Aquaculture becomes a net-positive

February 22, 2021 by  
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Aquaculture becomes a net-positive Heather Clancy Mon, 02/22/2021 – 00:15 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . The practice of farming finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants — by land and by sea — dates back 3,000 years as first the Chinese and then the Romans sought ways to supplement their food supplies with species such as carp and oysters. In more modern times, support for aquaculture has ebbed and flowed along with concerns about animal health and welfare, worries over the effluent pollution caused by wastewater discharges, and the unintended impacts of production infrastructure such as pipes and pumps on natural ecosystems. Now, a wave of technology innovation and funding from an eclectic group of companies ranging from Google’s parent Alphabet, to the Seed2Growth fund linked to Lukas Walton (grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton), to Cargill and Chevron Ventures (both focused on fish-feed ventures) is changing the tide again. In 2018, the last year for which figures were available, worldwide aquaculture production reached an all-time high of 114.5 million metric tons in “live weight,” representing a market value of almost $264 billion, according to a 2020 report by U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That amount accounted for 52 percent of global fish consumption. The annual growth rate will slow over the next decade, but FAO projects aquaculture will supply close to 60 percent of fish consumed globally by 2030. You have to be engaged in aquaculture, you have to be successful in aquaculture, to be successful in seafood. Many factors contribute to this renewed surge in interest in farming fish and sea vegetables. Chief among them are worries over the long-term viability of global fisheries and concern over the fragility of food supply chains, sorely tested by disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States, for example, imports a vast majority of the salmon it eats, with long-term consequences for transportation-related emissions. The most dominant region in the world today for aquaculture production is Asia, particularly China, but Norway (for salmon) and Central America (for tilapia) are also big exporters. “Expanding access to blue food — that is, sustainably grown marine and freshwater organisms including fish, shellfish and sea vegetables — can play an important role in reducing the carbon emissions associated with the food we eat … While sustainable aquaculture alone won’t solve the problem of reducing carbon emissions, seafood is one of the lowest carbon sources of protein available — so it’s a great place to make an impact on the climate crisis in the next five to 10 years,” said Neil Davé, general manager of Tidal , an Alphabet X moonshot project. The Tidal research team is testing artificial intelligence and imaging technology as a means to monitor fish health, spot pests and reduce waste at fish farms run by Norwegian seafood company Mowi , the world’s largest Atlantic salmon producer and ranked ( again ) in November as the world’s most sustainable protein producer by the FAIRR Initiative, which produces research for institutional investors interested in environment, social and governance issues. Digital innovations such as Tidal’s that provide better insights into fish farming operations — alongside new recirculating aquaculture system designs and purification advances, such as the “nanobubbles” generators designed by startup Moleaer — are contributing to rising levels of speculative activity. Over the past four years, for example, more than 20 companies have filed development permits in Norway for new approaches, including several for semi-enclosed or enclosed cages that decrease the potential impact on ocean ecosystems. The number of companies building land-based operations is also growing, notably in the United States. That’s important as more countries consider investing in sustainable domestic sources of production. A recent study by nonprofit WorldFish suggested that “inland freshwater aquaculture and marine capture fisheries have far greater potential to continue to supply most of the world’s aquatic food and contribute to human equity and food security than offshore marine finfish farming.” These self-contained operations are designed to address concerns about wastewater discharges in coastal waters, as well as concerns over viruses, parasites and microplastics that plague ocean and coastal operations. The downside: They are incredibly capital-intensive, costing millions to get up and running. Among the emerging U.S. players are Aquabanq  (a Maine salmon concern), Infinity Blue (a brand raising barramundi with aspirations in Arizona ), Innovasea Systems (based in Boston) and Pure Salmon (which is building an operation in Virginia). Atlantic Sapphire , which is raising Bluehouse salmon on land in southern Florida and has invested upwards of $100 million in the facilities to do so, in November began selling its first fish raised without hormones, antibiotics or pesticides to supermarkets including the Publix supermarket chain. While its initial capacity is limited to about 10,000 metric tons of fish, the company aspires to supply 12 percent of the market by 2026. Its ultimate goal: 220 metric tons annually by 2030 — that’s nearly 1 billion salmon meals. “By producing an increasing amount of seafood sustainably as farmers, the industry can help relieve pressure on wild stocks that might currently be overfished commercially. Raising salmon on land helps to avoid the effect on coastal areas, ensuring the well-being of our planet,” observed Damien Claire, chief sales and marketing officer at Atlantic Sapphire. Publix Super Markets is already making a big bet on aquaculture , not just with salmon but with species such as cobia, shrimp, pompano and tripletail. “You have to be engaged in aquaculture, you have to be successful in aquaculture, to be successful in seafood,” noted Guy Pizzuti, business development director for seafood at Publix. These are farms that bring back to the ocean as they bring back food. Of course, there are other creatures in the sea aside from finfish. One notable difference between the aquaculture industry emerging this decade and the focus of the past is that it’s not all about cultivating more animals. Seaweed is the fastest-growing segment of the industry. It is being considered more often as a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging , which gives farmers another potential buyer. For example, materials pioneer Loliware is creating seaweed straws that will be used by the likes of hotel chain Marriott and fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, which also has put kelp-inspired dishes on its menu. Food startup Akua is using kelp as a staple for jerky and pasta, and Blue Evolution is selling a range of products, including kelp popcorn. And in November, the Bezos Earth Fund made a $100 million grant to the World Wildlife Fund to support, among other things, the development of new markets for seaweed as an alternative to fossil fuel-based products. One nonprofit organization, GreenWave , is even advocating the idea of “regenerative ocean farming.” Its aim is to support the development of polycultural operations that combine a mix of seaweeds and shellfish that require zero artificial inputs. GreenWave’s pitch is that those with access to 20 acres, a boat and startup costs of $20,000 to $50,000 can start their own farm. Not only can these farms revive economic livelihoods for fishing communities that have seen local fisheries decline, they also can provide carbon sequestration benefits. One figure touted by the Eat More Kelp campaign suggests that the process of growing regenerative kelp can capture five times more CO2 than leafy vegetables such as kale or lettuce. “These are farms that bring back to the ocean as they bring back food,” said GreenWave founder Bren Smith. For food retailers such as Publix, the primary environmental benefit of supporting aquaculture includes the ability to offer customers a certified product vetted for ecological considerations such as wastewater management, water quality, effluent discharge and health. Two of the biggest challenges the evolving aquaculture industry must overcome, Pizzuti noted, are customer perceptions over the impact of aquaculture practices and the price premium they still must pay over fish and seafood sold by commercial fishing operations. Still, as more food companies, investors and entrepreneurs cast their ideas into the ocean of aquaculture innovation, the greater the chances for a bountiful, sustainable catch. Pull Quote You have to be engaged in aquaculture, you have to be successful in aquaculture, to be successful in seafood. These are farms that bring back to the ocean as they bring back food. Topics Oceans & Fisheries Food Systems State of Green Business Report Aquaculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Atlantic salmon cage site. Photo by Shutterstock/Leo W. Kowal

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Aquaculture becomes a net-positive

Lessons from 3 emerging bio-based material technologies

February 19, 2021 by  
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Lessons from 3 emerging bio-based material technologies Suz Okie Fri, 02/19/2021 – 00:40 Creating human-made materials from living or biological sources is by no means a new development, yet newly invented bio-based materials are garnering significant hype as of late. From electronic displays made from fish scales to sanitary products made from banana fibers, these inspiring innovations can capture human imagination and evoke an aspirational future free of toxins and litter, amongst other environmental improvements.  But these materials do more than strike awe and inspiration. According to WBCSD’s recent report on the circular bioeconomy, bio-based products will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030.  To better understand these headline-grabbing materials, I followed up with three emerging bio-based products from a Circularity 20 panel exploring bio-utilization and the opportunities bio-based materials afford. Here’s what I uncovered. Turning mycelium into packaging that’s ‘compatible with the planet’ Founded in 2007, New York based Ecovative Design leverages the naturally binding properties of mycelium — mushroom’s root structure — in several sustainable materials. The company’s first technology, MycoComposite, precipitated the subsidiary Mushroom Packaging , which I discussed with Ecovative’s business development lead, Meghan Olson. According to WBCSD’s recent report on the circular bioeconomy, bio-based products will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030. Offering an alternative to polystyrene, polypropylene and other protective or insulating packaging, Mushroom Packaging infuses locally sourced agricultural byproducts (such as hemp hurd or rice hulls) with mushroom spores. The mixture is filled into custom shaped packaging molds, designed in collaboration with their clients, and the mycelium is allowed to take form. After seven days in its facilities, the grown result is a nontoxic, fully home- and marine-compostable material that protects and insulates a variety of products — everything from candles to industrial servers.  Mushroom Packaging is growing its footprint with a global network of licensees from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and beyond — expanding its customer base to include cosmetics retailer Lush and even interior designers. Meanwhile, Ecovative Design continues to research new applications for its mushroom technology portfolio in New York, expanding beyond packaging into textile alternatives and vegan meat substitutes.  Turning algae into straws that are ‘designed to disappear’ Loliware was founded in 2016 in pursuit of “a radical leap towards [a sustainable packaging] future.” Its interdisciplinary team is based on the east coast of the United States and combines expertise in food technology, seaweed biology, polymer engineering and even fashion to create “not just the material, but also the feeling of the brand.” As co-founder and CEO Sea Briganti notes, “You can’t build what you can’t imagine, so a lot of our work is helping people imagine this new future so we can all build it together.” Sourcing algae from sustainable seaweed farmers that capture carbon as they grow their crop, Loliware is working to manufacture a variety of bio-based polymers. The end products are (technically) edible tableware replacements that naturally break down within six to 10 days in home composting, and even faster in the ocean.  With a B2B strategy, Loliware is building a portfolio of partners — including Marriott, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Pernod Ricard — to distribute its straws. Although the pandemic has disrupted hospitality and demand, Loliware has used the lull to advance its technology and scale manufacturing with a mission to overturn legacy plastics. Turning pineapple leaves into textiles that benefit ‘people and planet’   Following a consulting assignment with the Design Center of the Philippines, self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” Carmen Hijosa was determined to find (or invent) an alternative to leather and the negative impacts that came with it. By 2013, following several years of studying, research and development, Hijosa had a Ph.D., a new material in tow, and had founded London-based  Ananas Anam . You can’t build what you can’t imagine, so a lot of our work is helping people imagine this new future so we can all build it together. Leveraging pineapple leaves, a waste product of the pineapple industry, Ananas Anam uses a low-energy, low-water, chemical-free process to convert the leaves’ natural fibers into a leather-like material called Piñatex. Producing just 2.69 kilograms of carbon per meter of material, Piñatex touts carbon saving benefits as the equivalent volume of reclaimed pineapple waste would emit about 8 kilograms of carbon if it were left to decompose or burn in the fields.  Piñatex can be found in the footwear, fashion and furnishings of more than 3,000 clients , ranging from small-scale designers to large-scale apparel companies such as H&M and Hugo Boss. As Ananas Anam grows, so do its social and sustainability efforts as it further builds a Philippines-based supply chain and promotes local culture and resilience.  While these companies represent wholly different applications and biological sources, they share several instructive commonalities about the current state of bio-based materials.  They can functionally compete with legacy materials  Touting benefits such as “carbon-negative,” “biodegradable” and/or “sustainably sourced,” it’s hardly surprising that bio-based materials frequently outcompete legacy alternatives on environmental impact. Beyond these sustainability claims, however, eco-friendly or bio-based products are often perceived as less effective than their synthetic counterparts.  That’s why Briganti of Loliware knew her product “had to be a 1:1 replacement” when it came to performance. Loliware, Ecovative Designs and Ananas Anam have all invested heavily in ensuring (and proving) that their products are as functional as the legacy product they might replace.  Mushroom Packaging promises comparable if not superior strength, insulation and hydrophobic properties to polystyrene. Ananas Anam follows stringent technical specifications to meet its clients’ exacting standards, ensuring a durable material that can take wear and tear comfortably for at least five years. And mechanical testing has shown Loliware’s straw durability is on par with its plastics counterpart, while outperforming PLA — Polylactic Acid, a bioplastic — and paper straws. The flexibility of plastic straws is a bit more challenging to replicate, but R&D is under way to do just that.  They can be cost-competitive too, with some caveats Competing on cost, perhaps the most elusive metric, is also in reach according to these companies. As Hijosa notes, Piñatex being sold in rolls can save clients up to 30 percent of the waste associated with the odd shapes, scratches and tears of leather hides, allowing for a comfortably comparable price point.  As Mushroom Packaging is grown (without the need for tooling, molding or post-processing) Olsen shared that prices are competitive with molded polystyrene and molded paper pulp on smaller volume orders (while struggling to match-up when orders surpass 500,000 units.) “Low- to medium-volume sized orders are actually best for our process… [that’s why] we like working with smaller brands and growing with our customers,” Olsen said.  Finally, early 2021 will see the launch of Loliware’s 2.0 polymer, which Briganti said will allow it to compete with paper straw pricing. Although it admittedly can’t match virgin plastic prices, Briganti will be the first to note “the true price of plastic is not reflected in the price of the product — the price to clean it up, the price to our wildlife, our fisheries… our children and the next generation.”  They can offer local sourcing benefits All three companies’ manufacturing happens in close proximity to the farmers from which they source — whether it’s Loliware near its seaweed sources in Connecticut, Ananas Anam setting up fiber processing facilities near pineapple farms in the Philippines, or Mushroom Packaging working to source locally abundant biomass — i.e. mushroom food — within 500 miles of its production facilities.  Beyond local, they also prioritize sustainability. Loliware has sought out “the most sustainable farms in the blue ocean economy” and partnered with Greenwave , a regenerative seaweed farming nonprofit. In the cases of Mushroom Packaging and Piñatex, their biological source is considered an agricultural byproduct or waste. By purchasing it, they not only provide an added revenue stream for their farmers but also ensure the would-be waste isn’t sent to landfills, burnt or left to rot in the field. We’re actually in complete union in caring for people and planet. All stakeholders are important to us, not just shareholders. As a certified B-Corp, Ananas Anam also prioritizes transparency, local employment and training. “We’re actually in complete union in caring for people and planet. All stakeholders are important to us, not just shareholders,” Hijosa said. With that in mind, Ananas Anam partners with small farming cooperatives, ensuring all employees in their supply chain enjoy full contracts and fair wages.  They can help regenerate ecosystems By sourcing carbon-capturing, regenerative seaweed, Loliware is helping to rebuild and regenerate marine ecosystems on the Eastern Shore in the U.S.  Beyond displacing 2 million pounds of legacy foam annually, Mushroom Packaging is not just biodegradable, it’s also “bio-contributing,” adding nutrients to any soil it decomposes in. For this reason Olson says you can “feel good” about throwing it in your backyard.   After saving water and energy in its fiber processing, Ananas Anam uses excess biomass to create compost and add nutrients back to its farmers’ soil. By 2023, it’ll have enough biomass to profitably create local energy with an anaerobic converter.  They have requests Given the size of the legacy industries they compete with, these companies represent a relatively narrow market share. With new supply chains to build, customer habits to overturn and cost caveats that sometimes equate to higher price points, it’s important to note they face significant hurdles to substantively scale. With that in mind, I asked what they’d wish for to advance their companies and the bio-based material industry at large. The three women I spoke with had varying, but valuable requests for what comes next.  Olson would like consumer demand to continue to push out and displace more environmentally destructive, single-use options on the market. Briganti hopes legislation and regulation will take a more active role not just in the market, but also in supporting and funding entrepreneurs and innovators. Finally, Hijosa would like to see more integrity, transparency, and responsibility across the supply chain. Here’s hoping they get their wishes.  Pull Quote According to WBCSD’s recent report on the circular bioeconomy, bio-based products will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030. You can’t build what you can’t imagine, so a lot of our work is helping people imagine this new future so we can all build it together. We’re actually in complete union in caring for people and planet. All stakeholders are important to us, not just shareholders. Topics Circular Economy Biomaterials Innovation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off From left to right: close up images of mushrooms, pineapple and seaweed, sources of bio-based products, which will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030.

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Lessons from 3 emerging bio-based material technologies

Filmmaker designs and builds off-grid backcountry cabin for $50k

February 2, 2021 by  
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Tired of the work grind and eager to slow down and live a more sustainable lifestyle, a Canadian filmmaker decided to build an off-grid cabin from scratch — without any prior building experience. Fortunately, his friends and family helped him design and build his cozy micro-cabin in the remote Canadian forest for just CA$65,000 (approximately $50,000). Powered with solar energy and engineered to harvest and store 3,000 liters of rainwater, the  off-grid  abode is now the filmmaker and his girlfriend’s full-time home, where they embrace slow living and share their experiences on Instagram  @canadiancastaway .  Located atop a cliff in an untamed forest, the Canadian Castaway home took about three years to complete due to lack of road access and the difficulty of bringing building materials to the site. The micro- cabin  measures 18 feet by 22 feet and comprises a main floor with a combined living and dining area with a wood-burning stove, a kitchen with a propane two-burner cooktop and 110-volt fridge, and a bathroom with a sink and a bath (the composting toilet is located in a freestanding unit outside). The cabin also has two lofts, one for the bedroom and the other that serves as a workspace and secondary living space. To make the home operate off-grid and generate enough power for the filmmaker’s workstation and satellite internet service, a 1,300-watt  solar system  was installed and connected to four 550-amp-per-hour deep-cycle batteries. The home is also hooked up to a backup generator.  Related: Tiny House Sustainable Living blog documents life in an off-grid tiny home Since there is no well, three 1,000-liter tanks are used to store collected rainwater  from the roof. Potable water is sourced from a nearby spring. In addition to a wood-burning stove, the cabin stays cozy in winter thanks to thick insulation. The total cost of the project — including the price of land and the solar system — was CA$65,000. + Canadian Castaway Images via Canadian Castaway

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Filmmaker designs and builds off-grid backcountry cabin for $50k

Apple aims to save the environment, one wall charger at a time

October 15, 2020 by  
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If your new, boxed iPhone 12 feels a little light, that might be because it doesn’t contain a wall charger or earbuds. Apple announced that its new lineup of iPhone 12s — plus all previous models still for sale — will only include the USB-C to Lightning cable and skip the other accessories. This move will also decrease packaging, “further reducing carbon emissions and avoiding the mining and use of precious materials, which enables smaller and lighter packaging, and allows for 70 percent more boxes to be shipped on a pallet,” Apple said in an announcement. The company estimates these changes will cut more than 2 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually — roughly the same effect as taking 450,000 cars off the road for a year. Related: Gorgeous new Apple store is powered entirely by renewable energy in Paris Consumers are meeting the news with mixed reactions. Some skeptics dismiss it as a purely economic move on Apple’s part, allowing the company to increase profits. Others are happy with the environmental savings, saying they have piles of wall chargers and earbuds from previous iPhones. According to Apple, there are already 2 billion Apple power adapters and 700 million Lightning headphones out there in the world. What if you’re new to the Apple ecosystem and don’t have headphones or a wall charger? The good news is both of these accessories are available to purchase a la carte, and Apple has lowered the price by 10 bucks to $19 each. Apple already claims carbon-neutrality for global corporate operations and plans a net-zero climate impact across its whole business by 2030. The iPhone 12 Pro models are the first to incorporate 100% recycled rare earth elements in all magnets. For those that decide to purchase the new iPhone, perhaps the price tag might be a little less painful when you think about how much e-waste you’re avoiding. + Apple Via The Verge Image via Andreas Haslinger

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Apple aims to save the environment, one wall charger at a time

More reflections about regenerative grazing and the future of meat

September 25, 2020 by  
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More reflections about regenerative grazing and the future of meat Jim Giles Fri, 09/25/2020 – 01:30 Editor’s note: Last week’s Foodstuff discussion on the impact of regenerative grazing on emissions from meat production prompted a flurry of comments from the GreenBiz community. This essay advances the dialogue. Let’s get back to the beef brouhaha I wrote about last week. I’d argued that regenerative grazing could cut emissions from beef production , helping reduce the outsized contribution cattle make to food’s carbon footprint. This suggestion produced more responses than anything I’ve written in the roughly six months since the Food Weekly newsletter launched. The future of meat is a critical issue, so I thought I’d summarize some of the reaction. First up, a shocking revelation: There’s no truth in advertising. I’d written about a new beef company called Wholesome Meats, which claims to sell the “only beef that heals the planet.” Hundreds of ranchers actually already are using regenerative methods, pointed out Peter Byck of Arizona State University, who is leading a major study into the impact of these methods. This week, in fact, some of the biggest names in food announced a major regenerative initiative: Walmart, McDonald’s, Cargill and the World Wildlife Fund said they will invest $6 million in scaling up sustainable grazing practices on 1 million acres of grassland across the Northern Great Plains . Two members of that team also are moving to cut emissions from conventional beef production. We tend to blame cows’ methane-filled burps for these gases, but around a quarter of livestock emissions come from fertilizer used to grow animal feed . When we consider the best way forward, we have to think about what economists call an opportunity cost: the price we pay for not putting that land to different use. Farmers growing corn and other grains can cut those emissions by planting cover crops and using more diverse crop rotations — two techniques that McDonald’s and Cargill will roll out on 100,000 acres in Nebraska as part of an $8.5 million project. These and other emissions-reduction projects are part of Cargill’s goal to cut emissions from every pound of beef in its supply chain by 30 percent by 2030. Sounds great, right? You can imagine a future in which some beef, probably priced at a premium, comes with a carbon-negative label. Perhaps most beef isn’t so climate-friendly, but thanks to regenerative agriculture and other emissions-lowering methods, the burgers and steaks we love — on average, Americans eat the equivalent of more than four quarter-pounders every week — no longer account for such an egregious share of emissions. Well, yes and no. That future is plausible and would be a more sustainable one, but pursuing it may rule out a game-changing alternative. In the United States, around two-thirds of the roughly 1 billion acres of land used for agriculture is devoted to animal grazing . Two-thirds. That’s an extraordinary amount of land. And that doesn’t include the millions of acres used to grow crops to feed those animals. When we consider the best way forward, we have to think about what economists call an opportunity cost: the price we pay for not putting that land to different use. The alternative here is to eat less meat and then, on the land that frees up, restore native ecosystems, such as forests, which draw down carbon. This week, Jessica Appelgren, vice president of communications at Impossible Foods, pointed me to a recent paper in Nature Sustainability that quantified the impact of such a shift . The potential is staggering: Switching to a low-meat, low-dairy diet and restoring land could remove more than 300 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050. That’s around a decade of global fossil-fuel emissions. In some regions, regenerative grazing techniques, which mimic an ancient symbiosis between animals and land, might be part of that restorative process. So maybe the trade-off isn’t as stark as it seems. But demand for beef is the primary driver of deforestation in the Amazon, where the trade-off is indeed clear: We’re destroying the lungs of the planet to sustain our beef habit. Once you factor in land use, eating less animal protein and restoring ecosystems looks to be an essential part of the challenge of feeding a growing global population while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of our food systems. That doesn’t mean everyone goes vegan, but it does mean we should cut back on meat and dairy. Pull Quote When we consider the best way forward, we have to think about what economists call an opportunity cost: the price we pay for not putting that land to different use. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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More reflections about regenerative grazing and the future of meat

The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission

September 21, 2020 by  
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The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission Gil Friend Mon, 09/21/2020 – 01:00 The world (well, most of it) attacked COVID-19 as if it were a true global emergency: with extraordinary speed, scale and scope. With real collaboration and a healthy dose of courage, some gutsy decisions were made both in government and business. Getting billions of people to don masks, allocating trillions of dollars and putting massive human safety nets in place around the globe in record time is no task for the faint of heart. Yet we haven’t responded to other planetary catastrophes with the same speed, scale, scope and coordination. This year’s Climate Week commitments notwithstanding, we haven’t shown the same guts and drive on climate as on COVID. But what if we did? That is the challenge posed by the COVID Covenant. Take climate change — in the grand scheme, a far greater and decidedly more existential emergency than the current pandemic. While some targets have been set, some progress made and some portion of the public enrolled, the world has not become galvanized to meet it. This is a threat we know will affect billions of people and displace hundreds of millions more through sea-level rise, desertification and other disastrous impacts by the time our children are grown. The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. We could talk about why we haven’t acted, but the real question is about what we will do going forward: How will we provoke the world into attacking carbon as it has the virus? And climate is not the only major threat we face. The social infrastructure that has left many millions without access to healthcare in the middle of a major pandemic certainly threatens global stability. Inequality and injustice are worldwide disasters as well. These are all global issues that underpin all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and they are all soluble. Yet our planetary response to them has been tepid at best. Going big The COVID Covenant was created to kick the world into overdrive, to accept no less than the huge, unprecedented commitments required to deal with these issues, to make what seemed impossible, possible. In short: to go big. Developed by a cadre of sustainable business veterans, the COVID Covenant represents an all-in community of influential business leaders, municipal leaders and individuals who — after a long, deep breath — have committed to doing far more, far faster than they ever believed they could, and to turn on the sirens and the flashing lights for others while they’re doing it. Each has committed to the COVID Covenant. They have declared they are going big. That’s the price of admission. The COVID Covenant I solemnly commit to do what is necessary, at the speed, scale and scope that is necessary, to ensure we don’t go back to a broken system — an overheating, divided, unequal world — and build a resilient, equitable, healthy world in its place. Before the ink is dry on this Covenant, I will begin creating economic, social and governmental change at speed, scale and scope. I will practice, and advocate for, unprecedented levels of collaboration and I will mobile mobilize my organization(s), city, company and others in my circle of influence to do the same. We know what a real emergency response looks like now, what it feels like — the immediacy and urgency of it. And still, when this pandemic eventually ends, will most organizations return to their pre-coronavirus goals, such as to reduce emissions by 20 percent in five years, say, or to be carbon neutral by 2050? Will they continue with health care and wages as usual? Or will they go big, to get it done now?Demand and lobby hard to ensure everyone has health care, and for a far more equitable wage structure? Will they catalyze others to do the same? If, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, we have a maximum of eight years of carbon left in our 1.5 degree Celsius carbon budget, then a goal of neutrality 30 or 40 years from now no longer looks like leadership. Like heroism. Like going big. Instead, it looks like thinking small. If — or more likely, when — the next pandemic hits, or Florida is underwater, or California is burning, or whatever the next disruption is — can we afford to have millions of people in food lines within a few days of a shutdown, or for millions to lose their jobs or not be able to access health care? The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. If the COVID Covenant can get those who are crawling toward progress to walk instead, if it can get the walkers to start jogging and the joggers to sprint, then we have a chance. (Those already sprinting? Time to turn on the jets — let’s see commitments that make Microsoft’s aim to remove all the carbon it has ever generated look like last year’s news.) The world has progressed — a bit — on climate. A few short years ago, climate targets were not science-based, and carbon-neutral commitments were rare. Most corporations were not reporting to GRI or SASB or thinking about TCFD. Now, thousands of companies are reporting, hundreds have set science-based targets and many corporations and communities already have committed to neutrality — though, as we’ve noted, their goals are too modest and too slow. The goalposts have moved, but nowhere near fast or far enough. Further, faster The message of the COVID Covenant is, “It’s great you say you’ll do this cool thing in 20 or 30 years, but that’s not soon enough. What if you treated it like the emergency it is and committed to getting the job done fast? What would it take for you to do it in 10 years? Five years? Three?” The COVID Covenant is seeding a community of collaborating competitors, of peers, experts and cheerleaders, sharing best practices, modeling what going big looks like and how to get there, offering feedback and advice, and trumpeting its work to the world. What this community does and becomes is up to those who commit to it — we’re confident that a group of people and companies whose uniting purpose is to go big will do more than just commit. The community might generate new business relationships among its members, new research or new public-private partnerships. However the collaboration evolves, it will be a vehicle for greater change and impact — picking up the gauntlet thrown down by the coronavirus, climate change and widening social inequity.  Those who’ve committed to the COVID Covenant include Andrew Winston, Hunter Lovins, John Izzo, Gil Friend, Daniel Aronson, Catherine Greener, Daniel Kreeger, Amy Larkin, P.J. Simmons and Phil Clawson.  Read more and make your own commitment here . Pull Quote The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. Contributors Daniel Aronson Topics Climate Change Leadership COVID-19 COVID-19 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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Why sustainability professionals should embrace Black Lives Matter

September 21, 2020 by  
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Why sustainability professionals should embrace Black Lives Matter Charles Orgbon Mon, 09/21/2020 – 00:45 Long before corporations acknowledged Black Lives Matter, they championed the plights of specific endangered species. Corporate conservation campaigns used phrases such as “Save the [insert your favorite animal],” which have been catchy, effective and oddly similar to the language we’re now using to educate people about the status of Black life in America. The Disney Conservation Fund protects lions, elephants, chimpanzees and thousands of other species. Ben & Jerry’s brings awareness to declining honeybee populations. Coca-Cola appropriately is the longtime ally of the poster child for climate change, the polar bear. As a kid, I, too, was influenced by Coca-Cola’s messaging. At just 11, I thought I could stop global warming, so I created a blog with articles urging people, “Save the polar bears.” No one challenged me by asking, “What about the tigers? The tigers…matter, too! All endangered species matter.” The fact is, polar bears were (and still are) drowning due to global problems. If we addressed the root causes of those global problems such as reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, in fact, all endangered species would fare better. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” works similarly to “Save the polar bear,” only that Black people are drowning in a sea of systemic racism instead of a rising sea of melting ice. Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good. When someone says something such as “Save the polar bears,” they are also indirectly revealing other information about themselves. Perhaps they eat organic, use public transportation, recycle or take military-style showers. Likewise, when we say “Black Lives Matter” we are actually making a declaration about our belief that injustice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere. All lives truly matter when those that are the most marginalized matter. Want to know how well our society is tackling climate change? Look to polar bears. If they’re doing good, we’re doing good. Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good. I spend a lot of time thinking about how white people are just awakening to the systemic racism that continues to thrive in every aspect of American life and how this systemic racism continues to affect me daily . If so many people have gone so long without acknowledging the reality that people of color experience every day, it’s not surprising that these issues have gone on for so long. Watershed moment Sometimes a watershed moment is needed to bring attention to a crisis. After all, no one cared about polar bears until Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 volcanic eruption, which greatly influenced our scientific understanding of anthropogenic global warming and its impacts on arctic life. The catastrophic event was one of the most significant watershed moments for climate activism. Now, the Black Lives Matter movement is amid a watershed moment. White people are awakening from their own hibernation and acknowledging that, yes, as the statistics suggest, racism still exists. For example, Black people and white people breathe different air. Black people are exposed to about 1.5 times more particulate matter than white people. Give more than just a cursory glance to Marvin Gaye’s ” Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) ” and you’ll discover its truisms: “Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east.” Researchers have found that toxic chemical exposure is linked to race : minority populations have higher levels of benzene and other dangerous aromatic chemical exposure. Lead poisoning also disproportionately affects people of color in the U.S., especially Black people. A careful examination of our nation’s statistics reveals myriad racial disparities. The polarity of experiences is startling. This influenced many well-intentioned white people to examine numerous situations and ask, “Is racial bias truly at play here?” I challenge that that’s not the question we must ask when we live in a world with such disparate statistics for communities of color. It’s much more powerful to ask, ” How is racial bias at play here?” Those who fail to confront how racial bias is often at play attempt to live in a colorblind world that does not exist. When tipping service workers, when selecting your next dentist, when making employment decisions, when raising children, seriously consider that the world is not colorblind. And to create a more equitable world, we have to fight more aggressively to counteract the evil that already exists. This is what it means to be anti-racist, or as the National Museum of African American History and Culture counsels, “Make frequent, consistent and equitable choices to be conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives.” So, what can allies do? Step 1: Take out a sticky note. Step 2: Write out the words ANTI-RACIST. Step 3: Put it on your laptop monitor and do the work. It’s a daily practice to filter your thoughts, communication and decisions through an anti-racist lens. Pull Quote Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good. Topics Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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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?

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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How the climate crisis will crash the economy

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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