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Based on the fundamental concept of continuously improving and balancing social, environmental and economic performance across the value chain, Sustainability is simply, a better way to make a bigger profit.

While organizations have attended to Social, Environmental and Economic performance for decades, it is traditionally economic performance that receives attention.  Sustainability is a revolutionary business model in that it elevates social and environmental performance to the same level of economic performance, unlocking a vault of hidden opportunities.

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Arguably the greatest movement in the history of human-kind, Sustainability incorporates traditional tools, techniques, thinking and strategies with new and innovative ones such as biomimicry, cradle-to-cradle, value based Philanthropy and more to develop innovative solutions for today’s business challenges.

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Amazon aims to clean up aviation Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 01/27/2021 - 02:00

The aviation sector in a pandemic has 99 problems. And climate change remains a big one. 

The industry aims to build back better, aware that it's one of the few sectors that hasn't yet embraced electrification. The key solutions today are biofuels, only displacing a mere fraction of fossil fuels-based jet fuel, and offsets.

But in reality, with revenues and ticket sales way down, there's only so much commercial airlines actually will do to meet decarbonization goals. And if you look at the aviation industry's historical pledges to add in bio-based jet fuels, before the pandemic, it's fallen woefully short.

Enter air cargo. More specifically, Amazon's air shipping business, which along with its entire global logistics supply chain juggernaut is booming. 

A startup called Infinium announced it has raised a round of funding including backing from Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund. Infinium makes biofuel by taking hydrogen made with clean power and electrolysis, combining it with carbon dioxide and running it through two thermochemical processes — turning it into a replacement fuel for airplanes, ships and large trucks.

Infinium, spun out of another company called Greyrock Energy, says because the biofuel (dubbed an "electrofuel") is made with clean energy and CO2, it's a "net-zero carbon" fuel. The fuel isn't yet being made commercially just yet, and it'll take at least three years to build a factory and start making it at any kind of scale. Economic production at scale is the key metric for biofuel makers. 

Still, Amazon's support is the latest indicator that the logistics giant is eyeing ways to clean up aviation.

Amazon Vice President of Worldwide Sustainability Kara Hurst released a statement about the investment:

Amazon created The Climate Pledge Fund to support the development of technologies and services that will enable Amazon and other companies to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early — achieving net-zero carbon by 2040. Infinium’s electrofuels solution has real potential to help decarbonize transport that carries heavier loads and travels long distances, including air and freight, as well as heavy trucks.

This isn't Amazon's first investment in biofuels. Last summer Amazon announced that it plans to buy 6 million gallons of bio-jet fuel via a division of Shell and produced by World Energy, a big biodiesel producer. The companies said the jet fuel will be made from agricultural waste fats and oils (such as used cooking oil and inedible fats from beef processing).

The world of bio-jet fuel is just getting started. Shell is emerging as a player, but so is Neste, a Finnish company that also makes a renewable diesel product for trucking. Last year, Neste delivered its first batch of sustainable aviation fuel via pipeline for airlines refueling at San Francisco International Airport to use. DHL Express is using Neste's sustainable aviation fuel at SFO. 

Amazon is worried about the carbon intensity of the fossil fuel-based jet fuel it uses because it's trying to get to zero carbon by 2040. Air shipping, a growing sector, is the most carbon-intensive way to ship a product. As Amazon Air Director Raoul Sreenivasan said at our VERGE 20 online conference in October: "The world is watching what we do. And we believe we have a responsibility to use our scale for good and make the appropriate investments to achieve this goal."

Because bio-jet fuel is at such an early stage, Amazon can't just go out and switch over its entire air fleet to the stuff. But there are a couple of things Amazon can do as the industry is still maturing. Amazon is already electrifying the ground air equipment at its airport facilities. It's also putting solar up on buildings at the airports.

Most important, Amazon can use its heft to help move the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry forward. As Sreenivasan said about SAF at VERGE 20: "Our hope is that by making an investment and a commitment that others will partner with us and cause somewhat of a ripple effect in the industry that will drive demand and supply."

Essentially, if Amazon's moving in, hopefully the rest of aviation will follow. With more supply deals and investments in new players, we'll see if the logistics world leader can green up one of the hardest-to-abate sectors: aviation. 

Want more great analysis of electric and sustainable transport? Sign up for Transport Weekly, our free email newsletter.

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Posted: January 27, 2021, 10:00 am
SteelZero commitments represent a new era in heavy manufacturing production Jesse Klein Wed, 01/27/2021 - 00:30

Decarbonizing steel has a chicken or the egg problem. Industry experts say current processes for doing it are so extremely expensive that few manufacturers have the financial ability. And right now, there isn’t enough demand for decarbonized steel for manufacturers to justify investing several millions of dollars into lower-carbon steel facilities. But there has been little demand because the end product is so expensive.

"Can we borrow $100 million or $200 million to make something more expensive than our competitors is a hard business case?" said Matthew Wenban-Smith, policy and standards director for the nonprofit standards and certification organization, ResponsibleSteel. 

A new initiative called SteelZero, created by The Climate Group in partnership with ResponsibleSteel, hope to break the cycle on the demand side. The program brings together the top steel buyers across the globe — including construction companies, real estate groups and property developers — and challenges them to commit to procuring 100 percent net-zero emissions steel by 2050. Members include Lendlease, Mace Group, Multiplex Construction Europe and WSP UK.

Most of the carbon footprint for steel companies comes from Scope 3 emissions, emissions from suppliers downstream, as is the case with many businesses. According to Joshua Davies, sustainability manager for Multiplex Europe, 42 percent of his company’s overall 2019 footprint came from embodied carbon from its suppliers. Multiplex already has sustainability commitments written into contracts with its suppliers and subcontractors including committing to the responsible sourcing of steel, having science-based carbon reduction targets for 2023 at the latest and providing low carbon alternative materials during the build process. But there’s only so much it can do on its own. The hope is collective action can spur faster change, Davies said.

If we don’t take some of these actions now, we won’t be a business around in five years.

"We’re really wanting to show a commitment directly to steel producers that the buyers are ready," said Jim Norris, the senior project manager for SteelZero. "It’s up to steel producers and policymakers to step up to market and really accelerate the decarbonization of steel production."

Last year saw a huge jump forward in green steel technology. Sweden saw the first hydrogen powered commercial steel production. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, last year, Swedish steel maker SSAB working with iron ore producer LKAB and utility Vattenfall, created a pilot plant for hydrogen-based primary steel. By using hydrogen instead of coal in blast furnaces, they were able to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional furnaces generate a minimum of 1.8 metric tons of CO2 per metric ton of finished product, while burning hydrogen produces only water. In Germany, the steel production company ArcelorMittal is reducing its carbon emissions by using hydrogen for iron ore reduction, reported by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association

According to a 2019 Rocky Mountain Institute report, full-scale hydrogen-based steel production would cost 20 to 30 percent more than conventional steel-making processes. That increase comes mostly from the energy source and doesn’t take into account the costs of building new hydrogen facilities, a huge hurdle for manufacturers, according to the RMI analysis. 

Steel, like most industries, follows the money. Norris’ goal is to use the steel industry’s collective buying power to shift market forces towards lower-carbon technologies for production. By driving demand for net-zero steel, the hope is to signal to the steel producers that they can invest in creating the supply. 

Skyline shot of buildings

22 Bishopsgate in London is another of Multiplex's skyscrapers that was built with sustainability in mind.//Courtesy of Multiplex

"It requires people to change the way we think," said Diego Padilla Phillips, associate director of Structures at WSP UK. "For many years, our brains have been wired to focus on constructability or reducing cost programs. And to make that shift towards reducing carbon, it requires a conscious effort." 

Sustainability managers of the member organizations said they aren’t afraid to cut ties with steel manufacturers that don’t follow the trends to meet their 2050 targets. But it would be a huge loss, and members would rather help their suppliers and business partners along in the decarbonization journey. 

"There’s not a lot of different subcontractors out there who do steelwork," Davies said. "So considering that, we can’t just completely say we’re not going to work with you again. What we will probably do is make it more uncompetitive, so they will have to come along with us." 

SteelZero also will be a working group where competitors and companies up and down the supply chain can work together to innovate solutions and break down the obstacles to decarbonization, according to Norris.

"It’s about scalability," said Catherine Heil, head of sustainability at LendLease. "Acknowledging the fact that LendLease can’t do it on our own. We need to find commercially viable solutions and dig into some of the pain points around why the sector is still slowly, slowly transitioning." 

By working collectively, the group can create a roadmap to decarbonize because the steps to getting there are not clearly defined. But SteelZero has set up at least one. By 2030, each member needs 50 percent of its steel demand to come from steel producers that have committed to an approved science-based emissions reduction target, have a ResponsibleSteel Certification or have a low embodied carbon steel profile by recycling end-of-life scrap steel. 

"This is critical to the future business resilience and the way we move forward," Davies said. "If we don’t take some of these actions now, we won’t be a business around in five years." 

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Skyscrapers such as Multiplex's White Collar Factory in London are erected using thousands of tons of steel. //Courtesy of Mutliplex 

Author: Jesse Klein
Posted: January 27, 2021, 8:30 am
The State of Green Business 2021 Joel Makower Mon, 01/25/2021 - 02:11

Adapted from the 14th annual State of Green Business report, our annual report card on progress by the world’s largest companies. The report, published in partnership with S&P Global Trucost, is a free download.

Now, where were we?

A year ago at this time, we looked ahead and confidently saw more engagement, new initiatives and a continuation of the forward march of progress that constitutes a typical year in the world of sustainable business. We took in the enormity of the problems facing humanity and the planet, and scanned the horizon. What we saw were companies continuing to make commitments, form alliances and reach new levels of achievement in sustainability. And the year ahead certainly would bring more of the same. Or so we predicted.

And then 2020 happened.

Suffice to say, it was a year like no other: Crisis after grim crisis, as the ravages of a changing climate revealed themselves in ways large and small, a pandemic devastated families and nations alike, racial justice protests roiled communities, the global economy convulsed and political leaders the world over scrambled to respond — some more successfully than others.

Such turmoil easily could have spelled the end, or at least the pause, of anything having to do with business and sustainability. But it didn’t. The forward march of progress not only continued but accelerated.

What happened? Two words: business fundamentals.

At last, sustainability has emerged from the shadows to be considered part and parcel of corporate success.

At last, sustainability has emerged from the shadows to be considered part and parcel of corporate success. Indeed, for many of the world’s largest companies, sustainability is seen as key to minimizing risk, increasing resilience, enhancing competitiveness and unlocking new opportunities. The management of environmental and social risks — as viewed through the lens of ESG metrics — "will likely emerge as the new standard of comprehensive corporate governance and underscore how non-financial E, S and G factors may affect long-term valuation," Brie P. Williams, a vice president at State Street Global Advisors, said last fall.

Put another way, a company’s sustainability profile increasingly may be baked into its stock price and creditworthiness, possibly affecting the cost of capital it may need for growth. That’s a game changer.

So, where are we?

Ambition uptick

Despite the disheartening headlines, action on ESG concerns has continued relatively unabated in corporate C-suites and boardrooms. To our immense satisfaction, we saw little carnage within corporate sustainability departments during 2020 relative to previous economic downturns, when such functions were often among the first to be downsized or jettisoned.

"Sustainability leaders are in a unique position, with their experience in navigating across their organization’s functions, to help align CEOs and their employees toward common environmental and social causes," wrote GreenBiz Vice President and Senior Analyst John Davies in "State of the Profession 2020," the latest edition of GreenBiz’s biennial report on the role of sustainability professionals inside companies. The report found that "in large companies, there has been a significant increase in terms of the sustainability leader reporting to the CEO, from 19 percent in 2018 to 26 percent today."

Given this, it was not surprising to see an uptick in corporate ambition on sustainability issues. "Net-zero" became a key commitment during 2020 — goals that aim to eliminate, at least on paper, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water extractions, fossil-fuel use or deforestation activities by a given date. And while those target dates are typically decades hence, they set the stage for activists, investors and other self-appointed watchdogs to monitor corporate progress toward their stated goals.

Perhaps more surprising is the rise of "restorative" and "regenerative" among large companies in describing their ambitions to address human and planetary woes. The idea is simple but profound: a switch in thinking from "doing less harm" to "doing more good." In other words, the leading edge of sustainable business is shifting from companies having inadvertently negative impacts to having deliberately positive ones. And while most such corporate statements are still more aspirational than actionable, they signal a critical shift in thinking about the role companies can play in the years to come.

It’s a lot to take in, especially for the many critics of sustainable business activities, who are prone to see virtually any corporate action as too little, too late. And they might be right: Most corporate commitments and achievements are insufficient to meet the moment, let alone the future. Incremental change won’t cut it at a time when so many planetary boundaries are being crossed and so many social and environmental indicators are spiraling out of control.

Peeking around corners

What will it take for companies to dramatically step up their ambition and actions? That is a defining question of the decade. No doubt the answer lies in a combination of investor pressure, technological innovation, consumption shifts, governmental pressure, new circular business models that reward resource efficiency — and more than a little grit and determination.

It’s a tall order, to be sure, but the future demands nothing less.

As we dare to look ahead, however tentatively, at 2021 and beyond, we see more of the same. The seeming mundanity of that sentence belies its significance: Corporate sustainability efforts are continuing apace, even amid economic uncertainty and a global pandemic that, as of this writing, is far from contained. It wasn’t very many years ago that the future of corporate sustainability was uncertain even during good times.

What’s also different about this moment is the alignment and, increasingly, integration of social and environmental issues inside companies. While it has long been known that the poorest among us endure the brunt of air and water pollution, climate change and other problems, companies largely have focused on social and environmental issues separately and, all too often, unequally.

That’s changing. The rise of social justice movements around the world is shining a harsh light on the linkages between environmental sustainability and social cohesion, not to mention economic vitality, and ESG-savvy investors are beginning to reward companies that better align corporate strategy with the interests of both people and the planet.

As the global economy finds its footing in the coming months, and as a new, more environmentally friendly administration takes hold in Washington, D.C., we expect to see the continued rise of concern and action on climate, biodiversity, air and water pollution and other pressing issues alongside deeper, more strategic investments in clean energy, green infrastructure, sustainable food systems and other elements of an emerging clean economy.

Indeed, the world’s biggest environmental challenges are being seen as inextricably linked to community resilience, economic prosperity, public health and national security. As such, they are rising to the top of the agenda for more and more companies and countries.

These are among the glimmers of hope we see during these turbulent times.

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Posted: January 25, 2021, 10:11 am
Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction Chris Gaither Mon, 01/25/2021 - 01:30

Before he saw the smoke, he felt it in his throat. It tasted foul. It curled into his nose, his mouth, his lungs.

He looked up from his computer. His colleagues were tapping at their keyboards. The smoke hovered around them.

He walked to his manager’s door.

"This office is filled with toxic smoke," he said.

"Yes," she said. "Don’t worry. We have a plan."

“What will you do?" he asked. "Install new ventilation? Move us to another space?"

"No," she said. "We’ve hired you an executive coach to help you develop strategies for dealing with the toxic smoke."

"But I don’t want to deal with the toxic smoke," he said. "I want to get rid of it."

"Work with the coach," she said. "Leave a few minutes early today. Get a massage. You’ll be OK."

We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem.

I heard this parable last year, before the pandemic, from a fellow executive coach. It lodged in my gut.

I realized that so many of my coaching clients — in big corporations and small nonprofits, sustainability teams and sales departments — were asking me for help dealing with the stress and dysfunction of their organizations.

They were breathing the same toxic smoke as everyone around them. Sometimes they were, themselves, pumping that toxic smoke into their work environments. Yet they were suffering alone, trying to solve it alone. Just as I did during my hectic career leading teams at the Los Angeles Times, Google and Apple.

If anything, the pandemic has increased the pressure on us to deal with this suffering in isolation.

But here’s the thing: Avoiding burnout is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. It’s a leadership challenge, and we are all leaders.

Throughout this Sustainable You series for GreenBiz, I have encouraged you to tend to your personal sustainability so you can do great work on behalf of the planet.

This kind of self-care remains critical. But it’s insufficient.

As environmental sustainability leaders, you are, by nature, systems thinkers. You identify root causes. You craft upstream solutions. You see the forests, not just the trees, and work to improve the ecosystems so the individuals in them can thrive.

So, let’s approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. To get to the root cause of the smoke, we need to think bigger.

"You can’t expect people to adopt healthy lifestyles when their work environments reinforce or even cause poor habits," says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational-behavior professor at Stanford University.

Pfeffer is the author of the 2018 book "Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance — and What We Can Do About It." He writes that companies have created elaborate systems for tracking their progress on environmental sustainability, but they seem to have forgotten to measure the human sustainability of their own employees.

Current management practices harm employee engagement and job performance, Pfeffer says, and they increase employee turnover and healthcare costs.

There’s even more at stake. To solve global, complex challenges such as the climate emergency, racial injustice and species extinction, we must be adaptive leaders. We need to be mindful. Creative. Intuitive. Curious. Willing to experiment, learn and redesign. Open-minded and open-hearted.

That’s so hard to do when we’re burned out.

Organizational culture is a living, breathing thing. We draw from it, and we feed into it. We’re constantly creating it together.

So, when everyone around us is stressed out, exhausted and closed off, it’s easy to shift into that same mode.

Our mirror neurons, those evolutionary tools that help us build nourishing social connections, pick up on those signals and encourage us to be like the others. To suffer with the rest.

I know this feeling well. I have held, deep in my body, the physical and emotional distress that burnout carries. We can work this way for a while, but eventually we deplete our energy and fall apart.

As an executive leadership coach, I have supported many individuals to the other side of this burnout, where they’ve refilled their energy reserves and brought their creativity back to life.

I’ve also followed my intuition upstream, seeking the origins of the toxic smoke. I work with full teams and their leaders to help them shift organizational culture: to slow down, reflect on what really matters, call out harmful behaviors, give themselves permission to embrace a more wholesome way of working.

Healthy people, healthy planet

A healthy earth depends on healthy people. To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves.

So, my fellow leaders, let’s set an intention to cultivate human sustainability in our organizations — for the sake of our employees and the communities and natural habitats they’re working to protect.

Let’s look for the toxic smoke curling through our Zoom meetings, our email inboxes and Slack channels. Let’s name it, get curious about where it came from, chase it down to its source.

Let’s pay close attention to the tone we are setting for our teams. The moods we are carrying into our interactions. The behaviors we are modeling. The harmful ways of being that we are introducing or accepting.

Let’s check in on each other. Let’s work to understand how others in our groups are experiencing the world, how they might be suffering differently from us, and offer them support.

Let’s talk about burnout and wellness — with our team members, fellow leaders, bosses, even our boards of directors.

Let’s gather our teams. Let’s come up with, say, 50 things we could do to improve our health and happiness at work.

Then let’s commit to new ways of being together. Let’s craft agreements and hold each other accountable.

Instead of trying to manage the toxic smoke in our work environments, let’s get rid of it.

Because only when we can breathe can we truly do this critical planetary work.

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Author: Chris Gaither
Posted: January 25, 2021, 9:30 am
Collaborating with the ocean is essential to addressing climate change and environmental justice

"The potential for the “blue economy” — one that combines more thoughtful stewardship of the ocean’s resources and economic opportunity with a more pragmatic, respectful approach to protecting coastal ecosystems — is vast. But with more than $1.5 trillion in annual economic value linked to ocean-based activities, the time is right to place the world’s seas at the center of a climate-centric post-pandemic recovery. This discussion will center on the role ocean solutions can play in addressing both climate change and systemic environmental justice issues.

This session was held at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE 20, October 26-30, 2020. Learn more about the event here:


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YanniGuo Mon, 11/09/2020 - 17:01
Author: YanniGuo
Posted: November 10, 2020, 1:01 am