What are perovskites?Perovskite is a relatively inexpensive mineral composed of calcium titanate (titanate is a salt composed of titanium and oxygen). It is attracting attention in the renewable energy space for its semiconductor properties.
The Department of Energy announced $10 million in new research and development (R&D) funding for six research teams during the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit 2014 two weeks ago. The teams will use the funds to develop cheap, efficient thermochemical energy storage (TCES) solutions for utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. For at least two of the six, perovskite minerals are to serve as the energy storage medium.
Finding a cheap, efficient means of storing energy produced by CSP plants would be a major milestone for the fast-growing renewable energy sector, and that’s probably an understatement. Perovskites may be more than the key to cheap energy storage for CSP, however.
A class of lamellar organic-inorganic minerals found in igneous and metamorphic rocks, perovskites have generated intense interest among photovoltaic (PV) energy researchers as well.
A semiconductor, perovskite PV cells can essentially be “painted” on to almost any type of surface – flexible or rigid. Solar PV researchers having been making significant strides in boosting the energy conversion efficiency and lowering the cost of producing perovskite PV cells, leading one prominent researcher to assert that they “are poised to ‘break the prevailing paradigm.’”
I recently came across a line of roofing tiles advertised as “lower carbon footprint.” This nebulous claim begged a string of questions. Lower than what? How much lower? What scopes of emissions are included in the carbon footprint? Was it verified by a third party? Of course, none of this information was provided, because the statement was a classic example of greenwashing: a claim so vague that it cannot be proven or disproven.
Greenwashing is rampant. Overzealous marketers know that sustainability is gaining importance in the minds of consumers and corporate buyers, and they sometimes make claims that are vague, misleading, unquantifiable, or even completely immaterial to the product or industry. Bogus or unsubstantiated statements like “all-natural,” “eco-friendly,” and even “sustainable” are all too easy to find on everyday products, from cleaners to shampoos to paints.
The green building industry is a hotbed for greenwashing, reflecting the fact that green building is defined by a dizzying array of attributes. These attributes range from the material ingredients and relative toxicity of products, to the environmental impact of material extraction, to the actual performance of the building itself in its energy, water and resource usage.
To tamp down this greenwashing and spur environmental innovation, overarching green building standards such as LEED, Green Globes, and GreenPoint Rated have gained wide prominence. Their aim is to assess the “greenness” of buildings based on a comprehensive set of factors, as determined by third-party auditors. Underlying this building-level recognition are product- or material-specific certifications. Certified products or materials often bear a seal, or “ecolabel.” Architects, developers, designers, and manufacturers can look to these certification programs and ecolabels in order to meet criteria for green building standards.
Social media can be a social entrepreneur’s best friend — a fascinating, engaging best friend, but a demanding one too. How can a busy person make the most of it without becoming its slave? In my work as a sustainability career coach, I’ve learned that social media is the most powerful tool at my disposal to market my services and leverage my brand. It’s definitely not optional. And while it’s easy to use, using it well is not so easy.
Here’s a little about my experience using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogs to build a sustainability business. I’m no expert, but by sharing what works for me, maybe I can help you gain insight on what might work for you.
By Darrell Brown, Phil Berko, Patrick Dedrick, Brie Hilliard, and Joshua Pfleeger
Jack Graves is considering buying chicken. More precisely, Jack is considering where to buy chicken. He needs to make a recommendation to the purchasing team soon, and the decision is complicated. Jack is a long-time employee of the Burgerville restaurant chain, a quick-serve restaurant chain in the northwestern U.S.
Burgerville prides itself in being true to its long-held values while maintaining profitability and growth. Graves’ primary job at Burgerville is to assure that the company’s values are embedded in all its actions, including its relationships to its supply chain. His current concern is the dilemma of which values to promote. Burgerville sells chicken, lots of chicken. So the purchase of chicken has significant impacts on the social and environmental impacts of Burgerville’s supply chain. Should Burgerville buy local, with the inherent social and environmental benefits, while paying attention to concerns about labor issues, animal treatment, and non-organic stewardship? Or should it find a supplier with some assurance that these potential problems are eliminated, regardless of location?
Corporate sustainability strategies are evolving and it is no longer enough to get our own house in order. We must look beyond the boundaries of our own operations and consider the social and environmental impacts of the entire value chain from material sourcing through to recycling. This is not a call for altruism, but rather a prerequisite for long term business continuity and a greater competitive advantage.
Over the next 20 years, the global middle class will increase to an estimated three billion putting more pressure on an already fragile and resource constrained environment. It is crucial for companies to shift their mindset from individualistic “wins” to holistic “triumphs” hence, invest into resource efficient value chains with bigger ambitions and better returns. The theoretical approach I speak of is collaboration, a method used to consider opportunities, assess risks, set targets for sourcing, reducing our carbon emissions and material recovery to build a secure and resilient supply chain while creating long-term value for our customers.
To remain competitive and bring long term value to customers, we need to develop new and innovative products while delivering cost and operational efficiencies. We need to support customers to avoid regulatory risks (i.e. packaging bans) and raise public awareness around renewability and recycling in order to increase packaging recovery rates – which will ultimately help further their brand equity. I believe these are needs that not only face Tetra Pak, but many other companies as well. Nevertheless, they are big tasks; none of which can be tackled alone. However if we function in symbiosis with our suppliers, customers, business partners and other stakeholders, we can develop a sustainable supply chain and accomplish our goals.
Establishing effective and sustainable collective actions is easier said than done. Competitive interests, dissimilar organizational cultures, and conflicting objectives are just a few factors that can undermine success. With careful planning, these pitfalls can be avoided.
The fashion business is close to being a $2 trillion industry globally, and with a growing population predicted to reach 9 billion people by 2050, demand for apparel is going to only grow as we head into the future.
The strain on resources to meet burgeoning demand has smart businesses in the industry taking a long-term view as to how the fashion landscape will be forced to change, since those constraints are almost certainly going to disrupt the business-as-usual model we have today, which is often of an industry built around a cheap and disposable product.
So how will peering into the future drive the industry to adapt to growing resource constraints, and how will this impact the design process to make the fashion industry more sustainable? Furthermore, how will the next generation of fashion designers respond, and drive the industry to meet the challenge?
Seafood is one of the most popular food choices for Americans, with the United States coming in only behind China as the largest consumer of seafood in the world. What many people don’t know, however, is how complex of a path our seafood travels in the supply chain, with little to no information making it to the final point of sale. This lack of information can cause confusion for consumers, and also increases opportunities for illegal activities like seafood fraud, where seafood is misrepresented in any number of ways, including swapping out one fish for a completely different species. The key to stopping this bait and switch is traceability, or tracking seafood from the fishing boat to your dinner plate.
Traceability is an important issue for all food, but seafood is of particular concern, as the recordkeeping and tracking systems in the seafood supply chain have historically lagged behind other food industries like produce and beef. Seafood fraud can happen for a variety of reasons, but most often for financial gain, as it’s been found that commonly swapped species like grouper and wild salmon can cost up to twice as much as their cheaper counterparts. This fraud can happen at any step of the supply chain – from the fishermen, to the processor, or even by the restaurant itself. Seafood fraud undermines consumer and industry sustainability practices and can result in a myriad of health problems. It also hurts honest fishermen and businesses that play by the rules and are undercut by illegally caught and fraudulently labeled fish flooding the U.S. market.
Last year, Oceana released one of the largest seafood fraud studies in the world, which found that 33 percent of more than 1,200 fish samples from across the nation were mislabeled according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
It can’t be all of that, can it? The volume of the punditry and spinning on this one is shrill, and the scope of the alarmed, breathless opinion and analysis by the “very serious people” about Seattle’s bold move obscures the bottom line: A region is trying to do the right thing for its workers in these parlous economic times. (Conflict of interest alert: The author lives in — and loves — Seattle.)
Tejas and his family. This 10-year-old was forced to leave school and work in the cotton fields in India alongside his parents to supplement the family’s earnings. Today, thanks to a Child Protection Committee established in his village, Tejas goes to school regularly.
The first phase of this long-term program, started in 2009, impacted more than 1,800 villages and 600,000 children in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The second phase aims to reach more than 790,000 children in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children, said, “We will work closely with panchayat (village) leaders, farmers, teachers, families and Indian state officials, to provide children with access to quality education, improve teacher training and develop local child protection committees and school management committees.” New to phase II, the program will also address gender-based discrimination.
April marked a milestone for forest carbon projects when the California Air Resources Board issued the first forest carbon offsets to a project developed under their forestry protocol.
The Yurok Tribe Sustainable Forest Project improves forest management on approximately 8,000 acres of tribal land in Humboldt County. By registering the project and selling carbon offsets in California’s cap-and-trade system, the Yurok Tribe has made a long-term legal commitment to not only maintain forest carbon stocks, but to increase storage of carbon through improved forest management. These practices enable sustainable timber production, and promote preservation of cultural values and ecological function. Improved management is also key to preserving important habitat for Coho and Chinook salmon, with additional benefits to other imperiled species.
“This forest carbon project enables the Tribe to help transition these acres back into a tribally managed natural forest system where wildlife and cultural resources like tanoak acorns, huckleberry, and hundreds of medicinal plants will thrive,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke, Sr. Chairman of the Yurok Tribe, as reported by Gloria Gonzalez in Ecosystem Marketplace.
Can business be a force for good — restoring society and the environment and providing solutions that genuinely help rather than hurt? Ought business to be striving for more than just limiting its harm? I think we intuitively know it can, yet it requires courage to break rank from our mainstream approach and current mindset.
The prevailing business paradigm of maximization, self-interest and short-termism is weakening its own resilience, in turn sowing the seeds of its own demise. Our prevalent business concepts, values, perceptions and practices are being disrupted and systemically challenged. Put simply ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option for those wishing to thrive in the volatile times ahead.
As individuals and organizations, we can either a) retrench (clinging fearfully to outdated mindsets) or b) transform (embracing new ways of operating). It reminds me of the ancient Chinese Proverb:
In times of great winds, some build bunkers others build windmills.
Organizations have little option other than to seek out opportunities in these volatile times, adapt and evolve to what the book “The Nature of Business” refers to as ‘firms of the future’ – businesses more akin to living organisms than mechanistic monoliths designed for the Industrial Era. These firms of the future can take inspiration from nature at all levels within their strategies and operations.
Given our dependence on the products of highly sophisticated science, engineering and technology, it’s easy to pay short shrift, or look askance, at the value of traditional indigenous knowledge. To be sure, the depth and scope of our knowledge has advanced rapidly. Yet, this type of arrogance, or hubris, not only takes away all that could be gained scientifically and socially from an unplumbed yet certainly rich cultural heritage, but may leave us more open to being blindsided by “black swans.”
Traditional indigenous knowledge, as well as human resources, holds particularly high value with regard to ecological and species conservation, and efforts to preserve rapidly diminishing biodiversity. Still directly connected with natural ecosystems for their livelihoods, the practical, everyday ethics, values and attitudes of traditional indigenous cultures can also inform and motivate our quest to enhance the overall sustainability of modern life and society, and add shared value and meaning to them.
Looking to tap into and incorporate traditional indigenous knowledge into its institutional framework, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES) convened an international expert workshop on the contribution of indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) to IPBES in Tokyo June 9-11.
Editor’s Note: To learn the basics of SolarCoin and catch up on the first four posts in this series, check out the SolarCoin page at theblisspoint.org.
By Sam Bliss
SolarCoin rewards solar power producers. The early adopters of a technology that helps slow climate change and brings clean electric power to new people deserve a reward, right?
Handing out digital cash to people with solar panels can benefit our electricity systems and the environment, but there might be more equitable ways to incentivize clean energy.
New SolarCoins enter the online “money supply” when they’re granted to the residents of a property with a solar installation or to the owners of a large solar project. In essence, a new piece of electronic money is created and then given to someone who has enough money to own or lease a solar system.
SolarCoins offer a new source of income — and eventually wealth — that can be accessed most easily by those who already have plenty of income or wealth.
For people without solar panels or investments, on the other hand, the only way to get some of this newly created value is by exchanging another currency like dollars or Bitcoin for SolarCoin in an online currency exchange. As of yet, there’s no way to turn dollars or any other national currency directly into SolarCoins; one must get bitcoins first and then trade for SolarCoins.
There’s no shortage of ideas on how cities can transform their infrastructure, yet nearly all cities have limited access to funds and ways of financing such plans. Some even lack the most basic legal and institutional frameworks to facilitate access to finance from the capital markets. So what is the best way to enable the financing and delivery of the critical urban infrastructure needed for them to become cities of the future?
Join TriplePundit live on Google’s hangout platform to discuss “Investor Ready Cities”.
TriplePundit attended Sustainable Brands 2014 in San Diego this month. These videos are part of our coverage. Find the rest here.
Jeremiah Owyang is one of the most interesting people I had a chance to meet at last week’s Sustainable Brands conference. An analyst by trade, Jeremiah now runs a network called Crowd Companies who propose to “bring empowered people and resilient brands together to collaborate for Shared Value.” Specifically, this shared value springs from embracing the “collaborative economy” – a meta term for business models built on shared ownership and access. It’s a somewhat more inclusive description of most of what we talk about when we talk about the sharing economy.
In this quick interview, I asked Jeremiah to talk about the collaborative economy – why it’s important, why it’s both a threat and an opportunity for traditional companies, and what it has to do with sustainability.
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.
Boston: Sep 24 – Sep 26 SB New Metrics 2014 Define your success in the new economy with expanded methods for measuring risk and identifying new forms of value. Discount code: NW3pNM14Register 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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