The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission

September 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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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September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

September 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Beach and coastline cleanups have been a focus of many caring citizens and environmental groups for decades. The most-publicized beach cleanup effort, Coastal Cleanup Day, is typically slotted for a day in September. This year, the event has expanded into an entire month with the goal of involving more people at every level and from every community — not just those near the beach. According to Surfrider Foundation , “International Coastal Cleanup Month (formerly International Coastal Cleanup Day) is one of the world’s largest annual preservation and protection events and volunteer efforts for our ocean, waves and beaches.” Register your own coastal cleanup — wherever that may be One conservation organization, Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County, serves as an example of this campaign by helping citizens coordinate their own cleanup efforts with a centralized registration system. As residents register events, other volunteers can join the effort to coordinate larger cleanup activities. Related: Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously thought The centralized information also allows organizers to track the amount and types of garbage removed. Knowing what has been collected is an effective way to identify the source of the pollution and provide data for policymakers. Save Our Shores recommends downloading the Clean Swell App to keep track of the items in your trash pile. “Data collection is an important part of Coastal Cleanup Day,” Save Our Shores explained. “The data that is collected about the types and quantities of debris picked up can be used for outreach, policy and advocacy, and more!” Further, the organization suggests that one member of the cleanup party be in charge of data collection to reduce the spread of germs. Safety tips for your beach cleanup To support community efforts, Heal the Bay provides tutorials and tips for safe and effective cleanups with information on how to dispose of collected trash and abide by LA County Public Health guidelines along with details regarding supplies and parking. Each region has varying needs, so participants can access specific information for their neighborhood. During this time of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the organization encourages social distancing during cleanups as well as the use of masks and gloves. Participants should only work with members of their own household and stay home if they feel ill. If you are in an area impacted by the ongoing wildfires, Heal the Bay advises you to also stay home to minimize your exposure to the smoke. Why is Coastal Cleanup Month important? The primary goal of Coastal Clean Up Month is to reduce the amount of debris that ends up in the waterways, including the ocean. Ocean pollution, particularly plastic from inland as well as boating activities, has become a massive environmental issue in recent years. The cycle is toxic. Animals are harmed by items like six-pack rings and plastic bags. Plastic in the waterways begins to break down into microplastics, which marine animals ingest. This comes full circle as seafood that may contain microplastics lands onto our dinner plates. In addition to waste removal, a secondary goal is to educate communities about the hazards of ocean pollution and share the importance of marine life and aquatic biodiversity. In addition, the event promotes more sustainable activities such as recycling and minimizing waste. Make a difference one small step at a time To support these educational efforts, Heal the Bay maintains five programs that, “allow citizens to explore and learn about the various issues facing the diverse regions that make up Los Angeles.” Volunteers can facilitate touch tank visits at the aquarium, participate in a beach cleanup , spread information through the outreach program, contribute to community science by collecting data or register middle and high school students as part of the youth program. The coordination in Los Angeles is just a sampling of similar events across the nation and around the world. In fact, Coastal Cleanup Month is a global movement that includes 6 million volunteers in 90 countries. Even though the efforts are widespread, coronavirus restrictions have resulted in several canceled events and made it difficult for organizers of various organizations to spotlight the effort this year. With that in mind, the push is for more of a grassroots coordination of many small groups rather than fewer large ones.  Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 That means the entire month of September is prime time to get out and lead your own cleanup crew, whether that’s a party of one or up to 10 people within the same household. With 30 years behind this organized beach cleanup movement, organizers report disappointment in not being able to host large events. However, they say this is an opportunity for every citizen to tackle the garbage in their own area, whether that be the street, park, mountain, sides of the roadway or parking lot. Although that may feel a little off-point, the majority of the garbage that ends up in the ocean stems from further inland, so you can think of it as confronting the problem at the source. While it might seem that a neighborhood pickup isn’t enough, individual efforts make a huge impact. As an example, Heal the Bay provides inspiration in the fact that, “In 2019, the Ocean Conservancy reports that nearly 800,000 volunteers collectively removed more than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways around the world. That’s 20 million fewer potential impacts on whales, turtles and other beloved ocean wildlife.” So whether in groups of 1,000 or one, those same hands can make a difference for the health of our planet. + Heal the Bay + Surfrider Foundation + Save Our Shores Images via Adobe Stock

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September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

Google becomes retroactively carbon-neutral

September 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Google announced that it has now invested in enough high-quality carbon offsets to essentially erase its carbon footprint , compensating for all the carbon the company ever emitted. Google first became carbon-neutral in 2007. The goal is for all of Google’s offices and data centers to run on carbon-free energy by 2030. “We’ll do things like pairing wind and solar power sources together and increasing our use of battery storage,” said chief executive Sundar Pichai, according to BBC . “And we’re working on ways to apply AI [ artificial intelligence ] to optimize our electricity demand and forecasting.” Pichai’s plan could create 12,000 more jobs over the next five years. Related: Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon “Today’s announcement, combined with Google’s promise in May to no longer create artificial intelligence solutions for upstream oil and gas exploration, shows that Google takes its role in combating climate change seriously,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. This is all good news. However, the idea of offsetting all the company’s past use of carbon may not hold up when you take a closer look. Google’s offsets have so far focused on capturing natural gas that escapes from landfills and pig farms. As BBC points out, isn’t this something governments should be enforcing already? Planting trees to capture carbon dioxide, a popular offset strategy, also has its problems, such as ensuring that those trees never burn down or are felled. Google’s fellow tech giants have also announced plans to reduce or eliminate their carbon use. Microsoft plans to be carbon-negative by 2030. Amazon said it will be carbon-neutral by 2040, and Apple plans to have an entirely carbon-neutral business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030. And where the giants lead, smaller companies are apt to follow. Via BBC Image via Pawe? Czerwi?ski

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Halo Top debuts new and improved vegan ice cream recipe

September 15, 2020 by  
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Vegans often face limited options for frozen treats. Sure, you can put a banana in the freezer, get a little fancier with a sorbet or maybe cool off with some vegan frozen yogurt. But now, thanks to Halo Top’s new line of vegan ice cream flavors, consumers can enjoy a range of choices with the creamy texture that makes ice cream summer’s perfect treat. Halo Top has offered vegan ice cream for years. The company’s new line features an improved taste and texture that feels more like real ice cream. Starting with a coconut milk base, the recipe also contains fava bean protein, which gives the ice cream a creamy texture. Previously, Halo Top used brown rice protein in its vegan ice cream creations. The switch to fava bean protein lends the ice cream a better texture that allows every flavor to stand out. Halo Top also swapped out the soluble corn fiber in its old recipe for inulin. Stevia provides the recipe with sweetness. Halo Top’s line of dairy-free ice cream introduces several flavors, including sea salt caramel. This mix of sweet and salty comes in at under 340 calories per pint. The flavor line also includes peanut butter cup, chocolate almond crunch, chocolate chip cookie dough, classic chocolate, candy bar and birthday cake. Each flavor’s calorie count stands between 280 to 380 calories per pint. The fava bean protein provides every pint with 10 to 20 grams of protein. The flavors will debut in grocery stores in September and October, in two different release waves. This line is exactly what vegans have been waiting for: ice cream that tastes like the real thing. Even better, this line includes a variety of flavors packed with protein, but not calories. Get your spoons ready and prepare to enjoy this new plant-based offering from Halo Top. + Halo Top Via Plant Based News Image via PR Newswire

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Halo Top debuts new and improved vegan ice cream recipe

An idea for solving the plastics crisis

September 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

An idea for solving the plastics crisis Sara Kingman Tue, 09/15/2020 – 01:30 A major problem with behavior-change programs in the waste industry is that they rely on consumers being taught to feel the guilt of plastic in the ocean, and the harm to turtles and whales. They’ve tried to condition people to believe that if we buy so-called “zero waste kits,” choose zucchini and cucumbers without plastic shrink-wrap and champion our favorite reusable metal straws, these choices alone somehow will drive a reduction in single-use plastics. While these steps can provide some benefit — and the strategy of creating consumer guilt shouldn’t be entirely discredited — this narrative is misguided. Ultimately, it never will address the root of the issue. Instead, savvy leaders in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) are focusing more attention on the plastics industry — and by extension, the oil industry. First, those producers and their trade groups for decades have driven misleading, consumer-centric campaigns that redirect societal blame and attention away from the pollution they create. The classic examples include “sustainability” statements made by plastics industry leaders promoting recycling . These campaigns insinuate: “If consumers recycle correctly, the waste problem will be solved and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will disappear.” This is plainly false propaganda, evident first by the astounding fact that a mere 8.4 percent of America’s plastic waste is actually recycled . Regardless whether designers of the built environment are involved in the policies of overseas plastics recycling, we create structures in which plastics are fixed in place and the spaces that plastics move through. As a society and as AEC professionals, we can’t continue allowing the plastics industry and oil producers to govern our approach to sustainability. Plastics are the problem — and recycling is not the solution. So how can more professionals in building design and construction make a difference? First, admit that recycling is broken. For the past decade, American consumers and businesses have relied on China to accept our immeasurable wave of plastic waste. The U.S. was not sending clean, recyclable material but rather plastics covered in food remains, which turned into mold in the transportation process and became excessively difficult to process upon arrival. Inevitably, by 2018 China instituted a strict contamination allowance under the National Sword policy, which effectively meant Americans no longer could export plastic waste to China. No one blames China for this decision — U.S. leaders should have had the foresight and environmental consciousness to realize the process relied on for the previous decade was not only unsustainable, it also wasn’t even a cost-effective solution for the long term. Now is the time to look domestically and reframe U.S. waste management — and quickly, because in the meantime America’s plastic waste is being landfilled and burned at an alarming rate, both domestically and abroad. Second, consider the AEC industry’s potentially powerful role in this. Regardless whether designers of the built environment are involved in the policies of overseas plastics recycling, we create structures in which plastics are fixed in place and the spaces that plastics move through. Clearly, we can have a significant impact. For example, building designers should: Create sustainable purchasing policies for clients, to be enforced throughout the lifetime of a building’s operations, governing the behaviors of all tenants. These would ensure single-use materials, and especially single-use plastic purchases, are minimized throughout the building’s lifetime. The policy facilitates the best opportunities to allow occupants to act in an environmentally conscious manner. Specify Red List -free building materials . This eliminates all toxic and socially harmful materials, simultaneously decreasing reliance on petrochemicals. Keep in mind, even if plastic building products are retained in situ for 60 years, at end-of-life they are still being landfilled. It’s unhealthy, and we don’t need and shouldn’t foster use of these materials in any buildings. Advocate for improvements to building materials and assemblies. More AEC leaders need to ask vendors and manufacturers to improve their products by decoupling from petrochemical-based ingredients. Many would be glad to comply. It’s time to face down this challenge. It is the responsibility of designers of the built environment to operate beyond our traditionally defined boundaries and insist our buildings meet the highest standards possible. It is also our responsibility to be educators and help show those around us how to ensure a healthy and sustainable world for future generations. The problem is not consumer choices or their commitment to recycling correctly — the problem is plastics, period. Without doubt or hesitation, we need action today by the AEC industry to stop the cycle of pollution from this endemic industry. Pull Quote Regardless whether designers of the built environment are involved in the policies of overseas plastics recycling, we create structures in which plastics are fixed in place and the spaces that plastics move through. Topics Circular Economy Buildings Plastic Procurement 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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Policy for a Circular Economy: Part 2

September 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Policy for a Circular Economy: Part 2 How should diverse corporate stakeholders —such as brands and packaging producers — help shape the U.S. policy landscape around plastics, recycling and solid waste management? This two part policy session, organized in collaboration with the The Recycling Partnership, will focus on the role that brand and packaging producers can play in forging a stronger policy environment in the U.S. to create more circular outcomes. The steady growth of public attention around plastics and packaging has led to a revitalized policy focus in the U.S. on recycling and solid waste management in 2020. Historically, brands and packaging producers have played an antagonistic role in the U.S. packaging policy landscape. However, the emergence of a circular economy opportunity and the urgency of science-based action are creating the conditions for value chain engagement and collective participation in the policymaking process. Speakers Elizabeth Biser, VP Policy & Public Affairs, The Recycling Partnership Nicole Collier, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Nestlé Dylan de Thomas, VP of Industry Collaboration, The Recycling Partnership Missy Owens, Director, Government Relations, Federal & Diplomatic, Coca-Cola  Holly Secon Mon, 09/14/2020 – 23:59 Featured Off

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Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to honor conservation and community

September 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

After the passing of his wife and mother, Theodore Roosevelt traveled to the Badlands of North Dakota. Journeying through the United States, he took the same route that The Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz design team would make more than 135 years later to visit the future site of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library . The team’s vision? To honor the landscape and community that the past president came to love all those years ago. “There is a unique and awe-inspiring beauty to everything about the Badlands that you simply cannot experience anywhere else,” said Michael Sørensen, design lead and partner at Henning Larsen. “The landscape only fully unfolds once you are already within it; once you are, the hills, buttes, fields, and streams stretch as far as you can see.” Related: San Francisco library boasts a green roof and LEED Gold status That persistent landscape is what inspired the team to design a property that will pay homage to the important cultural and ecological history of the Badlands that was so important to Roosevelt in his time of need. “The design fuses the landscape and building into one living system emerging from the site’s geology,” said Thomas Woltz, principal and founder of Nelson Byrd Woltz. “The buildings frame powerful landscape views to the surrounding buttes and the visitor experience is seamlessly connected to the rivers, trails, and grazing lands surrounding the Library.” The design will also serve to educate a national and international audience as well as hopefully create a new generation of those who would work to conserve the Badlands, according to Woltz. The building itself is made up of four sections. A large tower (the Legacy Beacon), will become a formal landmark visible from throughout the area to bring the community together, create a hub and help guide the way for visitors. The lobby follows a spiral path to the main exhibition level meant to mimic the way Roosevelt would have gathered around the hearth. Each phase of the exhibition contains a space that overlooks a specific part of the surrounding landscape. + Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz Images via Henning Larsen

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Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to honor conservation and community

Hard truths from a decade of investing in regional food systems

September 10, 2020 by  
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Hard truths from a decade of investing in regional food systems Meredith Storton Thu, 09/10/2020 – 02:00 The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the inequities and fragility of our industrialized food system and accelerated the movement to create strong regional food systems that support local growers, provide food security, give communities agency over their food supply and yield environmental benefits. These systems will remain out of reach, though, unless we address persistent, decades-old structural issues. Price pressures continue to challenge the viability of decentralized food systems and communities of color continue to be underserved — as farmers, food chain workers, supply chain entrepreneurs and consumers. We need to change both who we fund and how we fund if we want to create equitable, thriving regional food systems. What will it take to achieve such massive shifts? RSF Social Finance has been reflecting on that question as we wind down our Food System Transformation Fund, a pooled loan fund launched in 2010 to help rebuild regional processing, manufacturing and distribution infrastructure that was lost as the food system industrialized. Restoring these supply chain links is essential to creating viable regional food systems, yet community-based infrastructure enterprises have limited access to both startup and growth capital. The Food System Transformation Fund attempted to address that problem with program-related investments from foundations, on the premise that risk-tolerant debt could enable early-stage businesses to grow and eventually access traditional capital from banks and community development financial institutions. As we wind down the fund and move our food system investments into other RSF portfolios, we’re sharing what we’ve learned in hopes of advancing efforts to build a regenerative food system. Investors seeking a better food system need to take the time to understand a company’s impact and its beneficiaries, toss out traditional assumptions about market rate returns and ensure that terms benefit communities. Over the past decade, the fund provided $6.5 million in debt to 27 organizations across 14 states. More than 25 percent of borrowers grew into our senior secured loan portfolio or accessed traditional debt, while nearly 20 percent had to cease operations or substantially change ownership. The enterprises between those two poles continue to need patient, flexible and diverse capital structures. That’s not because they’re failing, but because the finance ecosystem has failed to develop tools fitted to the needs of food system enterprises. This truth informs three fundamental insights from our work in the field of food system transformation. 1. In food systems, high impact and high returns don’t mesh Investing in food systems is very different from investing in a trendy plant-based–meat startup or a consumer packaged goods company that can outsource manufacturing and build a brand for sale to a conglomerate. Food system businesses are capital-intensive — they require substantial investment in processing equipment, trucks and warehouses — and they operate in a highly competitive, low-margin sector. Immense price pressure in the U.S. food system compresses gross margins and makes it challenging for food infrastructure businesses to achieve profitability. Our spending on food doesn’t reflect the true cost of production: Americans spend only 9.5 percent of their income on food, compared with 15 percent in Canada , 13 percent in France and 23 percent in Mexico . Most small farms in the U.S. aren’t profitable ; on average they earn only 17.4 percent of every dollar spent by consumers at stores. Workers throughout the industrialized food system face poor working conditions and low wages. Many food system infrastructure businesses are trying to fix these inequities, and it’s imperative for investors to understand the tradeoffs between returning capital to investors and reinvesting that capital into the business and the community. This issue is most glaring with the venture capital model. When venture-backed companies disrupt local food systems and don’t have the longevity or the relationships to create long-term impact, they actually can harm communities. In the worst-case scenario, these companies launch, rapidly scale, seize market share from existing community-based businesses and then run out of cash, leaving the community with less than it had beforehand. Similarly, pulling out high financial returns for investors undermines the positive changes these companies can achieve and puts more pressure on a strained, inequitable system. Investors seeking a better food system need to take the time to understand a company’s impact and its beneficiaries, toss out traditional assumptions about market rate returns and ensure that terms benefit communities. 2. Farmers and communities can’t bear the risk Traditional financing tools are seldom structured in a way that shares risk across the system. When times get tough, capital partners must navigate the delicate balance of principal return to investors versus making farmers and local food systems whole. Traditional collateralized loans place the burden on those least able to bear risk — the community-based enterprise and its stakeholders. The Food System Transformation Fund primarily issued debt backed by collateral — equipment, vehicles and accounts receivable. When portfolio companies had to cease operations, we had to choose between returning capital to investors or letting the company repay farmers and other community partners. Our investors prioritized community well-being, and we were able to forgive debt in these cases, but this is a structural problem that shouldn’t require an 11th-hour solution based on investors’ goodwill. When venture-backed companies disrupt local food systems and don’t have the longevity or the relationships to create long-term impact, they actually can harm communities. One way to distribute risk more equitably is to integrate various forms of capital — financial, social and technical — within the same transaction to support an enterprise. This may mean some combination of unrestricted grants, debt, equity, loan guarantees and forgivable loans. Guarantees can unlock capital that otherwise wouldn’t fund the space and forgivable loans can help businesses prioritize impact, which often takes a back seat to financial return. For example, if the enterprise is meeting its impact objectives but experiencing financial or operational challenges outside its control, the loan can turn into a grant. Funders need to be creative and partner with food system enterprises to find the optimal mix of tools to support the business and its stakeholders. 3. Transforming the system will require philanthropic, public and private capital While there is a lot of interest in food system enterprises, the current funding ecosystem is weak.   The capital needed to build these businesses is hard to come by and even harder to sustain over the long term. The funding is not readily available in many regions where the work is happening, and it is not equitably distributed. As in many sectors, entrepreneurs of color are woefully underfunded. Philanthropic capital, with its flexibility and public benefit purpose, is well-positioned to seed the space and attract other funders. Foundations and donor-advised funds can support this work not only through grant-making but also through investments and leveraging their assets to unlock capital from more-traditional lenders or community development financial institutions (CDFIs). These types of organizations steward deep relationships within their communities and are well-positioned to fund food system enterprises. Federal programs provide critical resources to local food organizations and small farmers, but support for sustainable food systems makes up only a fraction of the public funding allocated for agriculture. Increasing this share would have a multiplier effect. As more philanthropic and government funding flows into the food systems space, more private capital will find its footing there. Many enterprises in our portfolio accessed USDA grants to support early-stage programs and center equity in their work. The field needs all sources of nonextractive capital, which ranks community benefits above investor returns. But we have found that food system enterprises are best served when community-based funders lead. Food systems vary widely across rural, urban and geographic divides. Funders that hold direct relationships with food system entrepreneurs and ecosystem partners more clearly understand the regional food supply chain and are able to make more informed and effective funding decisions. The way forward Over the past decade, much has changed across food and finance systems. Consumers increasingly value sustainable and local production methods , and more funders are entering the space, especially with sustainable food production emerging as one solution to our climate crisis. With COVID-19 thrusting the inequities of our food system into the forefront of the national conversation, we must use this moment to catalyze investment into food systems that care for farmers, food chain workers, eaters and the environment. If we want to decommodify our food system, we must decommodify our food financing system. We need tools with impact-adjusted return expectations; we need investors and donors willing to redistribute risk; and we need local, integrated capital solutions. With those assets in hand, we can realize the vision of a regenerative food system that serves everyone. Pull Quote Investors seeking a better food system need to take the time to understand a company’s impact and its beneficiaries, toss out traditional assumptions about market rate returns and ensure that terms benefit communities. When venture-backed companies disrupt local food systems and don’t have the longevity or the relationships to create long-term impact, they actually can harm communities. Topics Food & Agriculture Finance & Investing COVID-19 Social Justice Investing 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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Hard truths from a decade of investing in regional food systems

Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

September 4, 2020 by  
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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts Bryn Baker Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:00 On Aug. 14 and 15, the California electric grid operator made the incredibly rare decision to proactively shut off parts of the electricity grid, resulting in limited rolling blackouts affecting businesses and homes throughout the state. Forced outages are a tool of last resort, employed in circumstances of incredible stress to the grid and done to protect against more widespread outages. Record heat for several days across parts of the state strained the power grid so much that it started rationing electricity, for the first time in almost 20 years. Notably, temperatures reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley — the hottest recorded temperature on the planet in more than a century.  While the immediate cause is still being investigated, we do know that California’s grid was experiencing multiple, coincident stressors — high demand, generators not performing when called upon and energy imports not showing up. Rather than thinking of these events as a one-off stroke of bad luck, consider that this soon might be the new normal. And not just in California. Climate change is driving more extreme weather events, including heat waves, everywhere, all while the grid faces increasing demand from electrification of cars, buses, businesses and homes. How should businesses and other large customers be thinking about the increasing strains from climate change with an evolving energy resource mix? Some have suggested clean energy is the scapegoat for the recent blackouts. However, not only was clean energy not the source of the problem , it’s the solution. Clean and renewable energy is core to charting a path forward.  Time to ditch fossil fuels-centric planning In the last 30 years, about one-third of coastal Southern California homes added air conditioners. Higher temperatures put more stress on traditional fossil-fired electric generators, reducing plant efficiency and output, and even caused them to temporarily shut down. In fact, the heat wave last month shuttered a 500 megawatt natural gas unit and a 750 MW gas unit was unexpectedly out of service Aug. 14. Outages of dispatchable fossil generation paired with reduced output from renewables, such as the 1,000 MW reduction in available wind power Aug. 15, resulted in an electric grid unable to meet customer demand. The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. California is actively shifting from a fossil-generation-dependent grid to a system that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by 2045 — an essential step to combat climate change. Corporate customers, cities and governments are lining up behind ambitious clean energy and climate goals. Technological innovation and rapidly declining costs in renewables, storage and other clean energy resources are enabling California’s evolution to a 21st-century reliable , clean energy grid. The state is a leader in solar power, meeting much of the demand during the sunny hours of the day. However, the grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs.  Despite the finger-pointing and calls to move back toward natural gas, including from business groups , the recent experience in California shows that the energy transition shouldn’t be abandoned in the name of reliability Rather smart policy, planning and market designs are critical so that utilities and customers can improve reliability through accelerated deployment of these advanced clean resources as fossil generators retire.  Markets and regional cooperation: Bigger is better California’s electric system is operated by an independent nonprofit organization — the California Independent System Operator ( CAISO ) — that uses competition among power producers to identify the lowest-cost generators that can be used to reliably meet demand. While recent events have been compared to events we saw 20 years ago in California, flaws and fraud responsible then in California’s market design have since been corrected. This time around, the experience suggests that fully expanding wholesale electricity markets throughout the West will be a critical tool to reliably and cost-effectively meet demand in the face of climate change and the energy transition. California may be tempted to go faster alone, but it could get there more reliably and affordably with other Western states.  California’s grid imports electricity from out of state generators, and California’s utilities plan in advance for energy imports that are complemented by in-state generators to meet demand on the hottest days. CAISO does not control the number of imports, which were affected by the recent heat wave that extended beyond California. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Efforts are underway to expand the CAISO market through the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), which allows coordinated real-time operation amongst a number of utilities and already has brought $1 billion in customer benefits, although this is a fraction of the benefits of a full competitive wholesale market. The type of grid event that occurred in August would be best solved by a western regional transmission organization that optimizes electricity generation and demand throughout the West, rationally manages shared operating reserves and plans/promotes interconnected transmission infrastructure. This type of system will be critical to lowering costs to all customers and keeping the lights on, while meeting the clean energy commitments by customers and states. Even CAISO and the California Public Utilities Commission agree that market improvements may well be needed. California’s approach to ensuring enough generation on the system to meet demand on the hottest days is fractured, complex and undergoing revision. As we chart a path forward, we need to embrace creative solutions and use the tools that we know can work. Businesses require reliable, affordable electricity. A growing number of businesses also know that transitioning the grid to clean energy can save money while continuing to provide expected reliability. Embracing innovation and new technology is in California’s DNA; it also could get by with a little help from its friends. By stitching together the West’s electricity system, reliability and a clean energy transition can work in tandem, most affordably for all customers. REBA is organizing related sessions on clean energy markets during VERGE 20. View more information here .  Pull Quote The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Utilities California Electricity Grid 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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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

Paper, plastic or neither? Inside the collaboration to reinvent the shopping bag

September 2, 2020 by  
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Paper, plastic or neither? Inside the collaboration to reinvent the shopping bag Tali Zuckerman Wed, 09/02/2020 – 01:45 Replacing the single-use shopping bag may be one of the most complex sustainability challenges of our time. At GreenBiz’s Circularity 20 virtual conference last week, sustainability leaders from Target, Walmart and CVS came together to discuss how they are planning to do just that, and why working together despite being competitors is critical to achieving success. Their initiative, which launched last month , is called “Beyond the Bag” — a $15 million, three-year commitment to developing, testing and implementing an innovative replacement for single-use retail bags. The project, led in collaboration with managing firm Closed Loop Partners and a few other nonprofit and private members, aims to redesign the way customers get goods from store to home. “It’s great to think of a slightly better bag, but the real excitement is when you are open to a transformative idea and a way that hasn’t been thought of,” said Amanda Nusz, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Target, during the Circularity 20 session. The consortium’s goal is to develop a range of solutions to fit consumer needs, including innovations in materials, delivery options and recovery after use. Having different perspectives, different people with different backgrounds … that’s where you get true innovation. But driving such immense, industry-wide change is no easy task. No company is equipped to do it alone. The panelists stressed that the transformation will require a new approach founded in precompetitive collaboration, one that brings diverse voices to the project, signals new needs to suppliers and spreads the core message to consumers. For that reason, the project plans to involve a broad range of consumers, innovators and stakeholders in the development process. “Having different perspectives, different people with different backgrounds … that’s where you get true innovation,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. The panelists noted that any alternatives the consortium creates will need to match the functionality and convenience of current options on the market as well as minimize any unintended consequences along the way. By collectively standing against single-use bags, each company hopes to establish a new normal in retail. “Our collective approach sends an important, unified message of commitment,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy at CVS. “[It] sends a signal to suppliers and innovators of how closely together we are standing to make sure that we see some change.” Any solution will require work in areas of consumer awareness and education, the panelists said. “There is a lot of education that has to happen,” Boone said. “Part of the benefit of this collaborative is that there will be more voices pushing out the same conversation.” Moderating the session, Kate Daly, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, highlighted the unique position of the retail giants to create “ripple effects” for smaller businesses in the retail industry. Addressing the speakers, she noted: “You’re opening up the market for these innovations, you are doing the heavy lift of testing them and de-risking them, and that makes that available to the ecosystem.” For retailers that want to join this initiative or take on a similar one themselves, the panelists offered several key pieces of advice. Primarily, they stressed that companies must clearly identify what problem they are trying to solve, seek allies that have a shared vision and engage a broad set of stakeholders to drive innovation. Daly also encouraged anyone with ideas or innovations for Beyond the Bag to reach out to her directly. Amidst their hopeful tone, the panelists underscored that the road to plastic-free shopping will be long and complex. “These issues aren’t one-time, short-term solutions,” Boone put simply. “They are going to take a lot of time to course correct.” How much time? We will have to wait and see. Based on the conversation, the more that customers and companies collaborate to drive innovation and push for change, the better the chance for collective success. “Now, coming together with others and bringing more people to the table,” Boone said, “the art of possible has grown very, very large.” Pull Quote Having different perspectives, different people with different backgrounds … that’s where you get true innovation. Topics Circular Economy Circularity 20 Plastic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Erik Mclean/Unsplash Close Authorship

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Paper, plastic or neither? Inside the collaboration to reinvent the shopping bag

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