Business Risks and Opportunities in a Carbon Surge Economy

Bill Roth | Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments
A supporter of climate change action holds up a sign at the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday.

A supporter of climate change action holds up a sign at the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday.

Business now operates within a carbon surge economy: Carbon surge — rapidly rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases —  is rapidly raising the risks and cost of doing business. Extreme weather tied to the carbon surge is reducing business revenues by disrupting customer access to stores and websites. Increasing evidence of climate change tied to the carbon surge is pushing consumers, especially the millennial generation, to question what they buy and who they buy from.

This consumer shift is threatening utility revenues while growing the sales of smart, energy efficient technologies. The net result is the emergence of an economy defined and shaped by carbon surge.

Carbon surge evidence

The World Meteorological Organization’s latest report finds that a carbon surge in climate-changing emissions has pushed atmospheric CO2 concentration to 142 percent of the pre-industrial era, with methane and nitrous oxide levels at 253 percent and 121 percent of pre-industrial levels. The ocean’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases may have reached its limits — with ocean acidification now at levels unseen for over 300 million years.

Carbon surge’s threat to business costs

A carbon surge economy is a costlier place to do business. Examples of how carbon surge and the inceased incidence of extreme weather are increasing business costs include:

  • Rising electricity and fossil fuel costs tied to increased regulation of climate changing pollution;
  • Increased commodity costs, plus increased price volatility, as extreme weather events disrupt or destroy supplies;
  • Increased property insurance tied to the increase in extreme weather damage claims;
  • Lost productivity due to electrical service disruption;
  • Lost productivity due to storm and weather related worker attendance disruptions.
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Work More and Warm Less: Integrating Jobs and Climate Solutions

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Participants carry signs at the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday. As Climate Week NYC continues, Robert Wolcott of Get America Working argues that climate change and jobs are inextricably linked.

Participants carry signs at the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday. As Climate Week NYC continues, Robert Wolcott of Get America Working argues that climate change and jobs are inextricably linked.

By Rob Wolcott

As citizens and world leaders converge on New York City seeking a way to address climate change, across the U.S. tens of millions are also out of work. The political challenge of achieving a climate policy consensus is hard. There is no broad agreement that the U.S. even has a climate problem. But there is bedrock consensus that we have an unemployment problem, and tackling it may be one of the best ways to help the climate.

Monthly jobs reports indicate U.S. unemployment a little over 6 percent, representing about 11 million people. But that ignores at least another 10 to 12 million Americans who want to work, but are so dejected by the lack of jobs that they have given up looking. The labor force participation rate (the percent of healthy, working-aged adults with jobs) is 62.8 percent, the lowest in 35 years. That means almost 40 percent of Americans are jobless — many by choice, but many, many others for lack of opportunities.

Factors driving this crisis include a skills/needs mismatch, labor-saving mechanization, globalization, a hangover from the Great Recession and a chronic, self-inflicted problem of double taxation of labor. On top of personal income taxes, our payroll taxes raise hiring costs and encourage employers to use more energy and less labor. Labor and energy/materials are relative substitutes in the overall economy: In general, the more a business uses one, the less it uses the other.

That’s why, even though at first glance jobs and climate seem to be distinct policy questions, they are in fact deeply intertwined. For more than a century through tax policy and other means, development and use of fossil fuels have been incentivized and subsidized. Today with only 5 percent of the global population, the U.S. consumes 20 percent of the world’s fossil fuels. Fees or taxes on energy would cut greenhouse gas emissions more efficiently than regulation, yet we’ve failed to put a price on carbon, and therefore failed to curb energy consumption driving climate change.

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Lyft, Uber Dethroning Taxi Industry in San Francisco

Mike Hower
| Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 7 Comments

taxi The San Francisco taxi industry is on the verge of being dethroned by transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Uber. Last week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) reported that the average trips per taxicab in the city had declined from 1,424 a month in March 2012 to only 504 as of July 2014 — a nearly 65 percent drop.

The taxi industry’s health “overall is being impacted clearly” by competing transportation network companies, said Kate Toran, director of Taxis and Accessible Services for the SFMTA.

Fueled by copious amounts of venture capital, Uber and Lyft have been locked in a vicious battle for the transportation throne. In a bitter conflict for users and drivers alike, the leading TNCs have left a festering taxi industry in their wake.

“There’s been a real reduction, but obviously this doesn’t tell the whole story. Part of the story is we don’t have hard data yet from the [transportation network companies'] side to really analyze the full impact on the streets and our air quality.”

Toran has approached the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about conducting a joint study with the SFMTA on the impacts of taxis and TNCs competing in the for-hire transportation industry. CPUC established the new business category in September 2013 and is responsible for regulating TNCs such as Uber and Lyft.

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Sustainable Seafood is On the Rise, New Reports Show

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

MSCAlthough 29 percent of the world’s oceans are overfished, 10 percent of global wild caught seafood comes from fisheries involved in the Marine Stewardship Council’s program. Since 1999, more than 220 fisheries have undergone independent assessments of their environmental sustainability, and those who have achieved MSC certification have made hundreds of improvements to their fishing practices. MSC-certified fisheries committed to making 600 additional improvements by 2020.

Two recently released MSC reports, the Global Impacts Report 2014 and the Annual Report 2013-14, show that there are more MSC-labeled products than ever before. Over the past five years the amount of MSC-labeled products have more than doubled. More than 23,000 products from MSC-certified fisheries were available in over 100 countries — a tenfold increased since 2009. The amount of fisheries participating in the MSC program with habitat and ecosystem impacts at or above best practice has increased from 71 percent in 2009 to 82 percent in 2013. The amount of fisheries in the MSC program with stocks mained at or above maximum sustainable levels has also jumped from 80 percent in 2009 to 94 percent in 2013.

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The Most Common CV and Resume Mistakes, Part 1: It’s All About Me

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

CV-resume-help-sustainabilityBy Shannon Houde

The most common mistake a job applicant can make is to think that their CV is all about them. As a sustainability career coach and former HR manager, I know this only too well. “But I can’t delete that sentence!” a client will cry. “That project 10 years ago was really important!” I hear it all the time and, frankly, yawn. Because guess what? You can extract parts of your history and still be okay. In fact, you will be more relevant and marketable.

No matter what your college career advisor told you, your CV is most definitely not about you. It’s a marketing tool. Therefore, it should be all about the market: appealing to the hiring manager, meeting the company’s needs, using the organization’s language, communicating what your audience wants to hear. A CV that goes into every tiny detail of your entire career history is absolutely not what a hiring manager wants to read. You have to do the screening work for them.

If you’re still not convinced, put yourself in their shoes: You’ve got 30 seconds to find out whether this person can do the job or not, what motivates them, whether they fit the company culture, and whether or not you want to work with them.

So if you want to avoid making this simple error, there is some work to do before you start writing your CV, and — counterintuitively — that work does start with you. Specifically, knowing yourself. The reason? By knowing yourself, you are in a better position to market and ultimately sell yourself. My bespoke framework was developed specifically for this purpose. It takes the pain out of the self-scrutiny by focussing on how you’d answer a hiring manager’s four key questions before they’ve even asked them, and I’m going to share it with you here.

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How B Corp Certification Helps Benchmark and Improve Performance

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is the seventh in a weekly series of excerpts from the upcoming book The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 13, 2014). Click here to read the rest of the series.

Example 16 - BIA Distribution copyBy Ryan Honeyman

Many B Corps report that one of the biggest benefits of the certification process is taking the B Impact Assessment, a free tool that measures the social and environmental performance of the entire company on a scale from zero to 200 points.

This enables any business to measure the impact of its operations on its workers, its community, and the environment; compare itself to its industry peers; and compete to improve its performance over time. The B Impact Assessment is particularly valuable because no matter how sustainable your business already is (or is not), you will undoubtedly find blind spots that you can address to further benefit your stakeholders.

“Before the B Impact Assessment, we struggled with aligning our internal processes and assuring our deep-thinking team members that the company was being guided for maximum impact. Now we have a road map and partners that help us establish effective governance practices and policies. Becoming a Certified B Corp put it all together for us.” —Regina Wheeler, CEO, Positive Energy Solar

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Companies Sign on to Report on Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

climate_change_monopoly_philip_taylor

As we’ve observed in several posts this week, one of the really beneficial outcomes of the increased focus on the United Nations summit on climate change, which launches today, has been the groundswell of companies that have been willing to publicly step up or announce their efforts to offset global warming.

The Climate Disclosure Standards Board and its consortium of signatories has actually been in place since 2007, but its most recent statement is an example of the kind of momentum that is continuing to gain speed from the private sector.

Members of the CDSB have agreed to “to report and make use of climate change information in mainstream corporate reports (such as an Annual Report) to support the U.N. climate change negotiations,” Michael Zimonyi, a Project Officer with the CDSB Secretariat, said in an email.

CDSB offers a suggested Climate Change Reporting Framework that will allow shareholders to have a better sense of how their investments impact or are impacted by climate change, but signatories are not required to use this framework. The CDSB signatories, says the announcement, “believe shareholders and plan beneficiaries have an inherent interest in the completeness and comparability of climate-related information available in annual and other mainstream corporate reports.” The reporting framework also has the support of the U.N. Environment Program.

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CGI Annual Meeting: When Confronting Climate Change is Good Economics

Sherrell Dorsey
| Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Clinton Global Initiative Climate Change EconomicsAddressing climate change comes down to simply implementing good business sense and long-term thinking about how we invest, build and support business growth around the globe. The Confronting Climate Change is Good Economics plenary session, presented at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting this week, drew consensus among notable panelists. They spoke to the changing values of companies and cities as it relates to planning effectively to leverage solutions that bridge both capital and climate change alleviation.

Highly appropriate after coming off a high from the People’s Climate March on Sunday, which drew an estimated 400,000 people from all over the world, this panel discussion accurately assessed the need for government, business and citizens to address greenhouse gas emissions and quality of life by aligning our actions to our most pressing issues.

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Volvo Introduces High-Performance Hybrid-Electric Bus

RP Siegel | Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Volvo_7900_Electric_Hybrid1 It’s common knowledge that getting people to use public transportation instead of driving cars will reduce carbon emissions. According to Transportation Nation, transit riders last year saved 4.7 billion gallons of gasoline. That adds up to 37 million metric tons of CO2 or 10 pounds of CO2 per ride.

Intercity buses, which are gaining in popularity, can potentially save even more. Using figures provided by Megabus, a completely full bus, which holds 77 passengers, emits 14 times less pollution per passenger than a typical automobile. Using those numbers, any bus with four or more passengers in it will emit less per passenger than a car.

The numbers for city transit buses, which are less efficient and are constantly starting and stopping, are not as good. According to the Department of Energy, city buses achieve an average of 31 passenger miles per gallon, which is less than a typical car carrying 1.55 passengers, and thereby achieving 39 passenger miles per gallon. That is, in part, due to the fact that a typical city bus is less than 25 percent full.

Clearly, getting more people to ride the bus regularly instead of driving cars is one way to curb carbon emissions. Another way is to make buses more efficient. On that note, there is some very good news to report.

Volvo just announced that its new 7900 Hybrid Electric Bus will be launched at the International IAA Commercial Vehicles show next week. The bus which, utilizes a 201 HP electric motor in conjunction with a lithium-ion battery, could be a game-changer. Because the bus can be run in silent, emission-free, all-electric mode for up to 4.3 miles at a time, that means the bus can be used indoors and out. This can positively impact air quality in bus stations and shelters which has been observed to be a problem, not to mention the air quality inside the buses themselves.

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Study: Enormous Gains to Be Had From Sustainable Urban Transport

| Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

HighShiftScenCvr Carbon dioxide emissions from urban transportation could be reduced by 40 percent by 2050 – eliminating an estimated 1,700 megatons of CO2 emissions per year – by expanding public transportation, cycling and walking in cities, according a report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the University of California, Davis. There’s much more to be gained, however.

At a time when public services are being cut, expanding public transportation, cycling and walking in cities could save over $100 trillion in cumulative public and private spending. In addition, an estimated 1.4 million early deaths per year could be avoided by 2050 “if governments require the strongest vehicle pollution controls and ultra-low sulfur fuels,” according to a related analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

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After March, 347 Institutional Investors Call for ‘Meaningful’ Carbon Pricing

| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

IIGCCrptcvrA coalition of nearly 350 global institutional investors are calling on world leaders to institute “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing.” They elaborate by calling for carbon pricing “that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.”

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) includes some of the world’s largest and most prominent institutional investors, including Australian CFSGAM, BlackRock, Calpers, Cathay Financial Holdings, Deutsche, PensionDanmark and South African GEPF. Collectively, the 347 institutional investors manage over $24 trillion in assets.

IIGCC’s call for meaningful carbon pricing and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies comes as world leaders meet for the U.N. Climate Summit this week to hammer out details of a global climate treaty and successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Making sure their presence is felt and their voices heard, over 300,000 people [ed. note: the crowd count has been raised to 400k] took part in the People’s Climate March in Manhattan on Sunday. Organized by a group of environmental, social justice and public interest organizations, the march kicked off Climate Week NYC. A week-long series of events and demonstrations, Climate Week NYC organizers are likewise calling on government leaders to institute strong climate change action plans that are seen as a means of realizing other key U.N. goals, including alleviating poverty and growing socioeconomic inequality.

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University of California Commits $1 Billion to Climate Research

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

University_California_climate_change_CharlieNguyenYesterday’s People’s Climate March was predicted to be a game-changer for climate policies across the globe. While nearly 400,000 attended to make their wishes known, unfortunately there can sometimes be a big divide between public demands and institutional action. One public entity in California is already making plans to dramatically increase its support for improved climate initiatives.

The University of California has announced that it will commit $1 billion to climate change research initiatives. And with a $91 billion portfolio behind it and some of the top researchers in climate technology on its payroll, the state university system is in a unique position to lend weight to this endeavor.

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The High and the Low: Climate Change Resiliency in NYC

| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a short series on creating resilient cities, sponsored by Siemens. Please join us for a live Google Hangout with Siemens and Arup on October 1, where we’ll talk about this issue live! RSVP here.

NYC climate resiliencyAs a coastal city with an inland water supply, New York City faces a unique set of challenges for climate change resiliency in a future marked by frequent, destructive coastal storms and rising sea levels.

In terms of clean water supply, New York has one advantage thanks to resiliency planning that dates back to the early 19th century. At that time, urban sprawl, commerce and industry quickly overwhelmed Manhattan’s patchwork of privately-owned wells after the Revolutionary War.

Rather than continuing to dig wells within the city, planners developed a system of reservoirs far inland at higher elevations, some as far as 125 miles away, relying almost exclusively on gravity-powered aqueducts and water tunnels. The incorporation of Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island into New York City was impelled partly by Manhattan’s lock on reliable, expandable inland water resources, as groundwater in those boroughs proved inadequate to sustain population growth. Only one group of public wells continued to serve part of Queens until 2007, when they, too, were finally put out of service.

The city’s wastewater resiliency, however, is a different story.

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Money Talks: The Big Switch to Sustainable Palm Oil

| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

sustainable palm oil Green CenturyWhen your pooled assets add up to more than $600 billion, people tend to pay attention when you write them a letter about sustainable palm oil. That seems to be the case in Friday’s announcement by five major palm oil producers, which pledged to self-impose an immediate moratorium on clearing high carbon stock forests.

The announcement came a week after four of the companies received a letter from a group of investors spearheaded by Green Century Capital Management, with collective assets topping the aforementioned $600 billion. In addition to calling for the moratorium, the Green Century letter urged the producers to adopt more sustainable palm oil practices, in accordance with a growing number of industry stakeholders.

Unfortunately, that’s where things could get sticky.

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Study: Cats, Cell Towers are More Deadly to Birds Than Wind Turbines

Alexis Petru
| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

wind turbinesWind energy has famously pitted environmentalists against each other – renewable energy and climate action advocates vs. wildlife conservationists concerned about wind turbines injuring or killing birds. But a new study, funded by the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), reveals that bird fatalities resulting from collisions with wind turbines are extremely low; in fact, cell towers and cats kill a far greater number of birds than wind turbines do, the peer-reviewed report found.

Wind turbines are responsible for an estimated 214,000 to 368,000 bird deaths each year, according to A Comprehensive Analysis of Small-passerine Fatalities from Collision with Wind Turbines at Wind Energy Facilities. This is a small fraction of bird fatalities compared with the 6.8 million annual deaths caused by collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 to 3.7 billion fatalities from cats, say the report’s authors, environmental consulting firm West, Douglas Johnson from the U.S. Geological Survey and Joelle Gehring of the Federal Communications Commission.

The report, which focuses on passerines (small birds such as songbirds), is the most comprehensive study of the impacts of wind turbines on small bird populations, said Taber Allison, AWWI director of research and evaluation, in a statement.

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