Is the Green Economic Revolution Too Late?

Bill Roth | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

6881485010_da66a9b933_zIn 2007 I first posted my research forecasting a multi-trillion dollar green economic revolution. By 2014, this projection has been realized with a global economy delivering price-competitive sustainable solutions like rooftop solar, LED lighting and organic food. So, why are we not celebrating?

The sobering reality is that this economic success appears to be too little and too late in terms of the latest scientific findings. The scientific community projects that the pace of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, now defined as a carbon surge, is pushing the world into irreversible human and economic damage. If our world and economy now stand on the cusp of irreversible climate change damage, then the question of the 21st century is whether there still remains a path toward a sustainable solution.

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Nathan Mackenzie Brown: Profile of an Impact Investor

| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Nathan Brown: Profile of an Impact Investor

Part of the problem or part of the solution?

“I think a lot of people blame the ‘top 1 percent’ for causing ‘big evil corporations’ to act in socially and environmentally unethical ways,” says Nathan MacKenzie Brown, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and impact investor — and one not prone to mince his words.

Brown doesn’t deny the consequences stemming from the concentration of wealth in the U.S. But the fact is that the spread of stock ownership has changed dramatically in the past 30 or 40 years. More Americans than ever before, 47 percent, own at least some stock.

“It certainly isn’t fair to blame the horrible behavior of corporations on the top 1 percent alone,” Brown says. “I think it is time for every one of us who puts money into an investment account for retirement to realize we are either part of the solution, or we are part of the problem.”

The task then, for those of us wishing to be part of the solution, is to reconcile our economic interests with our social values.

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Aligning the Head, Heart and Wallet: How Millennials and Women Drive Impact Investment

3p Contributor | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

money-tree-growing-startupBy Shilpi Chhotray

We all know the phrase “money makes the world go around.” What many involved in grassroots sustainability and social responsibility may not know is how impact investors are moving the needle on several key global issues, such as corporate transparency, sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment and arguably our greatest challenge — addressing a rapidly changing climate. Furthermore, these investors are focusing on pressing national issues like LGBT rights, affordable housing and millennial involvement in corporate decision-making.

For instance, investors from top wealth management firms like Timothy Smith, director of environmental, social and governance engagement at Walden Asset Management, are advocating for greater investment around climate policy at the state level.

As an active member of the environmental community, my perception of the financial industry has historically equated to visions of Wall Street: Ivy-league educated white men in dark suits with flashy Rolex watches, playing their obligatory role to generate profit, no matter what the global repercussions entail.  My recent attendance at the Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing (SRI) in Colorado Springs, however, made me rethink this stereotype and piqued my interest in solutions-based investing for positive community change.

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Philadelphia More Than Doubles Recycling Rate

Alexis Petru
| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

PhiladelphiaJust in time for last week’s America Recycles Day, the city of Philadelphia announced an impressive achievement in waste reduction: The City of Brotherly Love has increased the amount of materials it recycles by 155 percent over the past six years.

The city collected a record amount of recyclables – 128,000 tons – through its residential curbside recycling program, as well as from city buildings and public spaces during the latest fiscal year, according to the city’s recycling office and mayor’s office of sustainability. That means Philly kept 21 percent of its residential discards from ending up in the dump in the 2014 fiscal year – a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s diversion numbers.

Philadelphia’s recycling efforts had additional environmental benefits beyond the ones most commonly associated with recycling, such as keeping materials out of the landfill and saving resources by reprocessing goods already in the system. The city’s recycling program also cuts its carbon footprint by nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the city said in a statement.

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The Economics of Sustainable Coffee Production

3p Contributor | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

_MG_9384By Seda Kojoyan

Sustainability matters. And if you happen to be in the coffee business, it matters especially. In 2012, this market saw 40 percent of global production coming from sources that were certified or verified for sustainability. The latest State of Sustainability Initiatives Review confirms that “the landscape of sustainable coffee has been one of rapid transformation from a niche market to a fully recognized strategic business management tool,” according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Yet many challenges along the way make the road to achieving sustainability a difficult one for businesses. They include increased production costs, a perceived conflict between environmental needs and the bottom line, and weak governance and infrastructure in producer countries.

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Reverse Supply Chain Management ‘Closes the Loop’ on Waste

| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

take_back_recycling Some of the world’s largest multinational businesses have recognized the advantages ‘closing the loop’ on their supply chains can provide. From energy and water conservation to materials reuse and recycling, they’re achieving significant gains in operating efficiency and productivity as they move toward becoming ‘zero-waste‘ and ‘zero emissions’ businesses.

Mimicking natural ecosystems, commercial and industrial ecosystems are emerging — in which an increasing percentage of products, their components, and raw or intermediate materials are being reused or recycled. The ultimate goal — cradle-to-cradle product lifecycles in which all materials used to produce, package and distribute products to consumers are recaptured, reused or recycled — is edging closer to reality.

At the leading edge of this movement is a small group of companies operating in what has come to be known as reverse supply chain management. Aiming to close the loop on the supply chain, they’re advancing green economy initiatives by offering original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across a growing range of industries an integrated ‘one-stop shop’ for re-manufacturing, as well as reusing and recycling products, their constituent parts and raw materials.

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Five Years Later: Has There Been Sustainable Change in the Financial Services Sector?

Mary Mazzoni
| Saturday November 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Thought leaders assemble to discuss the future of the financial services industry at BSR '14.

Thought leaders assemble to discuss the future of the financial services industry at BSR ’14.

The 2014 BSR conference in New York City last week attracted thought leaders from all industries, who gathered to commiserate on timely topics like climate change, sustainability reporting and the circular economy. Of course, a substantial portion of attendees represented BSR member companies — a list that includes more than 250 multinationals that have pledged to “improve their sustainability performance.”

It may come as a surprise to you, but 15 percent of BSR members are part of the financial services industry. Less of a shock: This figure has grown significantly since the financial crisis of 2007-2008 (and continues to climb), as banks and investment firms struggle to rebuild from within and regain consumer trust.

As John Hodges, director of financial services for BSR, put it while moderating a panel discussion at the conference: The financial crisis marked “the only time in [BSR’s] 20-year history that an entire industry was going through a corporate responsibility crisis at the same time.”

After the dust settled, governments, advocacy groups and other stakeholders began to focus intensely on creating a more responsible financial services industry. But how much has really changed in the past five years? Do these companies interact differently with their clients on sustainability issues? Are they really modifying their core business practices in the interest of corporate social responsibility (CSR), or is this just another marketing game? These are only a few of the questions asked last Thursday in New York.

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3p Weekend: How 7 Companies Are Celebrating America Recycles Day

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Elementary students in Charlotte, North Carolina gear up for a recycling event sponsored by Repreve.

Elementary students in Charlotte, North Carolina gear up for a recycling event sponsored by Repreve.

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.

Tomorrow, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day — a national celebration promoting recycling organized by Keep America Beautiful. Eco-minded folks in communities across the country will mark the holiday by purging their homes of recyclable items and disposing of them responsibly. Top companies also plan to commemorate ARD by hosting recycling drives, spearheading education campaigns and offering friendly reminders of the importance of recycling.

1. Unifi

You may not know Unifi by name, but the Greensboro, North Carolina-based company is behind the Repreve recycled fiber brand, which appears in everything from clothes to car seats.

For America Recycles Day this year, Repreve is linking up with Marvel Universe LIVE! to raise awareness about the importance of recycling. The national initiative spearheaded by the two companies encourages children to take responsibility for recycling at home and in their everyday lives, teaching them that they can become ‘superheroes for the environment.’

Repreve and Marvel kicked off the multi-city initiative in Charlotte, North Carolina this week, teaming up with Charlotte–Mecklenburg Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of the greater Charlotte area and Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Division to host a city-wide recycling contest for youth.

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Kansas Wind to Power Yahoo’s Great Plains Operations

| Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Yahoo HQYahoo on Oct. 16 announced that it signed a 15-year partnership with OwnEnergy to develop a Kansas wind farm. Able to generate more than 100,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, the wind farm will feed into the Southwest Power Pool and offset much of Yahoo’s energy usage in the Great Plains region, according to joint press releases.

The Kansas wind farm is the latest demonstration of Yahoo’s commitment to local community development, as well as reducing its carbon and environmental footprints. “Although we are a global company, we are deeply invested in the communities in which we live and work,” Chris Page, Yahoo’s global director of energy and sustainability strategy, and Brett Illers, project manager of  sustainability and energy efficiency programs, wrote in a Yahoo Blog post.

“We are proud to support this type of community-centric energy project through direct engagements from mid-sized local wind farms.”

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Responsibility in the Fashion World Post Rana Plaza

3p Contributor | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2697297072_2189c83eda_zBy Elizabeth Dove and Liza Horowitz

The tremors of a crumbling building that killed 1,129 garment makers and maimed hundreds more in Bangladesh last year have been felt throughout the world. Every industry that relies on a supply chain with factories far from HQ is thinking about how to avoid such an impact on lives and reputation. This is true for no industry more so than the fashion world, which was stained in the tragedy and is under the spotlight in unflattering ways.

Members of the fashion industry from around the globe came together Nov. 3-4 in Toronto to reflect on what has changed, examine best practices and create visions of the future during the inaugural World Ethical Apparel Roundtable (#WEAR2014) put on by the dynamic Fashion Takes Action.

For each advancement post-Rana Plaza, opportunities for going further were identified.

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Toyota’s Social Innovation Umbrella

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Latondra Newton just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities. We sat down with Newton at Net Impact '14 to find out what that means.

Latondra Newton just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities. We sat down with Newton at Net Impact ’14 to find out what that means.

The 2014 Net Impact conference gathered like-minded people from all walks of life: Students, C-suite executives and members of the media sat side-by-side in panel discussions addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and folks from across industries mixed and mingled to inspire solutions to those challenges and more.

During the hustle and bustle of the conference, I had the chance to sit down with Latondra Newton of Toyota North America. She just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities, including philanthropy, community relations, and diversity and inclusion. She is also charged with overseeing the Toyota Mobility Foundation, which was created earlier this year to address mobility challenges around the world.

If it sounds like a tough job, that’s because it is, but Newton has met the challenge head on. During our chat, we touched on what social innovation means to Toyota and some of the company’s far-reaching community relations programs — some of which were even news to me. For example, did you know Toyota’s manufacturing processes helped streamline food delivery after Hurricane Sandy? I surely didn’t.

Read on for that story and more.

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Food Cowboy Lassoes Food Waste

RP Siegel | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

FoodCowboy_logo smallOne of the great (and sometimes not so great) things about our modern, hyper-connected world is that we have become much better at keeping track of people and things. That provides the opportunity to not only recognize how incredibly wasteful our society is, but also to do something about it.

One of the areas in which we are incredibly wasteful is food. We talked about that here last week and disclosed the fact, as originally reported by the National Consumer League, that 40 percent of the food grown in this country is wasted. Some readers had a hard time believing that which is understandable.

Putting these two things together is Food Cowboy, a company started in 2012 that uses mobile technology “to safely route surplus food from wholesalers and restaurants to food banks and soup kitchens instead of to landfills.”

The company was founded by Roger Gordon, a lawyer and former caterer; his brother Richard, a long-haul produce trucker; and Barbara Cohen, Ph.D., the author of the USDA’s Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit.

If you check out this video on Food Cowboy’s website, you will begin to understand what happens. Most of the produce sold in this country is delivered by truck. Truckers usually make their deliveries between midnight and 6 a.m. Palettes or sometimes even entire truckloads are often refused for cosmetic purposes — the potatoes have too many eyes or are the wrong shape, or the tomatoes are too close to being ripe. The truckers need to make room in their trucks for their next load, and given that they are often in unfamiliar locations in the middle of the night, they have little choice but to discard this food in a dumpster or a landfill.

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Brand Owners Want Sustainable Packaging: Two Key Lessons for Environmental Leaders

3p Contributor | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

multi material-blue-box-recyclingBy Elisabeth Comere

Recycling is intrinsically linked to sustainability. We will always produce material things in some form, and it will serve us best in the long run if we can put those materials back into productive use. Recycling is an essential component for minimizing our dependence on natural resources, and it contributes to advancements in market development and green technologies. But recycling has gone beyond accepted to expected, and that fact invites us to address other key variables which contribute to a circular materials economy.

Long-term success requires action on both ends of the spectrum. What we need is a two-pronged approach to achieve our economic and environmental objectives. First, we must move toward a circular materials economy, a system that addresses resource limitations by radically improving resource efficiency from the beginning of the product lifecycle. Second, we should use a lifecycle analysis to make informed decisions around product packaging design — one which considers recyclability and renewability.

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How Cities Should Invest for Future Economic and Environmental Vitality

3p Contributor | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

buildingBy Cathy Palmer

Cities are the driving force behind the global economy: According to McKinsey, just 600 cities are responsible for 60 percent of the global gross domestic product – and the number of people living in cities is expected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2010 to 6.3 billion in 2050.

What strategies can cities adopt to plan, build and maintain themselves as centers of innovation and economic growth?

Design trends for future cities

Before discussing investment strategies, it’s worth considering why cities have been growing for the last 5,000 years. In short, it’s because they have proven to be an incredibly durable and productive economic model. The shift to urban living is helping to increase the incomes and purchasing power for millions around the world.

Infrastructure plays a critical role in a city’s success, providing the energy, water, transportation, waste management and access to food and manufactured goods. Vital to a city’s well-being, infrastructure supports more than basic needs; it encourages the ability to interact, communicate with ease and share ideas – the fundamental basics of innovation and future economic growth.

Today people move to cities for many reasons, including access to jobs, schools, services and culture. What will the city of the future look like? Quality of life is likely to be even more important in years to come, and factors like sustainability, resiliency, energy efficiency, quality housing and schools, safety, and even happiness will be requirements. Cities will be adaptive, collaborative, walkable, and everyone will have access to public services and public transportation.

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Largest Solar Power Plant in Africa Flips the Switch

Leon Kaye | Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 72 Comments
Solar, Jasper, South Africa, Solar Reserve, Kensani Group, Intikon Energy, Google, Leon Kaye, clean energy, renewables

The Jasper solar power plant in northern South Africa is now the continent’s largest.

With seven of the world’s fastest growing economies located in Africa, it should not be a surprise that the continent’s energy demands will only surge in the coming decade. Hence plenty of opportunities exist for clean energy companies as investors worldwide realize Africa, with all of its risks, is a booming market. To that end, California-based Solar Reserve, together with numerous partners, has completed and launched the Jasper PV Project in South Africa.

Built in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, the Jasper solar power plant is now the largest of its kind on the African continent. The consortium that led the development of the Jasper facility included the Kensani Group, Intikon Energy, Rand Merchant Bank and Google. Incidentally, the Jasper plant is Google’s first clean energy investment within Africa.

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