Income Disparity and Sustained Economic Growth

Bill Roth | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

6248906736_725218bf2c_zIncome disparity is again a front-page political issue. Credit Suisse projects that in two years the global 1 percent “… Will have more wealth than the remaining 99 percent of the people.” In the U.S., the top 1 percent earns a mean household annual income of $1,318,200. This is approximately 70 times the annual income of the average American worker.

‘The 1 percent’ now own approximately 36 percent of America’s wealth. Most telling, over the last decade the wealth of the top 1 percent earners has grown, while the bottom 80 percent’s wealth fell from approximately 20 percent of the U.S. economy to around 10 percent.

Wealth concentration restricts sustained economic growth

To appreciate how wealth concentration can blunt economic growth, think Czarist (or modern-day) Russia: A lot of poor people and a few wealthy families does not sustain economic growth. Recovery from the Great Depression provides similar insights. The path to economic recovery was not through enriching the rich. It was through enriching the middle class so they had the capital to start businesses and grow families.

Now consider our current economy: The inability of our economy to achieve sustained economic growth is tied to our middle class being mired in 15 years of no real income growth. Our economically-stagnant middle class is restricted in their ability to financially bootstrap and sustain businesses that have always been America’s lifeblood for job and economic growth.

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Poll: Energy Efficiency is America’s No. 1 Housing Concern

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 1 Comment

Home InsulationSafety, affordability and privacy – it’s no surprise that these were some of top housing needs identified in a recent national survey of more than 10,000 households. But the No. 1 unmet housing concern, which the Demand Institute that carried out the poll defined as the “satisfaction gap” between what respondents actually have and what they said was important, was not as easily expected: energy efficiency.

Survey respondents were given a list of 52 housing and community concerns and asked to rank them, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how important they felt the issues were and how much their current home satisfied these needs. The result: 71 percent of U.S. households polled placed a great deal of importance on energy efficiency, but only 35 percent felt their homes were very energy efficient with low monthly utility costs (the respondents making up percentages answered these questions with an 8, 9 or 10 ranking).

Based on these numbers, energy efficiency was the housing concern with the largest gap between the rates of importance and satisfaction – beating out consumer needs and wants for updated kitchens, storage space, safe neighborhoods, affordability, landlord responsiveness and more.

Why the strong desire for energy-wise homes?

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What’s Next For CR? Thoughts and Predictions for 2015

3p Contributor | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments
To kick of 2015, Shannon

To kick off 2015, Shannon Schuyler of PwC participated in a TriplePundit Twitter chat to discuss emerging CSR trends. This week, she’s sharing her predictions for the year to come. 

By Shannon Schuyler, PwC

2014 was a landmark year. Megatrends like demographic shifts, technological breakthroughs and rapid urbanization collided with milestone events — such as India’s 2 percent give-back mandate and the People’s Climate March — to re-shape how the world views businesses’ responsibility in the marketplace.

I recently participated in a Twitter chat, on behalf of PwC and the PwC Charitable Foundation, with TriplePundit and Dave Stangis of the Campbell Soup Co. During the chat, we touched on these issues and how they will impact the way we think and act as responsible business organizations in 2015. While there were many important insights and trends, there are seven that I believe will transform the landscape in 2015.

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A Metamorphosis in Our Midst

3p Contributor | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

butterfly1 By Giles Hutchins

We are now settling into 2015 — transformational times, no less, which quite naturally invoke a feeling of trepidation. Tectonic shifts in our socio-economic models, strategic and operational management, and leadership development are metamorphosing our prevalent paradigm into something as different in look and feel as a butterfly is from a caterpillar.

In the early stages of a pupa’s metamorphosis, cells quite different from the caterpillar organize into groups. These ‘imaginal cells’ run up against the opposition of the old caterpillar’s immune system, which perceives them as a threat to the caterpillar’s existence. Over time, as the system of the old caterpillar begins to break down, these new formations spawn forth the structures, processes and logic of the butterfly; ditto for the metamorphosis in our midst.

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Telecoms, Data Center Trends Heighten Climate Risks, Vulnerability

| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

GSA climate risk ICT study titleLike water, energy and waste management, digital telecommunications and data centers have become utilities essential for modern societies to function sustainably. It is generally accepted that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events — and the onset of gradual, long-terms shifts in weather patterns and climate — pose existential threats to critical information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains, as well as infrastructure.

But a recent report from Riverside Technology and Acclimatise found that the business risks of climate change as they relate to telecommunications and data centers are poorly recognized — particularly with respect to infrastructure and supply chains. Similarly, climate change resiliency and adaptation plans in this critical segment of the U.S. ICT sector are poorly developed, concluded the report, which was conducted on behalf of the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA).

“Despite the importance of these sectors, the climate risk they face is poorly understood. Even less understood are climate risks to the supply chains both sectors rely upon,” the authors of Climate Risks Study for Telecommunications and Data Center Services highlight. Furthermore, though it boosts operational efficiency and the bottom line, the recent trend that has seen more and more companies sharing ICT resources – platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), for instance – increases the vulnerability of critical ICT infrastructure and supply chains to the impacts of extreme weather events and more gradual shifts in climate.

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Pitfalls in Measuring Corporate Sustainability

Sustainable Management at Bard | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments

Graph With Stacks Of CoinsBy Amy Kalafa

Are you one of those people who gets excited when the price of a Tesla becomes almost affordable, or when you can buy a toothbrush made from recycled plastic, or a lipstick certified cruelty-free? If so, then you may be glad to know that there are a whole host of tools in the business world that give companies a way to report on their corporate sustainability practices.

Business directors are fond of the phrase, “What gets measured gets managed.” According to a 2013 report by KPMG, 86 percent of large American companies use some form of sustainability reporting, up from 74 percent in 2008.

To date, all sustainability reporting in the U.S is voluntary self-reporting, but a growing number of indexed stock portfolios are based on corporate environmental and social governance (ESG) metrics. Firms like MSCI and ENSOGO scrutinize report contents and provide detailed evaluations to stock analysts, and companies that don’t file a corporate sustainability report are now perceived as laggards in corporate citizenship.

The Dow Jones Stock Exchange even has its own index — the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) — for publicly-traded companies.

The field of sustainability reporting is still a bit of a minefield, however, stewing in an alphabet soup of acronyms. Analysts struggle to standardize metrics and measurements.

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Path of First Round-the-World Solar Flight Now Public

Leon Kaye | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Abu Dhabi, Masdar, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, United Arab Emirates, Solar Impulse, Solar Impulse 2, solar, solar flight, Bertrand Piccard, André Borschberg, clean technology, ABB, Solvey, battery storage, India, China, clean energy, renewable energy, Leon Kaye

Bertrand Piccard, L, and André Borschberg, R, explain the flight path of Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg of Switzerland, who founded Solar Impulse, announced the flight path of Solar Impulse 2 during a press conference today in Abu Dhabi. The project’s latest plane will depart the capital of the United Arab Emirates in late February or early March and will return from this groundbreaking solar flight after flying around the world in late July or early August. The plane’s journey, which could take anywhere from 22,000 to 25,000 miles (35,000 to 40,000 kilometers), intends to fly day and night, 20 hours per flight, using only solar power–while sending a global message about the promise of clean energy and the need to confront the growing risks of climate change.


Solar Impulse route could be anywhere from 22,000 to 25,000 miles.

Solar Impulse has already made impressive history with the organization’s first prototype, which has flown across the United States, Morocco and Europe. The trips’ stops were opportunities for Piccard and Borschberg to evangelize Solar Impulse’s mission. But at a higher level, the two men, who are both engineers and pilots, have long emphasized the need to push the boundaries of renewable energy research and development. Next month’s round-the-world flight will promote their mission even further as they aim to reach out to governments, schools and local media during their upcoming journey—planned to both meet the challenges of geography while carrying out a very geopolitical strategy.

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Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Launches with Award for Al Gore

Leon Kaye | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Al Gore speaks during a ZFEP press conference at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the annual conference that brings together over 30,000 professionals to meet on issues including energy, water and waste, kicked off yesterday. As always it started with a grandiose opening ceremony and a reminder of the United Arab Emirates’ achievements over the 40+ years since independence.

In addition to the panels, press conferences and massive exhibition halls, the winners of the annual Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP, or the “Oscars” or “Nobel Prize” for clean energy), which included former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, were announced for 2015.

Founded in 2008, ZFEP awards US$4 million in prizes for both achievements and future potential in clean energy development. The committee who decides the final winners recognized Gore for his “unwavering personal and political commitment” to climate change, while constantly expressing optimism that the world community can take on the challenge. Gore said he would divert the US$500,000 cash award to The Climate Change Reality Project, an initiative he founded in 2006 to train activists to speak publicly about climate change’s risks and find more effective ways to communicate them.

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Wind Power, Polar Vortexes and Price Gouging

| Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 7 Comments

PJM map awea The appearance of the polar vortex in late 2013-early 2014 put much of the U.S. and eastern Canada in a record-setting deep freeze around this time last year, adding another new term to lay-people’s weather-related vocabulary. The polar vortex also stressed power utility grids and generation assets, sending consumer demand and power prices soaring in markets from Texas to New England.

Wind power was a stand-out performer, however. According to study from American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind energy saved end-users in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states at least $1 billion during just two polar-vortex days last January.

In these and other regions, AWEA’s Greg Hresko and Michael Goggin highlight: “[W]ind energy provided large quantities of critical electricity supply when it was needed most, keeping the lights on and reducing the impact of these price spikes.” According to their analysis, “[W]ind energy protected Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes consumers from extreme price spikes during the polar vortex event” over just two days in early January 2014, “saving consumers over $1 billion on their electric bills.”

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Highlights From the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi

RP Siegel | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments

fwes rszdPoking around the exhibit hall at the 2015 World Future Energy Summit, one of the key elements of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), there was much to see.

A substantial number of exhibits were still focused on oil and gas. Though I skipped most of those, I did stop to thumb through some of the energy projections for the future. ExxonMobil showed residential and commercial demand for oil remaining flat through 2040 and natural gas increasingly slightly, with both coal and biomass declining. Most of the growth in demand will be met by electricity, which is shown to nearly double between 2000 and 2040, according to the company’s projections.

BP, on the other hand, offered projections for 2050, (on a pie chart without numbers) which shows solar comprising more than 40 percent of the total “technically-accessible energy resource.” Second was nuclear at about 20 percent. Geothermal will provide about 15 percent, followed by wind (onshore and offshore) at close to 10 percent, according to BP’s projetions. Oil and gas were little more than slivers on the chart, with the two combining for about the same portion as onshore wind.

Speaking of  wind, conference sponsor Masdar had an operational 3-D mockup of their London Array offshore wind farm. Sitting off the coast of England, the wind farm produces 630 megawatts from 175 turbines — that’s 3.6 MW each. Of course, those are tiny compared to the 8MW monsters introduced by Vestas last year. This industry doesn’t stand still for anyone.

Nuclear power was also well represented with a number of vendors on hand. Right here in Abu Dhabi, there is a major project in the works, which I will write more about later in the week.

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Why B Corps Should Cap Executive Pay

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 9 Comments

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

B CorpBy Ryan Honeyman

Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business.

As a community of thought-leading businesses, one of the best ways that the B Corp movement can continue to drive positive change is to address the controversial issue of executive pay.

For example, in 2013 the average pay ratio of a Fortune 500 CEO compared to the average salary of their employees was 331:1. Some employers have started to implement a cap on the ratio between the highest and lowest earners in their company.

Namaste Solar, a B Corp based in Boulder, Colorado, caps the ratio of its highest salary to its lowest salary at 3:1. Whole Foods Market, a publicly-traded member of the Fortune 500, caps its highest salary at 19 times the average employee pay. Certified B Corps that implement this practice typically cap their pay ratio between 5:1 and 10:1.

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Visualize Sea-Level Rise with Time Goggles

| Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 6 Comments

Glimpsing the future of sea level rise along the Marin bay shoreline We humans are a visually-attuned species.  For most of us “seeing is believing,” in that we understand complex ideas, mathematical concepts or raw data best when we can visualize them.

This ability to conjure up the abstract or unseen unlocks our understanding of some of nature’s more closely-held secrets; it gives us a “potential reality” glimpse of the impact of our actions, before we stumble unwittingly into undesired consequences.  At the risk of invoking one too many clichés all at once: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Last year we introduced readers to the OWL, a device that its creator, San Francisco-based startup OWLized, calls “time goggles.” The OWL looks like the common “retro” viewfinder you’ve seen and probably used at scenic lookouts in national parks across the country. Drop a dime into the slot and get a close-up view of the world around you. The difference is that the OWL lets you see into the future, or even the past, and there’s no dime required to see it.

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The Eco-Socio Revolution in Jordan’s Second Largest City

3p Contributor | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: As a lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Jan. 17-24, Masdar sponsored a blogging contest called “Describe the Ideal City in 2030.”  The following post was a runner-up.

Irbid, Jordan's second largest city, will look significantly different in 2030, projects Masdar blogging contest runner-up

Irbid, Jordan’s second largest city, will look significantly different in 2030, projects Masdar blogging contest runner-up Ayah Alfawaris.

By Ayah Alfawaris

Today is the first working day in 2030. On my way to work, I check my smart home application on my mobile as usual. It tells me I consumed almost 14 kilowatt-hours of electricity yesterday, and I produced around 10 kWh. But that’s fine since I’m still making money out of the subsidized feed-in tariff. I look out of the window, fascinated by how Irbid has transformed into an incredibly sustainable city in no time.

Irbid is Jordan’s second largest city, after Amman. It has always attracted students from all over the Middle East and Asia for having some of the best universities in the region. Only 15 years back, living in Irbid was full of challenges on so many levels: Employment rates were extremely low, as all SMEs and big corporations were based in Amman; there were more than 600,000 Syrian refugees in Zaatari Camp alone; and, as every other Jordanian city, Irbid had no natural resources at all. Jordan was the world’s second water-poorest country and used to import 97 percent of its energy.

All of those issues were resolved when the municipality introduced the iMEP (Irbid Master Eco Plan). That was more of what I like to call EcoSocioRev: an Ecological, Economical and Social Revolution. Many programs were initiated right after to cover almost every aspect of life in the city such as iShare, iGenerate, iProduce, iPlant, iWalk, iRecycle, etc.

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eBay Foundation’s Plan to Get Indonesian Businesses Online

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments

eBayInc_Foundation_rgb[2]Indonesian entrepreneurs face many challenges in commerce these days. According to the World Bank Group, the country is No. 114 on a list of 189 economies ranked for their ease of doing business in the global marketplace. While that standing has improved in recent years, some of the hardest challenges that business owners face still include issues like resolving insolvency and getting credit.

They also face significant challenges in trading across borders. Some of those challenges are due to regulatory and financial issues like getting export documentation handled and the cost of exporting goods to other countries. This is illustrated in the numbers: The U.S., for example, ranks 24th (out of 189) in the ease of trading across borders; Indonesia is 62nd.

The difficulties that businesses face in everyday commerce are often magnified by their lack of access to things we take for granted in the West, like having a website.

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Largest Seawater Desalination Plant to Open Next Year

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday January 19th, 2015 | 244 Comments
The proposed site of the

The proposed site of the Carlsbad Desalination Project in San Diego county.

The San Diego area will soon be the home of the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. But with a steep $1 billion price tag, the question is whether the Carlsbad Desalination Project will be worth it from a financial and environmental perspective.

Drought-plagued farmers probably think so, because after three years of drought they can’t irrigate: California’s reservoirs are filled with more mud than water. When operational in 2016, the plant will provide up to 50 million gallons of water daily to San Diego county’s 3 million residents. Still, that’s only 7 percent of the region’s water needs.

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