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Companies Can Lead On Climate Action In the Absence of Government Commitment

(3BL/Justmeans) President Trump has proved to be a president who is weak on climate action. In June, his administration announced it would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Trump will likely continue with policies that are detrimental to the environment, but business can lead where government lags or fails.

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Confronting Challenges, Building Bridges

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Here are some more takeaways from Sustainable Brands17 Detroit.

If we are to realize any kind of vision of a sustainable society, we must confront the idea that truth is negotiable. As author and consultant Andrew Winston said, “We need a working democracy, checks and balances, a free press.” We need the truth.  But what is the truth? For scientists and judges, the truth is found in facts. For most of the rest of us, the truth lies in the stories we choose to believe. As Upworthy’s Jennifer Lindenauer said in her “Trust is Tribal” talk, “facts fade, stories stick. Donald Trump tells stories that stick even though they are lies.” Why do they stick?  How does a liar get away with calling the bastions of journalistic integrity fake news? According to Lindenauer, it’s because the opposite of fake is authentic. Trump may have a myriad of deplorable qualities, but he is authentically Trump, and for better or for worse, for many, that authenticity begets trust. What that means for us is that we need to confront self-serving lies, with authentic stories of a sustainable future, that people will trust.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify,” with respect to a nuclear-arms deal with the former Soviet Union. Author Andrew Zolli described an ongoing effort by Planet Labs to take a complete, high-resolution picture of the entire Earth every single day. This will allow us to not only verify, but discover countless things that are happening on Earth, both as a result of human activities and the everything-else that we refer to as nature. For example, the images were able to detect a rapidly expanding illegal gold mining operation in Peru. As a result of the discovery, the operation was quickly shut down. While some might consider this type of truth and its consequences a form of “burdensome government regulation,” most of us would applaud it as a win for the planet. These photos could also be used to track deforestation, the growth of electricity, agricultural productivity, the growth or decline of deserts, rivers and lakes, the expansion of refugee camps, and with the help of sophisticated algorithms-- the loss of carbon due to land use changes. All these facts, could be used to fuel new and urgent stories that could potentially cut through the ideological fog. For example, as Zolli said, once we have a price on carbon, we can put a value on the forest that is being lost every day. At a time when EPA administrators are making policy that could impact the future of the entire biosphere, based on rumors and amateur science, such as the notion that there was a leveling off of warming over the past two decades, we need to verify before we can trust, as a number of scientists just did.

RBSNY Will Dig into CSR Potential & Purpose

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Coming up on March 27-28 in New York is the 5th annual Responsible Business Summit produced by Ethical Corporation. This event will feature over 250 attendees with some of the world’s biggest names in CSR and sustainability. This year’s Summit is aimed to help businesses uncover the potential for CSR to drive profit, and shape strategy with empirical justification. To quote Willy Foote, CEO of Root Capital, “The Responsible Business Summit NY, is a powerful opportunity to advance the shared value conversation and, ultimately, contribute to a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

This is an opportunity for businesses of all stripes to find alignment between their core vision and those of others in the growing responsible business community.
Attendees will have the opportunity to network with and hear from leaders of organizations including: Google, PepsiCo, The New York Time, General Motors, Oracle, Wall Street Journal, Intel, Steelcase, and dozens more. You can see the complete list here.

Keynote topics will include:

  • Being a responsible business – what’s not to get?!
  • Climate change policy
  • How Investors and Companies can work together to achieve sustainable long-term growth
  • The Responsible Sourcing Journey
  • How to reshape business to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals
  • Implementing the CEOs vision into practice
  • Aligning Business Strategy Around Social Purpose
  • Creating a business of purpose
  • Leverage global brand presence to resonate purpose in local markets
  • The future for conflict-free supply chains

Three extended interactive workshops will be featured, on Supply Chain Transparency and Traceability, Human Rights, and Storytelling in Reporting.

Sodexo Trends Report Shows Connectivity, Innovation & Uncertainty Are Rewriting the Workplace

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – There are so many trends in the news that it is difficult for businesses to keep track of everything and know what is relevant. Yet it is critical for business and its leaders to be able to recognise the underlying trends driving change, to evaluate their significance and stay ahead of—rather than follow—them.

Google Aims for 100% Renewable Power Next Year

(3Bl Media?Jusmeans) — Earlier this month, software and search giant Google announced that it would run its operations entirely on renewable energy by the end of next year. That might seem like a lot, but when you consider the many data centers with billions of people connecting to them, it’s actually about as much power as the entire city of San Francisco, with its population of over 800,000, uses. For those who like numbers, they used 5.7 terawatt-hours in 2015.

However, you won’t see sprawling fields of solar panels and windmills surrounding every Google facility. That’s because, for the most part, that’s not how renewables work. That’s the image many people have—a log cabin on an isolated mountain top, miles from anything, with a couple of solar panels on the roof connected to a stack of old car batteries.

Most people, and large businesses in particular, that buy renewable power, do so through the grid. That’s to say, they buy an amount of renewable energy, equivalent to what they consume, although the actual electrons, that light their lights or run through their computers, could come from anywhere, including dirty coal plants. That gives them the assurance that they will receive the power they need, anytime, day or night, windy or clam. Some critics have suggested that this is somehow, “less green” than connecting directly, but it’s not. The point is that the same amount of power is being produced and consumed somewhere by renewable sources. That is power that otherwise would have been produced by whatever the power company saw fit to use at any given time, based on price, availability and various other factors.

While today, that could include coal and natural gas sources, that fraction will likely decrease for three reasons. First, renewable costs will continue to fall, making them the “fuel source of choice” for utilities. Next, mass storage will continue to be incorporated, allowing more renewables to be integrated into the grid by making their intermittency less of an issue. Finally, as the grid continues to modernize, and become smarter, power will be instantly dispatchable, from one area where the wind might be blowing to other areas where it isn’t.

Women In Technology Face Many Unique Challenges

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – “Women in the technology industry face many unique challenges that are often beyond their control,” says Dennis Kennedy, founder and chairman of the National Diversity Council.

Greening the Web with Efficient Data Centers

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Mostly, we think of the Internet, the cloud and the explosion of mobile technology as things that save us energy: letting our fingers do the walking, avoiding unnecessary trips, being more precise when we do go looking for something, and buying online. And for the most part, that is the case. Those UPS trucks running up and down your street, even though they are bigger than anything you’re driving (I would hope), they are running a specific route that passes near your house anyway. That makes them more efficient than your going to the store is likely to be. But that is not to say all that convenience comes without a cost.

In 2013, US data centers used 91 billion kWh of electricity. That’s enough to power NYC twice over. That number is expected to grow by half again by 2020. It’s become enough of a concern, that electricity providers have warned that they might not be able to keep up with demand, causing some data center operators to seek their own dedicated power sources, including some, like Apple, Microsoft and Google to use solar  or wind power for theirs.

New Server Technology Reduces the Power Required to Save Energy

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Knowing more about a situation can allow you to address it more efficiently. That’s one of the promises of the Internet of Things. Whether it’s the precision application of water and fertilizer in agriculture to a smart phone app that lets you adjust your thermostat at home if your plans change, knowledge becomes power saved so long as we have the means to act on that knowledge.

But all that energy-saving knowledge can take a lot of energy to store, distribute and access. In fact, data centers, which you can think of as the little men behind the curtain that we now know as “the cloud,” suck up a great deal of energy. In 2013, they consumed a staggering 91 billion kWh in the US alone. That’s enough to power every household in New York City. That amount is expected to grow by half again by 2020.

A number of efforts have been made to reduce the impact of these data centers, both by using renewable energy to drive them, and to improve their efficiency. Earlier this year Apple announced plans to spend $2 billion on a solar “command center” in Arizona. Nearby solar plants with 70MW of generation capacity are expected to meet 100% of the energy required to run the center.

Opportunities to improve the efficiency of data centers have also received a lot of attention and innovation. The servers tend to run hot, which is why more than half of the power they use is devoted to cooling. System architecture studies reveal more opportunities to save energy everywhere from the silicon, to the OS, to the applications, through the infrastructure and all the way to the building. Studies call for the consolidation of metrics, a streamline decision-making process that aligns incentives with investors, and disclosure of performance data.

Google Is a Big Renewable Energy Investor

When someone thinks of Google they likely think first of their browser. However, Google should come to the mind of renewable energy enthusiasts. The reason is simple: Google invests in renewable energy, with a goal of powering its operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

Utilities Dive into Home Energy Services and Products

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - We’ve written in the past about the challenges facing the utility industry, with Barclay’s downgrading the entire industry as a poor investment prospect. The phenomenon of grid defection, customers cutting their ties with the utility in favor of a solar array with batteries, or a grid-tied system enabled through net metering is taking its toll on profitability. Traditional electric utility business models have rather suddenly become an endangered species. Not that the companies will necessarily disappear. Some might, of course, but those that remain will look very different than they do today.

Take a look at NRG, one of the nation’s largest power companies, operating in the Midwest, that has traditionally burned coal for about a third of its power. CEO David Crane, who has a degree in Public Policy from Princeton and a law degree from Harvard, has apparently seen the writing on the wall. The company has taken dramatic steps over the past year including natural gas conversions and plant closings to reduce its dependence on coal. One plant is even being converted to run on low-sulphur diesel. When combined, these changes will result in a 25% reduction of coal purchases.

There was a time not long ago when such moves would be considered iconoclastic for such a staid industry. But that is just the beginning of this latest chapter in the NRG story. Last week NRG announced the acquisition of Goal Zero, a manufacturing start-up that produces small solar charged battery packs. Their products are popular in big box sporting goods stores, ranging from solar powered speakers for camping to 1250 Watt-hour solar home generators.

“It allows us to expand the opportunity of solar,” said Crane. “Our ultimate goal is to energize people wherever they are.”

It sounds reasonable enough, though it’s a big move for a utility company to start selling consumer products. That might just be what it takes to stay afloat in this changing world.

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