On Tuesday, January 15, Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of World Resources Institute (WRI), hosted an annual Stories to Watch in 2013 event in Washington, D.C. Dr. Steer identified six hotspots – topics that will dominate headlines in the coming year.
1. The evolving energy mix in the U.S. and worldwide
More than 55 coal plants were shut down in the U.S. in 2012. Yet over 395 remain, and global coal consumption continues to rise, particularly in India and China. The development of other energy sources – shale gas and renewables – has the potential to offset coal demand. What is unclear is how quickly countries will develop these alternative sources. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not have renewable energy targets.
In mid-October 2012, global leaders across private, public and NGO sectors convened in San Francisco to discuss innovations that will be key to growing sustainable urban environments. At the close of the conference, Triple Pundit contributor Heather King interviewed Greg Sebasky, Chairman of Phillips North America, to discuss Phillips own innovation strategies.
TriplePundit: According to Phillips’ annual reports, you are investing $645 million a year in green innovation. Help us understand what this investment means, and how it reflects your sustainability innovation strategy?
Greg Sebasky: This is more than a dollar number on paper. Our vision is to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation, and everyone at Philips is focused on that same goal. Innovation at Philips isn’t contained to an R&D facility; it is happening all around us. Every customer interaction helps contribute insights about needs, desires and aspirations that help us take new innovations and bring them to live in meaningful ways.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal sponsored a pitch slam session at its annual ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara.
Five entrepreneurs pitched their business models to an audience of several hundred investors and CEOs in a mock funding contest.
The NY-based AeroFarms, a sustainable agriculture start-up, was the overwhelming favorite.
AeroFarms is state-of-the-art controlled growing environment that enables local communities and farmers to grow over 250 leafy greens without sun, or soil and with 90% less water.
The system uses an aeroponic technology and LED lighting developed at Cornell University’s Agriculture School. Instead of planting in soil, organic seeds are embedded in cloth and the roots are sprayed with water. Crops are grown in vertical stacks, like trucking pallets, which use space efficiently. All materials, nutrients and water runoff is captured and recycled. Crops grow faster and cleaner than traditionally grown greens, and the system requires far less acreage.
Last Thursday, at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, Bill Gates talked with several hundred CEO’s and corporate leaders about why and how he has accelerated his involvement in clean energy solutions.
“My foundation is committed to helping the very poor and to improving education. It is clear that if you want to help humanity, you have to get energy prices down,” he explained.
“Energy is a huge constraint to economic advancement in the developing world.”
Yet this focus extends beyond energy pricing and availability. Gates wants carbon neutral energy sources. Anything that contributes to global warming will be “a disaster.”
“The goal has to be zero emissions,” he said. “The goal is very daunting.”
Last week, at the close of the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California’s Governor Jerry Brown talked with CEO’s and industry leaders about his work to build a health, clean energy economy in California. Here are some highlights:
Wall Street Journal: In 1977, California introduced solar tax incentives. How has your view on energy policy evolved?
Governor Brown: California has always been a leader in environmental legislation and we’d like to continue that tradition.
In 1977, California has a budget surplus. We did not have to consider the costs of those incentives. The incentives were “free virtue.” We had a 55% credit that was mostly heating related, and a 25% credit for conservation improvements. We garnered billions in energy savings, set the pace for the nation, and a foundation for renewable energy.
Now it’s different because we are working with a huge deficit. But one thing that has lasted well has been a focus on building efficiency. We also have a law that one third of our electricity must come from renewable sources. We need to balance how we achieve that goal in a way that is environmentally and economically sound.
The point is to think big and to think long-term. We can’t get there overnight.
Earlier this week, Grainger, a Fortune 500 international supplier of facilities and building maintenance products, gathered over 15,000 customers and suppliers in Orlando, Florida.
Grainger’s customers include over 2 million businesses and institutions across 157 countries. They include a broad range of heavy and lighter manufacturers like ConAgra, travel and hospitality companies like Hilton and United Airlines, technology and communications giants like AT&T, and leading educational and government entities such as the US Postal Service. Grainger’s suppliers are a similarly broad mix of brand name companies such as General Electric and smaller innovative start-ups. Albeit a company sponsored event, The Grainger Show was effectively a facilities industry tradeshow.
Sustainability was a primary theme and significant focal area to customers and suppliers. Over the past few years, Grainger has actively worked to increase the efficiency and sustainability of its own operations by investing in LEED certified facilities, building out sustainable product offerings and educating its team. The company was the first industrial distributor to have a LEED certified facility; they now operate 12 LEED facilities and are actively expanding that base.
As a nod to Valentine’s and the associated obsession with chocolate, Rainforest Alliance hosted a webinar on February 13, 2012: “Greening the Cocoa Industry.”
Eric Servat, Senior Manager of the Rainforest Alliance cocoa program, described current developments in the cocoa industry and the Alliance’s efforts to expand sustainable cocoa production.
The cocoa industry is large, growing and complex. Europe and the U.S. have historically been the biggest consumer markets, but growing demand in the Asia – Pacific region is putting pressure on the market supply. Global Industry Analysts (GIA) predicts that the global cocoa market will reach 5.3 million tons by 2015.
In its early iteration, Coca-Cola was marketed as a way to cure ailments and inspire social dialogue.
“Dr. Pemberton created Coke as a headache tonic,” tells Bea Perez, Coca-Cola’s new Chief Sustainability Officer.
Today, the Coca-Cola Company is trying to address a larger infirmity: the world’s water supply.
“Water is a business essential for Coca Cola,” Jeff Seabright, VP, Environment and Water Resources, Coca-Cola, explained at the World Climate Summit. “We are increasingly seeing a water stressed world, and projections show a 40% world shortage by 2050. We care out of self-interest and shared value.”
Today, over one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and water shortages threaten thousands of animals and habitats. Climate change will further impact the water cycle and related agriculture.
Investors, entrepreneurs, policy and non-profit leaders convened on Wednesday to discuss the clean tech funding environment at the 4th Annual Cooley Clean Energy and Technologies Conference in Redwood City, California.
Out of the ashes of Solyndra – the highly publicized, government supported solar technology company that closed its doors on September 1, 2011 – panelists and attendees identified the promising trends in clean tech financing. A primary theme: corporations are stepping up to provide expansion capital, compensating for the pull back of traditional venture investors.
According to Bloomberg’s Nathanial Bullard: “Expansion capital is zooming.” Private equity and ‘corporate strategics’ are helping clean tech companies scale and compensating for a dearth of IPO opportunities and continued venture support.
Craig Newmark is a self-professed nerd, an ingenious, committed philanthropist and a wry savant. He founded craigslist in 1995 as an email distribution list for friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area. The service became web-based a year later; it fast expanded into other classified categories and U.S. cities. Today, it covers most countries in the world. Despite his phenomenal success, Craig Newmark has not followed the usual Silicon Valley route of going public, selling out and maximizing his return. Instead, he decided to “do what makes him feel better.”
At the SOCAP 2011 conference, Newmark talked about his leadership style, the social impact of craigslist – beyond “getting rid of an old sofa” – and his new venture craigconnects.
As SOCAP 2011 – a conference focused on “accelerating the flow of capital to social good” – drew to a close last Friday in San Francisco, there was a prevailing sense of optimism and opportunity. Here are 7 hot topics people were discussing in the halls and along the breezy Bay side Fort Mason conference grounds:
1. Mobile technology opens huge new markets – in developed and emerging countries.
Worldwide, there are over 5 billion cell phones in use. There are now three times as many phones as computers. Increasingly, phones serve as the primary technology for business, especially in large emerging markets. This is no more evident than in applications of mobile money and micro-transactions where the cell phone will be the foundation of commerce. Mobile money will spawn economic development in regions that have not before had the access or infrastructure or capital.
Habitat’s primary charter is ‘safe, affordable, decent housing for the poor.’ Yet, the celebrated non-profit is an increasingly important player in the green building market.
“Habitat is very aware that the built environment is a major factor in GHG emissions,” asserts Mary Kelley, Habitat’s Leadership Development Officer. “Most of our affiliates are independent non-profits, so the impetus to adopt greener practices comes largely from individual chapters. But we are seeing more and more affiliates focus on building green.” Many work with local, regional and national green certification organizations such as NAHB’s green building program, LEED for Homes, Earthcraft and Green Point Rated.
A week ago, the renowned Burning Man festival raged in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. More than 50,000 people from all over the world gathered as a community and built a city for a week.
The prevailing spirit of the event is self-reliance, civic responsibility, creativity and a purposeful absence of commerce. The very premise of a temporary city that ‘leaves no trace’ is environmentally sustainable. The event has become a laboratory and a platform for sustainability.
“Burning Man models how we will manage our future, a future in which resources are scarce and people have to come together to find solutions. We haven’t issued any green manifesto, but the Burning Man is increasingly attached to sustainability,” explains Marion Goodell, Director of Business and Communications.
Jeffrey Hollender co-founded Seventh Generation Inc., the country’s largest distributor of non-toxic, all natural cleaning, paper and personal care products. Seventh Generation pioneered a new category of cleaning products, growing exponentially as it’s primary retail partner, Whole Foods, ascended. He served as CEO and Executive Chair until his abrupt departure last year. Hollender is also the co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council and a member of the board of directors of Greenpeace USA, Verite, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Environmental Health Fund. Yesterday, he spoke to a SOCAP 2011 audience about lessons learned from his Seventh Generation experience and what he plans to do next.
Heather King reports from SOCAP 11 the following as told by Jeffrey Hollender:
I’ve had a year since I’ve left Seventh Generation – plenty of time to sit on a beach, surf as much as I want, and to think about what I’ve learned and what I want to do next.
Here are some of the lessons from my Seventh Generation chapter:
By Heather King
Van Jones may have resigned his post as Obama’s green jobs czar, but he continues his crusade for a better America. This afternoon at the SOCAP 2011 conference, he rallied support for the “American Dream 2.0″ and railed on the Tea Party.
“There was a tech bubble and a dot com bubble. Now we have the Tea Party bubble,” said Jones, “and I want to pop it.”
In his view, the Obama campaign and administration started off on the right track. The Obama campaign made patriotism cool again, and represented the core American value of ‘e pluribus unum.’ He inspired. The future was all about hope and change, cultural and spiritual renewal disguised as politics. Then the President and his supporters got embroiled in running the government. “We stopped doing what was working for us; our messages were all about subcommittees.”