Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

October 1, 2020 by  
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For the entire month of July, the Estonian city of Tartu transformed one of its main streets in the heart of the city into the Autovabaduse (Car-Free) Avenue, a popular pedestrian-friendly paradise. The project not only observed COVID-19 social distancing guidelines but also gave local businesses a much-needed economic boost. Commissioned by the local government, the Car-Free Avenue 2020 project was designed by Tõnis Arjus, Ragnar Kekkonen, Maris Peebo and Anna-Liisa Unt. The area used for the urban intervention spanned approximately 8,000 square meters and accommodated a wide range of programming, from dance courses and morning yoga to national radio broadcast pop-ups, concerts and more. Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2024 with the slogan “Arts of Survival.” The recent Car-Free Avenue project fits in perfectly with the city’s agenda for development, which prioritizes sustainability. The main street that was closed — known as Vabaduse (Freedom) Avenue — was selected for its location between the classical old town and the river Emajogi that flows through the city. The Car-Free Avenue helped to better connect the old town and river and provided a jumping-off point for revitalizing the riverside. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “It [also] created a public discussion all over Estonia on climate change, excessive car ownership and different methods in tackling the issues of building a sustainable future,” the designers explained in a project statement. The month-long urban intervention attracted people from all over Estonia and abroad, counting around 18,000 visitors in the first three days. The road was completely redesigned to create a versatile, car-free public space that abided by social distancing rules. All of the design elements follow a 2-by-2-meter module, including the grass portions, which were cut into 2-meter stripes. + Tartu Autovabaduse Images by Mana Kaasik, Maanus Kullamaa, To?nis Arjus, Eva-Maria Tartu

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability

August 10, 2020 by  
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What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability Jesse Klein Mon, 08/10/2020 – 01:45 When the coronavirus pandemic started in March, many of America’s major cities experienced a mass exodus of people in search of places with more living space for home offices and outdoor areas for easier social distancing. And as many tech companies extend their work from home policies indefinitely , such as Google , which recently announced it will allow employees to work from home until July 2021, this migration could become permanent.  “There is this phenomenon that we know is happening around people leaving the major cities and going to smaller places,” said Lindsay Baker , former first chief sustainability officer at WeWork and founder of space use software app company Comfy . “People sometimes don’t choose to live in cities. They live there because they work there.”   And as employees move away, many companies are starting to reevaluate the necessity of maintaining their large corporate offices or complexes in congested, expensive places with prestigious addresses. In June, a San Franciscan tweeted a photo of three moving trucks on the edge of the city’s financial district near Chinatown and commented that he has seen over 30 in the area. At least anecdotally, both people and companies are leaving town. They are moving out of office buildings because they don’t need them.  But even if remote work becomes the long-term norm for every company post-pandemic, humans still like to work together. There’s still a part of us that wants to physically come together to collaborate and connect. So real estate strategies may turn towards smaller neighborhood satellite offices in multiple suburban locations, instead of one massive complex that serves an entire region or, in some cases, an entire state.  These smaller satellite hubs could allow employees to come together a few times a week and supply high-speed internet and better backgrounds than a kitchen table for important meetings, while also being less crowded for social distancing concerns, giving employees shorter commutes and allowing for a quieter, more accessible outdoor environments than a typical bustling financial district location.  But what will this possible transition to smaller hubs mean for the sustainability of office buildings where building designers and office managers have spent the last decade making every last inch of a multistory building as energy- and waste-efficient as possible? Large complexes have sustainabilities of scale When an influential company builds an HQ, it becomes iconic and synonymous with the company’s brand and image. The most well-known ones become part of the pop culture ethos and get nicknames: The Apple Spaceship, The GooglePlex, The Salesforce Tower, The Amazon Biodomes, The Hearst Tower, The Bank of China Tower, Lloyd’s “Inside-Out Building.” That notoriety incentivizes the company to commit to sustainable designs, technologies and programs for the highly scrutinized building. But the tenants couldn’t heavily invest in those projects without the massive number of people each building serves. And the bigger buildings could have sustainability of scale that smaller offices can’t provide. “I think to an extent you could make a claim that a larger campus or a larger building would be more sustainable [than a smaller office] for the simple fact that you can implement different technologies that have a better ROI,” said Kyle Goehring, executive vice president of clean energy solutions at JLL.  Media Authorship Salesforce Close Authorship These technologies can be as mundane as better, more energy-efficient boilers, lights, heaters, filters and air conditioners or as radical as the Salesforce Tower’s in-building blackwater treatment equipment.  “When you’ve got big buildings, you’ve got more complex, robust mechanical systems,” said Sean McCrady, vice president of Healthy Buildings, recently acquired by UL. And larger, more complex buildings are usually staffed with teams of specialists to run them. They notice when something isn’t running efficiently and work to find solutions. Just having people around in charge of sustainability to notice when the lights on the sixth floor keep getting left on is important. There are other sustainabilities of scale that large campus’ offer that smaller ones can’t. The Google Cafeteria, for example, works on a scale that allows for extremely sustainable operations. It uses ugly fruit , has a food waste reduction program and can serve on and wash real plates instead of using disposable ones. “Even if I bought a Tupperware full of whatever food I had to my office, took it home and washed it in my residential dishwasher, it would have been more consumptive than what Google does,” Baker said. “Because it’s at scale.” According to Baker, tech perks aren’t going away. Even in the time of the pandemic, employees still expect some of the same benefits they enjoyed at their large complexes. But instead of a buffet-style with real plates and a full kitchen in the complex, companies will deliver servings in disposable containers to the smaller hub locations. And with the virus still on everyone’s mind, instead of bulk ordering trail mix, nuts and candy for a bin with scope, single-serving chip bags and cookie packages will feel necessary. Sustainable cafeterias might be replaced with high-waste food delivery services.  Another factor that contributes to more sustainability investment on large corporate campuses is that they are either owned by the company or are in long-term lease agreements, sometimes up to 20 years. Both these situations give the company much more control over building decisions.  “Real estate owners will often say that the stability of long term and big leases help them to be able to make some of these sustainability improvements,” Baker said.  Almost every building expert interviewed for this story mentioned that companies and landlords are more willing to make changes if they have a steady partner to help carry the costs. There’s no point making a bunch of sustainable changes if the company plans to abandon that location in two years. Shifting to a smaller corporate office model with many businesses in each building and each company dealing with many landlords could threaten a company’s ability to influence a sustainable agenda. Smaller satellites could shift incentives  If post-pandemic, companies decided that instead of 100,000 to 1 million square feet organized into a complex, they need 10,000 square feet in 10 separate hub locations, there are a lot more decision-makers at the table, and a lot more split incentives.  “In America, buildings are owned by one entity, managed by a different entity and occupied by another entity,” Baker said. “All of these things getting disrupted means that there’s a little bit of mayhem going on for most buildings.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult.   Each entity has different incentives that affect the feasibility of sustainable improvements. For example, where a tenant might see a huge advantage in installing solar panels to decrease the utility bill, the owner of the building who passes the electricity bill onto the renter doesn’t have any reason to pay for the solar infrastructure.  “Oftentimes, it’s the owner who’s really in a position of power,” Baker said. “When you have more tenants and shorter terms, split incentives become a much bigger problem, and it’s harder to get an owner to spend the money.” Goehring agreed. “A larger site campus may be able to put in more technologies because you have greater control over that property,” he said. “Whereas if you’re in much smaller sites and you have multiple tenants, you may not be able to implement an on-site renewable or energy-efficient solution because you’re sharing the asset with multiple parties. You may not be able to get agreement.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Adobe already has encountered this problem with its satellite offices across the globe.  “If we have a small office somewhere that we rent, we have no local control,” said Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist for Adobe. “We’re working on strategies for being able to work with landlords.” On the other hand, the fact that the satellite offices are not as tightly controlled also could help green initiatives get off the ground. According to Baker, there’s less bureaucracy, and it could be easier to get decisions made. Moreover, in a smaller office, the people in charge might be more willing to take a chance on a change at a smaller scale. Even overhauling something simple could be a massive undertaking at a huge headquarters.  “Sometimes the best sustainability performance actually happens in the satellite offices of these big companies,” Baker said. “They were able to break down more silos faster. That stuff is sort of the bread and butter of sustainability work.” Sustainability could thrive in a market of flexibility, pressure and competition As corporations need less space, they have more potential locations available to hold them. According to the commercial building experts, fewer constraints, along with the pandemic exodus has created a renter’s market, forcing landlords to be more flexible to compete. To attract companies with sustainability commitments, smaller landlords that didn’t have to think about solar or efficient heating before will hopefully start making changes.  “You can influence the people who own the assets to implement solutions because if they don’t, you are going to go lease a different property or you’re going to relocate elsewhere,” Goehring said.  Baker hopes that the changing market will develop a sense of competition between landlords to be the most sustainable and be in line with the sustainable values and goals of larger companies. That means there’s an opportunity for the massive companies that need space in many places to turn up the heat on more buildings, more regulators and more landlords in more places. With satellite offices, companies could influence sustainable policies and access to renewable energy in many areas, instead of just focusing on the one that is home to the large base.  With Adobe’s many satellite locations, it is able to put pressure on regulators in states outside of its headquarters in California. According to Digneo, Adobe was able to work with local utilities such as Portland General Electric to get renewable energy to its sites in Hillsboro, Oregon, and later in Utah.  We are still far from the end of this pandemic, and we don’t know what the long-term ramifications for our office lives will be. But the private sector is usually quick to adapt and take advantage of a changing market, and the hope is those adaptations will include more sustainable offices, whatever the size.  Pull Quote Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Topics Buildings Built Environment Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A rendering of Apple’s spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino.

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How to prepare your pets for the end of lockdown

August 7, 2020 by  
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Between nonstop news and social media use, we’re all too familiar with the effects of COVID-19 on humans around the world. But the lives of our furry friends have also been impacted in ways large and small. Whether your dog is bummed because admirers can’t pet her during walks or your cat is alarmed by your 24/7 work-from-home presence, nobody has escaped the impact of the pandemic . We talked to three veterinarians — Tory Waxman, chief veterinarian at Sundays ; Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary ; and Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food — who weighed in about how lockdown has affected pets and how to prepare them for our eventual return to the workplace. Related: Fostering and adopting pets during the pandemic How has lockdown affected pets? Bernal: The past few months have seen many of us make sure that we are there for our pets just as much as they are for us. We’ve loved having our dogs sit by our feet, follow us around and go out with them on long daily walks. However, any changes in routine can leave pets feeling anxious or stressed, so it’s important for pet parents to make proper adjustments to help the time at home stay equally as beneficial for both parties. Richardson: Unless your pet is particularly independent, they are likely to have loved having you around almost 24/7 during lockdown! For most pets, it will have been a very enjoyable time — and they’ll have been making the most of the extra attention and cuddles. There are, however, a few other effects that some pets may experience: increased dependency, weight gain/loss of fitness and missed veterinary appointments. If we’re continuing to work remotely, how can we make that situation more comfortable for our pets? Waxman:  Exercising your pets (both physically and mentally) is a great way to keep them content in our new reality. It’s important to start gradually with physical exercise. Once your pup is in shape, a few miles of walking before an important meeting will help ensure they sleep right through it. Additionally, mental stimulation can be very helpful when the weather is bad or you just don’t have time for a walk. For dogs, frozen Kongs, snuffle mats and puzzle toys are all great options. We use a Manners Minder treat dispenser in our office to reward our dogs to rest quietly while we work. For cats, the Doc & Phoebe Indoor Hunting Feeder is a great way to get a cat to exercise while being mentally stimulated. Bernal: Continue a regular routine, allow them to have their own space to retreat to that they feel comfortable in, daily exercise and mental stimulation. Help your dog with some social time with other dogs such as time at the dog park now that most areas are out of stay-at-home orders, and look to doggy daycare options. This will give your dog some doggy time that they simply love as well as bring them home ready for a good night’s sleep! Giving your dog some alone time where you are out of the house is also important, even if you aren’t planning on going back to work anytime soon. Thirty to 60 minutes a day will help minimize their anxiety for when you do go back to work. Remember during these times to avoid emotional departures or greetings and give them their favorite distraction several minutes prior to your leaving the home. Long-lasting food treats or favorite toys are a good tip here. Will they be glad when we go back to work? Will they miss us? Waxman: Our pets will definitely miss us but will also enjoy some time on their own! For some pets, it is hard for them to truly relax with us around all the time. Richardson: Some independent pets may enjoy time to themselves, but many pets may miss us. If the transition back to work is a sudden one, your pet may display signs of separation anxiety, even if they have never experienced it before. Common signs of anxiety in pets include aggression, soiling in the home, destructive behavior, excessive barking/whining/meowing, pacing or restlessness, changes in appetite or weight, change in mood, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, shaking/trembling/tiding, tail-tucking and excessive licking or chewing, which may result in reddened skin and/or bald patches. Bernal: Dogs have loved us being home and even if they are a dog who is content on their own, they will miss having us there to keep them company. There’s a chance that our dog may have become more attached to us than normal, potentially causing separation anxiety in the coming weeks as we start to go back to work or our daily lives. Separation anxiety is a behavioral reaction triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they are attached to the most. How can we prepare pets for the end of lockdown? Waxman: If you expect to eventually go back to work for most of the day outside your home, start teaching your pet in small increments of time to be content when you are not around. Start with leaving them in a safe place (enclosed room or crate) for short periods of time. Make sure to actually leave your home or apartment during these times away — your pet is smart enough to know if you are just in the other room. Also, start up a routine similar to that of your routine if you were to go into the office . Wake up, feed and exercise them at the same time as if you were going to work. Just like us, dogs and cats thrive with predictable routines. Richardson: Associate your absence with positive rewards. When you leave your pet alone, give them a special treat, Kong frozen with peanut butter or low-sodium broth or other high-value reward that you only give during this alone time. Provide a ‘den’ for your pet. Consider crate-training your dog if you haven’t already, or use a gated space. A crate provides a safe space for your dog to retreat to when they are anxious. Cats enjoy a quiet, darker space, tucked away from busy areas of the home. Always use exciting rewards so they come to love this space. Increase exercise and play before leaving. Tire out your pet before you leave. If a pet has lots of excess energy, it’s more likely to turn into nervous energy and fuel separation anxiety. Take dogs for a long walk or run before work, or have a vigorous play session with both dogs and cats to help mentally stimulate and tire them out. Switch up your routine when leaving home. If you follow the same routine, your pet may pick up on this and notice those departure cues: the sound of your keys, putting on shoes or grabbing a bag. Mix things up so your pet doesn’t associate these signals with you leaving and subsequently with anxiety. How will going back to work outside the house affect pets that were adopted during the pandemic? Waxman:  Going back to work will be hard on pets that were adopted during the pandemic, as many have never been left alone for long periods of time. Work on leaving your pet for short periods of time, slowly working up to long stretches out of the house, reflective of your actual workday. For some dogs, going to doggy daycare or having a dog walker will be part of their routine — it’s a good idea to acclimate your pup to these activities now so it’s already part of their routine when you do go back to work. Bernal:  For adopted pets, going back to work may be a new experience entirely for them and exacerbate the chance of them demonstrating separation anxiety. Training your dog to spend time alone is crucial. Doggy daycare or having a walker come in to your home while you are at work is an option for many dogs. Let your dog meet the walker when you are home so they get to know them. For doggy daycare, work with your local facility to see if you can take your dog early on the morning they are due to start so that it is less daunting compared to entering a full room of dogs. What other effects of the pandemic have you seen on pets? Richardson: We have observed that pet owners are noticing things that they may not have previously noticed now that they’re home more frequently — medical problems like allergy symptoms (such as itching or paw licking), the frequency of seizures, changes in mobility or odd behaviors. Pet owners are picking up on things their pet may be experiencing with greater frequency. Images via Bao_5 , Fran Mother of Dogs and Makieni777

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BMW, Ford, other automakers rev up carbon commitments

July 29, 2020 by  
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BMW, Ford, other automakers rev up carbon commitments Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 07/29/2020 – 02:00 The world’s biggest automakers are ramping up their carbon commitments even as they struggle to build back in the wake of the pandemic.  This week, Germany’s BMW took the plunge and set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions per car by at least one-third by 2030. Like its peers, BMW plans to reach those targets through a combination of developing and selling electric vehicles (including newly announced electric versions of the 5 Series sedan and X1 compact SUV), combined with incorporating more sustainable materials, working with its supply chain vendors and adopting clean energy for facilities. Last month, Ford announced that the company would become carbon neutral by 2050, a striking commitment for an American automaker. Mary Wroten, director of sustainability at Ford, told GreenBiz that Ford is aiming for 2050 to align with the Paris Commitments and because “anything after 2050 is unacceptable climate change risk.” Several big European and Asian automakers already have started down this road. Volvo Cars — owned by China’s Geely Holding and not to be mistaken with Volvo Group — is pledging to become carbon neutral by 2040. By 2025, Volvo Cars plans to reduce the CO2 footprint of each car it makes by 40 percent.  We have an obligation to get electrification right.   Volkswagen, which has linked electric vehicles to its comeback following the emissions scandal, says it’ll be carbon neutral by 2050. “We have an obligation to get electrification right,” Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said in a release last year.  So what’s behind this carbon car company tipping point, even as automakers are expecting slower sales this year due to a global recession? Three macrotrends: Regulators in Europe and China are tightening emissions rules and driving automakers that sell into those markets to launch zero- and low-emissions vehicles. The U.S. at a federal level is lagging behind this movement, but states such as California have been acting much more aggressively to mandate emissions reductions targets for vehicles (such as the new Advanced Clean Truck rule). In general over the years, the auto industry has been slow to adopt zero-emission vehicle technologies. That has created an opening for upstart automakers such as Tesla, Rivian and Nikola Motors to emerge and gain customers from big auto. Rivian won a 100,000 electric delivery and freight truck deal with Amazon. Tesla is eligible to join the S&P 500 after four profitable quarters. Losing marketshare, and fear of losing marketshare, is a key driver of remaking the auto industry around sustainability.  Some automakers are using the struggles of the pandemic to lean into sustainability goals. “Build back better” is a refrain I’ve heard from a variety of transportation companies in recent weeks. In Europe, there’s a major push to fund clean transportation infrastructure, both EV chargers and hydrogen fueling, in stimulus packages.  What do you think? Are the automakers doing enough when it comes to carbon emissions? Love to hear your thoughts: katie@greenbiz.com . This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe  here . Pull Quote We have an obligation to get electrification right. Topics Transportation & Mobility Automobiles Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The BMW 7 series electric car at Bangkok Motor Show 2020.

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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG

July 13, 2020 by  
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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG Mike Hower Mon, 07/13/2020 – 01:30 About six months ago, I wrote that 2020 would be a pivotal year for environmental, social and governance (ESG), and that what happens this year and over the next decade could determine the next century. While it would be the world’s biggest understatement to say 2020 isn’t turning out the way we all thought or hoped it would, I stand by my conclusion. This is a critical time for corporate sustainability. What we do or don’t do will change the world, but for reasons nobody could have predicted in December. The mass climate protests of 2019 and subsequent outpouring of major corporate climate commitments from the likes of Amazon, IKEA and Kering, among others, seemed to indicate that 2020 would be the year of the E in ESG — when corporate climate action hit critical mass. In January, the momentum built as Microsoft committed to becoming carbon-negative and BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink’s now-fabled letter to CEOs called the climate crisis a “defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” The climate crisis even topped the discussion list at the World Economic Forum Annual Summit in Davos. And then along came a global pandemic, and everything changed. As the world went into lockdown, ESG conversations shifted from the E to the S, or social — how companies were responding to COVID-19 in terms of employee health and welfare. The emphasis on the S intensified even further after the murder of George Floyd sparked a movement for racial justice and employees, customers and investors demanded companies take a stand.  As social issues move to the forefront of ESG discussions, 2020 is turning out to be the breakout year for the S. To better understand what this means for the future of corporate sustainability, thinkPARALLAX recently gathered investors and corporate sustainability practitioners from TPG, JUST Capital, Workday, The Estée Lauder Companies and KKS Advisors for a digital Perspectives discussion .  The S moves to the front seat In the long road trip of corporate sustainability, the S mostly has ridden in the backseat — with the E and G commandeering the wheel and Spotify playlist. That’s because social issues are tough to quantify.  While calculating a carbon footprint is comparatively easy, how does one create science-based targets for worker welfare or racial injustice? Sure, an organization can make efforts to diversify its board and workforce, or create programs to improve worker welfare, but this is only a start.  Addressing deeply rooted systemic inequalities requires a much greater commitment and means of measuring success. Until now, companies have gotten by with doing nothing or just the bare minimum. No longer, thanks to the events of 2020. “We’re at a turning point in ESG,” said Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital . “What’s happened in the past three months has done 20 years of S work.”  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:0] Moving forward, corporate board members, investors and executives will be expected to consider worker welfare and complex social issues such as racial inequality. “Companies are scrambling to address these issues, and everyone needs to throw out the manual and completely rethink how they approach equity in the workplace, because something is not working,” Whittaker said.  But as the S takes over the wheel, are environmental issues, the E, getting pushed into the backseat? No, said Alison Humphrey, director of ESG at TPG . “It’s just joined climate in the front seat.” E and S: better together The great thing about ESG is that it isn’t a zero-sum game. A renewed focus on the S actually might help companies do a better job of addressing environmental challenges because the two are linked. People of color or low-income socioeconomic status, for example, are suffering and will continue to suffer first and worst from the negative effects of the climate crisis, says Union of Concerned Scientists .  “There’s so much interesting intersectionality with social justice and climate — they are both so connected,” Humphrey said. “Climate work is hard and exhausting, and many people don’t feel the urgency or balk at the initial cost of the transition or fail to grasp how dependent humanity is on our ecosystems. In many ways, it mirrors many of the challenges with social justice — and you can’t address one without the other.” While measuring social impact remains difficult, this no longer will be an excuse for companies not to try.  “With this sharp focus on how integral social issues are to our ability to achieve an equitable society and make environmental progress, we will collectively need to get a lot better at measuring and communicating the S, just as we have with environmental topics,” said Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy, executive director of ESG at The Estée Lauder Companies. Even before the events of 2020, Workday factored social impact into its environmental sustainability strategy, said Erik Hansen, director of sustainability at Workday. “The events of the past months have illustrated how valuable systems thinking is, and showing that we are a connected, global community. That connection between climate, the environment, people and health.” When Workday installed EV chargers at its headquarters, for example, this was not just so software engineers could come to work in a Tesla, Hansen said. It was also so that the company could minimize environmental impacts such as air pollution, which disproportionately hurt disadvantaged communities. Likewise, as Workday works toward its 100 percent renewable energy goal, the company is advocating for a just transition to clean energy that accounts for those who might be affected economically — such as workers in the fossil fuel industry — and ensure that nobody is left behind. One of the most effective ways to honor the E and the S might be focusing on the G, according to Anuj Shah, managing director at KKS Advisors : “One of the things we’ve looked at is how the G — the governance part — supersedes the E and the S. If you can get the G right, the E and S will follow.”  What racial justice means for business As mass protests erupted across the globe after the murder of Floyd, a chorus of companies voiced support for addressing racial inequality, and some even committed to doing something about it. But what comes next? “We’re at a point where we need to take substantive action, as individuals and as corporations, to deliver on social justice. I’m incredibly proud of the commitment made by The Estée Lauder Companies to promote racial equity, as a starting point for real progress and lasting change,” Dobkowski-Joy said. According to Humphrey, TPG came out with a statement and commitment to take action by first taking a step back to reflect on its role and how it can best address system inequalities as a private equity firm. “The question is, what is your company’s role in rectifying injustice in our system? This needs to come uniquely from each department, a top-down and bottom-up approach.” A hopeful future for ESG Despite the setbacks of 2020, there remains reason for hope. The ongoing global pandemic is shattering the longstanding myth that companies must sacrifice return to be a good corporate citizen — ESG funds are outperforming the wider market during this economic downturn.  And we are learning through much trial and error — emphasis on the “error” — how to address an intractable problem that harms everyone yet that no single government, organization or individual can solve alone. Relentless competition may be giving way to constructive collaboration. And these lessons might still be applied to address the ultimately more existential crisis of the climate.  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:1] “In the midst of this tremendous upheaval, we’re all pulling together in ways which were unfathomable just months ago — and showing that collective action is actually possible,” Dobkowski-Joy said. Climate may begin to take on a new importance as a long-term threat to society as climate risk exposes inequities just as COVID-19 has, Whittaker said. “COVID-19 has taught us the importance of resilience, interdependence and systemic risk and how to address that — and how we can be more effective working together. I’ve seen a lot of collaboration over the last three months, which I wouldn’t have expected to see. I think it has brought out a lot of humanity in business which has all been about profit making.”  Shah of KKS was more cautiously optimistic. “I’m concerned that a lot of companies are going to feel pressure to maximize profits coming out of the pandemic into a new normal. ESG and short termism don’t necessarily go together. Long termism is a prerequisite for ESG.” However, Shah added that he has been inspired by the mass movement for racial justice being driven by the younger generation. As Millennials and Generation Z continue to take over the workforce and enter leadership roles, this activist mindset could change the future of ESG.  Humphrey suggested companies should take a look at business model resilience and how it is intertwined with ESG issues. “Perhaps we can focus less on the rolling back of budgets, which has happened for many companies across the board, and instead on how the pandemic has compelled us to look beyond one-off CSR and sustainability initiatives toward a more strategic, integrated and business-aligned approach to managing these 21st-century risks,” she said.  As we continue to push forward toward an uncertain future, the only certainty is that things will change. And it’s up to all of us to make sure that it’s for the better. Pull Quote What’s happened in the past three months has done 20 years of S work. We will collectively need to get a lot better at measuring and communicating the S, just as we have with environmental topics. 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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG

A CFO’s take on climate and risk management

July 13, 2020 by  
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A CFO’s take on climate and risk management Vincent Manier Mon, 07/13/2020 – 01:00 Just a couple of months into 2020, the world was amid significant discussion about the core purpose of businesses, led by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink calling for corporate America to take control of its carbon footprint and major companies, including Microsoft and Delta , making ambitious zero-carbon pledges. When COVID-19 arrived, we saw the impact that global crises have overnight, teaching the corporate sphere valuable lessons about risk mitigation. Economic estimates predict that the pandemic will decrease global GDP by 3 percent in 2020, and at our current pace, climate change is estimated to decrease the global GDP by anywhere from 2.5 percent to 7.5 percent by 2050 . While climate risk remains an often overlooked or undervalued factor in risk management programs, there is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. There is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. The current COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of prioritizing resilience by exposing the fragility of global supply chains and dysfunctional systems across businesses and forcing them to change the way they plan and operate to factor in large-scale crises. Hospitals, for example, felt the disastrous impact of vulnerable supply chains, and needed to plan for alternative sources of personal protective equipment to keep their medical workers and staff safe. These learnings must be applied to similar risk brought about by climate change — businesses need to prepare for the impact of devastating weather events on supply chains and infrastructure they rely on to remain safe and operational. As key members of the financial team, risk managers need to grasp the implications of sustainability across the organization, from strategic risks posed by new regulations to operational risks posed by extreme weather and financial risks with regards to taxes and insurance. As we continue to fight climate change, understanding the strategic, operational and financial risks — and the tools available to assess and plan for them — will help finance teams take a more forward-facing approach to risk management and avoid repeating past mistakes. Strategic risk factors Four key risk factors are associated with strategic risk and sustainability: economic changes; corporate responsibility; regulatory risk; and reputational risk. From an economic standpoint, there have been major shifts brought about by decarbonization and diversifying portfolios — consider the rapid decline of the coal industry, for example. In addition, companies are being held more accountable for their impact on the environment, with pressure coming from all sides, including customers, investors, competitors and regulators. Increased regulation and legal requirements around resource management and carbon reduction, as well as required carbon reporting, can result in major fines if not complied with. Finally, reputational risk, while hard to quantify, can be enormous, particularly in today’s political climate and as both internal and external stakeholders become more educated on the action against climate change. Operational risk factors Sustainability also can affect how businesses approach operations, such as supply-chain optimization, procurement strategies, data privacy and security. For instance, the finance team can make more informed decisions around power purchase agreements, onsite and offsite renewable energy, decentralization and microgrids, energy independence and cost savings opportunities when factoring climate risk into the overall procurement strategy. There are also more direct operational risks to consider as a result of climate change in the form of extreme weather events, which continue to increase in both frequency and intensity. Businesses must account for the possibility of outages, damages and closures, all of which can threaten the ability to protect employees, assets and data centers (which can pose new risks in terms of data privacy and leaks) and, ultimately, to keep the business operational. Financial risk factors Climate change poses significant financial risks to an organization as sustainability policies and corporate initiatives can affect taxes, insurance, resource management, energy sourcing, investor support and even intangible assets such as goodwill — for instance, the impalpable value that customers and investors place on a company’s ability to reduce its footprint. From changes in insurance premiums and coverage to identifying financial benefits of electrification, there are almost countless financial risks and opportunities for the financial team to assess. Sustainability planning also opens the door to integrating new technologies to save money, such as alternative energy vehicles, which bring financial benefits all their own. Integrating climate risk strategy Integrating climate risk into new or existing risk management programs can seem daunting, but the financial team can leverage strategic assessments to make the process simpler. For instance, vulnerability assessments allow businesses to understand where climate change is most likely to affect them. Scenario assessments can provide a forward-looking view of the potential impact, so finance teams can plan ahead to mitigate future developments. The world’s current state is illuminating the need for resilience to global events we may not be able to foresee or control. With climate change being the next undeniable threat, it’s on the shoulders of the financial team to ensure that companies are adequately prepared for different climate events to improve their resilience and mitigate the associated risks. The strategic planning used now to prepare for these issues may encourage innovation and new methods of operating that not only benefit the bottom line but also prepare a business for when unexpected events do occur. This also offers opportunity to strategically prepare and recover from events in a way that helps reduce climate change and improve the environment on a global scale. Pull Quote There is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. Topics Risk & Resilience Climate Change Finance & Investing 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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This coastal Louisiana tribe is using generations of resilience to handle the pandemic

July 1, 2020 by  
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This coastal Louisiana tribe is using generations of resilience to handle the pandemic Barry Yeoman Wed, 07/01/2020 – 00:15 When the COVID-19 outbreak first reached Louisiana and residents were  ordered  to stay at home, Marie Marlene V. Foret tapped into some skills she learned seven decades ago. Foret chairs the tribal council of the  Grand Caillou/Dulac Band  of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, which has lived along the bayous south of Houma, Louisiana for generations. When Foret was a child in the 1940s and ’50s, her family packed up every fall and moved to a trapping camp at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Her father caught mink, otter and muskrat, which he sold to traders for their pelts. During trapping season, the family lived in a wood-frame house, insulated with newspaper and illuminated with coal-oil lamps. They ate what they grew and hunted: garden vegetables; ducks; and the coots French-speaking Louisianans call  pouldeau . Self-isolation was the norm. “We stayed weeks and weeks and weeks without seeing anybody,” said Foret, 73. “So we were secluded from the get-go.” Then the land around the trapping camp started to disappear. The engineering of waterways, oil and gas development and sea level rise have  erased 2,000 square miles  from the Louisiana coastline since the 1930s. As the Gulf swallowed the wetlands the tribe relied on, families moved inland, using traditional knowledge to gauge how far they needed to travel to protect themselves from the worst flooding while still supporting some of their foodways. The engineering of waterways, oil and gas development and sea level rise have erased 2,000 square miles from the Louisiana coastline since the 1930s. Foret lives in Bourg, about 20 miles north of where she grew up. On this shape-shifting edge of Louisiana, the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band has developed a set of practices to survive the slow corrosion of land loss and sudden disasters such as hurricanes. It has built cyclicality into its culture, assuming hardship will follow abundance and require periods of hunkering down. Tribal members make do with less and develop new ways to produce and share food. They also recognize that not everyone is equally self-sufficient, so younger members check in with elders to make sure their needs are met. The coronavirus pandemic is testing how well these systems work. The Houma-Thibodaux metropolitan area, which has about 208,000 residents and includes the bayou country where tribal members live, has incidence and mortality rates well above the national average: 1,248 reported cases and 100 deaths as of May 12. Last month, Houma-Thibodaux briefly  ranked 15th nationwide  in a New York Times listing of metro and micro areas with the most cumulative COVID-19 deaths per capita.  By contrast, Shirell Parfait-Dardar, the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band’s traditional chief, said she knew of only one case among her tribe’s 450 members: a young man who worked at a shipyard and recovered after quarantining at home. While many Native American communities have high  risk factors  — overcrowding, chronic medical conditions and underfunded health care systems — and the pandemic has slammed  Navajo Nation  in the American West, Louisiana’s tribes appear to have been spared the brunt so far. The U.S. Census designates 0.8 percent of Louisianans as American Indian or Alaska Native, but those two groups account for just  0.04 percent of COVID-19 deaths  statewide as of May 11. Parfait-Dardar hopes the practices handed across generations will keep that number down and help her tribe and others emerge from the outbreak with minimal harm. “We have to have a really tight community system, and it has to function perfectly,” said the 40-year-old chief. “If it doesn’t, people die.” We have to have a really tight community system, and it has to function perfectly … If it doesn’t, people die. The past 15 years have tested the resilience of everyone living along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, including the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band and the four other state-recognized tribes that live nearby. Increasingly destructive hurricanes have pummeled the coastline. Pollution plagues the region: The 2010 BP oil spill contaminated the Gulf, destroyed marshlands and shut down commercial fishing harvests on which many rely. Both the storms and the spill are inextricably tied to coastal erosion caused by a century of human activity. The oil and gas industry has cut 10,000 miles of canals through marsh ecosystems, funneling saltwater inland and destroying freshwater root systems. Levees along the Mississippi River have prevented sediment from naturally replenishing wetlands. As those wetlands disappear, hurricanes deliver more storm surge and accelerate land loss.  Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions threatens to raise the sea level by more than six feet this century. Even outside hurricane season, the tribe contends with periodic flooding that damages septic systems, threatens cars and traps residents inside their homes. It’s a continuous onslaught.  After Hurricane Gustav in 2008, residents were blindsided by how high the water had risen, even in homes that were inland and elevated. They had to salvage property and dispose of dead chickens and goats. “That hurts to have to do that,” said Parfait-Dardar. “Your heart breaks.” She remembers seeing anguish among her neighbors — but not paralysis. “We’ve been dealing with this forever,” she said. “We don’t have time to wait for [federal] funds to come in… We go to the elders. We clean out their houses. We start doing what we know we need to do. And we start getting things back to the way that they need to be.” Parfait-Dardar became chief in 2009, and has spent much of her tenure thinking about longer-term adaptation. Hurricane Gustav confirmed that raising livestock is no longer viable for many people. “We will not suffer any animal,” she said. “The chickens and things that we once kept there are subject to random flooding. We’re not going to do that to them.” Some members live further inland and can continue to raise animals safely, she added. They share the products, mostly eggs and goat milk, with those in low-lying areas.  Parfait-Dardar is secretary of the First People’s Conservation Council, a collaboration of six Louisiana tribes whose representatives meet periodically to strategize about sustainable food production as the land disappears and soil is more frequently flooded and contaminated. Drawing from the council’s discussions, she encourages her tribe to create raised-bed and box gardens. In her own backyard, she built a raised-bed garden that uses a recycled trampoline as a trellis for green beans. Others are planting tomatoes, bell peppers and parsley in portable containers that can be moved if necessary.  “I’ve even seen somebody grow potatoes in a five-gallon bucket,” said Michael Gregoire Sr., a tugboat captain and tribal member. The tribe is exploring the option of planting in straw bales, which are movable and easily raised. Flooding also has forced the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band, along with others on the Louisiana coast, to elevate their houses. They are considering other types of homes, too, including houseboats. We’re having to try to navigate ourselves according to Mother Nature and how she’s changing. These are 21st-century versions of what Foret learned about nimbleness as a child. “We’re having to try to navigate ourselves according to Mother Nature and how she’s changing,” said Parfait-Dardar. “We’ve thrown her off, and now we need to adjust what we’re doing in accordance with her.” For many middle-class Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic is a first reckoning with food not being immediately accessible. Kinks in the supply chain, strained delivery services and fears of contagion inside supermarkets has made shopping a fraught experience. Foret, however, opened her freezer and started cooking. There were lima beans, green beans and mustard greens she had bought from her neighbors’ gardens last summer, as well as shrimp from relatives’ boats, purchased 50 to 100 pounds at a time. Foret’s stepson, who lives with her, supplemented meals with curbside pickup at Walmart. But much of the dinner plate came from the tribe’s informal economy. This strategy, designed to get Foret through the winter, is getting her through the pandemic. The acknowledgment of seasonality is common to Louisiana’s tribes, said Rev. Kristina Peterson, facilitator at the Lowlander Center, a Native-led nonprofit that promotes resilience in Louisiana’s bayou country. “The Hebrew tradition of sabbathing is also an indigenous way of being with each other and the Earth,” she said. While others are having trouble hunkering down, the coronavirus outbreak has “allowed the indigenous to be the indigenous without being [seen] as peculiar or weird.” Tribal members have continued to take care of each other. Early in the outbreak, Parfait-Dardar shut down the sewing shop she owns and focused on tribal affairs. When Gov. John Bel Edwards issued his March 22 stay-at-home order, the chief, who chairs the governor’s Native American Commission, communicated by phone and email with a contact in the governor’s office. She urged strict enforcement to slow the spread of the virus.  Parfait-Dardar checked on tribal members and identified those most vulnerable because of their age or health conditions such as diabetes. Those who needed daily phone calls received them. Those who need live-in help got it from a relative. “Some [people] will put their mama or their daddy in an old-folks home,” said Gregoire, the tugboat captain. “That’s not us. Our parents took care of us when we were little. Now that our parents are older, we take care of our parents.” Despite their isolation and self-sustaining practices, tribal members are affected by the economic downturn during the pandemic. Some work for the oil and gas industry, building and repairing vessels, and have seen their hours cut. Others do commercial shrimping, although demand for domestic seafood is down and many processors have closed temporarily.  In response, Parfait-Dardar reached out to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican who secured the federal purchase of 20 million pounds of Gulf Coast shrimp last month to help sustain businesses. Along with representatives from four other tribes and the Lowlander Center, the chief has asked Graves to help direct 60 percent of the purchase to indigenous and other traditional harvesters. In an email to Southerly, Graves spokesman Kevin Roig said the congressman will “continue to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to acquire the shrimp from diverse sources across our communities.” But another Graves staffer, Dustin Davidson, notified Parfait-Dardar in an email that USDA was planning to buy shrimp landed in 2019.  Parfait-Dardar said she’s trying to follow the lead of older tribal members who have survived other catastrophes and intend to survive this one. “It’s amazing here in bayou country,” she said. “Our elders are the ones that are most at risk for this virus. But yet they’re so calm. They’re like: Look, do not let this overwhelm you. We know that it’s a virus. We know that it needs people to spread through. We are used to being isolated. We are used to being away from everyone else. We just keep those same practices going.” This story was originally published by Southerly and was supported by the Solutions Journalism Network. Pull Quote The engineering of waterways, oil and gas development and sea level rise have erased 2,000 square miles from the Louisiana coastline since the 1930s. We have to have a really tight community system, and it has to function perfectly … If it doesn’t, people die. We’re having to try to navigate ourselves according to Mother Nature and how she’s changing. Topics Food Systems COVID-19 Cities & Communities Resilience Supply Chain Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Bayou Black in Houma, Louisiana Shutterstock Realest Nature Close Authorship

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A 20/20 view of sustainable packaging

June 15, 2020 by  
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A 20/20 view of sustainable packaging Cheryl Baldwin Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:00 This article is sponsored by Pure Strategies . Sustainable packaging is a keystone issue for corporate sustainability. As one of the first environmental concerns companies began to tackle proactively, interest and efforts had notable resurgence in the last few years, partly spurred by the attention on ocean plastic.   Then the pandemic hit, and the market changed — characterized by higher demand for single-use packages and bags, and lower availability of recycled materials. When we look ahead, are we on the path to a circular and sustainable system for packaging? From paper vs. plastic to reusable vs. single use Shopping bags have long been a focus in sustainability — from looking at greenhouse gas impacts (paper is higher) to litter (plastic has more challenges) and significant policy action. A shift away from a focus on single-use design emerged. Studies pointed out that bags that are effectively reused can be the best environmental option.   Food service and consumer goods companies also were exploring this shift to durable packages for reuse. Over one-third of the participating product and packaging companies reported to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment that they are testing such options. While the pandemic impacted momentum for reusables in shopping bags and food services (for various reasons), it did not stop the growth of these solutions for consumer goods. Studies pointed out that bags that are effectively reused can be the best environmental option. Helping blaze the trail is TerraCycle’s Loop program. Consumer brands partner with Loop to offer products in a durable package that when empty, get collected in various channels, cleaned and sanitized by Loop, and then refilled by the manufacturer for another use. Such commercially cleaned reusable packages or consumer refillable packages are poised for growth, given their two-pronged benefits of hygiene and sustainability. Recycling takes center stage Reusable solutions are one path of a circular economy, but there is far more effort to advance another circular approach, recycling. Companies have more goals for designing for recycling and recovery, and increasing recycled content than other packaging issues. Designing recyclable packages begins with using recyclable materials. Colgate-Palmolive redesigned its toothpaste tube to be made of high density polyethylene (HDPE), instead of the traditional mix of plastics and metal that is not recyclable. Another design strategy is to avoid mixing materials. Paper cups usually have unrecyclable plastic coatings. Smart Planet Technologies developed a recyclable cup solution, and collaborative efforts such as the NextGen Cup Challenge likely will spur additional advances. Designing for recyclability, however, is not the silver bullet. Used packages need to be recycled. Recycling rates generally have been on the rise in the United States, adding up to about 50 percent of packaging and containers being recycled . However, that is largely comprised of paper and cardboard (75 percent of recycled packages). Only about 13 percent of plastic packages are recovered in the U.S. Adding to this, the pandemic led to a decrease in recycling.   Companies are improving consumer communication about recycling, such as using the How2Recycle label. There is also investment in developing recycling infrastructure and collaborating on solutions for harder to recycle items — such as The Recycling Partnership initiatives, the Materials Recovery for the Future initiative to increase film collection, the Hefty Energy Bag for chemical recycling, and the Closed Loop Partners funding expansion of recycling capability. To close the recycling loop, the recovered material needs to be used. While companies have committed to using it, fossil fuels prices were declining and then tanked during the pandemic, driving virgin plastic prices well below recovered plastic. The availability of recovered materials also decreased. Undoubtedly, companies will question their plans to increase recycled content in the current market.   To close the recycling loop, recovered material needs to be used. Companies relying on recycling as the way to effectively manage their packaging after use have a responsibility to support the end market for recovered material by continuing to use recycled content. There will be obstacles with price and availability , but they can be managed with measures such as investing in infrastructure development and design improvements (such as removing extra packaging material). Seeing the forest for the trees Responsible fiber sourcing goals were among the first sustainable packaging targets, with many expiring in 2020. Loblaws met its target in 2018 by sourcing recycled or certified fiber. IKEA, Procter & Gamble and most other companies are on track to meet their 2020 targets. While progress has been made, sourcing fiber responsibly is still a gap for too many companies. The Consumer Goods Forum and others also see a need to take fiber sourcing to the next level, reaching beyond responsible sourcing for each company’s supply chain to landscape-level approaches that reach additional suppliers within a region and support infrastructure and policies to get to a ” forest positive ” approach.   Responsible sourcing also fits into climate strategies. With over 800 companies committed to setting science-based climate targets , impacts from packaging are being evaluated. Colgate Palmolive, General Mills and Walmart have included packaging improvement in their climate programs. In addition to sourcing, reducing packaging material use is effective. As this is a cost-savings opportunity, it has been a core approach in sustainable packaging. Since 2010, Procter & Gamble had a 13.5 percent reduction in packaging material intensity and Unilever an 18 percent reduction. Room for innovation Exciting sustainable packaging developments emerged from the aim to remove chemicals of concern. Coop in Denmark led the way when the retailer stopped selling microwave popcorn until it could offer its private brand product without the harmful chemicals typically used on the inside of the bag. The new bag was not only free of the chemicals of concern but also became recyclable. There has been a growing effort across other products to remove these grease-proofing chemicals, called per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) that are used on paper-based packaging. While paper should be recyclable, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition stated that intentionally added PFAS makes a package not widely recyclable, and Norway is set to ban its use. Footprint was one of the first companies to offer fiber-based packages that are PFAS-free and certified compostable. About 5 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside composting collection — a long way from being a widely available circularity solution. Bioplastics, while sometimes compostable, can be recyclable. In 2009, Coca-Cola launched a bottle made with 30 percent bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET). By 2015, it had a 100 percent bio-based PET bottle, as other companies are looking to do the same. Further, bio-based polyethylene (PE) is found in recyclable rigid and flexible packages.   About 5 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside composting collection. Sustainable packaging is not yet a reality, but there has been progress with reducing packaging weight, sourcing fiber responsibly and exciting developments in material health and bio-based options. There remains a notable gap in building a circular packaging system.   Reusable options are emerging, but still niche, and closing the loop with packaging is faced with price premiums for recovered material and low recycling rates, especially for plastic packages. The launch of the New Plastics Economy Commitment in 2018 spurred over 200 businesses, including the largest companies such as Walmart, Target, Nestle and Unilever to aim for 100 percent reusable, recyclable and compostable plastic packaging by 2025.   These ambitious targets and related initiatives have brought extensive collaboration within and across industries, bringing hope for the ingredients necessary for progress: efficient and safe design, responsibly sourced materials and a circular packaging system.  Pull Quote Studies pointed out that bags that are effectively reused can be the best environmental option. To close the recycling loop, recovered material needs to be used. About 5 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside composting collection. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Corporate Strategy COVID-19 Forestry Sponsored Pure Strategies Circular Packaging Reuse Recycling Fiber Sourcing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article On Consumer brands partner with TerraCycle’s  LOOP  program to offer products in a durable package that when empty, get collected, sanitized, and refilled for another use. Such refillable packages are poised for growth, given their two-pronged benefits of hygiene and sustainability.   Courtesy of Loop Close Authorship

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It’s time to put people first

June 12, 2020 by  
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It’s time to put people first Lise Kingo Fri, 06/12/2020 – 02:00 Editor’s note: Lise Kingo is stepping down as CEO and executive director effective June 16. The organization’s new leader, Sanda Ojiambo, begins June 17. Seventy-five years ago, the United Nations set out to put the world on a path to recovery, pledging “never again” to allow the horrors of two devastating world wars. The premise was that a peaceful and just world had to be built on the equal worth, rights and freedoms for every human being. The same universal values and principles which laid the foundation when, at the turn of the millennium, then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan initiated a “global compact” between the United Nations and business leaders to “give a human face to the global market.”  In launching the United Nations Global Compact, Annan reminded us that we all have an active choice to take — between a global market driven by calculation and short-term profit and one that has a human face. Between a world that condemns a quarter of the human race to starvation and squalor, and one that offers everyone at least a chance of prosperity, in a healthy environment. Between a selfish free-for-all in which we ignore the fate of the losers, and a future in which the strong and successful accept their responsibilities, showing global vision and leadership. Failing to do so, he cautioned, would make the global economy fragile and vulnerable to the backlash of all the isms — protectionism, populism, nationalism, ethnic chauvinism and so forth.  Have we lost our way? As we set out to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the U.N. and 20th anniversary of the U.N. Global Compact, we must look around the world at what is happening in front of our eyes — the obvious failure to deliver on those most fundamental values and principles that bind us all together. With Annan’s words ringing true in our ears, we must ask ourselves — have we lost our way? COVID-19 has exposed the fragile nature of our progress. The hard truth is that our failure to create a more socially just world has worsened the current crisis and could hamper our ability to recover faster. More than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. Even before the pandemic, social inequalities were widening for more than 70 percent of the global population. One thing was that economies had bounced back to the levels recorded before the 2008 financial crisis, but in reality, economic growth and labor productivity were mainly carried by low-paid, low-quality and low-security jobs, with more than half the world’s population — 4 billion people — not covered by any social safety net.   Those same people have been left disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19. Nearly half of the global workforce in the informal sector, totaling 1.6 billion workers, are in imminent danger of having their livelihoods destroyed. The 49 million people thrown back into extreme poverty, wiping out two decades of progress. The half of the global population without access to essential health services. It is no surprise, then, that frustrations are growing. The meaningless and brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police has further illuminated deep-seated inequalities rooted in the endemic and structural racism that persists today. It has sparked a wave of serious introspection among business leaders and heads of state across the world. No one is excused from the discussion.  Inequalities and racism, of course, are not isolated to one country. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer made for sober reading. Its January report pointed out that more than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. And amidst the current health and socio-economic crises brought on by COVID-19, additional polling found that the pandemic had exacerbated the sense of social injustice. Close to two-thirds of respondents agreed that those with less education, less money and fewer resources are being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic.  It’s time to raise SDG ambition In launching the UN Global Compact, Annan was clear that without the active commitment and support of business, universal values would remain little more than fine words — documents whose anniversaries we can celebrate and give speeches about, but with limited impact on the lives of ordinary people. COVID-19 has demonstrated the cost of turning the blind eye to obvious injustices. With less than 4,000 days to get our collective plan of action for people, planet and prosperity on track, now it is time we deliver for all. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be delivered through incremental improvements to business as usual. Progress to date is a testament to that. With the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement as our lighthouse, and the Ten Principles as our guide, business must undergo a radical business-model transformation that can lead to a new normal — one where the equal worth, rights and freedoms of people always come first in any business decision. Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Business leaders of the future need to understand that the key to stable markets is social equality. Beyond the challenge of COVID-19, many other crises loom large. From climate change, biodiversity loss and the erosion of planetary resources — this could just be the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we need business leaders to use this moment to become social activists and rethink their role in the world and their “reason for being.” Not only for the good of society but indeed the future of their own business. By deeply integrating “people, planet and prosperity for all” across corporate purpose and values, governance and strategy, business plans and performance management, business leaders can lead the way in the Decade of Action, making a step-change towards SDG ambition. Let’s choose to be social activists Now we need the most senior leaders — the CEOs, their executive teams and the boards — to become activists for social change, within their own organizations, in their daily lives and beyond. As I prepare to depart the U.N. Global Compact after five years, I want to leave you with this message: Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Leadership is about having the courage to be the change — indeed, to insist that change happens.  In the words of Annan, “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to go there.” As we move into the Decade of Action, let us never lose sight of our mission to be united in the business of a better world, one that leaves no person behind. Pull Quote More than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Topics Corporate Strategy Leadership Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Lise Kingo, former CEO of the U.N. Global Compact Courtesy of Joel S Photo/U.N. Global Compact Close Authorship

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Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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