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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability

Ready for the circular economy?

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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.

smartcities1WEF’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

Written by William DiBenedetto

21 March, 2016 at 7:30 am

COP21 a cop-out or an opt-in?

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COP ParisIt’s been awhile, but in the great scheme of things not that long, and my absence here lately is of no great import. Things have changed in the past few months, including an engagement, a time-consuming book project and a re-think of my assocoation with TriplePundit. It’s all great-to-good-to-exhausting, but without getting into details, the gist is that I’ll concentrate more on this blog space in the future. Maybe.

First, some venting about the climate change summit that concluded in December, COP21. Remember? It already seems like a long time ago! The results were better than expected and encouraging, but still probably too little too late. Coverage and punditry was mixed, which is better than saying the effort failed. Time will tell on that. Yes, it’s a climate accord among a slew of nations, but unenforceable.

Here’s Bill Mckibben, founder of 350.org, the global grass-roots climate campaign, writing in the New York Times: “In the hot, sodden mess that is our planet as 2015 drags to a close, the pact reached in Paris feels, in a lot of ways, like an ambitious agreement designed for about 1995, when the first conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Berlin.

“Under its provisions, nations have made voluntary pledges to begin reducing their carbon emissions. These are modest — the United States, for instance, plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 by 12 to 19 percent from their levels in 1990. As the scrupulous scorekeepers at Climate Action Tracker, a nongovernment organization, put it, that’s a ‘medium’ goal ‘at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution.'”

If all parties keep their promises, and if you expect that to happen I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you can buy, the planet will warm by an estimated 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.5 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels. “That is way, way too much,” McKibben says. “We are set to pass the 1 degree Celsius mark this year, and that’s already enough to melt ice caps and push the sea level threateningly higher.”

The irony is, he continues, an agreement like this adopted at the first climate conference in 1995 “might have worked.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

11 January, 2016 at 8:00 am

White House fact sheet: reducing GHG emissions across the supply chain

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White House_Diego Camblaso Here are the details from President Obama’s Executive Order that intends to the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels — saving taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs — and increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent.

Complementing the effort, several major Federal suppliers announced commitments to cut their own GHG emissions.

For the record, here are excerpts from the White House Fact Sheet:

“Together, the combined results of the Federal Government actions and new supplier commitments will reduce GHG emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year. And to encourage continued progress across the Federal supply chain, the Administration is releasing a new scorecard to publicly track self-reported emissions disclosure and progress for all major Federal suppliers, who together represent more than $187 billion in Federal spending and account for more than 40 percent of all Federal contract dollars.

“Since the Federal Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the Nation, Federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts.  The new commitments announced today support the United States’ international commitment to cut net GHG emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which President Obama first announced in November 2014 as part of an historic agreement with China…” Read the rest of this entry »

NRDC airline scorecard ranks airline biofuel use

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NRDC aviation biofuel picHere’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.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

16 February, 2015 at 5:28 am

Mondelez moves to third-party sustainability evaluation

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a small cup of coffee_DebbieCMondelez 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 JacobsCarte NoireKenco 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 »

Written by William DiBenedetto

19 January, 2015 at 7:00 am

Wells Fargo launches “Innovation Incubator” program

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Sunrise at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Sunrise at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

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 »

Written by William DiBenedetto

3 November, 2014 at 6:37 am

“External Assurance” in Sustainability Reporting on the Rise

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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 »

Written by William DiBenedetto

25 September, 2014 at 6:00 am

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