With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
Clean tech is a hot topic in sustainable business – combining sustainable thinking with high technology. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, this week we rounded up eight clean tech trends to watch in 2014. Have something to add? Tell us about it in the comments.
With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday (starting today) TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
With the federal minimum wage increase a hot topic on everyone’s mind, this week we rounded up 10 U.S. companies that pay each of their employees a living wage. You may be surprised by who made the list.
Released in July 2012 by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Higg Index is a sustainability measurement tool that allows apparel companies to measure the impacts of their products across the value chain. Late last year, the SAC–a trade organization comprised of brands, retailers and manufacturers–announced an updated version of the index reflecting 18 months of development effort.
The SAC represents companies totaling nearly 40 percent of the apparel and footwear market, Executive Director Jason Kibbey told TriplePundit, and the index is already being widely adopted at all levels of the value chain, so its reach and relevancy is clear.
As more companies jump on board, could the index inspire industry-wide sustainability standards? And what would this mean for the future of sustainable apparel?
What’s new in Higg 2.0?
For those interested in design, architecture and sustainability, Masdar City is something of a living museum: Everywhere the eye wanders, something new and intriguing makes it stop and look twice. I felt as if I could spend weeks poring over every crevice, examining each facade and gently running my fingers over whatever curious material sparked my interest.
Some have criticized Abu Dhabi’s low-carbon eco-city for just this phenomenon – calling it everything from “a green Disneyland” to a playground for tourists and the rich. But the fact remains that the city is an experiment. Tailored specifically to Abu Dhabi’s harsh desert climate, it is a testament to what’s possible if sustainability is placed at the core of urban planning – rather than tossed in as an afterthought. Masdar is upfront about the fact that it’s willing to entertain multiple approaches and technologies. As a general rule with such experimental projects, some methods work, and others don’t.
It’s also worth mentioning that, as one of the most oil rich nations in the world, Abu Dhabi doesn’t have to do this. Its government didn’t have to invest in Masdar, the nation’s renewable energy company, or put its dollars behind the city in the first place. But the fact that it’s doing so, and that the UAE has an integrated approach to sourcing 7 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020, speaks volumes about how proactively the emirate is addressing the reality that one day the oil will run out – a lesson large swaths of the Western world could stand to observe.
The rise of the developing world was a recurring theme at this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. The event’s opening ceremony featured a panel on development in Africa, where Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State in the United Arab Emirates, and three African heads of state predicted rapid urbanization and economic growth across the continent in the coming decade.
The need is great as more than 1.3 billion people around the world currently live without access to electricity. Two-thirds of those that have access to electricity get it from fossil fuels. With fossil fuel prices fluctuating and demand on the rise, energy costs are sent soaring in large swaths of the developing world – meaning those who can’t foot the bill are often left behind.
As energy demands increase to keep pace with forthcoming economic booms, devising a solution that meets these needs sustainably may prove not only an environmental win, but also a sound business decision for organizations that get in on the ground floor.
Steve Severance, manager of program management and investments for Masdar City, rightfully noted at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2014 that, “It’s one thing to use less energy, it’s another thing to create an attractive real estate development that uses less energy.”
Now, it seems that Masdar City – Abu Dhabi’s low-carbon, low-waste sustainable eco-city – is doing both. This week, global electronics powerhouse Siemens inaugurated its new Middle East headquarters at Masdar City – a pivotal turning point in the city’s growth and the beginning of a wave of high-profile corporate tenants.
The building itself is somewhat of an architectural marvel. Designed by acclaimed architects Sheppard Robson International, in collaboration with Masdar City Design Manager Chris Wan, the structure is the first LEED Platinum building in the region and is designed to slash energy usage both inside and out. During the design and planning process, Siemens and Masdar agreed that the building should not cost more than an average office building of its size. That goal was achieved, while also cutting water and energy use by 50 percent compared to conventional office buildings in the region.
“When we look at the success of Siemens headquarters, it shows that we kind of cracked the formula or broke the hypothesis that being sustainable means that you need to be more expensive,” Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar, told TriplePundit.
Abu Dhabi’s sustainability week – one of the largest sustainability gatherings in the world – draws more than 30,000 participants from 150 countries. As a key organizer of the event, Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, receives a great deal of attention from visiting dignitaries, world leaders and media alike.
Yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with Steve Severance, manager of program management and investments for Masdar City, to discuss how the company is walking the fine line between sustainable innovation and savvy business management.
TriplePundit: Can you speak to how Masdar City balances its position as a trailblazer in sustainable innovation and design with its need to attract business interest and corporate tenants?
Steve Severance: You rightly point out that it’s one thing to use less energy, it’s another thing to create an attractive real estate development that uses less energy.
Abu Dhabi sustainability week (ADSW), one of the largest sustainability gatherings in the world, launched today with a panel on the future of renewable energy development in Africa. Moderated by Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and featuring comments from the presidents of Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia, the panel addressed the opportunities for economic growth in Africa and what the continent needs to grow sustainably.
“Ahead of us lies a future with a tremendous potential for sustainable growth,” Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State in the United Arab Emirates and CEO of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, said in front of a crowd of dignitaries, world leaders and media this morning. “Nowhere is this opportunity more evident or immediate than in Africa.”
“Africa is undergoing unprecedented and sustained growth,” Amin added. “It has been one of the fastest growing regions of the past decade, with a GDP expected to grow in the coming years on an average from 5 to 6 percent annually.”
It seems as if high-profile privacy breaches are everywhere in the news these days. Snapchat made headlines earlier this year when hackers downloaded the phone numbers and usernames for as many as 4.6 million users, and the most recent data suggests that Target’s December security lapse could affect up to one-third of the U.S. population.
With privacy issues still fresh in our minds, Deb Levine – founder and president of YTH, (which stands for youth+tech+health), the partner of choice for developing, evaluating and refining technology solutions that advance youth health and wellness, is bringing the conversation into another arena: mobile technology in the social good space. YTH has piloted dozens of mobile apps and text messaging services since its inception more than a decade ago – each tailored to the needs of specific groups of young people.
The final year of the incandescent light bulb phase-out began on Jan. 1, meaning manufacturers have already stopped producing traditional 40- and 60-watt bulbs. In keeping with a law passed by Congress in 2007, the phase-out started with the 100-watt incandescent in 2012 and progressed last year to the 75-watt variety, but experts say this final stage is the most significant.
Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told National Geographic’s energy blog that 40- and 60-watt bulbs represent “more than 50 percent of the [consumer lighting] market.” While the sale and purchase of incandescents will continue until supplies run out, many consumers who have been slow to jump onboard with energy efficient alternatives may face a rude awakening in the near future.
With the last leg of the gradual phase-out already in effect, Home Depot released a data-driven map that uses sales numbers to create a per capita look at U.S. adoption of energy efficient bulbs. By combining the latest 2010 Census data with U.S. sales from 2012 through 2013, the home improvement giant compiled a list of the top 50 cities for efficient bulb adoption – revealing the locales that are leading the charge and areas that are still lagging behind.
Did you forget to buy the politically charged present your kids really wanted this year? Luckily, it’s not too late to pick up a copy of “Ted Cruz to the Future,” a 24-page coloring and activity book detailing the “life, principles, values and mission” of the Texas senator. According to the publisher, St. Louis-based Really Big Coloring Books Inc., the book is a “non-partisan, fact-driven view of how Texas Sen. Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz became a U.S. senator and details, through his quotes and public information his ideas for what he believes will help America grow.”
Among these “non-partisan” accounts is a text-heavy page featuring the senator’s 21-hour speech on the eve of the government shutdown, describing Cruz as speaking with “clairvoyant precision” about the “quickly approaching Obamacare disaster.” The book even includes a picture of the senator holding a gun, with warnings that the Obama administration will “use any opportunity” to go after the Second Amendment and “other constitutional rights such as free speech.”
While you’d think such a book would be too controversial to pick up steam, the fact is that it’s selling like hotcakes.
Conversations about energy use in the U.S. often revolve around expanding domestic production or spurring renewables. It’s easy to forget another significant piece of the puzzle – energy efficiency. In its 2013 scorecard, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks the most energy-efficient states based on policy and program efforts that improve efficiency in homes, businesses, industries and transportation systems.
The annual scorecard includes programs and initiatives maintained in ACEEE’s database of state energy efficiency policy, which includes information from state offices, public utilities, nonprofit advocacy organizations, energy consultants, federal officials and the private sector. Read on to see how your state fared in 2013.
If a company pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2020, is that good? Better yet, is that enough? Climate Counts and the Center for Sustainable Organizations just released what they call the “world’s first” science-based company rankings, aiming to answer questions like these.
The study assessed the emissions performance of 100 companies from 2005 to 2012 within the context of climate science to identify the number of companies on a sustainable emissions path. By looking at factors such as emissions output and contribution to GDP, researchers assigned a company-level carbon budget to evaluate self-reported emissions data.
Nearly half of the 100 companies analyzed rated sustainably in the study, meaning they are on track with science-based targets that seek to limit climate change to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Autodesk, Unilever and Eli Lilly came away with the top three spots in the rating, but the list gets a bit more surprising as you move on.
High-performance electric vehicle manufacturer Venturi Automobiles is joining forces with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio to enter a racing team in the the new FIA Formula E Championship – the world’s first fully-electric race series. Beginning in September 2014, Formula E drivers will compete on city street circuits in a series the FIA hopes will appeal to a new generation of motorsports fans while accelerating the EV market.
Ten two-driver teams will go head-to-head in eight major cities around the world, including Beijing, Los Angeles, London and Buenos Aires, using electric single-seater race cars capable of speeds in excess of 140 miles per hour.
“The future of our planet depends on our ability to embrace fuel-efficient, clean-energy vehicles,” DiCaprio said in a prepared statement. “Venturi Grand Prix has shown tremendous foresight in their decision to create an environmentally friendly racing team, and I am happy to be a part of this effort.”
Last month, TriplePundit founder Nick Aster spoke with Mike Bellamente, executive director of Climate Counts, Mark McElroy, founder and executive director of the Center for Sustainable Organizations, and sustainability architect Bill Baue in one of our weekly online chats. The trio has been working on a new approach to measuring sustainability performance and just released what they call the “world’s first” science-based company rankings.
Released today, the rankings seek to put companies’ self-reported emissions data in the context of GHG reductions called for by climate scientists – scaling this assessment based on market share. Researchers looked at factors such as emissions output and contribution to GDP to assign a company-level carbon budget and determine whether reported emissions are on track with science-based thresholds.
Nearly half of the 100 companies analyzed rated sustainably in the study, with Autodesk, Unilever and Eli Lilly earning the top three spots in the rating. Of the 49 companies that scored sustainably, 25 of those exhibited revenue growth even as their emissions declined, indicating that the decoupling of growth and emissions is possible. Conversely, 51 percent of companies reviewed were found to be emitting unsustainable levels of CO2, researchers said.