ESG investments: Exponential potential or surfing one wave?

September 21, 2020 by  
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ESG investments: Exponential potential or surfing one wave? Terry F. Yosie Mon, 09/21/2020 – 00:30 Amidst four concurrent crises — health, economic, race relations and climate — one stand-out 2020 development has been the rebound of major stock markets and, particularly, the growing performance and prominence of environment, social and governance (ESG) traded funds. ESG portfolios not only have outperformed traditional financial assets this year, but also a data analysis prepared by Morningstar, a financial advisory research firm, concluded that almost 60 percent of sustainable investments delivered higher returns than comparable funds over the past decade. Morningstar also found that ESG funds have greater longevity than non-ESG portfolios. About 77 percent of ESG funds that existed 10 years ago are presently available, whereas only 46 percent of traditional investment vehicles maintain that survivorship. These developments raise two overriding questions: what factors have converged to catapult ESG portfolios into the front rows of investment strategy, and what challenges can transform (for better or worse) ESG fund performance in the future? ESG investing has made important strides in the past decade and possesses significant momentum to expand its reach into the broader economy. ESG’s arrival at the Big Dance Since the rebound from the 2007-08 financial crisis, it would have taken a singularly motivated unwise investor to lose money in U.S. equity markets. ESG investors were not unwise. Several sets of factors converged to make these funds an even better bet than the S&P 500, Dow Jones or NASDAQ exchanges that covered a broad array of individual equities, mutual funds or indexed portfolios. These factors include: Less risk and volatility. ESG asset managers and their customers generally prefer a longer-term planning horizon than many of their traditional competitors whose reliance upon program trading or other methods result in more frequent turnover in holdings. In retrospect, it also turned out that ESG portfolios contained less financial risk because they had more accurately identified risks from climate change and considered other variables — such as resilience — for which no accepted risk methodology exists. The response to the international COVID-19 pandemic has become a de facto surrogate to measure corporate resilience and has previewed the economic and societal chaos that is increasingly expected to arrive from accelerating climate change. For investors, ESG portfolios have provided a welcome shelter in the storm and a more profitable one at that.   A declining investment rationale for fossil fuels. What was once a trend is now a rout. ESG asset managers, closely attuned to climate-related risks, recognized the receding value of first coal, and now, petroleum investments that are in the midst of an historic decline. Prior to the 2007-08 financial crash, ExxonMobil enjoyed a market capitalization in excess of $500 billion. By 2016 (and accounting for the rebound from that crash), it stood at about $400 billion. Today, it is $159 billion even as overall equity valuations reach historic highs. Asset write-offs from the oil sector continue to mount and include BP’s write-down of $17.5 billion and Total’s cancellation of $9.3 billion in Canadian oil sands assets. By virtually any established financial metric — net income, capital expenditures, earnings per share — petroleum companies are shrinking. As an industry group, energy is one of the smallest sectors in the S&P 500.   Convergence of transparency and governance. While there are frequent complaints about the lack of robust financial metrics to evaluate ESG investment opportunities, the fact is one of growing convergence around some critical reporting measures. For climate change, these include the information obtained from companies adhering to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) that provide for voluntary and more consistent financial risk reporting. CDP is widely respected among asset managers, and there is growing interest in the efforts of the Global Reporting Initiative-Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to arrive at a simpler, sector-specific, financially relevant set of performance metrics. Governance expectations also have accelerated as more financial firms seek not only fuller disclosure but understanding of actual plans to achieve an impact through, as one example, Scopes 1, 2 and 3 reductions within specific time frames.   Collaboration among financial asset management firms. No longer is it necessary for nuns organized through the Sisters of St. Francis or the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to maintain their lonely vigil to persuade management of their social and environmental concerns. In recent years, their cause has been transformed by the world’s largest asset management firms that have the added advantage of being very large investors in the companies whose practices they wish to change. These organizations — including BlackRock, BNP Paribas Asset Management, CalPERS and UBS Asset Management — generally have no difficulty in meeting with CEOs or, more recently, obtaining increasingly large support for the shareholder resolutions they support. Most significant, in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, these firms increasingly collaborate through organizations such as Climate Action 100+, known as CA100+ (which presently has more than 450 investor members with over $40 trillion in assets), Ceres and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change. Their climate change action agenda includes setting an emissions reduction target, disclosing climate-related financial risks through the TCFD reporting framework and ensuring that corporate boards are appropriately constituted to focus upon and deliver climate results. In reflecting on this evolution, long-time sustainability investor John Streur of Calvert Research & Management wrote, “We need to spend more of our engagement time pressing for change, as opposed to asking for disclosure.” Disrupting and being disrupted — the road ahead The ESG investment movement has every reason to be optimistic in the short term. There is growing investor and stakeholder momentum for the goals of expanded disclosure, improved corporate governance and measurable plans and impacts, especially for climate change. There is significant expansion in the staff sizes and expertise that better enable firms with ESG portfolios to evaluate financial risks. And their financial performance continues to impress. What could go wrong, come up short or require adaptation? Several factors bear a closer scrutiny. ESG’s value proposition is principally based on de-risking assets. This is too limited a value proposition to meet future needs . For example, ESG data does not reveal much insight for identifying research and development priorities, product innovation opportunities or effective branding and marketing strategies. As Brown University professor Cary Krosinsky has commented, “ESG data doesn’t tell you the most important thing: who will win the race” in future business competition and success for the long-term. In short, is ESG investment too disconnected from the very purpose of an enterprise — to innovate new products, gain customers and make money over time through business development?   As ESG investment goes mainstream, it will face new challenges and risks. A current advantage that ESG managers possess is that their decisions focus more on pure-play outcomes such as de-risking companies from climate change or other sustainability challenges. As more traditional investment firms acquire or expand ESG capabilities, more complexity will enter into investment decisions to reconcile clients’ needs or manage the trade-offs between ESG performance measures and those applied through shareholder value driven outcomes (earnings per share, quarterly financial reporting). Aligning expectations concerning executive compensation, independence of directors and future investment opportunities are major unresolved issues between ESG and traditional investment practitioners.   To be more impactful, the composition of ESG portfolios will need to change. Currently, ESG funds are dominated by equities, but significant capital is invested in other sectors such as bonds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and real estate. The methodology for evaluating these asset classes will need to be modified from that applied to the assessment of equities. At the same time, ESG funds are heavily weighted in ownership of technology stocks, particularly the so-called FAANG companies — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google — in addition to Microsoft. A number of these firms have inadequate data security and privacy protections, weak corporate governance and poor business ethics. The long-term wisdom of piling so many investment eggs into a single sector basket, combined with the multiple ESG problems of current technology portfolios, challenges ESG asset firms to become more transparent about their own evaluation criteria and decision making about portfolio diversity.   ESG assessments should assign a higher priority to social issues. The “S” in ESG is the least understood of the three factors, and it will be the most challenging to apply. As diversity, inclusion and equity become a greater focus of corporate sustainability policies and programs, the methodology for their evaluation is the least advanced. In part, this reflects the cultural and racial filter of a largely white and wealthy investor class lagging in its comprehension that race and social justice are material investment criteria. Simultaneously, data on social indicators will be more difficult to collect. Large numbers of companies are reluctant to disclose such information because it will expose gender and racial gaps in pay and promotion and general under-representation of minorities. Again, the technology sector is a major laggard on such issues. More broadly, the collection of social data, especially for racial diversity, is made more difficult as a matter of policy by many governments outside the United States, including in Europe where it is illegal in some countries to collect ethic and racial information. Some ESG investors are beginning to expand their dialogue around these issues, but they are much further behind when compared to their assessments and investment policies on environmental and governance issues. ESG investing has made important strides in the past decade and possesses significant momentum to expand its reach into the broader economy. Karina Funk, portfolio manager and chair of Sustainable investing at Brown Advisory, sees an approaching convergence between ESG and traditional investment philosophies. “ESG is a value-add,” she noted in a recent conversation. “It provides an expanding array of tools — financial screening, data analysis, issue-specific consultations with companies, proxy voting and an emerging focus on social risks — so that, in five years, ESG will be a standard expectation in asset evaluations. The key will be to focus on all risks facing a company, quantifiable or not, the exposure of business models and identifying what factors are within a company’s control.” Will management listen to ESG investors? Voices as varied as the U.S. Department of Labor and Harvard economics professor Gregory Mankiw are urging company executives and fund managers to tip the scales against what they consider to be economically risky and materially irrelevant ESG factors. In re-asserting the primacy of shareholder value, they remind us that voice of Milton Friedman still echoes from the crypt even as it grows fainter within the rapid humming of today’s marketplace and changing society. Pull Quote ESG investing has made important strides in the past decade and possesses significant momentum to expand its reach into the broader economy. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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ESG investments: Exponential potential or surfing one wave?

COVID-19 reduces UK carbon emissions by 30 million metric tons

August 4, 2020 by  
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Toward the end of March, the coronavirus pandemic began to take over in many European countries. Since then, major cities across the world have experienced some form of lockdown. While the virus has come at many costs, the lockdowns have had some positive environmental impacts. Research carried out by The Eco Experts between the months of March and July has revealed that carbon dioxide emissions in the U.K. dropped significantly — by 30 million metric tons — due to reduced travel and power consumption. The report shows that carbon emissions have dropped in five key areas: public transport, road vehicles, air travel, energy usage and pollution in London. In the past 3 months, public transport journeys have dropped to a mere 11.7% of normal levels, leading to 1.89 million metric tons less of carbon emissions. Further, road journeys decreased to 52.6% of normal levels, leading to a reduction of 15.2 million metric tons of carbon emissions. Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions Besides public transport and road vehicles, the study also surveyed air transport and energy consumption throughout the U.K. It found that there were 295,713 fewer flights than normal. This led to a 6.9 million metric ton reduction in CO2 emissions. However, the study established that there has been an increase in domestic power consumption, which rose by 30%. On the flip side, the overall power consumption reduced by 15%, because of the reduction in power demand in businesses. Since March, most major industries have either been closed or have reduced production. Consequently, less power has been consumed over this period. In this sector, the U.K. has saved up to 6.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions . The reduction in power consumption and transport has impacted emissions in many cities. The analysis took a closer look at U.K.’s most polluted city, London, and found that the restrictions have led to a reduction of 1.17 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. Further, there has been a 26% reduction in nitrogen dioxide in central London . Globally, there have been significant drops in greenhouse gas emissions over the past few months. As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, it is a time to reflect and look for the positives. We could take some lessons from this pandemic that will help us care for the environment in the future. + The Eco Experts Image via Liushuquan

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COVID-19 reduces UK carbon emissions by 30 million metric tons

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. Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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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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A CFO’s take on climate and risk management

Kengo Kuma, K2LD win bid to design Founders Memorial in Singapore

April 10, 2020 by  
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Kengo Kuma & Associates and K2LD Architects have won an international competition for the Founders’ Memorial in Singapore, a national landmark that will honor not only Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, but the multi-racial team of which he was a part of in developing the island country as well. Proposed for the 32-hectare Bay East Garden that forms part of Singapore’s famous Gardens by the Bay, the Founders’ Memorial will complement its surroundings and the nation’s “garden city” reputation with its lush, nature-focused design. The approximately 13,700-square-meter development is slated to break ground in 2022 and is expected to be completed by 2027. Unanimously selected from five shortlisted designs, Kengo Kuma & Associates and K2LD Architects’ submission was praised by the jury for its creativity, distinctive place-making characteristics, feasibility and sustainability both in terms of financial longevity and maintenance. The site-specific design is inspired by the idea of a meandering path that traces the legacy of Singapore’s founding leaders to connect the past with the future. Related: Tropical greenery surrounds a sustainable, solar-powered home in Singapore Set close to the water, the national landmark will be a “living memorial” comprising undulating green slopes that rise up to become green roofs for various buildings, such as the museum and visitor center. Multiple pathways will be carved out of the architecture and landscape to represent Singapore’s multiculturalism. At the heart of the memorial is the “Founders’ Path,” the central spine that joins together the various elements and traverses the garden-like environment. “Our design concept for the Founders’ Memorial originates from the idea of a path — a journey tracing the legacy of Singapore’s founding leaders,” architect Kengo Kuma explained. “It simultaneously honors the past and inspires the present and future. The design aims to be a ‘living memorial’, to be owned by each new generation of Singaporeans. There will be ample spaces for the celebration of milestone events, all set against the changing skyline of Singapore.” + Kengo Kuma & Associates + K2LD Architects Images via Kengo Kuma & Associates

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Kengo Kuma, K2LD win bid to design Founders Memorial in Singapore

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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Trend: The bots are coming (to ratings and reporting)

March 23, 2020 by  
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Corporate reporting on sustainability has grown more than fivefold in the past 10 years. Roughly 20 percent of S&P 500 companies published a sustainability report in 2011. In 2018, that number rose to 86 percent.

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Trend: The bots are coming (to ratings and reporting)

How to make ending factory farming irresistible, delicious and lucrative

February 15, 2020 by  
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Animal activists have made huge strides over the past two decades. But it hasn’t been enough to tip the scales of justice.

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How to make ending factory farming irresistible, delicious and lucrative

Closing the loop on 2019

December 26, 2019 by  
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Bringing you the five biggest stories of the circular economy from this past year, and some predictions for the next.

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Closing the loop on 2019

Wells Fargo’s Mary Wenzel on accelerating agriculture-tech solutions

November 11, 2019 by  
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In collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) has been supporting entrepreneurs working towards clean technology solutions in the built environment for the past four year

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