I don’t know if it was the cold winter or what, but we suddenly seem to be seeing mass defections from the climate denial bandwagon. Last week it was the former chairman of Shell U.K. This week it’s Henry Paulson, who served as Treasury Secretary during the George W. Bush administration. Paulson was instrumental in that administration’s response to the financial meltdown, a situation he draws as parallel to the climate crisis in a New York Times Op-ed entitled, “The Coming Climate Crash.”
Speaking specifically about climate change, Paulson says: “This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course.”
You would think that as a former Secretary of the Treasury, his call for a carbon tax would be enough to convince his fellow Republicans that not only is this the most effective way to address the issue, but also that the time for procrastination has passed. But Paul Krugman, writing in his response, says: “Every economist I know would start cheering wildly if Congress voted in a clean, across-the-board carbon tax. But that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. A carbon tax may be the best thing we could do, but we won’t actually do it.”
Krugman says that the health care crisis is actually a better parallel to climate change than the financial crisis. Back in 2008, the administration held the specter of an imminent (and plausible) worldwide financial collapse potentially only days away with which to drive urgent and dramatic action. Climate change is very different as it has revealed and will continue to reveal itself slowly, over a period of decades, at the end of which it will be far too late to do anything but brace for the impact.
Target’s 2013 sustainability report says the ultimate definition of a sustainable business means investing in the “ongoing well-being” of its customers, team, shareholders and communities.
Even during a time of growth and challenges, that is the continuing priority, says John Mulligan, interim president and CEO, EVP and chief financial officer. “It’s not about ‘going green.’ It’s about making sure the partnerships we take, the processes we follow and the products we sell are helping us create long-term value that goes beyond Target and into the communities we serve.”
TriplePundit readers have long heard of the concept of “zero waste,” but what does this term actually mean? It turns out there are a variety of ways the term “zero waste” is defined with the strictest being zero waste to landfill. On June 24th we hosted an online conversation with leaders in the field of zero waste. We discussed why zero waste is such an important concept and got into the details of UL Environment’s validation process.
Lately I’ve been swept up in the startup fever that has captured the imagination of my town and many like it, all hoping for a taste of what Silicon Valley is having.
These encounters beg the question of why innovation matters, here and now, in the current context of our ecological, social and economic reality. For our innovations to truly matter, they will have to solve big, planetary problems and not just sell more stuff. To that end, here are some guidelines that I think we innovators should consider if we wish to shed our short-termism and innovate for the long haul.
The Launch 2020 project, a collaboration of NASA, Nike and others, is seeking game-changing solutions to sustainability challenges that can scale in 2 years.
By Sally Uren
At Forum for the Future, we believe all brands have the potential to be the solution, rather than the problem, when it comes to creating serious change. We also believe that brands could flourish in a sustainable economy.
Take Nike: Nike realized early on that by providing solutions to some key sustainability challenges, it could both do the right thing and secure its future prosperity. Switching out carbon for nitrogen in some of its key materials, was the first step; then came Nike Better World, designed to take sustainability to the mainstream. Then the company joined forces with NASA on the Launch 2020 project, an open innovation competition to find game-changing solutions to sustainability challenges that can scale in 2 years.
I believe that brands, as shown by Nike, have the potential to shift entire systems, not just simply change small individual practices, to ensure a sustainable future. Here are three key ways brands can deliver solutions to sustainability issues and create real, enduring change:
Every sustainable development consultant has found themselves in a conversation with a client desperate to preemptively or defensively placate civil society groups. I’ve been in countless conversations with clients and colleagues who roll their eyes at the mere mention of an NGO group and strategize as if they were preparing to negotiate a hostage crisis.
As a practitioner who has worked extensively with businesses — but started off my career in human rights advocacy — I understand the tension between stakeholders and businesses. Stakeholders can slow project completion, advocate for regulatory hurdles or demolish a business reputation in a matter of hours. It’s how they push change forward.
I like to think of stakeholders as an integral part of a system of checks and balances, there to ensure that economic growth occurs in a sustainable way that benefits the largest segment of the population as possible. Whether or not you agree with the activities of NGOs, there is one thing for certain: They are here to stay.
Editor’s Note: To learn the basics of SolarCoin and catch up on the first five posts in this series, check out the SolarCoin page at theblisspoint.org.
By Sam Bliss
Our energy systems must transition away from fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate chaos. What’s more, this shift to carbon-free energy has to happen fast — even more quickly than the rate at which renewables are currently replacing oil, gas and coal.
SolarCoin is a novel strategy for accelerating investment in solar power. If it scales up – meaning that people begin treating SolarCoins as money — then it could work toward achieving the clean energy economy we need to save the climate.
But it’s not inherently socially equitable. In fact, as I show in SolarCoin and social equity, part I, SolarCoin has the scary potential to contribute to accelerating the growth of wealth inequality.
There are two ways to be eligible to claim SolarCoins: you can have a roof or yard with solar panels or you can own a solar project with capacity greater than ten kilowatts (kW). (The cutoff was set at 10 kW to distinguish household solar systems from commercial arrays.) Each megawatt (MW) of solar electricity generated earns one SolarCoin.
Beyond claiming SolarCoins for generating electricity, there’s a third method for getting some of the digital money: you can trade for them in online currency markets.
All three ways to acquire SolarCoins for your digital wallet present substantial barriers to the poor. People with no roofs, no yards, no access to credit, and no dollars to trade (nor experience using the interwebs for currency exchange) stand to benefit most from holding SolarCoins, especially if they get them while they’re cheap and the currency gains value in the future. Yet society’s least wealthy populations have scarcely any chance to put up solar panels, own a solar power installation, or trade for SolarCoins online.
Fortunately, there are ways to increase access to SolarCoins through each of these pathways.
Can a corporation pray? Can it attend religious services? Is it free to don religious garb? In other words, can a corporation exercise religion? All of those are questions raised by the Hobby Lobby case (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and the related case, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius), likely to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming days. More specifically, the issue facing the Court is whether a for-profit corporation be exempt from the Affordable Care Act (also called ACA or Obamacare) requirement that all companies cover certain FDA-approved birth control methods and devices as part of the health insurance packages offered to their workers.
This essential question has been percolating in the federal appeals courts for some time and has resulted in what is referred to as a circuit split – three circuit courts have struck down the contraception coverage rule, while two others have upheld it. This means the federal appeals courts (the highest in the land below the Supreme Court) don’t really know what to do with this aspect of the ACA and the Supreme Court should step in and clarify.
The featured challenger in this case, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is a chain of arts and crafts stores owned by the Green family (devout Southern Baptists, apparently), the members of which have committed to run the company according to Christian religious principles. Hobby Lobby doesn’t have a problem offering its employees insurance that covers most forms of birth control, it only objects to the coverage of drugs and/or devices that “end human life after conception.”
The four “Big Food” companies — the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers — allege that Vermont’s newly minted law contravenes federal law and cites the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the right of free speech and the commerce clause. It also cites the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment for Act 120’s “vagueness” in its prohibition of the use of certain words, such as natural, and other descriptors that the Vermont law has deemed confusing to consumers.
In the new world of fashion, smart solutions are solving some of the most pressing issues when it comes to apparel production.
Retailers and designers are abandoning antiquated models of forecasting and yearlong design planning processes in favor of high-tech business platforms that empower the consumer as both buyer and style dictator. The proliferation of brands adopting user-generated, or “crowdsourced,” solutions such as Kickstarter and Krush to bestow their latest designs on the masses benefit greatly from predicting needs, scaling production and receiving upfront payments before ever hitting the cutting room floor.
Today’s online retail environment presents several opportunities for discovery and environmental stewardship. Audience engagement early in the design process provides customer agency and early adoption. By leveraging crowdsourcing as a feedback tool for production prediction, designers reduce risk and long-term environmental impact from over-production.
“Fashion crowdsourcing is the Internet-era combination of two venerable retail strategies: satisfying demand and building customer loyalty,” explained Susan Scafidi, professor and academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School in New York City to DailyFinance.
A groundbreaking initiative launched in Panama highlights the role agroforestry can play in promoting sustainable socioeconomic growth, combating climate change and enhancing the value of ecosystems.
Establishing a precedent-setting alliance, ANCON (Panama’s Association for the Conservation of Nature), the Panama Association for Reforestation (ANARAP), and the Panama Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (CCIAP) on June 17 announced a sweeping project that envisions forestation or reforestation of 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of land.
Dubbed the “Alliance for 1 Million,” the 20-year forestation project has three main goals: strengthen sustainable development of Panama’s forestry sector; help realize the goals elaborated in Panama’s National Forestry Plan; and help Panama meets its pledge to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by capturing as much as 7 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
Iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson Motor Co. is launching its first electric motorcycle. Calling it Project LiveWire, the company gave the public the first glimpse of the motorcycle at an invitation-only event on Monday in New York, the Associated Press reports. Select customers will then be able to ride the motorcycle and provide feedback. The bike is not yet for sale.
Harley-Davidson will kick off a 2014 U.S. tour of the bike with a trip down Route 66, visiting more than 30 dealerships along the way through the end of the year. Next year, the Project LiveWire Experience will continue in the U.S. and will be expanded into Canada and Europe.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a serious condition that affects about 1 in 100 children, and is caused by alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. Alaska is taking an innovative approach to reducing FAS: A $400,000 University of Alaska project will put free pregnancy tests in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants across the state, starting in December. For more than 12 months, at least 50,000 tests will be distributed, the University Herald reports. Alaska has the highest rate of FAS among all states.
Nationwide, half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and 59 percent of women in the U.S. between the ages of 18 to 44 report drinking alcohol. Binge drinkers have a much higher rate of unplanned pregnancies and binge drinking is more prevalent in cold climates.
The researchers will place the pregnancy tests in three cities and rural hubs with messages about preventing FAS on both the dispensers and tests. Other cities in Alaska will display framed messages on the walls of bar restrooms but will not have free pregnancy tests. First proposed by Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Alaska) in March, the project will help to determine if posters warning pregnant women not to drink or pregnancy test dispensers are more effective. Bar customers and staff will be interviewed by researchers.
First published in 1996, the ISO 14001 standard has grown to become the best known framework for environmental management. Developed by global consensus, it provides a best practice benchmark for organizations of any size, in any sector. Used in supply chains throughout the world, the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) review their standards on an ongoing basis to ensure they are still relevant and effective in a rapidly evolving world.
In 2013, ISO conducted the ‘ISO 14001 Continual Improvement Survey,’ the results of which helped form the basis of a draft of the new, updated standard. Garnering feedback from thousands across 110 countries, ISO’s desired outcomes were to find out what value users got from the standard, together with the areas that ISO 14001 needed to strengthen in order to meet future challenges. Below, we look at the expected changes which will finally result in ISO 14001:2015.
Online: Aug 5 Kimberly-Clark & Greenpeace The chat will cover topics such as how K-C and Greenpeace resolved their differences five years ago, what they've achieved since, how their relationship thrives, and where the two are moving next. Register here.
San Francisco: Sep 2 – Sep 5 SOCAP 2014 Dedicated to increasing the flow of capital toward social good. Our unique approach emphasizes cross-sector convening and gathers voices across a broad spectrum to catalyze unexpected connections. Register here.
: Sep 11 – Sep 12 NewCo San Francisco San Francisco’s most innovative companies will open their doors to executives, entrepreneurs, investors, and future influencers. Discount to VIP reception with code "TriplePunditSF2014"Register here.
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
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