegs are made of metal and can be neatly stored in a compartment on the bottom of the game board. Eco-friendly cookbooks Chelsea Green publishing not only provides a variety of unique cookbooks, but it is a leading publisher of books on all topics related to sustainable living. All books and catalogs are printed on chlorine-free recycled paper , using soy-based inks whenever possible. They are also printed in partnership with North American printing shops. Plus, Chelsea Green is 100% employee-owned. Here are a few of the popular book options that the grandparents in your life might appreciate. The Fruit Forager’s Companion provides insight for making use of fruit often left hanging on the branch. The art of fermentation has perhaps never been more in the spotlight, for the simple fact that fermented foods are good for your gut. Check out Koji Alchemy for recipes and processes related to koji. Also take a look at Wildcrafted Fermentation , a guide to lacto-fermentation using wild edibles. For grandparents committed to a restrictive diet for health or other reasons, consider The Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free Family Cookbook , which is loaded with recipes that might even get the grandkids excited to roll up their sleeves and start cooking. Buckwheat pillow If your grandparents have the common issue of neck pain and trouble sleeping, a buckwheat pillow may be the solution. The heavy, firm Slumbr Ara Buckwheat Pillow offers personalized support with a design that is shaped by pushing around the buckwheat hulls. Once situated, the pillow retains its shape for consistent support through the night. Laundry kit Laundry is a fact of life, so a gift that makes the process more efficient is thoughtful for your recipient and the planet. LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls Gift Set includes three all-natural dryer balls that help dry clothes faster, and more economically, by saving energy. Wool is locally sourced near the business location in Maine. The gift set also includes a package of SoulShine Soap Company’s all-natural laundry soap, which comes without any wasteful plastic jugs. In addition, there is an equally Earth-friendly stain stick. The entire bundle comes in a box made from recycled cardboard and is plastic-free. Mason Bee Barrel Animal and nature enthusiasts will love this adorable Mason bee barrel via The Grommet . Not only is it visually appealing, but it provides a home for mason bees, which are crucial to planetary health. In return for a safe home, the bees will pollinate nearby flowers and gardens. Frog/toad house for garden If your grandparents enjoy their pond, this Ceramic Frog & Toad House is the perfect complementary item. The ceramic is made from natural materials and is 100% recyclable, giving a home to frogs and toads without damaging the ecosystem in which they thrive. Knitting needle system Keep those hand-knitted sweaters coming with this Adjustable Straight Knitting Needle System . The repetitive action of knitting can be hard on hands, especially when the yarn continuously slips down the needle. This rosewood knitting needle system uses a stopper and spring-loaded slider to keep the stitches at the top of the needle for easier, more enjoyable knitting. Images via Pixabay, Unsplash, Son de Flor, Ralph Lauren, Semolina Pasta, Art of Play, Slumbr, LooHoo and The Grommet

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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy

November 16, 2020 by  
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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy Christine Rile… Mon, 11/16/2020 – 01:00 In March, Samsonite announced “Our Responsible Journey,” a new global sustainability strategy that outlines its commitments across four priority areas: Product Innovation; Carbon Action; Thriving Supply Chain; and Our People, including engagement, development, diversity and inclusion. Samsonite is proud of its 110-year history of industry leadership in the innovation, quality and durability of its products. With Our Responsible Journey, Samsonite strives to lead the lifestyle bag and travel luggage industry across key sustainability indicators, including the use of recycled materials in its products and packaging and achieving carbon neutrality across its owned and operated facilities. With strong support from the entire senior management team and especially from Samsonite CEO Kyle Gendreau, the company has embarked on this journey to make sustainability a key tenet of its brand promise. The goal is to keep the world traveling while staying true to Samsonite’s long-standing ethos, the “Golden Rule,” which guides how we treat each other and care for the world we live in. Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. Samsonite first disclosed the state of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) journey with the publication of its first ESG report in 2016, a requirement for the company’s listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. When I joined as the company’s first global director of sustainability in December 2017, I was tasked with developing a global ESG strategy that would include attainable goals and the action plans that would enable the company to demonstrate continuous improvement and progress toward achieving those goals. We report our progress annually in Samsonite’s ESG report. From the very beginning, the Samsonite executive team empowered me to take the lead on developing an industry-leading approach. The team was directly involved in every phase of the project, including providing feedback, participating in interviews and dedicating resources from their respective regions and functional areas. With executive support, I engaged with Brodie, a London-based consulting firm, to co-lead our materiality assessment. Materiality assessments matter I am a firm believer in the value of materiality assessments, especially when a company is first developing a sustainability strategy. It enables you to identify and validate your issues objectively; educate your company and colleagues about your ESG efforts; effectively allocate resources for your ESG strategy and strengthen credibility with external stakeholders. As we progressed through the internal interview process, I was continually impressed by the number of initiatives already underway to increase the use of sustainable materials in our products and to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, Samsonite North America launched its first product made with post-consumer recycled PET fabric, in January 2018, one month after I started. And by the end of my first year, we already had diverted nearly 30 million PET bottles from landfills through our global use of post-consumer recycled PET fabric in our products. In addition, the company already had installed solar panels on its manufacturing facilities in Hungary and Belgium and had plans to install them on its manufacturing facility in India. It became clear that one of my primary responsibilities would be to identify and organize all of these existing efforts under a comprehensive, focused strategy. Based on the outcomes of the materiality assessment, we identified four key pillars focused on Samsonite’s products, carbon footprint, supply chain and people. One key learning ;from the materiality assessment was that when people thought about sustainability, they often defined it in the context of the environment. As a result, we realized we had to include a brief overview of the issues that fall under the umbrella of ESG so people would evaluate the business across a broader range of initiatives. We further identified two action platforms within each pillar that would allow the company to set goals and to communicate our progress. For example, one pillar focuses on product innovation because Samsonite’s ambition is to lighten the journey of its customers by creating the best products using the most sustainable and innovative materials, methods and models. Within that pillar, we have an action platform that focuses specifically on materials innovation to drive continuous improvement toward developing new, more sustainable materials and increasing the use of more sustainable materials in Samsonite products and packaging. The other action platform targets the product lifecycle and underscores the company’s efforts to continue to make products that are built to last, repairable and, eventually, recyclable. Goals that are specific, yet ambitious The next step was to articulate specific goals and, ultimately, we identified nine global goals with targets set for 2025 and 2030. One of Samsonite’s goals is to achieve carbon neutrality across its owned and operated facilities by 2030. Recognizing that the company’s impact extends beyond its own facilities, we also set a goal to estimate, track and support actions to reduce Scope 3 emissions — those emissions tied to Samonite’s business but outside our control. Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. One of our original goals focused on developing a recyclable suitcase. The feedback was that this was too narrow in its scope. The final goal is more aspirational and states that the company will continue to develop innovative solutions to ensure the durability of its products, extend the life of products and develop viable end-of-life solutions to divert as many of its products from the landfill for as long as possible. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. Complementing this effort, we needed to establish a global carbon footprint across 1,500 retail, office, manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide. Partnering with Industrial Economics (IEc), an environmental consulting firm, we collaborated with cross-functional leads worldwide. Specifically, we worked with individuals responsible for the equipment and operations at our owned and operated manufacturing and distribution centers; representatives from our IT and HR departments who source office equipment and train employees on energy-efficient behaviors; and employees from our retail and development teams who make decisions about lighting and real estate. We also worked with global finance teams to collect hundreds of utility bills to ensure an accurate and representative sample size. From all this data, we established a baseline using 2017 data. An extended dialogue While the process is relatively straightforward, Brodie, IEc and I did not do it in a vacuum. Critical to our success was engaging a wide-ranging group of internal stakeholders and subject matter experts. Samsonite operates using a primarily decentralized management structure across its four key regions: North America; Asia; Europe; and Latin America. With the strong support of our regional presidents, we formed a global sustainability committee and a global carbon reduction committee. Membership is varied across functional areas and included human resources, marketing, sourcing, facilities, retail, finance and product development. Participants are nominated by their regional president based on their contribution to the company’s sustainability efforts and/or their interest in the topic. Another way we engaged internal stakeholders was by holding extensive feedback sessions with representatives from different functional areas about the respective goals to ensure that they would be able to successfully implement initiatives and provide data that would be useful and practical when demonstrating progress. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. For example, when we first set a product-related goal, we recommended establishing a target percentage of sustainable materials across our product lines. As we engaged the design and sourcing teams, it became clear that the target percentage was distracting us from the intent of the goal to increase our use of sustainable materials. There were endless ways to define that number, and we would need to spend significant time determining how to measure it. Rather than significantly delaying the goal-setting process, we decided to develop the quantitative target as part of measurement process. Now that the goals have been announced, we are actively working with marketing, design and sourcing to clearly define how we will demonstrate progress against our goal to increase the use of materials with sustainable credentials in all our products and packaging to lessen our impact on the environment. The global carbon reduction committee was involved in the process of choosing the environmental consulting firm, reviewing proposals, meeting with the candidates and making a final recommendation to work with IEc. The individual committee members, along with others, also provided feedback on the data-collection process. We shared both the results and the credit with everyone who was part of the process. This extensive stakeholder engagement meant that the process took two years from launching the materiality assessment to announcing the strategy. I am proud Samsonite has a sustainability approach that everyone can feel ownership of, and ultimately all of us are invested in its successful implementation. The world has changed a lot over the past two years, and especially during the past six months. Sustainability is increasingly important to consumers as more and more, we recognize the impact of our behaviors and consumption habits on the environment. I am proud that Samsonite has developed an ESG strategy that aligns with my personal and professional commitments and with Samsonite’s ethos, the “Golden Rule,” which guides how we treat each other and care for the world we live in. Pull Quote Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The interior of a Samsonite facility. Courtesy of Samsonite Close Authorship

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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy

Decoding the Disinformation Machine

October 21, 2020 by  
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Decoding the Disinformation Machine Suzanne Shelton Wed, 10/21/2020 – 01:30 The Saturday before President Donald Trump got COVID-19, I bought a desk at one of those warehouse furniture stores — one of the ones with the annoying jingle that gets stuck in your head despite your best efforts to the contrary. Buying the desk was my last bit of acceptance that working from home was officially a long-haul thing and the old farm table I’d been using wasn’t really ergonomically designed for working on a laptop all day long. While the sales guy was writing up my ticket he complained about his mask, which was actually around his neck, and said, “Thankfully, this will all be over in November.” As someone who spends the bulk of her time trying to understand what’s going on in people’s heads in order to best craft sustainability stories that they’ll be open to hearing, I took the bait. “What’s magical about November?” I said. “The election,” he replied. So I said, “You think a U.S. election is going to change a global pandemic?” With absolute confidence, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yep.” Now, let’s put judgment aside, and let’s also put aside musings around how his view might have changed once he heard Trump had COVID. What I’m interested in is that a person of seemingly reasonable intelligence totally bought the idea that the pandemic was some kind of political play — a ploy by the Democrats to get Trump out of office, perhaps. How were the messages and stories constructed and served up to him that caused him to believe that? And what can we in the sustainability realm learn from that? How can we decode that approach so we can take a similar angle in convincing people to take action on climate change and plastic waste? I posed these questions to my firm’s leadership team, and I think they were concerned I’d gone to the dark side. Their POV was that the messages that guy received were all lies and conspiracy theories and we can’t adopt anything from that for sustainability communications. I wholeheartedly agree — I am not looking for how we can lie our way into getting people to take action on solving our massive environmental and social challenges. But what’s happening in the Disinformation Machine is clearly effective, and I wonder what we can learn from it that we can use. I’m putting this out there because I’m genuinely interested in thoughts on this one. Here are the two I have thus far: Ultimately, we all need to remember that ‘saving the planet’ isn’t about saving the planet. It’s about saving people. 1. We need to make our messaging personal. To me, one thing the Disinformation Machine does so well is to couch stories/theories in very personal terms, making whatever the thing is — the left, the right, the pandemic, health care, climate legislation — a personal affront that must be dealt with. In the sustainability arena we need to do a better job of personalizing the impacts of climate change and plastic waste — what does it mean to you and your family? How will climate change, deforestation and plastics in the ocean hurt your family, and how will the solutions benefit your family? For corporate storytelling, we also should personalize it — how will a company’s specific actions on climate make your life infinitely better? Ultimately, we all need to remember that “saving the planet” isn’t about saving the planet. It’s about saving people. The more we connect our messaging to what’s in it for people, the more effective we’ll be. 2. We need to stop weaponizing the word “science.” For years, environmentalists have pointed to “the science” to make their point about the existence and perils of climate change. Indeed, the science is clear. But I’m afraid that line of messaging has come off as “We are smart enough to understand the science and you disbelievers are not.” That, of course, puts people on opposite sides and draws an even bigger chasm to cross in getting everybody working together to solve the problem. (It’s potentially also very threatening and insulting to people of deep religious faith, evoking old arguments of evolution vs. creation.) Trump turned the weaponizing of the word up a notch when pressed by California legislators about the role of climate change in exacerbating wildfires, saying, “Science doesn’t know.” In effect, he flipped the argument to say, “You science people are the dumb ones … the rest of us know what’s really going on here.” Bottom line, trying to convince people that climate change is real because science says so, even though that’s true, is not an effective messaging strategy. In our May polling, we asked, “How much trust, in general, do you have in the following,” and listed 16 information sources. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Congress was in next-to-last place, very slightly ahead of strangers. Scientists, though, were the third-most-trusted source, just behind friends and family. So, my recommendation is that you let a scientist deliver your message, but don’t use phrases like “the science says” or “we believe in science.” I get it that that’s a tall order. I get completely exasperated and gobsmacked by people who refuse to believe what science keeps telling us. I’m just here to tell you it’s not a winning messaging strategy. We can and should find other words. Those are my two initial insights into decoding the Disinformation Machine. I’d love your input. I think this could make a great “how to” guide one day if we can figure out how to apply the lessons with integrity. Pull Quote Ultimately, we all need to remember that ‘saving the planet’ isn’t about saving the planet. It’s about saving people. Topics Marketing & Communication Climate Change Public Opinion Collective Insight Speaking Sustainably 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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Decoding the Disinformation Machine

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