Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category
And intelligent assets? A report from the World Economic Forum says the rapid and pervasive development of digital technologies, along with an understanding of circular economy principles, will drastically change life for the average urban citizen much sooner than we think.
WEF’s report, “Intelligent Assets: Unlocking the Circular Economy Potential,” defines the circular economy as a concept in which materials and products are kept at their highest possible value at all times. It’s all about connectivity: “The exponential growth of connectivity has had a sweeping impact on our society in the last decade. It is widely understood that this increased connectivity between people, products and systems can create significant new sources of value for citizens and economies,” the report says.
“As we look to the next decade, the prevalence of connectivity, through the Internet of Things and the creation of ‘intelligent assets’ will accelerate,” so the question is, how to harness technological advances to enable smarter economic growth, resource and food security, and an improved infrastructure.
The impending digital transformation the WEF envisions has the potential to redefine the very basis of the materials-reliant industrial economy, the report’s Executive Summary continues. “Enabled by intelligent assets, a new model of development gradually gaining independence from finite resource extraction is emerging. Can pervasive connectivity become the new infrastructure enabling effective material flows, keeping products, components and materials at their highest value at all times, thus enabling the coming of age of the circular economy? Such a system would generate, on top of business advantages, multiple benefits for users and society as a whole.
“It would be a system where shared and multimodal transport help citizens to quickly and safely navigate to their destination, even during rush hour. A system where assets are able to signal the need for maintenance before breaking down, and in which local farmers can monitor and regenerate the areas of their land at risk of degradation, while at the same time providing abundant and fresh produce.”
The rapid increase in the number of intelligent assets is “reshaping” the economy. “The number of connected devices is expected to grow to 25–50 billion by 2020, from around 10 billion today. A growing body of research indicates that this Internet of Things (IoT) offers a trillion dollar opportunity, brought about by improved production and distribution processes and, perhaps more importantly, a significant shift in the way products are utilized.” The surge in intelligent assets is expected to “irreversibly transform industries and societies, and when paired with circular economy principles, this transformation has the potential to unlock tremendous value opportunities.”
This circular economy would help “decouple economic value creation from resource consumption.” It encompasses four value drivers – extending the use cycle length of an asset, increasing utilization of an asset or resource, looping or cascading an asset through additional use cycles, and regeneration of natural capital – that can be “combined with one (or several) of the three main intelligent assets value drivers – knowledge of the location, condition, and availability of an asset.”
What’s at stake “is not incremental change or a gradual digitization of the system as we know it, but a reboot: pervasive connectivity rolled out at scale has the power to redefine value generation, whilst helping emerging economies bypass heavy upfront investments and material-intensive solutions.”
For example, WEF posits an ecosystem of intelligent assets-enabled services that could jointly “open widespread access to reliable, grid-free renewable energy. Solar panels could be provided as a service to individuals and businesses without access to the capital to buy solar panels themselves, through weekly online payments.”
It’s a rethinking of value creation and logistics delivery from a straight line to a digitalized circular perspective, a brave new world of extreme connectivity.
Singularity here we come.
Image: From the WEF and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Here’s the next installment of our close read of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on climate change, Laudato Si’.
We left off last time at Paragraph 8.
In the Saint Francis of Assisi section, whose name Pope Francis too k as his “guide and inspiration” when he was elected Bishop of Rome:
I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast… Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise… If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. (Paragraphs 10 and 11)
The he finishes his introductory matter with My appeal:
The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change…Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home…Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded. (Paragraph 13)
I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. (Paragraph 14)
It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows. I will then consider some principles drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the present situation, so as to consider not only its symptoms but also its deepest causes. This will help to provide an approach to ecology which respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings. In light of this reflection, I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy. Finally, convinced as I am that change is impossible without motivation and a process of education, I will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience. (Paragraph 15)
With that introductory work done, we’ll look into Chapter One: What Is Happening To Our Common Home, next time.
Image: Laudato Si’ (cover) by Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr CC
Celebrity activist and spoken word artist Prince Ea launched his newest online video, “Dear Future Generations: Sorry” to motivate individuals to take immediate action to stop climate change by Standing for Trees.
Prince Ea was inspired to produce the video by the Stand for Trees campaign, an innovative way for individuals to take action to protect threatened forests and help mitigate global climate change, all with the press of a button on their smart phones.
Here’s the deal: air travel emissions pump more than 650 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the air each year – that’s equivalent to the pollution from 136 million cars. It’s not likely that airplanes will go away anytime soon, which makes the increased use of sustainable biofuels critical to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.
According to a first-of-its-kind scorecard released earlier this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council, “the industry is making strides in adopting sustainable biofuels, with some airlines doing better than others as they incorporate these new fuels into their fleets. Air France/KLM is by far the leader of the pack.”
Debbie Hammel, senior resource specialist with NRDC’s Land & Wildlife Program and author of the scorecard, “As the world rises to the challenge of curbing climate change and cutting carbon pollution, addressing air travel pollution has to be part of the mix. The aviation sector has been pretty proactive about this issue, and an industry-wide increase in the use of sustainably produced biofuels is definitely on the horizon.”
NRDC’s Aviation Biofuel Sustainability Scorecards evaluated airlines’ adoption of biofuels, focusing on the use of leading sustainability certification standards, participation in industry initiatives to promote sustainability certification, public commitments to sustainability certification in sourcing, and the monitoring and disclosure of important sustainability metrics.
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Mondelez International, the multinational snack foods giant, is developing an outcome-based sustainability framework that will use an external party to measure the impact of its $200 million Coffee Made Happy program.
Mondelez, the world’s second largest coffee company, says the arrangement with the independent third-party organization, the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), will “provide unprecedented transparency on large scale” along the coffee supply chain.
Mondelez coffee brands include Jacobs, Carte Noire, Kenco and Tassimo. COSA will evaluate the “real impact experienced by farmers on the ground” of the Coffee Made Happy program. Program objectives aim to measure how Coffee Made Happy is achieving its objectives to improve farmers’ business and agricultural skills, increase farm yields and “engage young people and women in coffee farming so as to empower one million coffee entrepreneurs by 2020.” Read the rest of this entry »
Wells Fargo last week launched an “Innovation Incubator” program (IN2), a $10 million environmental grant program for clean technology startups.
IN2 was announced 28 October at the NREL Industry Growth Forum in Denver and is the first of its kind in the banking industry, according to Wells Fargo. Under the program, clean-tech startups will be identified and recommended by Wells Fargo’s network of technical, financial and industry advisers at laboratories and research facilities across the country.
The first of three rounds of selected companies will be announced early next year, and will receive up to $250,000 for business development needs, research and testing support at NREL’s Golden, CO facility, along with “coaching and mentorship” from Wells Fargo. An independent advisory board of nearly a dozen industry leaders representing the commercial building sector, academia, community organizations, successful entrepreneurs and technical experts will select the final companies to be included in the IN2 program. Read the rest of this entry »
Sustainability reporting should be comprehensive, transparent, non-biased and standardized, and the best way to improve the quality and credibility of reporting, according to the Global Reporting Initiative, is through third-party involvement, or “external assurance,” of sustainability reports.
GRI pioneered the use of a comprehensive “Sustainability Reporting Framework,” comprising reporting guidelines and sector disclosures, to help enable organizations identify and better manage risks and opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »