7 roles to create sustainable success

October 2, 2020 by  
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7 roles to create sustainable success Ellen Weinreb Fri, 10/02/2020 – 00:30 There is a lot of talk right now about systems change, and for good reason: With so many people experiencing the effects of several major crises — the pandemic, the recession, racism and the ongoing climate crisis — we have a narrow window of opportunity for change. As they say, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. As someone who works at the intersection of human resources and sustainability, I’m fascinated by the question of who is leading this change, and how they can do so effectively. That’s why I was pleased to read Carola Wijdoogen’s new book, ” 7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success: A Practical Guide for Sustainability and CSR Professionals ,” which launches Oct. 6. Wijdoogen spent several years as chief sustainability officer at the Dutch passenger train operator NS, leaving in 2019 to start Sustainability University Foundation, a platform she co-founded to empower sustainability professionals through peer-to-peer learning and research. In the foreword, Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, described right now as “a pivotal moment for business to lead the way in achieving a world where more than 9 billion people have a decent quality of life within the boundaries of our planet by 2050.” We have the blueprints to make this happen, from the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but we need people who can get us there. That’s where Wijdoogen’s book comes in. Wijdoogen points out that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to sustainability, but every sustainability team deploys seven common roles at some point: 1. The Networker:  Wijdoogen describes two types of networking roles: Stakeholder engagement and peer networks. Both serve to enhance and focus a company’s sustainability program, and both support learning. Networkers also can help companies identify opportunity and risk early on. 2. The Strategist:  This role is all about creating the sustainability vision and mission by defining the organization’s “why” when it comes to sustainability, whether that’s about growing profits, reducing risk, enhancing reputation, accelerating innovation, crystalizing the firm’s growth plan or something else. 3. The Coordinator and Initiator:  These roles support and spur implementation across the organization, so the people in this role must deeply understand the CSR mission, strategy and plan and how the organization works so they can “anchor sustainability in the structure, system and processes” of the company. 4. The Stimulator and Connector:  If the coordinator sets up the system to make taking action easier, the stimulator makes others want to take action. They’re the ambassadors for sustainability who influence organizational culture and make desired behaviors stick. 5. The Mentor:  Put simply, mentors empower others. In this chapter, Wijdoogen describes how to make sustainability relevant to different teams and how to encourage individuals to understand its relevance to their own role and career growth. Those in the mentor role also could heed the advice of Imperative’s Workforce Purpose Index on how to improve employee fulfillment, which I wrote about in 2019 . 6. The Innovator:  Wijdoogen breaks down how sustainability can be used toward innovation in different areas — from new products and services to the design process to new business models. She writes that part of the innovator’s role is to help the company understand how sustainability can be a growth opportunity — something that’s about expanding, not limiting, potential. 7. The Monitor: The people who do measurement, reporting and analysis — the wonks of sustainability — help their companies learn from successes and failures. As I have written recently , there’s a proliferation of sustainability frameworks, and the monitor can help their companies understand and use these frameworks for greater impact. While the roles Wijdoogen describes are nothing new, the way she presents them is invaluable. She boils down each role to its essence — defining it, explaining its purpose and sharing examples to illustrate what they look like in practice. She also provides a toolbox of tips at the end of each chapter. Applying this framework In the past, I have written about different frameworks on sustainability roles and competencies , and Wijdoogen’s book should sit alongside these articles. They are great resources to review if you’re reflecting on the people side of sustainability, particularly if you’re in one of the following situations: Changing your team:  When you have a new team or a new leader, the book can help everyone understand different roles, who holds special skills and how to deploy them effectively. Starting out in sustainability: ­ The book also would be useful to people about to start in sustainability, whether it’s their first job or they are switching careers; the book can provide a primer on different roles you might play and how to play them effectively. Hiring:  Hiring managers can use the book to understand what roles are missing and which competencies are important to hire for. Starting a new strategy:  Finally, I can imagine people flipping through this book when starting a new strategy or initiative: What will you need to really make this new thing stick? Who will play those roles? For many of us in sustainability, this year has given us pause for reflection on the work we’re doing and how we’re doing it. This makes Wijdoogen’s book well-timed as we consider how collectively these seven roles can feed the systems change we desperately need. To learn more, the book launch is taking place at 10 a.m. EDT Oct. 6 via Zoom and open to the public. Registration is at this link. Topics Careers Featured Column Talent Show 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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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

September 29, 2020 by  
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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight Rushad Nanavatty Tue, 09/29/2020 – 01:30 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. The obituaries have focused on her legacy as a feminist icon, her singular determination, her deep humanity, and her profound common sense. These traits were exemplified by her famous dissents — equal parts restrained and biting — against a series of regressive Supreme Court majority decisions. We don’t immediately think of RBG as an environmental activist or climate champion ( Greta Thunberg fandom  notwithstanding). However, her life and career offer plenty of inspiration for our work at RMI — and for anyone concerned with preserving a livable planet. When I think about RBG, these are the lessons I take for the climate fight. 1. Climate action honors RBG’s legacy on equality RBG did more to advance the cause of equality than any justice since Thurgood Marshall. Her life and career were defined by it. As a schoolgirl in Brooklyn, she objected to the fact that the boys went to woodshop while the girls sewed. As co-founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she convinced the Supreme Court to rule, for the first time, that gender discrimination was unconstitutional (despite being led by a Chief Justice who had  threatened to resign  if a woman were appointed to the court). As a member of the that court, she fought for voters’ rights (Shelby County v. Holder), comprehensive healthcare coverage (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), and federalism (Bush v. Gore). She did it patiently and incisively, referring to her role in her ACLU cases as “a kind of a kindergarten teacher… because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.” Showing how discrimination hurt men was often the tactic she used to generate empathy and understanding among the male judges she was dealing with. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The impacts of global warming are deeply regressive, disproportionately hurting our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Black and Hispanic Americans are exposed to  63 percent and 56 percent  more pollution than they create. Our history of redlining has left low-income and minority communities  dangerously exposed to extreme heat . Americans are  far more vulnerable to climate disasters  if they are poor, elderly, disabled, don’t own a car, or can’t speak English. And during and after these events, the rich tend to leave and the poor tend to stay;  poverty rates can climb by a full percentage point  in areas hit by climate disasters. We’re seeing this starkly with our western wildfires — to which Native Americans are six times  more vulnerable  and Black and Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more vulnerable than Whites. And as Bill McKibben  points out , inaction on climate amounts to “generational aggression: it consigns the planet’s young people (and all future generations) to an ever-grimmer planet.” If anyone is inspired by RBG lifelong crusade as the “ Great Equalizer ,” then the climate fight is where it’s at. 2. If you fight well, a big loss can eventually turn into an even bigger win In 2007, Lily Ledbetter sued her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, for years-long gender-based pay discrimination. A 5–4 court decision went in favor of Goodyear on procedural grounds (i.e., that Ledbetter hadn’t filed the charge early enough). RBG delivered her  dissent  from the bench — a rare open rebuke to her all-male colleagues’ “cramped” interpretation of the law: “The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination, [which] often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments… Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves… Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination. Ledbetter’s claim… rested not on one particular paycheck, but on ‘the cumulative effect of individual acts.’” Because the court got it wrong, Congress was inspired to step up and get it right. The  Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act  of 2009 was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama. The clarity and conviction of RBGs’ effort in a losing cause was key to achieving the much bigger legislative win. Ledbetter credited RBG’s dissent for giving her “ the dignity to go on ” as she testified before Congress multiple times in the run up to the Act’s passage. We are yet to see comprehensive federal climate legislation in the United States. But a stalled effort is also an opportunity to gather energy. With each serious attempt at a nationwide climate action — the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Green New Deal resolution, the Smith-Lujan clean energy standard proposal — the people on the right side of history sharpen their arguments and strengthen their coalitions. As my colleague Wendy Jaglom has  pointed out : In three short years  [since President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement], the number of EVs on the road has doubled, 16 states have committed to phase down HFCs, the number of cities committed to 100 percent renewable electricity has quintupled, and seven states and 27 gas companies have committed to methane leak reduction. Today, one-third of all Americans live in a jurisdiction committed to 100 percent clean electricity, six million people live in cities committed to all-electric new building construction, and two-thirds of Americans support a 100 percent clean economy by 2050, a carbon tax, and stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. If the administration’s rejection of the Paris agreement was the equivalent of a flawed interpretation of the law, our burgeoning trans-ideological climate movement may be the equivalent of changing the law itself — more consequential and more resilient. 3. “Speaking in a judicial voice” can help deliver outcomes we all want In a  1992 lecture , RBG talked about the importance of staying cordial and assuming good intentions even when voicing disagreement. In her own words (and quoting Roscoe Pound): “One must be sensitive to the sensibilities and mindsets of one’s colleagues, which may mean avoiding certain arguments and authorities, even certain words… I emphasize that dissents are not devoutly to be avoided. I question, however, resort to expressions that generate more heat than light… It is not good to burden an opinion with “intemperate denunciation of colleagues, violent invective, attributions of bad motives, and insinuations of incompetence, negligence, prejudice, or obtuseness.” The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary.” Given the state of Congress today, and our more general state of political polarization, it may be hard to resist the eye-roll — but resisting it is more important than ever. We need to suppress the friendly fire even within the climate action community. I’ve been in meetings on the Green New Deal where environmental justice groups automatically view all business and industry as evil — and in DC conference rooms where well-meaning business people and policy wonks dismiss those environmental justice groups as liberal “enviro” fantasists. RBG’s guidance echoes Amory Lovins’ longstanding philosophy: “If we  focus on outcomes, not motives , we can achieve results that we all want, but for different reasons… If we simply do what makes sense without having to agree on why it’s important, we and our planet will be better off.” This logic is profoundly applicable to the energy transition. Regardless of whether you care about jobs, industrial competitiveness, resilience, social equity, or simply not breaking the planet, the answer entails accelerating our movement away from fossil fuels and toward a combination of efficiency and renewables. 4. The cost of implementation is irrelevant when the cost of inaction is unthinkable Massachusetts v. EPA  was probably the most prominent environmental case handled during RBG’s time on the Supreme Court — with the court ruling that carbon dioxide is subject to regulation by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. But a more technical and obscure case may be more instructive in our current moment. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. In 2001’s  Whitman v. American Trucking Associations , the trucking industry argued that the EPA should consider implementation costs when setting  pollution limits . The court unanimously disagreed — because the statute contains several explicit “bright line” factors — without listing cost as one of them. If legislators wanted the EPA to consider cost, they would have said so; “Congress doesn’t hide elephants in mouseholes,” wrote RBG’s opera buddy, Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the court. Today, with a planet on fire, it is worth considering that principle. As we have written before, the cost of climate inaction  dwarfs  the cost of action to point that it renders the latter meaningless in comparison. There is over $5 trillion in value-at-risk to US assets under a middle-of-the-road global warming scenario—not including the cost of market volatility. Our country can clearly spend when it needs to (or Congress wants to); nearly $2.7 trillion in CARES Act funding approved within two weeks,  $2.4  trillion to $ 3 trillion  on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the annual $1 trillion a year that our fossil fuel-burning power plants cost America, based on the federal government’s base-case estimates on the social cost of carbon. The cost of greening our economy seems quaint in comparison;  $476 billion  for comprehensive grid modernization, for example, or $11 billion for a nationwide network of EV fast charging stations. A program to upgrade 120 million homes would cost  $3.6 trillion  — while generating  $1.4 trillion  in net value (energy cost savings minus retrofit costs). In the  Whitman  case ,  RBG and her colleagues ruled that implementation costs were irrelevant when stacked against the primary “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Replace “public health” with “planet,” and you have the argument for an ambitious green recovery and rebuilding program. — Losing a hero is hard. But it also creates the space — and the need — for others step off the sidelines and into the fray. Once we’re done mourning, we must get to work. Pull Quote Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. Topics Climate Change Leadership Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lunch with a group of Wake Forest law students in the Worrell Professional Center on Wednesday, September 28, 2005. Photo by Wake Forest University School of Law/Flickr

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

Rheaply is helping companies and organizations of all sizes expand their circularity

September 23, 2020 by  
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Rheaply is helping companies and organizations of all sizes expand their circularity Back in January, GreenBiz published a story about Rheaply , a resource management and exchange platform. But a lot has changed since the beginning of the year. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the company shifted gears to support those who need personal protective gear through its Emergency Resource Exchange. “What we’ve tried to do is use our technology, which connects people to items traditionally, specifically to help with PPE sourcing during this unprecedented time in global history,” said Garry Cooper, CEO of Rheaply. As the pandemic rages on and the company continues to get people the resources they need to address it, there are still other valuable items sitting idle on shelves that other people can use instead of buying new ones. It’s important for companies and organizations to continue to — or start to — move toward zero waste practices. “Moving towards a system and an economy by which we do not waste things, we view usage over consumption and access over ownership is super important,” Cooper said. “Zero waste is the mechanism that every company, government and organization should be taking hold to make operational today.” Deonna Anderson, associate editor at GreenBiz Group, interviewed Garry Cooper, CEO of Rheaply during Circularity 20, which took place August 25-27, 2020. View archived videos from the conference here: http://grn.bz/MWn . Deonna Anderson Wed, 09/23/2020 – 11:08 Featured Off

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Rheaply is helping companies and organizations of all sizes expand their circularity

How the climate crisis will crash the economy

September 14, 2020 by  
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How the climate crisis will crash the economy Joel Makower Mon, 09/14/2020 – 02:11 The chickens are coming home to roost. Even before the western United States became a regional inferno, even before the Midwest U.S. became a summertime flood zone, even before an annual hurricane season so bad that the government is running out of names to attach to them, even before Colorado saw a 100°F heatwave swan dive into a 12? snowstorm within 48 hours. Even before all that, we’d been watching the real-world risks of climate change looming and growing across the United States and around the world. And the costs, financially and otherwise, are quickly becoming untenable. Lately, a steady march of searing heat, ruinous floods, horrific wildfires, unbreathable air, devastating hurricanes and other climate-related calamities has been traversing our screens and wreaking havoc to national and local budgets. And we’re only at 1°C of increased global temperature rise. Just imagine what 2° or 3° or 4° will look like, and how much it will cost. We may not have to wait terribly long to find out. It’s natural to follow the people impacted by all this: the local residents, usually in poorer neighborhoods, whose homes and livelihoods are being lost; the farmers and ranchers whose crops and livestock are withering and dying; the stranded travelers and the evacuees seeking shelter amid the chaos. And, of course the heroic responders to all these events, not to mention an entire generation of youth who fear their future is being stolen before their eyes, marching in the streets. So many people and stories. But lately, I’ve been following the money. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Some of it has been masked by the pandemic and ensuing recession, but for those who are paying attention, the indicators are hiding in plain sight. And what we’re seeing now are merely the opening acts of what could be a long-running global financial drama. The economic impact on companies is, to date, uncertain and likely incalculable. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Last week, a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report addressing climate risks to the U.S. financial system. That it did so is, in itself, remarkable, given the political climes. But the report didn’t pussyfoot around the issues: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy,” it stated, adding: Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity. Over time, if significant action is not taken to check rising global average temperatures, climate change impacts could impair the productive capacity of the economy and undermine its ability to generate employment, income and opportunity. Among the “complex risks for the U.S. financial system,” the authors said, are “disorderly price adjustments in various asset classes, with possible spillovers into different parts of the financial system, as well as potential disruption of the proper functioning of financial markets.” In other words: We’re heading into uncharted economic territory. Climate change, said the report’s authors, is expected to affect “multiple sectors, geographies and assets in the United States, sometimes simultaneously and within a relatively short timeframe.” Those impacts could “disrupt multiple parts of the financial system simultaneously.” For example: “A sudden revision of market perceptions about climate risk could lead to a disorderly repricing of assets, which could in turn have cascading effects on portfolios and balance sheets and therefore systemic implications for financial stability.” Sub-systemic shocks And then there are “sub-systemic” shocks, more localized climate-related impacts that “can undermine the financial health of community banks, agricultural banks or local insurance markets, leaving small businesses, farmers and households without access to critical financial services.” This, said the authors, is particularly damaging in areas that are already underserved by the financial system, which includes low-to-moderate income communities and historically marginalized communities. As always, those least able to least afford the impacts may get hit the hardest. This was hardly the first expression of concern about the potentially devastating economic impacts of climate change on companies, markets, nations and the global economy. For example: Two years ago, the Fourth National Climate Assessment noted that continued warming “is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.” It placed the price tag at up to 10.5 percent of GDP by 2100. Last month, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that while previous research suggested that a 1°C hotter year reduces economic output by about 1 percent, “the new analysis points to output losses of up to three times that much in warm regions.”’ Another report last month, by the Environmental Defense Fund, detailed how the financial impacts of fires, tropical storms, floods, droughts and crop freezes have quadrupled since 1980. “Researchers are only now beginning to anticipate the indirect impacts in the form of lower asset values, weakened future economic growth and uncertainty-induced instability in financial markets,” it said. And if you really want a sleepless night or two, read this story about  “The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California,” published recently in Mother Jones magazine. Even if you don’t have a home, business or operations in the Golden State, your suppliers and customers likely do, not to mention the provenance of the food on your dinner plate. Down to business The CTFC report did not overlook the role of companies in all this. It noted that “disclosure by corporations of information on material, climate-related financial risks is an essential building block to ensure that climate risks are measured and managed effectively,” enabling enables financial regulators and market participants to better understand climate change’s impacts on financial markets and institutions. However, it warned, “The existing disclosure regime has not resulted in disclosures of a scope, breadth and quality to be sufficiently useful to market participants and regulators.” An analysis by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure found that large companies are increasingly disclosing some climate-related information, but significant variations remain in the information disclosed by each company, making it difficult for investors and others to fully understand exposure and manage climate risks . The macroeconomic forecasts, however gloomy, likely seem academic inside boardrooms. And while that may be myopic — after all, the nature of the economy could begin to shift dramatically before the current decade is out, roiling customers and markets — it likely has little to do with profits and productivity over the short time frames within which most companies operate. Nonetheless, companies with a slightly longer view are already be considering the viability of their products and services in a warming world. Consider the recommendations of the aforementioned CFTC report, of which there are 20. Among them: “The United States should establish a price on carbon.” “All relevant federal financial regulatory agencies should incorporate climate-related risks into their mandates and develop a strategy for integrating these risks in their work.” “Regulators should require listed companies to disclose Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As reliable transition risk metrics and consistent methodologies for Scope 3 emissions are developed, financial regulators should require their disclosure, to the extent they are material.” The Financial Stability Oversight Council “should incorporate climate-related financial risks into its existing oversight function, including its annual reports and other reporting to Congress.” “Financial supervisors should require bank and nonbank financial firms to address climate-related financial risks through their existing risk management frameworks in a way that is appropriately governed by corporate management.” None of these things is likely to happen until there’s a new legislature and presidential administration in Washington, D.C., but history has shown that many of these can become de facto regulations if enough private-sector and nongovernmental players can adapt and pressure (or incentivize) companies to adopt and hew to the appropriate frameworks. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. And there’s some news on that front: Last week, five NGOs whose frameworks, standards and platforms guide the majority of sustainability and integrated reporting, announced “a shared vision of what is needed for progress towards comprehensive corporate reporting — and the intent to work together to achieve it.” CDP , the Climate Disclosure Standards Board , the Global Reporting Initiative , the International Integrated Reporting Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board have co-published a shared vision of the elements necessary for more comprehensive corporate reporting, and a joint statement of intent to drive towards this goal. They say they will work collaboratively with one another and with the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, the European Commission and the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council. Lots of names and acronyms in the above paragraph, but you get the idea: Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. To the extent they manage to harmonize their respective standards and frameworks, and should a future U.S. administration adopt those standards the way previous ones did the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, we could see a rapid scale-up of corporate reporting on these matters. Increased reporting won’t by itself mitigate the anticipated macroeconomic challenges, but to the extent it puts climate risks on an equal footing with other corporate risks — along with a meaningful price on carbon that will help companies attach dollar signs to those risks — it will help advance a decarbonized economy. Slowly — much too slowly — but amid an unstable climate and economy we’ll take whatever progress we can get. I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured Column Two Steps Forward 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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Palau is pioneering a new model of sustainable tourism

September 4, 2020 by  
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In partnership with Sustainable Travel International and Slow Food , the Palau Bureau of Tourism has launched a new project aimed at mitigating its tourism-based carbon footprint. The project’s long-term goal is to establish the island country as the world’s first official carbon-neutral tourism destination. With a focus on specific approaches to sustainable tourism , such as promoting local food production and developing a transparent carbon management plan, the project is sure to serve as an inspiration to other countries. Palau is a Pacific Island nation that is world-renowned for its natural beauty and considered one of the top marine tourism destinations in the world. The archipelago is made up of about 200 natural limestone and lush volcanic islands surrounded by crystal-clear lagoons. Unsurprisingly, scuba diving and snorkeling are some of the most popular tourist activities in Palau, thanks to the pristine coral reefs and an abundance of sea creatures. Jellyfish Lake, part of the island chain’s famous Rock Islands and connected to the ocean through a series of tunnels, is home to millions of jellyfish that migrate across the lake every day. The therapeutic clay of the “Milky Way” lagoon is said to contain age-rejuvenating components that attract locals and tourists alike. Related: 7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist In 2019, there were over 89,000 international tourists who visited the islands. This is considerable, seeing as the small country only has a population of just under 22,000. With such massive visitor numbers compared to permanent residents, the tourism industry is the main source of economic income and employment on the islands by far. “If the current COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we must strengthen our nation’s resilience to external threats — the greatest of which is climate change ,” said Kevin Mesebeluu, director of the Palau Bureau of Tourism. “Palau is blessed with some of the world’s most pristine natural resources, inherited through culture and tradition, and placed in our trust for the future generation. We must work to actively protect them, while also investing in our people. Palau embraces sustainable tourism as the only path forward in the new era of travel, and we believe that our destination can and must be carbon neutral.” Palau’s precious marine resources, small size and dependence on tourism make it extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The dangers of rising sea temperatures threaten the country’s marine ecosystems, coastal communities and important tourism industry. As is the unfortunate case with many vulnerable travel destinations, the large-scale tourist industry — despite providing the main source of livelihood for its residents — is also responsible for a portion of its carbon emissions and threats to local heritage sites. The remote island nation has relied heavily on imported food from overseas as well as carbon-heavy airline travel and activities in the past, habits that the new sustainable travel project plans to address. Palau has since taken extensive measures to protect its environment and promote responsible tourism. Once such a measure, deemed the “Palau Pledge,” became the world’s first mandatory visitor eco-pledge. Upon entry, all tourists are required to sign a pledge promising to act in an environmentally conscious and overall sustainable manner during their travels in order to protect the islands for future generations to come. Tourists risk a fine if they’re found engaging in activities like collecting marine life souvenirs, feeding fish or sharks , touching or stepping on coral, littering and disrespecting local culture. The program also bans tour operators from using single-use plastics and implements the world’s strictest national reef-safe sunscreen standard . Initiatives that increase local food sourcing reduce the country’s carbon footprint and set the destination up for food security success in the event of natural or economic disasters. This section of the project is imperative to showcasing the islands’ culinary heritage and building up the local income opportunities of Palau fishers and farmers. Even better, the program will put a specific emphasis on sustainable agricultural products and female-owned businesses. “The rapid growth of an unsustainable tourist industry based on broken food systems has been a key driver of the climate crisis and ecosystem destruction,” said Paolo di Croce, general secretary of Slow Food International. “This project represents the antithesis, a solution that strives to strengthen and restore value to local food systems, reduce the cultural and environmental damage caused by food imports, and improve the livelihoods of food producers both in Palau and beyond.” Becoming carbon-conscious doesn’t end with reducing carbon emissions; the tourism industry as it is will always have unavoidable carbon emissions from things like transportation and outdoor activities. To compensate, Palau has implemented an online carbon management platform for its visitors. The program will allow tourists to calculate a personal carbon footprint associated with their trip and provide offsetting opportunities that are in line with the country’s marine conservation and environmental restoration goals. Sustainable Travel International estimates that the platform has the potential to raise over $1 million per year for carbon-reducing initiatives. “This project has enormous potential to transform the traditional tourism model and is a notable step toward lessening the industry’s climate impact,” said Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International. “Destinations around the world face these same challenges of balancing tourism growth with environmental protection. Carbon neutrality is the future of tourism and the direction that all destinations must head as they recover from COVID-19. We commend Palau for their continued leadership, and hope this inspires other destinations to strengthen their own climate resilience strategies.” + Sustainable Travel International Images via Sustainable Travel International

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Palau is pioneering a new model of sustainable tourism

Hurricane Laura causes dangerous chemical fire in Louisiana

August 31, 2020 by  
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It’s bad enough to stay shut in your house, terrified, as you ride out a Category 4 hurricane. But the people of Westlake, Louisiana had an additional reason to stay inside last week with the windows clamped tight as Hurricane Laura started a fire at BioLab, unleashing chlorine gas over the small town. The hurricane killed at least 14 people, obliterated buildings and tore off roofs as it blustered through southwest Louisiana, home to many of the state’s petrochemical industries. It blew directly over the Hackberry oil field, an area south of Lake Charles that combines active and abandoned oil wells, pipelines and storage tanks with a sensitive marsh ecosystem. It will take some time to figure out the extent of structural and environmental damage. The health consequences may never be known. People who live in this region will only be able to guess in the coming years whether their cancers and other diseases were caused by the chlorine gas or other chemicals, to which they are routinely exposed. Related: Environmental racism in America Chemical leaks are common in Louisiana. Communities around petrochemical companies are accustomed to hearing emergency sirens. Unfortunately, petrochemical companies are often placed in elderly and Black communities. Westlake is less than 5 miles from the decimated town of Mossville, which was started by formerly enslaved peoples in the 1790s. In 2014, the South Africa-based fuel company Sasol bought out most of the residents’ houses to expand its enormous petrochemical plant. Mossville residents were known for staggeringly high concentrations of dioxins in their blood, as found in 1998 tests conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. This highly toxic substance can impair the immune system, disrupt hormone functions, damage the reproductive system and cause cancer and diabetes . Dioxins can form by heating chlorine to high temperatures, which happened last week when BioLab ignited. The BioLab facility, which was built in 1979, occupies 15 acres inside a large industrial complex. It manufactures trichloroisocyanuric acid — a bleaching agent and industrial disinfectant — chlorinating granules and other chemical blends for cleaning products. The fire shut down nearby Interstate 10 and required residents to shelter in place for at least 24 hours. Petrochemical plants often cause problems in hurricanes. Chemical storage tanks are especially problematic. They are built to float, but when the water resettles, the tanks sometimes spring a leak. Floating roofs built to contain vapors often collapse or sink, the wind can buckle tanks and flying debris can puncture a tank’s sides. Because workers are generally evacuated when a storm is on the way, often nobody is there to fix a problem before it has major consequences. Via The Conversation , CNN and The Intercept Image via NOAA

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Hurricane Laura causes dangerous chemical fire in Louisiana

Despite record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail

August 27, 2020 by  
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Despite record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail Jesse Klein Thu, 08/27/2020 – 01:45 The coronavirus pandemic threw almost every market into a tailspin, including the notoriously sensitive oil market. And when crude oil prices fell into negative territory in April, the recycled plastic industry experienced a reckoning. Would corporations still invest in relatively expensive circular plastic commitments if virgin plastic prices, closely tied to the petroleum industry, nosedived? So far, most big companies seem to be standing by their pledges. “Our strategy hasn’t changed,” Yolanda Malone, vice president of global foods packaging at PepsiCo, told a digital crowd at GreenBiz’s Circularity 20 event this week. “We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. Our strategy needs to be strong enough to weather it.” Shifting the focus away from everyday volatility and instead emphasizing the long-term benefits of an overarching and durable circular packaging plan can help brands avoid reacting to oil price dynamics and enable them to ignore the small short-term benefits — such as lower virgin plastic prices — in favor of long-lasting ones, according to Malone and other speakers who addressed the topic during the online event. We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. “One thing we did was to remind our associates and merchants that you can’t claim something is recyclable if it doesn’t actually get [turned into] recycled content,” Ashley Hall, lead for sustainable packaging at Walmart, said during the session. “That was a really important ah-ha moment for our clients and reaffirmed their commitment to get past these low prices and reassess moving forward.” But like good businesswomen, Malone and Hall are ready to adapt to a changing landscape, and the market volatility that occurred during the early days of the pandemic has prompted some soul-searching. According to Malone, her team is working on ways that ensuring Pepsi’s tactics can support a circular plastic initiative even amidst dropping oil prices — even if that means some tactics might need to change, such as shifting conversations away from cost savings associated with circular initiatives and instead turning the focus to consumer purchasing trends, the value of having a qualitative lifecycle assessment and the potential for refillable containers. Taylor Price, global manager of sustainability at packaging company Aptar, suggested that shifting to refillables rather than focusing almost exclusively on recycled content could be one way for companies to combat the effect of sinking oil prices on their packaging strategy.  “What we’ve seen as a packaging company is it’s not really an either/or,” she said. “Refillable solutions, for us, are really a co-strategy.”  Hall agreed that strategy diversification is important: “One solution won’t solve our issues. We need to work on all of them.” The consensus among the panelists was that a sustainable, circular packaging plan that includes a variety of levers to pull and different types of projects would be best suited to survive changing oil prices and other shifting market dynamics.  “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Hall said. “Pull from existing resources. And on the other side, share not only what works but where you’ve had troubles. And by doing that you can help other people avoid making some mistakes that you [have] made along the way so we can all move forward.” Pull Quote We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. Topics Circular Economy Circularity 20 Circular Packaging Plastic Circularity 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off As oil prices fall, recycled plastic initiatives have a new obstacle. //Unsplash

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Despite record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail

Earth 911 Reader: Plastic Is In People, Women Will Suffer More From Climate Change, and $46 Billion In Packaging Savings

August 22, 2020 by  
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Start your environmental and sustainability reading with us! We read … The post Earth 911 Reader: Plastic Is In People, Women Will Suffer More From Climate Change, and $46 Billion In Packaging Savings appeared first on Earth 911.

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Earth 911 Reader: Plastic Is In People, Women Will Suffer More From Climate Change, and $46 Billion In Packaging Savings

The Business Roundtable’s statement of purpose, one year on

August 17, 2020 by  
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The Business Roundtable’s statement of purpose, one year on Joel Makower Mon, 08/17/2020 – 02:11 When the Business Roundtable updated its  Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation a year ago this week, its members surely didn’t anticipate a global pandemic, a recession of historic proportions and a movement for racial justice becoming mainstream. Yet here we are, a year later, looking at a very different world than the one envisaged last August. Now that the business group’s statement has been stress-tested well beyond anyone’s expectations, it’s a good time to take a look at what difference it has made in its first 12 months. The short answer: It’s mostly business as usual. That’s an admittedly blunt and sweeping assessment of the state of corporate responsibility. While many companies have stepped up in some fashion to address the urgency of the moment, few have done so in ways that could help advance the kinds of long-term structural changes needed to ensure that the organization’s lofty statement has enduring impact. And some have neutered their stated commitments with actions that harm workers, communities and the environment. First, a refresher. The statement, signed by the chief executives of more than 180 large corporations, declared that business needs to move away from its shareholder-centric mission and advocate for “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.” In part, signatory companies committed to: compensate employees fairly, including through training and education, while fostering diversity and inclusion; deal fairly and ethically with suppliers; support “the communities in which we work” by respecting people, protecting the environment and “embracing sustainable practices across our businesses” and generate long-term value for shareholders, “who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate.” Not exactly radical statements, given that these commitments reflect much of the corporate sustainability agenda that has been decades in the making. These days, they represent society’s basic expectations of companies and their leaders. Still, the statement signaled a significant departure from the shareholders-at-all-costs orthodoxy of the past half-century, as articulated by the economist Milton Friedman. Fifty years ago next month, writing in the New York Times (PDF), Friedman argued that the social responsibility of business was to “increase profits.” And that anything businesspeople might do otherwise would be part of “the socialist view that political mechanisms, not market mechanisms, are the appropriate way to determine the allocation of scarce resources to alternative uses.” As I noted in a  2006 essay on the occasion of Friedman’s passing: We know better now. For example, we understand that ignoring environmental and social issues can be bad for business. Companies that pollute their local communities risk poisoning their customers. Ignoring the state of the local school system risks depleting the pool of qualified workers. Abusing workers risks higher turnover and training costs, not to mention greater difficulty attracting the most qualified candidates. The roundtable’s statement may have been a departure from the Friedman orthodoxy, but not as profoundly as some seem to think. For example, it acknowledged that “the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.” In other words: Business knows best how to protect people and allocate resources. Somewhere, Professor Friedman must be smiling. When the Business Roundtable statement was announced, much of the immediate criticism wasn’t from those who disagreed with its goals, but rather those concerned how the commitments would be translated into action, how progress would be measured and how companies would be held accountable. Somewhere, Professor Friedman must be smiling. With good reason: Sustainable business still lacks universal definitions, metrics and accountability. Sure, there are ESG metrics, sustainability ratings and corporate rankings galore. And the pursuit of those can help move companies further faster. But not all companies strive to achieve high scores and rankings, probably because no one, internally or externally, is demanding that they do. And companies can fare well in these rankings even if they, say, extract oil or hire workers at minimum wages without benefits, among other things that are not likely considered “socially responsible” by some. Shareholders first So, what, exactly, has happened in the 12 months since the statement was made? I was hard-pressed to find any significant corporate actions that can be tied directly to the Business Roundtable’s doctrine. Maybe I’ll be surprised in the coming week, should companies or the roundtable itself use the one-year anniversary to assess progress or announce bold new initiatives. That doesn’t mean companies aren’t acting. Corporate initiatives have continued largely unhindered by the recession and pandemic,  as I’ve noted previously . And the George Floyd murder and all that followed has spurred companies to address a range of long-festering racial and social justice issues. But nearly all of those things would likely have happened without the Business Roundtable statement. At best the statement codified what hundreds of big companies are already doing. Moreover, under the laws of the state of Delaware, where 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies (and many smaller ones, including GreenBiz Group) are registered, corporate directors still have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of shareholders. The statement does not alter this reality. That means companies are still legally required to put shareholders first. To the extent that it provided a fig leaf that enabled CEOs to pursue business as usual — well, it was probably worse than doing nothing at all. And to the extent that corporate boards and executives have remained on the sidelines of such front-burner issues as voter disenfranchisement, criminal justice reform and climate change rather than advocating for policies to address these critical issues — well, that doesn’t necessarily line up with the Business Roundtable’s stated efforts to “ensure more inclusive prosperity.” Worse than nothing? In the end, the Business Roundtable’s statement was probably far less than it seemed. Companies were already on a path to address many of society’s pressing social and environmental ills, albeit incrementally. To the extent that the statement gave political cover to CEOs that had been reticent to jump in, great. To the extent that it provided a fig leaf that enabled CEOs to pursue business as usual — well, it was probably worse than doing nothing at all. There have been robust efforts for years among academics, NGOs, entrepreneurs and a handful of business executives aimed at reinventing capitalism and corporations. (Allen White, vice president and senior fellow at Tellus Institute, who directs its Program on Corporate Redesign, has written  several thoughtful pieces for GreenBiz on these topics.) Those conversations are extremely valuable, becoming more so every year, and are worthy of a much larger engagement. Ultimately, the power to effect structural change doesn’t necessarily reside in boardrooms, Wall Street or the corridors of political power. It is we, the people, in our roles as the very stakeholders the Business Roundtable’s statement aims to appease — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders — who are best able to push companies to change, along with supporting the political influencers who understand that the reward systems for doing the wrong things need to be fixed. The Business Roundtable and its members no doubt understand that. But their 2019 statement is unlikely to lead us in that direction. Not without a full-court press from you and me. I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote Somewhere, Professor Friedman must be smiling. To the extent that it provided a fig leaf that enabled CEOs to pursue business as usual — well, it was probably worse than doing nothing at all. Topics Leadership Corporate Social Responsibility Featured Column Two Steps Forward 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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The Business Roundtable’s statement of purpose, one year on

The many faces of energy resilience

August 17, 2020 by  
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The many faces of energy resilience Michelle Moore Mon, 08/17/2020 – 00:30 This series explores how clean energy can deliver on finance and corporate social and governance goals alongside climate and environmental benefits. “Resilience” is a powerful word in 2020. Fires, floods, pestilence, pandemic — I don’t know about you all, but I was raised in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church and my Revelations bingo card is just about full. Thinking about the idea of resilience as it relates to equity and energy systems merely as the ability to keep the lights on, however, is missing a powerful opportunity to right the scales of justice. Large corporate energy buyers and utilities, in particular, hold the opportunity to build better and make things right. On resilience The term “resilience” can be applied to a vast array of natural, built and social systems and refers to the ability to recover function following a significant, potentially unpredictable disruption. As it relates to energy, moving away from long transmission lines and centralized power plants burning extracted, polluting fuels and towards a distributed system that combines local energy storage with renewables improves resilience — consistent with the principles of biomimicry. That’s the vision. But how is that vision valued? Resilient energy systems combining renewables, microgrids and energy storage are being deployed by corporations and other institutions that can assign an economic value to resilience as a service, by residential customers who can afford it and by utilities that benefit from the resulting infrastructure and other cost reductions. If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, however, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Do justice Our energy systems, like most legacy systems, are infused with racial injustices that do particular harm to Black communities, families and individuals because many of our laws and institutions were designed for that purpose. Systems produce outcomes according to the values on which they are founded, and the outcomes are clear. As the NAACP has highlighted , 68 percent of Black and African-American individuals live within 30 miles of a coal plant and are twice as likely to die from asthma than white Americans. Only 1.1 percent of those employed in the energy industry are Black, while Black households comprise more than half of those paying 10 percent or more of their entire income to keep the lights on. Moreover, Black and Latino households pay almost three times as much for energy as higher income and white households.  If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Just because you didn’t write the rules that made things so broken doesn’t absolve you of accountability to fix them. As my colleague Chandra Farley, Just Energy Director with Partnership for Southern Equity, has pointedly noted, Black people, communities of color and low-income communities are resilient because they have endured hundreds of years of systemic racism and disinvestment. Recognizing this, every decision maker leading an energy storage project can choose to do justice by understanding the value of resilience as encompassing more than the money. Here are four examples of how to begin. Communities can define their own resilient energy futures , anchored by colleges and universities. In service to the Atlanta University Center Consortium , Groundswell is supporting the design and development of an innovative Resilience Hub that celebrates the leadership of Atlanta’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Partnership for Southern Equity is on the team to ensure that the voice and vision of the surrounding neighborhoods, among the most energy-burdened in the city, are the priority. Enabled through NREL’s Solar Energy Innovation Network, this project is tackling how to deploy community-led energy resilience in a regulated, utility-driven energy market. Large corporate energy buyers can share resilience as a service to the communities surrounding their facilities and installations. Doing so in a way that aligns with local community needs and values requires building relationships with local communities and listening to and meeting their needs. John Kliem, formerly the head of the U.S. Navy’s Resilient Energy Program Office, oversaw an early example of this approach in collaboration with the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative in Hawaii. The resulting solar-plus-storage facility, recognized b y a 2019 U.S. Department of Energy award, improves energy security for the local Naval facility while supporting local goals. Kliem, who now leads federal energy strategy for Johnson Controls, also has identified co-location of energy storage facilities to share resilience with critical infrastructure such as hospitals and municipal water pumping stations as opportunities. Cities, municipalities and other jurisdictions can use their planning authority to embed community-driven resilience at the building level. The city of Baltimore is helping to lead the way. Funded through a Maryland Energy Administration Grant, Baltimore is working with Groundswell and energy storage innovators A.F. Mensah to identify and develop up to 20 local Resilience Hubs across the city that will host solar and energy storage installations and provide refuge for local community members in case of extreme weather or other events. Importantly, funded collaborations such as this support critical place-based R&D into optimal approaches to financing larger scale deployment while navigating local, state and regional regulations that impact siting, interconnection and access to revenue opportunities such as selling stored power back to the grid at peak.   Rural electric cooperatives are demonstrating how utilities can deploy energy storage that reduces electric costs for their member customers. Curtis Wynn, CEO of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative and president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is studying offering energy storage as a service to industrial customers and sharing the resulting cost reductions from reducing peak demand with his residential customers, who are largely low- and moderate-income households. Using smart hot water heaters for energy storage offers similar potential benefits to lower income customers, which is just one of the innovative ideas being advanced by the Beneficial Electrification League . Towards regeneration Building energy resilience can do more than keep the lights on for those who can pay for it. Resilience can be reparative, and the resulting investments can support the regeneration of communities that have been held back by institutionalized systems of oppression. We have a corporate as well as an individual responsibility to do justice. We are called to advocate for and share what we have with others so that everyone is treated equally and with dignity, and it’s the privilege of our generation to be alive at a time when we can make things right. Pull Quote If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Topics Energy & Climate Social Justice Community Resilience Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage, via Shutterstock

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