Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

February 22, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations Elsa Wenzel Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:30 A circular economy looks different within each industry, but its broad vision of healing the harm from the industrial economy’s extractive, polluting original sins is appealing more to a variety of businesses. A small number of influential large companies are creating internal funds to support sustainability goals specific to circular economy initiatives, such as designing out waste and recovering materials from products used internally or sold in the market. The eyes of traditional investors are widening to the landscape as well. It’s an early-stage, sometimes loosely defined space, where many solutions remain unproven, but the long-term payoffs in terms of sustainability and cost reductions could be enormous. That’s the hope of several early movers in circular economy investing, who shared their insights at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event in early February.  Nestlé and Microsoft are among the noteworthy corporations putting considerable investments behind circular programs involving products and services, in service of their sustainability targets and with an eye to spark broader change across their industries. “I would almost challenge people to not think of it as, ‘I have to set up a fund separate from,’ but it’s more of, ‘How do I set up our business to operate differently going forward?’” said Anna Marciano, head of U.S. legal sustainability at Nestlé USA. “If we’re going to make sure that we’re using more recycled content, if we’re going to ensure that we’re going to reduce carbon emissions, then we need to be tracking that. So then our procurement team needs to be monitoring that and they need to be held accountable for all of our ESG commitments.” If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. One goal of Closed Loop Partners (CLP), entering its ninth year, is to bring together institutional investors with strategic corporate investors who seek to build a circular economy for their supply chains while helping their sustainability goals. (CLP’s private-equity Closed Loop Leadership Fund , launched in 2018, counts Nestlé, Microsoft and Nuveen among its investors.) “I have heard more in the last few years, probably than ever before, companies talking about investing off their balance sheets to achieve some of these goals, which I think is new vernacular for a lot of companies,” said Bridget Croke, managing director at CLP. Nestlé’s circular recipe Also about one year ago, Nestlé launched its $2 billion sustainability fund , to support companies developing innovative packaging and recycling technologies through 2025. (The company’s first investment was in the Closed Loop Leadership Fund.) The producer of coffee, candy and cocoa also created a nearly $260 million venture fund in support of planet-friendly packaging technologies. Its broader sustainability targets include getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Nestlé’s circular plans include, by 2025, reducing virgin plastics in packaging by one-third and making all of its packaging reusable and recyclable. But goals aren’t enough without something to back them up, Marciano said. “If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories,” Marciano said. “And so it becomes really critical for this to be a mindset shift to say, yes, this is absolutely what we need to achieve.” Nestlé knew it had to invest in designing packaging for the future to meet its packaging commitments, so it established its Institute for Packaging Science in 2019 in Switzerland. One pocket-size result is new recyclable paper packaging for Smarties candies, popular in the U.K. “That’s really where the strong collaboration, the collective action of financial investments come into play,” Marciano added. ”So we’re really targeting investments to help transform the recycling infrastructure, so we could advance the circular economy at the end of the day.” Microsoft’s circular formula Similarly, as a corporate citizen, Microsoft aimed to look beyond the four walls of its own operations toward suppliers and customers, and other industries it touches, to enable circular markets to grow, said Brandon Middaugh, director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.  Like Nestlé, Microsoft also looks at translating its goals into circular economy action in terms of designing out waste, reusing and recycling materials and products, and replenishing natural resources that it uses — three pillars reflected by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The investment strategy includes identifying and prioritizing the major areas of waste that apply to Microsoft’s own supply chains and operations, including its devices, cloud infrastructure and campus operations, Middaugh said. One new initiative is to build Microsoft Circular Centers  to further the reuse of computer servers and other hardware from the company’s data centers.  “We really recognized that it was not enough to set the operational goal and to do that work internally. We needed to be partnering externally and reaching outside into the market to try to be an advance team for the innovation in the industry,” she said. Microsoft is one year into its $1 billion, four-year Climate Innovation Fund . Carbon, water, waste and ecosystems are the core focus areas for the software juggernaut, which is aiming to carbon negative by 2030, removing all the carbon it has historically emitted by 2050. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? The fund, a joint finance-sustainability initiative, is one of three balance-sheet ESG funds at Microsoft, in addition to others around affordable housing and racial equity.  Middaugh said it’s useful to have a unified playbook toward a single goal, which may lean on products, operational investments, employee engagement and even advocacy, using partnerships in civil society. For Microsoft, the main points are about being carbon negative, water positive, zero waste — and building a ” planetary computer ” that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend resource protection measures, tree by tree. Tangible examples of these include reducing electronic waste and packaging hardware without waste. “Then it’s also about giving the tools for traceability and transparency that we, our customers, need to be able to track circular economy themes,” Middaugh said. Those areas of strategic importance cascade to the investment strategy as well. How to prove circular success? For traditional investors, sustainability with a sound return on investment is key, according to David Haddad, managing director and co-head of impact investing at Nuveen , a subsidiary of TIAA. “We want there to be an economic viability, because our time horizon tends to be relatively shorter than many of these larger companies.”  And traditional institutional investors are challenged by the need to make a certain return within a relatively short time frame, maybe five or 10 years, which may not be enough for a market to mature.  Ways to reduce the risk around investments can include investing in research and innovation; proving that new business models are moving in a certain direction and integrating that into the business; and exploring longer-term contracts, according to Croke. Nestlé’s sustainability fund is already driving results, said Marciano, who is also division general counsel for Nespresso USA and International Premium Waters. “We have access to more recycled plastic already, we’re able to integrate it into our Stouffer’s business, into our Coffee mate business, into our water business,” she said. “So we see it working already. And it’s only been a few months in.” Middaugh noted that Microsoft focuses on metrics around the use of recyclable materials; landfill diversion in terms of solid waste and the construction and demolition waste at its campuses, and an overlapping focus on embodied carbon. “And in terms of how we integrate those with the rest of the decision process. It’s really around assessing the impact, assessing the risk and then looking for that impact and risk-adjusted return,” she said. For Nestlé, measuring circular economy success involves improving recycling rates beyond the company itself by spurring improvements in recycling infrastructure more broadly, encouraging consumers to recycle too. But that’s tricky. The question of measuring social impacts, not just the environmental ones most companies have prioritized, is another matter. Haddad noted that as an impact investor, there’s no cookie-cutter recipe, but Nuveen works closely with each young company to determine relevant metrics, and any failure to be able to report on those alongside financial performance will make it a no-go for funding. Croke agreed that limited tools for tracking certain metrics related to circular goals are difficult for companies or municipalities, but a bonus to working with large tech companies is being able to identify and address data gaps and useful technologies. Partnerships and collaborations are essential How does a sustainability advocate make the business case for investing toward circular, sustainable solutions? What’s the benefit of leveraging the company’s balance sheet or other capital? Early corporate movers may offer useful examples. Croke noted that some companies may find it hard to identify such investment opportunities and run up against limits to the size of deals they can take on. “And so the ability to invest through other funds helps sometimes open up opportunities to invest in things that might be too early-stage or small that need some de-risking,” Croke said. Partnerships with third-party leaders can help when trying to apply lessons to the rest of the business from initiatives around circular servers, recycling and reuse, Middaugh said. She, Marciano and Croke agreed that no organization should try to go it alone when addressing a systemic challenge as large as growing a circular economy. For example, it’s upon Nestlé to share its expertise in sustainable packaging, collaborating with other stakeholders to make sure it’s not introducing harmful materials into products. Such relationships can improve the wheel in multiple areas. And policy advocacy is another spoke of the wheel for Nestlé. Middaugh added that collaborations should involve early-stage innovations and pilots — such as sharing information with other companies exploring advanced materials — as well as later-stage infrastructure buildout. Microsoft is working with suppliers to update its supplier Code of Conduct to reflect its carbon and sustainability goals, also providing the tools to help its partners meet their goals.  The coming transition CLP draws connections across that ecosystem by backing circular efforts by municipalities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities (MRFs). It has invested, for example, in Amp Robotics , which offers early-stage AI for recycling facilities, and PureCycle Technologies , whose technology turns polypropylene back into virgin-quality material. CLP started an innovation hub to support pre-competitive ideas. Croke agreed that data points around diversion of material and greenhouse gas impacts, to name just a couple, are relatively simple to understand. “What I think is sometimes more interesting, and a little bit harder to measure is the catalytic impact that’s being had, we’re all trying to completely transform a supply chain, the way that the supply chain works from being linear to being circular, and the linear supply chain is quite scaled,” she said. “The economics are very efficient today.” However, there’s going to be a lead-up time to building up the scale for new, circular models. In time, costs will expand for existing linear systems, becoming less attractive to newly affordable circular ones.  “But what we’re finding is that there are definitely specific investment opportunities today that are profitable, that makes sense for the institutional kind of partners make sense for our corporate partners, and hopefully create the levers that unlock, value and scale for the rest of the system,” Croke added. Haddad advocated for companies to recognize private equity firms as a force multiplier. “We can really bring capital to bear and our experience with boards and governance to scale those things,” he said. Marciano insisted that it’s not necessary to invest millions of dollars to get started. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and take other small steps to explore circular possibilities. “If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing?” she said. “Think of it that way, and really try to inspire others within your organization to take a chance … What’s the worst that could happen? You asked for the money and you’re told no or not yet. But at least you’ve already planted the seed, that you believe that the money is needed and could make a difference.” Pull Quote If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? Topics Circular Economy Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off  Illustration of circular economy in industry. Shutterstock MG Vectors Close Authorship

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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

February 22, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations Elsa Wenzel Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:30 A circular economy looks different within each industry, but its broad vision of healing the harm from the industrial economy’s extractive, polluting original sins is appealing more to a variety of businesses. A small number of influential large companies are creating internal funds to support sustainability goals specific to circular economy initiatives, such as designing out waste and recovering materials from products used internally or sold in the market. The eyes of traditional investors are widening to the landscape as well. It’s an early-stage, sometimes loosely defined space, where many solutions remain unproven, but the long-term payoffs in terms of sustainability and cost reductions could be enormous. That’s the hope of several early movers in circular economy investing, who shared their insights at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event in early February.  Nestlé and Microsoft are among the noteworthy corporations putting considerable investments behind circular programs involving products and services, in service of their sustainability targets and with an eye to spark broader change across their industries. “I would almost challenge people to not think of it as, ‘I have to set up a fund separate from,’ but it’s more of, ‘How do I set up our business to operate differently going forward?’” said Anna Marciano, head of U.S. legal sustainability at Nestlé USA. “If we’re going to make sure that we’re using more recycled content, if we’re going to ensure that we’re going to reduce carbon emissions, then we need to be tracking that. So then our procurement team needs to be monitoring that and they need to be held accountable for all of our ESG commitments.” If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. One goal of Closed Loop Partners (CLP), entering its ninth year, is to bring together institutional investors with strategic corporate investors who seek to build a circular economy for their supply chains while helping their sustainability goals. (CLP’s private-equity Closed Loop Leadership Fund , launched in 2018, counts Nestlé, Microsoft and Nuveen among its investors.) “I have heard more in the last few years, probably than ever before, companies talking about investing off their balance sheets to achieve some of these goals, which I think is new vernacular for a lot of companies,” said Bridget Croke, managing director at CLP. Nestlé’s circular recipe Also about one year ago, Nestlé launched its $2 billion sustainability fund , to support companies developing innovative packaging and recycling technologies through 2025. (The company’s first investment was in the Closed Loop Leadership Fund.) The producer of coffee, candy and cocoa also created a nearly $260 million venture fund in support of planet-friendly packaging technologies. Its broader sustainability targets include getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Nestlé’s circular plans include, by 2025, reducing virgin plastics in packaging by one-third and making all of its packaging reusable and recyclable. But goals aren’t enough without something to back them up, Marciano said. “If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories,” Marciano said. “And so it becomes really critical for this to be a mindset shift to say, yes, this is absolutely what we need to achieve.” Nestlé knew it had to invest in designing packaging for the future to meet its packaging commitments, so it established its Institute for Packaging Science in 2019 in Switzerland. One pocket-size result is new recyclable paper packaging for Smarties candies, popular in the U.K. “That’s really where the strong collaboration, the collective action of financial investments come into play,” Marciano added. ”So we’re really targeting investments to help transform the recycling infrastructure, so we could advance the circular economy at the end of the day.” Microsoft’s circular formula Similarly, as a corporate citizen, Microsoft aimed to look beyond the four walls of its own operations toward suppliers and customers, and other industries it touches, to enable circular markets to grow, said Brandon Middaugh, director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.  Like Nestlé, Microsoft also looks at translating its goals into circular economy action in terms of designing out waste, reusing and recycling materials and products, and replenishing natural resources that it uses — three pillars reflected by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The investment strategy includes identifying and prioritizing the major areas of waste that apply to Microsoft’s own supply chains and operations, including its devices, cloud infrastructure and campus operations, Middaugh said. One new initiative is to build Microsoft Circular Centers  to further the reuse of computer servers and other hardware from the company’s data centers.  “We really recognized that it was not enough to set the operational goal and to do that work internally. We needed to be partnering externally and reaching outside into the market to try to be an advance team for the innovation in the industry,” she said. Microsoft is one year into its $1 billion, four-year Climate Innovation Fund . Carbon, water, waste and ecosystems are the core focus areas for the software juggernaut, which is aiming to carbon negative by 2030, removing all the carbon it has historically emitted by 2050. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? The fund, a joint finance-sustainability initiative, is one of three balance-sheet ESG funds at Microsoft, in addition to others around affordable housing and racial equity.  Middaugh said it’s useful to have a unified playbook toward a single goal, which may lean on products, operational investments, employee engagement and even advocacy, using partnerships in civil society. For Microsoft, the main points are about being carbon negative, water positive, zero waste — and building a ” planetary computer ” that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend resource protection measures, tree by tree. Tangible examples of these include reducing electronic waste and packaging hardware without waste. “Then it’s also about giving the tools for traceability and transparency that we, our customers, need to be able to track circular economy themes,” Middaugh said. Those areas of strategic importance cascade to the investment strategy as well. How to prove circular success? For traditional investors, sustainability with a sound return on investment is key, according to David Haddad, managing director and co-head of impact investing at Nuveen , a subsidiary of TIAA. “We want there to be an economic viability, because our time horizon tends to be relatively shorter than many of these larger companies.”  And traditional institutional investors are challenged by the need to make a certain return within a relatively short time frame, maybe five or 10 years, which may not be enough for a market to mature.  Ways to reduce the risk around investments can include investing in research and innovation; proving that new business models are moving in a certain direction and integrating that into the business; and exploring longer-term contracts, according to Croke. Nestlé’s sustainability fund is already driving results, said Marciano, who is also division general counsel for Nespresso USA and International Premium Waters. “We have access to more recycled plastic already, we’re able to integrate it into our Stouffer’s business, into our Coffee mate business, into our water business,” she said. “So we see it working already. And it’s only been a few months in.” Middaugh noted that Microsoft focuses on metrics around the use of recyclable materials; landfill diversion in terms of solid waste and the construction and demolition waste at its campuses, and an overlapping focus on embodied carbon. “And in terms of how we integrate those with the rest of the decision process. It’s really around assessing the impact, assessing the risk and then looking for that impact and risk-adjusted return,” she said. For Nestlé, measuring circular economy success involves improving recycling rates beyond the company itself by spurring improvements in recycling infrastructure more broadly, encouraging consumers to recycle too. But that’s tricky. The question of measuring social impacts, not just the environmental ones most companies have prioritized, is another matter. Haddad noted that as an impact investor, there’s no cookie-cutter recipe, but Nuveen works closely with each young company to determine relevant metrics, and any failure to be able to report on those alongside financial performance will make it a no-go for funding. Croke agreed that limited tools for tracking certain metrics related to circular goals are difficult for companies or municipalities, but a bonus to working with large tech companies is being able to identify and address data gaps and useful technologies. Partnerships and collaborations are essential How does a sustainability advocate make the business case for investing toward circular, sustainable solutions? What’s the benefit of leveraging the company’s balance sheet or other capital? Early corporate movers may offer useful examples. Croke noted that some companies may find it hard to identify such investment opportunities and run up against limits to the size of deals they can take on. “And so the ability to invest through other funds helps sometimes open up opportunities to invest in things that might be too early-stage or small that need some de-risking,” Croke said. Partnerships with third-party leaders can help when trying to apply lessons to the rest of the business from initiatives around circular servers, recycling and reuse, Middaugh said. She, Marciano and Croke agreed that no organization should try to go it alone when addressing a systemic challenge as large as growing a circular economy. For example, it’s upon Nestlé to share its expertise in sustainable packaging, collaborating with other stakeholders to make sure it’s not introducing harmful materials into products. Such relationships can improve the wheel in multiple areas. And policy advocacy is another spoke of the wheel for Nestlé. Middaugh added that collaborations should involve early-stage innovations and pilots — such as sharing information with other companies exploring advanced materials — as well as later-stage infrastructure buildout. Microsoft is working with suppliers to update its supplier Code of Conduct to reflect its carbon and sustainability goals, also providing the tools to help its partners meet their goals.  The coming transition CLP draws connections across that ecosystem by backing circular efforts by municipalities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities (MRFs). It has invested, for example, in Amp Robotics , which offers early-stage AI for recycling facilities, and PureCycle Technologies , whose technology turns polypropylene back into virgin-quality material. CLP started an innovation hub to support pre-competitive ideas. Croke agreed that data points around diversion of material and greenhouse gas impacts, to name just a couple, are relatively simple to understand. “What I think is sometimes more interesting, and a little bit harder to measure is the catalytic impact that’s being had, we’re all trying to completely transform a supply chain, the way that the supply chain works from being linear to being circular, and the linear supply chain is quite scaled,” she said. “The economics are very efficient today.” However, there’s going to be a lead-up time to building up the scale for new, circular models. In time, costs will expand for existing linear systems, becoming less attractive to newly affordable circular ones.  “But what we’re finding is that there are definitely specific investment opportunities today that are profitable, that makes sense for the institutional kind of partners make sense for our corporate partners, and hopefully create the levers that unlock, value and scale for the rest of the system,” Croke added. Haddad advocated for companies to recognize private equity firms as a force multiplier. “We can really bring capital to bear and our experience with boards and governance to scale those things,” he said. Marciano insisted that it’s not necessary to invest millions of dollars to get started. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and take other small steps to explore circular possibilities. “If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing?” she said. “Think of it that way, and really try to inspire others within your organization to take a chance … What’s the worst that could happen? You asked for the money and you’re told no or not yet. But at least you’ve already planted the seed, that you believe that the money is needed and could make a difference.” Pull Quote If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? Topics Circular Economy Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off  Illustration of circular economy in industry. Shutterstock MG Vectors Close Authorship

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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

The potential for carbon-capture tech is captivating

February 4, 2021 by  
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The potential for carbon-capture tech is captivating Heather Clancy Thu, 02/04/2021 – 01:30 This week, oil giant ExxonMobil pledged $3 billion to the development of a carbon capture and storage business over the next five years — in a bid to manage its business risks associated with climate change. CEO Darren Woods noted in the company’s press release: “We are focused on proprietary projects and commercial partnerships that will have a demonstrably positive impact on our own emissions as well as those from the industrial, power generation and commercial transportation sectors, which together account for 80 percent of global CO2 emissions.”  Even Elon Musk is intrigued by the emerging market for carbon removal innovations, as his recent tweet promising $100 million for the “best carbon capture technology” well illustrates. The good news is that even without the pocket change the Tesla billionaire is promising, 2021 is shaping up as a potential tipping point for carbon removal solutions in the United States.  The biggest breakthrough came with the passage of a two-year extension to the 45Q corporate tax credit for carbon removal projects in the dying days of the Trump administration — projects now have until Dec. 31, 2025, to commence construction — along with the publication of guidance from the Internal Revenue Service about how it can be applied. The credit allows for a deduction of up to $50 per metric ton of carbon captured and sequestered, but many viewed the earlier timing window as too restrictive to really jumpstart the market.  In our view, DAC is feasible, available and affordable. “The final rule will provide long-overdue regulatory and financial certainty to incentivize private investment in economy-wide deployment of carbon capture, removal, transport, use and geologic storage across a range of key industries,” noted the Carbon Capture Coalition , an industry group convened by the Great Plains Institute that advocates the cause.  Like another industry group focused on advocating carbon removal solutions, Carbon 180 , the coalition has some suggestions for policies it would love to see the Biden administration embrace related to the nurture of carbon capture and storage approaches that go beyond planting trees.  One argument in favor of direct air capture (DAC) investments fits well with the new president’s climate-equals-job-creation mantra: A June analysis by the Rhodium Group suggests the industry has the potential to create at least 300,000 U.S. jobs. DAC technologies remove emissions from the atmosphere, then store them geologically or use the captured CO2 as a feedstock for something else, such as fuel, chemicals or construction materials.  The need for cost-effective carbon removal solutions is urgent. The International Energy Agency reports that around 30 carbon capture and storage projects have been approved since 2017 — the ones already in operation sucked up around 40 million metric tons last year. But that’s a teeny-tiny amount compared with the roughly 35 billion metric tons of carbon the industrial and agricultural worlds spit up annually. Some models figure we need carbon removal methods to draw down at least one-quarter of the current emissions in order to really address climate targets. It’s widely believed that the U.S. tax credit should make DAC more attractive to companies beyond the oil and gas companies, and power, chemical, cement and steel companies that typically have shown interest in the earlier projects. The list of examples is already growing. United Airlines in December said it would become a “multimillion-dollar” investor in 1PointFive, a joint venture between Occidental Petroleum and Rusheen Capital Management developing an industrial-sized DAC plant using technology licensed from Carbon Engineering (CE). E-commerce company Shopify was actually CE’s first corporate buyer ; it is investing in the Canadian company’s first commercial plant in Squamish, British Columbia, which should be up and running by August. Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship Other tech companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Stripe are talking up direct investments in carbon removal technologies. Last week, Microsoft announced an extensive portfolio of carbon removal projects as part of an update about its year-old carbon-negative strategy . In aggregate, the company reduced emissions by 6 percent in its first year. It also purchased the removal of 1.3 million metric tons of carbon from 15 suppliers, across 26 projects — including bioenergy, blue carbon, forestry and agricultural soil sequestration. Its nod to DAC includes a contract for 1,400 metric tons of CO2 captured by a plant being developed by Climeworks in Iceland .  “In our view, DAC is feasible, available and affordable,” says Steve Oldham, who as CEO of CE obviously has a vested interest in seeing the market move toward the mainstream.  The plant CE is planning to build in the Permian Basin of Texas, with construction scheduled to begin by the end of 2021, will be capable of removing 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year at a price of $95 to $250 per metric ton, according to Oldham. The ultimate price will depend on the financing the project receives — it will take two to three years to build it. For context, carbon capture costs easily can run $600 per metric ton. So, that’s a significant reduction. In Oldham’s view, DAC investments are necessary to “decarbonize in parallel” with renewable energy deployment. To those who suggest carbon capture schemes perpetuate fossil fuels extraction and production, he says it’s not feasible to transition cold-turkey and that it’s imperative to finance removal alongside new generation capacity. “One plus minus-one is also zero,” he says. As corporate climate types are aware, most strategies for carbon removal will include a portfolio or projects — including nature-based solutions such as regenerative agriculture or forests or blue carbon as well as the sorts of innovations that the DAC crowd is hoping to perpetuate. Research published in mid-January in the journal Nature Communications suggests that creating a “wartime” response to climate change by investing 1.2 to 1.9 percent of GDP in DAC innovation and deployments could stimulate the removal of 2.2 to 2.3 gigatons of CO2 per year. But it’s no silver bullet: Even “massive deployments” aren’t likely to start reversing concentrations until the 2070 timeframe, according to the researchers. Really, we have no time to waste, and the companies investing directly in projects are to be commended for being in the advance guard of action. Pull Quote In our view, DAC is feasible, available and affordable. Topics Carbon Removal Direct Air Capture 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

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The potential for carbon-capture tech is captivating

Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

January 18, 2021 by  
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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership Terry F. Yosie Mon, 01/18/2021 – 02:00 The aftershocks of the Jan. 6 insurrection to block Congressional certification of the U.S. Presidential election will reverberate for many years. In the short run, there may be additional efforts to violently disrupt President-elect Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20, in addition to domestic terrorism activities aimed at state and local governments and other institutions. Such concerns have re-focused public expectations that leadership across all major institutions, public and private, must take sustained actions to support democracy. The Jan. 6 insurrection has transformed the nation’s political conversation and moved the support for democratic values to the top tier of advocacy. It has subsumed and reset the context for other key national priorities such as responding to the pandemic, climate change, economic renewal and social justice. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Not coincidentally, these same values enable enactment of core elements of the sustainability agenda for environmental protection, economic development and social responsibility. The accelerating debate over how best to protect and strengthen democracy bears close watching as a major barometer for the success of policies to advance sustainability. Political donations that undermine democracy Companies that make political donations, and institutions and individuals that receive them, are presently engaged in a frantic scramble to identify whether these funds are connected to groups associated with white nationalism, violence and sedition, or disruption of the election process. Numerous embarrassing examples already have emerged from leading U.S. institutions. They include: Comcast, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft and PepsiCo made contributions to the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), the fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which raised about $18 million in 2020. The RLDF actively participated in attempting to prevent the certification of the U.S. Presidential election, including the use of robocalls encouraging people across the country to assemble in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to march on the Capitol. The RAGA executive director subsequently has resigned. A large number of U.S. corporations provided political donations to two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House of Representations that sought to block certification of the Presidential election. Individual companies are belatedly recognizing that individuals on the rapidly expanding “sedition” list prepared by law enforcement authorities received their donations. Carnegie Mellon University, which for many years has accepted funds from the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation (a major funding source for many anti-environmental and right-wing political causes), established a fellow position at its Institute for Politics and Strategy for Richard Grenell, a senior Trump Administration official, who aggressively and publicly lobbied to overturn the U.S. election results. Good governance in donation practices In the midst of this political firestorm, a growing number of organizations, chiefly corporations, are examining whether their donations support anti-democratic politicians. Their practices include: Suspending immediately all corporate and employee contributions to any member of Congress who voted in objection to the certification of the Presidential election. Leading companies such as healthcare provider Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, Dow Chemical and Marriott International have publicly announced this decision. Dow has further committed to suspending its political donations for the next election cycle (two years for a member of the House, six years for a senator). Reviewing the bylaws and governing policies of political action committees (the unit within a company that is legally authorized to collect and distribute political donations) to evaluate their consistency with a firm’s values and determine the criteria under which currently suspended political contributions can be reinstated or permanently revoked. This outcome will depend, in part, upon whether suspended political recipients re-affirm or reverse their position on electoral certification. Determining whether any recipients of political donations are identified on a law enforcement “seditionist list” subject to potential criminal or other penalties. To their chagrin, some American-based companies have determined a match between their donation recipients (as compiled by the U.S. Federal Election Commission that tracks political contributions) and individuals placed on the federal government’s sedition list. In the short run, these decisions will financially disadvantage Republican elected officials, as 139 members of Congress and eight senators from their party voted against certifying the presidential election results — even after the insurrection had occurred. Beyond these financial decisions are public statements by a limited number of business leaders who have called for the resignation of President Donald Trump. Most prominent has been Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. The insurrection “was a clear and present danger to our democracy … and we couldn’t stand for that,” he said. No other prominent business association has echoed Timmons’ declaration. Longer-term reforms Conventional behavior for financing the U.S. political system will await the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president and assume that momentous policy debates in the U.S. Congress over curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, reviving the economy, investing in infrastructure that decarbonizes the economy and reforming immigration practices will slide the public’s current focus on political donations to the periphery. Several initiatives to manage the advocacy process can be implemented to raise the bar in support of democracy. They include: Redefining the criteria for advocacy donations so they are aligned with a company’s central values and promote pro-democratic policy objectives. Such criteria should be approved by the board of directors and should apply to both direct company contributions and allocations provided through a foundation. Expanding the transparency of political donations so they are approved through the corporate governance process and are included as part of the annual financial audit. The list of external recipients should be made accessible through a public website. Identifying and publicizing universities, think tanks and individuals that receive funding to generate studies, organize seminars or establish fellowships to research and publish on issues related to democracy, labor, regulatory or sustainability issues. Integrating the pro-climate change and sustainability efforts of asset managers, investors and non-governmental organizations directly with pro-democracy advocacy. Organizations such as Climate Action 100+ are well-positioned to add support of democracy to their current suite of environment, social and governance (ESG) priorities. Mobilizing a coalition of lawyers, thought leaders and political representatives to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This 2010 edict opened the floodgates for a dramatic expansion of money to influence political campaigns and regulatory policy decisions by prohibiting government from restricting independent expenditures for political communication and enabling donors to shield their identities. The adverse consequences of this decision continue through the ever-increasing amount of contributions to candidates and causes, much of it unaccounted for, anti-environmental and anti-democratic. Offsetting the discouraging news of political insurrection and the corruption of democracy is the hopeful indicator of expanded voter participation. Most Americans have a growing recognition of the fragile state of their country and are committed to a course of peaceful collaboration to address a growing list of problems. This is reflected in higher rates of voter participation in both the 2018 mid-term and 2020 Presidential elections. While encouraging, two election cycles do not represent a longer-term trend. Expanding pro-democracy advocacy can provide a rising tide for a number of economic, environmental and social justice proposals that lead to a more equitable and just society. Such is the means to grow a continuing pro-democracy majority while marginalizing extremist points of view. Pull Quote At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition 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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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

What’s in store for the future of commuting?

January 12, 2021 by  
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What’s in store for the future of commuting? Marian Jones Tue, 01/12/2021 – 01:00 Despite being in a global pandemic, essential low-wage workers, healthcare providers, knowledge workers and many others have continued to work. However, since the start of lockdowns in March 2020, some 42 percent of the U.S. workforce has been from working home full-time . The continued progression of COVID-19 has required many businesses to postpone their back-to-the-office dates to protect their workers and assuage their health concerns. Of the 42 percent of the workforce able to work remotely, some 73 percent would prefer not to go back due to fears over the disease’s spread. From Twitter to Amazon, major urban businesses have rolled out a variety of different commuting policies as they contemplate going “back to the office.” Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Shopify have shifted to permanent work from home arrangements for some, and Google will be working remotely until at least summer 2021. Environmental researchers have warned that the unprecedented low-carbon levels due to stay-at-home orders could be followed by a surge in car usage as white-collar workers in densely populated urban areas attempt to evade public transportation. Climate scientists expect private vehicle usage to surpass pre-pandemic levels. In May 2020, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) issued an outright ban on public transportation , telling employees they had to take private cars to work. It was an appalling proposal, based on the false impression that public transit spreads coronavirus, and overturned just three weeks later. NYSE is still providing employees with reduced prices on parking , but the stock exchange hasn’t conducted any studies or investigations of what increased car usage might have on Lower Manhattan . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Elsewhere, Bloomberg Media offers large reimbursements for commuting into work — up to $75 per day, or up to $1,500 in a given month. It’s a perk likely meant to encourage the use of private cars. Policies that favor driving to work over mass transit show a disregard for congestion, air quality and cities’ overall livability. If every New Yorker consistently used private cars to commute to work, the city would be unlivable. An expanding number of businesses, seeing no harm to their profitability from remote work, have arranged to switch to permanent work from home. Lilac Nachum, a professor of international business at Baruch College, told me in an interview that it’s the knowledge and innovation-based industries that actually have the least to gain from working from home permanently. While many components of these jobs are the most straightforward to do online and could remain remote, a significant amount of creativity and innovation is lost without face-to-face interaction. As Nachum notes, “what we’ve seen is that the knowledge economy has given a huge boom to the growth of cities. This interaction of people creates the necessary conditions for innovation, exchange of ideas, and creativity. So for those kinds of industries, I think that it is extremely important to get back to work.” Considering that even the knowledge-based industries that on the face of it work remotely need to bring people together, few industries can do well working entirely remotely. “I think we’re left with a small number of jobs that can effectively be implemented remotely, which means companies basically have to prepare, should prepare for returning to the office. Fortunately, the vaccine is just around the corner,” Nachum said. Indeed, the knowledge industry has long been aware of the benefits of sustained in-person collaboration. Pre-pandemic, tech companies, including Google and Facebook, developed plans to create onsite housing at their campuses. Merging offices and housing has been hailed by some as the ultimate perk, a new type of “factory town,” and a green solution to urban transportation problems by alleviating the burden of commuting. However, these new company towns have led to new issues and exacerbated inequality. Under the current status quo, large tech companies have a habit of taking over their immediate areas by driving housing up, spurring gentrification, driving out long-time residents, and increasing homelessness rates. This was the case in Seattle when Amazon moved its headquarters to the city with many of their workers living in close proximity and local businesses reliant on their more affluent workers’ patronage. Regardless of whether or not such company towns benefit the environment by cutting back on commutes, although fraught with other political problems, the issue is relatively moot since creating a company town is not an option for the vast majority of firms. By fall, most workers could be returning to traditional offices . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards , employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. This year, public transit utilization in New York City has dipped as low as 80 percent . Many of us are less than enthusiastic about resuming our old commutes by bus and subway. Even though mass transit creates far fewer emissions per individual per kilometer than cars, people think subways and buses are major carriers for the disease even though there is no evidence to support this. Cars cause congestion, increase commute times for all and lead to urban sprawl. Companies concerned with climate change could increase the appeal of transportation alternatives by developing new initiatives to discourage private vehicle use. Under this scenario, our badly under-used public transit might begin to come back from our fiscal deficit. Public, mass forms of high-density transportation are the future our climate relies on. Now more than ever, we need free, comfortable, and easily accessible public transit to help us recover from both this health crisis and the climate crisis. Pull Quote Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Topics Transportation & Mobility Social Justice Employee Engagement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Why corporate partners are essential for Third Derivative, a new climate-tech support network

November 30, 2020 by  
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Why corporate partners are essential for Third Derivative, a new climate-tech support network Heather Clancy Mon, 11/30/2020 – 03:00 Climate tech is more important than ever, but the systemic challenges entrepreneurs face in shepherding these solutions to commercial success is formidable. Most have incredibly long R&D lead times, while the systems that typically support startups cater to ones promising shorter-term payoffs. That’s why earlier this year, clean economy nonprofits Rocky Mountain Institute — known for its thought leadership on climate change issues — and New Energy Nexus — with deep bottom-up resources for founders — combined forces to create a joint venture centered on finding and scaling climate-tech startups focused addressing climate change across the electric grid, transportation, buildings, manufacturing and agriculture. Their mission: create a network of financial, technical and market development resources — including credible and powerful corporate connections — that gets these critically important solutions to commercial scale more quickly. The thesis: The most successful climate-tech startups will be those with early access to economic analysis, policy resources, financing and technical support. This week, the venture, Third Derivative (D3), is launching with a portfolio of close to 50 startups (both early stage and those closer to commercial readiness) and the support of nine corporate partners and nine venture capital firms. D3 is particularly interested in accelerating solutions for “hard to abate sectors” where there aren’t currently good options for decarbonization, according to its website. It is incredibly hard for investors to source, vet and execute investments across the many varied climate solution sectors. Of the 50-ish startup companies announced this week — dubbed ” Cohort 417 ” (for the peak of 417.1 parts per million in atmospheric CO2 concentration recorded in May 2020 — more than two-thirds are led by founders who are women, veterans or people of color, said Third Derivative co-founder and CEO Bryan Hassin. “We went out to meet them where they are,” he said. Both RMI and New Energy Nexus have committed “hundreds” of their market experts to supporting the venture with research, technical expertise and commercialization advice. The organization seeks to bridge knowledge and funding gaps at multiple phases of a startup’s life cycle — moving from basic research into a spinout; product development; demonstrations and market validation efforts; and commercial deployment. RMI and New Energy Nexus are a powerful combo, but the corporate connections and venture resources make the initiative unique by providing that active perspective far earlier in the innovation process, Hassin said, pointing to his own past career as a climate-tech entrepreneur with a background in nanomaterials, off-grid solar energy and artificial intelligence. “We have a systems-level problem that we’re working on here,” he said. “I think we can all agree that more is necessary.” Corporate support equals path to commercialization D3 certainly packs a punch from day one, with nine corporations lined up as backers that have pledged to provide technical resources and financial support over the next three years. That initial group includes AT&T, BP Ventures, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Engie, Envision Energy, FedEx, Microsoft, Shell and Wells Fargo. Together, these big companies represent almost $3 trillion in market capitalization, although the energy company valuations are particularly subject to fluctuation at this time. These companies are “incredibly motivated and visionary,” Hassin said. They will play a hands-on role in startup mentorship and pilot projects, along with any other businesses that choose to join. But this isn’t just about money. “It doesn’t do any good for them to come in and just write a check,” Hassin said. Nine venture firms — representing more than $2 billion in funding and four continents — also have stepped up to support Third Derivative: Imperative Ventures, Skyview Ventures and Volo Earth Ventures from the U.S.; Chrysalix and Emerald Technology Partners from Europe; Factor[e] and Social Alpha from Africa/India; and Tsing Capital and CRCM from China. “It is incredibly hard for investors to source, vet and execute investments across the many varied climate solution sectors,” said Jan Van Dokkum, the former Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner who became chairman of Imperative in 2019, in a statement. “We see enormous value in Third Derivative applying RMI’s market knowledge and networks to cultivate a pipeline of game-changing climate-tech ventures validated by corporate partners. We are excited to make seed investments in those startups, and our ability to work with them over the duration of the program should dramatically increase their investability by the time they are ready for follow-on funding.” These are big ambitious goals for us, and we feel the sense of urgency to find scalable solutions that can help us meet both of them. AT&T, which has committed to carbon neutrality by 2035 for its own operations and is also interested in supporting technologies that help its customers work toward similar goals, was intrigued by the “rigor” that Third Derivative is using to evaluate potential portfolio companies and in allowing corporate partners to be part of that process. That was one reason it decided to shell out $900,000 for its first three years in the program, said John Schulz, director of sustainability integration for AT&T. The other motivator: the diversity of perspective the venture offers. “These are big ambitious goals for us, and we feel the sense of urgency to find scalable solutions that can help us meet both of them,” Schulz said. Aside from financial backing, AT&T is providing technical resources, especially those focused on how the various technologies being pioneered by D3 companies might be integrated with the internet of things — a major business development focus for the telecommunications company. “What are the connectivity solutions that could be the key to unlock success? That’s of particular interest,” Schulz said. A wide range of solutions D3 actually launched the application process for its first cohort in the spring and received more than 600 applications — many for what Schulz described as “mind-blowing” innovations. The corporate partners were actively involved with evaluating and recommending selections among the 200 finalists, which represent advances in hardware and business models and, to a lesser extent, software. They also represent countries including India, Indonesia, China and Italy, although the initial selections are weighted to companies from North America. “We were a little overwhelmed by the enthusiasm,” Schulz said. Some companies from the first cohort include: Antora Energy : A Stanford-born effort (also backed by Cyclotron Road) working on ultra-low-cost energy storage that could have applications as wind and solar farms. Blue Frontier : A startup supported by NREL, NYSERDA and others that is using saltwater energy-storage technology to create “hyper-efficient” air conditioners. Frost Methane :   An offsets market being created around methane flaring activities Kanin Energy : A venture focused on turning industrial waste heat into an emissions-free energy source. Membrion : A materials company developing environmentally friendly filtration membranes. Silvia Terra : A forest-mapping startup. TexPower : A small team working on cobalt-free batteries. Each D3 startup receives a $100,000 convertible note as well as the potential for $250 million in follow-on funding from the venture capital network that’s part of the program. Hassin said the mentorship process initially will last 16 months, but startups will be encouraged to remain connected. What’s more, companies will be added on an ongoing basis: applications will open up again in December. “We think there is value to working with a cohort for a while,” he said.  Pull Quote It is incredibly hard for investors to source, vet and execute investments across the many varied climate solution sectors. These are big ambitious goals for us, and we feel the sense of urgency to find scalable solutions that can help us meet both of them. Topics Innovation Climate Tech 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 Antora Energy, one of the Third Derivative startups, in the lab (L. to R: Tarun Narayan, David Bierman, Andrew Ponec, Justin Briggs) Courtesy of Cyclotron Road Close Authorship

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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

November 10, 2020 by  
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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2 Tali Zuckerman Tue, 11/10/2020 – 01:00 Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be as difficult as getting to the moon.  That’s because every day, human activity pumps out 38 tons of CO2 into the air. Currently, our atmosphere is saturated with around 415 parts per million (ppm) CO2, a number we urgently need to reduce to 280 ppm to avoid the most devastating climate impacts.  But to take out just one ton of CO2, we must first filter one Roman colosseum’s worth of air. Several pioneers in the field are developing revolutionary systems to do just that. During the “Carbon Removal Moonshots” session in late October at VERGE 20, co-founders from innovative carbon removal initiatives Project Vesta, Charm Industrial and IdeaLab joined moderator Tito Jankowski, co-founder of the online community Air Miners, on the virtual stage to share the stories and missions behind their innovations. 1. Project Vesta: Enhancing natural weathering to capture CO2 in ocean-bound volcanic sand Launched on Earth Day 2019, Project Vesta aims to enhance natural weathering processes to accelerate carbon capture and storage in the world’s oceans. The nonprofit organization plans to do this by accelerating Earth’s carbonate-silicate cycle, in which volcanic rock is weathered by rain and creates a chemical reaction that sequesters CO2 from the air. Over time, this carbon turns into limestone on the ocean floor and melts back into the Earth’s core.  During the session, co-founder Kelly Erhart explained the natural inspiration for the project: “This [process] has been working for millions of years and slowly locking up trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth over geologic time scales. We looked at this and we asked: How can we speed this up?” Specifically, Project Vesta has developed a way to take olivine, a naturally abundant, green volcanic rock, and grind it into sand to be distributed over beaches around the world. After the olivine sand is set in place, ocean waves, tides and currents will be left to do the rest.  If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Erhart believes that the process is not only feasible, but scalable. Olivine is found on every continent, and makes up over 50 percent of Earth’s upper mantle. The solution does not compete for land use or other economic activities, and only requires that 2 percent of global shelf seas are covered with a few millimeters of olivine sand to sequester one year’s worth of human CO2 emissions, Erhart said. Of the three innovations presented, Project Vesta comes in at the lowest estimated price point. The organization aims to reach $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent, which is five to 10 times cheaper than direct air capture (DAC) or other techniques. So far, Project Vesta has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic and corporate donations (including a large purchase from Stripe) and is deploying its technology on a few heavily instrumented pilot beaches to monitor the rate of weathering and any effects on ocean life. The team believes that any impact will be beneficial, as olivine deacidifies the ocean and therefore helps support the life and health of marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to advance this technology all over the world. It hopes to establish an open-source integrated algorithm and protocol that will enable governments, nonprofits and companies to deploy this solution with predictable results. The Charm Industrial team. 2. Charm Industrial: Turning biomass waste into CO2-dense bio-oil Charm Industrial is working to reverse the process of crude-oil production — that is, to take the carbon stored in biomass, turn it into CO2-dense biofuel through fast pyrolysis (superheating) and inject it back into the Earth’s crust. The startup is on a mission to “return the atmosphere to 280 ppm” through its technology, which it claims is more permanent and cost-effective than traditional nature-based offsets and direct air capture (DAC) methods.  Currently, Charm makes its bio-oil from excess sawdust and wood, but it plans to use agricultural residues such as corn stover, rice straw, sugar cane and almond shells in the future. Its aim is for the process to have additionality, meaning that if the feedstock was left unused, such residues would be left in fields to rot and emit CO2 back into the air.  The bio-oil Charm produces has properties similar to crude oil but with half the energy content and a very high carbon content. This, along with its tendency to form a solid over time, make the product safe for injection into existing oil wells, according to the company. Further, the oil is less likely to leak back into the atmosphere or groundwater than CO2 gas (or CO2 dissolved in water) when injected into the same wells, according to Charm, and the oil also can better help prevent seismic activity in large underground caverns created by past mining activities.  “What’s interesting about sequestration of bio-oil is that it sort of closes the carbon cycle that started about 200 years ago with the initial removal of oil from these formations,” said Charm co-founder Shaun Meehan. “There’s enormous infrastructure that exists to get oil out of the earth, and we just need to run it backwards.” Charm says its model is unique because it plans to use small-scale facilities. Meehan explained that previously, large biomass facilities have been unsuccessful because they quickly depleted nearby biomass stores and caused prices to skyrocket. By opening multiple smaller plants, Charm hopes to have a more stable quantity of biomass to work with. What does it cost for this form of sequestration? Charm’s current projections are around $475 per ton of CO2 equivalent for the first few years — a number it hopes to get down to $200 by its 10th plant and eventually to $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent.  Like Project Vesta, Charm believes its solution is scalable. The company already has received regulatory approval for its first injection site in Kansas. “As far as scale, there is about 140 gigatons per year of global biomass availability,” Meehan said. “If we are even able to take a small subset of that biomass, then we are able to have a meaningful impact on negative emissions.” Bill Gross, founder of Heliogen, said every acre of land served by the technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Courtesy of Heliogen 3. Heliogen (IdeaLab): Capturing carbon with solar-powered, desert-based DAC plants Bill Gross , founder and chairman of the IdeaLab technology incubator and company Heliogen, began his presentation with several eye-opening statistics and visuals about humanity’s emissions. These included the fact that humans emit 31 times (by weight) the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as they do garbage into their trash cans, and that to remove 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere requires capturing a volume of air equivalent to the Colosseum in Rome.  Gross then described the solar-powered DAC process his team at Heliogen has designed. The process involves first funneling air through a desiccant (a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water), then moving it through zeolite, a mineral that effectively takes up any CO2 in the air, Gross said. Water is then removed from the desiccant and CO2 from the zeolite using solar-powered thermal energy. Ideally, this technology would be situated in desert environments so as not to compete for land and harness the brilliant power of the sun. According to Gross, every acre of land of this technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Multiplied over 390 acres (a rectangle that fits well within the Sahara desert) this technology theoretically could neutralize all 38 gigatons of CO2 humans produce every year. Of course, this is a big ask. Actually achieving it would require that the technology be cheap enough to set up and account for any emissions created during its installation. At the moment, the estimated price of this technology is $100 per ton of CO2, according to Gross. He hopes to reach $50 per ton and dreams of getting to $25. When asked about plans for the use of CO2 after it is captured and compressed, Gross reckoned that he focuses solely on the removal of CO2, several startups will emerge to find creative uses for the gas once it can be captured at a low price. Like the previous two technologies, Gross stressed that the success of this solution relies on the global shift towards valuing CO2 emissions.  Although private players are increasingly taking responsibility for their emissions (tech companies such as Shopify, Square and Microsoft were mentioned) the public sector must move to put a price on carbon to drive change on a larger scale. Once global regulations mandate that corporations pay for their emissions, companies will look towards such innovations for cheaper ways to offset their emissions, he said. To the moon and beyond  Ultimately, a real solution to the global CO2 crisis necessitates collaboration between sectors and individual innovators, something Jankowksi’s online community Air Miners is working to facilitate. As each speaker stressed, no one solution is big enough to bring us back to 280ppm — we need several of them to go to work at once.  As Gross put it, “We need the same diversity of ideas to take [CO2] out as the people who put it up there.” The time to act is now, the speakers urged: Spread the message, get people excited and, as Jankowski said, believe that even this trip to the moon can succeed.  “If we want to create a world that we know is possible,” Erhart echoed, “we have to be able to imagine it.” Pull Quote If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Topics Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Innovation Carbon Capture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Olivine, the focus of Project Vesta’s carbon removal approach. 

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Amazon, Google, Microsoft and the climate cloud

October 1, 2020 by  
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Amazon, Google, Microsoft and the climate cloud Heather Clancy Thu, 10/01/2020 – 01:30 Despite all they’re doing to address climate change with both emissions reduction plans, circular economy innovation and consumer awareness, Amazon, Google and Microsoft have been criticized — rightly so, in my mind — for their close ties to the oil and gas sector . All of them are using their artificial intelligence prowess and analytics power to help companies such as BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil continue exploration and extraction. When I asked Microsoft Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa about this tension last year, he told me that changes won’t happen overnight. “Any clear-eyed person recognizes that this happens over time,” he said. “We will be relying on fossil fuels for some time.” Indeed, the relationship Microsoft disclosed last week with Shell is slightly different. Broadly focused on the fossil fuels company’s digital transformation, the applications being built collaboratively by the two companies are aimed at measuring carbon emissions — both Shell’s and those of its suppliers and customers. As part of its long-term strategy, Shell declared a net-zero emissions target by 2050 back in April.  But there’s a lot more to the relationship. Microsoft will procure electricity from Shell’s renewable energy portfolio as it works toward its 100 percent goal, and the two aspire to advance the use of sustainable aviation fuels.  “These complex challenges can’t be solved in isolation, or by doing business as usual,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business, in the blog about the deal. “We are proud to play our role in a sustainable future, and we know that a successful energy transition depends on strong technology partnerships anchored in co-innovation and development with leaders in the energy sector.”  These complex challenges can’t be solved in isolation, or by doing business as usual. Climate action purists will probably argue that any relationship with an oil company is bad news, but this one seems a step in the right direction. Frankly, I’d love to see more alliances centered on using the power of cloud computing services to move an industry closer to business practices that mitigate the impact of climate change. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, another development I’m watching closely centers on how cloud services powered by Microsoft would help scale adoption of regenerative agriculture. Another deal that has my attention is one between the Google cloud team and Unilever’s supply chain organization. The two are working on an application that uses the tech company’s AI and analytics power, combined with satellite imagery from the Google Earth Engine, to surface data about deforestation, water usage and biodiversity across the consumer products giant’s suppliers. The initial focus will be on deforestation, starting with sustainable palm oil — although other commodities will be added in the future. Unilever has committed to a “deforestation-free” supply chain by 2023. “The combination of these sustainability insights with our commercial sourcing information is a significant step-change in transparency, which is crucial to better protect and regenerate nature.” While I haven’t heard Amazon tout any relationships at this scale, the company’s sustainability data initiative is working with businesses that are using its cloud services to handle tasks such as solar irradiance forecasting and climate risk assessments . One way that all three tech giants could counter their legacy relationships with the fossil fuels sector would be to work on more deals of this nature actively — ones that have the power to transform entire industries. I think it’s pretty clear that the most positive impact that Amazon, Google and Microsoft can have on the climate movement is using their cloud computing might to transform and transition other businesses. We need to see more of this.  Pull Quote These complex challenges can’t be solved in isolation, or by doing business as usual. Topics Corporate Strategy Information Technology Artificial Intelligence Analytics 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

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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

September 17, 2020 by  
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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture Heather Clancy Thu, 09/17/2020 – 01:30 Early this month, McDonald’s made headlines when it teamed with Cargill, Target and The Nature Conservancy to put $8.5 million toward helping Nebraska farmers cultivate regenerative agriculture practices over the next five years. The initiative, like others emerging in the past several years from Cargill , General Mills, Danone and other big companies in the food system, is aimed at promoting natural carbon sequestration practices — and it is piloting ways farmers can be rewarded for embracing them. As much as I’m encouraged by these efforts, I’ve often wondered: What metrics are being used to evaluate them? What does success look like? What will it take to scale these pilots? And how on earth is this all being measured? A new relationship between Microsoft and Land O’Lakes points to part of the answer. The multiyear alliance centers on the farmer cooperative’s agtech software portfolio, including its Winfield United forecasting tools and Truterra , a platform developed to manage sustainability programs such as no-till cultivation, precision nutrient management and cover crop planting. The deal calls for the Land O’Lakes apps to become part of Microsoft’s burgeoning cloud service focused on agriculture, Azure FarmBeats ; the two companies are developing a resource specifically for serving dairy farmers and are collaborating to deploy broadband in rural communities to help make the connections. It turns out that grain silos and elevators are pretty good hosts for wireless antennae. We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. What is particularly intriguing to me is the future of an app called Data Silo, which captures historical data. Microsoft and Land O’Lakes plan to create a cloud service that combines that data with artificial intelligence and other data streams, such as weather forecasts, to suggest better management practices. Considering more than 150 million acres of cropland are in the Land O’Lakes network — nearly half of the 349 million acres under crop production in the United States — that’s pretty valuable information. “We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions,” Teddy Bekele, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Land O’Lakes, told me when we spoke about the deal this summer. “Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices.” One organization that’s already gathering this sort of insight is the U.S. division of Tate & Lyle, the 160-year-old U.K. food and beverage ingredients company. Two years ago, Tate & Lyle began enrolling corn suppliers in a sustainability program focused on emissions reductions, soil wellness and water conservation. The initiative covers 1.5 million acres of sustainably grown corn, which represents the yield Tate & Lyle buys globally on an annual basis, according to information it has published about the results . Corn was chosen because this crop represents the majority of the company’s emissions in the U.S. Using Truterra, the company has gathered some compelling insights from 148,000 acres it has been tracking since 2018, noted Anna Pierce, director of sustainability for Tate & Lyle. Among the 100 data points it is measuring are fertilizer applications, pest management practice, nitrogen levels, the use of cover crops and other practices advocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here are four specific results for those fields: 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions 38 percent increase in nitrogen efficiency (applications are more targeted) 6 percent reduction in sheet and topsoil erosion 4 percent improvement in the “soil conditioning” index, which is an indicator of how well soil can absorb carbon dioxide Pierce took pains to note that Tate & Lyle doesn’t dictate what farmers should be doing on their land. “They match the right practice to the field,” she told me. But Tate & Lyle has signaled it intends to refine its procurement policies around certain priority ingredients as part of its science-based Scope 3 commitment to reduce absolute CO2 emissions in its supply chain by 15 percent by 2030. And it is sharing this information with its own customers, which could become a point of differentiation. “We provide environmental impact data to those customers who opt into the program equating to acres used to produce the ingredients they procure from Tate & Lyle,” she noted. Among the ingredients that will receive particular attention are corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and palm oil. Tate & Lyle is not paying farmers for participation; rather, the focus is on illustrating the linkage between certain soil wellness practices and their crop yields. “They’ve never connected some of this data before,” Pierce said. As the focus on regenerative ag scales, data will be central. Multiple projects for farm management software suggest a big increase in adoption by 2025, with Grand View Research projecting $4.2 billion in sales that year — in large part because of concerns over sustainability of the farm system. What makes the Microsoft-Truterra combination so compelling is that the data is being considered from the farmer’s point of view, not someone trying to sell seeds, fertilizer or farm equipment. You should also keep your eye on upstarts such as OpenTEAM, an open-source resource that Stonyfield Farm is championing, and Farmers Business Network , which raised $250 million in venture funding in August. It represents 12,000 members who farm 40 million acres in the U.S. and Canada. Tell me more about the other organizations I should track by emailing heather@greenbiz.com . Pull Quote We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. Topics Food & Agriculture Information Technology Agtech Climate Tech 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

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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal

September 11, 2020 by  
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Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal Deonna Anderson Fri, 09/11/2020 – 09:21 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (9:30). Why every C-suite officer should care about plastic waste To reduce deforestation, we must get serious about environmental crime Why “regeneration” is generating business buzz Features Bank of the West’s checking account for climate (23:40)   In July, Bank of the West, part of BNP Paribas, announced a partnership with 1% for the Planet to launch a checking account designed for climate action. Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor at GreenBiz, speaks with Ben Stuart, Bank of the West’s chief marketing officer, about how the account works and the company’s motivations and goals for the effort. Behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal (32:35) The upcoming feature documentary Generation Green New Deal tells the story of how young people are pushing climate change to the center of American politics. Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy for Data for Progress, is one of the young people who has played a critical role in shaping the Green New Deal. Shana Rappaport, vice president and executive director of VERGE at GreenBiz, sat down with NoiseCat. They discussed the biggest misunderstandings about the Green New Deal that are important to demystify and role companies can play in taking climate action. You can read a longer excerpt from their conversation here . *Music in this episode: “Curiousity” by Lee Rosevere;  “Guitalele’s Happy Place” and “Arc de Triomphe” by Stefan Kartenberg; “Two Guitars” and “Confederation Line” by AdmiralBob77 Resources galore ESG values and a sustainable future.  Why placing environment, social and governance principles at the center of COVID-19 recovery places makes sense for resilience and the bottom line. Sign up for the interactive session at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 15. Action plus ambition. How leading companies, including Microsoft, approach audacious sustainability goals. Register for the discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 17.  Safety and performance in recycled plastics. UL and HP Inc. share strategies and insights in this conversation at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 22. Inside The Climate Pledge. Senior executives from Amazon, Global Optimism and Verizon share insights on why collaborative corporate action on the climate crisis is more critical than ever. Join us during Climate Week at noon EDT Sept. 24. Clean air in California?  It’s easier than you think. Hear from the California Air Resources Board, the city of Oakland and Neste in this session at 1 p.m. EDT Oct. 1. State of the Profession. Our sixth report examining the evolving role of corporate sustainability leaders. Download it here . The State of Green Business 2020. Our 13th annual analysis of key metrics and trends published here . Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Shana Rappaport Topics Podcast Banking Green New Deal Plastic Waste Deforestation Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 38:36 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal

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