Interview: Dan Persica, Domtar

| Wednesday June 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

TriplePundit attended Sustainable Brands 2014 in San Diego this month. These videos are part of our coverage. Find the rest here.

We’ve been getting to know the paper industry a bit better in the past year. It’s always refreshing to hear a first hand account of what sustainability means for a fiber or paper company.  Last week at Sustainable Brands 2014, I had a chance to talk to Dan Persica of Domtar. Specifically we discussed Domtar’s earth choice brand and how it has evolved over time as well as some of the ways that Domtar is tracking sustainability metrics and what the future holds.

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Investor Ready Cities: From London to Rio de Janeiro

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ed note: This article is part of a short series on financing smart city infrastructure, sponsored by Siemens. Please join us for a live Google Hangout with SiemensPwC and Berwin Leighton Paisner on June 12 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, where we’ll talk about this issue live! RSVP Here.

The ‘Metro Cable, Linea K' cable car in Colombia stretches 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) into the neighborhood of Santo Domingo -- creating a link directly from the city center into one of the city’s poorest areas.

The ‘Metro Cable, Linea K’ cable car in Medellin, Colombia stretches 1.2 miles into the neighborhood of Santo Domingo — creating a link directly from the city center to one of the city’s poorest areas.

Yesterday, we went over a few success stories told in timely and valuable report from Siemens, PwC and  Berwin Leighton Paisner. Entitled Investor Ready Cities: How cities can and deliver infrastructure value, the report examines in some detail how cities that have “the appropriate foundations of institutional stability can leverage financial mechanisms to their advantage to help deliver the infrastructure that is so critical to their future.”

Here are three more inspiring snapshots that tell the story of cities moving towards a more sustainable future.

Medellin

The second-largest city in Colombia, with a population of nearly 2.2 million in 2005, saw a threefold increase in population over a 20-year period. This came at a time when governance and power was concentrated at the national level and control of financing was distributed to nationally important projects. As a result, informal settlements appeared on the city fringes and up onto the precarious hillsides that surround the city, leaving residents disconnected from the commercial heart of the city and the employment opportunities they had sought to access.

“Poor infrastructure and lack of opportunity led to Medellin experiencing some of the highest levels of crime endured by any city across the globe,” according to the report.

In 1991, a new constitution increased the influence and powers of municipal governments. For Medellin, this meant the power, authority and responsibility to tackle these issues through strategic intervention that was to literally change the city landscape.

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Employee Engagement: The ‘Human Thread’ Between Sustainability and Results

Mary Mazzoni
| Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Andy Savitz, author of, speaks about employee engagement at SB'14 in San Diego on June 3.

Andy Savitz, author of “Talent, Transformation and the Triple Bottom Line,” speaks about employee engagement at SB’14 in San Diego on June 3.

The 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego gathered some of the most influential companies, organizations and thought leaders in the sustainability space. During the event, one unexpected theme arose over and over: employee engagement and its role in corporate sustainability.

A recent PwC study found that more than half of recent college graduates are seeking a company that has corporate social responsibility (CSR) values that align with their own, and 56 percent would consider leaving a company that didn’t have the values they expected. As Andy Savitz, author of “Talent, Transformation and the Triple Bottom Line,” put it in a panel discussion on Tuesday: “They’re looking for purpose, not just a paycheck.”

While some business leaders may have a first-instinct shrug when it comes to employee engagement, it offers scores of benefits for companies. In a 2012 report that compiled 263 research studies across 192 companies, Gallup found that companies in the top quartile for engaged employees, compared with the bottom quartile, had 22 percent higher profitability, 10 percent higher customer ratings, 28 percent less theft and 48 percent fewer safety incidents.

In a panel discussion on Tuesday, Desso CEO Alexander Collog d’Escury called employees a company’s “most important resource,” while Savitz identified employee engagement as “the human thread between sustainability, the triple bottom line and business results.”

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Farmers Insurance Drops Climate Change Lawsuits Against Chicago-Area Cities

Alexis Petru
| Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Illinois floodingWho should pay for the impacts of climate change? This conundrum was at the center of nine class action lawsuits filed by Farmers Insurance in April against dozens of cities in the Chicago area for failing to prepare for the floods that hit Illinois last spring. The insurance company argued that local governments should have known that rising global temperatures would result in heavier rains and did not do enough to secure sewers and storm drains. But, in a surprising turn of events, Farmers withdrew the suits last week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In a statement, company spokesman Trent Frager said that Farmers initiated the lawsuits to recover money on behalf of its policyholders for losses that could have been avoided by municipalities, as well as to encourage cities and counties to take more preventative actions to reduce the risks of future natural disasters. But it seems the threat of legal action was enough to accomplish the insurance giant’s goals.

“We believe our lawsuit brought important issues to the attention of the respective cities and counties, and that our policyholders’ interests will be protected by the local governments going forward,” Frager said in the statement. “Therefore, we have withdrawn the suit and hope to continue the constructive conversations with the cities and counties in Chicagoland to build stronger, safer communities.”

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Millionaire’s Social Mission Pushes Tech Geeks to Think Local, Hack Global

Sherrell Dorsey
| Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Hackathon, code for india, code for America, random hacks of kindness, karl Mehta, peace corps, goodie hack, tech innovation, social impact, technology and social impactTechnology has significantly impacted the way that we live our lives in the 21st century, making most traditional systems more efficient or distilling antiquated systems. The privilege of having access to a wealth of information at any given time has also made us a global society that is plugged in to other people’s problems. In this interconnected landscape, it is the tech geeks who are using their superior skills for good by posing as the new wave of activists challenging systems of injustice and oppression with something as small as a carefully designed smartphone app.

Take for instance tech millionaire Karl Mehta, who sold his online payment business Playsap to Visa back in 2011 for a hefty $240 million. In lieu of retirement and endless leisure on a private island, Mehta made better use of his time and his talent by launching Code for India — an initiative that partners with nonprofits and NGOs to help solve critical issues in India.

Housed in Mountain View and Bangalore, India, Code for India kicked off a 24-hour hackathon in early May that brought together more than 224 programmers to address a variety of challenges facing the country including financial literacy, girls’ education, voting and natural disaster management, among other things.

“Code for India is special because hundreds and hundreds of NGO’s in India, and instead of starting another NGO to try to focus on education, or healthcare, or crime, or women’s issues, we can cut across horizontally, and provide a technology backbone to dozens or even hundreds of NGOs that are already doing wonderful work,” Mehta told Business Insider.

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Big Change Dwells in Tiny Houses: Corporate Sponsorships and Making a Difference

3p Contributor | Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 3 Comments
An architect's design of a tiny home village in Olympia, WA that houses 29"chronically homeless" disabled adults.

An architect’s design of a tiny home village in Olympia, Wash. that houses 29 “chronically homeless” disabled adults.

By Camille Szramiak-Arneberg

What they say seems to be true: Bigger isn’t always better, and the trend of “tiny” that has been sweeping the country affirms that truth.  Several years ago Coca-Cola debuted its tinier 7.5-ounce soda cans. T.G.I. Friday’s and Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse, among dozens of other eateries, now offer smaller portion sizes at their restaurants, and smaller cars such as the popular Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta have replaced the super-sized Hummer as the shrewd vehicle of choice. Achieving gains by downsizing is a common theme in sustainability, and much of the tiny movement has to do with the health and environmental consciousness of millennials and a desire to minimize carbon footprints and waist sizes.

Choosing smaller options such as a 7.5-ounce rather than a 12-ounce can of soda for long-term benefit is often a no-brainer. But what if the tiny movement applied to your personal living space? While the average American home size has actually grown over 140 percent from 1950 to 2012 the burgeoning Tiny House Movement is fighting this trend and taking the “less is more” axiom to the next level. In about 400 square feet (and sometimes as little as 100 square feet) tiny homes capitalize on smart and creative design to deliver a fully functioning home with a greatly minimized structural, environmental and financial footprint.

Tiny houses have been on the fringes for the past few decades, but some think that their moment has finally come as the average family size shrinks and more people seek debt-free, minimalist living while decreasing their environmental impacts.

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Add Some Spice to GDP with Sex and Drugs

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment

GDP_CunninghamFor many years a discussion about what Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should include to accurately measure the scope and health of a country’s economy has continued in more or less desultory fashion with little movement to change the indicators — until now.

Why not include sex and drugs in the GDP mix, as Italy and the United Kingdom have done? After all, those are economic activities, right?

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StEP Initiative is Turning e-Waste Into an e-Resource

| Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

e-waste Transforming modern life, the advent of “digital” homes, businesses, governments and societies is yielding tremendous triple bottom line benefits in countries the world over. It has also brought a host of new social and ecological problems and challenges – from the “digital divide” and threats to the security and integrity of vital information to fast growing “mountains” of electronic waste (e-waste).

For the first time, more than 1 billion smartphones were shipped worldwide last year. Phenomenally popular, worldwide tablet shipments rose 68 percent year over year to reach 195.6 million units. Unsurprisingly, e-waste is one of the fastest growing components of our waste stream, forecast to grow by one-third from 2012 levels, to 65.4 million tons, by 2017.

Looking to mimic nature and close the loop on e-waste, the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability’s (UNU-IAS) “Solving the E-waste Problem” (StEP) Initiative has been working to raise awareness and help governments, businesses, communities and consumers build the institutional frameworks and capacity to reclaim, recycle and capture the tremendous value e-waste contains. Early this past April, StEP hosted its latest E-Waste Academy for Managers (EWAM) seminar in El Salvador, a country in a region where e-waste, both domestic and imported, poses growing triple bottom line threats.

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Climate Change Liability: Holding the Perpetrators Responsible

Michael Kourabas
| Tuesday June 10th, 2014 | 64 Comments

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Can the primary culprits of global warming be held liable for undermining efforts to combat climate change?  That may sound like something a heavier, bearded Al Gore might have scribbled on a napkin in the middle of the night, but there’s reason to believe that it may not be so far-fetched.  At least, that’s what a trio of high-profile environmental groups are suggesting.

On May 28, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for International Environmental Law sent letters to the executives of 35 fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, Conoco and Chevron, asking the question posed above.  They also sent letters to those companies’ primary director and officer (D&O) insurers, asking them a series of questions regarding how coverage for D&Os might be affected by evidence that the insured misled regulators, investors and the public as to the safety and/or risks associated with their products.  The full list of targeted companies is here.  If you’re an energy executive, you should now be very, very scared (and equally interested in the insurance companies’ responses).  The notion even has its own hashtag on Twitter:  #climateliability.

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Investor Ready Cities: From Delhi to Chattanooga

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday June 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ed note: This article is part of a short series on financing smart city infrastructure, sponsored by Siemens. Please join us for a live Google Hangout with SiemensPwC and Berwin Leighton Paisner on June 12 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, where we’ll talk about this issue live! RSVP Here.

The Delhi Metro

The Delhi Metro was made possible through public-private partnerships from Delhi to Japan.

It’s almost a cliché these days to say that infrastructure development is a crushing and highly complex problem, mainly because there’s so much to do but not enough financial resources available to do it. The trick, then, is how to address infrastructure needs.

That’s why a new report from Siemens, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Berwin Leighton Paisner, entitled Investor Ready Cities: How cities can and deliver infrastructure value, is both timely and valuable.

The report examines in some detail how cities that have “the appropriate foundations of institutional stability can leverage financial mechanisms to their advantage to help deliver the infrastructure that is so critical to their future.” It looks at the needed steps to “create a governance, legal and regulatory environment which will support harnessing the full range of potential sources of funding.”

The 108-page report illustrates its basic themes through a series of case studies than span the globe to show how cities are addressing their infrastructure needs. Snapshots of the studies follow.

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PwC: Sustainability is Moving Into the Investment Mainstream

| Monday June 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PwCInvestSustainRptCvr Climate change, resource scarcity, social responsibility and good citizenship – professional investors are increasingly factoring sustainability into governance policies, portfolio decision-making processes and investment allocations, according to a new study from PwC’s Investor Resource Institute.

Indicative of the increased attention institutional investors are paying to sustainability, Stanford University Board of Trustees made headlines recently, announcing that university endowment funds will not be invested in some 100 publicly traded companies whose principal business is investing in coal. Moreover, they stated that the university will divest its current holdings in the shares of these companies.

Aiming to assess the influence of sustainability issues among large professional investment companies, a broad mix of institutional investors – asset managers, pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds and others – responsible for managing over $7.6 trillion in assets responded to PwC Resource Institute’s survey. As the institute’s leader, Kayla Gillan, explains in a press release:

“Our research sought to gain insight from investors about how they are incorporating issues of climate change, resource scarcity, extreme weather events and evolving corporate responsibility expectations into their investment decisions and strategies. We found significant evidence that an effect is occurring today—and that it is likely to increase in coming years.”

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The Quick & Dirty: You Can’t Lead from the Middle

Henk Campher
| Monday June 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

327939900_a752bcfdc5_zBy Henk Campher

I know, it’s been a while. Too many conferences and a book thrown in the mix too. Plug here – “Creating a Sustainable Brand.” The good news is that enough has happened since my last post to write a whole series of Quick & Dirty’s… This world of sustainability just doesn’t let up. And while many business continue to inspire me, just as many continue to make me perspire.

Two articles that stood out tackled an issue that continues to baffle me — the lack of true leadership amongst businesses. The first article tackled the lack of movement by companies on reporting on conflict minerals and the second dealt with how the lack of ethics can doom capitalism. Both of these highlights a common issue in the business world — the lack of leadership and the impact on how society views business.

We’ve seen trust in business continue to drop radically. Businesses are blamed for every ill in the world — from climate change; to corruption; to child labor; to chemicals in our food and clothes; to lack of transparency around GMOs and every other ingredient; to [fill in the blank]. Yes, it seems unfair that business gets targeted, but is it really that unfair? Do business show true leadership on these issues, or do they dance around the tough challenges?

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Will New Yorkers Jump on Board as the City’s Compost Program Expands?

Alexis Petru
| Monday June 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

New York CityIn the fall of 2012, New York City launched a pilot program to test out the curbside collection of organic waste – food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard waste – in its dense urban neighborhoods. The project – which included 30,000 households in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as over 100 schools and city buildings throughout the city – was much more successful than officials anticipated, and now the city is rolling out the curbside organics collection program to the rest of the Big Apple in phases. This spring, an additional 70,000 households in Queens and Brooklyn received new brown carts where residents can toss in fruit and vegetable trimmings, meat and bones, napkins, and even pizza boxes.

New York City sends about 3.2 million tons of waste to landfills each year, the New York Times reported, and spends around $350 million annually to haul trash as far away as South Carolina, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. By expanding the composting collection program citywide, officials hope to make a dent in that staggering statistic, estimating that organics make up approximately 30 percent of the city’s waste stream.

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A Guide to the Different Forms of Impact-Backed Finance

3p Contributor | Monday June 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Floating Market 302 By Marta Maretich

Impact investors have put capital behind mission-driven finance providers since the earliest days of the social investing movement. Now the industry has grown and diversified to offer a wide range of finance provision models and approaches for investors to back.

Microcredit

Microcredit was one of the earliest forms of social impact finance and it remains one of the best known. The idea of lending as a way to improve the lot of the poor goes back to the origins of finance, but its modern version was crystallized in the ’70s when early advocates like Muhammad Yunus began to experiment with using finance provision as a tool to lift communities out of poverty.

Microcredit involves making small loans available to poor people, especially those traditionally excluded from access to bank loans, through programmes designed to meet their particular needs and circumstances. Loans are usually small and short-term. Collateral is often replaced by a system of collective guarantee groups whose members are mutually responsible for ensuring that loans are repaid. Alternatively, borrowers may find one or two personal guarantors. Often these are respected local community leaders.

It is designed to give borrowers an alternative to traditional informal forms of credit such as moneylenders, pawnshops, loans from friends and relatives. Crucially, it’s designed to keep vulnerable borrowers out of the clutches of exploitative lenders, such as loan sharks.

In important ways, microcredit is the mother of the diversified social investing sector we see today. Many of today’s leading social investors, including Ashoka and Acción, cut their financial teeth on micro-lending — using philanthropic money to establish lending programs as a way to further their social missions. Microlending sowed the seeds for what has become an explosion of social investing innovation as more and more organizations turn to finance provision as a way to extend their reach and multiply their impact.

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Rising CO2 Levels Will Lead To Dietary Deficiencies, Israeli University Warns

3p Contributor | Monday June 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Editor’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared on NoCamels – Israeli Innovation News

wheatBy Rachel Dinh

While many of the world’s politicians debate whether or not the effects of climate change are real, scientists in Israel are making discoveries that clearly point to their worrisome omens for the not-so-distant future.

Crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have significantly reduced concentrations of those nutrients at the elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) anticipated by around 2050, according to researchers at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev in southern Israel. Given that an estimated 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, the reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever to be associated with climate change.

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