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Winners Change the Course of Climate Change

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into "biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – From a mobile app that fights food waste and hunger to a government that is taking 100 percent responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, 15 projects from around the world are demonstrating how fresh ideas, large and small, can change the course of climate change.

“These activities shine a light on scalable climate action around the world,” said Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, executive secretary of UN Climate Change . “They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference.”

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have triggered a change in the Earth’s climate system that could leave the planet uninhabitable before the end of this century, warns the latest scientific evaluation from hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And only human activities that protect the climate can reverse that calamitous course.

“Climate action leaders, including those recognized by the Momentum for Change initiative, are stepping up to meet the global climate challenge by delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” Guterres said. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet.”

“Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change,” said the UN chief.

The Momentum for Change initiative, advanced by the UN Climate Change secretariat, illuminates some of the most practical examples of what people are doing to combat climate change.

“There is an enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

The 2018 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum (WiSER) initiative, and Climate Neutral Now.

The 15 projects were chosen from more than 560 applications from businesses and governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

Each of the 15 winning projects, called Lighthouse Activities, falls within one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Planetary Health, Climate Neutral Now, Women for Results and Financing for Climate Friendly Investment.

They will be showcased in a series of special events during this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) taking place December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The 2018 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities are:

Planetary Health

* Climate-Efficient School Kitchens and Plant-Powered Pupils | Germany: ProVeg International is providing healthy, climate-friendly meals in German schools. ProVeg International wants animal agriculture placed on the agenda for COP24, saying, “Animal agriculture is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. This issue must be prioritized at COP24.”

  • Santiago Biofactory | Chile: Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company together with its main shareholder SUEZ, is transforming Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge, a wastewater treatment by-product, into clean energy.
  • Composting Waste Treatment: An Ecological Solution to Poverty and Climate Change | Haiti: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is building composting toilets in Haiti, reducing the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, creating jobs, and restoring local environments.
  • Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project | Sri Lanka: Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.

Climate Neutral Now

  • Creating the Greenest Football Club in the World – Forest Green Rovers | United Kingdom: The Forest Green Rovers is bringing eco-thinking and technology to a new and large audience: football fans. In 2010, the team began its journey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral football club. In 2017 FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays. The club has since been described by FIFA, as “the world’s greenest football club.”
  • Monash’s Net Zero Initiative | Australia: Monash University, Australia’s largest university, has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for all four of its Australian campuses.
  • Klimanjaro – Climate Neutral Supply Chain | Norway: Fjordkraft, the second largest electricity retailer in Norway, is using its purchasing power to inspire all its suppliers to be climate neutral by 2019.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Program | Canada: In 2010, the province of British Columbiabecame the first government at the provincial, territorial, or state level in North America to take 100 percent responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution from all 128 of its public-sector organizations. B.C. is committed to reaching its 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Women for Results

  • Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative | Syria: With the Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative women are defying traditional gender roles and combatting overcrowded streets by promoting bicycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation in the war-torn city of Damascus.
  • Women Leading a Food Sharing Revolution! | UK, Sweden, USA: Women are leading a food revolution with OLIO, the world’s only neighbor-to-neighbor food sharing app. OLIO is co-founded and led by women and two-thirds of the app’s users are women.
A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

Between 33-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over US$1 trillion annually.

OLIO points out that it takes a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is never eaten – land deforested, species driven to extinction, indigenous populations moved, soil degraded – all to produce food that we throw away. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of all fresh water consumption globally. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • HelpUsGreen | India: Women are creating compost from ceremonial flowers and simultaneously cleaning up the River Ganges. Through HelpUsGreen women collect 8.4 tons of floral-waste from temples in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis. These sacred flowers are handcrafted into charcoal-free incense, organic vermicompost and biodegradable packaging material through the organization’s ‘Flowercycling®’ technology.

“Today,” says HelpUsGreen, “orthodox temples and religious authorities want to be a part of our mission -pointing to a change against a century old harmful religious practice of dumping temple-waste in the Indian rivers.”

  • Feminist Electrification: Ensuring Pro-Women Outcomes in Rural Energy Access | Haiti: Energy poverty, a lack of access to modern energy services, is disproportionally affecting women in rural areas. So, EarthSpark International, a women-run enterprise, is approaching all its energy access projects with a gender lens, referring to this as “feminist electrification.”

In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated, pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. EarthSpark aims to build 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2022.

Financing for Climate Friendly Investment

  • Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA | Rwanda: The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) is investing in public and private projects that drive transformative change. It is one of the first national environment and climate change investment funds in Africa.

The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

  • The MAIS Program | Brazil: The MAIS Program (Modulo Agroclimático Inteligente e Sustentável) is helping family agricultural operations adapt to climate change in the Jacuípe Basin, Brazil’s semi-arid region. It is one of the first ever climate-smart agricultural programs to mainstream climate disruptive technologies among farmers in Brazil.
  • Catalytic Finance Initiative | Global: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working with partners to mobilize US$10 billion for innovative and high-impact climate mitigation and sustainability-focused investments.

Projects announced to date by Bank of America under the Catalytic Finance Initiative include new energy efficiency financing in partnership with the New York State Green Bank totaling $800 million, arranging a $204 million green project bond for wind developer Energia Eolica S.A. in Peru, and helping to structure a new $100 million facility with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

“A central way in which we are helping to build sustainable economies is through our financing of clean energy,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. “The Catalytic Finance Initiative demonstrates how all partners working together will achieve a greater collective impact.”

The UN’s Momentum for Change initiative is part of a broader effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured Image: Tessa Cook, left, and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founders of OLIO, the food sharing app. 2018 (Photo courtesy OLIO) Posted for media use.


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Vote for 2018 Young Champions of the Earth

A healthy reef in Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.

A healthy reef in Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 21, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Hargeisa, Somaliland established his own tree-planting program in 2015, the same year he graduated from the University of Hargeisa with a degree in Environmental Science. He is now one of 35 finalists worldwide in the contest for the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth prize.

“My big idea is to plant trees in cities while educating youth in schools and universities about the importance of forests and mobilizing them to participate in a nationwide reforestation program,” said Abdirahman. “This will build on work that I have already undertaken to promote tree-planting at weddings, graduation ceremonies, and schools. My goal is to bring back the forests of Somaliland and foster a national culture in which caring for the environment is recognized by everyone as their moral responsibility.”

Now in its second year, Young Champions of the Earth is a global competition that seeks out entrepreneurs and innovators with big ideas to secure a sustainable future. All of the finalists’ ideas address urgent environmental issues in innovative ways.

Their proposals range from land-based coral farms to replenish the dying coral reefs around the world and a plan for breeding fatty insects as a source of biofuel, to be used as an alternative for palm oil.

There are educational initiatives involving board games, music and digital platforms to raise environmental awareness; tackling plastic pollution through recycling and upcycling into bricks and urinals, and an integrated system of wildfire detectors that could prevent destructive fires.

Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Somaliland is one of five finalists from Africa in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition. (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use

Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Somaliland is one of five finalists from Africa in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition. (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use

“The Young Champions of the Earth prize is highlighting exactly how creative, dedicated and driven young people can be when it comes to the future of our environment,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. “These regional finalists are an inspiration to all of us, that hard work and a positive outlook are a powerful way to reach a goal, even one as ambitious as a sustainable world for all.”

Seven final winners will each receive the prestigious prize along with US$15,000 in seed funding, mentorship from industry leaders and access to a wide network of influencers to bring their ideas into fruition.

Members of the public can view and rate the 35 proposals here. The non-binding public vote will close at 4 pm Eastern Africa Time, three hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), on Monday, June 25.

The public online vote will inform a global jury that will select the winning 2018 Young Champions in September.

Here are some of the big ideas that have attracted attention in the online voting.

Europe

Maria Sousa, 25, a systems engineer from Portugal, is a finalist in the Young Champions contest. Her big idea centers on early fire detection through remote sensing using artificial intelligence.

A research fellow at the Center of Intelligent Systems at IDMEC-Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Lisbon, Sousa’s big idea is to have a dynamic network of sensors that can relay real-time data when there are forecasts of increased fire risk. Her system relies on static sensors as well as mobile aerial platforms such as drones and high-altitude balloons for extensive area coverage.

Asia & the Pacific

Natalie Kyriacou, 30, of Australia, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit My Green World, the Creator of World of the Wild mobile game app, and the Australian Director of Sri Lankan-based NGO, Dogstar Foundation, is a sitting member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper  and a Forbes 30 Under 30  honoree. She is also a finalist in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition.

Kyriacou’s big idea is Kids’ Corner, a digital classroom inspiring children and educators to participate in wildlife and environmental conservation and sciences through workshop-based environmental programs, animation videos, fact sheets, infographics, reading materials, teachers’ notes, games and home activities. “Kids’ Corner breaks down complex issues into easy, fun, positive and actionable concepts that can be used in any setting,” she says. Kids’ Corner will be available online and offline, and in homes, schools and hospitals.

North America

This Majik Water proof of concept prototype "hacks" existing technology to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air using solar technology. (Photo courtesy Majik Water) Posted for media use

This Majik Water proof of concept prototype “hacks” existing technology to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air using solar technology. (Photo courtesy Majik Water) Posted for media use

Anastasia Kaschenko, 23, of Canada, has already founded three sustainability ventures, raising more than $60,000 to seed those projects. She was on a finalist team competing in the $20 million Carbon XPRIZE. Kaschenko was recently selected as a Singularity University Fellow, at NASA Ames Research Center  in MountainView, California. There, she launched Majik Water, which harvests clean drinking water from air. Majik Water received the MIT Water Innovation Award and was recognized by “Financial Times” as one of 50 Ideas to Change the World.

Majik Water uses novel technology combined with locally-adapted design to harvest clean drinking water from the air and deliver it to people and communities in the world’s driest places, starting in Kenya.

Majik technology uses solar thermal energy and abundantly available, non-toxic, sponge-like desiccant materials, to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air, making it possible to get water in a low cost, energy efficient way.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Gator Halpern, 27, of the Bahamas, spent time as a teenager living with indigenous Mayan communities, where he learned that he wanted to devote his life “to protecting the environment from the forces threatening their livelihoods.”

Halpern calls his big idea Coral Vita, the creation of land-based coral farms to restore and sustain the world’s coral reefs.

“Over 30 percent of global coral reefs are dead, and more than 75 percent are projected to die by 2050. This is an ecological tragedy and a serious socio-economic problem, as reefs sustain one-third of all marine life, support some one billion people globally, and generate US$30 billion annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection,” says Halpern.

Coral Vita is creating a global network of innovative land-based coral farms, using breakthrough methods developed at the Mote Marine Lab and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology to grow corals up to 50 times faster while strengthening their resiliency to climate change. The land-based farms are scalable, potentially growing millions of corals from a single site. Coral Vita’s business model can support restoration at unprecedented scales. By taking a community-based approach, locals are engaged to promote long-term reef stewardship.

West Asia

Karim Shrayedeh, 29, of Jordan, is the current Project Proposals Writer of The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, the largest and oldest nonprofit organization in Jordan.

Shrayedeh’s big idea is the Protection of Water Dams in Jordan that aims to protect the environment by increasing vegetation coverage in the catchment areas of two dams that supply Jordan’s capital city Amman and Al-Karak with water.

“Both the Wadi Almujab and Wadi Al-Karak dams are facing increased accumulation of sand and other sediments. This has diminished their storage capacities, threatening vital supplies of water to agriculture. Without the dam water, farmers will be forced to tap precious limited groundwater resources, an unsustainable scenario,” says Sharayedeh.

Jordanians and Syrian refugees will be employed for a total of 75,000 working days to increase vegetation coverage in the catchment areas, creating new job opportunities, enhancing social inclusion and fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the maintenance of the dams and their catchment areas.

The 35 finalists were selected from a pool of 760 submitted project ideas across a wide spectrum of impact areas.

The review of applications was conducted by a global team of 20 UN Environment staff in conjunction with representatives and affiliates of CoalitionWILD.

The Young Champions competition is supported by Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies. Covestro CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann said, “As one of the world’s leading contributors of materials for sustainable development, we’re honored to partner with UN Environment to inspire and motivate young people across the world to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”


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U.S. Corporations at a Turning Point

Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel, on Centre Stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile) Creative Commons License via flickr

Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel, on Centre Stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile) Creative Commons License via flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BOSTON, Massachusetts, March 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – The largest and most influential publicly traded companies in the United States are stepping forward in greater numbers than ever before with ambitious sustainability commitments. These companies are responding to urgent calls to act on threats such as climate change, water pollution and scarcity, and abuses of human rights.

Nearly two-thirds of the more than 600 companies examined in a new analysis by Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit working with influential investors and companies, have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More than half of the companies assessed now have formal policies to manage water resources, and nearly half have policies to protect the rights of their workers.

The multinational investment banking and financial services corporation Citi, The Coca-Cola Company, CVS Health, Gap, Inc., General Mills, Intel, Kellogg Company, NIKE, Inc., and PepsiCo are among the companies meeting many of Ceres’ expectations and taking the path beyond business as usual.

“We have reached a turning point,” said Amy Augustine, senior director of the Ceres Company Network, and co-author of the analysis, which she titled, ‘TURNING POINT: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.'”

“It is no longer just about raising the ceiling. It is about lifting the floor,” said Augustine. “The time has come for bold and scalable solutions, not just from a few leading companies, but from companies in all sectors and of all sizes who need to transition from making commitments to taking concrete actions.”

Using the most available data from research provider Vigeo Eiris, TURNING POINT takes a close look at the progress these companies have made against 20 key expectations of sustainability leadership within the areas of governance, disclosure, stakeholder engagement and environmental and social performance as outlined in The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.

The analysis highlights those companies who are meeting many of the Ceres Roadmap expectations to improve resilience in their operations and global supply chains, and calls on all companies to scale up action on sustainability commitments.

Ceres offers company scorecards that highlight the most successful efforts and also those that need more work and commitment.

“At Citi, we have used the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability expectations as guidance to organize our thoughts around sustainability best practices from the very beginning,” said Val Smith, Citi’s managing director and global head of corporate sustainability.

“We look forward to using TURNING POINT to help us identify areas where we can prioritize action and strive further toward sustainability leadership,” said Smith.

Yet, as the new analysis also shows, many companies are neither acting as quickly nor as boldly as they could to transform into sustainable enterprises and prepare for a future beset with environmental and social challenges.

While 69 percent of the companies assessed call on their suppliers to address environmental and social impacts, only 34 percent actually provide the tools and resources to incentivize action, Ceres’ analysis shows.

Compared with the 64 percent of companies with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, only 36 percent set time-bound, quantitative targets. Only a quarter of those targets commit to reducing emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020.

The analysis reveals some encouraging trends. For instance, more companies are assigning oversight for sustainability to top-most decision makers. Sixty-five percent of companies hold senior-level executives accountable for sustainability performance, up from 42 percent in 2014, the last time Ceres’ conducted a similar analysis.

More companies are responding to investor calls to prioritize action on material issues. Today, 32 percent of companies conduct materiality assessments, while just seven percent did so in 2014.

More companies commit to water stewardship, but few prioritize areas most at risk. 55 percent of companies assessed commit to manage water use, but just 15 percent set quantitative targets prioritizing action in the parts of value chain that pose the highest risk to water resources.

Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at the food giant General Mills, said, “At General Mills, we know that feeding a growing population depends on a healthy planet, so we’ve taken bold actions to advance sustainability.”

“Transforming our global food system and our business model requires collaboration and transparency across our supply chain, along with strong commitment from our executives and board of directors,” said Lynch.

TURNING POINT includes interactive data tables and company scorecards that help investors and companies identify leading industry practices and key sustainability trends in nearly every sector of the economy including transportation, food and beverage, financial services, oil and gas.

“As the tides turn with more mainstream focus on sustainability, we need concrete and comprehensive information from companies about how they are tackling environmental and social issues,” said Betty Yee, California State Controller and a Ceres board member.

“TURNING POINT is a critical tool for smart business decisions,” said Yee, “providing investors and shareholders with helpful insights to better understand key sustainability trends and leading industry practices.”

This is the third assessment of these companies, which represent more than 80 percent of the U.S. market share. The last Ceres assessment, Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, was released in 2014.

Featured image: Citi Bike is New York City’s bike share system, and, with 12,000 bikes, the largest in the nation. Citibank is the title sponsor and MasterCard as the Preferred Payment Partner. (Photo by Phil Roeder) Creative Commons License via flickr


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Which U.S. States Care About The Planet?

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Houston, Texas January 12, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) Energy companies, around the globe are paying attend to environmental issues, as much as countries, states and cities are showing a renewed interest in green energy.

Amigo Energy a electric company from Texas recently ran an analysis of Google Trends data and state statistics related to the planet and environmental issues.

Below are the results of their compiled research as written by Mike Strayer, Amigo Energy blog writer.

Recycling and Reusing

How to recycle in Washington, as it turns out, is rather easy. 87 percent of Washingtonians have access to curbside recycling, while the remaining 13 percent of the population has access to 109 drop-off locations throughout the state. In Texas, how to reuse waste seems to be on everyone’s mind. The City of Irving’s Green Seam Project—which takes scraps of fabric and turns them into reusable bags—is a real-world example of just how scrappy one Texas town is.

Renewable Energy

Home to the wind-swept Badlands, wind power is on the rise in North Dakota. Combine that with a higher concentration of Internet searches in the region and it looks like fracking has a cleaner rival poised to power more Roughrider State homes and businesses.

While you may have guessed that sunny places like Hawaii would rank high for solar power, Leesburg, Virginia probably didn’t come to mind. It’s strange, but community efforts like Solarize NOVA (Northern Virginia) may account for Leesburg’s ranking.

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Energy Efficiency

Solar power is hot in California. According to data from 2015, California generated the most solar energy in the US, which might help explain why so many Californians are curious about installing residential solar panels.

We all know that Virginia is for lovers, but did you know that Virginians love to save energy? Maybe that’s because saving energy has boosted business—energy efficiency in Virginia is a $1.5B industry that employs over 75,000 people.

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Air Quality

Utah is famous for its national parks and powdery mountains. Counterintuitively, the region also has the worst air quality in the US, which probably accounts for tons of Utahns searching for information on air quality.

It’s no secret: traffic in California can really suck. Luckily, carpooling is more convenient than ever with programs like 511 SF Bay that make commutes easier by connecting residents via cutting-edge technology.

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Sustainability

Because Google Trends calculates the relative popularity of keywords, tiny towns like Drexel often rank higher than big cities. Perhaps the city’s number one ranking is due to the Western Piedmont Community College Program in Sustainable Agriculture, which features a 40-acre student-run farm.

Colorado may be known for a different sort of “green,” but Coloradans also search more for “sustainable living” than any other state. This might be because of the Sustainable Living Association based out of Fort Collins, which specializes in educating people about sustainable choices.

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Planting and Composting

Those who know Portland may not be surprised by the city’s ranking. You could probably even say that gardening is a town pastime—the city maintains nine community garden sites with plots costing only $15-50 a year to lease. Aside from preserving pristine beaches and forests, Oregonians are interested in greening their homes, too. That may be because the state runs its own environmentally-friendly programs like this super useful composting resource page.

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If Internet searches are any indicator, it looks like Americans are becoming more and more interested in greening our country. For more information on how to go green in Texas, check out the Amigo Energy Blog—we’ve got helpful resources and interesting information that can help you green your life today.


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Insuring the Vulnerable in a Warming World

Devastation on the Caribbean island of Dominica after Hurricane Maria, November 19, 2017 (Photo by Tanya Holden/DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Devastation on the Caribbean island of Dominica after Hurricane Maria, November 19, 2017 (Photo by Tanya Holden/DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, December 4, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – The German government has just contributed €110 million (US$125 million) to bring affordable insurance against climate and other natural disasters to 400 million vulnerable people around the world by 2020.

The contribution from German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, made in November follows a £30 million (US$39 million) commitment from the Government of the United Kingdom in July.

These contributions are earmarked for the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, headquartered in Bonn.

Between 1980 and 2015, more than 60 percent of the people who lost their lives as a result of climate-related extreme weather events had an income of less than US$3 a day, according to the reinsurance company Munich Re in a 2016 statement.

The effects of extreme weather events force some 26 million people into poverty every year, according to a World Bank study published this year entitled “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters.”

Although absolute economic losses are much higher in high-income countries, they only account for 0.2 percent of GDP, as compared to five percent in low income countries.

To close this protection gap, the G7 countries: Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK and the United States, launched the InsuResilience initiative for climate risk insurance at their summit in Elmau, Germany in June 2015.

The initiative aims to offer insurance against climate risks to an additional 400 million poor and vulnerable people in developing countries by 2020.

At the start of the initiative, only around 100 million poor and vulnerable people in Africa, Asia and Latin America were insured against climate-related risks.

At the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015 (COP21), the G7 partners made a commitment to provide US$420 million in funding for InsuResilience as a first step.

One year later, at COP22 in Marrakesh, two new partners joined the initiative: the European Union and the Netherlands. Together, the InsuResilience partners confirmed their commitment and increased their financial contributions for InsuResilience to US$550 million.

More progress on insuring the world’s most vulnerable people was made this year. The Insuring Resilient and Sustainable Cities Summit held on May 5 in Bonn was convened by the UN Environment Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) Initiative and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

Gino Van Begin, ICLEI’s Secretary General, said, “Cities are on the front line of sustainable development challenges such as climate change and natural disasters. That’s why cities are working more and more with the insurance industry to better manage risk.”

The PSI, the largest collaborative initiative between the United Nations and the insurance industry, and ICLEI, the global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions, joined forces in December 2016 to create the largest collaboration between the insurance industry and cities for resilience.

The Summit was sponsored by Munich Re, a founding PSI signatory, and supported by other PSI signatories such as Allianz and Risk Management Solutions, as well as by city mayors and officials from ICLEI’s global network – from Iloilo in the Philippines and Honiara in the Solomon Islands, to Copenhagen, Denmark and Oslo, Morway.

Dr. Michael Menhart, head of Economics, Sustainability and Public Affairs at Munich Re, and a PSI Board member, said, “We are committed to implementing the UN Principles for Sustainable Insurance in our core business activities. By supporting the push for more resilient and sustainable cities, we can help turn the PSI into practice and make a contribution through our risk and resilience expertise. This is a great example of how the insurance industry can promote economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

Resilience is not only about climate. The main outcome of the PSI-ICLEI Summit was the “Bonn Ambition”, which aims to achieve three goals by June 2018, when ICLEI hosts its World Congress in Montréal, Canada.

The Bonn Ambition is strategically linked to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Bonn Ambition seeks to create “Insurance Development Goals for Cities,” which would harness the insurance industry’s triple role as risk managers, risk carriers and investors in the context of the SDGs, focusing on SDG 11 – “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

The idea is for the PSI and ICLEI to convert SDG 11’s stated targets into Insurance Development Goals that would set the long-term global agenda for the insurance industry and cities.

Participants plan to organize the first-ever roundtable of insurance industry CEOs and city mayors at the 2018 ICLEI World Congress to accelerate global and local action. The Congress is held every three years and assembles hundreds of local governments and key stakeholders to set the course for globalizing urban sustainability.

Butch Bacani, who leads the PSI at UN Environment, and who conceptualized and chaired the PSI-ICLEI Summit, said, “The Bonn Ambition clearly supports the PSI’s vision of a risk-aware world, where the insurance industry is trusted and plays its full role in enabling a healthy, safe, resilient and sustainable society. We need ambitious and decisive action now – not in 2020 or 2030 – to make the transformation to resilient and sustainable cities a reality. Time is non-renewable.”

The PSI-ICLEI Summit showed how the insurance industry could support cities as risk managers, risk carriers and investors. It explored various ways to close three key gaps in cities:

  • Closing the disaster risk reduction gap – through catastrophe risk modelling, ecosystem-based adaptation, insurance loss data sharing, land-use planning, loss prevention, and disaster preparedness
  • Closing the insurance protection gap – through insurance solutions for low-income people, SMEs, local governments and green technologies, including index-based insurance and usage-based insurance
  • Closing the financing gap – through investments in sustainable infrastructure, energy, buildings and transportation, and instruments such as green bonds and catastrophe and resilience bonds

Jed Patrick Mabilog, mayor of Iloilo City in the Philippines, said, “To survive and thrive, we need a whole-of-society approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster risk reduction. I fully support the Bonn Ambition and look forward to its implementation.”

Andrew Leonard Mua, mayor of Honiara City in the Solomon Islands, one of the most climate and disaster-vulnerable countries, said, “No man is an island. Honiara needs to work with other cities and key stakeholders such as the insurance industry in shaping a resilient and sustainable urban future. We need to act urgently—the future is happening now.”


Featured image: Strong winds brought by Typhoon Haima toppled electric poles, damaged homes and flooded fields in the Isabela and Cagayan provinces of the Philippines, October 20, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Latin America’s Top 100 Sustainable Companies

BrazilLightForAll

Indexed as one of the Top 100 companies in Latin America, the Spanish utility Iberdrola has brought sustainable electricity to this Brazilian family many thousands of others through its Luz para Todos (Light for All) program, a joint initiative with the Brazilian government. (Photo courtesy Iberdrola) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

November 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A new corporate sustainability index that assesses companies operating in Latin America and the Caribbean based on their corporate governance and environmental and social performance has just released its first listing of the Top 100 companies in the region.

IndexAmericas  is the first index of its kind established by a multilateral development bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the first to evaluate socio-economic development as a key component of sustainability.

To be updated twice a year, the index lists the 100 most sustainable global companies operating in the region as well as the top 30 multilatinas.

But the new listing must be taken with a grain of salt, as not everyone would agree with all the selections.

It includes some companies, such as the Dutch multi-national Unilever, that are recognized the world over for their sustainability efforts.

For instance, Unilever has committed to achieving zero net deforestation associated with four commodities – palm oil, soy, paper and board, and beef – no later than 2020.

Hannah Hislop of Unilever’s Global Sustainability Office, writes in a post on the company website, “Our particular focus is on palm oil where, as the world’s largest single buyer, we have the scale and influence to make a difference.”

The production of palm oil in Latin America is growing fast. Colombia, Latin America’s largest palm oil producer, has plans to increase production six-fold by 2020. Palm oil production in Ecuador has grown seven percent per year over the past decade. Peru quadrupled production between 2000 and 2013. And Guatemala, the largest palm oil exporter in Latin America, has increased the amount of land available for oil palm cultivation by 10 percent annually for the last few years, reported Aditi Sen of Oxfam in October 2016.

Unilever’s approach has three elements: transforming its supply chain, so what the company buys is “fully traceable and certified sustainable;” encouraging the whole industry, from growers and traders, to manufacturers and retailers, “to set and meet high standards;” and working with governments and other partners “to embed no-deforestation pledges into national and international policies.”

But IndexAmericas also includes in its 100 most sustainable list, companies such as the Chevron Corporation, that have come under strong criticism and legal action by local residents and environmentalists for their practices.

Residents of Eccuador’s Lago Agrio region have sought to force Chevron to pay for soil and water contamination caused from 1964 to 1992 by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Chevron has said a 1998 agreement between Texaco and Ecuador absolved it of further liability.

The class action case was originally filed in 1993 on behalf of an estimated 30,000 rainforest villagers in federal court in New York, but in 2001 a U.S. federal judge moved it to Ecuador’s courts at Chevron’s request after the company accepted jurisdiction there.

On February 14, 2011, following an eight-year environmental trial that generated a 220,000-page record, a local court in Ecuador ordered Chevron Corporation to pay US$18.1 billion to the affected communities.

The court designated the funds to be placed in a trust account to compensate the affected communities for environmental harm resulting from the abandonment of hundreds of unlined waste pits and the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into waterways relied on by local inhabitants for their drinking water.

The verdict, believed to be the largest environmental judgment ever from a trial court, was unanimously affirmed by an intermediate appellate court in 2012 and by Ecuador’s Supreme Court in 2013, but the latter court later reduced the award to $9.5 billion.

Chevron has refused to pay the award and vowed to fight the claimants “until hell freezes over.” Chevron claims it had been victimized by fraud in Ecuador, including the bribery of the trial judge. Ecuador’s appellate courts rejected Chevron’s fraud allegations.

The lengthy legal battle was documented in “Crude,” a 2009 documentary film.

Companies must be publicly listed to be assessed by IndexAmericas, and they must be active in the Inter-American Development Bank 26 borrowing member countries.

IndexAmericas rates firms’ environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, performance and “commitment to development.”

The ESG criteria is a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen investments. The standards apply to: how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment; how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where it operates; and a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits and internal controls, and shareholder rights.

IndexAmericas defines “commitment to development” in the region as “advancing sustainable growth and reducing poverty and inequality,” according to a new institutional strategy affirmed by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2010 and updated in 2015.

IndexAmericas also applies a proprietary IDB methodology to analyze the development commitment of all assessed companies.

The IDB looks at how corporations handle three development challenges: social exclusion and inequality, low productivity and innovation and lack of regional economic integration.

The bank says it strives to address three cross-cutting issues that apply to all these challenges: gender equality and diversity, climate change and environmental sustainability, and institutional capacity and the rule of law.

IndexAmericas was created by the IDB and IDB Invest, the newly rebranded private-sector arm of the IDB Group, in partnership with S-Network Global Indexes and Florida International University (FIU).

“We wholly support IndexAmericas because it aligns with the College of Business’ mission and vision,” said José Aldrich, acting dean of the FIU College of Business.

The FIU College of Business will do research and education around the index. College of Business faculty, and its Capital Markets Lab, will offer regional workshops and forums designed to help companies improve their corporate sustainability performance based on the index.

“At the IDB, our close partnerships with the private sector have allowed us to witness firsthand the evolution of corporate sustainability both in the region and around the world,” commented Bernardo Guillamon, manager of the IDB Office of Outreach and Partnerships.

“IndexAmericas is a testament to the growing importance of sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean, and both celebrates corporate champions and encourages more companies to do the right thing,” said Guillamon.

The methodology, developed by IDB/IIC, is based on 172 ESG indicators including 15 specific to the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The ESG data is powered by Thomson Reuters Global ESG Research. S-Network provided methodology verification and the ranking calculation and IndexAmericas will be recalculated and reconstituted semi-annually by S-Network with oversight by the IndexAmericas Committee.

Gregg Sgambati, head of ESG Solutions at S-Network Global Indexes, explains in an interview with “AlphaQ” that the IndexAmericas is not a financial index, published on an exchange, but step towards creating such an index.

“All involved feel it’s an obvious next step,” Sgambati said. “The driver comes from the IDB and their desire to encourage a greater amount of sustainable behavior for companies in the Latin American region, reflecting an approach towards shared value, which does good for the company but also has an impact for the region.”

The new index is based on financial information, but it reflects a ranking related to the region rather than a general world ranking.

“The index does not have any financial stock price information so it wouldn’t be used by investors at this point,” Sgambati says. “However, when you have a company that has achieved the status and recognition of a ranking, which we believe this is, then it does have some value that investors might consider.”

The aim is to encourage companies to take steps towards greater sustainability and shared value in the region.

IndexAmericas relies on more than 400 data points to evaluate the practices, standards, policies, and activities of companies with a presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, assessing them along environmental, social, and corporate governance lines.

The practice of socially responsible investing is booming as investors look for more than financial returns. According to the US SIF Foundation , as of year-end 2015, more than $1 out of every $5 under professional management in the United States – at least US$8.72 trillion – was invested according to socially responsible strategies.

“IndexAmericas recognizes the leading companies in Latin America and the Caribbean for their efforts in the field of sustainability,” the IDB said in a statement. “It is the first initiative of its kind led by the largest multilateral agency for economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.”


2-DAY GRANT

Featured Images: Puerto Madero is a revamped dockside area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sleek skyscrapers house multinational corporations and high-value apartments. Trails loop around several lakes at the wildlife-rich Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. February 2011 (Photo by Alex Proimos) Creative Commons license via Flickr

China Seizes Global Green Finance Leadership

ChinaFloatingSolar

In May 2017, Sungrow Power Supply China switched on the world’s largest floating solar energy plant. The solar panels float on water that flooded a defunct coal mine near the city of Huainan in China’s eastern Anhui province. China has pledged to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy by the year 2020. (Photo courtesy Sungrow Power Supply) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, November 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Trillions of dollars will need to be deployed each year to finance climate action and sustainability, and China is leading the way toward raising these funds, finds new research released Thursday. “China has become a new growth driver in the global green bonds market,” states the report by the United Nations‘ environment agency and the Beijing-based International Institute of Green Finance.

The report, “Establishing China’s Green Financial System: Progress Report,” reviews China’s development in green finance, and makes recommendations for future development.

The researchers found that China has established itself as a “global leader on green finance,” both domestically and internationally, but the country still faces serious challenges to mobilize its full potential.

The country’s leaders have acknowledged that the rapid growth of their economy, second-largest in the world after the United States, has brought expensive health and environmental problems to China – outdoor and indoor air pollution, water scarcity and pollution, desertification, soil pollution and biodiversity loss.

Speaking at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October, President Xi Jinping said the construction of “ecological civilization” and the maintenance of ecological security are the keys to China achieving stable and sustainable development.

“Green finance is essential to realizing China’s national strategic objectives in green development and ‘ecological civilization,'” said co-author Wang Yao, professor and director-general at the International Institute of Green Finance, a think tank established at China’s Central University of Finance and Economics in September 2016.

“Through approaches in practicing green credit, green bonds, green insurance and industrial funds, as well as implementation at local levels, China’s green finance development has contributed significantly to social and economic structural reforms and gained widespread recognition internationally,” said Wang.

The report finds that China, which put green finance on the G20 agenda during its 2016 presidency, is following through on its political commitment to boost the financing required to do this.

Ratings agency Moody’s predicts that, globally, green bonds could exceed US$200 billion this year, driven by the Paris Agreement and reform in China.

Let’s look at China’s recent activities as a way of gauging the country’s progress.

In the first half of 2017, China issued 36 green bonds worth RMB77.67 billion (US$11.7 billion).

In one year, China’s green bonds grew in number by 278 percent and in value by 28 percent, according to the report.

There are 7,826 green and low-carbon projects, at investment of RMB6.4 trillion (US$0.96 trillion), are listed in the public-private partnerships catalogue, and 121 new green regional development funds were set up in 2016, the report states.

The green and low-carbon projects account for 57.7 percent of all the projects and 39.3 percent of the investments in that catalogue.

In addition, many Chinese provinces and cities have established regional green development funds.

By the end of 2016, 265 green funds were registered with the Asset Management Association of China; of these 215 were green industry funds, and 121 of these were established in 2016.

China has demarcated five distinct green finance pilot zones to explore different development models for the local green financial system against different backgrounds.

The Chinese government and the business community have started to attach great importance to developing a green industry chain for outbound investment.

With the Guidelines on Promoting Green Belt and Road, the APEC Green Supply Chain Network, and the Initiative on Environmental Risk Management for China’s Outbound Investment, China is going global in its green investment practices, according to the report.

The Bank of China plans to issue its third set of green bonds in the offshore markets in the near term. The bank states, “…all the net proceeds of its offshore Green Bonds issuances will be used to fund new and existing green projects with environmental benefits.”

Dr. Ma Jun, who chairs China’s Green Finance Committee and serves as special advisor to UN Environment on sustainable finance, said, “China has made huge strides through government leadership to create a domestic green finance market, and has inspired many other countries in developing a green finance policy roadmap. However, to keep this momentum going, China still needs to overcome some challenges.”

The green finance progress report pinpoints where the work needs to be done for China to establish a fully functioning green financial system.

It recommends that China clearly define the term “green.” This would lower the costs of identifying truly green projects and preventing “greenwashing,” the report states.

In this critical recommendation, the report says authorities should clarify lenders’ responsibilities, litigation eligibility, and liabilities by improving laws and regulations on environmental protection. The authors say this would urge commercial banks to incorporate environmental risk analysis into the loan application process.

The authors recommend that China set up statistical systems for green finance, and construct performance evaluation systems for local green development.

Efforts should be made to improve the green finance database and expand channels for international investors to access information about China’s green finance market to help boost their confidence, the authors recommend.

And finally, they recommend that green indexes aligned with the international market should be developed as benchmarks to attract international investors to invest in green bonds and stocks in China.

The report is coauthored by the International Institute of Green Finance of the Beijing-based Central University of Finance and Economics, and UN Environment’s Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.

The Inquiry was launched by UN Environment in January 2014 to improve the financial system’s effectiveness in mobilizing capital for sustainable development.

In October 2015, the Inquiry published the first edition of “The Financial System We Need,” with the second edition launched in October 2016.

The Inquiry has worked in over 20 countries and produced many briefings and reports on sustainable finance. It serves as secretariat for the G20 Green Finance Study Group, co-chaired by China and the United Kingdom, as well as for the Sustainable Insurance Forum of regulators.

In its 2017 Leaders Declaration, the G20 countries committed themselves to sustainable development, declaring, “A strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing. We recognise the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure. We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems.”

The UN Environment Inquiry and its partners this week launched another report on the state of play in green finance and upcoming investment opportunities.

On November 13, at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, they issued “Roadmap for a Sustainable Financial System,” with the World Bank Group. This report is aimed at helping governments and the private sector design a global financial system for the era of sustainable development.

It finds that the transition toward a sustainable financial system is already taking place through the interaction of market-based, national and international initiatives.

“Sustainable growth must be the only growth option for the planet and will require sustainable financial systems that are inclusive, deep, and sound,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice president for Global Themes.

This report makes three key points:

  • Policy and regulatory measures targeting sustainability have grown 20 percent year on year since 2010
  • Climate action has opened up initial investment opportunity of US$22.6 trillion from 2016 to 2030
  • The next 24 months are crucial to build on existing initiatives and finance sustainable development

“The financial system has enormous transformative power, and has the potential to serve as an engine for the global economy’s transition to sustainable development,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. “The roadmap tells us who needs to do what, and when, for this to happen. Here we can see the very real potential to improve the lives of billions of people around the world.”


Featured Image: All three Chinese note-issuing banks are in this shot: Bank of China, HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation), and Standard Chartered Bank, at dusk in Hong Kong, July 27, 2010 (Photo by Brian Sterling) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Local People Know Best

Members of a fishing village in Pagudpud, Philippines untangle and prepare their fishing nets for late evening fishing off shore to catch small tuna. May 2015 (Photo by Wayne S. Grazio) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Members of a fishing village in Pagudpud, Philippines untangle and prepare their fishing nets for late evening fishing off shore to catch small tuna. May 2015 (Photo by Wayne S. Grazio) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, October 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Standard ways of measuring community well-being and sustainability used by global organizations may be missing critical information that could lead to missteps in management actions, finds research that emerged this week from years of study and collaboration among people of many differing disciplines and cultures.

An international team of 40 scientists, policy-makers and on-the-ground practitioners published the paper  “Biocultural approaches to well-being and sustainability indicators across scales” October 23 in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution.”

The authors believe that the world views of local people should be the foundation of global and national approaches that address sustainability issues.

They say that “biocultural approaches” are critical to understanding social-ecological systems and the development of locally relevant sustainability indicators.

Biocultural, or ecocultural, approaches are those that start with and build on place-based cultural perspectives – encompassing indigenous values, knowledges, and needs – and recognize feedbacks between the state of the natural world and human well-being.

The authors say they recognize that choosing indicators of sustainability is a subjective process and that the decisions around which indicators are measured, and how they are measured, can impact management approaches and outcomes.

They suggest that evaluators add to the sustainability indicators already on their list standards that are grounded in the biocultural values of each unique community being evaluated.

“Well-being is a universally applicable concept, yet because it can mean so many different things to different people, pinning down an exact definition is difficult,” said lead author Eleanor Sterling, a conservation scientist at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“This paper is the result of years of collaboration among people from diverse disciplines and cultures to investigate methods and approaches to creating place-based indicators of well-being relevant for local communities,” said Sterling.

The research had its genesis in work the authors did in the Pacific. Scientists met with community members and local, regional, and national government experts to examine issues such as food security, access to fresh water, quality education, sustainable tourism, and protection of marine and terrestrial resources.

For instance, a common way to assess the sustainability of marine resources is to measure the extent of marine protected area (MPA) coverage.

But this metric ignores the appropriateness of the MPA’s location, design, or management effectiveness and may even exclude sustainably managed areas not formally considered as MPAs.

The authors suggest capturing these other crucial aspects of marine management, including customary and traditional management systems.

They cite a 2014 study about the experience of a Canadian First Nation, the Heiltsuk, in coastal British Columbia.

A collaborative team of Heiltsuk First Nation youth & leadership and scientists from elsewhere placed Heiltsuk observations of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in the context of Gvi’ilas – customary law in which bear behavior is recognized as a voice to guide decision-making about whole ecosystems.

In this project, the Heiltsuk framed the research questions that shaped the basic bear studies and led the partnership to carry out data collection and communicate the findings to the broader community.

The research relied both on population and landscape genetics and on Heiltsuk ways of knowing. As it was embedded in Heiltsuk governance structures, the research led to changes in bear management objectives, sanctions on trophy hunting and outlines for a multi-nation grizzly bear sanctuary under formal co-management frameworks.

Another example of the disconnect between locally appropriate indicators and those used by many large organizations is the issue of food security.

One way some global organizations assess food security is to interview community members with a series of standardized questions, which includes the following, “During the last 12 months, was there a time when your household ran out of food because of a lack of money or other resources?”

But the researchers found that questions about food security that are framed around vulnerability may be inappropriate and not generate accurate data due to a strong cultural reluctance to admit to food shortages because of deep obligation felt by some communities to share food with their families and guests.

More appropriate questions could focus on resilience, by looking at the percentage of households that report having a stable food supply throughout the year and the average length of time for which households in the community have an emergency food supply after a disaster.

Biodiversity International is one of the organizations that took part in the study. Since 2009, Bioversity International has been working in many countries to mainstream community-based biocultural landscape approaches, designing incentive schemes to conserve priority threatened species, while also supporting indigenous farmer livelihoods and existing community institutions of collective action.

“This paper distills our thinking around how to approach environmental challenges in a way that is responsible, effective, and ethical,” Sterling said.

Sustainability is built right into community-based irrigation systems, community seedbanks, participatory plant breeding, community-supported agriculture, and the development of biocultural products and services.

“We discuss why inclusion of local peoples’ knowledges and myriad perspectives is crucial to developing appropriate indicators and management approaches for the intricately linked concepts of sustainability and well-being, and suggest ways to bridge between these locally derived solutions and broader scale efforts.”

The authors conclude that, “Global targets such as sustainability and well-being are best addressed through multi-level governance…” They argue that “biocultural approaches can create space for meaningful local metrics while supporting cross-scale application” from local to global.

They suggest that, “Future work could find ways to compare results from biocultural approaches to indicator development with those that did not include cultural aspects or feedbacks between humans and their environments, to see if outcomes differ.”

Institutions involved in this work include the American Museum of Natural History, Pace University, Australian Museum, The University of Queensland, The Field Museum, Bioversity International, Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands, Yale University, French National Center for Scientific Research, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Michigan State University, Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries-United Nations, USDA Forest Service, Brown University, Kamehameha Schools, Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership, NYC Urban Field Station, Department of Natural Resource and Environmental Management, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Solomon Islands Ministry of Forests and Research, College of the Marshall Islands, MarTina Corporation, Barnard College, National Tropical Botanical Garden, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Lynette and Richard Jaffe, and the Jaffe Family Foundation.


Featured Image: Drummers of the Heiltsuk nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada, 2014 (Photo by Kris Krüg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

CapacityBuilding

Discover the World of Sustainable Hospitality

World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai (third from left) at the opening session of World Tourism Day in Doha, Qatar, September 27, 2017 (Photo courtesy World Tourism Organization) Posted for media use

World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai (third from left) at the opening session of World Tourism Day in Doha, Qatar, September 27, 2017 (Photo courtesy World Tourism Organization) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, October 3, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A one-month worldwide trip visiting sustainable tourism initiatives is the prize that will go to the winner of a new competition hosted by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to select the world’s most responsible traveler.

With the aim of promoting responsible travel, the initiative is part of the Travel.Enjoy.Respect campaign taking place as part of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.

“Every action counts and travelers have a strong role to play in building a more sustainable tourism sector. Imagine the impact of one small action multiplied by millions,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai of Jordan. “We want to inspire all travelers to be the change they want to see in the world.”

The winner’s journey will be supported by Explore WorldWide, an adventure travel group with a commitment to responsible travel. Destinations including: Colombia, Germany, Mexico, the United Arab Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah and the Léman region in Switzerland have offered to host the winner and showcase responsible, sustainable tourism practices.

In this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, World Tourism Day celebrated on September 27, was particularly meaningful.

The 2017 World Tourism Day took place in Doha, Qatar, where Rifai warned an audience of senior travel officials from around the world that this is “a crucial time for tourism.”

Even with global challenges such as climate change, migration and security, the UNWTO chief said that in 2016, a total of 1.235 billion travellers crossed international borders, a number equal to nearly one-sixth of the world population.

By 2030 the number of travelers crossing international borders in a year will have reached 1.8 billion, predicted Rifai.

Rifai said that by generating US$3.2 billion of spending worldwide every day, tourism creates one-tenth of jobs globally, represents 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 30 percent of world trade in services.

“But beyond the numbers and the economic benefits, travel and tourism is today a major contributor to a transformation that slowly and gradually is bringing us together, as humans, like never before, in a fast, globalized world,” he emphasized.

Breaking down stereotypes and enabling people to celebrate rich cultural diversity, is “tourism’s greatest contribution to a better world,” he said.

Global Hotel Industry Sets Sustainability Goals

To drive progress towards a better world, the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) marked its 25th anniversary on September 26, one day ahead of World Tourism Day, by announcing four sustainability goals supported by ITP member companies.

Wolfgang Neumann, ITP Governing Council Chair, said, “We have agreed on a total of four core goals, with two addressing environmental issues – climate and water – and two supporting the people who work in the hotel industry and its supply chain. This even balance between planet and people reflects the passions and dedication of ITP members to make a real and lasting difference to a broad range of issues against which commitments can be agreed.”

  • CARBON: The goal is to embrace science-based targets to curb climate change, and encourage the wider industry to join in reducing carbon emissions.

Rising carbon emissions are accelerating climate change with devastating impacts on communities and biodiversity, thte ITP states. The hotel industry already accounts for around one percent of global emissions and this is set to increase.

The hotel industry must reduce its absolute carbon emissions by 66 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050 to stay within the 2˚C threshold agreed under the Paris Agreement on Climate; this is the quantifiable science-based target the ITP aims to meet.

ITP members also encourage the uptake of consistent reporting through the use of the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI), developed by the World Travel & Tourism Council in collaboration with ITP and already used by over 24,000 hotels worldwide. The initiative provides a common methodology for measuring and reporting on the carbon footprint of a hotel stay or meeting.

  • WATER: The goal is to embed water stewardship programs to reduce the number of people affected by water scarcity, improve water-use efficiency and identify ways to address water scarcity.

Demand for freshwater is likely to outstrip supply by 40 percent by 2030 and a third of the world’s population will be living in areas of severe water stress by this time, the ITP states. In many countries, water consumption per guest in hotels greatly exceeds that of the local population, so the industry has a responsibility to encourage responsible use and consumption of water.

To improve water stewardship, ITP members commit to embedding water stewardship programs across their hotel portfolios.

Members encourage the uptake of the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI), a common methodology for measuring and reporting on the water footprint of a hotel stay or meeting.

Developed by the International Tourism Partnership in partnership with auditor KPMG and 18 global hotel companies, and launched in August 2016, HWMI is free of charge and can be used by any hotel anywhere in the world, from small guesthouses to Five Star resorts. HWMI is now used by more than 12,000 ITP-member properties.

  • YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: The goal is to collectively impact one million young people through employability programs by 2030, doubling the industry’s current impact on youth unemployment.

Worldwide, more than 71 million young people, aged 15 to 24, are looking for work and 156 million young workers are living in poverty, often due to unstable, irregular jobs. Many find themselves working in difficult or dangerous conditions, often outside the boundaries of the formal economy, the ITP states.

The hotel industry is well-equipped to offer meaningful work and career development options to young people, as it is growing at four percent each year, and currently providing around one in 10 of all jobs.

ITP members also encourage the uptake of the Youth Career Initiative, created by the industry to bridge the gap between youth unemployment and a poor talent pipeline for hotels to recruit. There are more than 3,000 YCI graduates to date across 14 countries, with an 85 percent success rate of employment or returning to education.

  • HUMAN RIGHTS: The goal is to raise awareness of human rights risks, embed human rights into corporate governance, and address risks arising in the labor supply chain and during hotel construction.

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled. ITP members are focused on fighting modern slavery, human trafficking, and encouraging awareness, transparency and remediation of human rights abuses.

ITP members commit to further raising awareness of human rights risks in the hotel industry. They pledge to embed human rights into corporate governance requirements; work to address human rights risks in the labor supply chain, including elimination of fees charged to workers to secure employment; and identify ways to address human rights risks during the development and construction phase of hotels.

“ITP believes that the hotel industry can be a force for good and make a positive contribution to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and to the COP21 climate agreements,” said Neumann. “Our vision for 2030 is for sustainable growth and a fairer future for all. We understand that bigger impacts can be achieved faster through the industry working together at scale; for this reason we invite other hotel companies to join with us in our commitment to these four critical goals.”

ITP Director Fran Hughes commented, “This cross-industry alignment to a single set of Goals is a fantastic achievement for the International Tourism Partnership. It is also a reflection of the increasing importance that the hospitality industry attaches to sustainability issues.”

“As we move into the second half of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, business leaders have put competition to one side to create an ambitious vision for the future and a rallying call to the whole industry,” Hughes said. “By working together, I feel certain that these businesses will create a more sustainable future for the entire hospitality industry.”

Based in London, the International Tourism Partnership is a program of Business in the Community (BITC), the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. ITP is one of a group of not-for-profit organizations of which Charles, the Prince of Wales, is president.

Top Green Hotels Honored

The United Arab Emirates’ Sir Bani Yas Island is showing the world how sustainable travel looks and feels.

Nominated a World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination 2017 for the World Travel Awards, Sir Bani Yas Island won this award in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The natural island is part of the UAE’s Al Gharbia region. Dominated by the Arabian Wildlife Park, with 13,000 roaming animals such as giraffes, cheetahs and gazelles, the island has multiple archaeological sites, including an ancient Christian monastery. Salt dome hills define the island’s desert interior. The coast features beaches, sea kayak routes and a shipwreck; flocks of flamingos grace a mangrove lagoon.

Many green hotels in Sir Bani Yas Island are energy efficient and LEED certified, while others provide organic products and focus on recycling programs. These eco-aware establishments have a low impact on the environment as they use solar panels and biodegradable materials, and offer eco-tourism activities such as archery and falconry.

At Al-Sahel Villa Resort, with its 30 private one and two-bedroom villas, General Manager Christian Gerart says, “More than 90 percent of the island is dedicated to nature and wildlife, and our resorts have recently been certified gold to the

Green Growth 2050 Global Standard, recognising our excellence in environmental, socioeconomic and cultural sustainability.”

He told “Good” magazine for the November 2016 issue that humans and wildlife can interact freely on Sir Bani Yas Island. “We constantly undertake research and conservation efforts as part of the development of suitably diverse habitats in the Arabian wildlife park on the island,” Gerart said. “Our aim is to maintain a working ecosystem for the animals, where natural interactions happen within and between species as they do in the wild.”

And finally, the award for the World’s Most Sustainable Hotel for 2016 was handed to Italy’s Vigilius Mountain Resort at the World Boutique Hotel awards November 9 at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, London.

No road, no cars, no noise, no stress at the Vigilius Mountain Resort, just silence and nature. Guests arrive after a short trip by cable car at a modernist chalet, a mountain hotel in South Tyrol 1,500 meters above sea level.

Owner Ulrich Ladurner says, “As a sustainable hotel, the Vigilius Mountain Resort contributes to this in a variety of ways at once: as a “green hotel” and an A-class ClimateHouse, which works economically and using only renewable resources.”

Ulrich explains, “The key to the success of this sustainable hotel is solely and exclusively our staff and their authentic amiability. The mountain is honest and simple, we want to emulate it. Those might be very simple values but they no longer go without saying. … Anyone who comes here is looking to find themselves and to find us. In simplicity. We want to give you that.”


CapacityBuildingBillboard970x250.160312Featured Images: Guests enjoy sunset at a hotel on the United Arab Emirates’s Sir Bani Yas Island. (Photo courtesy Sir Bani Yas Island) Posted for media use.

Sustainability Reporting Framework 101

Mumbai, INDIA , September 8, 2017 Guest Contributor Vikram Shetty CEO 73bit Information Technology and Services.

A sustainability report is the key platform for communicating sustainability performance and impacts — whether positive or negative. It also helps topics that are relevant to the organization and prioritize those topics that are “material”. Another source of sustainability measures comes from companies’ reporting standards such as the triple bottom line accounting, as a growing body of firms and public institutions systematically reveal information about their environmental and social performance beyond the traditional financial statement.

Types of Reports

There are many different terms used to report namely Sustainability report, Non-financial report, Triple bottom line report, Corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, Assessment report, Benchmark Report, Transparent Report, Corporate Report, Responsibility Report and many more.

Over past several years, the various parties involved in developing the reporting frameworks have been working together to align their language and approach, and there are increasingly valuable synergies between the frameworks, which should make it easier for companies to evaluate and apply them while also reducing the amount of work and redundancy.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is most commonly known term. CSR is defined as “Enterprise should have a process in place to integrate social, environmental, ethical and human rights concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stake holder.”

History of Reporting

Events 1960 to 1980

The upshot was the US Clean Air Act in 1970 and Clean Water Act in 1972. US society in the 1960s and into the 1970s was concerned about social issues — women’s rights, racial equality and world peace — which became a focus of corporate reporting. In UK and USA, deregulation and economics were emphasised over other issues. Correspondingly, social reporting waned during the 1980s.

Events 1980 to 2000

Chemical corporations pooled together to develop ‘Responsible Care’ programs in an attempt to avert government regulation. Responsible Care was launched in 1985 by the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association (CCPA).

In 1991, Germany passed the Ordinance on the Avoidance of Packaging Waste under the German Waste Act, which held producers responsible for packaging waste. Denmark has required some corporations to disclose environmental consequences in annual reports since 1999.

In the mid-1990s, John Elkington, co-founder of the business consultancy SustainAbility, coined the concept of the ‘triple bottom line’ (Elkington 1998). The basic idea is that financial results do not provide a comprehensive summary of performance.

Events Post 2000

In 2000, GRI launched the first version of the Guidelines, representing the first global framework for comprehensive sustainability reporting. In 2002, about 70 per cent of the reports were published as Environmental Health and Safety reports; in 2005, about 70 per cent were published as Sustainability Reports.

The number of corporations providing CSR information continues to increase. In 2005, 64 per cent of the G250 corporations provided CSR reports, either standalone or as part of their annual reports. KPMG’s 2008 survey shows that nearly 80 per cent of the G250 provide CSR reports

Development of a framework for integrated reporting is led by the IIRC. The IIRC (2011) describes Integrated Reporting. An example of a company at the forefront of integrated reporting is Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company that is a world leader in diabetes care. Novo Nordisk has over 32,000 employees, working in 75 countries, and its full 2011 report is available at Novonordisk

New Generation Reporting

On September 25th 2015, countries (around 200 countries were in the UN when Sustainable Development Goals was adopted)adopted a set of goals to end povertyprotect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. It is called as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Reporting Life Cycle

Companies needs to first decide on which sustainability goals they want to report. We need to identify the Key Performance Indicators. If you are a team who offer Sustainability reporting or benchmarking services in specific industry then you would already have questionnaires or performance indicators.

A reporting cycle is usually One year. There can be variations however it is aligned with the financial reporting cycle. Since financial reporting cycle is normally a year in any country. The few stages in the Cycle from the reporter’s point of view are mentioned below:

  1. Preliminary questionnaire preparation.
  2. Data Collections from individual / multiple stakeholders.
  3. Review and correct the collected data.
  4. Analyse and format with communicating information.
  5. Create report in meaningful and common language.
  6. Publish the report to all stakeholders.

Pilot phase

Each stage has different activities and outcomes which needs different skills and timelines. One of the ways to experience the whole cycle is to start with Pilot Phase. This is a most common practice used by many to kick start the reporting cycle. It consists of a smaller questionnaire for few departments or companies depending on your size and kind of service you are providing for reporting. It becomes easy to create a small initial set of questions. This is followed by collecting the data from the respective team or person. Thus helping the team creating the report (reporters) to work with a small amount of data and with fewer member in a team. This will make it easier when your real questionnaire goes live- you can also test functionalities. It is also a good way to test your online tool/framework/software use to collect the data, analyse and report. It is not compulsory to have a online tool, It can be done by collecting data using word/excel documents via emails and doing all calculations manually. However it is recommended to have a tool for detail analysis of the data collected and to create comprehensive reports using the information in hand.

Recommended good practice for preparing questions and collecting data

  1. Create a plan on the timeline for collection data through surveys, analyzing data and for creating reports. Thus, giving the team enough time to make sure the data is correct.
  2. Try to create more simple questions and question structure. Thus making it easy for both the stakeholder to fill in and reporter to review and revert.
  3. If possible, have a kickoff online webinar to explain the questions and the structure with stakeholders. Let them know what is expected in the respective section.
  4. Keep the list of all concerned team to notify them once the reporting cycle starts and the instructions to fill in the survey.
  5. Stakeholders should only see the relevant questionnaire set which are specific concern to them.
  6. Periodically follow up with teams and doing a spot check to see if the data is filled correctly. Also, make sure that the team is not facing any challenges filling the survey.
  7. Appropriate alerts and notifications are in place once the stakeholder has completed the survey.
  8. Once the survey (data collection phase) is done the stakeholders should not be allowed to modified the data. Thus allowing reporters to work on final data submitted by the stakeholder.

There are many industry practices out there. Above are the few mentioned with respect to someone who is new to reporting cycle.

There are generally two kind of data that is collected while reporting namely Qualitative data and Quantitative data.

Qualitative data is information about qualities; information that can’t actually be measured. Some examples of qualitative data are “what are the principle towards sustainability?”, “what is the companies motto?” and so on.

Quantitative data is information about quantities; that is, information that can be measured and written down with numbers. Some examples of quantitative data are “total number of employees”, “Reporting period”, “Percentage of recycled input materials used”, “Return to work and retention rates of employees that took parental leave”, “ Total number and nature of confirmed incidents of corruption” and so on. The advantage of quantitative data is useful in representing them graphically and via charts. It can be also used in comparative analysis. A benchmarking report is slightly different in that it provides peer comparison, which a sustainability report does not. However, both kinds can be used to track and show year-on-year progress,

Few tricks for working with quantitative data

  1. Make use of sub totals and totals in your final reports or in summary
  2. Take Averages by categories/industries, it will help you represent same data for multiple audiences
  3. Display them in tabular formats for summary information to give an overall picture.
  4. Create derived data form the raw data. For example Ranks, Quintile, etc
  5. Make good use of charts and graphs to represent data.

Advantages of Reporting

There are direct benefits to your organisation in the measuring and reporting of environmental performance as it will benefit from lower energy and resource costs gain, a better understanding of exposure to the risks of climate change and demonstrate leadership, which will help strengthen your green credentials in the marketplace. You should find it helpful to use environmental KPIs to capture the link between environmental and financial performance. Investors, shareholders and other stakeholders are increasingly requesting better environmental disclosures in annual reports and accounts.

Expanding upon how these frameworks can help in developing corporate programs, these frameworks and initiatives can also help push for transparency regarding management strategies and measurable actions. Furthermore, they can help companies target areas that will have significant and meaningful impact that ultimately translate to value for our customers and stakeholders. And that is where the true value lay.

Apart from monetary benefits the reports can provide in terms of explaining the impact on the environment and society in general. You can align your purpose as a company or business towards sustainable future. Thus being a part of the new revolution towards making world more sustainable and happier to live.

Hope you continue to do the work that you are proud off!

I want to give special thanks to experts who helped us, name mentioned in alphabetical order (Click on their name below to visit their profile):

Simona Kramer : Junior researcher at Access to Nutrition Foundation

Thomas Colquhoun-Alberts : Benchmark and Knowledge Manager at Business in the Community

There are many web resources I have used to create this post. Thanks to all who are publishing information towards Sustainability. Few are mentioned below:

Sustainability reporting: past, present, and trends for the future  Insights  and The University of Melbourne.

A Sixth Scenario for Europe: The NGO Vision

Caption: Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 27, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Non-governmental organizations across the European Union have just issued their alternative vision for the future of the EU, as the bloc moves forward without Britain, as a group of 27, rather than 28, member states.

Grounded in the principles of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and initiated by Friends of the Earth Europe and SDG Watch Europe, the NGO vision is distinct from the five Future of Europe scenarios proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in March.

These five scenarios are currently under consultation with member states, with the first conclusions due at the end of the year.

Intended to influence the ongoing debate on the future direction of Europe, this sixth scenario, an alternative vision of “a more democratic, just and sustainable Europe” is endorsed by 256 organizations, including labour rights, culture, development, environment, health, women’s rights, youth, and anti-discrimination groups.

Speaking for SDG Watch Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe, Leida Rijnhout said, “The five scenarios for the future of Europe put forward by President Juncker are all deeply disappointing and have little connection to the challenges that the European Union faces. Instead we need a bold vision – an alternative sixth scenario – that puts social and environmental wellbeing at the core.

“The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be absolutely key for a future that serves people and the planet, not vested interests,” Rijnhout said.

The NGO vision states, “In a scenario where sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project,the EU27 will prioritise the interests of citizens, in the EU and beyond. Europe will have a strong focus on Europe’s core social values

– democracy and participation, social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights, both within Europe and around the globe.”

The NGO vision statement turns the spotlight on economic, social and environmental wellbeing as the three forms of wellness that EU citizens are seeking.

The NGOs are seeking, “Economic wellbeing in the form of prosperity for all, starting with redistribution of wealth.”

They want, “Social wellbeing in the provision of quality, inclusive and affordable public services, the promotion of cultural diversity and a caring society.”

And the vision statement emphasizes, “Environmental wellbeing residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our soils, waters and air, provides nutritious, healthy food and where climate change is minimized.”

The NGOs released their vision statement through the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations in Europe. The EEB stands for a more sustainable future.

“As a result of this focus,” said the EEB in a statement, the EU27 will ensure a better health and quality of life for its citizens. This will increase public trust in European institutions. It will move away from the current focus where commercial and corporate interests are all too often prioritized over the public interest. Decisions are made in the public interest and transparent, accountable and inclusive institutions will be the norm.”

Releasing his White Paper on the five scenarios in March, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recalled the founding of the EU 60 years ago, “with the force of the law rather than with armed forces.”

“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, it is time for a united Europe of 27 to shape a vision for its future. It’s time for leadership, unity and common resolve.

President Juncker said, “The Commission’s White Paper presents a series of different paths this united EU at 27 could choose to follow. It is the start of the process, not the end, and I hope that now an honest and wide-ranging debate will take place. The form will then follow the function. We have Europe’s future in our own hands.”

The Commission’s five scenarios each offer a glimpse into the potential state of the Union by 2025 depending on the choices Europe will make. “They are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive,” the Commission said.

They are:

Scenario 1: Carrying On – The EU27 focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda in the spirit of the Commission’s New Start for Europe from 2014 and of the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in 2016.

Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas. By 2025 this could mean crossing borders for business or tourism becomes difficult. Finding a job abroad is harder and the transfer of pension rights to another country not guaranteed.

Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today but allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters. One or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge.

Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently – The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value. Attention and limited resources are focused on selected policy areas.

Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced. By 2025 this could mean connected cars drive seamlessly across Europe as clear EU-wide rules exist.

But Petr Hlobil, director of the non-governmental CEE Bankwatch Network, reacted to the five scenarios by saying, “There is a crisis of imagination in Brussels.”

“Reforming the EU Budget holds part of the key to unlocking a progressive and inspiring new vision for Europe. Innovating in how we involve citizens and civil society in EU spending to build flourishing, sustainable futures, and designing EU finance to create more equal societies through this great transition to sustainable well-being, hold the highest potential to reconnect people with the European project,” Hlobil said.

In advance of the June 28 release by the European Commission of a reflection paper on the future of Europe’s finances, a growing movement of civil society across Europe has launched its own call for a reformed EU budget that unlocks a positive, people-centered and sustainable future for a new Europe.

The People’s Budget campaign calls for a rethink of the EU budget to guide a sixth scenario for Europe, and demands that citizens and civil society be allowed into the Future of Europe debate, which is currently happening behind closed doors.

According to the NGOs’ vision statement, by 2025, the sixth scenario would mean:

Delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the principles and Sustainable Development Goals: leaving no one behind, living within Europe’s fair share of our planetary boundaries, and putting respect for human rights at the core of EU and national policy-making.

The full implementation of the Paris Agreement by decarbonising our economy, enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the just and sustainable transition to clean and affordable renewable energy, based on the principles of climate justice, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The idea of Better Regulation implies that all EU policies, laws and regulations are focused on ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development and on enforcement of high standards for jobs, health, safety and the environment, delivering tangible benefits to all citizens and the regeneration of environmental capital.

Policy coherence as a key objective will result in an end to negative externalities of domestic policies for the Global South and the phasing out of perverse public subsidies, especially for unsustainable food production and fossil fuels.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, general secretary of the European Public Service Union, said, “Public services and decent work are key ingredients for a fairer, more cohesive and sustainable Europe. Everyone benefits from investment in, for example, high quality public healthcare, social services, education, and environmental services.”


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Featured Image: The light at the end of a road in the Forêt de Soignes, Brussels, Belgium (Photo by Vincent Brassinne) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

What Challenges do NGO’s face and what are the solutions?

 

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MAXIMPACT BLOG March 20, 2017 Maximpact.com

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) refer to highly diverse groups of enterprises engaged in a wide spectrum of non-profit activities. The focus of NGOs can range from humanitarian and rural development to assisting local startups and businesses. There are roughly 3.7 million NGOs worldwide with an estimated 2 million of them in India.

The first NGO dates back to 1945 when the United Nations was created. The UN made it possible for certain non-governmental organizations to be given permission to have observer status at its assemblies and some of its meetings.

So, What is the Goal or Objective of NGOs?

The goal of NGOs can vary widely depending upon the specific focus, objective and mission of the organization. From improving human rights in a geographic area to providing education about environmental issues to supporting the arts, the goal or objective of an NGO can cover just about any topic related to improving a region, country or the state of the world in some way.

What all NGOs share is the desire to further their vision and mission, whatever it might be. Individuals and groups who form NGOs tend to have a passion for their beliefs. They are usually coming from a place of altruism and care for the human race and for the future of our world. To that end, the goal of NGOs is to improve the human experience by lending their efforts to a specific and specialized cause.

What Are the Main Challenges NGOs Face Today?

The main challenges to the missions of most NGOs are as follows:

Lack of Funds

Many NGOs find it difficult to garner sufficient and continuous funding for their work. Gaining access to appropriate donors is a major component of this challenge. They may have limited resource mobilization skills locally, so instead they wait for international donors to approach them. Current donors may shift priorities and withdraw funding. The NGO might suffer from a general lack of project, organizational and financial sustainability.

Absence of Strategic Planning

Many NGOs suffer from the lack of a cohesive, strategic plan that would facilitate success in their activities and mission. This renders them unable to effectively raise and capitalize on financial support.

Poor Governance and Networking

A lack of effective governance is all too common in NGOs. Many have a deficit of understanding as to why they must have a Board and how to set one up. A founder may be too focused on running the NGO for their own purposes; however, governance is foundational to transparency.

Poor or disorganized networking is another major challenge, as it can cause duplicated efforts, time inefficiencies, conflicting strategies and an inability to learn from experience. The more NGOs communicate with one another, with International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and with the community at large, the more effective all of them can be. However, many NGOs perceive INGOs as hindering or even threatening to their goals and missions.

Many NGOs do not maximize the use of current technologies that could facilitate better communication and networking. More effective use of technology can assist NGOs in staying abreast of important regional, national and global concerns.

Limited Capacity

NGOs often lack the technical and organizational capacity to implement and fulfill their mission, and few are willing or able to invest in training for capacity building. Weak capacity affects fundraising ability, governance, leadership and technical areas.

Development Approaches

Many NGOs favor a “hardware” approach to development through building infrastructure and providing services instead of empowering people and institutions locally. Overall, their development approaches are not as flexible, sustainable and relevant to the community as they could be.

What are the solutions to those challenges?

Grant Funding

In order to receive grant funding, an NGO must do the following:

1. Locate Opportunities. Find an appropriate grant and funder for their focus and mission.

2. Solid Concept Note / First Round Application. NGOs must answer all criteria and provide all of the information the donor/funder requires. Not following the guidelines will result in immediate disqualification.

3. Proposal. Once an NGO passes the first application state, a proposal will be requested. The proposal must be well-written and error-free. Most importantly, it must contain all of the necessary elements to show the donor that the NGO has a strategy and high-quality team members.

Challenges such as poor governance, a lack of strategic planning, and poor networking can all be addressed through:

Capacity Building

Capacity building and training can help to provide crucial new skills. NGOs can then more readily train staff and cultivate the necessary skills within the organization to address challenges going forward.

On-Demand Advice From Experts

The ability to reach out for needed advice and guidance whenever required during a project or to optimize NGO operations is extremely valuable. Access to qualified experts will inspire confidence in donors and contribute to the project’s success. NGOs will naturally become more efficient, streamlined and effective.

Information, Communication and Technology

All NGOs should be using a minimum of Internet, email, a basic website and relevant social medial platforms.

Income Generation

NGOs with assets can use any surplus to help generate income. Renting out buildings, offering training, providing consultancy, creating and selling products and trading on your name are just a few examples.

If your NGO is facing any of the challenges described above, Maximpact can help. We offer training and capacity building to strengthen your organization and assist you in meeting your goals.


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How Maximpact team is tailoring capacity building services
Maximpact assists organizations by identifying and/or implementing the capacity building needs. Some organizations already know what skills and capacity their organizations lacks in and some have not yet identified them.

Once the capacity development need is identified, Maximpact selects the right expert(s) to provide customized capacity building service to the client. Maximpact believes that transferring knowledge is not the only thing you can do. Therefore, it’s main objective is to ensure practical usage of knowledge attained through its capacity building program.
It’s extensive pre-qualified global consulting network, and broad partnership network makes Maximpact perfectly equipped to match the right expertise efficiently, maximizing cost-benefit outcome for all clients. All consultants and experts within the network are assessed against set of professional capacity criteria to ensure their qualifications are in line with specific requests of Maximpact partners.

Tropical Forests Thrive on Radical Transparency

ForestIndonesia

The Ulu Masen forest ecosystem in the northern part of Indonesia’s Aceh province forms part of the largest single forested area in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith / DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, asserts Trase, a new online information and decision-support platform aimed at improving the transparency, clarity and accessibility of information on the commodity supply chains that drive tropical deforestation.

Formally known as Transparency for Sustainable Economies, Trase is led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme.

Trase draws on deep untapped sets of data tracking the flows of globally-traded commodities, such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber, responsible for tropical deforestation.

Trase responds to the urgent need for a breakthrough in assessing and monitoring sustainability triggered by the ambitious commitments made by government leaders to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

In Morocco last November, a Trase-led side event at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), attracted experts in environmental policy, data analysis and commodity supply chains who strategized on upgrading supply-chain transparency to achieve trade that is free of deforestation.

The side event was hosted by the EU REDD Facility, which supports partner countries in improving land use governance as part of their effort to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.

REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation,” a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the UNFCCC since 2005. The goal is to mitigate climate change by protecting forests, which absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Participants discussed how to bring about step changes in the capacity of supply-chain actors to meet zero deforestation and sustainability commitments. They examined incentives for encouraging governments in consumer and producer countries to cooperate.

Tools such as the platforms launched by Trase to collect and analyze data and information can help purchasers to develop better sourcing strategies and governments to develop policies in the forestry sector and commodity trade.

The international trade in commodities such as soy, palm oil and beef is valued at billions of dollars. These commodities trade along complex supply chains that often have adverse social and environmental impacts, especially in developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, participants acknowledged, agricultural expansion has caused two-thirds of tropical deforestation, which in turn has accelerated climate change and threatened the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and communities that depend on forests.

Participants agreed that consumers and markets around the world are demanding greater sustainability in producing and trading agricultural commodities.

Nowhere is this demand greater than in the European Union, which has set a goal of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest, and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

The EU and several EU Member States have endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests .

In 2015, several EU Member States signed the Amsterdam Declaration , which recognizes the need to eliminate deforestation related to trade in agricultural commodities and supports private and public sector initiatives to halt deforestation no later than 2020.

The EU is also conducting a feasibility study for a EU Action Plan on deforestation.

Some of the most interesting deforestation transparency work is being done in Brazil.

Pedro Moura Costa, founder and CEO, BVRio Environmental Exchange, says his organization and Trase are piloting a program to bring more transparency to Brazilian timber supply chains, to assess the causes of illegally harvested timber and to find solutions to minimize risks.

Through the partnership, BVRio will upload data to the platform on the legal status of forest operations in Brazil. This will enable Trase to track legally and illegally harvested timber from sources to buyers at the end of supply chains.

On the banks of the Tapajós River, in Brazil’s Pará state, is a community forestry project that works with sustainable timber extraction in the Amazon.

Since 2003, Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós (Coomflona) has been operating in the region and today employs 150 managers, as workers in this sector are known. The yearly production is around 42,000 cubic meters of timber, which Costa says could be fully commercialized if not for the competition with illegal timber products.

The issue of legality in supply chains is rarely considered in transparency initiatives, but is vitally important, Costa points out.

Legality is at the core of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan issued in 2003. The Action Plan sets forth a range of measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests by engaging with national governments on illegal logging.

BVRio Environmental Exchange in 2016 launched a Responsible Timber Exchange, a trading platform to assist traders and buyers of timber in sourcing legal or certified products from all over the world.

The platform is integrated with BVRio’s Due Diligence and Risk Assessment tools, designed to assist traders and buyers of tropical timber in verifying the legality status of the products purchased and their supply chains. The system is based on big data analysis and conducts more than two billion crosschecks of data daily.

Since their release in 2015, the tools have been used by traders and environmental agencies worldwide to screen thousands of timber shipments.

Costa says, “Compliance with local legislation is an essential requirement of any initiative to promote good land-use governance and, ultimately, to achieve zero deforestation supply chains.

Companies too are engaged.

Trase can help us move away from the blame game, to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions,” says Lucas Urbano, project management officer for climate strategy with the Danone, based in Paris, one of the world’s largest dairy and packaged food companies.

Danone has committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains by 2020. The company is a signatory of the New York Declaration on Forests as well as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

For a company like Danone, transparency and better information about the impacts and conditions in jurisdictions where its supplies originate from are hugely important, Urbano recognizes.

Transparency is the first major step in eliminating deforestation from Danone’s value chains, because supply-chain complexity and opacity are barriers to action, he says.

Transparency initiatives such as Trase help Danone to understand who to convene and engage with in strategic supply chains. At the same time,” Urbano says, “transparency will make it impossible for companies to hide behind the complexity and opacity of supply chains.

Trase is made possible through the financial support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.


Featured Image: In Brazil, forest managers with the Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós mark a tree for legal logging. (Photo courtesy BVRio Environmental Exchange) posted for media use

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 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of  sustainable forestry and environmental experts that can assist your organization. Create forestry projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Glitters in the Sun

AbuDhabiSustainabilityWeek

The International Renewable Energy Agency exhibit at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, January 16, 2017 (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, January 19, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The oil-rich Middle East’s largest gathering on sustainability is happening this week, featuring the rock star business and opinion leaders who are shaping the present and future clean energy world.

An estimated 35,600 people representing 170 countries are attending Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) under sunny skies, including 80 government ministers, 382 exhibiting companies, and more than 200 high-level speakers.

As a global platform for addressing the interconnected challenges of clean energy, water and sustainable development, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week has developed lasting partnerships with many of the world’s most admired experts and opinion formers on sustainability issues,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company and the host of ADSW.

ADSW 2017 explores the theme “Practical Steps Towards a Sustainable Future” from January 12-21 with presentations, discussions and workshops on clean energy, water and waste.

From the podium, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto said, “Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is a testament to the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to sustainable development and a new diversified, low carbon economy. Similar to how Mexico is leading the way as a developing country, the UAE was in fact the first country in the Middle East to set renewable energy targets at a time when there was widespread doubt about renewable energy’s viability and value.

Workshops are considering strategies to drive investment, implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate, and the challenges of adapting existing infrastructure to the new market reality of small-scale, distributed power.

Another critical new market reality was detailed by Michael Liebreich, founder and chairman of the Advisory Board, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and Board member, Transport for London.

Developing countries are overtaking the wealthiest economies in attracting clean energy investment, with the Middle East & North Africa playing a growing role,” said Liebreich, citing research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The global profile of ADSW is valuable in bringing emerging market opportunities to a wider stage,” he said, “thereby enabling greater cooperation between developed and developing economies.”

All kinds of clean energy investments are being forged in Abu Dhabi this week. “The clean energy sector has moved from the margins into the mainstream as a dynamic, commercially viable growth market,” Al Ramahi said.

The UAE Ministry of Energy, SKM Air-Conditioning and the Masdar Institute Wednesday signed an agreement to develop advanced energy-efficient building chillers specific to the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

If adopted nation-wide, the new efficient chillers could provide the UAE with national energy savings of over 20 percent while lowering life-cycle cooling plant costs. Currently 50 percent of the UAE’s electricity consumption goes towards cooling energy requirements, which can rise to as high as 75 percent during peak-day electricity use in the summer.

On another front, the United Arab Emirates announced a landmark new US$50 million grant fund for renewable energy projects in Caribbean island countries. 

Launched by Reem Al Hashimy, minister of state for international cooperation, the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund is one of the largest-ever single investments in the region’s clean energy sector. It represents a significant deepening of bilateral relationships between the UAE and Caribbean countries.

Grant funding is provided by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs managing the initiative and Masdar leading implementation.

The announcement, which brings UAE development assistance for renewable energy to almost US$1 billion since 2013, was made on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, as part of the annual General Assembly meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

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International Renewable Energy Agency Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin anticipates great success ahead for renewable energy. “Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure,” he said. “Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future.

Introducing the third and latest annual issue of IRENA’s report, “REthinking Energy,” Amin said that the falling costs of renewable energy, driven by innovations in technology and policy, is behind the rapid spread of renewables and an accompanying host of socioeconomic benefits.

As we advance deeper into a new energy paradigm, we need to pick-up the pace of our decarbonization efforts. Policies and regulations continue to remain crucial to this end and to develop the renewables market,” explained Amin. “We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take-on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale.”

Heating and cooling, and the potential of renewables for transport, are areas where future efforts are needed,” Amin said.

REthinking Energy,” provides insights on the innovations, policy and finance driving further investment in sustainable energy system, finding that:

  • Renewable energy auctions are gaining popularity in both developed and developing countries, generating record-breaking low energy prices;
  • Demand for battery storage is increasing rapidly and playing a larger part in integrating variable renewables;
  • New capital-market instruments are helping increase available finance by offering new groups of investors access to investment opportunities;
  • Institutional investors are moving into renewable energy as it offers stable returns over the long term;
  • New business models promise new ways to finance renewable energy.

Of the clean energy technologies, the report finds that solar photovoltaics will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation.

IRENA estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030.

Cost-effective off-grid renewables already provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide. “REthinking Energy” describes how off-grid solutions can provide modern energy to hundreds of millions more people to help the world achieve its sustainable development goals.

Achieving universal electricity access by 2030, will require us to boost global power generation – nearly 60 percent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” said Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity.

At the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that aims to build the business case for renewable energy, India’s solar power industry is showcasing an unprecedented range of investment opportunities, after the Indian government’s announcement of its plans to add an additional 175 GW of renewable energy to the nation’s electricity supply by 2022.

The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to install 100 GW of solar power, including utility-scale and rooftop solar. The remaining capacity will include 60 GW of utility-scale wind energy, 5 GW of small hydro, and 10 GW of bioenergy.

Private sector investors are showing new interest in Saudi Arabia’s solar energy market, after the nation’s leadership included plans to add 9.5 GW of renewables to the energy supply as part of Saudi Vision 2030, a strategy announced last April.

The Vision 2030 strategy sets 9.5 GW as an “initial target” to help build the Saudi renewables sector, noting that energy consumption will triple in the next 14 years. The Saudi government confirms that it aims to achieve that target by 2023, a rapid increase from the nation’s 25 MW of installed renewable energy capacity at the end of 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s plans are supported by a comprehensive restructuring of government departments responsible for energy. Vision 2030 calls for a complete review of the country’s legal and regulatory framework to allow the private sector to buy and invest in the renewable energy sector.

The projects that will flow from Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy plan create a landmark opportunity for technology manufacturers, developers and investors in solar energy, setting out a very real, very achievable ambition,” said Roberto de Diego Arozamena, CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, the largest GCC-based solar photovoltaic developer and one of the largest in the world.

A highlight of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week took place on Monday with the awarding of this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize to nine pioneers in renewable energy and sustainability.

Founded in 2008, the Zayed Future Energy Prize has lit up the world for more than 289 million people through the actions of its international community of winners.

This year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize winners:

Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center of Climate Strategy Research, won the Lifetime Achievement award for his commitment to the adoption of renewable energy in China.

General Electric won the Large Corporation award for leadership in the wind and solar energy markets. GE’s wind business alone has commissioned 41.3 GW of total generating capacity and installed more than 30,000 wind turbines to date.

Sonnen, the German smart home and commercial energy storage system manufacturer, was awarded the prize in the Small and Medium Enterprise category for leadership in providing battery storage solutions.

In the Non-Profit Organization category, UK-based Practical Action was recognized for its work in providing deprived communities with clean energy in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Joining them were the winners in the Global High Schools category, five schools spanning five regions of the globe: Starehe Girls’ Center, Kenya for the Africa region; Green School Bali, Indonesia for the Asia region; Bolivia’s Unidad Educativa Sagrado Corazón 4 for the Americas; Belvedere College in Ireland for Europe; and Huonville High School, Tasmania, Australia for the Oceania region.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, took great satisfaction in announcing the winners. “The Zayed Future Energy Prize continues to honor the legacy of sustainability advocated by the UAE’s late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” he said. “With each awards ceremony, the UAE leadership accelerates the pursuit of innovation, reinforces the significance of sustainability at the top of the global agenda, and gives opportunities and far-reaching benefits to communities around the world.

Since the start of the Zayed Future Energy Prize awards, over 25 million people in Africa and Asia have been provided with access to modern, clean energy, off-setting more than one billion tons of carbon emissions, and ensuring that 17 million school age children can study at night using innovative solar-powered utilities.

Chair of the Zayed Future Energy Prize Jury Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of the Republic of Iceland, said, “Through the sustainable actions of its winners, the Zayed Future Energy Prize is a model example for how far the world has come in the last nine years. It is extraordinary that, through the impact of each winner and the lives they continue to improve, we now see a growing strength in being able to deliver a sustainable future.


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Maximpact’s Tom Holland Founder & CEO was proud to attended the ADSW from Maximpact‘s Masdar City Office.

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Stock Exchanges Adopt Sustainability Reporting

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Trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 15, 2014 (Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid ) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As many as 21 more of the world’s stock exchanges could introduce sustainability reporting standards before the end of the year, bringing the total number to 38, says an official with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development .

Seventeen stock exchanges already recommend that their listed companies report on environmental, social, and governance, known as ESG, issues.

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James Zhan, director of investment and enterprise, UNCTAD (Photo courtesy UNCTAD) Posted for media use.

And James Zhan, director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD, which co-organizes the UN’s Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, said that 23 stock exchanges have committed to introduce new standards on sustainability reporting in 2016.

Just two have implemented so far, but more are expected to introduce new standards before the end of the year or early in 2017, he said.

The upsurge in sustainability reporting standards follows the launch of the SSE Model Guidance on Reporting ESG Information to Investors.

Twenty-one stock exchanges have confirmed to us they will introduce new guidelines either this year or within the first quarter of next year, and we know that many of them are close because they have posted draft guidelines on their websites for comment and discussion,” Zhan said.

Sustainability reporting has come of age,” he said, adding that the UN and nongovernmental organizations are no longer the only ones to advocate sustainability reporting and that “the markets themselves are demanding it.

In a newly published biennial report “2016 Report on Progress” on the progress made by Sustainable Stock Exchanges, SSE, the authors examined the environmental, social, and governance practices of 82 stock exchanges and found that exchanges are increasingly taking actions that contribute to the creation of more sustainable capital markets.

The report was prepared for the fifth SSE Global Dialogue held in September in Singapore. Representatives from 16 countries, including stock exchange chief executives, institutional investors and companies, senior government policymakers and United Nations representatives gathered to discuss the theme, “A New Global Agenda.

One development in the new agenda is the number of exchanges now partnering with the SSE initiative. Fifty-eight stock exchanges, representing over 70 percent of listed equity markets, have made public commitments to advancing sustainability in their markets and are now official SSE Partner Exchanges.

Market transparency is gaining in acceptability too. Twelve exchanges currently incorporate ESG reporting into their listing rules and 15 provide formal guidance to stock issuers.

The progress of SSE’s campaign to encourage exchanges to issue guidance signals that the industry is ready to take the lead when presented with practical opportunities to develop more sustainable markets.

Another significant development is the growth of green finance. Green bond listings grew considerably and there is increasing interest among equity investors in issues like stranded assets and carbon risk.

The Luxembourg Stock Exchange now lists 110 green bonds and represents half of all listed green bonds globally.

Today 11 stock exchanges offer green bond listings, demonstrating that exchanges are already supporting the transition to a green economy and there is room for further growth.

ESG indices remain the most popular sustainability instrument among exchanges, with 38 of 82 exchanges providing them.

Upon joining the ESG guidance campaign in September 2015, Oscar Onyema, CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said, “The Nigerian Stock Exchange is using its unique platform to advocate for the adoption of global corporate governance standards and sustainable business practices. We are committed to developing principle-based sustainability reporting guidelines and a roadmap that will inspire sustainability imperatives in the Nigerian capital market.

Looking at the policy landscape, many governments, too, are encouraging corporate disclosure of ESG factors, with 30 of the largest 50 country economies having at least one regulation on disclosure of ESG factors in place.

Government involvement on the investment side is less developed, with eight of the 50 countries implementing an investor stewardship code that addresses ESG factors.

Despite many reasons to be optimistic, the SSE’s data show that more action is needed if stock exchanges are going to play an important role in promoting the reorientation of financial markets to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

By reporting on sustainability issues, companies tend to act more sustainably too, Zhan said. They may have an incentive to do so, since analysts increasingly see a positive correlation between sustainable performance and strong financial performance too.

Zhan said the SSE initiative had helped spread corporate sustainability reporting, by distributing model guidelines for use by the stock exchanges themselves and their listed members.

The SSE initiative works to “advance sustainability” in the markets. It is organized by UNCTAD, the United Nations Global Compact, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI) and the Principles for Responsible Investment.

The private sector is seen as critical to achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals , and the SSE initiative is viewed as an important channel to get the private sector more involved in accomplishing these goals.

Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2009, the SSE initiative now includes 58 stock exchanges, representing more than 70 percent of listed equity markets, and some 30,000 companies with a market capitalization of over US$55 trillion.

The SSE initiative was built on the demand from exchanges for a place to come together with investors, companies and policymakers to share good practices and challenges in a multi-stakeholder environment.

Since 2012 when the first five stock exchanges – BM&FBOVESPA in São Paulo, Brazil; Borsa Istanbul; Egyptian Exchange (EGX); Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE); and Nasdaq – made a public commitment to advancing sustainability in their market, the initiative has grown into a global partnership platform including most of the world’s exchanges.

Through the SSE, exchanges have access to consensus and capacity building activities, guidance, research and other support to assist in their efforts to contribute to sustainable development.

Market expectations are shifting quickly and we see more and more stock exchanges viewing sustainability reporting as necessary and inevitable,” said Anthony Miller, UNCTAD’s SSE initiative coordinator. “Those expectations create their own momentum.”

The report concludes with recommendations for exchanges that range from introducing ESG reporting guidance to promoting gender-diverse boards to listing green bonds.

By putting the recommendations into action, exchanges can take leadership roles in creating more stable capital markets and a sustainable society.


Featured image: Nasdaq displays the SSE logo in Times Square, New York City, March 2016 (Photo courtesy UNCTAD) Posted for media use

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167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

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Ecuador’s capital, Quito, population 2.1 million, is distinguished by the Cathedral of Quito, first opened in 1567. (Photo by Al Tuttle) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

QUITO, Ecuador, November 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, has wrapped up in Quito, Ecuador, as delegations adopted the New Urban Agenda, a new framework that details how cities should be planned and managed to best achieve sustainability.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, attends the opening of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, HABITAT III, with Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) posted for media use.

Up to 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, experts project.

 Hosted by the city of Quito from October 17-20, and attended by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Habitat III conference drew around 36,000 people from 167 countries.

 Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, the private sector and urban planners.

The New Urban Agenda is contained in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All. It states, “By 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. As the population, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly concentrated in cities, this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources…

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Joan Clos, secretary-general of the Habitat III conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, Oct. 31, 2016 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) posted for media use.

We have analyzed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” said Joan Clos, secretary-general of the conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, usually called UN-Habitat.

 Clos, who was mayor of Barcelona, Spain from September 1997 to September 2006, said the New Urban Agenda should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 UN Member States in September 2015.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the power of cities and towns to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future, a concept further emphasized in the New Urban Agenda.

The ambitious New Urban Agenda is guided by these interlinked principles:

  • (a) Leave no one behind, by ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty, by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socio-economic and cultural diversity, integration in the urban space, enhancing livability, education, food security and nutrition, health and well-being; including by ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence … and providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services as well as adequate and affordable housing.
  • (b) Sustainable and inclusive urban economies, by leveraging the … benefits of well-planned urbanization, high productivity, competitiveness, and innovation; promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, ensuring decent job creation and equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities; preventing land speculation; and promoting secure land tenure and managing urban shrinking where appropriate.
  •  (c) Environmental sustainability, by promoting clean energy, sustainable use of land and resources in urban development as well as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature; promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns; building urban resilience; reducing disaster risks; and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On the sidelines of the Habitat III formal discussions, dozens of side events and parallel events brought partners together to debate the more intricate areas of urbanization, such as the right of women and youth to the city, the importance of public space and how to finance the New Urban Agenda.

Among its 175 sections, the New Urban Agenda states, in Section 66, “We commit to adopt a smart city approach, which makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery.

 Section 75 states, “We commit to strengthening the sustainable management of resources – including land, water (oceans, seas, and freshwater), energy, materials, forests, and food, with particular attention to the environmentally sound management and minimization of all waste, hazardous chemicals, including air and short-lived climate pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise – in a way that considers urban-rural linkages and functional supply and value chains vis-à-vis environmental impact and sustainability, and strives to transition to a circular economy, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

Above all, Clos said, the New Urban Agenda is, “A commitment that we will all together take the responsibility … [for the] direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.

To further reach out to cities, foster the exchange of best practices and the development of urban strategies, the European Commission has launched a new web portal for cities.

Answering a need expressed by numerous cities, the new portal provides up-to-date information on EU policies such as climate change adaptation, mobility or circular economy that directly impact cities and urban areas.

Urban stakeholders can also get clear information on financing opportunities under the different EU funding instruments and on events related to urban development.

The new portal is intended to help cities to address challenges such as affordable housing, energy efficiency or accessibility, by making the most out of EU funding opportunities.

In addition, the new Urban Data Platform, hosted on the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies operated by the Joint Research Centre, provides a single access point to common indicators on the status and trends in over 800 European urban areas – on demography, economic development or access to services.

This database will enable urban authorities and stakeholders to compare data, benchmark and monitor, which is one of the aims of the New Urban Agenda.

European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic said, “Over 70 percent of the EU’s population lives in urban areas; it is here where the transition to a green economy is being decided.”

Cities play a crucial role in the activation of citizens and consumers and in promoting change by investing in energy-efficient renovation of buildings, making transport more sustainable, raising citizens’ awareness, implementing new technologies, supporting vulnerable consumers and much more. Therefore we are launching instruments which will enable cities to experiment with new ideas and see if they are feasible and useful,” Šefcovic said.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu presented the EU’s Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito.

In partnership with UN Habitat, the Commission has released the State of European Cities Report. It supports the New Urban Agenda by assessing the performance of European cities with regards to its priority themes: jobs and skills, fight against poverty, shift towards a low-carbon economy.

At the heart of the EU’s Urban Agenda, 12 partnerships allow cities, Member States, EU Institutions, NGOs and business partners to work together on an equal basis to find common solutions to improve quality of life in European urban areas.

Four pilot partnerships have already started: on the inclusion of migrants, coordinated by the city of Amsterdam; on air quality, coordinated by the Netherlands; on housing, coordinated by Slovakia; and on urban poverty, coordinated by Belgium and France.

By January 2017, four new partnerships will be launched: on circular economy coordinated by Oslo, Norway; on digital transition coordinated by Estonia; Oulu, Finland; and Sofia, Bulgaria; on urban mobility coordinated by the Czech Republic and Karlsruhe, Germany, as well as on jobs and skills coordinated by Romania, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Jelgava, Latvia. The Commission will report back to the Council on the partnerships by the end of 2017.

To transform our world, we must transform its cities,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement commemorating World Cities Day, which is observed each October 31 since 2014.

Local action is essential to realizing the potential of these global agreements,” Ban said. “On World Cities Day, let us renew our resolve to confront urban problems and forge lasting solutions. Together, we can show how success in cities inspires change across the world.


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Investors Assess Their Climate Risks

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Greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired cogeneration Hanasaari B power plant at sunset in Helsinki, Finland, March 9, 2013 (Photo by Fintrvlr) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

OAKLAND, California, October 20, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Investors are being put on notice that some mutual funds and exchange traded funds labeled “sustainable,” “ecology,” “green” or “integrity” may actually have very high carbon footprints.

Now, a free software tool that empowers investors to track the carbon pollution that companies embedded in their funds are emitting has expanded its analysis to cover funds worth US$11 trillion.

FossilFreeFunds.org, a website created by the environmental advocacy nonprofit As You Sow, has added carbon footprinting of over $11 trillion in global mutual funds and ETFs to the site – the largest-ever analysis of this kind.

Fossil fuel investments carry real financial risks,” says FossilFreeFunds.org on its site. Their analysis covers more than 8,500 global mutual funds, including 3,000 of the most commonly-held funds in U.S. retirement plans, so that all investors can be aware of the climate risk in their retirement accounts, with financial data provided by Morningstar.

In August, Morningstar introduced a Sustainability Rating for Funds that offers an objective way to evaluate how investments are meeting environmental, social, and governance challenges, helping investors put their money where their values are.

Transparency leads to transformation,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “Measuring a company’s carbon emissions is a critical way to understand the specific climate risk of your investments.

We have aggregated this data for all of the companies embedded in each of the 8,500 most-held global mutual funds and ETFs,” said Behar. “This tool enables every investor to answer the question, ‘Am I investing in my own destruction or the clean energy future?

The analysis uses data from global sustainability solutions provider South Pole Group, and yourSRI.com, a carbon data analyst and reporting solution provider for responsible investments.

Intially, the analysis will cover funds in Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. The developers plan to expand to include every fund in every exchange around the world.

Institutional investors such as California’s CalPERS and Sweden’s AP4 have embraced carbon footprinting as a way to protect their assets from climate risk.

Major index providers are increasingly offering low-carbon options that incorporate a footprinting analysis.

Traditional fossil-free investment approaches avoid companies with reserves of coal, oil, and gas that represent potential future emissions.

Carbon footprinting turns the focus to current greenhouse gas emissions, helping reveal businesses that operate with higher and lower footprints than their industry peers.

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ConocoPhillips oil refinery, Rodeo, California, December 11, 2012 (Photo by ah zut) Creative Commons license via Flickr

As You Sow explains that, “Carbon footprinting a mutual fund means accounting for the quantification and management of greenhouse gases. It is the first step towards understanding an investor’s impact on climate change.

A carbon footprint is calculated by measuring and/or estimating the quantities and assessing the sources of various greenhouse gas emissions that can be directly or indirectly attributed to the activities of the underlying holdings.

 “Decarbonizing” a portfolio involves investing in companies that have lower carbon footprints than their peers.

The FossilFreeFunds.org platform allows investors to see real scores that are updated every month with Morningstar’s latest holdings data.

A few examples from the analysis:

  • Given that BlackRock recently published a major report on portfolio climate risk, it may be a surprise that the BlackRock Basic Value Fund’s (MABAX) has a carbon footprint 170 percent higher than its benchmark, the Russell 1000 Value Index.
  • Dimensional Social Core Equity (DSCLX) has 85 percent more carbon than the MSCI All World Index, with 13 percent of the portfolio made up of fossil fuel companies including Shell, BP, and tar sands giant Suncor.
  • The State Street SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (SPYX) holds 40 fossil fuel companies, including companies with reserves like Phillips66, Valero, and Marathon; coal fired utilities Duke Energy and Southern Company, and oil field services leader Halliburton.

Having funds with smaller footprints is one way to avoid climate risk,” said Andrew Montes, director of digital strategies at As You Sow. “It also actively rewards companies that have made positive decisions to lower the climate impact of their operations.

Investor demand will drive fund managers to drop companies with high carbon footprints and include those companies that are shifting to the clean energy economy,” explained Montes.

By providing a way to examine carbon demand and consider the value chain when measuring climate impact, the data can help investors large and small reconcile their investing with their values.


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Six CSR Strategies for Startups

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Silicon Valley Community Foundation Board of Directors. Back Row from left: Eduardo Rallo, Jayne Battey, Tom Stocky, Thurman V. White, Jr., Dan’l Lewin, Catherine A. Molnar, Erik Dryburgh Middle Row: Marie Oh Huber, Julie Miraglia Kwon, Rose Jacobs Gibson, Kate Mitchell, Lynn A. McGovern Seated left to right: David P. Lopez, Emmett D. Carson (CEO and President), C.S. Park (Chair), Samuel Johnson, Jr. (Vice Chair) Not Pictured: Carol Bartz, Robert A. Keller, Wade W. Loo, Anne F. Macdonald, Laura Miele (Photo courtesy SVCF) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, October 18, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Startups now have a new strategic guide to help them build a record of social responsibility, courtesy of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The philanthropic SVCF is located in Mountain View, where many of the world’s largest technology companies – Google, Symantec, Intuit – are also headquartered.

 In the course of its work of supporting companies and foundations to drive social impact locally and globally, the the foundation says it often is approached by startups asking how they can use their energy and vision for the social good.

To translate a company’s purpose into social responsibility practices, SVCF has compiled six strategies that startups can consider and published them in a new guide, “Starting with Purpose,” based on experiences and insights of startups and industry leaders.

Startups looking for guidance in creating a social responsibility plan – to give back to the community, engage employees in meaningful causes, and instill responsible business practices in operations – are encouraged to work with SVCF’s team of social responsibility experts.

Their Six Social Responsibility Strategies Are:

 1. Cultivate a Culture Committed to Social Change

 As startups have multiplied and flourished, so have stories of the “startup culture,” with flexible hours, unlimited free snacks and catered lunches, permission to bring dogs to work, and open-office seating adjacent to their CEO. This vision has become a stereotype, but the effort many startups put into cultivating a strong culture is substantial and can be productive.

SVCF says, “When a culture includes empathy and awareness of social impacts, it can be an extremely powerful tool for building a commitment to social responsibility.”

2. Connect with Local Communities

Be a good neighbor. Social responsibility need not mean attempting to solve national challenges or donating millions of dollars. It can mean rallying employees to support local businesses or opening a company’s doors to the community.

3. Donate or Discount Products or Services to Drive Social Change

Many businesses have products and services that can help support nonprofit organizations as effectively as cash donations can.

4. Lay the Groundwork for a Sustainable Supply Chain

Increasingly, consumers want to know where a product comes from; what environmental burden results from its manufacture; and under what working conditions the product is made.

Knowing the business practices of partners and suppliers – and deciding how to influence them – is an important consideration for any startup’s social responsibility strategy,” the foundation advises.

5. Translate Diversity Values into Practice

Diversity is part of social responsibility, and a commitment to diversity is not optional. Many startups believe diversity is a business imperative and necessary core value.

SVCF writes, “We include it here for two reasons: The startup struggle for diverse talent has been widely publicized and scrutinized; and many of the startups SVCF spoke to are working to balance competition for talent and diversity.

As startups work to develop or implement a diversity strategy, they should consider how to ensure diversity in their leadership, how to make diversity a priority and how to work with their communities to build a pipeline of talent,” the foundation advises.

6. Make a Public and Formal Commitment to Social Responsibility

While some companies bake a social commitment directly into their mission (think of TOMS’ one-for-one model), others layer on more formal public commitments or adhere to business structures to build momentum behind their social impact strategies. Companies can consider a formal commitment such as Pledge 1% or certification as a B Corp to direct their social responsibility program.

More details on these strategies are outlined in the guide, “Starting with Purpose.

In partnership with its individual and corporate donors, Silicon Valley Community Foundation awarded a total of $823 million to charities in 2015, benefiting thousands of people and causes in the Bay Area, across the United States and around the world.

SVCF made a total of 122,000 grants in 2015, including those awarded by individuals, families and companies through advised funds, and grants awarded through corporate matching gift programs.

SVCF received $1.2 billion in new gifts from individual and corporate donors in 2015, bringing its charitable assets under management to approximately $7.3 billion.

Said the foundation, “These results demonstrate the tremendous generosity of Silicon Valley philanthropists and their desire to make a positive difference in their local communities and around the world.”

For more information on how SVCF can assist startups, contact donate@siliconvalleycf.org

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Group from the startup Angelcam shows their security camera apps and cloud storage at ISC WEST, the largest security industry trade show in the United States, April 17, 2015 (Photo by Petr Ocasek) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Rio Summer Olympics ‘Embrace’ Sustainability

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The Estádio do Maracanã is a 78,838 seat open-air stadium in the city of Rio owned by the Rio de Janeiro state government. South America’s largest stadium, it will be the venue for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies on August 5 and closing ceremonies on August 21. (Photo by Luciano Silva) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, July 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new set of sustainability measures to support the greening of the Rio Summer Olympic Games were agreed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee as far back as 2013.

Expressing its commitment to achieving sustainability, the “Embrace” Rio 2016 plan is based on three pillars: Planet, People and Prosperity, and has been established with the input of the federal, state and municipal governments.

The slogan “Embrace” Rio 2016 is being used in all Games communications related to the Sustainability Plan. The idea behind the name is to engage people, inviting them to be part of the transformation promoted by the event, which opens on Friday, August 5 and ends on Sunday, August 21.

A technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was signed at the launch of the sustainability program in August 2013. It expected to provide an evaluation plan and mediation around the subject of sustainability between Rio 2016 and the people of Brazil.

Denise Hamú, UNEP’s representative in Brazil, said, “Our goal is to integrate sustainability in all organizational processes, reducing the impact of the Games and setting an example of good practice for society as a whole. Together, sports and environment are powerful tools for sustainable development. For this reason, the UNEP has worked in partnership with the Olympic Movement over the last two decades.

Sustainability round tables originated during dialogue between the Organizing Committee and civil society groups in 2013. They began in 2014 and examined six topics in depth: urban mobility, climate change, sustainability education, protection of children and teenagers, diversity and inclusion, and transparency.

The Games will inevitably generate environmental impacts,” says the Organizing Committee. “We are talking about high consumption of water, energy, raw materials, food and so on. Rio 2016 undertakes to use all resources conscientiously and rationally, prioritizing certified, reusable and recyclable materials.”

 Discussions led to awareness, and the Organizing Committee has acted responsibly in many ways during planning and preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

  • 100 percent certified wood: Rio 2016 undertook to buy all the timber items required for the Games from sources with chain of custody certification. That means that the timber is logged sustainably and traceability is guaranteed from the time the timber leaves the forest through to the end user.
  • Sustainable headquarters: Rio 2016 has its headquarters in a temporary building. After the Olympics are over, it will be taken down, and 80 percent of the material will be reused in future structures. While in use, the building consumes 70 percent less energy than ordinary buildings. Timers on bathroom wash basins, intelligent flushes and a rainwater collection system enables the Organizing Committee to cut water consumption.
  • Material life-cycle analysis: The Organizing Committee has analyzed the life-cycles of 106 materials being used by the Games visual identity team to ensure conscientious and sustainable choices and minimize their environmental impact.

With the intention of delivering low-impact Games, the Organizing Committee has completed a study of the carbon footprint of the Rio Games and defined an emissions management strategy, based on impact measurement, cutting emissions, mitigation where possible and offsetting what cannot be mitigated.

To avert some of the consequences of energy use at the Games, Rio 2016 and Worldwide TOP Partner Dow announced the most comprehensive carbon dioxide (CO2) offset program in Olympic Games history. As the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, Dow will mitigate 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents through third party-verified emissions reductions somewhere else.

  • Technology-based carbon mitigation plan: This plan aims to mitigate 100 percent of the emissions generated by the Rio 2016 Games, which will amount to 500,000 tonnes of co2eq direct emissions from operation of the Games and 1.5 million tonnes of co2eq from spectators. Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits.
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One of Rio’s new state-of-the-art trams makes its way through the new-look waterfront district (Photo by Bruno Bartholini / Porto Maravilha) Posted for media use

Known as the VLT, Rio’s new light rail system started running in June. The high-tech trams have transformed public transport in the city center and given a futuristic look to the business district. The trams connect Santos Dumont domestic airport to the long-distance bus station, running through the waterfront district and stopping along the way at new museums and the busy cruise ship terminal. More than 200,000 people have already used the service.

Fleets of buses and trucks will be fueled by diesel containing 20 percent recycled cooking oil. Biodiesel emits less carbon and sulphur than petroleum diesel. It is estimated that 20,000 oil collectors will be involved, boosting the development of this production chain.

  • Logistics efficiency program: Logistics are a major factor in boosting the Games’ CO2 emissions. Rio 2016 is designing an intelligent route model to cut transportation time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the more than 30 million items to be brought in for the Games.

Allowing for public involvement has been an key part of the Organizing Committee’s work. Initial dialogue with civil society took place in 2013 and brought together 34 representatives of 24 organizations to assess the content of the Sustainability Management Plan. These meetings were held annually until this year. Organizers hope they will encourage a strong and effective post-Games transformation network.

  • Rio Alimentação Sustentável: Since 2013, Rio 2016 has been working in partnership with this voluntary organization focusing on healthy, sustainable foods. It is proposed that the Games act as a driving force to improve this sector in Brazil.

Rio 2016 has entered into partnerships with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council so that suppliers can obtain sustainability certification for fish and seafood to be eaten during the Games.

For Rio 2016, one of the key points is waste management, since large volumes of waste will be generated daily during the Games. The great challenge is to minimize waste and raise awareness among spectators, athletes, volunteers about the best way to dispose of and recycle waste.

  • Rio 2016 headquarters waste management: The Organizing Committee has been operating without buying plastic cups, reducing the number of printers available and not providing individual waste bins.
  • Guide to sustainability for packaging: One of the critical points in the generation of waste is packaging. With this in mind, in April 2013, Rio 2016 published a guide to sustainable packaging, in which the committee laid down sustainability options and mandatory requirements for this category of items, including labeling, eco-design, accessibility of information and packaging materials.
  • Games waste management strategies: The strategy began during the preparatory phase and will end when the venues are dismantled. Recycling cooperatives will be involved, and the strategy is based on this sequence: waste generation avoidance → minimizing volume → managing inevitable waste → promoting behavioral change. The strategy also includes treatment of organic waste through composting, in order to reduce the amount that is sent to landfills.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study: In 2014, the Organizing Committee published its first OGI study, carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Federal University School of Engineering and containing an analysis of 22 environmental, 76 socio-cultural and 25 economic indicators. The first edition relates to the period 2007-2013. A further three reports are to be published, covering impacts up to 2019.

After successfully hosting 44 test events, the Rio 2016 team and the venues are ready for action, with all the facilities receiving their final Olympic touches before the athletes start to arrive. The velodrome and equestrian venues, which were being monitored closely by the organizers, are in the final stage of preparation, and will be ready for the Games.

Golf as an Olympic sport was added just this year, and Rio created a golf course in the previously degraded area of Marapendi, west of Rio to host the new sport. Before the start of work, about 80 percent of the golf course land was degraded by sand extraction, and by the manufacturing and storage of pre-cast concrete.

Over at the Olympic Golf Course, Rio 2016 Sustainability Coordinator Carina Flores says the fresh vegetation has led to “a positive spiral for the development of wildlife.”

 Records indicate the presence of 263 animal species in the region today, as compared with 118 mapped before construction.

 An inspection of the golf course was conducted in December 2015, after a public civil action was filed by state prosecutors who questioned the environmental impact of the golf course construction work. Prosecutors, legal advisors and technicians environmentalists were among the inspectors.

 The forensic report from Brazil’s Court of Justice concluded, “The environmental gain in the region with the construction of the golf course is visible. In addition to the flora, which increased extensively, we can observe the different animal species that have returned to the area.

Rio 2016 is ready to welcome the world,” said International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission Chair Nawal el Moutawakel.

The Olympians of 2016 can look forward to living in an outstanding Olympic Village and competing in absolutely stunning venues,” she said. “From views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the new state-of-the-art facilities in Barra or Deodoro and the iconic Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana Beach, I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world’s top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world.


Genuine Sustainability Attracts Savvy Investors

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RockTenn, based in Norcross, Georgia, one of North America’s leading manufacturers of corrugated and consumer packaging, has been focused on reducing the amount of solid waste it sends to landfills. By engaging employees from every department, such as finishing inspector Byron Manning, at one of the company’s packaging factories, RockTenn recycles much of its process waste. (Photo courtesy RockTenn)

By Sunny Lewis

BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Attracting “sustainability-savvy investors” entails much more than conserving a little energy or doing a little recycling.

“Investors want to be sure that a company’s sustainability efforts are focused on the material issues that affect its ability to thrive and survive,” advises Boston Consulting Group’s latest sustainability report , authored in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review and published earlier this month.

These investors want to know “the business specifics of how sustainability is creating value for the companies they invest in. A host of factors drives that value, ranging from reduced costs of capital to greater innovation.

Based on a survey of more than 3,000 executives and managers from more than 100 countries, the report is titled, “Investing for a Sustainable Future: Investors Care More About Sustainability Than Many Executives Believe.”

Today’s investors have access to richer data and more sophisticated analytics than the investors of the past and their opinions are better grounded in accurate information. As a result, 75 percent of investors now think that increased operational efficiency often accompanies sustainability progress.

The research showed that although 90 percent of executives see sustainability as important, only 60 percent of companies have a sustainability strategy in place, and just 25 percent have developed a clear sustainability business case as a compelling story to woo investors.

The report advises, “Executives who want investor support need to develop and tell their sustainability value-creation story. That value, according to our survey, stems from three interrelated components: a sustainability strategy, a clear business case, and business model changes that realize the benefits.”

The report uses General Electric as an example. In 2004, the company embraced sustainability as a growth driver by establishing Ecomagination brands, focused on environmental safety.

During the recent global economic crisis, these brands were GE’s only source of growth. They grew by 12 percent while other revenues shrank by 2 percent. In 2010, Ecomagination products drove $85 billion in revenue. By 2014, the number had jumped to $200 billion.

Managing sustainability well can attract investors, the authors conclude, using Mitsubishi Corporation as a case in point.

In 2015, Mitsubishi announced that it was making a $1.1 billion investment in Olam International, an agricultural trading company based in Singapore.

Many believed that the purchase was driven by Mitsubishi’s desire to capitalize on growing incomes and consumption in emerging markets. But Mitsubishi was  drawn to the company’s sustainability footprint and its expertise in working with small farmers and producers in remote areas of Asia and Africa.

And on the bottom line – a profit. Olam’s sustainability footprint drove a 29 percent premium over the company’s 2014 average share price.

Earning a reputation as a sustainable business isn’t enough any more either – the reputation doesn’t seem to be as important to investors as how a company uses sustainable practices to create value.

Dow Jones has offered a sustainability index since 1999, and the “Financial Times” has produced its FTSE4 Good Index since 2001, but these mainstay indices appear to be losing their luster for investors; corporate executives seem to care more about these lists than investors do.

Look at the responses from managers in publicly traded companies – 32 percent say their company is listed on a sustainability index, but 36 percent didn’t know if their company was listed or not.

Investors care even less. Only 36 percent of investor respondents said that a company’s inclusion in a major index is an important factor in investment decisions.

“One reason is that data in many sustainability indices is self-reported and usually vetted for completeness, not accuracy,” the report states.

Corporate leaders may believe their place on these lists or indices has brand reputation value that attracts consumers even if potential investors don’t care about them.

But they may begrudge the corporate time and resources spent filling out sustainability questionnaires, especially if they don’t believe investors impute value to these rankings.

Fifty thousand companies are annually subject to environmental, social and governance (ESG) evaluations by 150 ratings systems on approximately 10,000 performance metrics.

The diversity of organizations and systems, ratings, and metrics has led many corporate sustainability managers to the verge of “survey fatigue.”

Yet sustainability is increasingly important for investors, as evidence mounts that a company’s ESG performance has an impact on long-term financial success.

BCG’s 7th sustainability report with MIT Sloan Management Review found that 75 percent of senior executives in investment firms see a company’s sustainability performance as “materially important to their investment decisions.”

Nearly half would not invest in a company with a poor sustainability track record, yet, only 60 percent of managers in publicly traded companies believe that good sustainability practices influence investment decisions.

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Inspector John Nicholson with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Robert Clark, a radiation control physicist with the Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection, at a remediated brook on the ABB, Inc. property in Windsor, Connecticut, take measurements and collect soil samples to verify that the site is clear of radioactive contamination, Sept. 12, 2011 (Photo by Nuclear Regulatory Commission) Public domain


Featured Image: Zond wind turbines rise up amidst a young corn crop at the Buffalo Ridge wind farm in southwest Minnesota. (Photo by Warren Gretz / National Renewable Energy Lab) Public domain

Building in Many Shades of Green

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LEED Platinum Certified airlines office building, Schiphol, Haarlemmermeer, North Holland, the Netherlands, November 2015 (Photo by Jeroen P.M. Meijer) Creative commons license via Flickr

 

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “When you ask me, ‘what is a green building?’ I don’t have a very good answer,” confesses Josefina Lindblom, European Commission Policy Adviser on resource efficiency in the building sector.

Speaking in the second episode of the “Construction Climate Talks” series released on YouTube March 15, Lindblom says, “The building sector is one of the biggest resource users in our society. It uses about 50 percent of our extracted materials and more than 50 percent of our energy. A third of our water use goes to buildings, and more than a third of our waste is construction and demolition waste.”

“A wider approach to the use of buildings is necessary,” says Lindblom. Not only extraction and production of materials, to construction and use of the building, she says, “but also the end of life phase and what happens then.”

The web video series is a project of the Construction Climate Challenge Initiative, hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment.

“We want to promote sustainability throughout the entire construction industry,“ says Niklas Nillroth, vice president, environment and sustainability at Volvo CE. “We are hopeful that our film series will work as a contributing factor in the matter of making people aware and to enhance cross-sector collaboration throughout the construction industry value chain.”

In November 2015, Construction Climate Talks premiered with the first episode, three minutes featuring Professor Johan Rockström. Executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, he teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University.

“If we continue with business as usual,” says Rockström on camera, “even a conservative assessment concludes that we are on an average pathway towards a four degree Celsius warming by the end of this century. We would have sea levels irreversibly moving beyond one meter of height, we would have new kinds of pandemics, heat waves, disruptions such as droughts and floods. Unless we have a good, stable planet, everything else would be unachievable anyway.”

But some still have “an obsolete, erroneous logic” that sustainability could threaten the economy,” he said. “Nothing could be more wrong.”

Even though many people still resist change, Rockström is optimistic that “the grand majority” sees that “sustainability is a vehicle for success, not an impediment to success.”

“We should move with the coalitions of the willing,” says Rockström, “and show by doing that this is actually something that benefits business, gets better profit, gets better reputation and is even more attractive.”

While energy use is only part of the green building equation, it’s an important part.

Across the European Union, energy efficiency regulation for greener commercial buildings is fast approaching, in line with the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement reached by 195 governments at the annual United Nations climate conference in December.

“A decree in France is expected in June for commercial buildings. They will be required to reduce their energy use by 25 percent by 2020. No question that most of European countries will follow in the coming years,” wrote Siham Ghalem-Tani, executive assistant and partnership relations officer with the French Institute for Building Efficiency (IFPEB) on March 14. This business-led coalition is intended to implement “an ambitious and efficient energy and environmental transition” in the European real estate and building sectors.

The European energy competition CUBE 2020, now in its third year, is serving as a catalyst for tenants of commercial buildings to meet the EU’s energy reduction objectives. This year, the 123 candidates, located in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, are on track for an expected outcome of 10 percent energy savings from July 2015 to July 2016.

Julien Cottin, manager of the Energy and Environmental Studies Centre of the Bordeaux metropolitan area, said, “Prior to our registration of four buildings in the CUBE 2020 competition, we had prioritized major works on our buildings, such as thermal renovation operations or improving energy efficiency. Our participation afforded us an opportunity to look at the uses of buildings and to adopt a new mindset.”

Cottin said, “The ‘competition’ aspect to CUBE 2020 provides a real dynamic for working on the behavior of the users of a building. The results are conclusive and motivating!”

Green building standards are becoming increasingly important to investors.

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Worker installs siding during construction of environmentally-friendly green barracks on Fort Eustis, Virginia, USA. All new construction in the Department of Defense must qualify for Silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard, 2009. (U.S. Army Environmental Command photo by Neal Snyder) public domain.

Last week, the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey, the first global effort to assess the environmental and social performance of the global property sector, announced the launch of a Health and Well-being Module.

This optional supplement to the GRESB annual survey for institutional investors evaluates and benchmarks actions by property companies and funds to promote the health and well-being of employees, tenants and customers. It features 10 new indicators, including: leadership, needs assessment, implementation and performance monitoring.

“The design, construction and operation of our built environment has a profound impact on individuals and populations,” said Chris Pyke, chief operating officer with GRESB, which has offices in Washington, Amsterdam and Singapore.

The GRESB Health and Well-being Module is now available in pre-release on the GRESB website and will be open for submission starting April 1.

“The GRESB Health and Well-being Module will make real estate companies and funds more transparent and make comparative information more accessible and actionable for investors. This represents an important step toward resolving long-standing market failures and making health an investible attribute of real estate,” says Dr. Matt Trowbridge, associate professor, associate research director, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia School of Medicine.

In the United States, green buildings abound, encouraged by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, co-founded by current CEO Rick Fedrizzi and partners in 1993. Fedrizzi also sits on the GRESB Board.

The U.S. Green Building Council pioneered the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program, now used worldwide.

LEED offers four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These correspond to the number of credits achieved in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

In addition to its many other activities, the U.S. Green Building Council is a contributing partner to the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report.

Released in February, the SmartMarket Report, covers nearly 70 countries. It shows that global green building continues to double every three years.

New commercial construction was the top sector for expected green building projects in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, China and India.

The United States shared the lowest expected levels of green commercial building with Australia.

Still, 46 percent of U.S. respondents indicated they expected to embark on new institutional green projects in the next three years.

Across all regions, many survey respondents forecast that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.

“International demand for green building, due in great part to the LEED green building program’s global popularity, has grown steadily over the years,” said Fedrizzi.

“Countries are looking for tools that support stable and sustainable economic growth. International business leaders and policymakers recognize that a commitment to transforming the built environment is crucial to addressing major environmental challenges,” he said.

The SmartMarket report shows that increasing consumer demand has pushed the world’s green building market to a trillion-dollar industry, a surge that has led to a parallel increase in the scope and size of the green building materials market, now expected to reach $234 billion by 2019.

It appears that the European Commission’s Lindblom is going to get the “wider approach” to green building she has been seeking.


Featured image: BMW Head Office, Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Designed by Hans Hallen, the building has recently been refurbished and modernized, implementing green principles. Thermal comfort and energy efficiency were addressed with lighting, ventilation, hot water supply and back-up solutions which required the construction of a satellite Energy Centre. The building achieved a 5-star As Built Green Star South Africa rating, December 2015. (Photo by Colt Group) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

20,000 Investment Funds Rated for Sustainability

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Morningstar Head of Sustainability Steven Smit (right with glasses) and Morningstar Chairman and CEO Joe Mansueto. (Screengrab from video courtesy Morningstar)

By Sunny Lewis,

CHICAGO, Illinois, March 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Evaluating mutual funds and exchange-traded funds based on how well the companies they hold manage their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities just became easier.

Based in Chicago, the publicly-traded provider of independent investment research, Morningstar, Inc., has just introduced the Morningstar Sustainability Rating™ for some 20,000 funds around the world.

“Given the widespread and growing interest in sustainable investing around the world, investors need better tools to help them determine whether the funds they own or are considering adding to their portfolios reflect best sustainability practices,” said Steven Smit, CEO of Morningstar Benelux.

Smit has been named Morningstar’s head of sustainability. He will be responsible for leading the company’s initiative to bring the new ratings and metrics to investors globally.

He says the goal is to create transparency and get to one global measure – a global sustainability standard for funds worldwide.

“Creating more insight into sustainability investing is a passion of mine and many others at Morningstar,” Smit shared. This initiative will help us better serve investors who place particular importance on incorporating ESG factors into their investment decisions.”

Morningstar has operations in 27 countries in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The company offers investment management services through its subsidiaries, with more than US$180 billion in assets currently under advisement and management.

“Our Sustainability Rating and related metrics will provide investors with an ESG lens they can use to evaluate funds and, eventually, other managed products,” said Smit. “It’s not so much about what the fund says it does, but what it actually holds.”

Sustainable investing goes beyond the exclusionary approach of socially responsible investment, or SRI, strategies, say Morningstar executives. Sustainable investing is a long-term approach that incorporates ESG factors into the investment process.

Jon Hale, PhD, CFA, former head of manager research for North America, has been named head of sustainability research.

“Many investors are interested in sustainable investing but unsure how to put it into practice,” Hale said. “Our new rating makes it easier to compare funds based on their ESG attributes.”

“In that way, investors can better determine how to incorporate sustainable investing into their portfolios, or assess the extent to which their fund investments are upholding best sustainability practices,” said Hale.

Morningstar calculates the ratings based on the underlying fund holdings and company-level ESG research as well as ratings from Sustainalytics, an independent provider of ESG and corporate governance ratings and research.

Sustainalytics has been analyzing companies’ ESG performance and impact since its origin as Janzi Research in Canada in 1992. The company has since joined with other analytics groups around the world and now has offices in North America, Europe, Australia and Singapore.

To help investors compile a low-carbon portfolio, Sustainalytics offers an expanded suite of Carbon Solutions, which includes portfolio analytics, data and research. Increasingly, investors are aiming to better understand their portfolio exposure to carbon, to reduce this exposure and to implement low-carbon mandates.

The new Morningstar Sustainability Rating calculation is a two-step process.

First, each fund with at least 50 percent of assets covered by a company-level ESG score from Sustainalytics receives a Morningstar®Portfolio Sustainability Score™.

The Portfolio Sustainability Score is an asset-weighted average of normalized company-level ESG scores with deductions for companies involved in controversies over such activities as environmental accidents, fraud, or discriminatory behavior.

The Morningstar Sustainability Rating is the Portfolio Sustainability Score compared with at least 10 category peers, assigned in a bell curve distribution.

 

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Sustainability is indicated with globe icons. Funds can receive any of five Sustainability Ratings – Low, Below Average, Average, Above Average, and High. Low equals one globe and High equals five globes.

 

 

 

 

 

Funds can receive any of five Sustainability Ratings – Low, Below Average, Average, Above Average, and High. Ratings are indicated by globe icons. Low equals one globe and High equals five globes.

Of the 20,000 funds with Morningstar Sustainability Ratings, 10 percent received five globes, 22.5 percent received four globes, 35 percent received three globes, 22.5 percent received two globes, and 10 percent received just one globe.

“Some firms say that they invest according to sustainability principles, but it’s been hard to verify,” Hale explained. “Now investors can draw their own conclusions, using an independent, robust check of that claim that’s based on comprehensive analysis of a fund’s holdings.”

Morningstar will update Portfolio Sustainability Scores when it receives new fund holdings data and will base them on the latest company scores from Sustainalytics.

Morningstar will update the Sustainability Rating each month using the most recent Portfolio Sustainability Scores.

Morningstar’s first analysis of the ratings shows that funds with explicit sustainable or responsible mandates are generally practicing what they preach. But Morningstar notes that such funds make up only about two percent of the fund universe.

Two out of three funds with explicit sustainable or responsible mandates received the highest ratings, more than double the percentage of all funds with Sustainability Ratings.

Morningstar Chairman and CEO Joe Mansueto said, “Sustainability research is the next big initiative at Morningstar. We’re incredibly excited about it. … We believe our new sustainability research will be good, not just for investors, but also for society.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Green Groups Guide Investors to Protected Areas

GLAND, Switzerland, December 1, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Two of the world’s largest and most influential nonprofit groups have made a new 10-year commitment, combining their strengths to enhance the role of protected and conserved areas in achieving sustainable development.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have pledged to expand the number of protected areas reaching IUCN Green List quality standards to at least 1,000 protected areas in 50 countries.

The partnership will look at how challenges to protected areas such as poaching, illegal logging and other destructive activities can be addressed through new financing and investment.

The two organizations have promised to seek the application of US$2 billion of new investment funding for the enhanced performance and sustainability of these Green List protected areas.

And the groups say they will generate at least 20 new ambitious protected area commitments for biodiversity and United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals from communities, governments and other organizations.

The two groups, both based in Gland, believe that by combining their strengths they will multiply their chances of making a major contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The IUCN-WWF partnership was announced on the first anniversary of the IUCN World Parks Congress, which took place in November 2014 in Sydney, Australia and culminated in the Promise of Sydney.

The Promise of Sydney commits signers to invest in protected areas, which help to halt biodiversity loss; mitigate and adapt to climate change; reduce the risk and impact of disasters; improve food and water security, and promote human health and dignity.

The Promise of Sydney encompasses four elements:

A Vision that reflects a set of high-level aspirations and recommendations for the change needed in the coming decade to accomplish conservation and development goals for parks, people and planet.

Twelve Innovative Approaches to transformative change to: achieve conservation goals, respond to climate change, improve health and well-being, support human life, reconcile development challenges, enhance the diversity and quality of governance, respect indigenous and traditional knowledge, inspire a new generation, protect World Heritage sites, conserve the marine environment, develop greater capacity for effective action and create a new social compact.

The third element of the Promise of Sydney is a Panorama of Inspiring Protected Area Solutions to overcome obstacles to the stability of people and protected areas. Supported by IUCN, its Commissions and members, they can serve as reference points and resources for conservation practitioners around the world.

The fourth element is Promises. These are pledges by countries, groups of countries, funders, organizations and other partners to chart the path forward for the world by stepping up or supporting accelerated implementation.

For instance, the U.S. National Park Service committed to setting up a program to engage 100,000 youth in protected areas across the United States.

South Africa committed to more than triple its ocean protection over the next 10 years, from less than 0.5 percent to five percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone within Marine Protected Areas. South Africa will do this to ensure environmental sustainability because MPAs deliver ecosystem services that underpin South African livelihoods, food security and ecotourism.

Russia committed to grow its protected area network by establishing at least 27 federal protected areas and expanding 12 others, increasing the total area of federal protected areas by 22 percent, or 13 million hectares.

Critical habitats for important threatened species, including the Amur tiger in the Bikin River watershed in Russia’s Far East, the polar bear in the Novosibirsk Archipelago, the Siberian crane in Yakutia, and the Beluga whale in the White Sea near the Solovetsky Archipelago, among others, will be granted protection.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment committed to working with the IUCN Asia Regional Office to enhance collaboration among Asian countries on protected areas management through the Asia Protected Area Partnership, which was officially established during the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014.

China committed to increase its protected areas territory to at least 20 percent by 2020, and to match Chinese categories of protected areas to global standards.

The Promise of Sydney is the foundation for pathways the WWF and IUCN can take over the next 10 years to ensure that protected areas can be perceived as one of the best investments in the planet’s future.

The 10-year partnership aims to make the case for direct investment in protected areas and protected area systems that demonstrate enhanced conservation outcomes.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: A wildebeest grazes beside a vast flock of flamingos at Tanzania’s Lake Magadi in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. (Photo courtesy IUCN World Parks Congress)
Slideshow Images: A.  The Three Sisters – Australia’s Blue Mountains National Park is located in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, in eastern Australia. (Photo courtesy Nosha via Flickr) B. Half Dome seen from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California, USA (Photo courtesy IUCN World Parks Congress) C. Guere Community conservation area, Choiseul, Solomon Islands (Photo courtesy IUCN World Parks Congress)

Building a Green Path Toward Sustainable Cities

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By Sunny Lewis

HONG KONG, China, November 6, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Green building is one of the best ways to combat climate change, since globally, “Buildings account for about a third of CO2 emissions, and these will continue to rise under a business-as-usual scenario,” Bruce Kerswill told delegates to the World Green Building Congress 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Kowloon East late last month.

In his role as chair of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), Kerswill said the Council is “galvanising the green building movement through a commitment to reduce 84 gigatonnes of C02 from the buildings sector by 2050.”

He explained that this effort is needed to limit global temperature rise to within 2°C above pre-industrial levels. World leaders agreed on this target as a matter of urgency at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

At this year’s UN climate talks in Paris in December, where a universal, legally-binding deal to set emissions limits will be signed, the WorldGBC will hold the first-ever Buildings Day.

There, the WorldGBC will unveil the detailed commitments of Green Building Councils around the world to build green as a means of controlling global warming while creating social and economic benefits.

The Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC), and other green building councils around the world are determining their own targets ahead of the Paris talks, formally known as the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21.

At this year’s climate negotiations, there is a special focus on cities, writes Mark Ginsberg for the U.S. Green Building Council. “Many of us have long realized that cities are a logical place to address global issues. More people are living in cities than ever before in history, and urbanization is relentlessly growing. Cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and create more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. Cities have also been leaders in innovation and problem solving.”

In Hong Kong, to an audience of green building leaders from 30 countries attending the Congress, the HKGBC proudly announced a milestone. Over the past five years, more than 200 million square feet (19 million square metres) of Gross Floor Area has been registered under the environmental accreditation system BEAM Plus New Buildings and Existing Buildings.

BEAM, the Building Environmental Assessment Method, is the Hong Kong rating tool for green buildings. This voluntary private sector initiative conceived in 1996, has developed into an internationally recognized suite of rating tools for green buildings including new buildings, existing buildings and interiors for shops, offices, retail.

BEAM Plus includes the six aspects of a project: site aspects, energy use, indoor environmental quality, materials aspects, water use, and innovations and additions.

Cheung Hau-wai, vice chairman of the HKGBC and a member of the Construction Industry Council, commented, “This is a significant achievement accomplished by the collaboration between private and public sectors in Hong Kong.”

“With the growing awareness of the public about energy efficiency and the benefits that the BEAM Plus system can bring to the users, we expect to see continued support from the private sector and other stakeholders to build more green buildings that meet the BEAM Plus standards said Cheung. “It will enable us to make further contribution in energy saving and CO2 emission reduction.”

Looking ahead, HKGBC has set its Green Building Targets for the next five years to:

  • Certify at least 150 million square feet (14 million square meters) of gross floor area under BEAM Plus
  • Accredit at least 350 new BEAM practitioners a year, and work with BEAM Society Limited to provide at least 12,000 man hours of training per year to existing BEAM practitioners
  • Support the creation of a building energy consumption database through BEAM Plus and other systems

“Asia has enormous potential to contribute to green buildings development as countries like China and India are undergoing rapid urbanization,” said Terri Wills, chief executive of WorldGBC.

China is adding nearly two billion square meters of floor space each year while in India, two-thirds of the buildings which will exist in 2030 haven’t yet been built,” she said. “In both countries, and in the region, we have the opportunity to build better and greener buildings.”

The head of the Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI) told the Hong Kong Congress delegates that 140 registered buildings are about to receive a green building certification.

GBCI Chair Naning Adiwoso said that until July 2015, only 14 Indonesian buildings had been certified as green. The demanding certification process usually takes six to 12 months, depending on the building’s design.

Naning advised building management and property developers to pay attention to environmental issues as buildings account for 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

IndonesiaPublicWorksBldg copy

There are currently eight new green buildings in Indonesia and five developing buildings that have already received a green certification from GBCI. And, 15 more buildings have claimed to be eco-friendly.

One building that has earned the green label is the main building of Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing. This building can save 43 percent of its former electricity usage, and also can save 61 percent of water in the dry season and 81 percent of water in the rainy season.

Kerswill said green building practices are here to stay. “WorldGBC, national Green Building Councils and member companies are deeply committed to mobilizing a global market transformation to advance the fundamental goals of achieving net zero carbon new building and deep refurbishment of existing stock by 2050.”


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: New buildings are often greener buildings in Hong Kong. (Photo by Philip McMaster courtesy McMaster Institute for Sustainable Development in Commerce under creative commons license via Flickr)
Main image: The Natural Resources Defense Council office building at 111 Sutter St. San Francisco, California. LEED Gold Certified, Energy Star Certified, this building is green because it has 14 green activities that achieved outcomes of energy efficient design, water use reduction, sustainable site selection and development and five more. (Photo by U.S. Green Building Council)
Image 01: The new Indonesian Ministry of Public Works office building in Jakarta incorporates a gubernatorial regulation on green building. It received a 2014 LaFarge Holcim Award for Sustainable Buildings at the International Awards for Sustainable Construction. (Photo courtesy LaFarge Holcim Foundation)

World Forestry Congress: Forests Are ‘More Than Trees’

by Sunny Lewis

DURBAN, South Africa, September 16, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Investing in forestry means investing not only in trees but in people and in sustainable development, delegates to the 14th World Forestry Congress in Durban affirmed last week.

Held with the theme “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future,” the week-long meeting from September 7-11 took place under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The first World Forestry Congress was held in Rome in 1926; meetings have taken place roughly every six years since.

This was the first World Forestry Congress organized in Africa. Nearly 4,000 delegates from 142 countries represented governments and public agencies, international organizations, the private sector, academic and research institutions and nongovernmental, community and indigenous groups.

Congress Secretary-General Trevor Abrahams told delegates of the importance of restoring hope, dignity and social capital for sustainable forest management, particularly amongst youth.

Prince Laurent of Belgium called for an eco-contribution from cancelled debts to be allocated to a fund to safeguard the environment.

Sessions focused on people-centered forestry, socioeconomic issues, and the role of forests, trees and forestry in national economic development.

In their outcome document, the Durban Declaration, delegates offered a vision of forests that play “a decisive role” in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change.

The Durban Declaration says, “Forests are more than trees and are fundamental for food security and improved livelihoods. The forests of the future will increase the resilience of communities by providing food, wood energy, shelter, fodder and fibre; generating income and employment to allow communities and societies to prosper; harbouring biodiversity; and supporting sustainable agriculture and human wellbeing by stabilizing soils and climate and regulating water flows.”

“Sustainable forest management requires integrated approaches to land use in addressing the drivers of deforestation and conflicts over land use,” the declaration states. Gender equality and the enthusiasm of the youth as a source of inspiration were emphasized.

“The declaration reflects the extremely rich and diverse set of viewpoints and experiences of all participants in the Congress, who recommended ways to make the vision a reality,” said Tiina Vähänen, deputy director of FAO’s Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division.

An international five-year action plan to recognize the role of trees and forests in ensuring sustainable management of one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater was introduced at the meeting.

At a panel discussion on investments to build a resilient future, World Agroforestry Centre chief Tony Simons said that for sustainability and resilience to be “operational and not just aspirational,” managers must focus on individual action; sustainable production and consumption; and use the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a platform to promote better forestry.

Simons said there is a dearth of bankable projects. He said investors need to see strong, viable pilot cases before they can commit resources.

At the Congress, FAO released its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, covering 234 countries and territories.

It finds that the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forest land is converted to agriculture and development. Still, over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed by more than half.

Roughly 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equal in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990, finds the FAO’s assessment.

Yet an increasing number of forest areas have come under protection, while more countries are improving forest management with better monitoring of forests and a greater involvement of local communities in planning and policy development.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, “The direction of change is positive, but we need to do better. We will not succeed in reducing the impact of climate change and promoting sustainable development if we do not preserve our forests and sustainably use the many resources they offer us.”

During the closing dinner gala, Gertrude Kenyangi of Uganda was presented with the Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award 2015 in recognition of her extraordinary efforts to improve and sustain forests in southwestern Uganda and the people who depend on them. The award carries a cash prize of US$20,000.

Kenyangi described how the Women and Environment Development Organization she founded supports women to lead the way in grassroots agro-forestry initiatives in Uganda and across Africa.


Featured Image: Big trees in a Ugandan forest (Photo by Annette Bouvain creative commons license via Flickr)

Slideshow Images: 01: Miss Earth South Africa 2014, Ilze Saunders, with drummers, creates excitement in the corridors of the World Forestry Congress, September 8, 2015 (Photo copyright FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto, Editorial Use only via Flickr) 02: Flashmob of youths at the World Forestry Congress, Durban, South Africa, September 9, 2015 (Photo copyright FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto, Editorial Use only via Flickr) 03: Government officials enter the iNkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Center in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on opening day of the World Forestry Congress, September 7, 2015 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

Reducing Risk and Improving Performance: Mainstream Sustainability Comes Into its Own

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Boy reaches up to touch battered statue of earthIt’s official: sustainability is mainstream. 2015 is tipped to be the “year of sustainability” according to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.  Following the publication of the UN report setting forth development goals to 2030, including substantial sustainability goals that link global prosperity with the protection of natural resources, the spotlight is on sustainability as a means to address a range of planetary ills and change the very nature of business.

What’s driving this move? Deepening concerns about vanishing natural resources, climate change and pollution are heightening awareness of sustainability issues on a popular level. This in turn is having an impact on the world of business, which is making sustainability more of a focus.  Many of the major themes dominating this week’s WEF conference in Davos—climate change, oil, development, wealth and social inequality —  touch on issues of sustainability. For Ban Ki-moon, the private sector will play a key role in sustainability, alongside governments, in creating a future that includes more jobs, increased gender equality and better health for world populations.

All this is validation for the green business sector and impact investors who have long embraced the sustainability agenda. Even more heartening —  and more indicative that the movement will endure and expand its influence — is a growing recognition that sustainable practices bring business advantages in two areas: attractiveness to investors and improved performance. While the principles behind sustainability have wide appeal, hard-nosed decision-makers in financial institutions will only factor sustainability in if it brings material benefits. Fortunately, a growing body of evidence reveals that it does, especially when it comes to mitigating risk.

More sustainability = less risk

For most mainstream investors sustainability is all about risk management.  A growing body of evidence shows that companies that ignore sustainability issues, or, worse, engage in unsustainable practices, present increased risks for investors in many areas. As a result, investors who formerly took no interest in non-financial performance are starting to pay attention. They now look carefully at sustainability, along with other factors including governance and social impact, because of the risks associated with these areas.  In a global trend, investors now expect company reports to disclose detailed information on non-financial information including ESG measures and impact. If it is missing, or unconvincing, they won’t commit.

In a knock-on effect, investor demand for more transparency and accountability on non-financial performance measures is driving a global trend toward increased disclosure and integrated reporting. SASB has established standard measures that allow companies to attribute “materiality” directly to sustainability issues. Meanwhile, the demand for third-party verification of sustainability performance information is fuelling the continuing expansion of a data validation industry.

The pressure to disclose places obvious burdens on the companies that have to establish sustainability systems, then track, validate and report sustainability information. However, the rewards of sustainability are becoming more apparent and may offset the added cost.

Boosting performance with sustainability

A growing body of research indicates that companies that voluntarily adopt social and environmental sustainability policies can outperform companies that don’t. A Deutsche Bank review academic literature, for example, concluded that firms with higher ratings for ESG exhibit both market-based and accounting-based outperformance. New Eurosif research shows sustainable investments outperforming the mainstream in European markets. In  3-year study by PWC, higher impact portfolios outperformed a traditional portfolio model on both return (higher by 1.6% per year) and risk (lower by 1.7% per year).

Improved performance must be the ultimate inducement to mainstream investors — and of course it’s yet another piece of evidence that the early advocates of sustainability were right all along. But this news is good for the sector in other ways.

For socially-minded investors who already use sustainability as a measure of investability, the normalization of sustainability will bring good things. The fact that businesses of all kinds are embracing sustainability will mean that impact and sustainable investors will be able to choose from a wider pool of suitable investments. The presence of mainstream investors will expand the reach of sustainability, offer opportunities for partnership and collaboration and bring the principles of sustainability to bear on a wide variety of global issues.

Nonetheless, the social and impact investing sector will go on playing a key role in maintaining standards, innovating techniques and leading the field in making sustainability a core value for global business. As Ban Ki-moon writes, “There is no country or society where sustainability is not important or necessary. We all share the responsibility to work for a sustainable future and we will all reap the benefits.”

Image credit: Hope of Deliverance by Matias Brum

The Evolving Meaning of Sustainability

By Marta Maretich  @maximpactdotcombaby hands plant

Sustainability is a key concept for our times. For impact investors who want to put their capital behind better ways of doing business, it’s an important indicator of investability. But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainability” or “sustainable”?

The dictionary sheds a little light.

Sustainability:
1. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
2. Able to be upheld or defended.

Originally taken from the biological sciences, the term sustainability first referred to conservation of natural resources. Though it retains this meaning, sustainability today can mean different things in different contexts. Sustainability in its classic sense and new uses of the term are proliferating as sustainability goes mainstream in business and popular culture.

The mainsteaming of classic sustainability

The definition is changing as the movement goes mainstream. More businesses are taking steps to incorporate sustainability into their operations as well as their performance metrics; national governments are regulating and incentivizing it in a number of new ways. Meanwhile investors are increasingly making non-financial performance, including sustainability, a priority when choosing where to place capital.

All this means that “sustainability” is an evolving idea with increasingly diverse interpretations. Most sustainability efforts still focus on the environment, however, with an emphasis on maintaining ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future use.

Sustainable forestry: Saving forest habitats has been an active area for impact investors. Despite the collapse of carbon markets, organizations like Rainforest Alliance are expanding their activities. Certification schemes like the FSC are helping sustainably sourced wood to become standard in building and consumer goods.

IrrigationSustainable agriculture: Impact intermediaries like Root Capital and development organizations like OPIC have developed successful models for promoting sustainability in agriculture. Encouraged by government regulation and subsidies, big agribusiness companies like Monsanto and multinationals like Coca Cola, are now pursuing sustainability strategies.

Sustainable water use: With changing climate in places like California driving the adoption of more sustainable water policies, businesses and services are springing up to meet a newly-defined demands. Driven by regulation, large multinationals including Unilever are beginning to look at water sustainability from a number of angles: their own use, water use by suppliers, and the water needed to use their products.

Sustainable mining: Mineral extraction is a sector with a raft of social and environmental issues and has been avoided by many social investors. That may change as groups like the IIED work to build the commitment to sustainability across the industry.

Sustainable energy: The focus is on wind, water, solar and other forms of generation and storage, such as hydrogen cell batteries. A popular area for impact investors, even designer Vivienne Westwood has committed GBP£1 million to sustainable energy. Big fossil fuel companies are also putting money into it. Though their motives are often questioned, it is a sign of how far the notion of sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of corporate life in the developed world.

Sustainable consumer goods

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning in consumer markets as it has become a persuasive selling point for everyday goods and services. Public enthusiasm remains high for brands with sustainability credentials and sustainable practices, far from being unusual, are now what consumers expect of businesses.

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry has been thriving in a throwaway culture, but the photograph of a lady in a dress of flowerssustainable fashion movement hopes to change attitudes and move toward sustainability. To keep up with this vibrant movement, follow top tweeters in fashion sustainability and check out the five top sustainable fashion stories of 2014.

Sustainable building: Changing the way we build and design cities could make a huge difference to our future and, increasingly, governments are regulating for sustainability in construction processes, materials and design. This is reshaping the construction industry, especially in the developed world. Construction companies are adapting the way they source and use products and materials and new education centers, like this one at Harvard, and this one in Edinburgh, are training the sustainable builders of the future.

Sustainable tourism: More people are taking vacations than ever before, but increasingly tourists want to avoid damaging the environment, squandering natural resources or hurting local communities. The global travel industry is waking up to this fact and offering sustainable tourism to the masses. Portals such as Sustainable Tourism Online provide go-to resources for the public and professionals who want tourism to be good for the planet and the communities in host countries.

Evolving meanings: Financial sustainability

Beyond its original, environmental meaning, sustainability has recently developed a financial meaning that applies in some sectors. Governments strive to make public services “sustainable”. Non-profit organisations try to create “sustainable” programs to deliver mission. In this context, sustainable can mean both environmentally sound or financially viable for the future or both.

Sustainable healthcare: Concerns about being able to afford healthcare for citizens in the future is driving innovation in healthcare delivery and finance models.In a bold move, the UK health service, the NHS, is embracing both environmental and financial sustainability.

Sustainable transportation: Concerns about climate change, contracting budgets and public pressure are encouraging many governments, including China’s,  to organize public transportation policies around sustainable principles, in both the financial and evironmental senses.

Sustainable finance: In a final evolution, “sustainable finance” seeks to apply the principles of sustainability to banking and investment. Impact investing and its sister disciplines across the spectrum of social finance including responsible investing, ethical investing, social investing and microfinance form part of this growing movement, which seeks to revolutionize the use of market methods to create better social and environmental outcomes.  Sustainable finance methods are now being put to use in a wide, and growing, range of contexts, with new techniques and approaches developing across the sector. For more on sustainable finance,  browse the top five stories in sustainable finance for 2014.

Conclusion

Sustainability has moved from the margins to the mainstream and is now a widely-accepted approach being incorporated into many areas of business, finance and the consumer marketplace. As it continues to expand its influence, sustainability will continue to evolve new meanings and serve as a paradigm for conservation and wise stewardship of the environment, human and natural resources and, now, capital. This movement is positive, but for impact investors seeking sustainable investments, it will mean taking a closer look at all claims for sustainability and determining exactly what is meant.

Want to comment? Tell us how you are innovating in sustainability? Tweet us @maximpactdot com

Fresh and Live: The Women in Green Forum

Women in Green By Sarah-Jane George

Sustainability isn’t marginal anymore. Today, sustainability is moving to center stage and professional women are leading what amounts to a global green shift. Maximpact was on hand for the 4th Annual Women In Green Forum in Los Angeles to chart the change.

Founded in 2009 by Three Squares Inc., an environmental consulting firm from Santa Monica, Women in Green Forum (WIGF) is designed to attract professionals from all aspects of the environmental industry to share the latest innovations, develop powerful professional networks, and build upon each other’s successes. Attendees included business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, governmental department heads and a large number of women within sustainability departments of various companies. There was a broad spectrum of companies varying from the dental industry to aerospace, each with well-established sustainability departments.

The caliber of attendees proved that sustainability has come a long way. Gone are the days when the company receptionist was given responsibility to set up a few recycling bins in the office. Today, jobs in sustainability are the fastest growing type of role within many organizations. WIGF guest speaker Kim Matsoukas, sustainability manager at Vans, described how organizations in all industries are focusing on sustainability as good business practice. Industries such as apparel and fashion are trying to set their own industry standards, she said, with programs like the self-reporting Higg Index, part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

A lineup of inspiring speakers shows the range of WIGF:

Kabira Stokes, Founder; CEO of Isidore Electronics Recycling who has combined lessening the impact of electronic waste on the environment by recycling locally and offering jobs to people who suffer from severe barriers to work, specifically those previously incarcerated.

Monica Dodi, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Women’s Venture Capital Fund spoke about Funding Innovation in Sustainability. Ms. Dodi gave key points on what investors are looking for, and gave advice from an investor’s perspective to fund managers looking for potential investment. She highlighted that recent research has shown that 85%of women interviewed are highly dissatisfied with current sustainable products in the market and discussed how locking into what women are really want is a key to standing out.

Jaime Nack, President of Three Squares Inc. spoke about the importance of employee engagement, awarding employees for innovative sustainability ideas, encouraging actionable environment stewardship and measuring both the organization’s and its employee’s carbon footprints.

Michellene DeBonis, Co-founder of The Brand Studio closed the event with an entertaining talk on utilizing the power of story to enhance an organization’s brand.

A lineup of inspiring speakers at the Los Angeles WIGF.

Multimedia was at the forefront with moving short films from GE Focus Forward Films: New Gift tells the story of Dr. Vandana Shiva who believes seed is a gift of life and the Invisible Bicycle Helmet, a documentary by Frederick Gertton about the two women who developed a revolutionary new product. The short feature Black Girls Code focused on an organization created to teach coding to girls and so increase the number of women of color in the digital industry.

WIGF and Care2 presented trailblazer awards to inspiring women like Dr. Sylvia Earle Founder of Mission Blue. Dr. Earle explained her work and the importance of endangered areas of the ocean she calls “hope spots”, which if protected there is hope that they will be restored.

With so much to offer, The Women in Green Forum is going from strength to strength. This year will see the bicoastal expansion of the WIGF series with their upcoming East Coast Forum, which will be in Washington, DC on September 25th 2013. To register for this upcoming event, click here.