Etsy takes aim at shipping and packaging in setting 2030 net-zero goal

March 16, 2021 by  
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Etsy takes aim at shipping and packaging in setting 2030 net-zero goal Deonna Anderson Tue, 03/16/2021 – 05:00 Scope 3 emissions are the hardest emissions for companies to address when setting goals. But often, they are the most emissions to take on. For Etsy, the e-commerce marketplace known for handmade items like jewelry, art and apparel, Scope 3 emissions make up 99 percent of the company’s carbon footprint. That’s why it’s prioritizing engagement with sellers in its marketplace to drive down emissions. The ambition is part of the company’s net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 goal, which it set in February.   “I know many companies have different definitions of net-zero. We are definitely following the Science-Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTI) forthcoming emerging definition around net-zero ,” said Chelsea Mozen, director of sustainability at Etsy, who as one of the company’s first sustainability hires has helped build its strategy from the ground up. “It has been a really fun journey over the past seven years,” Mozen observed. “In the beginning, we really focused on our own operation, so getting our own house in order.” In addition to the net-zero goal, the e-commerce site has set two science-based targets using a baseline year of 2019, which are pending validation from the SBT i. They call for: a 50 percent absolute reduction in Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, including Etsy’s office operations and purchased energy a 13.5 percent absolute reduction in Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, including seller shipping and fulfillment The company’s most recent 10-K form for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, 2020, which it files annually with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, also noted a 2021 goal to “offset 100 percent of measured Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions annually.”  In a blog about the new net-zero pledge , Etsy CEO Josh Silverman wrote, “We’re committed to holding ourselves accountable and maintaining transparency as we push toward a net-zero 2030.” Mozen said that as the company makes its way toward the net-zero goal, it will continue the practice of reporting all of its sustainability metrics in its 10-K form, as well as within its Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) disclosures. Only 10 percent of companies are integrating sustainability metrics into 10-K filings, according to SASB . A couple of years ago, when Etsy first started including such metrics in its filings , former Etsy Senior Sustainability Manager Hilary Young, who still works at the company in a different role, wrote, “Key non-financial metrics around our economic, social and ecological impact are an integral part of how we run Etsy. It just makes sense for us to report those metrics in the same place.” The idea was that we know with the urgency of the climate crisis, we wanted to do something to immediately address that impact while we work towards long term reductions. In order to be transparent about its sustainability work, Etsy has to do the relevant work behind those reports. In recent years, Etsy has been working on addressing the carbon impact of its marketplace, which is made up of nearly 4.5 million sellers with more than 85 million items available for sale, as of December 2020. Back in 2019, Etsy launched its first initiative focused on reducing the carbon emissions of its marketplace by introducing carbon offset shipping . To offset shipping, Etsy estimates the emissions created by each product sold by looking at data such as the distance between a seller and buyer for each order and the expected weight of the items. Etsy then works with 3Degrees , a carbon offset and renewable energy company, to invest in emissions reduction projects such as wind and solar farms or forest protection.  Mozen said this was an obvious step for the company to address the emissions for the marketplace because it is the source of Etsy’s largest measured carbon impact.   In 2020, Etsy offset 404,439 metric tons of carbon in total and shipping alone was 303,218 metrics tons CO2 equivalent in 2020, according to the company. “The idea was that we know with the urgency of the climate crisis, we wanted to do something to immediately address that impact while we work towards long-term reductions,” she said. The third-largest area of Etsy’s footprint is purchased goods and services in its corporate supply chain, according to Mozen. Between now and 2030, Etsy said it plans to deepen its engagement on climate with vendors and will continue to prioritize partners that share similar carbon standards. Here’s a recent example of how Etsy has already done this: In 2020, the company completed its migration to Google Cloud, which combined with a 15-year power purchase agreement helped in reaching its goal to be 100 percent renewably powered by 2020 .  “From 2018 to 2020, our energy use for computing decreased by 23 percent. And that is largely thanks to the efficiency of Google Cloud Platform compared to what we have in our own colocated data centers,” Mozen said. And in total, last year, 81 percent of the money Etsy spent in its supply chain went to companies that have set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. But a lot of the focus will be on other areas of Etsy’s business, over which it doesn’t necessarily have direct influence, she added. For example, in 2020, 75 percent of Etsy’s carbon footprint came from shipping, which it doesn’t have control over — its sellers ship directly to buyers.  “But we will be looking at that footprint,” said Mozen, who noted that the company thinks one of the ways to address shipping emissions is through public policy.  “There’s been a lot of moves in the space right now. And we’ve been very active in it,” she said. “We’re gonna double down on advocating for the decarbonization of the logistics sector. And that, for the next few years, will be very important as we head towards 2030.” In 2020, Etsy advocated for the Transportation and Climate Initiative, for which it received an award from the Ceres BICEP Network, as well as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Advanced Clean Trucks Rule and other regional policies that the company believes have the potential to accelerate the decarbonization of the transportation sector. Etsy also plans to address the second largest contributor to its footprint, packaging, which it started measuring in 2020, Mozen said.  “We’re hopeful that providing more tools for [sellers] will help drive some of these decreases in our carbon footprint, especially in the packaging space,” she said. “We’re hoping that partnerships for more sustainable packaging that will be affordable for our sellers will help reduce that footprint.” She said Etsy is also interested in digging into the circular packaging space. “This would be early days for us. But that’s where I hope that we can make some gains.” Pull Quote The idea was that we know with the urgency of the climate crisis, we wanted to do something to immediately address that impact while we work towards long term reductions. Topics Shipping & Logistics E-commerce Packaging Net-Zero Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Etsy’s annex office in Hudson, New York. Courtesy of Etsy.

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Etsy takes aim at shipping and packaging in setting 2030 net-zero goal

Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

February 12, 2021 by  
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Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition James Woolven Fri, 02/12/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared on Circulate News . Measuring financial results, customer retention, productivity and inventory are all commonplace, but these measurements alone are no longer enough to tell a business whether it will stand the test of time. To be successful, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses need to consider their social and environmental impact — or else be caught out by changing legislation or left behind by customers. What once simply could be written off as a “negative externality” has financial implications and has to be central to business strategies. This means changing the way businesses see their role in society and, ultimately, transforming the economy. Our current economic model is based on extraction and waste. It is linear — we take materials from the planet, make products from them and eventually throw them away. This take-make-waste economic model fundamentally cannot work long term. It relies on the extraction and eventual disposal of finite materials and — to satisfy an ever-growing demand for resources — encroachment into natural ecosystems, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and staggering biodiversity loss. Alternatively, an economic system based on the recirculation of resources and the regeneration of natural systems offers a way forward that can work in the long term. This model, known as the circular economy, could help tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. The circular economy is underpinned by three principles, each driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; and regenerate natural systems. Circular economy is gathering momentum and is being embraced across the public and private sectors around the world. For example, more than 50 global leaders, including CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies, policymakers, philanthropists, academics and other influential individuals, signed a joint statement in June calling for a transition to a circular economy in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In the plastics sector, more than 1,000 organizations have united behind, and are working towards, a common vision of a circular economy for plastics . As organizations begin to make strides in their efforts to transition away from a linear way of doing business and to implement real-world changes, clear and comparable metrics will be valuable for assessing their success and planning future actions. It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. Jarkko Havas, insights and analysis lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, explains: “Implementing changes can only be effective when we have a clear vision of a future state, an understanding of where we are now and a view of how quickly we are moving between the two states. Measuring progress and tracking changes is an essential factor in the transition to a circular economy.” Measuring the circular economy transition for businesses To understand whether business activity is achieving the aims of a circular economy, business leaders need access to data that measures the circular economy performance of their business, alongside the more commonplace metrics used for assessing the business. However, measuring circular economy performance is a relatively new area and this can lead to misinterpretation of circular economy, with the outcome being well-intentioned incremental tweaks to linear systems, rather than the adoption of truly circular business models. The concept of a circular economy, and what it means for businesses, has been interpreted in many ways. As a result, standardization of the concepts behind circular economy and their inclusion into broader non-financial reporting standards are areas of ongoing work. Measuring circular economy performance also requires data on areas of a business that haven’t traditionally been measured, such as the circularity of water flows or physical assets. Havas adds: “It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. On an organizational level, we also need to ensure that the circular economy is a part of strategy, risk assessment and organizational targets, to name a few.” In order to measure circular economy performance, it is important to take stock of the concrete results of a company’s efforts to transition to a circular economy — to create a snapshot of the company’s current circularity, in terms of material flows and business models. However, it is also important to look at things that enable the transition to happen, such as senior leadership buy-in and necessary infrastructure. This gives an insight into companies’ circular economy potential. As more businesses have employed circular economy models, a number of initiatives have been developed to measure circular economy performance. This includes the Circular Transition Indicators by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circulytics tool, of which version 2.0 recently has been launched. Broader reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, also have started to embed concepts of the circular economy. Anna Krotova, senior manager for standards at the Global Reporting Initiative, says: “Since its last revision in 2016, we have updated the GRI Waste Standard to reflect the continued transition to the circular economy. This update will help thousands of GRI reporters look beyond operational waste, towards understanding how their activities, products and services cause or relate to waste impacts, and where in the value chain they are exposed to risk. Consequently, this will enable organizations to identify circularity opportunities and demonstrate to their stakeholders — such as communities, customers, investors and governments — how they are adopting a holistic and progressive approach to waste and resources management.” Circular economy measurement is also an ongoing area of work for Europe’s new Circular Economy Action Plan. The action plan calls for improved metrics to monitor the progress towards circularity. This monitoring should cover the interlinkages between circularity, climate neutrality and the zero-pollution ambition. The Bellagio process is an initiative taken by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the European Environment Agency to respond to this need. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. Peder Jensen, expert, circular economy and resource efficiency, at the European Environment Agency, says: “Circularity is an idea as old as nature itself. So it is really the linear model that is the ‘odd one out.’ Only by transitioning to a circular model can we ever establish a real model for sustainable development. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. “The Bellagio principles are a set of guidelines on how to monitor the transition to a circular economy. The principles focus on capturing both the narrow material flow related aspects (circular material use) and the broader aspects linked to the environment and social implication. In this way, it pays tribute to the broadly accepted concept of sustainability and sustainable development.” Havas adds: “At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we are working on measurement on many fronts: We continue to develop our company-level circular economy measurement tool Circulytics together with our network of companies; work with circular economy measurement standardization as a liaison to the ISO technical committee on circular economy; with non-financial reporting standards efforts; and with public sector actors especially in the EU. Our food initiative has also developed a city self-assessment tool for cities to understand solutions to achieve a circular economy of foods. Our aim is to act as an impartial organization on these different levels of measuring the circular economy, and to bring consistency across them.” Benefits of circular economy measurement Having access to metrics assessing the circular economy performance of a company can have a series of benefits, both for the individual companies themselves and for the overall transition to a circular economy. Establishing the extent of a company’s circular economy performance can be a motivating force to drive faster, fuller adoption of the circular economy. It can empower strategic decision making, helping companies fully realize circular economy opportunities and can help to drive continued progress. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. If made publicly available, data on the circular economy performance of companies also can help accelerate the wider transition to a circular economy by giving the financial world a metric on which to base investment decisions. Given that the circular economy is a complex and many-faceted system, making decisions on whether a company is “circular” can be complicated for investors without clear, consistent and comparable metrics. Intesa Sanpaolo was an organization involved in the joint statement calling for a circular economy transition. The bank’s global head of circular economy, Massimiano Tellini, says: “The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. The change of cultural paradigm generates both a benefit for our customers, in terms of increased competitiveness, and an opportunity for us in terms of advisory and business origination. The renewed awareness of the urgency of this change determined by the pandemic and the opportunity offered by the Next Generation EU plan are key elements for a redefinition of the development model on an international scale investing in innovation and training. “These aspects stimulate a dialogue based on the sharing of approach and information assets combined with the impact capacity of each player in favor of the transition, with the natural consequence of involving more and more actors in a common path to accelerate the transformation.” Pull Quote It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. Topics Circular Economy Data Ellen MacArthur Foundation Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Freedomz  on Shutterstock.

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Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

February 12, 2021 by  
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Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition James Woolven Fri, 02/12/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared on Circulate News . Measuring financial results, customer retention, productivity and inventory are all commonplace, but these measurements alone are no longer enough to tell a business whether it will stand the test of time. To be successful, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses need to consider their social and environmental impact — or else be caught out by changing legislation or left behind by customers. What once simply could be written off as a “negative externality” has financial implications and has to be central to business strategies. This means changing the way businesses see their role in society and, ultimately, transforming the economy. Our current economic model is based on extraction and waste. It is linear — we take materials from the planet, make products from them and eventually throw them away. This take-make-waste economic model fundamentally cannot work long term. It relies on the extraction and eventual disposal of finite materials and — to satisfy an ever-growing demand for resources — encroachment into natural ecosystems, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and staggering biodiversity loss. Alternatively, an economic system based on the recirculation of resources and the regeneration of natural systems offers a way forward that can work in the long term. This model, known as the circular economy, could help tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. The circular economy is underpinned by three principles, each driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; and regenerate natural systems. Circular economy is gathering momentum and is being embraced across the public and private sectors around the world. For example, more than 50 global leaders, including CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies, policymakers, philanthropists, academics and other influential individuals, signed a joint statement in June calling for a transition to a circular economy in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In the plastics sector, more than 1,000 organizations have united behind, and are working towards, a common vision of a circular economy for plastics . As organizations begin to make strides in their efforts to transition away from a linear way of doing business and to implement real-world changes, clear and comparable metrics will be valuable for assessing their success and planning future actions. It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. Jarkko Havas, insights and analysis lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, explains: “Implementing changes can only be effective when we have a clear vision of a future state, an understanding of where we are now and a view of how quickly we are moving between the two states. Measuring progress and tracking changes is an essential factor in the transition to a circular economy.” Measuring the circular economy transition for businesses To understand whether business activity is achieving the aims of a circular economy, business leaders need access to data that measures the circular economy performance of their business, alongside the more commonplace metrics used for assessing the business. However, measuring circular economy performance is a relatively new area and this can lead to misinterpretation of circular economy, with the outcome being well-intentioned incremental tweaks to linear systems, rather than the adoption of truly circular business models. The concept of a circular economy, and what it means for businesses, has been interpreted in many ways. As a result, standardization of the concepts behind circular economy and their inclusion into broader non-financial reporting standards are areas of ongoing work. Measuring circular economy performance also requires data on areas of a business that haven’t traditionally been measured, such as the circularity of water flows or physical assets. Havas adds: “It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. On an organizational level, we also need to ensure that the circular economy is a part of strategy, risk assessment and organizational targets, to name a few.” In order to measure circular economy performance, it is important to take stock of the concrete results of a company’s efforts to transition to a circular economy — to create a snapshot of the company’s current circularity, in terms of material flows and business models. However, it is also important to look at things that enable the transition to happen, such as senior leadership buy-in and necessary infrastructure. This gives an insight into companies’ circular economy potential. As more businesses have employed circular economy models, a number of initiatives have been developed to measure circular economy performance. This includes the Circular Transition Indicators by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circulytics tool, of which version 2.0 recently has been launched. Broader reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, also have started to embed concepts of the circular economy. Anna Krotova, senior manager for standards at the Global Reporting Initiative, says: “Since its last revision in 2016, we have updated the GRI Waste Standard to reflect the continued transition to the circular economy. This update will help thousands of GRI reporters look beyond operational waste, towards understanding how their activities, products and services cause or relate to waste impacts, and where in the value chain they are exposed to risk. Consequently, this will enable organizations to identify circularity opportunities and demonstrate to their stakeholders — such as communities, customers, investors and governments — how they are adopting a holistic and progressive approach to waste and resources management.” Circular economy measurement is also an ongoing area of work for Europe’s new Circular Economy Action Plan. The action plan calls for improved metrics to monitor the progress towards circularity. This monitoring should cover the interlinkages between circularity, climate neutrality and the zero-pollution ambition. The Bellagio process is an initiative taken by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the European Environment Agency to respond to this need. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. Peder Jensen, expert, circular economy and resource efficiency, at the European Environment Agency, says: “Circularity is an idea as old as nature itself. So it is really the linear model that is the ‘odd one out.’ Only by transitioning to a circular model can we ever establish a real model for sustainable development. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. “The Bellagio principles are a set of guidelines on how to monitor the transition to a circular economy. The principles focus on capturing both the narrow material flow related aspects (circular material use) and the broader aspects linked to the environment and social implication. In this way, it pays tribute to the broadly accepted concept of sustainability and sustainable development.” Havas adds: “At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we are working on measurement on many fronts: We continue to develop our company-level circular economy measurement tool Circulytics together with our network of companies; work with circular economy measurement standardization as a liaison to the ISO technical committee on circular economy; with non-financial reporting standards efforts; and with public sector actors especially in the EU. Our food initiative has also developed a city self-assessment tool for cities to understand solutions to achieve a circular economy of foods. Our aim is to act as an impartial organization on these different levels of measuring the circular economy, and to bring consistency across them.” Benefits of circular economy measurement Having access to metrics assessing the circular economy performance of a company can have a series of benefits, both for the individual companies themselves and for the overall transition to a circular economy. Establishing the extent of a company’s circular economy performance can be a motivating force to drive faster, fuller adoption of the circular economy. It can empower strategic decision making, helping companies fully realize circular economy opportunities and can help to drive continued progress. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. If made publicly available, data on the circular economy performance of companies also can help accelerate the wider transition to a circular economy by giving the financial world a metric on which to base investment decisions. Given that the circular economy is a complex and many-faceted system, making decisions on whether a company is “circular” can be complicated for investors without clear, consistent and comparable metrics. Intesa Sanpaolo was an organization involved in the joint statement calling for a circular economy transition. The bank’s global head of circular economy, Massimiano Tellini, says: “The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. The change of cultural paradigm generates both a benefit for our customers, in terms of increased competitiveness, and an opportunity for us in terms of advisory and business origination. The renewed awareness of the urgency of this change determined by the pandemic and the opportunity offered by the Next Generation EU plan are key elements for a redefinition of the development model on an international scale investing in innovation and training. “These aspects stimulate a dialogue based on the sharing of approach and information assets combined with the impact capacity of each player in favor of the transition, with the natural consequence of involving more and more actors in a common path to accelerate the transformation.” Pull Quote It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. Topics Circular Economy Data Ellen MacArthur Foundation Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Freedomz  on Shutterstock.

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Mars, Cargill put nature regeneration goals alongside avoiding climate catastrophe

February 11, 2021 by  
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Mars, Cargill put nature regeneration goals alongside avoiding climate catastrophe Jesse Klein Thu, 02/11/2021 – 01:00 Over 1,000 companies have committed to science-based targets for climate change, but the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) thinks companies need to start making science-based commitments on nature as well as for climate. And they needed to start doing it yesterday. This has put sustainability departments of large companies in the position of having to build the plane while flying it.  “We feel like we need to start taking action today and start taking steps,” Heather Tansey, sustainability director at Cargill, said during a  GreenBiz 21  session this week on nature and regeneration. “We believe we can’t wait for consensus definitions to start making progress. So we’re doing those things in parallel.” To help, SBTN created corporate guidance that “sets a clear course of action to protect nature in line with science,” because companies want to take action.  “What we’re hearing from companies is: Tell me what to measure. How much is our fair share?” said Erin Billman, executive director of SBTN, during the session. You can’t stick an instrument in a bucket of palm oil and measure whether there was deforestation or forced labor in its supply chain. The guidance outlines best practices for conserving and regenerating healthy land, freshwater, oceans and biodiversity. During the session, with panelists from large agricultural companies Cargill and Mars, regenerative agriculture took center stage.  Tansey outlined Cargill’s BeefUp program, which concentrates on four pillars: reducing food waste; leaning on innovations; implementing regenerative agriculture such as no-tillage and crop rotation for feed sources; and sustainable cattle grazing methods.  “We, at our core, believe cattle can be a force for good when it comes to climate change,” she said. “Cattle can play a really critical role in North American contexts of helping to preserve nature and ecosystems in the west.” Kevin Rabinovitch, global vice president of sustainability at Mars, recognized regenerative agriculture is the new buzzword in sustainability . He emphasized that companies will have to carefully define what regenerative agriculture means while simultaneously creating programs that encourage regenerative ag practices that sequester carbon into the soil — practices such as no-till, crop rotation and biodiversity. Not all regenerative practices or ESG initiatives are created equal and not having an agreed-upon definition before starting will make determining the success difficult.  “Deforestation, or building carbon in the soil, or even social things like human rights and forced labor is not a product attribute,” Rabinovitch said. “You can’t stick an instrument in a bucket of palm oil and measure whether there was deforestation or forced labor in its supply chain. So they’re not product attributes, they’re process attributes. And frankly, that’s not the way commodity markets are designed and set up.” Billman’s solution is to focus on breaking down the silos among climate change, nature regeneration and social injustice and looking for co-benefits that tackle all the issues, not just climate ones. Without agreed-upon definitions, it makes it even harder for companies to prove they are making good on their commitments. According to all the panelists, the best way to make an impact and demonstrate to others that their programs are working is to create specific targets with specific timelines. There can be a visionary pathway in the longer term, but companies need tangible, measurable targets for the near term. “That’s where you should be having the really awkward, painful discussions about [having] a plan for how to reach that five-year target,” Rabinovitch said during the session.  Pull Quote You can’t stick an instrument in a bucket of palm oil and measure whether there was deforestation or forced labor in its supply chain. Topics Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Nature regeneration goals are the new climate targets for the sustainability departments of large companies.//Courtesy of Unsplash.

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Mars, Cargill put nature regeneration goals alongside avoiding climate catastrophe

One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table

January 20, 2021 by  
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One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table Laura Deaton Wed, 01/20/2021 – 01:30 The incoming Biden administration unquestionably will bring new focus to sustainable development goals at home and abroad. Joe Biden has produced plans in an array of key areas — environmental protection, clean energy and racial equity among them — and has promised action in his first 100 days as president. His administration will be playing catch-up in all these key areas, and the best way to make rapid progress is one that doesn’t get talked about enough: building three-sector collaboration into every major initiative. Government partnerships are nothing new, but they’re usually binary: Government agencies work with nonprofits or with businesses or gather feedback separately from each. Collaborations across all three sectors are less typical, but they generate more deeply informed, comprehensive solutions and yield wider support. The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. The following examples of initiatives related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals show the consequences of leaving out or engaging key stakeholders — and point to how the Biden administration can do better. When the nonprofit sector isn’t at the table: the lost opportunity in Opportunity Zones The Trump administration’s Opportunity Zones were a good idea on paper but were more effective at creating massive tax benefits for already wealthy investors than at creating new jobs and economic opportunities in disinvested communities. That’s largely because communities were left out of program design and implementation, which resulted in capital flowing into projects that didn’t target community needs and sometimes usurped preferred community uses. Working alongside government and corporate actors, community-based nonprofits could have ensured that the investments promoted equitable opportunity and contributed rather than extracted value from communities. A couple of successes show what’s possible: The Economic Equity Network, a pop-up Multiplier project, created a network of more than 300 people committed to equitable community transformation and wealth building and brought them high-impact investment opportunities in three cities. The project helped broaden female and minority investor and entrepreneur networks, and promoted the use of Opportunity Zone funds not only for real-estate investments, but also to scale up minority- and women-led businesses. The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. Moving into 2021, national community development organization LISC is collaborating  with local investment platform Blueprint Local on projects across the Southeast that will align small businesses loans, federal programs and community plans to build community wealth. The Biden administration has indicated support for Opportunity Zones, as well as acknowledged the need for fixes. The first action should be to look at these models and restructure the program with a new priority: bringing community-rooted organizations together with investors committed to creating public as well as private returns. When the for-profit sector isn’t at the table: The sidelining of sustainable fishing Environmental NGOs have been lobbying for the 30×30 initiative to conserve 30 percent of the world’s ocean habitat by 2030, and the Biden administration is embracing that goal. Sounds great, right? The problem is, the  legislation on deck was created without meaningful input from the small-scale fishermen who have helped make U.S. fisheries the most sustainable in the world. This proposal would ban commercial fishing in at least 30 percent of U.S. marine areas, overturning the successful fisheries management system, harming coastal communities and cutting off consumer access to sustainable local seafood. The end result could be to increase long-distance imports from far less sustainable sources. Contrast that with an example of what can happen when all three sectors work together: The nonprofit program Catch Together partners with fishing communities to create and launch community-owned permit banks, which purchase fishing quota (rights to a certain percentage of the catch in a fishery) and then lease that quota to local fishing businesses at affordable rates. The centerpiece of the program is a foundation-supported revolving loan fund that capitalizes the permit banks and allows communities to invest in tradable quota. That makes it easier for small-scale fishing businesses to access capital and compete against larger players for the ability to fish in their own local waters. So far, the Catch Together team has helped fund quota acquisitions and leasing in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and New England. The goal is to build a nationwide network of next-generation fishermen who are strong advocates for sustainable fisheries and ocean stewardship. This network and other local fishermen — especially Indigenous fishing communities — deserve a seat at the table to explain how their sustainable fishing techniques contribute to climate resilience and conservation. By insisting on collaborative approaches such as the Catch Together model, the Biden administration could ensure that the effort to mitigate the harm caused by large-scale fishing doesn’t undermine responsible small fishermen. It is possible to reach the 30×30 goals by working with fishing communities — in fact, that may be the only way it will happen. When government hides under the table: A power player blocks renewable energy Pacific Northwest residents and wildlife are caught in the grip of a self-funding federal power marketing entity holding fast to an antiquated model that forces consumers to buy more expensive, less environmentally friendly energy. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) produces supposedly clean hydroelectric energy from the dams it owns — but its high-maintenance, high-cost infrastructure damages salmon habitat and produces pricier power than solar and wind installations. BPA has maintained the status quo despite these deficits by pacifying environmental NGOs with funding to develop environmental solutions (which have no chance of working unless the dams come down) and using its control of the grid to keep cheaper, greener renewable energy out of the market. Another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. In this case, a public agency essentially has gone rogue, using its monopoly power to privilege its own perceived interests. Collaboration with the nonprofit and for-profit sectors could create solutions that serve the public interest, but neither the Department of Energy (the BPA’s overseer) nor Congress has come to the table to demand it. Columbia Rediviva , a network of citizen activists, is working to change that by engaging Congress members in a plan to reimagine the Pacific Northwest power grid and bring salmon back to the Columbia River. One focus is freeing NGOs to be independent voices by shifting control of conservation funds to a different government agency (so that the BPA is not funding their operations). Another is building support for newer, better clean energy supplies by sharing research that shows taking down dams would deliver both cheaper energy and more jobs. The Biden administration can promote progress in the Pacific Northwest and on clean energy goals nationally by putting government on the side of innovation and aligning the players’ incentives with the public good. When everyone is at the table: The emergence of the first carbon-neutral U.S. city Menlo Park, California, is on its way to becoming the first carbon-neutral city in the U.S., thanks to Menlo Spark ’s work to activate stakeholders in pursuit of that vision. The nonprofit program has collaborated with local government, businesses, residents and experts to institute proven sustainability measures designed to not only reduce the Silicon Valley hub’s carbon emissions but also increase the prosperity of the entire community. Menlo Spark created community buy-in to the carbon-neutral initiative by outlining how it would allow Menlo Park to continue to thrive economically. This support brought the corporate and government sectors on board as well. The city adopted groundbreaking codes requiring that all new buildings operate entirely on electricity, and the Menlo Spark coalition spurred other Silicon Valley cities to do the same, creating a regional effect. The coalition also catalyzed 20 cities to commit to pursuing 100 percent carbon-free power for all customers by 2021. Solar installations for low-income families, improved transit tools and stops, an infrastructure initiative that paves the way for apartment dwellers to own electric vehicles, the Menlo Green Challenge for households, and educational tools all contribute to progress.  This example illustrates a key advantage of bringing all sectors into the conversation: the nonprofit sector is highly skilled at taking the pulse of a community and figuring out effective ways to gain support from all sectors for innovative ideas. Biden’s climate agenda will require all-sector support to succeed, and the administration should center the nonprofit sector as a valuable partner in building community support. The upshot: We need bigger tables As the examples above illustrate, three-sector engagement is crucial. And another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. Biden already has taken steps on the crucial task of bringing scientific assessments and ongoing research back into policymaking, but there’s a lot of catching up to do in this area. At the same time, we need to be sure we’re involving a true cross-section of the community in initiatives that affect us all. The National Science Policy Network is addressing both needs: this network catalyzes early-career scientists to take an active role in policymaking at all levels of government. It also focuses on racial justice and diversity in science, with initiatives to promote women and people of color and model inclusive and successful science communication. Having all the right people at the table is the essential first step in creating lasting solutions to our long-running environmental and social challenges. That means involving all three sectors, a cross-section of our communities and scientific advisers who themselves represent diverse perspectives and are committed to translating science into policy. In short, we need bigger tables where everyone gets a seat. The Biden administration would be wise to incorporate this principle throughout its policy agenda. That is how it will truly achieve Biden’s goal of uniting America. Pull Quote The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. Another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. Topics Innovation Policy & Politics Corporate Strategy Public-Private Partnerships Environmental Justice 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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One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table

3 big trends headlining a tumultuous year in food

December 11, 2020 by  
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3 big trends headlining a tumultuous year in food Jim Giles Fri, 12/11/2020 – 01:45 I’m going to try to make sense of this tumultuous year, starting with three trends from the past 12 months that I see as key to the immediate future of food. 1. An insane year for alternative proteins The trend: By Dec. 1, venture capitalists invested a whopping $1.5 billion in alternative proteins during 2020, according to the latest data from the Good Food Institute . That money — close to double the 2019 total — is making the industry increasingly visible. At the start of the year, the Impossible Burger was available in around 150 stores — now you can find it in more than 15,000. Newer alt proteins are also coming. Just last week, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat . And while the field may not need further incentives, it got one anyway: This week, the XPRIZE Foundation announced a new $15 million competition focused on chicken and fish alternatives .  The twist: Moving fast means breaking things. I see two bumps in the road. First, alternatives have a tiny market share because animal meat is cheap and, for now, tastes better. Consumption of animal products should and will decrease, but many alt protein brands and startups will disappear before that happens. The second challenge was summed up by the French ag minister’s response to the news from Singapore : “Meat comes from life, not from laboratories. Count on me so that in France, meat remains natural and never artificial!” I’d bet on seeing more of a backlash against alt proteins. The question is whether it will dent the industry’s trajectory. My take: The minister should visit a concentrated animal feeding operation and explain why he describes what happens there as “natural.” 2. How committed is your company? The trend: Where do we start? How about June, when Unilever committed to zeroing-out emissions from all its products by 2039 ? Or last week, when Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, said it would spend  $3.6 billion over the next five years as it moves toward a 2050 net-zero target? Or back in March at Horizon Organic, a U.S. dairy brand that committed to going carbon-negative by 2025 ? Those are just the first three that come to mind in a bumper year for target-setting. The twist: What’s the rest of the industry doing? Far less, in many cases. When experts at CDP, a nonprofit that tracks sustainability commitments, surveyed 479 food and ag companies , only 75 reported having emissions commitments in line with the Paris Agreement. The situation is worse for deforestation. Around half of companies that source soy told CDP that they can track their purchases to the country of origin and no further. This means that when it comes to Brazil and other forest nations, most food companies are blind as to whether their soy comes from newly cleared land. My take: I’m going for glass half-full, at least on emissions. The industry is way behind where it should be, but every company that sets a meaningful target heaps a little more pressure on those that haven’t. 3. The rush for regenerative ag  The trend: Another area where a flood of new initiatives in 2020 made it challenging to keep up. Big industry names such as Bayer and Cargill said they would help farmers transition to regenerative methods, and big names from the wider corporate world — JPMorgan Chase and IBM, for instance — bought some of the first carbon credits from Indigo Carbon, an soil offsets marketplace. Nori, an Indigo competitor, closed a $4 million funding round . Another disruptive company, Farmers Business Network, launched a service designed to help farmers earn a premium from regeneratively farmed grain . Again, those are just the first examples that come to mind. The twist: No one disputes that these efforts will be good for soil health. But do regenerative methods sequester as much carbon as advocates claim? Some prominent experts think not. In May, the World Resources Institute warned of regenerative ag’s ” limited potential to mitigate climate change .” If so, should we be building an offsets market around soil credits? Again, experts have doubts: One important step toward such a market, the creation of a protocol for soil carbon offsets, was the subject of multi-pronged criticism . My take: If I’m honest, this worries the hell out of me. Imagine the PR storm if a big company shrinks its carbon footprint using credits that later come under attack in the media. The ensuing controversy could do huge damage to efforts to pay farmers to store carbon in soils. That’s it for part one of my 2020 roundup. Look for more of my reflections (and maybe some predictions) before the end of December.  This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Topics Food & Agriculture Alternative Protein Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff 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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It’s Giving Tuesday! Here are some eco-friendly ways to get involved

December 1, 2020 by  
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After the extreme materialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes an opportunity to support your favorite causes — without acquiring more stuff. Instead, Giving Tuesday encourages people to do good. Since its creation in 2012, the day has turned into a global movement inspiring generosity. Here’s how to celebrate, plus some environmental charities to consider supporting. Ways to give The most obvious way to give on Giving Tuesday is through a monetary donation — and we’ll get to that in a minute — but don’t let a shortage of cash keep you from participating. If you have more time than money, donating volunteer hours can make a huge difference. You could also give voice as an activist, advocating for your nearest and dearest causes by signing petitions or amplifying their messages through your social media accounts. Maybe you have a special talent that a nonprofit organization needs, such as being able to consult on HR or IT. Taproot matches talented volunteers with the organizations that need their skills. You can also donate goods. Do you still have gifts from past holidays that you never or barely used? Consider giving those unused gifts to somebody who needs them more. Related: Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas Environmental causes to support The number of nonprofits that need support is truly staggering. Whether your heart lies with trees, the climate, whales or just about anything else, you’ll find an organization thrilled to accept your donation. Here are just a few of the many worthy environmental charities you might choose to support on Giving Tuesday. Cool Effect This crowdfunding platform began in 1998 by supporting clean-burning woodstoves in Honduras. Now, Cool Effect helps people support carbon-reducing projects around the world. As the nonprofit puts it, “We have made reducing carbon pollution as simple as tapping a button. Together, small actions can ignite planet-sized change.” All those small actions add up. Cool Effect has already reduced carbon emissions by more than 2 million metric tons. Heal the Bay This environmental nonprofit works to make water around Greater Los Angeles safe for marine life and human recreation. Heal the Bay started 35 years ago to protect the Santa Monica Bay. Now, the nonprofit provides water quality information every week for 450 California beaches. That’s a big job. They also monitor the quality of popular freshwater recreation areas such as the Malibu Creek, LA River and San Gabriel River watersheds. Rainforest Alliance This famous, internationally known nonprofit conserves biodiversity and helps ensure sustainable livelihoods for people who toil in rainforests. If you’ve ever bought a product with a certification seal featuring a frog, that’s the Rainforest Alliance letting you know that the product is environmentally sound and contributes to socioeconomic sustainability. Giving Tuesday is a good time to remember and help the lungs of our planet. Sea Turtle Conservancy Just about everybody likes turtles , so a donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy in your friend or family member’s name could make for a great holiday gift. There are many turtle-focused organizations these days, but the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest. Founded in 1959, it was instrumental in raising turtle awareness and saving the Caribbean green turtle from the brink of extinction. Louisiana Environmental Action Network Louisiana is a beautiful state, but it is also one that has been unfairly exploited by petrochemical companies and other similarly toxic industries. Since the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN)’s founding in 1986, it has served as a voice for Louisianans who want to live in their state without seeing its beauty destroyed and their family members felled by cancer. The organization can use your spare dollars to continue the fight against huge polluting industries. Human Access Project Portland’s Willamette River has historically served as a dumping ground for industry. But a massive cleanup effort has made the Willamette safe for recreation. Still, locals are leery. Since 2010, the Human Access Project (HAP) has worked to improve the river’s reputation and increase people’s access to it. HAP is responsible for hosting an annual inner tube party on the river called The Big Float, organizing the River Huggers Swim Team and helping to build river beaches for people to swim, launch their kayaks or just hang out. Bat Conservation International People often fear bats , but these mysterious little creatures are crucial to ecosystems. Many have already died from human encroachment and white-nose syndrome. Bat Conservation International focuses its attention on the world’s most vulnerable bats and their habitats. The organization always remembers that it may be operating as a guest in other countries. “We are respectful visitors to the countries where we work — seeking to learn, understand, and honor the historical, cultural, political, and economic context of our projects,” BCI states on its website. Appalachian Trail Conservancy If you’re a hiker, you’ve probably thought about those usually unseen people who spend countless hours building and maintaining trails. Where would we be without them? Lost in the bushes. Remember your favorite trails on Giving Tuesday. Perhaps a donation to preserve the pathways, forests and clean water of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy would be in order. Community Solidarity If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you could donate to Community Solidarity , the largest all-vegetarian hunger relief food program in the U.S. Community Solidarity serves people in the New York City and Long Island areas with free groceries and warm, vegan meals. Defenders of Wildlife Can’t decide between supporting manatees, wolves or prairie chickens? Help them all with a donation to Defenders of Wildlife . The organization’s mission is to protect and restore endangered wildlife across North America and beyond. You can also help out by purchasing branded merchandise or supporting its adopt-an-animal program. Natural Resources Defense Council Founded in 1970, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a big organization that helps the environment in many ways. The New York Times has called NRDC one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups. The organization works on overarching issues like food waste, wildlife conservation, climate change and renewable energy. + Giving Tuesday Images via Kat Yukawa , Joel Muniz and Josh Hild

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Nwa, the design for a self-sustaining city on Mars

November 23, 2020 by  
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As part of scientific work for a competition organized by the Mars Society, an American non-profit dedicated to exploring the Red Planet, architecture firm Abiboo has unveiled design concepts for a sustainable city on  Mars . The project, called Nüwa, ranked as a finalist among 175 projects submitted from around the world for the 2020 competition. Abiboo presented the Nüwa proposal at the Mars Society convention in October, which was attended by Elon Musk from Space X, George Whitesides from Virgin Galactic and Jim Bridenstine from NASA. Working remotely from several global destinations, Abiboo collaborated with the SONet network on the project. This network includes an international team of scientists headed by  astrophysicist  Guillem Anglada and experts in astrophysics, architecture, astrobiology, space engineering, astrogeology, psychology and chemistry. Related: NASA Mars Habitat Challenge winner is a 3D-printed pod made of biodegradable materials To address the unique and harsh atmospheric conditions, the design features a vertical concept built into the side of a cliff. There are five cities , each accommodating between 200,000 and 250,000 inhabitants. Each city, apart from the capital city of Nüwa, follows the same urban strategy to make it flexible enough to apply to multiple surface areas on the planet. Modular , tubular “macro-buildings” are inserted into the cliffs through tunneling, linked together by a 3D network of tunnels and designed to include both residential and work spaces. The infrastructure also connects to “sky lobbies” designed with translucent skin and large overflying canopies that provide views of the Martian landscape and protection from external radiation. These canopies are constructed out of material recovered from the cliff’s tunneling excavation. Each module measures 10 meters by 60 meters and includes two floors with green areas, urban gardens, art spaces and condensation areas that help dissipate heat and clean air. The community  green spaces  include animals and bodies of water to promote physical and mental well-being, one type dedicated to experimental vegetation and another type acting solely as a recreational park. + Abiboo Images via ABIBOO Studio / SONet (Gonzalo Rojas & Sebastián Rodriguez)

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Nwa, the design for a self-sustaining city on Mars

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

Financing zero: The road to emission-free fleets

November 4, 2020 by  
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Financing zero: The road to emission-free fleets Tali Zuckerman Wed, 11/04/2020 – 02:00 In recent years, electric vehicle (EV) adoption has accelerated in the world of personal cars. Now, as ambitious climate goals gain momentum and renewable energy prices drop, attention is turning towards scaling such systems for commercial transport. But before zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) fleets can hit the road, stakeholders must find innovative ways to finance them in a way that is accessible, affordable and attractive to corporate buyers.   At the VERGE 20 conference last week, industry experts working on this very question joined moderator Niki Okuk, alternative fuels program manager at CALSTART, to discuss the biggest financial barriers to making large-scale ZEV deployments a reality and the innovative financial tools being designed to address them. Challenges on the road to commercial ZEVs One key challenge addressed by the panelists is the volatility of renewable energy — both in price and physical availability. Vic Shao, chief executive of charging infrastructure company Amply Power, highlighted that while fossil-fuel prices typically fluctuate about 25 percent per year, renewable energy prices can experience shocks of up to 400 percent in just one day. For large-scale fleet managers, this makes adopting ZEV solutions incredibly tricky.  “The CFOs of the organization can’t really understand the cost structure over weeks, months and years,” said Chelle Izzi, executive director of NextEra Energy Resources. “That makes it difficult for us to scale up.” Prices also vary across countries and states, due to inconsistencies in taxes and policies. Pooling a bunch of these different challenges under 1 contract would manage some of that new technology risk and those demand charge risks. In terms of physical abundance of electricity, Izzi was quick to add: “I had a power outage this week — it’s not just theoretical.” She was referencing proactive power shutdowns in Northern California made in late October to prevent the spread of wildfires. When looking to transition fleets to vehicles that use renewable energy, owners and managers must plan such instability into their operations from the start — a fact that makes financial forecasts and plans quite difficult, the panelists said. This reality is compounded by the lack of expansive infrastructure to support large-scale fleets. While EV charging stations have been popping up around the country, they are not enough to reliably power full commercial fleets, the panelists noted. Developing an ZEV infrastructure requires an immense upfront investment and introduces operational risks related to the general uncertainty and immaturity of the market. Andrew Kessler, a managing director at the NY Green Bank who works on financing such projects, said this risk has translated to limited access to capital for small companies trying to scale innovative solutions. Finance to the rescue Despite these challenges, the panelists remained hopeful. Each has introduced innovative solutions that range from new financing models to investment in research for disruptive innovations and technologies.  Discussing ZEV fleets in New York state, Kessler said that his team hopes to push agencies to evaluate these investments using operational expense financing models rather than considering the cost solely from a capital expenditure perspective. Using an OpEx financing model could make fleet conversion more affordable by providing purchasers the opportunity to make smaller payments over time, he said. Battery leasing is another model gaining traction, according to the panelists. Currently, batteries are the most expensive part of an electric vehicle; this model allows customers to purchase a vehicle upfront minus the battery, which is paid for in small increments comparable in cost to purchasing fuel for traditional trucks or buses. Although battery-leasing programs are still mostly under development, Kessler pointed to one successful collaboration in the field by companies Proterra and Mitsui, currently leasing batteries for an all-electric bus fleet in Park City, Utah. Leasing batteries also could become more affordable for fleets if stakeholders can determine that batteries have a higher residual value (such as for reuse or recycling). If lenders can be guaranteed some value at the end of a lease period, they can charge less for individual lease payments without losing out on profit, the panelists said. Fleets of ZEVs also could become more attractive through innovative bundling of products and infrastructure services, which may help mitigate the current fluctuations in cost and supply of renewable energy. “Pooling a bunch of these different challenges under one contract would manage some of that new technology risk and those demand charge risks,” explained Izzi. We are comfortable with that risk, but how we work with the operators and the degradation as a result of how they actually use the vehicles is a different risk that we all have to figure out together. Shao said Amply aspires to develop software to better understand, monitor and plan a fleet’s energy use, something which also could lower operational risks and make investments easier to justify. Finally, each panelist stressed the importance of finding a way to properly distribute risk between operators, manufacturers and investors in order to unlock more stable financing mechanisms and returns in the future. “We are very comfortable with storage as a technology, understanding degradation and the forward cost curves,” Izzi said. “We are comfortable with that risk, but how we work with the operators and the degradation as a result of how they actually use the vehicles is a different risk that we all have to figure out together.” Key takeaways Throughout the session, several themes reverberated between speakers. First, each panelist stressed the need for public-private partnerships in the industry. While public subsidies have contributed to the preliminary infrastructure for fleet electrification, private investment is necessary to truly scale ZEV fleets. Second, they discussed the ROI of electric fleets, each comparing the current state of the commercial ZEV market to that of solar power in the early days. Although investments now are full of risk, they also promise high rewards over time. Conversely, as ZEVs become commonplace, investment costs will plummet, but so will payoffs.  Third, each panelist mentioned the importance of market-based tools and tactics to prove returns, attract private capital and achieve the flexibility needed to support a growing market.  The tone of the panel was undeniably one of confidence in the promise of innovative financing to get ZEV’s to the finish line. “The appetite for growth is there,” concluded Izzi. “We all believe that we can bring the scalability of what we have done in renewables to EV infrastructure … once the vehicles and pricing are there.” Pull Quote Pooling a bunch of these different challenges under 1 contract would manage some of that new technology risk and those demand charge risks. We are comfortable with that risk, but how we work with the operators and the degradation as a result of how they actually use the vehicles is a different risk that we all have to figure out together. Topics Transportation & Mobility VERGE 20 Electric Vehicles Fleet Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rendering of Amply’s Anaheim Transportation Network site. Courtesy of Amply Power Close Authorship

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Financing zero: The road to emission-free fleets

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