Every Wednesday, TriplePundit founder Nick Aster will take 30 minutes or so to chat with an interesting leader in the sustainable business movement. These chats are broadcast on our Google+ channel and embedded via YouTube right here on 3p.
On Wednesday, February 5th, an audience far and wide tuned in to a live chat with Susan McPherson - a serial connector, passionate cause marketer, angel investor and corporate responsibility expert. Recently, she launched McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good, and continues to consult for Fenton as a strategic advisor.
If you missed the conversation you can watch it now on our YouTube stream (above).
The green investment organization Ceres has just released a new report on oil and gas fracking in the U.S., and it adds to the red flags that have been popping up over the fracking industry for the last couple of years. The report, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers,” underscores the urgency of addressing the risk that fossil fuel extraction poses to water resources – and to the investment community.
The report comes on the heels of the Ceres 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk in January. That event launched the organization’s Clean Trillion Campaign, which aims to prod the investment community in a climate-ethical direction by exposing emerging risks and indicating the path to more financially sustainable strategies.
Popular ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have long-operated in a legal gray zone. While the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) unanimous approval of new regulations around ridesharing services last September helped to clear some of the ambiguity, scores of questions remain. Chief of these are liability issues — just who is to blame when things go wrong with ridesharing?
Last Monday, Uber found itself slapped with the first wrongful death lawsuit ever brought against a Transportation Networking Company (TNC) after one of its drivers, Syed Muzzafar, hit and killed a 6-year-old girl on New Years Eve in San Francisco.
“This tragedy did not involve a vehicle or provider doing a trip on the Uber system,” the company said. Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes said the company had no comment on the lawsuit.
While at first it may seem that Uber has a point — Muzzafar was not driving on the Uber clock at the time of the accident — companies can be found responsible for causing wrongful death and emotional distress even if the party that committed the crime is a completely independent third party.
PandoDaily cites the case of Weirum et al. vs. RKO General, Inc., where a radio station sponsored a contest involving one of its DJs driving around town and having teenagers “find” him for a prize. This resulted in reckless teen driving that culminated in the death of an innocent man, and the radio station was held responsible.
Haas students attend a “Lean In” event together at Facebook Headquarters last year.
By Kellie McElhaney, Haas School of Business
This past fall, I offered my Women in Business course at the MBA level, for the second year in a row. Again, the course filled, and again, males enrolled in the class as well as females. The fact that our male students see the value of investing in women globally exemplifies our culture of Beyond Yourself and Question the Status Quo.
This year, a male student applied and lobbied hard to be my graduate student instructor, so I gave him a shot. He was brilliant, not only in the structure, attention and small group discussions that he added to the class, but also in the perspectives he offered to me as the instructor. A theme that strongly emerged from the course readings, lectures and discussions this year was the critical need to bring men into this hard work, both to raise awareness of and to educate them on the data, value and opportunities of investing in women, but also to include them in solutions and efforts.
At this year’s Super Bowl, “Goodvertising” fared as well as the Broncos – left out in the cold and wondering where it all went wrong. And while the clash on the field was more obvious, there’s a subtle power struggle happening in the world’s most expensive commercial break: Advertising as usual versus the world-bettering messages of Goodvertising.
For most companies, the Super Bowl is merely a way of imprinting their brand on your mind; like the branding of old: cowboys burning their name on their cattle, to show ownership. Or so the cattle wouldn’t end up stray or rounded up by a competing farm. These brands definitely won’t want you to stray from the consumerist dream of shop-till-you-drop – they own you.
Other brands seem to understand that people are growing increasingly tired of quick laughs and cartoon characters. They’re tired of brands ruining their favorite movies, like Kia kidnapping The Matrix’s Morpheus, for an empty sales pitch about seat warmers. And they’re tired of exploitative emotional porn from Budweiser, with its horse-on-dog (or is that dog-on-horse?) action.
Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a three-part series examining how the global sustainability agenda will boost impact investment in natural resources. Stay tuned for parts two and three – featuring investment trends in minerals, forestry and land.
By Marta Maretich
With sustainability a growth area for world markets — and a priority for many world governments — there is a new focus on impact investing in natural resources. This three-part series examines how the global sustainability movement is driving the markets in four key natural resource sectors — oceans, minerals, forestry and land — and shaping the financial choices of impact investors around the world.
Part I: Oceans
Natural resources have always been precious to mankind, and today they are more in demand than ever. Population growth, climate change and the rising affluence of developing nations are putting a strain on the planet’s limited resources, and there is worldwide concern about future shortages and the destruction of ecosystem services that result from over-exploitation.
But while the pressures on our resources are getting bigger — and the consequences of depleting them are getting clearer — there are positive developments, too. A global movement for sustainability, led by governments, supported by international organizations and driven by public demand, is gathering momentum — and this has important implications for the social and impact investing sector.
A group of 17 leading foundations has announced a new initiative to encourage fossil fuel divestment by the philanthropic community. Called Divest-Invest Philanthropy, the new effort launched Jan. 30 in support of a growing movement among other nonprofit endowments, including academic, health, pension and religious foundations.
Divest-Invest comes at a time when climate-related events are shining a spotlight on the future risks that fossil fuel investors face, as highlighted by the Jan. 15 Ceres Investor Summit on Climate Risk.
The report identified a number of risks and impacts, including several related to environmental justice issues. The next step in the review process promises to be even more interesting, as it includes a public comment period and input from the Environmental Protection Agency and at least seven other federal agencies – the Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy and Homeland Security.
America’s commercial buildings are on the cusp of being radically redesigned into Prius-like hybrid energy centers. These buildings will create value by guaranteeing lower energy bills, plus increased worker productivity, while also delivering climate-changing environmental impacts.
Like hybrid electric cars, this is a global trend. The cost of enabling technologies is falling - driven by global economies of scale. In the U.S., the only question that impacts when “hybrid electric buildings” will be built in your town is tied to the pace of change in utility and regulatory policies that remove the legacy distinctions between energy solutions that sit “behind the meter” versus those supplied through the utility grid.
Hybrid electric building design
Today’s hybrid electric car uses more than 100 microprocessors to collect data that is feed into a smart operating system. These microprocessors integrate traditional gasoline engines with electric generators and regenerative brakes to achieve superior MPG results. The car’s microprocessors also feed information into dashboards, designed to be productivity tools that coach a driver on how their behaviors can reduce costs and emissions.
Hybrid electric buildings will mirror this design. Like hybrid cars, they will have extensive sensor systems – collecting big data that smart systems will use to optimize integrated design components – like rooftop solar, onsite batteries and load-controlling technologies – to achieve occupant comfort, electrical reliability and lower cost.
Revenue growth and profits for U.S. power utilities have always been predicated on increasing demand, regulatory framework and relationships with regulators. Though still highly regulated, that business modus operandi is being turned on its head. Rapid growth in distributed solar, wind and other renewable energy resources and the development of smart grid and demand-response systems are two factors driving these changes. The movement to put a price on carbon emissions – based on the polluter pays principle – is another.
Also driving change are innovative new power industry participants, some of whom are now progressing from bleeding to leading edge, and from pilot stage to commercial scale. Leveraging its innovations in demand reduction/power efficiency software and the latest in battery storage systems, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Green Charge Networks (GCN) believes it has the ways and the means to generate very healthy returns by smoothing out customers’ electricity load profiles and boosting power, as opposed to energy efficiency.
Looking back, 2013 was a rough year for coffee, but also a year of great opportunity. Coffee market prices saw one of the biggest price slumps in decades, and a severe outbreak of a coffee leaf-killing disease – called coffee rust or “la roya” – decimated crops and affected about 75 percent of Central American coffee farmers.
Despite these market challenges, some businesses were still able to celebrate profits, and consumers were still able to drink their daily cup of coffee. But it’s the unseen coffee farmers who continue to bear the burden. That’s why supporting Fair Trade for the health and sustainability of coffee-growing communities is more important than ever.
As the Vice President of Coffee Sourcing & Excellence for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR), it’s my job to delve into the intricacies and human faces behind one of the most popular beverages in the U.S. Watching the ups and downs in the coffee marketplace, I have seen firsthand how Fair Trade acts as a sourcing model that provides a great cup of coffee for consumers and a better quality of life for coffee farmers. By setting a minimum buying price for coffee beans, Fair Trade is able to deliver “premiums” or community development funds that provide opportunities to not only positively impact coffee quality and sustainability, but the people behind the coffee as well. GMCR began purchasing Fair Trade Certified coffee in 2000 and has since expanded its commitment to become the largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified coffee.
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.
It’s here. The long-awaited report by the State Department on whether the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have any detrimental impact to the environment arrived last Friday. As American households were buying up the beer, chips and last-minute preps for Super Bowl Sunday, arguably one of the country’s most popular annual holidays, the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs dropped their newly minted report onto the airwaves.
Environmental organizations that have been hoping that the project would be rejected were quick to highlight the finer details of the report, which pointed out that there would be environmental impact from Keystone – a reasonable assumption for an 875-mile pipeline that would become the expressway for heavy crude and an increasing dependence on carbon-emitting technology. During operation it would add the equivalent of 300,000 cars to the road, or 71,298 houses using electricity for one year. It would also have other potential effects that could ultimately contribute to climate change.
But anyone who read the fine details of the 44-page report realized within the first few pages that those points were extraneous and not relevant to the takeaway message of the report.
The Marie Claire 2014 Prix d’Excellence de la Beauté award has gone to an algae oil company called Solazyme, making it one of only two U.S. brands to garner a prize against hundreds of entrants this year. The award indicates excellence in both innovation and performance. That’s a pretty high mark for a company better known for algae biofuel, but Solazyme actually covers four markets with its unique algae oil extraction technology: fuels, chemicals, nutritionals and personal care.
Announced earlier this month, the award was given unanimously by a panel of judges for the company’s Algenist® line of skin care products. That’s great timing for Solazyme. The company has just announced the start of commercial algae oil operations at two integrated locations in Iowa, which together showcase the company’s ability to hop nimbly from one market to another.
The Environmental Protection Agency has just released its annual Climate Protection Partnerships report, and it indicates that the U.S. is in a strong position to achieve economic growth – in other words, job growth – as it transitions to safer, healthier and more sustainable forms of energy. The report comes on top of great news for job growth in the solar industry, with as-yet untapped offshore wind energy and vast reserves of geothermal energy offering potential for even greater growth in the green jobs sector.
That’s something to keep in mind as the battle over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline gathers a new head of steam. Now that the State Department has delivered a required environmental report, it has to move forward and consult with other U.S. agencies to consider a variety of potential impacts the project could have on the public, and that includes economic impacts.
Santa Barbara: Apr 2 – Apr 4 ECO:nomics The Wall Street Journal’s celebrated ECO:nomics conference brings together global CEOs, top entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and environmental experts for discussion and debate about the most critical issues. Register here.
San Diego: Apr 24 – Apr 27 Social Venture Network Spring Conference SVN conferences convene and connect influential, innovative business leaders, impact investors and cultural entrepreneurs to create an experience where attendees can share the ideas and resources they need to succeed and grow. Register here.
New York: May 13 – May 14 Shared Value Leadership Summit For business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges, the Shared Value Initiative is the leading community shaping research, partnerships, and practices. Register here.
Southern California: May 19 – May 21 Fortune Brainstorm Green As the premier conference on business, sustainability, and green investing, Brainstorm GREEN delivers fresh thinking, actionable solutions, and unparalleled opportunities to build top-level relationships. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 2 – Jun 5 Sustainable Brands 2014 Discover what happens when brand strategists & designers connect with sustainability teams to drive innovation. 20% discount with code NW3pSB14sd. Register here.
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