Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

January 18, 2021 by  
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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects? Gloria Oladipo Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:15 With carbon emissions expected to rebound this year, 2021 presents another opportunity for companies to invest in climate-saving initiatives that move the corporate world closer to a net-zero future, especially carbon removal projects . While some companies already have started investing in these solutions on a larger scale, questions remain about how to conduct the process equitably. In other words, what environmental justice considerations should companies evaluate when investing in these opportunities? There’s a good reason to ask. Historically, carbon removal projects have a legacy of potentially reifying inequality; projects in the Global South become responsible for hosting said projects and their associated consequences while countries (and companies) in the Global North use these initiatives to meet their carbon reduction targets. Examples of this dynamic include projects such as a hydroelectric plant in Guatemala ( later linked to egregious human rights abuse ) and forest preservation projects in Brazil ; both offered Western companies opportunities to gain carbon offset credits, but the reality of their impact from a human rights standpoint was less understood.  Ugbaad Kozar, senior policy advisor at Carbon180, discussed these disparities and the power imbalance associated with carbon removal measures. “There’s a long history of Global South countries inheriting the burden of hosting projects that have benefited wealthier countries in reaching their climate targets,” Kozar said. “These projects can lead to inadequate payments, loss of local control over natural resources, loss of ability to use their land for other livelihood purposes.” A number of safeguards developed by NGOs can aid companies deciding whose carbon removal projects to invest in, Kozar said.  Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. For example, in 2005, the “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancement of carbon stocks” (REDD+) system was created as a social and biodiversity safeguard to make sure carbon removal efforts didn’t harm biodiversity and that its benefits were given to local communities. Elsewhere, the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance , a partnership spanning several international environmental NGOs, created “Climate, Community and Biodiversity” standards to ensure land-based projects respected community stakeholders and their cultures, and nurtured biodiversity, among other goals.   However, as argued by Holly Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo, these safeguards have not been carried out without issues. REDD+ social safeguards have had mixed results ; the impact of the safeguards sometimes have been difficult to monitor and interventions made based on the safeguards had mixed results, she noted. Looking forward, that means companies have an opportunity to be even more progressive in establishing their own standards for equity considerations related to carbon removal, according to Kozar and Buck.  “Companies are even poised to play a role in having even more ambitious standards because some of those safeguards haven’t always been working out as well as intended … [companies can make] sure that theoretical co-benefits are actually delivered upon and [pay] more attention to who reaps the benefits from these projects,” Buck said.  Where to start? Before analyzing equity considerations related to their external carbon removal work, companies should first ensure they cultivate a workplace culture of justice within their organizations, Buck and Kozar said. This type of internal work is not only critical to unseeding racism in general (demonstrated as more carbon capture companies focus on making meaningful contributions to environmental justice ). Among other things, the Clean Air Task Force  also is following projects in California and Texas to determine how carbon capture technology might play a role in reducing local air pollution, with a view to releasing its research after this year to front-line communities. it’s an important first step for companies hoping to address oppression in their environmental work.   “It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce. Doing so allows for opportunities to refute and rethink contextual perspectives and to understand the drivers of inequity and injustice,” Kozar said.  It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … In addition to creating equity within the workplace, companies investing in carbon removal projects must be committed to transparency about the process itself, all associated data, community involvement and an equitable distribution of resources. Carbon removal projects can be an opaque process, shrouded in litigation and inaccessible information; community members where carbon removal projects are located should be made aware of the process and included in the discussion of the project’s effects. “With industrial removal, some of the questions at the project site are: Are people happy with the industrial facility? Is it impacting them? … Are they seeing any benefit from it or just having to live next to a waste disposal site?” Buck said.   Most important, benefits need to be equitably distributed, ideally problem-solving for legacy effects of climate change that often occur in marginalized communities. For instance, a strategy of planting trees not only could address removing emissions but also help cool neighborhoods, reduce pollution, provide shade and have other benefits, an example Kozar provided.  Buck also cited the importance of government involvement to help ensure benefits are given equally. She noted how the California government helps redistribute funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program to vulnerable communities.  Overall, while the increase in companies investing in carbon removal programs signals a positive shift in more climate-friendly thinking, it’s critical to participate in these solutions in a way that centers and benefits oppressed communities, Buck and Kozar advised.  “Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and whi ch solutions will be deployed. As the industry emerges and scales, key players need to prioritize transparency and accountability, ensuring they do not ignore legacy pollution that harms marginalized communities,” Kozar said.  Pull Quote Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … Topics Carbon Removal Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Courtesy of Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship

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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

What I learned about water in 2020

December 30, 2020 by  
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What I learned about water in 2020 Will Sarni Wed, 12/30/2020 – 01:30 Last year around this time, I focused on digital technology solutions for water with this essay, ” 2019: The Year Analog Solutions Died .” I stand by this perspective, as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated interest and adoption of digital technologies across the water value chain. However, I wanted to share six new learnings from this pandemic year related to digital transformation along with other observations about the topic of water.   1. Digital transformation is about people: The digital transformation of water was well underway pre-pandemic and accelerated quickly during the past nine months. What was once anticipated to be a multiyear transformation occurred rapidly, with both the utility and industrial sectors scrambling to identify digital technologies and integrate them into their operations to adjust to remote workforces. Two aspects of the digital transformation took on more prominence: the critical importance of the workforce and the role of earth observation science (EOS) technologies. First, the critical importance of people in digital transformation cannot be underestimated. Transformation will stall or fail if there is no alignment between business strategy and culture, and there is a lack of investment in the workforce. The insights on digital transformation from 2019 papers and research came to the forefront (” IWA Digital Transformation ” and ” The Technology Fallacy “). The key takeaways are that successful investments in digital water technologies require a strategy, commitment by leadership, investment in the workforce and establishing and nurturing a culture of learning. The most important from my perspective is creating a culture of learning — it will contribute to attracting and retaining talent. We also witnessed the emergence of EOS technologies to provide real-time water quality, ecosystem health and flood prediction analytics from satellite data acquisition and analytics companies (such as Gybe , 52 Impact and Cloud to Street ). Digital technologies are connecting across the value chain of utilities and industries for a more real-time view of water quality, quantitative evaluations of ecosystems and flood prediction. 2. We need a “skunkworks” strategy for innovation: Innovation in water technology and business models is slow for several reasons. The competition is the status quo (the installed base). In general, organizations “try” to innovate from within, and water is a public health issue, so utilities can’t take risks. We don’t have the luxury of time to wait for innovative technologies and business models to scale. At this rate, we won’t achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, which sets the goal of clean water and sanitation for all. What we need is a skunkworks mindset and strategy. If other industry sectors such as the aircraft and aerospace sectors can innovate quickly and at scale, so can the water sector. For those unfamiliar with the term, the relevant characteristics of a skunkworks project are outlined as a concentration of a few good people solving problems far in advance, at a fraction of the cost of other groups by applying the simple, most straightforward methods possible to develop new projects (paraphrased from Kelly Johnson ). 3. Water is not (just) the water industry: The issues and opportunities related to water are not just about the water industry. We need a more expansive view of the role of water in society and our environment. For example, water has economic, business, social and spiritual dimensions. The water industry sector mostly focuses on economic and business dimensions and rarely, if at all, on the social and spiritual dimensions. I would reframe the narrative to focus on humanity’s relationship with water (especially health and wellness, and natural ecosystems). Water doesn’t come from the tap or bottled water, so let’s protect watersheds and ecosystems. This message needs to be communicated simply and clearly to those outside the water sector. 4. Diversity is critical to solving wicked water problems: Society would benefit from greater diversity in solving water challenges as it is doubtful solutions exclusively will come from the usual suspects (myself included). We need vastly more diversity in age, gender, race, geography and from industry outsiders. Increasing diversity will not happen organically; we need to be proactive and work at it or we are destined to bring the same ideas to the party. As Ben Dukes, a friend and colleague, often says, “What got you here won’t get you there.” 5. Innovation in investing in water remains a challenge: Water technology entrepreneurs and startups continue to be challenged by traditional venture capital and private equity investment models. Water is not cleantech and requires more patient capital, which is in short supply. However, there are encouraging signs as initiatives such as Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 100+ Accelerator and Microsoft’s $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund invest in innovative water and sustainability solutions. The increased interest during 2020 in environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance has also focused more on innovative water solutions. 6. Water is not climate: The statement “If climate is the shark, water is the teeth” is misleading and not helpful. This year, climate change continued to gain traction within the private sector in the form of new commitments and investments from companies such as Amazon, Google and Nestle, among many others. This is certainly to be applauded. However, a cautionary word: Solving climate change will not solve the fundamental issues with water scarcity, poor quality and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The potential and likely failure to achieve SDG 6 can be attributed to public policy failures sch as pricing, allocations and lack of funding. We can solve climate change and water and need to focus on both. There is no shortage of lessons learned from 2020. While it was a profoundly challenging year, we do have an opportunity to do better by critically examining what needs to change in the years ahead. This past year has framed my view of what the future may hold for 2021 as we build back better . I will share my thoughts on 2021 in my next Liquid Assets column. Topics Water Efficiency & Conservation Innovation Corporate Strategy Featured Column Liquid Assets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/ Chepko Danil Vitalevich

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An employee benefit purpose-driven leaders should reconsider

February 4, 2020 by  
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Stop subsidizing parking, and start incentivizing your workforce to use public transportation options instead.

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An employee benefit purpose-driven leaders should reconsider

The Guardian bans fossil fuel advertising

February 4, 2020 by  
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The media group will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies, despite acknowledging decision will have implications for its revenues.

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The Guardian bans fossil fuel advertising

Exploring employee activism: Why this stakeholder group can no longer be ignored

May 27, 2019 by  
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Don’t underestimate the power of your workforce as a vocal advocate for transparency and change, with a huge impact on strategy and reputation.

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Exploring employee activism: Why this stakeholder group can no longer be ignored

Exploring employee activism: Why this stakeholder group can no longer be ignored

May 27, 2019 by  
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Don’t underestimate the power of your workforce as a vocal advocate for transparency and change, with a huge impact on strategy and reputation.

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Exploring employee activism: Why this stakeholder group can no longer be ignored

How to embed sustainability within your workforce

October 3, 2012 by  
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Creating a visual identity for your program is just one strategy which can engage employees.

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How to embed sustainability within your workforce

How to embed sustainability within your workforce

October 3, 2012 by  
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Creating a visual identity for your program is just one strategy which can engage employees.

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How to embed sustainability within your workforce

How toxic is the iPhone 5?

October 2, 2012 by  
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A new scorecard evaluates hazardous chemicals in mobile phones, including Apple's latest hit, the iPhone 5.

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How toxic is the iPhone 5?

How toxic is the iPhone 5?

October 2, 2012 by  
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A new scorecard evaluates hazardous chemicals in mobile phones, including Apple's latest hit, the iPhone 5.

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How toxic is the iPhone 5?

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