System change investing: High impact, high return

May 12, 2021 by  
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System change investing: High impact, high return Frank Dixon Wed, 05/12/2021 – 01:30 The sustainable/responsible investing (SRI) market is over $30 trillion and growing faster than traditional investments. Over the past 20 years, SRI and the sustainability movement in general have provided large benefits to business and society. But in spite of this good work, environmental and social conditions are declining rapidly in many areas. Clearly new approaches are needed. Nearly all SRI and corporate sustainability strategies focus on changing companies and addressing symptoms, such as climate change, poverty and other major environmental and social challenges. This work is essential, but not enough. Root causes must be addressed to resolve the major challenges in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Reductionist thinking and resulting flawed systems are the primary root causes. Flawed economic and political systems unintentionally compel companies to degrade the environment and society. Sustainability cannot be achieved unless the cause of unsustainability is effectively addressed. A growing number of financial institutions are addressing system change. Approaches include assessing the portfolio, sector and economy-wide impacts of investing, addressing the SDGs, assessing impacts relative to planetary limits and science-based targets, investing in ecosystem restoration, and addressing poverty, gender equality and other social issues. These approaches are highly beneficial, but still mainly focused on symptoms. For example, the solution to climate change and deforestation largely does not involve addressing these problems directly. It requires resolving the systemic factors that created the problems in the first place. SCI represents the first investment approach that has the potential to achieve the SDGs because it focuses on root causes. Systems change investing (SCI) switches the focus of SRI from company change and symptoms to system change and root causes. Over the past 20 years, investor interest through SRI encouraged nearly all large companies to implement sustainability strategies. SCI uses the same proven approach. The process involves rating companies on system change performance, and then using this research for positive screening, negative screening, engagement and other ESG/SRI strategies. SCI represents one of the most powerful short-term system change strategies available to humanity. It uses investing to engage the financial and corporate sectors in the most important sustainability issue. SCI represents the first investment approach that has the potential to achieve the SDGs because it focuses on root causes. A large and growing number of investors want their investments to benefit society. SCI can provide the highest possible sustainability benefits. This will attract new investments and position asset managers as global SRI leaders. SCI also can substantially increase investment returns. It identifies systemic risks and opportunities that are not assessed by traditional financial and ESG analysis and provides strong indicators of superior management and stock market potential. System change traditionally has not been the responsibility of the financial and corporate sectors. But flawed systems are causing large problems for business and society. As has occurred throughout history, all flawed systems change, usually by collapsing. Keeping current systems the same is not an option. Either we will change them voluntarily or nature and reality will change them involuntarily, probably through collapse. COVID, growing political division and many other problems strongly indicate that our flawed systems already are in the process of changing. We probably do not have much time left for voluntary system change. Investors and companies are far better off taking a seat at the system change table and helping to guide the process in ways that protect business and society. How to do SCI SCI evolved from pioneering ESG experience. In 2003, as the head of research for the largest ESG research company, I saw that no company could come close to fully eliminating negative environmental and social impacts. If they tried, their costs would go up and they would put themselves out of business. This is a system problem, not a company problem. I estimated that system change was at least 80 percent of the sustainability solution but getting nearly 0 percent of the attention in the SRI area. I realized that investing could be used to drive system change, like it was being effectively used to drive corporate sustainability. As a result, in the same year, I developed the first model for rating corporate system change performance. But it soon became clear that much more information about system change was required to do SCI effectively. SCI rating is more complex than ESG because the context or frame of reference is much broader. The frame of reference for ESG largely is mitigating negative corporate impacts. The SCI frame of reference ultimately is the whole Earth system and its sub-element human society. I used whole-system thinking to identify the systemic changes needed in all major areas of society, and published this research in the Global System Change books. Once system change overall is clear, the optimal corporate role in driving it can be identified. Aspects of this become metrics in system change rating models. There are many ways to do SCI. I developed several models, including introductory, action-focused and whole system approaches. To illustrate, metric categories in a whole system SCI model include context, business consciousness, ESG strategy, system change strategy, mid-level system change, high-level system change, systemic risks, systemic opportunities and results. SCI will face the same types of challenges that ESG faced 20 years ago. These include limited data, proxy use, showing financial relevance and resistance to changing profitable systems. These can all be overcome with ESG experience and system change knowledge. In sum, SCI represents the next generation of ESG. It enables nearly all equity and debt investments to become system change investments. It is perhaps the most powerful short-term driver of system change. SCI provides substantial profit, growth and leadership opportunities for the financial community. Pull Quote SCI represents the first investment approach that has the potential to achieve the SDGs because it focuses on root causes. Topics Finance & Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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System change investing: High impact, high return

Climate change is causing the Earth’s axis to shift

April 27, 2021 by  
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New research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters , has revealed that massive glacial melting has resulted in a shift of the Earth’s axis. The scientists behind the study said that drastic changes in glaciers since the 1990s have impacted Earth’s mass, causing the axis to move. This research shows just how far-reaching the impacts of the climate crisis can be. Naturally, the factors that affect the balance of the Earth on its axis depend on the distribution of the planet’s mass. The mass itself is impacted by ocean currents, convection of hot rock under the Earth’s surface and freezing of ocean waters. However, the shift in global climate has made these natural factors unbalanced. As such, the melting of billions of tons of ice into the oceans annually has resulted in an axis shift. Related: Global ice melt is in line with the IPCC worst-case scenario The polar drift shifted from southward to eastward from 1995, according to the study. Further, the average speed for drift increased 17 times between 1995 and 2020 as compared to 1981 to 1995. With these changes, the position of the Earth’s poles has drifted by 4 meters. “The accelerated decline [in water stored on land] resulting from glacial ice melting is the main driver of the rapid polar drift after the 1990s,” the scientists explained. The study, led by Shanshan Deng of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has also shed light on excessive extraction of groundwater. More than 18 trillion metric tons of water have been extracted from underground reservoirs in the past 50 years, significantly affecting the Earth’s mass. Vincent Humphrey, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, commented that the study shows just how devastating human activities can be on our planet. “It tells you how strong this mass change is — it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth,” Humphrey said. While the changes might be significant, they do not yet impact daily life. Humphrey said that the change in the position of the axis may slightly affect the length of the day by milliseconds. Still, the new research goes to show how much our activities and emissions are impacting this planet. + Geophysical Research Letters Via The Guardian and CleanTechnica Image via Max Kukurudziak

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When you think climate change, you need to think about water

April 23, 2021 by  
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When you think climate change, you need to think about water Melody Waintal Fri, 04/23/2021 – 00:05 With nearly a half its land lying below sea level, the Netherlands knows a lot about water and how to make sure a city’s infrastructure is resilient to it, particularly flood risks and freshwater supply. Arcadis , a Dutch engineering firm, is applying that knowledge to cities around the world by creating infrastructures with sustainability at the forefront, such as water recycling facilities inside manufacturing companies in Mexico.  While a growing number of companies such as Arcadis are creating solutions and investing in ways to combat climate change issues, there’s still untapped potential for water investment, according to industry experts participating in the recent GreenFin virtual event. “The global need for freshwater is set to grow exponentially. Meanwhile, many urban water systems are in dire need of repair,” said Seb Beloe, head of sustainability research at WHEB Asset Management . “Add in desalination, agriculture and wastewater management, and water stands to become one of the world’s biggest capital-growth opportunities.” The United Nations projects that by 2030 global demand for freshwater is expected to surpass supply by 56 percent. The Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O), which tracks the price of water rights across California’s farm belt, jumped nearly half during the first two weeks of April due to the short rainfall this winter season. Meanwhile, eight of the top cities in the U.S. are facing water scarcity due to contaminated waterways. The global need for freshwater is set to grow exponentially. Meanwhile, many urban water systems are in dire need of repair. At GreenFin 2021 , investors shared their insights as to how they are profiting off water risk investments. Ecolab is creating technology that businesses can use to calculate and reduce their water usage. American investment management company Essex is putting its money where its mouth is and tackling the water crisis through individual industries. In a similar fashion, British asset management company WHEB is making sure each company it invests in is not only in the process of going zero-carbon but addressing social issues in tandem. And while each company agrees that change has to happen at a local level, here’s their advice on how they’re tackling the issue through their companies.  Ecolab: Water is a shared resource According to Emilio Tenuta, vice president of corporate sustainability at Ecolab, one key to addressing water issues is “setting standards that are globally consistent and locally adaptable to inform decisions and encourage collective action.” Ecolab focuses on research, technology and innovation when it comes to water investments. It has worked with companies including Kraft, Néstle and Marriot to help reduce their water usage. The company recently launched an updated version of its publicly available smart water navigator , which helps organizations assess their water risks and come up with a plan and goals to address them.  Part of the purpose of the navigator is to close the gap between organizations’ water reduction targets and their results. Tenuta said many companies are trying to address water usage in order to solve internal operational problems, but they are not connecting those goals with the environmental needs of the communities where they are based.  And when thinking about investing in other technologies and companies, it’s important to recognize “water as a value-valued asset, and not as a scarce liability,” Tenuta said. “We know that water is a shared resource, and actions need to be driven locally.” Essex: Water is an expression of climate change at a local level Water is one of the nine themes that make up the sustainable investment philosophy at Essex. However, William Page, portfolio manager at Essex Investment Management Company, pointed out the other eight themes are all closely connected to water as well.  For example, 72 percent of water usage in the world goes to agriculture. And when it comes to energy, Ceres , a nonprofit organization that works with capital market leaders to solve sustainability challenges, found that 20 percent of the largest publicly traded companies are heavily reliant on water, particularly in industries such as oil, semiconductors and chemicals. “Water is an expression of climate change. It’s completely directly linked, but it’s a localized exhibit of climate change,” Page said. “If you think about climate in the notion of the externality of CO2 being monetized, that’s more of a fungible externality. Whereas water, in exciting fashion, is way more complex. So it’s an area that is fraught with risk, but also, most importantly, a major opportunity.”  WHEB: Water issues are social issues Beloe said it’s not just about investing in companies that are doing something to address climate change, but investing in companies that are doing something to help communities adapt to become more resilient. Water issues are social issues, he noted. Companies taking action to save water in their daily operation is a positive step. But they also should look at how their use of water is affecting the community they are in, he said.  For example, during the GreenFin Panel, Beloe mentioned partnerships and initiatives where farmers work with nearby cities to create healthy ecosystems that not only prevent their land from flooding but also better preserve the water quality across the region. WHEB is an investment strategy company based in the United Kingdom that backs businesses making products and services to address sustainability challenges. One company it invests in is Arcadis. One of its projects, with General Motors in Mexico, examined ways to grow the automaker’s manufacturing plant while reducing the amount of water extracted. Arcadis did this by creating recycling facilities that preserve the local water supply and quality.  When it comes to addressing water issues from a local and social aspect, Beloe said, “I think we can definitely raise our game as the investor community as a whole to that opportunity.”  According to the Word Research Institute , if current use water continues at its present level, by 2025 two-thirds of the world will live in water-stressed areas.  Corporate water action doesn’t match the urgency of our world’s water crisis, but it should. Pull Quote The global need for freshwater is set to grow exponentially. Meanwhile, many urban water systems are in dire need of repair. Topics Water Efficiency & Conservation Finance & Investing GreenFin 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Twilight at Reservoir Lamtakong, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. Shutterstock Eakasarn Close Authorship

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Is COVID-19 slowing progress toward the SDGs? Yes, say experts.

March 30, 2021 by  
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Is COVID-19 slowing progress toward the SDGs? Yes, say experts. Tove Malmqvist Tue, 03/30/2021 – 01:00 As we move into a crucial decade of action on achieving serious progress on sustainability, many are hoping the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recession will serve to reset our priorities toward a greener future in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, many experts are not optimistic about the possibility of a green recovery. Over half of sustainability professionals believe that COVID-19 instead will slow the rate of progress toward achieving the SDGs, according to a new report,  Evaluating Progress on the SDGs , by GlobeScan and The SustainAbility Institute by ERM . Findings from the research also show that sustainability practitioners continue to report poor progress toward each of the 17 goals, as well as on sustainable development overall. Nearly 500 experienced sustainability professionals in 75 countries were asked to evaluate the progress that has been made, on sustainable development overall and on each SDG; to rank the relative urgency of each goal; and to share insights into the priorities within their own organizations. Experts also were asked how the pandemic will affect progress on the SDGs. The survey also tracked expert opinions polled in 2017 and 2019. Sustainability practitioners report poor progress toward each of the 17 goals, as well as on sustainable development overall. When asked to rate the progress to date on the overall transition to sustainable development, more than half of sustainability experts (54 percent) say progress has been poor, with most remaining respondents giving neutral ratings (41 percent). Only 4 percent are satisfied with society’s achievements so far. Those who have the most negative views on progress tend to work in the academic and research sector, with European experts being the most negative. Negative expert perceptions of our collective sustainability efforts so far are also apparent in their assessments of progress on individual SDGs, with majorities rating achievements as poor on 10 of the 17 Goals. Life Below Water (Goal No. 14), Reduced Inequalities (No. 10), Life on Land No. 15) and No Poverty (No. 1) are seen by experts as the SDGs where society’s level of achievement has lagged the most. Proportions of seven in 10 or higher see progress in these areas as being poor — particularly on Reduced Inequalities. In contrast, only around one-third of experts believe that there has been poor progress on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (No. 9) and Partnership for the Goals (No. 17). Sustainability experts tend to believe that several goals where progress has been the most unsatisfactory are also the most urgent, which is a cause for some concern. When asked to assess which goals require the most urgent action, experts overwhelmingly choose Climate Action (No. 13) — a goal that fewer than one in 10 experts say we have made good progress on achieving. Reduced Inequalities, the goal with the lowest overall score in terms of our collective progress, also ranked as one of the most important areas for action — along with Life on Land and Responsible Consumption and Production (No. 12). The perceived urgency of Reduced Inequalities has increased compared to 2019 in the wake of the pandemic, highlighting the unequal impact experienced by poorer countries as well as more vulnerable populations within countries. Within their own work and organizations, sustainability professionals are most likely to be addressing Climate Action; almost half of experts surveyed (44 percent) and more than half of corporate sustainability professionals (52 percent) say this is one of the SDGs receiving the most attention within their own organizations or work. Climate Action is prioritized by respondents across most sectors and regions except the academic and research sector and among those based in Africa and the Middle East, both of which focus more on Quality Education (No. 4). Far fewer (6 percent) say they focus their work on Reduced Inequalities, despite the relative parallel urgency of this secondary issue. Other goals that are mainly overlooked include No Poverty, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (No. 16), and Zero Hunger (No 2). The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have further dampened experts’ views on our collective progress on the SDGs. Around one-third of those surveyed say that the pandemic will serve to accelerate headway on achieving the goals, perhaps placing their hope in the potential of Green New Deals or renewed faith in our potential to collectively solve great challenges such as developing vaccines to save humanity. But over half instead believe that the pandemic and its economic impacts will further slow our already dismal progress. Experts in the service and media sector are more optimistic about the potential impact of the pandemic, whereas respondents in the academic and research and NGO sectors, along with those based in Latin America and in Africa and the Middle East, are most prone to pessimism — possibly reflecting the limited resources available in many markets that may be directed away from long-term sustainability priorities to cover more immediate needs. This diversion from the SDGs toward other more immediate issues resulting from the pandemic and its economic impacts should be of great concern to all. At this crucial point in time, we need to ensure that our collective efforts on sustainable development are not only maintained but accelerated. Pull Quote Sustainability practitioners report poor progress toward each of the 17 goals, as well as on sustainable development overall. Topics Commitments & Goals Sustainable Development Goals / SDGs Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Is COVID-19 slowing progress toward the SDGs? Yes, say experts.

Bottom trawling contributes more carbon emissions than air travel

March 22, 2021 by  
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The bottom trawling fishing technique is more harmful to the environment than previously thought, according to a new study. While it has long been known that this method captures fish indiscriminately, there was no available data on its carbon footprint. A recent study now shows that this method of fishing releases carbon emissions from ocean beds. The study, published in Nature , becomes the first to give a clear estimate of the carbon emissions caused by bottom trawling. In this technique, nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scraping for fish and other ocean creatures. This damages a significant part of fish habitats and releases CO2 that had been captured in the sea bed. Related: Super trawlers ravage UK’s protected waters amid pandemic The study broke the ocean into 50-square-kilometer blocks and used collected data to measure how much each square contributes to marine life in terms of fish stock, biodiversity and salinity among other aspects. Researchers estimate that bottom trawling releases about one gigaton of carbon emissions into the atmosphere every year, meaning this method of fishing alone contributes more carbon to the atmosphere than the aviation industry at pre-pandemic levels. This practice also impedes the ability of the sea bed to continue absorbing and storing carbon. On top of the pollution, damaged habitats for fish and indiscriminate capturing of species leads to diversity degradation. According to Enric Sala , lead author, marine biologist and National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence, the team had originally set out to find ways of discrediting this method of fishing to encourage those in the industry and governments to put an end to it. Scientists have been trying to petition governments against bottom trawling due to the effects it has on marine habitats. Bottom trawling is also one of the most  expensive methods of fishing  and the most destructive. Sala explained that most fishing operators that depend on bottom trawling rely on government subsidies to remain afloat. The team hopes this research will lead people to think twice about allowing bottom trawling to continue. + Nature Via Time Image via andrasgs

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Critically endangered regent honeyeaters are losing their song

March 18, 2021 by  
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A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B  has revealed that the regent honeyeater has forgotten its song. The joyful bird, which was once abundant in South Eastern Australia , is losing its song because of the threat of extinction that it faces. There are only 300 birds of this species left globally. Due to the scarcity of the birds, their offspring are unable to learn and sing their natural melody. Ross Crates, one study author and a member of the Difficult Bird Research Group at the Australian National University, said that the birds forget their language when they cannot gather near others of the same species . Related: Philadelphia skyline to go dim in favor of migrating birds “They don’t get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they’re supposed to sound like,” Crates explained. The discovery came accidentally. In their research, the authors were simply looking to find regent honeyeaters because they have become critically endangered .  “They’re so rare and the area they could occupy is so big — probably 10 times the size of the U.K. — that we were looking for a needle in a haystack,” Crates explained. It was during their research that they noticed the birds singing unusual songs. The team said that approximately 12% of the regent honeyeater population has forgotten how to sing its original melody. Crates explained that the young birds need to associate with other honeyeaters to learn how to sing their specific song. If they do not find other birds to mingle with, they cannot commit the song to memory. “As young birds, when they leave the nest and go out into the big wide world, they need to associate with other, older males so they can listen to them sing and repeat that song over time,” Crates said. “But if those male birds are singing a weird song, the females might not mate with them. So we hope that if they hear what they should be singing, they will learn to sing it themselves.” On the flip side, the researchers shared that they have started training captive regent honeyeaters using recordings of their natural song. They plan to release the trained birds back to the wild with the hope of restoring their population and the birds’ song. + Proceedings of the Royal Society B Via BBC Image via Jss367

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Critically endangered regent honeyeaters are losing their song

The ‘last mile’ of consumer sustainability behavior

February 18, 2021 by  
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The ‘last mile’ of consumer sustainability behavior Mike De Socio Thu, 02/18/2021 – 00:05 These days, it’s hard to argue that sustainability is a niche consumer interest. A vast majority of consumers worldwide believe we need to consume less, according to research by GlobeScan . More to the point, 57 percent of consumers in that survey were willing to pay more for sustainable products. But only about a quarter of them actually made any sustainable changes to their lifestyle or consumption. So what gives? “There’s this really marked intention-action gap when we’re asking people to change their behaviors to be more sustainable,” said Katherine White, professor of marketing and behavioral science at the University of British Columbia. White shared her research on sustainable consumption during GreenBiz 21. She was among industry leaders from Amazon and Procter & Gamble, as well as nonprofit executives, who shared insights on the trends in sustainable consumption. Here are three takeaways from the session: 1. Attitude has shifted, but behavior lags Across the board, indicators for consumer interest in sustainable products are up, according to the GlobeScan survey. The 2020 results, for example, showed that 73 percent of consumers wanted to reduce the impact they have on the environment by a large amount, up almost 10 percentage points from the year prior. During the session, Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, described it as a “remarkable shift” in consumer attitude that bodes well for the sustainable products market. But he was quick to underline the shortcomings of that progress. “There is still a gap between our desire to change and what we’re actually doing, but we do see significant movements happening across the world,” he said. White’s research in behavioral science looks into what levers could be most effective in convincing consumers to align their choices with their concern for the planet.  A fundamental truth for sustainable products: Consumers’ top concerns are still performance and price. “This is a real challenge for marketers, for organizations, for public policymakers,” she said. “We really need to understand, what are the key drivers of behavior change in particular?” White identified a few factors that stakeholders can focus on to shift behavior — social influence (in other words, peer pressure), habit formation, individual values, emotional buy-in and tangible outcomes.  But ultimately, no one should think about hitting consumers with all of those efforts at once, White said. The shifts are more likely to be gradual. 2. Price and performance are still king Todd Cline, as director for Procter & Gamble’s North America fabric care research and development, is trying to focus consumers on one tiny change that could drastically slash the climate impact of his company’s product: Wash their clothes in cold water. Cline said what consumers do with Tide, one of the company’s sub-brands, once they take it off the shelf accounts for two-thirds of the product’s carbon footprint. The biggest chunk of that is the energy used to heat the water in the washing machine. But Cline knows if he wants consumers to change to cold, the performance can’t suffer. So his plan is simple: “Make products that work great when consumers use them on cold,” he said. This highlights a fundamental truth for sustainable products: Consumers’ top concerns are still performance and price. So sustainable products must tick those two boxes before showing off their climate bona fides.  Adam Werbach, global lead for sustainable shopping at Amazon, knows this well. He led the development of a “Climate Pledge Friendly” label on the site that uses external certifications to direct customers to the most sustainable products. The experience so far has shown Werbach that customers, even at Amazon’s eco-conscious Whole Foods, primarily seek out price and performance before considering sustainability.  But the “Climate Pledge Friendly” label can be a quick, easy way for them to make that decision. “Customers like the cognitive load being taken off them,” he said. 3. Less (information) can be more The success of a simple label for Amazon speaks to another important tactic for nudging customers to more sustainable options: Sometimes less information is better. The average consumer, according to White, doesn’t have the time or interest to know all the details on ingredients, manufacturing or packaging. They just want to know it’s not going to harm the planet. “At the end of the day, if it’s really quick and easy and enjoyable and pleasant, I’m going to do it,” White said. That’s where labels can help. Doug Gatlin, CEO of Green Seal, said his company has worked to simplify the way it communicates its own sustainability certifications. “It can really be difficult to communicate the various attributes to the consumer,” he said. So rather than listing 20 or more claims on one label, Green Seal developed a “compass” that identifies four main categories — water, waste, health and climate — and acts as a shorthand to evaluate products. Cline keeps this in mind, too, as Procter & Gamble refines its own packaging and labeling. “If we can make it simple and make it so it’s a great experience for people, they’ll adopt the behavior and stick with it,” he said. Pull Quote A fundamental truth for sustainable products: Consumers’ top concerns are still performance and price. Topics Consumer Trends GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Consumer trend surveys show a shift towards an environmental mindset among shoppers but they need to start putting their money where their mouth is.//Image courtesy of Unsplash 

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Insights from green banking: What keeps customers from switching banks?

February 17, 2021 by  
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Insights from green banking: What keeps customers from switching banks? Diane Osgood Wed, 02/17/2021 – 00:05 ESG may be all the rage, but what about retail banking? The deposits you make at your retail bank for personal and business accounts sustain the bank’s ability to make loans and investments. Loans and investment fuel growth. Put simply, a bank’s capital can flow towards fossil fuels or renewable energy, towards local business loans or financing environmentally damaging projects. Imagine if all retail banks required environmental impact assessments for loan applications. Or committed a certain percentage of loans and investments for renewable energy projects. Certainly, this is a vision all climate-concerned citizens can support, and the opportunity to influence banking as citizens is large. Most U.S. households (93 percent) have a checking or savings account while only 52 percent own stock. Why don’t more people choose to bank with climate-friendly retail banks that have clear environmental investment and loan policies? So why don’t more people choose to bank with climate-friendly retail banks that have clear environmental investment and loan policies? Last February, I began empirical research to discover the reasons people don’t change to green banks. I narrowed the pool of participants to people who self-identify as either “climate activists” or “environmentalists.” The study was designed to hold a series of in-person focus groups in Europe and the United States. I finished two focus groups in Europe before pausing the project due to COVID-19. While more research is required, a few insights can be drawn from this small data set. I share here the interim results for the first time. In the opening discussion in both groups, the majority said that they’d not made clear decisions about where to bank. One participant in her early 20s, an ardent Swiss climate change activist, said that her parents had set up her banking account and she’d never questioned it. Others said they’d picked the least-worst option for service and didn’t think about the choice again. The most common responses from both focus groups related to a lack of information about good alternatives and how to find out more information about their current banks’ investment policies. Many participants expressed a sense of being overwhelmed at the thought of trying to find this information and make the change. What I heard aligns with published research. Many people only move bank accounts during a moment of transition such as starting college, moving to a new city, starting a new job or getting married, then remain there unless a disruptive event happens. Many folks simply begin with the most convenient bank and stay. The U.S. national average age of a checking account in the U.S. is 16 years. I am no different; I opened my first account where my parents banked and kept it there for more than a decade. As the conversations developed, emotive reasons surfaced as driving forces behind the inertia. Two of the younger participants (age 20-25) expressed frustration that they don’t feel that they have any power as a young client of a big bank. One said bluntly: “Who am I to ask them about the bank’s investment policies? The bank manager has all the power. My account is tiny.” Older respondents (in their 50s) expressed a different emotional factor: cynicism. In the first focus group, the conversation moved to how could they really believe anything a bank says, including the well-known green banks? The responses fell into three categories that correspond to Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch framework . This framework applies the image of a rider on an elephant trying to steer the elephant down a path. The elephant, symbolizing our emotional body, must want to go. The rider, symbolizing our mind, must want to go as well. Our minds are lazy, so the change needs to be easy. Finally, the path must be clear with no obstructions or unacceptable costs. If any of these three conditions aren’t met, change will be difficult. The customer will not change banks. Using this simple framework, we see focus group results hit all three types categories. Banks need to respond to all three types of barriers to enable more people to make the switch. In other words, providing only the information won’t suffice. Banks need to ensure the process of switching is low-friction and that feelings of loyalty, security and possible skepticism are addressed. Clients also need to feel welcomed as valued and equal partners. We’re itching to get back out when it’s safe to hold more in-person focus groups and build out this research. In the meantime, the lessons from banking can be applied to other products and services. How are you addressing: The rider: Do your customers know your climate-friendly, “green” product exists? Can they easily find relevant information? The elephant: How do you help customers believe your claims? How do you make them feel genuinely welcome? The path: Are your products really easy to find? Do you need to woo new customers away from “sticky” loyalty programs? Let’s keep the conversation going. Leave a comment here or reach out to me at diane@osgood.com . Pull Quote Why don’t more people choose to bank with climate-friendly retail banks that have clear environmental investment and loan policies? Topics Consumer Trends Banking 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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Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

February 10, 2021 by  
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New research has revealed that fossil fuel pollution caused approximately 8.7 million deaths in 2018. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research , was a collaboration by scientists at Harvard University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham and University College London. Experts found that countries that burn fossil fuels heavily for manufacturing and transport are the most affected. Countries such as the U.S. and many developed countries in Europe recorded 1 of every 10 deaths due to air pollution. The total was also higher than global deaths caused by tobacco and malaria combined. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, study author and geographer at University College London. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.” Related: Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness The researchers have also established that the rate of deaths due to pollution is significantly lower in Africa and South America. They found that there are direct links between air pollution from burning fossil fuels and ailments such as heart disease, loss of eyesight and respiratory ailments.  According to Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and one of the researchers, the focus was on discovering the impact of pollution on specific populations. They looked at specific regions and used 3D modeling of pollution data to get more precise results. “Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” Vohra explained. This is not the first study to link loss of life or disease with air pollution. According to a recent academic  publication , the average global life expectancy would increase by more than a year without fossil fuels . A 2019 study by Lancet estimated that 4.2 million people die annually due to air pollution. The new findings place the figure much higher than previous studies, and some experts believe that the impact might even be worse than that presented by the latest report. + Environmental Research Via The Guardian and CNN Image via Juniper Photon

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Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

Earth911 Podcast: Talking 2021 Home Energy Trends With Sense CEO Mike Phillips

January 18, 2021 by  
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Listen to “Earth911 Podcast: Talking 2021 Home Energy Trends with … The post Earth911 Podcast: Talking 2021 Home Energy Trends With Sense CEO Mike Phillips appeared first on Earth 911.

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Earth911 Podcast: Talking 2021 Home Energy Trends With Sense CEO Mike Phillips

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