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Episode 117: Chip pioneer T.J. Rodgers cultivates 'Internet of plants'; IBM's weather cloud

Week in ReviewTune in around 4:55 for a weekly roundup of news.Why smart irrigation startups are bubbling upApple, Dell, Foxconn manage supply chain water risksWhy moderates, not liberals, are environmentalism’s tipping pointDo sustainability tools work? How would we know?Featured stories1. Chip pioneer T.J. Rodgers talks up the "Internet of Plants" (20:03)Best-known for his role in co-founding Cypress Semiconductor back in the early 1980s, electrical engineer T.J. Rodgers is also credited with numerous inventions that apply specifically to smart irrigation approaches he has used for years to cultivate his vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Those developments are now part of a system sold by WaterBit, a technology startup that use solar-powered sensors to automate irrigation schedules.  2. Forum for the Future CEO Sally Uren on embracing systemic change (27:45)"Tinkering around the edges" and "Band-aiding solutions" won't work if the world wants to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. Sally Uren shares her formula for disrupting the status quo. 3. IBM's forecast for a more predictive, responsive grid (34:15)We catch up with Lloyd Treinish, a distinguished engineer at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center. On our minds: how data analytics can minimize the impact of extreme weather. Plus, the role of technology in tracking climate changes impacts in real time.What's new at GreenBiz?News, events, webcasts — the list goes on. Keep your finger on the pulse of the latest in sustainability by keeping up with GreenBiz.• Looking to change up your career? GreenBiz is hiring, and you can check out all the open positions here.• As demand for bottled water continues to grow and the expectations of communities and consumers change, so too must the processes used to source new spring water resources. Don't miss our webcast, "A #CommunityFirst Approach to Water Stewardship," which will discuss why corporate water stewardship — or indeed, the stewardship of any natural resource — is inextricably linked to community engagement and partnership. Register here for free for the webcast at 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT March 27.• Check out Center Stage, which features the best of live interviews on sustainable business and clean technology, conducted on stage at GreenBiz and VERGE conferences.• The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here. Enrolling is free and should take two minutes.Stay connectedTo make sure you don't miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes.Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].Let's block ads! (Why?)

Did Project Drawdown miss a crucial climate solution?

Most discussions on solutions to climate change are too centered on renewable energy and electric vehicles. That is why Paul Hawken, in his recent book "Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming," measured and published the top 100 solutions to climate change.Hawken’s result was indeed surprising. He showed that switching to renewables is just one among many equally effective actions. Furthermore, he gave "regular people" a more nuanced understanding of what they can do for the climate.One drawback of his study is the lack of consideration of the financial sector and the flows of capital. In fact, according to our calculations, had Hawken included sustainable savings in his study, it would have come out as the No. 1 solution to combating climate change.As individuals, our ability to steer our pensions and savings is a powerful way of solving the puzzle. It’s a solution with a staggering impact. This is why we want to call Hawken’s study the "almost" comprehensive plan to reverse global warming.So why was this solution left out? I suspect it was for two reasons. First, because for most people it’s still intangible and not well understood. Secondly, because calculations needed to measure the impact of this solution are not easy to come by.So, allow me to give you an introduction to the flows of capital and the climate solution embedded in the financial sector.The total assets under management (AUM) globally amount to $84.9 trillion (PDF). The equity proportion of this is 35 percent. That means that mutual funds, mandates, pension funds and insurance companies own $29.7 trillion of the world’s publicly listed companies.Unfortunately, only 0.4 percent of global AUM, $360 billion, is managed in funds with environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria integrated in the investment strategy. These are funds with a tilt towards sustainability factors or having specific thematic or geographical coverage focused on exclusions, climate change or diversity.The cumulative growth rate in global AUM is 7.33 percent annually, compared to the growth rate in ESG assets at just 4.66 percent.Increasing flows to sustainable business models and restricting flows to unsustainable business models are imperative for this planet's future — and from an economic perspective as well.The uptake in ESG assets must accelerate faster to accommodate for an effective transition to a low carbon economy. If investors do not reevaluate the current capital flows to companies unwilling or unable to diversify their business models in line with a 2 degree Celsius scenario, investors are in effect expecting returns on assets in companies that eventually must be written off for the planet to be safe.Furthermore, companies that are able to finance costs against their share prices and budgets are built on presumed future returns on those assets. Increasing flows to sustainable business models and restricting flows to unsustainable business models are imperative for this planet's future — and from an economic perspective as well.In recent years, it has become clear that sustainable investments pay off. One recent report done by Nordea found that the companies with top ESG ratings outperformed laggards by 42 percent over a three-year-time period (PDF).42% more money when you invest in sustainable leaders. How? Read here:— Sasja Beslik (@SasjaBeslik) October 24, 2017The mathFor calculation purposes, we estimate that the average allocation of equities in an equity fund is defined by the MSCI All Countries World Index (MSCI ACWI) containing the universe of both developed and emerging markets.The total market capitalization of the constituents in this index is $50 trillion, and 59 percent are owned by these fund unit owners. The total emissions from these companies amount to 9.3 gigatonnes of CO2-eq, whereof 4.5 gigatonnes of CO2-eq can be attributed to the unit holders.The weighted average carbon intensity of MSCI ACWI is 211.4 CO2-eq per $1 million sales, compared to 60.1 CO2-eq per $1 million sales for the same index but with a low carbon target.That means that these markets with the low carbon target are 72 percent less carbon intense. As such, if the capital were reallocated to sustainable alternatives, it can be estimated that a reduction of 96.46 gigatonnes of CO2-eq could be achieved.This means that sustainable savings is the No. 1 solution to climate change and the effects are larger than rooftop solar, solar farms, afforestation and electric vehicles combined.Let's block ads! (Why?)

3 problems that water abundance brings to coastal communities

Water is necessary for life, and billions of people around the world still lack access to a healthy supply, while more live in water-stressed areas. Yet with increasing impacts from climate change, coastal communities face the opposite problem: far too much water.With 30 percent of the world living near coasts, here are three major problems, and some progress on finding solutions for the coming decades.1. When it rains, it pours: stormwaterWarmer oceans lead to more water in the atmosphere, and more precipitation. Often, however, that rain or snow comes en masse, as with Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 monsoons in Bangladesh or the four nor’easters that the Northeast Corridor has seen in the past three weeks. Add in stronger winds pushing more of the ocean onshore, and you have storm surges that flood whole towns or districts — or Lower Manhattan.2. High tide at high noon: tidewaterMany low-lying coastal areas do not need a storm to flood — higher tides lead to residential streets flooding under a blue sky. Whether in river deltas, or throughout the southern half of the U.S. eastern seaboard, what is called "nuisance flooding" is becoming more of a regular part of life.Further, the communities affected are often lower-income or marginalized, making them less likely to see broader engagement or support for finding ways to manage or live with the water. One option: making events out of the worst events as a way to test models for future planning.3. Nowhere to go: groundwaterMore precipitation, all at once, also leads to another problem: filling up the ground with water, leaving nowhere for the next storm to soak in. For some communities, this leads to additional flooding with successive storms, and in others, hillsides become waterlogged and slide off, as experienced by both rich California towns such as Montecito and poor communities around Freetown, Sierra Leone, which lost more than 1,000 people in one event last summer.Water, water, everywhere: responsesMost of these problems are not new; there have always been monster storms or drenching rainfall. As a result, we have a range of basic responses: physical barriers as in London, better foundations for hillside construction, avoiding building in flood zones or building raised houses.Climate change makes the rare events more likely, with more continuous damage and an increasing set of communities affected. Standard responses often focus on resistance — protecting against another foot or three of water for this neighborhood — often missing those without a strong voice. What’s missing from our arsenal are two aspects.First, explicitly designing communities to enable rapid mitigation of climate change, through energy, transportation and sustainable food systems. Everyone — rich or poor, Miami or Dhaka — benefits if strong storms stop getting more frequent or tides stop rising. Second, for the impacts that are already here or coming, low-cost adaptation measures that can help as many communities as possible, either for short-term reprieve while planning approaches change or a long-term stabilization without huge maintenance costs.If you have a solution for one of these aspects, or want to work with those that do, MIT Solve would like to hear about it and help the best ideas get implemented around the world. Let’s find ways to manage the excess water climate change is bringing, even as we find ways to bring clean water to everyone in the world (and we have some solutions for that, too).Let's block ads! (Why?)

Ocean Conservancy's CEO on sea change and spawning solutions

Borders are elusive when it comes to the oceans, whether in the public imagination, business or the law. Naturally, much of Janis Searles Jones' work as Ocean Conservancy CEO is to transcend borders; she finds that passion for the oceans is bipartisan and building partnerships among "unusual bedfellows" is essential. The 46-year-old advocacy group's focus areas are vast: ocean acidification; smart planning; sustainable fisheries; "trash-free seas"; and regional protection of the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico.After one year at the helm of the Ocean Conservancy, where she has worked for nearly a decade, Searles Jones counts numerous allies within business, NGO and policymaking bodies. For instance, the Trash-Free Seas initiative includes scores of partners: Coca-Cola; Dow; the American Chemistry Council; Walmart; and the World Plastics Council, to name just a few. And last fall, the nonprofit teamed up on a $150 million effort with the Closed Loop Fund to support plastic waste management in Southeast Asia, where a disproportionate share of the world's marine debris originates.Searles Jones was raised near the Pacific coastlines of California and Oregon. From law school, she journeyed to Juneau, Alaska, hopping on a barge midwinter alongside her dog and pickup truck, to launch a career as an environmental attorney. She found handling ocean-related cases to be a revelation, a "wild frontier" from a legal perspective. Today, Searles Jones hopes that fresh attention to threats such as plastic pollution will bring more of the public's "mindshare" to the seas, and amplify the messages of "love and freedom" that ultimately drive change.Elsa Wenzel: Do you think there's being more attention paid to the ocean? You have Sylvia Earle on the cover of Time recently, and more talk of the blue economy. Are you seeing much of a change in awareness with ocean plastics and other things like that hitting headlines?Janis Searles Jones: Yes, absolutely. The ocean is sort of vastly under-served. ... The ocean is really, really massive in terms of the amount of the planet that it covers. But in terms of the amount of people's mindshare, the amount of research dollars, the amount of public attention, you're definitely seeing this — I'm going to be totally corny here and say "sea change" — in terms of people's awareness, and particularly around plastics.Wenzel: Do you think the rainforest and other land-based ecosystems have been getting an outsize share of their attention in recent decades, compared to the ocean?Searles Jones: It's easier to relate to something that you can touch and that you see every day. We always make this joke about trees and fish. If you're thinking about forests, it's a lot easier to count trees than it is to count fish. The ocean suffers both from this historical sense of being inexhaustible, on the one hand, and then on the other hand, being sort of out of sight, out of mind. ... Plastics and trash is such an interesting issue from an ocean advocate's perspective, because it is tangible, it is visible. Nobody likes trash.The ocean suffers both from this historical sense of being inexhaustible, on the one hand, and then on the other hand, being sort of out of sight, out of mind.Wenzel: The funny irony is that maybe the pollution is what's making people see something that's been relatively unseen?Searles Jones: That is really one of the challenges and one of the real opportunities. Oceans have been incredibly inspiring for people. If you look at the Cousteau family, at all the different nature documentaries, the ocean is this seemingly endless source of new discovery. ... It's hard sometimes to pair what's happening in the ocean with how people relate to it. ... Oil spills are another real trigger for getting people to pay attention to the ocean. It is one of those things where sometimes you have to have what looks like visible damage to actually sort of catalyze that passion for the ocean.Wenzel: What else might help to build awareness? Is there a big role that technology is playing in terms of  Google Earth or big data, or other ways to connect the dots, or bring the unseen to be seen?Searles Jones: There's a huge role. As we have improved submersible technology, bringing all these images back and ... pushing them out into the world more, people can actually see what's in the ocean, what's in the deep. ... All of the remote-sensing also really improves our ability to monitor ocean acidification levels, for example. ... As you look at storm surges and sea-level rise, and how the ocean is directly affecting people’s communities, it becomes a more compelling aspect in their lives.Wenzel: What do you think is the No. 1 challenge to the oceans now? If you had to pick one, what would you focus on first?Searles Jones: Most scientists now would tell you that climate change is the biggest concern from an ocean perspective. ... You have increased acidification, on the other hand. And that has a variety of impacts, both for shell-building animals that live in the ocean, things that eat those shell-building animals, where fish and marine wildlife live, how their habitat is changing — and then for all of those coastal communities.Wenzel: And for our readers, the vast majority of whom work in corporate sustainability, what would you say is the greatest opportunity for the business community in terms of helping preserve the ocean?Searles Jones: One of them, which sort of started our corporate engagement almost three decades ago, is through the International Coastal Cleanup, which is a great way for corporations to engage their employees, provide a volunteer opportunity that invests in local communities, gets people out touching the ocean. ... We are definitely seeing sort of an evolution of things from an employee engagement lens, shifting to a sustainability lens, becoming part of the C-suite conversation about brand risk and how corporations position themselves as far as sustainability goes, and recognizing that there are a lot of long-term interests in ocean conversation.Wenzel: Do you have some success secrets for building a big web of partnerships like this across so many regions and organizations and types of organizations?Searles Jones: We really think seriously about what is the problem, what is the solution, who needs to be involved ... and then how do we develop a relationship with that sector, with that individual, with that corporation, with that government agency. ... We're always thinking about scale, we're always thinking about reach, we’re always thinking about innovation, we’re always thinking about how we get both the brain and the hearts and minds together to actually achieve conservation.An example in the trash and plastic space is the Trash Free Seas Alliance, which grew out of the work that we had been doing on the international coastal clean-up. ... It's generated one of the only global databases on marine debris. ... We took an approach where we wanted to bring unusual bedfellows, if you will, into the room.We are definitely seeing sort of an evolution of things from an employee engagement lens, shifting to a sustainability lens, becoming part of the C-suite conversation.Wenzel: What should businesses know if they would like to get involved with the Ocean Conservancy?Searles Jones: From a plastics perspective, we only work with the best corporations, and they have to be committed. ... We're really looking for where this desire to affect change originates. Does it come from the top? Is sustainability or commitment to a certain issue central to the way that partner operates and makes decisions? Can they help us solve a problem? Will their involvement bring around real, meaningful change?Wenzel: Are there any big success stories that inspire you in your work that you think of as, "I wish I could have achieved this in my work with the Ocean Conservancy"?Searles Jones: One of the [social change campaigns] that one has to take real inspiration from is the Freedom to Marry campaign. ... [It] did a lot of really careful thought and analysis to figure out that what people related to was love and freedom — not so much rights and sort of the legal part of things. And when they rethought the campaign and re-executed a strategy against what people had been telling them they care about, which is love, it really changed the outcome.I have not seen sort of a social change movement happen that rapidly. It's really extraordinary when you look at it. ... And so one of the things that we’re doing is having a much more fundamental conversation about ocean constituents about what their core values are.Wenzel: So many campaigns around environmental conservation or climate change awareness are about doom and gloom or fire and brimstone, or they’re fear-based. Or they’re very wonky. So, how do you make the shift from that fear to love and freedom?Searles Jones: Everybody wants clean air, clean water, clean beaches. ... Nobody wants to drink dirty water, nobody wants their kid to drink dirty water, nobody wants to breathe polluted air. ... How do we figure out how to be much smarter in terms of talking to people about that? And so, [that's] me not talking about the max of sustainable yield for a particular fish stock when what somebody cares about is whether they have a clean and healthy environment, and ways to translate that...Part of our job is to get both more sophisticated and more heartfelt in having that communication with people, and making that connection, and giving people on-ramps and ways to express that value, and express that heartfelt concern about the ocean in a way that is relatable to them.Wenzel: Can you talk a bit about the notion of the blue economy, this idea that more people are waking up to the untapped business opportunities and the natural capital inherent in the oceans? That seems like a positive thing, but then at the same time, of course, where there are resources, there can be exploitation.Searles Jones: One of the things that really struck me when I moved from the terrestrial world to the ocean world is sort of how fragmented both the jurisdiction was, but also the different regulatory authorities. ... It tends to be focused on single-resource extraction.One of the things that we have been thinking about is ocean planning. ... It's just being smart about how you plan for and then execute activities in the ocean. But it is not nearly as widespread in terms of being required, or even being thought about. ... A lot of industries and sectors need to think about how all of the pieces fit together instead of just identifying sort of a single resource opportunity.Wenzel: Also, in terms of innovation, what do you think about the promise of the so-called circular economy, and where do the oceans come into play there?Searles Jones: In the short term, we're very much focused on the annual input of plastic waste into the ocean, which is about 8 million metric tons that goes into the ocean every year, which equates to roughly a garbage truck dumping a full load of plastic into the ocean every minute, and recognizing that if we cannot get in front of that problem, some of the excellent work that's being done on circular economy, on product innovation, on a lot of other fronts, will have sort of passed the ocean by.Wenzel: What advice would you give to somebody who wants your job someday or just wants to work in an impactful way in sustainability?Searles Jones: I am relentlessly focused on the art of the possible. ... Focusing on figuring out what problem it is that you're trying to solve, developing a solution set, figuring out who you need to support that solution set, who you need to engage to actually figure out what that solution set is, bringing all of those partners to the table and being very clear about what you're trying to accomplish together.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Why smart irrigation startups are bubbling up

If you want to grow stronger roots for your water management and conservation strategy, do yourself a favor and chat with a farmer.Those who attended GreenBiz 18 had a golden opportunity in the form of Dwane Roth, a third-generation western Kansas farmer who has made it his mission to preach the importance of smarter water irrigation practices to his neighbors and peers. I was lucky enough to share more than one passionate brainstorming session with him in the Arizona desert and, after the conference, through several phone calls and email exchanges.Roth’s farm taps the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground reservoir created by glacier melt — its water supplies an estimated one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle production in the United States. But there’s a problem: The aquifer is drying up. Fast. Some areas have seen water-level reductions of more than 70 feet in the past decade alone.We are able to efficiently use fewer inputs, while maintaining or increasing production and profits.So Roth is turning to technology including soil-moisture probes to do his part in conservation, even though he initially scoffed at the idea that the internet of things and digital gadgets could make much of a difference. "But there is no denying that these techniques have dramatically influenced my operating decisions and my outlook on the future water supply in this area," Roth told The Hutchison News when he won a governor’s award for his work in November. "Now we are able to efficiently use fewer inputs, while maintaining or increasing production and profits."His proof data is pretty compelling. In 2017, Roth’s tech-enabled farm near Holcombe, Kansas, produced 241 bushels per acre using 5.75 inches of water. His neighbors reported lower yields using far more water: one produced 233 bushels an acre, using 14.12 inches; the other harvested 222 bushels an acre, using 13.5 inches of water.When I asked Roth about his motivation, he talked about his daughter, who is often his partner for water advocacy presentations. He is evaluating solar and wind power, as well as hydroponics. "We can feed the world and at the same time be sustainable," he declares.Part engineer, part farmer In that regard, Roth’s worldview matches that of electrical engineer T.J. Rodgers, best-known for his role in co-founding Cypress Semiconductor back in the early 1980s. Although their personal and professional backgrounds are vastly different, Roth and Rodgers are equally adamant in their belief that micro-technologies — Rodgers likes the term Internet of Plants — are poised to disrupt the agricultural sector. As you might imagine given his background, Rodgers holds numerous patents related to chip design. But he’s also credited with numerous inventions that apply specifically to irrigation approaches he has used for years on his own vineyards in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. Those developments are part of a system being sold by WaterBit, a startup that use solar-powered sensors to automate irrigation schedules. Rodgers is executive chairman of the three-year-old company, based nearby in San Jose. "What WaterBit does is provide — at a cost that is affordable, and by that, I mean $2,500 an acre or less for the hardware — the ability to measure groundwater at multiple depths and multiple points in a field," Rodgers said.That data is then transferred to an internet service, using AT&T communications technology, where it can be analyzed and used to control watering schedules. The application then communicates with valves, turning them on and off as necessary, depending on the plant requirements. In other words, it can detect water in the ground and then add it automatically. It’s like a thermostat, only for water.For perspective, Rodgers notes that soil moisture ranges from 0 percent (think of dirt that has been baked in the sun and is completely dried out) to around 52 percent (the consistency of muck). "It doesn’t overwater, it doesn’t underwater," Rodgers said. "It gives what the plants tell it to give."One thing that differentiates WaterBit is its use of solar power, rather than short-lived batteries, to keep gadgets up and running in the field. (That’s another area of expertise for Rodgers. For more on his strategy, listen to Episode 117 of the GreenBiz 350 podcast, which will go live Friday.)More money flowing into agricultural automation You may wonder: What makes smart irrigation technology interesting now? After all, precision agriculture — a method of farm management that uses sensors, drones, telematics and other information technologies to guide decisions — has been a "thing" since the 1990s. The broad market (including software applications) could reach an estimated $43.4 billion by 2025, according to data from researcher Hexa Reports.But as extreme weather becomes the norm and huge food companies such as General Mills and Tyson talk up the need for better water conservation, treatment and consumption strategies, interest in smart irrigation technologies is reaching new levels. The niche could reach $1.5 billion by 2021, three times the market in 2015, according to estimates from another data gathering firm, Stratistics. It doesn’t overwater, it doesn’t underwater. It gives what the plants tell it to give.Naturally, the area is crowded with startups looking to siphon off some of the action. Aside from WaterBit (gaining notoriety because of the Rodgers connection), here are 10 ventures that have captured the attention of the venture capital and incubation community.AquaSpy: This venture, which originally tested its technology in Adelaide, South Australia, is finding a following in Nebraska, where it helps farmers save an average of 2 inches per acre. It is funded with close to $11 million.CropX: Originally founded in Tel Aviv in 2013, the venture sells "adaptive irrigation services" that apply the right amount of water to parts of the same field. According to Crunchbase, it has raised $10 million.Edyn: Focused on smaller gardens, it has a sensor that can analyze moisture conditions for more than 5,000 plants and then water them accordingly. The Oakland, California, company has attracted about $3 million in backing.Hortau: Based in San Luis Obispo, California, the company sells a service that uses wireless technologies to measure crop stress (via soil tension). It takes the guesswork out of scheduling. According to CrunchBase, the company has raised more than $27 million, including a $5.9 million Canadian grant in January.HydroPoint: The Petaluma, California-based organization focuses on several water management applications including irrigation (using cloud services). One of its customers is business software Oracle, which has saved more than 10 million gallons of water using the technology on two Silicon Valley campuses.Livn: A Chilean company that uses sensors and weather data; the information can be controlled via a mobile app (like many companies targeting similar applications). PowWow Energy: Focused on mining a farm’s utility data to track behavior, its main office is in San Mateo, California, and the company has raised upwards of $3 million.Smart Farm Systems: This Nicholasville, Kentucky company sells a complete end-to-end system for automated irrigations, including a proprietary wireless network. It was a USDA Conservation Innovation grand recipient in 2016. Sprinkl: Based in Texas, this five-year-old startup is working on controllers that upgrade existing sprinkler-based irrigation systems. Or it can be used with Sprinkl’s own sensors to schedule irrigation using moisture data rather than timers.Tevatronic: This Israeli company has been around since 2001. It uses tensiometers to "stress" plants and make the watering process more precise.Let's block ads! (Why?)

We need far more than a day dedicated to water issues

As many followers of GreenBiz know, today is World Water Day, an annual event dedicated to engaging people on key water-related issues with a call to action to solve these challenges. Among the foremost concerns are water scarcity, poor water quality and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).The idea behind World Water Day was proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The first one came the following year, and each focuses on a different water theme. UN-Water plans and coordinates the annual program and non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF and WaterAid participate to raise public awareness through events and media tools. End Water Poverty, with 150 members worldwide, coordinates a calendar of global events for World Water Day and throughout March.Until we are all motivated to be stewards of water, we will continue to make only incremental progress in managing this finite and precious resource. The private sector is also engaged with World Water Day. For example, last year companies such as the Coca-Cola Company, Ducks Unlimited Canada 2017, Microsoft, Ecolab, Nestle Waters NA and ProjectWET (PDF) announced strategic partnerships. Companies also have used the day to launch employee engagement programs to increase awareness on water issues and commit to community projects (such as Xylem’s Watermark).The World Water Day theme in any given year also guides the focus for other annual water events during the subsequent 12 months.For example, the 2018 theme for World Water Day is "Nature for Water," which explores nature-based solutions to water challenges such as green infrastructure solutions. One such green infrastructure project is the River North (RiNo) Park Project in Denver. The project is a multi-purpose green space that also will collect and treat urban runoff from the surrounding area. Building on this year’s World Water Day is Stockholm World Water Week 2018, where the theme will be "Water, ecosystems and human development." It’s clear that World Water Day serves an important purpose to focus attention on water as a critical resource for the public sector, businesses, civil society and ecosystems. However, World Water Day is 25 years old. How far have we really come in a world where public health crises such as those faced by Flint, Michigan, and Cape Town, South Africa are all too frequent? Today, millions of people are still without access to safe drinking water, and about 3.4 million people annually die from waterborne diseases.For me, it is clear that, at best, we have made only slow progress in solving these issues.I believe to a degree our slow progress is tied to our tendency to first look for technology solutions to address water issues without tackling more challenging but cost-effective strategies such as changes in public policy or customer behavior. A good example is the focus on desalination as the go-to solution to water scarcity instead of incentivizing conservation, reuse and recycling approaches (such as Pacific Institute, The Cost of Alternative Water Supply Efficiency Options in California [PDF]).However, changing customer water use behavior is hard to do. Last week, I was at a one-day conference where a former general manager of a major water utility ran through the challenges related to managing water. His insights underscore the very real issues we must surmount to accelerate meaningful strategies for stewardship. His key points are summarized below (not verbatim):Everything needs water — agriculture, manufacturing, etc.Water supports everyone on the planet.Water utility customers don’t really understand the complexity of delivering water.The financial system to repair and replace water infrastructure is broken.The water sector is resistant to change.These issues are mostly related to how most people continue to view water — as an inexpensive disposable resource and not the essential finite resource that it is.So, while I am dismayed that we have only made slow progress in addressing water issues, I should not be surprised. Until we are all motivated to be stewards of water, we will continue to make only incremental progress in managing this finite and precious resource. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Interface and Levi's on courage and collaboration for 2030

Modular carpet manufacturer Interface and apparel company Levi Strauss & Co. long have been at the forefront of sustainable innovation. SustainAbility’s Aiste Brackley sat down with Erin Meezan, chief sustainability officer at Interface, and Michael Kobori, VP of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., to discuss what it will take to lead in 2030.In the second installment of a two-part series, we discuss the key drivers that have shaped the companies’ sustainability strategies to date and the need for companies to aim for systemic change. Find the first part here.Aiste Brackley: Collaboration will be key to achieving the 2030 goals and catalyzing systemic change. What other factors will determine the success of corporate long-term strategy on sustainability?Erin Meezan: Companies are going to need to get much more engaged in advocacy. What has made collaboration in the apparel sector so successful is one of the biggest challenges for us. We have several competitors with very similar products and processes. We all own our manufacturing, but we share many suppliers. Supply chain presents real opportunities to solve some of the key challenges we face. Implementing a circular economy approach to products and materials is one of the biggest challenges we face for the next decade, and one of the key obstacles is that the system is not where we would like it to be to deliver on our sustainability goals. For us, advocacy is becoming a way to change that bigger system. Recently the state of California updated its mandatory carpet recycling law. And while our industry association fought it, we broke with it to support the effort. We hired a lobbyist and worked with NGOs and the governor’s office successfully. The legislation passed. I think we are likely to see companies take such action more often — on climate policy, on social issues. It remains a taboo issue within many companies and had been this way for a while at Interface, too. We did not want to make anyone mad, so we were reluctant to step forward. It’s still difficult for many publicly traded companies to take such a step.Implementing a circular economy approach to products and materials is one of the biggest challenges we face for the next decade. Michael Kobori: Advocacy on public policy issues is going to become more important and something that especially the leadership companies will be expected to do. We are fortunate to be private and have a CEO that is comfortable taking a stand on social issues like DACA and equality. And also taking positions that aren’t necessarily aligned with the federal government but that we know are aligned with consumers and what we believe in as a company. Climate is another such issue. Advocating on causes that are not only important to consumers but ultimately to business and getting those policies changed — like equality and climate — that’s going to be a hallmark of companies that are successful in 2030.I would add something else. As a company, we’ve done a number of things in these areas — but we don’t talk about it much to our consumers. In the future, we will need to. Because in the future, it will be the companies that use sustainability to differentiate themselves that are going to stand out. Engaging consumers on sustainability will drive business growth and brand equity, and at the same time, it will help drive demand for sustainable products and ultimately more sustainable systems.Advocacy on public policy issues is going to become more and more important, and something that especially the leadership companies will be expected to do.Brackley: What will be the qualities of sustainability leaders in 2030? According to the GlobeScan-SustainAbility Leaders Survey 2017, integrated sustainability strategy, transparency, honesty, trust and advocacy will be very important. Do you agree? Meezan: When thinking about leadership in 2030, I can’t get away from the word courage. I think you’re going to have to have the courage to do the internal lobbying to get your organization focused on these issues. Or the courage to take a stance on difficult causes or talk about these issues with your customers, not knowing how this discussion might land. But that’s where strength comes in numbers. It’s much easier for a chief sustainability officer to pitch a collaboration to a CEO if you are joined by NGOs and industry peers. Those collaborations will be really important to give us the courage that we need to take bold positions and explore what it means to have a positive impact when customers aren’t really asking for that yet. I think that requires courage.When thinking about leadership in 2030, I can’t get away from the word courage.Kobori: I agree with the key findings of the GSS Leaders 2017. Visionary leaders, company mission and vision that go beyond simply reducing negative impacts, open communication, transparency — all of these qualities will be required of future leaders.One quality that is missing is the business benefit. It’s not just the CEO and heads of sustainability that will be building and communicating that vision but the leaders of every business function. Having that sustainability vision fully integrated across the entire organization will be the real hallmark of future leaders. It is also important to note the importance of partnering with others — businesses, NGOs, governments. We are going to need collaboration to achieve this restorative vision and systems change. Of course, we are all set up to compete, but while leadership companies will use innovation and sustainability as a competitive differentiator, they will also continue to drive innovative partnerships on systems change for sustainability.Having sustainability vision fully integrated across the entire organization will be the real hallmark of future leaders.Brackley: How do you see your company’s and industry’s role in achieving the SDGs?Meezan: The SDGs absolutely cannot be achieved without the business sector. Being a 4,000-person business, influence is our biggest contribution. We have been outspoken about our sustainability commitments and initiatives and have been sharing practical models from our business. We have positive impacts on the marine environment and local communities through programs like Net-Works, and by being outspoken about it, we can share those solutions with the rest of the business community.Kobori: The role of companies like Levi Strauss & Co. will be to drive action around those issues that are material to us. We can’t help with all SDGs, so it will be about prioritizing and making clear commitments. We can also contribute to the SDGs by leading the change within our industry through coalitions like Sustainable Apparel Coalition,The Better Cotton Initiative, and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) group. And lastly, we can be that voice for change through our advocacy positions.I’m looking forward to the future. We have gone through an incredible evolution of sustainable business over the decades. It evolved from being charity-focused, to corporate social responsibility and harm reduction, and now we are in the era of building a regenerative and restorative society and planet. I feel like we are at the tipping point of another fundamental shift of the role of business in society. We have all built our careers on this, and it is an incredibly exciting time to be working on sustainability issues.This blog is part of the GlobeScan-SustainAbility Leaders Survey 20th anniversary project conducted by GlobeScan and SustainAbility in partnership with Interface.Let's block ads! (Why?)

The case for merging sustainability, risk and compliance

This article is the fourth in a series by BSR that will explore how corporate sustainability pros can work across departments on shared goals.Given the overall trend toward convergence in the internal functions that own and address questions of corporate integrity and values, collaboration skills are at a premium. Change management and influencing skills, in particular, are the most underrated in the sustainability practitioner’s toolbox, and they are likely to be helpful in engaging your risk and compliance colleagues. The relationship between sustainability teams and the range of functions that broadly sit under governance, risk and compliance is complex, riven with both opportunities and tensions. Historically, these teams have been most closely aligned in extractives, manufacturing and engineering organizations. In such organizations, sustainability tends to be framed as a dimension of "non-technical" or "above-ground" risk, rather than an effort to drive opportunity and innovation or build a powerful brand. However, working with risk and compliance teams is one of the more promising avenues that you can use to drive the sustainability agenda, and the advantages of ethics beyond compliance are very clear to both sides. It’s time to move beyond vague purpose statements and redefine what meaningful corporate integrity might look like. Here are three areas you can focus on to better collaborate with risk and compliance departments in your company: governance; enterprise risk management (ERM) processes; and cultures of compliance.Enhancing integrity via integrated governanceCompanies are rethinking their internal governance and management structures under the broad mantle of ethics, integrity and responsible business. Increasingly, we see the creation of advisory groups, board committees or cross-functional management teams that might include representatives from internal audit, investigations, risk, compliance and sustainability. When this works well, it can be an excellent way for companies to develop a coherent narrative about their values, aligning them with internal management structures and processes.Risk and compliance teams tend to be more powerful and well-resourced than sustainability, and so the dominant approach has been to subsume sustainability under one of these teams. But this approach has limitations, as it can mean companies miss the value creation and opportunity identification that sustainability can provide. It also can leave sustainability practitioners fighting for influence and voice, struggling to correct the misperception that sustainability is a reputational "nice-to-have" rather than an existential consideration.Sustainability tends to be framed as a dimension of non-technical or above-ground risk, rather than an effort to drive opportunity and innovation or build a powerful brand.Your organization may wish to follow the example of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The science-led biopharma has decided to merge safety, health and environment, compliance and sustainability into one team called Global Sustainability. Global Vice President Sustainability Jim Massey explained the decision: "This was driven by our innovative executive team. We are aiming to move from governance of risk to governance of our commitments. Bringing key stewardship functions under one roof of sustainability means we can move beyond defensive risk management and toward increasingly proactive consideration of what it means to be a responsible company." Integrating sustainability with ERMFrom the sustainability perspective, incorporating sustainability into the enterprise risk management (ERM) process can be a critical step in building internal influence and ensuring that sustainability factors are built into senior decision-making. Although many companies have found that their top 10 business risks and top 10 sustainability issues have limited overlap, this is increasingly understood as a limitation in the risk management process overall, rather than a sign that sustainability and risk are fundamentally misaligned. Traditional ERM processes may be too short-term and focused on direct financial risk to incorporate more systemic issues, such as income inequality and climate change, but there is increasing awareness that such issues present existential long-term risks.Bringing key stewardship functions under one roof of sustainability means we can move beyond defensive risk management.This recognition has led risk practitioners to focus more on "black swan" events, scenario planning and strategic foresight, with the goal of building enterprise resilience — tools that sustainability practitioners also would be wise to embrace. The new Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure reporting recommendations explicitly consider "transition risks," including policy developments and reputational risk, and argue that scenario planning is the best way to prepare, given the level of uncertainty. Such approaches naturally bring sustainability front and center and drive alignment between the functions, while also encouraging the overall development of futures thinking across an organization.Creating a culture of complianceBroad, intersecting trends are driving convergence between sustainability and compliance across all industries. Regulation is becoming weaker or less consistent in a number of markets, and corporations are increasingly being expected to provide leadership on issues such as climate change, transparency and human rights in the absence of public policy direction. We are seeing more companies drive ethical standards throughout their supply chains, regardless of regulatory requirements, and many new products and services, notably in technology and pharmaceuticals, are not regulated at all. Hypertransparency is tightening the feedback loop between corporate actions and stakeholder trust, and legal risk is no longer a reliable proxy for reputational risk.From an ethics and compliance perspective, the drivers to incorporate sustainability are powerful and pressing. While ethics and compliance functions first emerged from the need to anticipate and respond to the concerns of external regulators, their focus has shifted to wider organizational integrity, tone at the top and "cultures of compliance."From an ethics and compliance perspective, the drivers to incorporate sustainability are powerful and pressing.Compliance teams are held responsible for norms and values as well as rules, and corporate commitments to social responsibility, human rights, diversity and inclusion are more effective at driving ethical employee behavior than an exclusive focus on avoiding legal penalties. This is an important motivator for cross-functional collaboration.As one leading company told BSR, "We have become more aware of the correlation between ethics and compliance and business advantage — transparency, open culture and innovation. This influence can be helpful to the sustainability agenda. Compliance functions have realized that if they just focus on the enforcement of rules, they will be limited in what they can achieve."Companies are experimenting with new approaches to align risk, responsibility and integrity. This creates new opportunities for sustainability practitioners to embrace change management and coalition-building skills to help companies adapt to a more disruptive and uncertain future.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Apple, Dell, Foxconn manage supply chain water risks

In 2016, the information and communications technology (ICT) industry came under focus when environmental inspections found that 18 centralized water treatment plants in Shanghai had issues with heavy metals exceeding legal limits. As a result, the two large-scale electronics plants responsible for releasing these pollutants are in the process of being forced to stop operations. More recently, the Chinese government shut down an estimated tens of thousands of factories in 2017 as part of its broad efforts to more strictly enforce environmental regulations.Incidents like this have put the spotlight on supply chain operational risks, prompting brands to pay more attention to the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) Corporate Information Transparency Index (CITI) — in particular, IPE’s CITI Index Indicator 2.3 (PDF), which focuses on issues around centralized wastewater treatment. Brands such as Apple, Dell, Ericsson and Foxconn have mapped their suppliers’ paths of wastewater discharge, incorporating suppliers’ centralized wastewater treatment facilities into the scope of their environmental compliance screening.It long has been recognized that water scarcity will be a defining issue of the 21st century.In November, Dell and BSR invited a range of stakeholders to a roundtable in Suzhou, China, to explore how to address shared water issues in the Tai-hu Lake catchment area. Two important principles provided the foundation of this meeting: first, that water scarcity is a risk that needs to be managed to ensure supply chain sustainability. And second, that water is a common good with multiple competing interests. A growing movement of companies and international initiatives are specifically targeting water resource management as a key component of supply chain sustainability. It long has been recognized that water scarcity will be a defining issue of the 21st century. Climate change, population growth and competing demands on limited water supplies have contributed to water's increasingly becoming a focus for supply chain sustainability. A study conducted by McKinsey found that 90 percent of air, soil and land impacts associated with consumer goods are associated with supply chains.Traditional approaches to managing the environmental risks of supply chains have taken one of two forms:Product stewardship focuses on reducing environmental impacts associated with product design, packaging and material use.Process stewardship takes a lifecycle approach to managing impacts associated with the production, distribution and end-of-life product management.Both approaches help companies identify how to manage risks, reduce impacts and identify important cost savings. Today, increased transparency and disclosure requirements in places such as China are underscoring the need for companies to better manage their water resources.This has been highlighted by the U.N. Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, which recognizes the need for companies to engage on water issues through their direct operations, supply chains and watershed management, public policy advocacy, community engagement and transparency.By initiating discussions in the Tai-hu Lake catchment area, Dell has taken the next step in managing these risks more holistically. Going beyond product and process stewardship, the company is dealing with the broader risks to its supply chain associated with watershed management. This type of environmental stewardship traditionally has been led by governments and requires more skills, tools and resources than companies traditionally have used in product and process stewardship. Ultimately, managing water scarcity will require businesses and their suppliers to:Broaden the scope of risks in their supply chains to include water scarcity, floods and related issues.Move from short-term thinking to managing risks over longer time horizons.Develop capacities in watershed management, stakeholder outreach and public policy advocacy.Develop risk monitoring systems and capacities within their supply chains.Share risk information with other stakeholders in a watershed, including potential competitors.Responding to this challenge not only addresses the broader concern of water scarcity, it also addresses the fundamental ability for a company such as Dell to continue to operate. This extends to the needs of suppliers’ employees and their families living in affected watersheds.The challenges of water scarcity will require businesses to expand their supply chain sustainability efforts to include the notion of shared risk over longer periods of time. Dell has started the process of managing this shared risk through its stakeholder consultations with other water users in the Tai-hu Lake catchment area in China.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Why moderates, not liberals, are environmentalism's tipping point

When it comes to environmental issues such as climate change, it often seems as if there’s no middle ground in America anymore. Politically polarized tribes on the far right and left do most of the talking, as they duke it out over seemingly irreconcilable views.One camp argues that climate change is a hoax, ice caps are at record levels and wind turbines rather than fossil fuels are responsible for warming the planet. The other camp asserts that doomsday is upon us, as big business wages a war to destroy all humanity.Like a pro wrestling match, the two sides engage in full-scale theatrics. Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson takes on Bill Nye the Science Guy in a highly promoted global warming debate. Hollywood filmmakers broadcast horrific scenes of climate destruction to further stir the pot. Twitter becomes a forum for not just constructive climate dialog, but venomous bullies, bots and trolls.It’s all a big spectacle, and that is not helping the environmental cause.Environmentalism in America has become less a matter of science and more a matter of ideology. Recent data shows just how entrenched in tribalism this nation has become. According to Pew, for instance, people’s views about climate science are more closely tied to their inherent political orientations than to any other variable — including age, gender or even scientific literacy.In a country where ideology rules over reason, the real environmental crusade isn’t just about dredging up more data to affirm scientific consensus. Nor is it about bullying, scaring or angering people into action. Rather, this fight is about strategic communications and the art of persuasion. That means tipping the scales by reaching the right audience with the right message, at the right time.Now is the time for the environmental movement to look past the factions on the right side and left. Liberals and autocrats may be on the march, but moderates are on the rise, and they could be the key to tipping the scales on critical issues such as climate change.Now is the time for the environmental movement to look past the factions on the right side and left. According to research from Third Way, moderates represent more than a third of all American voters, with an increasing amount of political clout. These dissenters of the left-right paradigm skew young, educated and diverse, with a 44 percent plurality of Hispanic and nonwhite voters, and 42 percent qualifying as millennials.Moderates, according to the poll, are politically well-informed, yet they are turned off by divisive political rhetoric. "They worry about a ‘My way or the highway’ approach to politics," said Third Way. "The devolving nature of political discourse is having some effect, with 62 percent of moderates saying they actively avoid political discussions because of divisiveness."Moderates are a crucial audience for the environmental movement because they see many sides of complex issues and actively seek compromise. For instance, on energy policy, while three-quarters support exploring additional oil and gas reserves in the United States, 90 percent also think we ought to invest more in the development of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. At the same time, eight out of 10 moderates say they don’t find it difficult to discuss political issues with someone who disagrees with them. In other words, they remain significantly more open-minded than their right- or left-leaning counterparts.Quiet thinkingThis data begins to paint a clearer picture of a new target profile for the environmental movement. Moderates are not the ones claiming to be right or righteous. Nor are they necessarily protesting in the streets. Instead, they are the ones quietly thinking through both sides of complex arguments, while refusing to be pigeonholed into an ideological box.While changing the minds of staunch conservatives on key environmental issues may prove an impossible task, better resonating with moderates is achievable, given the right approach. And that could represent the greatest strategic opportunity for tipping the scales to the pro-environment side of today’s political spectrum. The more moderates embrace climate action, the less wind in anti-climate sails.It comes down to basic math. If 25 percent of voters are liberal and inherently pro-environment, then environmentalists must sway 25.1 percent more voters to win.To seize the opportunity and better engage moderates, environmentalists ought to think through both sides of their arguments and recognize their own deficiencies. To seize the opportunity and better engage moderates, environmentalists ought to think through both sides of their arguments and recognize their own deficiencies. They should turn down the outrage and fear-based messaging, which clearly alienates moderates, and turn up the emotive human stories that more people can relate to. Environmentalists also must recognize that while data and facts are critical, they are simply not enough to win over moderate hearts and minds.Recent campaigns from AARP and Unite America demonstrate how to resonate effectively with moderates. By promoting "kitchen table conversations" between like-minded voters, and sharing meaningful stories that tap into personal values such as health, safety and security, these groups prove an important point.Perhaps the best way to appeal to moderates about the environment is not to talk so much about the environment, per se. But rather, to use issue-agnostic personal stories that bring matters closer to home.Let's block ads! (Why?)