What began as a dream years ago is now becoming reality for two very talented Swiss pilots. Dr. Bertrand Piccard, a 51-year-old psychiatrist and aeronaut, along with former fighter pilot and project CEO Andre Borschberg, are getting ready to fly around the world in a solar-powered aircraft. Imagine flying from here-to-there without the need for fuel.
In December, test pilot Markus Scherdel took their prototype solar aircraft, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA , on a successful first test flight near Zurich. After the flight was completed, the craft was dismantled and moved to another location for further testing.
GreenBiz.com’s State of Green Business Forum next week (February 4th) in San Francisco comes at a time when modest leadership at the federal level and mixed reviews from Copenhagen have raised the stakes for the success of the green economy as the ultimate go-between of business, advocacy, policy, and progress. Among the many reasons I am very excited to be going, Van Jones will be speaking, and is reemerging as a leader after a politically charged witchhunt funded by Big Oil forced him from Washington as President Obama’s Environmental Adviser and Green Jobs Czar.
Rather than dealing with a potpourri of environmental emissions regulations and fees, a group comprising the world’s largest international liner shipping companies is proposing a new global vessel efficiency system (VES) intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the VES proposal, newly built vessels would be subject to mandatory efficiency standards requiring them to be built with features and technologies that further improve their energy efficiency to reach defined levels, according to a WSC statement. “These standards would be similar in nature to the fuel efficiency standards required of cars and trucks in many countries around the world today. The standards would also be tiered with higher standards required over time as technology developments allow further improvements.”
Some of the certified-organic cotton clothing sold by leading European brands and retailers contains genetically modified (GMO) cotton from India, according to the German edition of the Financial Times as reported by Ecouterre.com. Roughly 30 percent of the samples tested by Impetus, an independent German lab, contained GMO cotton. The European retailers exposed by Financial Times include H&M, C&A and Tchibo.
India is one of the largest producers of organic cotton. Sanjay Dave, the head of the Indian agricultural authority, Apeda, told the Financial Times that fraud was occurring on a “gigantic scale” and fines were issued to third-party certification agencies like EcoCert and Peterson Control Union last April.
“The fashion chains were not vigilant enough,” Monika Buening of Germany’s Federal Consumer Affairs Agency, told the German newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau.
The Department of Energy (DOE) program, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing incentive (ATVMI) is meant to stimulate the development of cleaner vehicles (EVs). The Security Act of 2007’s Section 136 created an incentive program of grants and loans to support developing advanced technology vehicles and the parts needed for them. A total of $25 was appropriated for the ATVMI.
However, the ATVMI may actually be stifling innovation. As a December post on Wired.com points out, the ATVMI has a “downside.” The DOE approved loans to Nissan, Ford, Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive totaling $8 billion. Start up companies are conspicuously absent from the list. In the words of the Wired article, “…this massive government intervention in private capital markets may have the unintended consequence of stifling innovation by reducing the flow of private capital into ventures that are not anointed by the DOE.”
Thanks to everyone who voted and nominated during our Top Ten Sustainable CEOs Survey. The results are in and posted below. (You can see the entire list at the bottom of the original post, as well as the great conversations the nomination process produced).
Before we get too excited about the ranking, I want to emphasize that there was nothing scientific about this process and its real purpose was as much to provoke conversation as it was to give recognition to some of our most enlightened business leaders.
It was also about challenging readers and leaders alike to ask themselves what the definition of “sustainable leadership” really is. In some cases these leaders have helped create products and services with positive environmental or social impact, in others they have helped build a corporate culture that rewards and nourishes employees and stakeholders in new ways. Some are well known, others more humble. As you think about the “winners” keep in mind the very loose and changing definition of the word “sustainable” and leave some comments as to what it means to you.
Finally – we plan to do a lot of following up as much as possible in our upcoming leadership series including interviewing as many of these folks as we can. Please contact us if you, or your company, is interested in being profiled in the upcoming series.
Without further ado, the folks with the most votes were as follows:
“The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.” – Minority Opinion by Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.
In his weekly address, President Obama said, “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest,” he said. “The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.” Congressman Alan Grayson (FL) has already introduced legislation to combat the policy change. His “Save Our Democracy” Reform Package contains several strong measures, including a 500% excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees, and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.
Although some claim that this most recent ruling will have only a limited effect on the political process, the decision certainly re-confirms the doctrine of granting constitutional rights, originally reserved for flesh-and-blood U.S. citizens, to corporate entities, which have held the dubious status of “legal persons” with rights since 1886, when another Supreme Court decision accorded it to them. This unexpected action by the Court re-opens the debate about about the wisdom of affording corporations such rights, and what effects this all has for sustainable business.
When the area around Lake Arenal, Costa Rica, was deforested to make room for “McCattle”, little planning was done for the sustainable use of the land. It’s the same old story, and one that has played itself out for decades in central America–demand for cheap beef in the United States has driven the destruction of much of the isthmus’ rainforests, and with typically thin soils, steep topography, and slow growing forests, the land does not recover after a few years of cattle grazing, but rather more resembles desert grasslands that are bereft of the area’s historic biological diversity.
Thanks to ecotourism and perhaps to carbon credits and offsets purchased elsewhere, many efforts are underway to reforest much of this land lost to cattle ranching. Costa Rica’s Institute of Tourism (ICT–Instituto Costaricense de Torismo) provides guidelines for a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism. One of the facets of this certification is that a company or organization wishing to participate can earn points toward their certification by reforesting their land and surrounding hillsides.
6 years ago, the Sostheim family saw a piece of land, roughly 400 acres, that sat on the bank of Lake Arenal near El Castillo, and thought they could make some terrific things happen. Rancho Margot was born: a self-sufficient ranch, organic farm, and ecotourism destination. It is completely off-grid, both in terms of water and electricity, and produces about 85 percent of the food that is eaten by the workers, family, and customers served in the farm’s restaurant. It’s as close to completely self-sufficient as anything I’d heard of, so I recently paid a visit to Rancho Margot to see firsthand the nexus of ecotourism and permaculture.
There is a disparity between real and perceived action on climate change by top North American brands, according to a consumer study titled, MapChange 2010. The study measured climate change action by over 90 North American companies, and measured consumer perception of those actions. The study covered 10 sectors including food and beverage, apparel, household products, internet/software/media, electronics, airlines, hotels, food services, consumer shipping and banks.
Change, a green brand innovation agency, collaborated with Climate Counts, a nonprofit organization that rates corporations on climate change actions, and the research firm Angus Reid to do the study. Climate Counts provided the scoring on climate change action based on 22 criteria, and Angus Reid measured consumer perception based on survey results of 2,000 American adults.
Monsanto claims genetically modified (GMO) food is safe for consumption. Of course, a company that controls 90 percent of the U.S. seed market for soybeans and 80 percent for corn and cotton is going to defend GMO food. Monsanto is developing soybeans with extra amounts of omega-3 oils with the Solae Company, according to its website. Research published in the International Journal of Biological Science suggests the GMO food causes damage to the heart, kidney, and liver. The study looked at consumption of Monsanto corn in lab rats’ organs after 90 days. The pesticide residue, according to the study, is what causes damage.
Although the researchers admitted their study can’t be applied to all GMO crops, a Fast Company article quoted a line from the study that is hard to forget:
“Our analysis highlights that [sic] the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which [sic] to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.”
How would you prefer to die? (choose one) 1) Climate Change 2) Oil Wars 3) Nuclear Holocaust
Amory Lovins posed this question to introduce his talk entitled, ‘Reinventing Fire: The Business-Led Transition from Oil and Coal to Efficiency and Renewables’ in the second day of the Clean Tech Investor Summit in a rain-drenched Palm Springs. Lovins, the Chairman and Chief Scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, was alluding to what he sees as a fallacy in typical conversations about addressing climate change. By casting it as a no-win situation, said Lovins, we ignore the tremendous economic opportunity available–a chance to reduce costs, spur job growth, and create competitive advantage.
As students, we all learned about the Milky Way, Orion’s Belt, and the North Star. What would happen if these important points in our sky disappeared? In some places, they have. That’s because light pollution, the artificial glow that dims the stars, is affecting 63 percent of the world’s population. In many cities around the world, well-known constellations and meteor showers are not even visible anymore.
“The sky is fading,” a report says in Physics Today. And in one desert town in California residents are “taking back the night” as protectors of the sky, determined to keep their beautiful and starry night skies.
Last Wednesday the much debated French carbon tax got a new chance at life. The tax was struck down on Dec. 29 after the country’s highest court called the bill anti-constitutional. The concern was that the proposed bill had too many exemptions, but there are other problems with the bill that haven’t yet been raised. First and foremost, the bill does not require anyone to track carbon emissions in the ambient air–without such tracking, it is impossible to know whether the tax is working. Many companies are trying to fill this unmet need in the market place–high-powered technology startups and big companies alike say they have software that can measure carbon output. This is patently false. Software can’t see inside a smokestack or a tailpipe. And estimates are only an invitation to cheating. Witness the rash of incidents where reported emissions are vastly divergent from actual atmospheric measurements.
So I’ll lay out a new manifesto. No carbon taxation without verification. Full stop. If we put in place carbon taxes that do not measure and verify carbon emissions, then we are selling a cure that could be a super drug–or it could be snake oil. We will never know unless we put measurement infrastructure in place.
What do you get when you take top MBA students who possess knowledge of sustainability and place them in companies for a summer? The answer: Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps. (Full disclosure: we’re proud to have EDF as an affiliate here at 3p, but think the Climate Corps is a great program all on its own). On January 21, 2010, EDF began the third year of the Climate Corps program.
The Climate Corps program places MBA students in companies to develop energy efficiency plans that cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions. More than 20 corporations have signed on to host students this summer. EDF partnered with Net Impact (a network of sustainably minded business leaders) to develop a pool of over 200 applicants, meaning the companies are sure to get some strong talent on board.
For those of you who aren’t aware (I admit I was a bit off), the German concept of “zeitgeist” means the “spirit of the times” and generally refers to the cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual and political climate within a nation. This reminder might make understanding Hub Culture’s 2010 Zeitgeist Rankings a bit clearer.
Hub Culture is a social network that merges the online and physical environments. Each year it compiles a list of city rankings, gathered through surveys and outreach with Hub Culture members around the world, to determine where we are headed and where the action is. In developing the rankings, Hub Culture utilizes markers such as population rankings, gross domestic product (GDP) and quality of life. This year, the list seems to be strongly influenced by cities with access to resources and those that are committed to saving the planet.
San Francisco: Jan 21 – Jan 22 Sustainable Food Summit Explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues. TriplePundit reader discount of 30%. Register here.
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