Amazon unveils spiraling, tree-covered skyscraper for Arlington HQ2

February 16, 2021 by  
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Amazon has unveiled images of The Helix, a LEED Platinum-targeted, spiraling tower that will serve as the centerpiece building for the Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia. Like The Spheres, Amazon’s first headquarters in Seattle, the new building takes inspiration from biophilia with a form that mimics the shape and beauty of a double helix. Designed by international architecture firm NBBJ , the 350-foot-tall building — dubbed The Helix — will run entirely on renewable energy sourced from a solar farm in southern Virginia that will be used to power an all-electric central heating and cooling system. Located in Arlington’s Crystal City, the Amazon HQ2 is a planned corporate headquarters and expansion of the company’s existing Seattle headquarters and is expected to consolidate 2.8 million square feet of offices, public gathering areas and street-front retail distributed across three 22-story buildings. The recently unveiled Helix building is part of Amazon’s recently submitted development proposal for HQ2’s second phase of new construction. All new buildings are designed to meet LEED Platinum standards. Related: Amazon’s incredible plant-filled biospheres open in Seattle Described by the tech giant as “an alternative workplace integrating work with nature,” The Helix prioritizes healthy work environments with its indoor-outdoor design that includes a pair of spiraling, fresh-air “hill climbs.” The unique building will be open to the public on select weekends every month. In addition to the LEED Platinum-targeted office buildings, Amazon HQ2’s second phase also calls for 2.5 acres of public space with a dog run as well as an outdoor amphitheater that seats over 200 people; three retail pavilions that comprise 100,000 square feet of new space for restaurants, shops and plentiful outdoor seating; and a dedicated 20,000-square-foot community space that can support educational initiatives and an artist-in-residence program. All vehicular access will be tucked underground wherever possible to prioritize pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly paths. + NBBJ Images via NBBJ

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Amazon unveils spiraling, tree-covered skyscraper for Arlington HQ2

A LEED Gold-targeted office will enhance worker wellbeing

February 5, 2021 by  
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Milan-based firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel (ACPV) has unveiled plans for the sustainable renovation of energy company Enel’s historic Rome headquarters. Guided by innovative and sustainable principles, the redesign will cover a total surface area of approximately 80,000 square meters and infuse workspaces with natural light and greenery to enhance workers’ physical and mental health. The modern, light-filled offices will follow bioclimatic and biophilic principles with the goal of achieving both the LEED and WELL certifications at Gold level. Located on Viale Regina Margherita, the Enel headquarters consists of seven interconnected buildings. Given its prominent location in historic Rome , the architects have framed the renovation as a major urban redevelopment project that will update the HQ and renew the building’s relationship with the city. The design will follow a “building-city” concept, in which the towers of the central structure will be complemented by extensive glazing in the modern facade to promote transparency. Related: Perkins Eastman’s WELL Platinum Chicago office prioritizes employee health “The rethinking of the Enel offices makes it possible to initiate a redevelopment which, in addition to the historical site, involves several buildings and impacts an entire urban sector, enhancing their historical qualities but at the same time creating more innovative and sustainable spaces,” said Luca Montuori, the councilor for urban planning of the City of Rome. “An example that demonstrates how it is possible to carefully combine, thanks to the project developed by the Citterio Viel firm, a vision of the future, a reflection on the workplace in this difficult historical moment, the reinterpretation of existing urban morphologies in a contemporary key, recovery of symbolic buildings of the city thanks to the company’s choice of a renewed alliance with the city.” Building information modeling ( BIM ) will be used to inform the design of the renovated headquarters to ensure sustainable design, efficient construction management and responsible building operations.   + Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel (ACPV) Images via ACPV

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How U.S. government procurement can lead the clean economy

February 2, 2021 by  
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How U.S. government procurement can lead the clean economy Cynthia Vallina Tue, 02/02/2021 – 01:00 After 50 years of incremental progress in making its purchasing more sustainable, the federal government still faces tremendous challenges to making acquisitions value sustainability, reduce carbon and halt climate changes to our environment. Every decision the government makes with its $600 billion of annual purchasing power has an impact — it could and should be a positive one. Recently, a federal procurement official said, “We can’t just keep identifying individual products to preference if we expect to make a difference.” For 50 years, the federal government has identified individual products with single environmental attributes for purchasing preference. It started with 10 recycled products and moved onto identifying products more energy-efficient than others. Then, it determined that products made with biobased feedstock such as corn and soybeans are preferable to petroleum-based products and continued identifying thousands of individual products for federal agencies to prioritize and buy. While this was useful in pushing new markets for innovative products, the federal government continues to rely on these 20th-century practices instead of developing 21st-century solutions for using its purchasing power to buy more sustainable products and services in all acquisitions, from office supplies and furniture to multibillion-dollar construction and infrastructure projects. The federal government, now more than ever, has an opportunity to reestablish climate leadership for itself, the nation and the world. The federal government, now more than ever, has an opportunity to reestablish climate leadership for itself, the nation and the world. But as long as sustainable acquisition is viewed as just another socioeconomic program to be coordinated with other procurement policy priorities, not a priority in and of itself, it won’t be successful. Sustainable acquisition needs to take precedence, be encouraged by leadership and be prioritized in all acquisitions, by all agencies. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy, which has the lead for federal acquisition policy, has been focused on updating arcane purchasing requirements, making purchasing easier, more effective, online and results-oriented — all of which are laudable — but it has not yet incorporated energy and environmental sustainability into its solutions. After 50 years of effort, the government cannot successfully meet or measure compliance in a meaningful way to drive progress and increase reliance on a more sustainable, lower-carbon-emitting supply chain. The federal government needs to lead, not follow the Amazons and Walmarts of the world. If life-cycle cost accounting (and decarbonization) become the measures by which our government weighs its purchasing decisions, as first recommended in 1992, then it would make decisions based on the triple bottom line — how they will affect social, environmental and financial outcomes — for the long term. Today, we have the capability and technology to ingrain sustainability into every acquisition decision. By aligning acquisition improvement goals with sustainability, the government could institutionalize it by ensuring sustainability requirements, not just contract clauses, are included in every procurement decision. The easiest way to do this is to automate it in all agencies’ contract writing systems. While the government relies more and more on these automated systems to acquire goods and services, it has not incorporated performance standards for sustainability into those systems. Contracting with contractors Once every federal contract solicitation includes the government’s desire for the most sustainable, life-cycle cost-effective performance solution, the government can drive markets for newer, better, more innovative products, while letting industry drive innovation. Selection factors that place value on a contractor’s past performance in sustainability will enable the government to select the contractor with the best chance to perform while ensuring sustainability principles. Additionally, the two largest online government ordering systems — GSA Advantage and DLA FedMall — need to update their search engines to ensure sustainable products are displayed prominently, that non-energy-efficient and other non-sustainable products are eliminated, and that attempts to purchase any non-sustainable products trigger a justification requirement from the purchaser to explain why the sustainable alternative doesn’t suffice. These actions, required by law since 2005, never have been implemented. Focusing on federal purchasing of cleaner, more efficient products and services will create more American jobs and opportunities for innovative small businesses. Already, American industry produces many green products the world buys. Not only do green products and services advance new markets and a clean economy, they also create opportunities for more small and diverse businesses to become federal suppliers. Many sustainable suppliers, especially for biopreferred products, are mom-and-pop businesses in rural America. As it can be hard for small, minority and women-owned businesses to break into the federal marketplace, providing innovative sustainable products creates an advantage for their sales. No one knows this more than the AbilityOne program, the nation’s largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Through its network of 500 nonprofit agencies, the program provides the federal government products and services. AbilityOne increased its product lines to include more environmentally friendly, biobased products to meet federal demand. Many sustainable products are competitively or better priced than conventional products. Some may have a higher first cost, but still save money by avoiding operations and maintenance costs — such as electric vehicles that have lower maintenance costs and longer-term warranties. Others reduce the total cost of ownership and disposition, such as EPEAT-registered computers, which are made with fewer toxic materials and can be returned at the end of life, not ending up in a landfill or, worse, dumped in a Third World country. And sustainable companies are more likely to look for ways to further social as well as environmental justice in their own businesses as well as their supply chains. The Green Electronics Council, which promotes EPEAT-registered electronics, has developed a Purchasers Guide on Labor and Human Rights Impacts in IT Procurements . Sustainable acquisition is in alignment with President Joe Biden’s Buy America and clean energy plan objectives, which says he will “use the power of federal procurement to increase demand for American-made, American-sourced clean vehicles.” As part of his commitment to increasing procurement investments, Biden is pushing a major federal commitment to purchase clean vehicles for federal, state, tribal, postal and local fleets. Such a commitment could help to dramatically accelerate American industrial capacity to produce clean vehicles and components, while accelerating the upgrade of the 3 million vehicles in these fleets. Federal government employees stand willing and able to help Biden demonstrate federal leadership in converting our economy to one that is more resilient, sustainable, environmentally sound and economically efficient. They just need a little push from their new leadership — and someone to hold them accountable to act. Pull Quote The federal government, now more than ever, has an opportunity to reestablish climate leadership for itself, the nation and the world. Topics Procurement Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

January 25, 2021 by  
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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction Chris Gaither Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:30 Before he saw the smoke, he felt it in his throat. It tasted foul. It curled into his nose, his mouth, his lungs. He looked up from his computer. His colleagues were tapping at their keyboards. The smoke hovered around them. He walked to his manager’s door. “This office is filled with toxic smoke,” he said. “Yes,” she said. “Don’t worry. We have a plan.” “What will you do?” he asked. “Install new ventilation? Move us to another space?” “No,” she said. “We’ve hired you an executive coach to help you develop strategies for dealing with the toxic smoke.” “But I don’t want to deal with the toxic smoke,” he said. “I want to get rid of it.” “Work with the coach,” she said. “Leave a few minutes early today. Get a massage. You’ll be okay.” We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. I heard this parable last year, before the pandemic, from a fellow executive coach. It lodged in my gut. I realized that so many of my coaching clients — in big corporations and small nonprofits, sustainability teams and sales departments — were asking me for help dealing with the stress and dysfunction of their organizations. They were breathing the same toxic smoke as everyone around them. Sometimes they were, themselves, pumping that toxic smoke into their work environments. Yet they were suffering alone, trying to solve it alone. Just as I did during my hectic career leading teams at the Los Angeles Times, Google and Apple. If anything, the pandemic has increased the pressure on us to deal with this suffering in isolation. But here’s the thing: Avoiding burnout is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. It’s a leadership challenge, and we are all leaders. Throughout this Sustainable You series for GreenBiz, I have encouraged you to tend to your personal sustainability so you can do great work on behalf of the planet. This kind of self-care remains critical. But it’s insufficient. As environmental sustainability leaders, you are, by nature, systems thinkers. You identify root causes. You craft upstream solutions. You see the forests, not just the trees, and work to improve the ecosystems so the individuals in them can thrive. So, let’s approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. To get to the root cause of the smoke, we need to think bigger. “You can’t expect people to adopt healthy lifestyles when their work environments reinforce or even cause poor habits,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational-behavior professor at Stanford University. Pfeffer is the author of the 2018 book, “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance — and What We Can Do About It.” He writes that companies have created elaborate systems for tracking their progress on environmental sustainability, but they seem to have forgotten to measure the human sustainability of their own employees. Current management practices harm employee engagement and job performance, Pfeffer says, and they increase employee turnover and healthcare costs. There’s even more at stake. To solve global, complex challenges like the climate emergency, racial injustice and species extinction, we must be adaptive leaders. We need to be mindful. Creative. Intuitive. Curious. Willing to experiment, learn and redesign. Open-minded and open-hearted. That’s so hard to do when we’re burned out. Organizational culture is a living, breathing thing. We draw from it, and we feed into it. We’re constantly creating it together. So, when everyone around us is stressed out, exhausted and closed off, it’s easy to shift into that same mode. Our mirror neurons, those evolutionary tools that help us build nourishing social connections, pick up on those signals and encourage us to be like the others. To suffer with the rest. I know this feeling well. I have held, deep in my body, the physical and emotional distress that burnout carries. We can work this way for a while, but eventually we deplete our energy and fall apart. As an executive leadership coach, I have supported many individuals to the other side of this burnout, where they’ve refilled their energy reserves and brought their creativity back to life. I’ve also followed my intuition upstream, seeking the origins of the toxic smoke. I work with full teams and their leaders to help them shift organizational culture: to slow down, reflect on what really matters, call out harmful behaviors, give themselves permission to embrace a more wholesome way of working. Healthy people, healthy planet A healthy earth depends on healthy people. To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves. So, my fellow leaders, let’s set an intention to cultivate human sustainability in our organizations — for the sake of our employees and the communities and natural habitats they’re working to protect. Let’s look for the toxic smoke curling through our Zoom meetings, our email inboxes and Slack channels. Let’s name it, get curious about where it came from, chase it down to its source. Let’s pay close attention to the tone we are setting for our teams. The moods we are carrying into our interactions. The behaviors we are modeling. The harmful ways of being that we are introducing or accepting. Let’s check in on each other. Let’s work to understand how others in our groups are experiencing the world, how they might be suffering differently from us, and offer them support. Let’s talk about burnout and wellness — with our team members, fellow leaders, bosses, even our boards of directors. Let’s gather our teams. Let’s come up with, say, 50 things we could do to improve our health and happiness at work. Then let’s commit to new ways of being together. Let’s craft agreements and hold each other accountable. Instead of trying to manage the toxic smoke in our work environments, let’s get rid of it. Because only when we can breathe can we truly do this critical planetary work. Pull Quote We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Sustainable You Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing 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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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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Prefab timber home prototype pops up in just 5 days

December 29, 2020 by  
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Modular, transportable and built entirely with locally sourced timber, the prefab Proto-Habitat is an exercise in sustainable living. French design studio Wald.City designed and built the prototype project as part of a one-year research program at the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici to explore new forms of housing. The 60-square-meter (approximately 645 square feet) abode is scalable and adaptable to a variety of settings and can be used for everything from individual housing to collective buildings. As part of its focus on sustainable design, the Proto-Habitat was constructed with 100% timber materials sourced within 500 kilometers of Bordeaux in southwestern France. Products were carefully chosen from local industries that follow responsible waste management and sustainable forestry practices. The use of wood is celebrated throughout the structure, which features a minimalist and contemporary design. Related: Prefab holiday cabins appear to float among misty tea fields in China Designed with mobility in mind, the base unit of the modular Proto-Habitat can be assembled in just five days by three people and a truck crane. That means there is no need for a foundation. The base module comprises an open-plan ground floor of 30 square meters, a mezzanine of 15 square meters and a 30-square-meter elevated sunroom that is tucked beneath the curved roof. The flexible layout allows the structure to be adapted and expanded to meet a variety of uses and settings. “Shifting the role of the architect to ‘facilitator,’ the prototype and research aim to elaborate new forms and spaces to live together, and alternative financing methods,” the architects explained in a project statement. “This first project tries to develop a possible answer for the contemporary needs of flexibility, close relationships between home and office . It is a prototype to create new social relationships, new forms of commons, and redefining in housing standards what comfort, minimalism, and appropriation could be.” + Wald.City Images via Wald.City

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BofA, BlackRock and State Street CEOs talk stakeholder primacy — and fall short

December 14, 2020 by  
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BofA, BlackRock and State Street CEOs talk stakeholder primacy — and fall short Sara Murphy Mon, 12/14/2020 – 01:45 Some of the world’s biggest asset managers have been talking a lot lately about sustainable capital markets, stakeholder capitalism and how improved environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure can contribute to more resilient markets. While these organizations are taking steps in the right direction, their companies’ actual behavior in the marketplace often falls short of their leaders’ proclamations, and those leaders’ visions for capital markets fail to rise to the increasingly urgent challenges that confront our society. At the recent 2020 Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Symposium , the CEOs of Bank of America (BofA), BlackRock and State Street provided their views on the role of the private sector in addressing societal challenges and why ESG integration is no longer optional. They led with their thoughts on stakeholder capitalism, a concept that has exploded since Aug. 19, 2019, when the Business Roundtable (BRT) updated its Principles of Corporate Governance to redefine “the purpose of a corporation to promote an economy that serves all Americans.” CEOs from 181 publicly traded companies — including those addressing the SASB Symposium — signed the principles, which purportedly signaled an end to Milton Friedman’s doctrine of shareholder primacy established in the 1970s, and the beginning of a new era of stakeholder capitalism. “The concept of just one stakeholder — shareholders — has evolved and changed,” said Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. He noted the need for businesses to work with their employees and clients, and in a globalizing world, to work with the societies in which businesses operate. We’re not looking for short-term blips as a shareholder but rather durability. “This creates some difficulties but companies that manage this set themselves up for long-term profitability,” Fink said. “We’re not looking for short-term blips as a shareholder but rather durability. In challenging cycles like the pandemic, those companies are the ones that make it through and endure. That’s how management and boards need to think about this.” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan concurred, adding that a long-term focus on all constituencies helps to attract talent and customers. State Street Global Advisors CEO Cyrus Taporevala remarked that asset managers and owners are reacting to three trends: a growing correlation between ESG factors and investment risk; end investors wanting to see their ESG preferences expressed in their investments; and regulators around the world signaling an intention to require more around ESG criteria, reporting and investing. A clarion call to convergence All three CEOs repeatedly asserted an urgent imperative for the financial services industry to “coalesce” and “converge” around standardized disclosure of ESG information and data, perhaps unsurprising given that SASB — the symposium’s host — is a leading disclosure framework. Their general argument was that standardized disclosure is less burdensome for companies, which will enhance the quality of reporting and encourage smaller companies to participate. It allows for collection and analysis of large data sets that help investors, regulators and the public to assess and compare companies’ ESG performance, they said. In addition to SASB, the CEOs pointed to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) as a leading standard. Moynihan recommended convergence with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “If that’s what the world told us we need to do across 90 countries in 2015, then that’s what we should be aiming to achieve,” he said. The CEOs also emphasized the value of transparency. “We need people to say what they’re doing so they can be encouraged to do more,” Moynihan said. “When we [at Bank of America] make decisions about whom to lend to, we have the information, but the world may not. It’s a little behind the curtain. Standardized disclosure will cascade down the system, even to a middle-market private company where employees and customers will ask, ‘Where’s our disclosure?’” “Transparency reveals the good and the bad,” Fink said. “Better financial and sustainability disclosure forces management and the board to have laser focus. It lifts us faster, even if we’re embarrassed at times when we’re not moving as quickly as we should.” Too little too slowly And indeed, they’re not moving as quickly as they should, and the actions of these three companies are not entirely setting the examples these CEOs espouse. Bank of America is the world’s fourth leading financer of fossil fuels , even as the imperative to decarbonize the economy to stave off the worst effects of climate change grows more urgent by the day. In 2019 the company agreed to pay $4.2 million to resolve employment discrimination allegations brought by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Nevertheless, Bank of America maintains it is fulfilling its commitment to stakeholder primacy. Standardized disclosure will cascade down the system, even to a middle-market private company where employees and customers will ask, ‘Where’s our disclosure?’ Among 60 of the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock was the fourth least supportive and State Street the 13th least supportive of shareholders’ efforts to promote better social and environmental stewardship among companies in their portfolios, according to a recent analysis by campaigning organization Share Action. Both companies’ own reporting and disclosure on their social and environmental stewardship lacks the sort of transparency and meaningful information they purport to champion in the marketplace. This may be because a pernicious tension is built into the entire stakeholder capitalism construct. A question of purpose and prosperity “We’re not trying to disrupt a company or destroy their footprint or business,” Fink said. “I know some people would like for us to do that, but that is not our fiduciary responsibility. Our fiduciary responsibility is to maximize profit.” “State Street Global Advisors is looking to get the best risk-adjusted return for investors, and we come at ESG from a perspective of value, not values,” Taporevala said. “It’s not up to us as a fiduciary to decide what the right values are.” Therein lies the conundrum: What’s best for the social and environmental systems on which our economy depends won’t always align with an individual company’s profit maximization. Companies, investors and shareholders will have to reckon with this reality. Rick Alexander, founder and CEO of The Shareholder Commons, expounded on this point in a February article : Most investors hold broadly diversified portfolios and rely on their job as their primary financial asset. They need a healthy economy and planet in order to have solid portfolio returns, decent wages and good lives. They know that some companies need to surrender shareholder value in order to preserve the critical systems we all rely on (think coal, oil, tobacco and, not coincidentally, large financial institutions that threaten systemic stability). A recent study determined that publicly traded companies create annual social and environmental costs of $2.2 trillion. While any given company may profit by ignoring costs that it can externalize, its diversified shareholders ultimately pay the price. Moynihan emphasized that the world’s problems cannot be solved without leadership from the private sector. He pointed to the SDGs, noting that all the charitable spending in the world doesn’t amount to the estimated cost of delivering on those goals. “You could go to governments, but they’re running huge deficits, and they don’t have the money,” Moynihan said. The three CEOs talked at length about the importance of coalescing around a common set of metrics and data, but that’s only a partial solution. If the objective is truly to assure our ongoing prosperity, then everyone involved in capital markets must prioritize the vital systems upon which a thriving economy depends, rather than profit margins at any one company. At the end of the day, only that approach will serve both shareholders and stakeholders. Pull Quote We’re not looking for short-term blips as a shareholder but rather durability. Standardized disclosure will cascade down the system, even to a middle-market private company where employees and customers will ask, ‘Where’s our disclosure?’ Topics Finance & Investing Reporting TCFD GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off “The Fearless Girl” statue facing Charging Bull in Lower Manhattan, New York City (June 2017) Shutterstock Quietbits Close Authorship

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BofA, BlackRock and State Street CEOs talk stakeholder primacy — and fall short

Send your coworkers these sustainable holiday gifts

December 7, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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It’s the age-old question that manages to stump people in the workforce every year: what to buy coworkers for the holidays? With many people working from home this year, navigating what to buy for your teammates can be trickier than ever. Inhabitat has you covered with 11 thoughtful and eco-friendly gifts for the coworkers in your life. Fair-trade coffee For those who are unfamiliar, coffee that is certified as “ Fair-Trade ” has been vetted to ensure that the product has been produced to a certain set of ethical standards. When you buy Fair-Trade coffee, you’re not only supporting farmers who receive a fair price but supporting communities and their local environment as well. A gift of certified Fair-Trade coffee is the perfect present for the coffee-lovers in the office. Choose from some popular favorites like Cafedirect , which makes 90% of its farmers shareholders in the business, or Higher Ground Roasters , which has established partnerships with non-profits that protect important wild areas. Rok espresso machine Chances are, you have more than one coffee-lover in the office, so we just had to include this zero-waste and zero-energy espresso machine by Rok . The hand-operated machine produces a strong, double shot of espresso with no plastic pods or paper filters needed. Simply add coffee grounds to the steel portafilter, add boiling water and pull the steel arms of the machine down to produce either one double shot or two single shots at once. Its minimal design is perfect for an office kitchen or on top of a desk, and the device itself is light enough to carry around. Related: This zero-waste espresso machine is powered by human strength Zero-waste lunch kit Switching to a waste-free lunch box is one of the easiest ways to go green in the office. Package Free makes a zero-waste lunch kit complete with a silicone sandwich bag, organic cloth napkin, a bamboo cutlery set and an airtight stainless steel container. Everything inside the gift set is reusable and comes inside a handy drawstring produce bag to make it completely package free. At about $50 for everything, it won’t break the bank, either. Eco notebook Choose an eco-friendly or ethically sourced spiral notebook for meetings and conferences (in-person or virtual!), like this one from Marie Mae that’s designed, printed and packaged in the U.S. by family-owned production partners. All notebooks are fully recyclable , and a percentage of the paper composition is made from either post-consumer waste or sourced from certified sustainable and renewable wood. The Growing Candle It’s no secret that candles always make great gifts, no matter the occasion. Opt for one made from essential oil and sustainably sourced soy wax, coconut wax or beeswax for an eco-friendly flair and non-toxic fumes. The Growing Candle is made from 100% pure soy wax and a lead-free cotton wick with additive-, colorant- and phthalate-free fragrances. Even better, the candle comes in a beautiful ceramic holder and wrapped in paper embedded with wildflower seeds, so it can be repurposed as a flower planter after it has been used. ChopValue phone stand Give your coworkers a cute little home for their phones on their desks with this phone stand made from repurposed chopsticks. The ChopValue phone stand boasts 150 chopsticks recycled with 220 grams of carbon stored per product. With custom engraving available as well, this piece is sure to be a conversation starter. Welly tumbler  Featured everywhere from CNN and Vogue to Bon Appetit and Goop, this reusable bottle from Welly is made from bamboo and stainless steel . The company donates 1% of sales to charity:water to bring fresh water to those in need around the world. Choose from five different sizes and three different models plus various colors and patterns to accommodate everyone on your list. Biodegradable wood planters These biodegradable wood planters from Etsy shop MinimumDesign are 3D-printed using a sustainable blend of recycled wood and bioplastic made from corn. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, choose the perfect style to sit on your coworker’s desk and add a little low-maintenance succulent or bonsai tree to top it off. Is your coworker lacking in gardening skills? The company also makes flower vases, coasters and even wall decorations. Upcycled circuit board supplies Another unique Etsy find (and who doesn’t love those?), these gifts from DebbyAremDesigns are made from recycled circuit boards. Perfect for the IT department or resident coworker who is always stuck fixing computer problems around the office, choose from budget-friendly bookmarks made from a recycled vintage circuit board or a more elaborate wall clock crafted from circuit board, vintage brass jewelry stampings and a recycled vintage vinyl record. Recycled plastic backpack Environmentally friendly and stylish, these $27 recycled plastic backpacks from Earth Easy come in three different colors and roll up into built-in pouches, making them lightweight, compact and convenient. The fabric is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and is machine-washable. With a zippable front pocket and a fold-over main compartment, it’s much more professional-looking than a standard school backpack. GoSili reusable straws Although plastic straws and single-use beverage cups are (hopefully) on their way out, there are bound to be one or two office mates who just haven’t gotten the memo yet. Along with cups and food storage containers, GoSili makes universal silicone straws tops that fit onto a wide range of different reusable cups, making them spill-proof and reusable. Kits even come with travel tins for sipping on the go. Images via S. Hermann & F. Richter , Inhabitat, Package Free, Marie Mae, The Growing Candle, ChopValue, Welly, MinimumDesign, DebbieAremDesigns, Earth Easy, GoSili and Freestocks

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Send your coworkers these sustainable holiday gifts

UN warns that humans will lose their war against nature

December 7, 2020 by  
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Fiction writing students learn about the handful of archetypal plots, including man versus nature . Usually that means something like 127 Hours, where a hiker in Utah gets stuck in a slot canyon, or Life of Pi, where a man and a tiger try to survive being shipwrecked together. But a plot about humans who set out to ruin the water, air, soil and planet that sustained their life would just be stupid, right? But that is exactly what we are doing, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who issued a statement last Wednesday condemning humanity for waging war against the environment and urging people to change their ways. Related: Biden and Harris gear up for a fight to slow climate change “We are facing a devastating pandemic , new heights of global heating, new lows of ecological degradation and new setbacks in our work towards global goals for more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development,” Guterres said, speaking from Columbia University in New York. “To put it simply, the state of the planet is broken.” In case you need examples, 2020 has provided plenty: Wildfires in California and the Amazon; devastating hurricanes in Central America, the Caribbean and the southern U.S.; soaring temperatures in the Siberian Arctic, which people usually think of as cold; and record-setting temperatures in Death Valley, which most people thought was too hot already. Even Norway had a glacier-melting heatwave. The oceans are getting hotter, and sea ice is melting. Carbon dioxide levels have already rebounded from their early lockdown lows. Against this horrific backdrop, Guterres has outlined three climate priorities: achieve global carbon neutrality by 2050; align global finance with the Paris Agreement’s commitment of limiting global warming to 1.5?C; and focus money and human efforts on developing ways to adapt to the changing climate and increase resilience for future shifts in climate. “Let’s be clear: human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help solve it,” Guterres said. “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.” Via CNN Image via NOAA

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UN warns that humans will lose their war against nature

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