Latest Episode of Energy Policy Now Podcast – Carbon Reduction Strategies

Submitted by Andy Stone, Partner at Emerson Stone

Two strategies stand out in the effort to reduce carbon emissions on an economy-wide scale. Carbon Cap and Trade, and Carbon Taxation, have been implemented with varying degrees of success in recent years, while taking very different approaches to reducing emissions.

The latest episode of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy’s Energy Policy Now podcast takes a look at the mechanisms by which these strategies seek to reduce emissions, and the political and economic considerations that may make one or the other a best fit for a particular nation or region.

The episode features James Hines, Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Michigan, and an editorial adviser to the Kleinman Center.

Managing Transactional Risks in Contaminated Property Cleanups and Redevelopments

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By Jeff Telego, Owner & President, RTM Communications, Inc.

Managing environmental and financial risk effectively are challenging for all types of corporate and real estate deals from the portfolio and one – off commercial or industrial property transactions. The environmental risk and liability concerns that arise in Mergers & Acquisitions to the legacy liabilities associated with the redevelopment of brownfield sites require the use of bullet proof legal tactics, deal strategies that can bracket and or transfer the environmental risks and the financial tools such as environmental insurance to close the deal. In fact, one of the recent trends in corporate transactions is the increased use of environmental insurance such as Pollution Legal Liability insurance to leverage the transaction whether the deal is a liability buyout or facilitating the closing of a brownfield transaction. The transactions are larger in financial terms and the insurance coverage capacity that is being provided is greater.

Real estate market trends are very favorable to drive contaminated property transactions toward cleanup and sustainable redevelopment. Corporate surplus properties are starting to turn over especially now that we are seeing economic fundamentals work for the transactions as they now appear to be doing. There is a surplus of corporate cash on the sidelines along with institutional and foreign sovereign monies looking for higher yields and investing in U.S. real property some focused on brownfield transactions where there are complex infill properties, affordable housing, waterfront, port terminal activity as well as big box store redevelopment needed. According to a Citizen Commercial Banking report, commercial and industrial property selling activity for 2017 is ramping up. Middle-market decision makers note that valuations may not hold for much longer coupled with unquantifiable economic uncertainty centered on deregulation and tax reform among other externalities and these phenomenon are further driving market dynamics.

The financial markets have seen an increase in construction lending for commercial and industrial loans and where redevelopment supports infrastructure development this trend should continue. There is increased M&A activity in the first quarter of 2017. The private equity coffers are primed thanks to successful fundraising in 2016. The M&A activity of 2016 was anemic compared to 2015 where M&A deals showed an 80% more transactions. Cash is coming into the market, economic indicators are showing strong growth, and many conditions call for improved infrastructure development.

The key to winning Trump administration’s support for brownfield cleanups and redevelopment is couching the funding in terms of infrastructure development. With the past administration, there had been increase cooperation from regulators especially at the state level with the focus on risk-based cleanups and cooperation with the community toward redevelopment. With the Trump administration we are in a wait and see period relative to the impact on brownfield redevelopment and the impact of environmental deregulation and cutbacks in EPA staff.

Environmental risk can impact the success of closing the transaction, valuation of the assets, and the transfer of legacy liabilities. It takes creative funding, the bracketing of environmental risk using rigorous and alternative due diligence and remedial alternatives, and deal structuring techniques grounded in  risk management strategies to assure that the redevelopment or reuse or successful disposition of the surplus or stranded asset(s) can be successfully implemented.

This RTM conference zeroes in on the effect environmental risk has on deal flow and the management of  commercial, industrial and government property types. We will get into the business tactics and strategies for reducing the uncertainty caused by environmental risk and closing the deals employing creative environmental risk financing and management approaches. The Conference will also delve into the enhanced value environmental insurance and liability management strategies are bringing to leveraging the M&A activity and the purchasing and disposition of corporate assets and contaminated real estate.

Key presentations will cover:

  • Environmental liability management strategies for successfully transferring corporate surplus properties and closing M&A transactions,
  • Emerging contaminants and new regulatory challenges confronting the financial services industries and property owners/developers,
  • Accelerated transfer of redevelopment and legacy sites into beneficial reuse,
  • Environmental and M&A Buyer – Side insurance leveraging private equity transactions,
  • Creative application of public/private brownfield financings,
  • Extreme weather and climate change effects on commercial/industrial properties

New Energy Policy Now Podcast Episode: How U.S. LNG is Changing the Global Gas Market

Submitted by Andy Stone, Partner at Emerson Stone

In 2016 the first shipments of US LNG left from a terminal on the Gulf Coast, opening a new frontier of opportunity for the US natural gas industry and, on an international scale, contributing to the development of a truly global gas market. This globalizing market is eroding traditional buyer-seller relationships, including those of the U.S. and its allies, with implications for political balance.

In the latest episode of the Kleinman Center’s Energy Policy Now podcast, Kleinman Senior Fellow Dr. Anna Mikulska explores the geopolitical implications of a global natural gas market, and potential impact or U.S. foreign relations and policy.

In addition to her work with the Kleinman Center, Dr. Mikulska is a nonresident scholar in energy studies at the Baker Institute for Energy Studies at Rice University. Her research centers around European energy markets and energy policy.

Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability in the Trump Administration

By: Steve Rochlin, Co-CEO, IO Sustainability, Twitter: @SteveRochlin

The trends arising from the new Trump Administration make corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) more central to business success than ever. At first this may seem counter-intuitive. Yet, recent history suggests that Republican controlled Administrations and Congresses create conditions that drive companies to enhance their commitments to CR&S. Ronald Reagan issued an executive order creating a task force calling for business to do more in alleviating social problems. George W. Bush encouraged greater corporate engagement. At the same time, activism calling for business to take on greater responsibility and leadership for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance intensifies from NGOs, investors, and media.

The private sector will have a central and often unique relationship with the Administration. One expects the Administration to pare back environmental, safety, and other regulations; corporate taxes; reporting requirements such as those for conflict minerals and extractive industry tax and royalty payments; and engagement in international agreements from Basel III to the Paris Climate Agreement. At the same time, the Administration will advance a mix of carrots and sticks to keep domestic jobs and invest in infrastructure. The Administration will seek to redo social support systems such as the Affordable Care Act, and push education, housing, health, and welfare programs to the states. Foreign policy will mix assertive and isolationist stances. The Administration will pinpoint trade and international aid efforts to areas that are viewed to enhance security, job creation, or both.

This agenda will move forward in the first multi-media Presidency to operate and communicate at the pace of internet time. In this context CR&S will be an essential Swiss Army Knife supporting business development and sales, enterprise risk management, brand and reputation, and HR. Companies should take the following steps.

1) Rethink your approach about gaining ROI from CR&S

Executives will experience admonishments that shift from one extreme – dismantle the company’s costly and distracting ESG commitments – to the other – redouble commitments and take bold ESG leadership. Designing a clear and measurable strategy to prioritize and invest in core CR&S areas is a business essential.

Fortunately, evidence from the recently published “Project ROI” report shows CR&S if done well can bump share price up by 6%, increase sales up to 20%, reduce employee turnover by half, and deliver a host of financial risk, productivity, and reputational benefits. Project ROI gives guidance on how to achieve these results and measure outcomes.

This has never been more important as we shift away from debates about privatizing public services, to innovating business solutions for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The “SDGs” represent a $12 trillion opportunity that could create 380 million new jobs. Companies and business initiatives such as the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, IBM, NovoNordisk, and Unilever among many others are taking advantage. As they do, trends suggest that the mainstream investor community will intensify their positions that ESG performance represents an increasingly important predictor of financial performance.

2) Deepen voluntary ESG commitments and reporting

Reagan presciently saw the growing influence of the court of public opinion. A new landscape of organized activists and media has extra-judicial power. Over the last three decades, companies have participated in a massive global experiment to create self-policing stewardship mechanisms across a wide range of ESG issues from chemical-use, emissions, forests, fish, human rights, and many others. The more regulatory constraints are lifted, the higher expectations will rise for companies – especially the the biggest brands and leaders in every industry — to manage their impacts on the environment and communities. They’ll be expected more than ever before to hold their suppliers accountable for meeting so-called, “civic regulation.” It will be more important than ever to find the sweet spot between wider societal needs, and high priority ESG issues that require both management and reporting.

Some industry segments will take advantage, adhering to minimum legal requirements to undercut the costs of ESG compliance leaders. As corporate ESG reporting, commitments, and partnerships continue to establish the new normal for business success, the more these free riders will lose out.

3) Hew strongly to your company’s core values in taking public positions

The current Administration is inventing new ways to engage with the public using new and traditional media. Industries and brands are in the spotlight in ways never seen before. Project ROI finds that the public evaluates the authenticity of corporate responses and positions, and looks to the perceived reaction of employees as a barometer. Culture and values are core to determining where and when companies should pick sides or stay out of the fray. Every company should form a rapid response team with Corporate Communications, Government and Public Affairs, Legal, HR, and the CR&S team leaders attached at the hip.

4) Build your own constituency

The politicization of consumer purchasing behavior is maturing in Europe, and reaching adolescence in the US. Stakeholder outreach is no longer a side activity tied to sustainability requirements. Risk management will increasingly require companies to have access to their own constituent networks willing to serve as character witnesses, advocates, brand ambassadors, intermediaries, and intelligence agents as marketplaces, policy, and politics increasingly intermesh. Companies like Nestlé and Target and collaborative multi-stakeholder initiatives, are finding ways to define how ESG stakeholders can support competitive success. Companies will be wise to move from current forms of stakeholder engagement to corporate constituency development as the Tweets and messages fly.

5) Engage on agreed areas of collective need

Domestically this means jobs and infrastructure. Underneath these tent poles are a host of potential solutions and social innovations such as work force development (see Accenture and PwC), addressing economic opportunity (see Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Walmart), education (see IBM,), health (see Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Campbell Soup Company, Pfizer), and resilience.

Global companies cannot neglect emerging gaps involved in serving international issues. Now is the time to invest in creative and strategic approaches to international development.

Instruments from corporate and workplace community investment, volunteering, R&D, and cause marketing will become more strategic than ever before. The need to demonstrate progress in solving issues will outpace the need to obtain traditional photo-ops and sponsorship branding.

The bottom line is this: don’t myopically focus on the favorable tax and regulatory agenda. Companies should prepare now to be called from all quarters to partner and lead on ESG issues at an unprecedented level of intensity.

Progress on Sustainability Initiatives at Major Consumer Product Companies (Part 1)

Submitted by Rekha Menon-Varma (WG ’06), Managing Partner, Vertaeon LLC

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Leading consumer product companies have embraced corporate sustainability, from setting mid to long term goals to driving alignment with business objectives. In addition to resource scarcity, increasing regulations, and ever expanding global supply chains, these companies also face changing consumer expectations. A decade ago, I was debating aspects of profit maximization, considering all stakeholders rights and the conflicts (in interests) it could bring about, at our business law class at Wharton. Today, leaders like Unilever, Nestle and Coca-Cola have demonstrated how to strike the right balance in implementing Sustainability initiatives.

Here at Vertaeon, our focus on sustainability strategy, resources and supply chain made us curious about goal-setting in consumer product companies (CPG). Sustainability goals in leading CPG companies ranged from operational (reducing/managing resource consumption, emissions, safe workplace) to supply chain (sustainable sourcing and reducing waste and carbon footprint of supply chain) to social impact. There has also been discussions and actions on business model and product innovation. However, as Clayton Christensen put it in a recent conversation* success in business model innovation is not easy even for leaders. Balancing innovation with social and environmental drivers make it even more complex to design and implement.

Being focused on data analytics and having experienced the power of data in ensuring successful Sustainability initiatives, we went searching for consolidated data on Sustainability goals at CPG companies and found it on Andrew Winston’s Pivot Goals site**. As a first pass, we looked at three sub-sectors including Food, Beverage, and Household and Personal Care. Within these, we assessed fifteen companies and fourteen KPIs including: Climate, Energy, Renewable, Fuel, Air, GHG, Water, Waste, Forest, Safety, Packaging, Food & Ag, Products and Distribution.

Our goal was to identify past focus areas and undertake some level of sector and company benchmarking and gap identification that could (a) yield higher visibility into goal-setting and (b) identify improvement options. For analysis purposes, each goal was reduced to the main message and assigned to one of four buckets/goal areas, categorized by Vertaeon, as Operations, Supply Chain, Products and Community. Progress along these four broad buckets is the primary focus of this analysis. In total, we assessed 19 goal types, 12 focus areas and 155 goals. Considering, ‘what’s measured is managed’, we also split goals with specific targets and progress from those with No Reported Change. Community bucket showed up mainly under ‘no reported change’. (Ref: Charts 2 & 3).

[For detailed analytics related to peer benchmarking and company performance, please contact us at http://www.vertaeon.com]

Key Findings

Operational goals lead the way:

It is no surprise that companies focused on their operations. 51% of the goals are related to reduction targets; GHG (11%), energy (9%), water (10%) and waste (14%) combined with improving recycling (5%), safety and renewable energy. Traditionally, reduction goals have been viewed as cost reduction opportunities; however, as CPG customers, retailers and consumers, demand more from their supply chain, operational initiatives will continue to stay at the forefront of sustainability. Vertaeon’s Integrated Analytics™ platform provides opportunities to further leverage, through in-depth analytics, the operational data collected as part of these initiatives to identify actionable operational improvements.

Supply chain offers new KPI opportunities:

Sustainable sourcing leads overall goals; however, this can be attributed to high coverage by Unilever and P&G (20/27 or 74%). Supply chain goals currently under focus in the CPG sector are improving sustainable sourcing (17%), reducing GHG emissions in supply chain (6%) and transportation (2%). This analysis indicates a vital need for more players to adapt goals/KPIs in the areas of reducing GHG and Carbon footprints, reducing packaging waste and improving sustainable sourcing of raw materials and packaging along the supply chain.

CHART 1

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Product goals as prevalent as supply chain goals (Ref: Chart 2):

While leading players such as Unilever, Nestle, Coca-Cola & Pepsi have embarked on product nutrition and sustainability goals, overall there is still considerable room for improving product sustainability within these consumer sectors. Here again, we will see more KPIs as consumers demand higher levels of nutrition and impact labeling. Current product goals focus on health & wellness (13%) and packaging (6%).

CHART 2

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Goals with no reported change (Ref: Chart 3):

The Community section leads the pack here with goals in community (13%), water availability (9%) and health & wellness (6%). This offers opportunities to set specific targets and monitoring for community and social impact and assess investment priorities as well as impact. Other notable ‘no change’ goals came up in Water (Operations), Food & Ag (Supply Chain) and Health & Wellness (Products). This could suggest there is room for setting additional targets and subsequently monitoring changes here as well.

CHART 3

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In Conclusion

This preliminary assessment of Sustainability goal-setting and currently reported goals at leading CPG companies indicate a primary focus on Operational goals. While Product and Supply chain goals are increasingly becoming part of sustainability initiatives at the leading companies, there is room for further adoption in this sector. The focus on Operational goals presents the unique opportunity for companies to leverage the operational data collected as part of goal-tracking to identify opportunities for improvement. As mentioned at the outset, the heterogeneity in consumer expectations has not yet fully translated to goal-setting or reporting. A recent publication by NC State University*** found that consumers see other dimensions (e.g. risk & compliance, social justice) of interest than those put forth by the GRI framework, thereby suggesting a disconnect between corporate sustainability reporting and stakeholder views and interests. Understanding of consumer demographics and preferences via segmentation and translating insights to product and engagement strategies can address this.

Blog Contributors: Danielle Boccelli, Data Analyst, Vertaeon LLC & Vipin Varma (WG’11, IGEL Alumni Advisory Board), Co-Founder, Vertaeon LLC

*Building a business creation engine, MIT Sloan Webinar, January 2017 **www.pivotgoals.com, A. Winston in collaboration with Jeff Gowdy                          ***Study finds current corporate sustainability reporting misses the mark, M. Bradford et al., NC State University, January 2017

Energy Policy Now Podcast: How Alberta Overcame Discord to Enact Carbon Tax

Contributed by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, via Andy Stone

Carbon policy unexpectedly made headlines last week when a pair of Republican party elders proposed a national carbon tax with a few unique twists. The proposal from Treasury secretaries George Schultz and James Baker actually looks similar to the carbon tax that the Canadian province of Alberta enacted on January 1st with unusually broad buy-in from environmentalists, the energy industry (Canada’s oil sands are in Alberta), indigenous groups and government.

Energy Policy Now, the podcast from Penn’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, interviews Alberta’s senior diplomat to the United States on details of the tax and the collaborative process that made it reality.

Gitane De Silva, Senior Representative to the United States, discusses plan details including the rebate checks to the majority of Albertans to offset higher energy costs. De Silva also provides insights into the provincial government’s intended uses for the balance of the C$9.6 billion in tax revenue over the next five years.

Connecting The Dots: Sustainability Through A Circular Economy

By Darci Gold

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Partnering with logistics solution company CHEP, IGEL of the Wharton School presented a conference centered around sustainability through the supply chain. Provoking a complex conversation about the ins and outs of companies currently exhibiting a steady stream of environmental consciousness, the event took place at the University of Pennsylvania, February eighth.

The morning’s first speaker, David Clark (Vice President of Safety Environment, and Sustainability, Amco)  highlighted the importance of packaging with a sustainability mindset. Amco, a manufacturing company, specializes in rigid and flexible packaging goods. With annual sales surpassing ten billion dollars in revenue, it has vowed to protect resources that are considered necessary to create its products. Its innovation and concern for the environment made Amco responsible for saving seven million pounds of resin for customers in the last fiscal year. In his closing minutes, Mr. Clark made poignant remarks on the discussion of biodegradability versus recycling, and interacted with numerous eager questioners in the audience. Mr. Clark made clear Amco’s sustainability initiative was a key driver in the company’s success.

Senior Director of Customer Supply Chain Integration of PepsiCo, Dennis Donelon spoke next about the manufacturing aspect of sustainability. Playing a significant role in the continuing success of the company, Mr. Donelon spoke to the necessity of environmental friendliness in business. Within the next decade, the multi-billion dollar company will seek to further protect the planet, improve the nutritional value of product, and empower the public to pursue innovation. The importance of considering fact and data when forming opinion was stressed, as well as the concept of “end to end collaboration.” Mr. Donelon expressed PepsiCo’s sincere pledge to protect the environment by citing the company’s goals to limit its usage of water and other resources commonly used to manufacture its products.

Providing the retail perspective, Mike Graham of Meijer conveyed the grocer’s strategy and commitment to sustainability. Mr. Graham described Meijer’s solutions to limiting the company’s contribution to the waste stream; simply finding use for residual organic product and selling it as a separate commodity. The company’s longstanding support of sustainability is set to continue by further incorporating recycling into the production design and by establishing a supplier code of conduct within Meijer, itself.

Vice President of Nielsen, Wendy Salomon advocated for visibility and communication between consumers and producers. According to recent data, sixty-six percent of the populations of sixty countries said they would pay more for sustainable products versus cheaper, less clean options. Based on this and other research, Ms. Salomon essentially concluded that the consumer genuinely cares about which companies they support. Therefore, adopting sustainability into one’s business model can promote the general public opinion and consumption of a company’s product. An additional conclusion derived from Nielsen’s research was that millennials value a social and environmental consciousness in their employer. Ms. Salomon urged businesses to connect sustainability to consistent themes throughout their history in order to be believable and appealing to the consumer.

Finally, host of the event and President of CHEP North America, Kim Rumph spoke to the audience. CHEP (a producer of pallets, crates, and containers) has adopting a “pooled” assets model in order to promote sustainability. The logistics solutions company has successfully aided numerous businesses in their goals to move toward a more sustainable model. Essentially, CHEP shares its three-hundred  million reusable products across sixty countries. Ms. Rumph consistently stressed the importance of sharing and collaboration in order to promote sustainability.
Throughout the entire conference, each business leader advised partnership and teamwork. They all acknowledged the obligation of major companies to actively seek to adopt practices that protect and preserve the environment. Packaging, manufacturing, selling, and consuming sustainable goods is not only moral but incredibly beneficial for business. Closing the loop of the circular economy and campaigning for corporate care for the environment depends on consumer interaction, innovation, partnership, and collaboration.

Collaboration, Innovation and Sharing: Turning Circular Supply Chain Vision into Reality

By Todd Hoff, VP Marketing and Customer Solutions, CHEP North America

When many of us were young, our parents taught us to share because it is polite and a nice thing to do. Today, as the world faces significant population growth and the environmental challenges that follow, the concept of sharing is a key building block in the long-term strategy to build a better world.

Experts say that the global population is expected to grow from 7.5 billion today to nearly 10 billion by 2050, adding more than two billion consumers to the global economy that will need access to safe, affordable and nutritious food and personal care products.

For decades, the fast-moving consumer goods industry has kept pace with growing population and consumer demands thanks to the development of innovative agricultural, manufacturing and supply chain practices. In recent years, academics, industry leaders, economic and sustainability thought leaders and efficiency experts have been collaborating to develop equally innovative plans for successfully meeting the challenges of the future.

That is where the concept of sharing comes in. Moving beyond the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle, stakeholders in the global economy have developed a vision of a Circular Economy, powered by a Circular Supply Chain that produces zero waste and zero carbon emissions. The fundamental building block of a Circular Supply Chain is shared and reusable assets.

At CHEP, our business model is based on shared and reusable assets. We move consumer goods throughout the world on more than 300 million reusable pallets, containers and crates that are used over-and-over again by our customers. We are committed to the vision of a Circular Supply Chain and bringing it to life through ongoing collaboration with our customers, thought leaders and stakeholders around the globe.

On February 8th, CHEP partnered with the Wharton School’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania for a thought leadership event entitled,  Connecting the Dots: Sustainability Through a Circular Economy. CHEP teamed up with visionary stakeholders – a major packaging manufacturer; a multinational food, snack and beverage corporation; a grocery retailer and a leading consumer research company. They each discussed their sustainability efforts and collaboration in helping to turn the vision of a Circular Supply Chain into reality.

A recent study by McKinsey & Company shows that the consumer goods supply chain is fertile ground for both efficiency and sustainable savings presently and over the long-term. That is intriguing, because our focus at CHEP is collaborating with our customers to optimize and improve the sustainability of the supply chain.

Through our end-to-end supply chain solutions, we help our customers save money, become more efficient and more sustainable. For instance in the past 12 months, when it comes to sustainability, we have helped customers keep 1.4 million trees on the planet and eliminate 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, equivalent to taking more than 485,000 passenger vehicles off US roads. We’ve also removed 1.3 million tonnes of waste from landfills, eliminated 3 million empty truck miles and avoided more than 3,000 tonnes of food from being damaged during transport.

In collaborating with our customers, CHEP and its parent company, Brambles, have been recognized by the leading Circular Economy foundation and a major grocery retailer as a key component of the Circular Supply Chain because of our shared and reusable business model.

We are excited about developing an efficient and sustainable global supply chain that benefits people and the planet for generations to come. We are equally proud to partner with our customers and leading stakeholders to achieve a Circular Economy and a Circular Supply Chain, through sharing our experiences at Connecting the Dots.

Visit www.chep.com for more information or follow us on Twitter @CHEPna and LinkedIn. Please also check out our YouTube channel.

Education and the Sustainability Professional of the Future

By Neelam Ferrari

Many of my posts talk about the numerous global issues that are related to sustainability, and more particularly, how these important topics relate to human health and nutrition. As food and nutrition security will likely become defining societal issues over the coming decades, and we see no slowdown in the evolution of technological progress, the demands of sustainability professionals working in fields related to these topics need to be responsive to emerging global trends. These trends include not only environmental components, but also encompass changes in business, socioeconomics, technology and culture. When we hear the term sustainability, we often immediately focus on the environment and natural resources. While this is appropriate, it is only a piece of the broader puzzle. The definition, and the acknowledgement of topics related to sustainability encompasses perspectives from many different fields ranging from finance to medicine. Therefore, the foundation education for future sustainability professionals must embrace a multidisciplinary approach, while also emphasizing depth in one or more of the related components.

I can think about this from my own perspective as I will be entering college in the fall. After college, I plan to embark on a career in medicine. However, I plan to do more than practice in a clinical setting. In addition to working directly with patients, I also want to work to address some of the issues that are at the root of the development of disease, and I believe that many of these issues can be addressed through the lens of sustainability. Some of these sustainability/health issues center around access to a clean and plentiful water supply; this brings in the perspective of science and engineering. Others relate to food and nutrition, which can include genetics, biotechnology and education. In addition, we can connect some diseases to the lack of access to markets, which includes knowledge of economics, politics and business. From these high level examples, it is clear to me that while my primary education will focus on medicine and biotechnology, I will also need to develop a foundation in other contributing fields that are part of the sustainability spectrum.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Platform has been a leader in highlighting the importance of education in meeting sustainability goals. Further, education has been selected as one of the priority areas to help advance their agenda. As we broaden our definition of what a sustainability professional is, we can start to see that no matter what your primary occupation might be, a sustainability emphasis can be incorporated into your job and this is important in truly making effective strides towards addressing global problems. Core curriculum emphasizing sustainability subjects is a start, and supplementing this with ties to the business world, such as those developed at Wharton IGEL at Penn, Columbia’s The Earth Institute, and the NYU Stern Center for Sustainability, are great examples that other institutes can emulate.

The Sustainability of Fasting

By L.E. Brolly

In an era where there is a concern over food production with a burgeoning global population and a paradoxical health crisis of obesity, imagine encouraging fasting for future sustainability of both. A calculated fast, in simplest terms, provides a method for reducing consumption overall for both an individual and society as a whole. Reducing or maintaining an individual’s ideal weight which will keep an individual healthy will minimize the burden on already overwhelmed medical establishments. Who doesn’t want to think about all of these things particularly as the New Year rolls over into 2017?

Fasting can be managed by any number of methods ranging from hourly windows to multiple days. Consider a day in which a person, Alex has 12 tasks to complete and very little time to think let alone eat and a spare tire that, by fasting definitions, is ripe for the picking, for energy, that is.

Alex hits the ground running at 6AM. With an ½ hour to get out the door, maybe they only have time to flip the switch on their coffee maker, take a quick shower, and get away with their travel mug. Alex now knows that they will make their 7:30 meeting after the train commute because they did not have to stop for breakfast along the way and have an additional saving of cash with enough time to spare for quick meeting prep.

Demystifying fasting is no easy task particularly when the desire is to, in the same breath, promote it as a sustainable, healthy practice that benefits not only the individual but also society as a whole. Firstly, fasting must be defined by what it is not. Fasting is not starvation. Fasting is strategic and planned. The body responds very differently when there is no food or only specific types of food like broth or bouillon than when it is presented with repeated low calorie options and days on end which is when the body starts thinking it is starving. Pairing fasting with normal eating is the key to its success.

In the previous scenario, Alex skipped breakfast. Consider the resources spared: cash, food stuffs, energy for cooking, transport of raw and finished materials, packaging manufacturing, and more. If Alex had only partially consumed the food, there would have been waste. If Alex had ingested the full thing, it might have been the start of excess of calories for the day. This is a positive deficit.

Moving throughout the day, there are deadlines looming with only time to have tea or a quick cup of soup. Alex will make the deadline because now they have a spare hour to work on the task at hand. Tomorrow is another day and re-scheduling a lunch meeting is often an easy task. But what about having enough energy to think? The body has this capacity to turn stored body fat and consumed fat into ketone bodies (not to be confused with ketoacidosis suffered by diabetics) that can be readily used by the brain instead of glucose. This is a bonus. Skip the candy bar and the processed ready meal which takes time and energy to produce and heat up. Bring on the bouillon soup or bone broth made with hot water to replenish electrolytes.

Moving through the day, there are many fewer tasks at hand and the one key item that often gets skipped is exercise. Powered by ketones and replenished by electrolytes, there is now time for Alex to take a 30 minute jog, weight lifting session, swim, or exercise class. A body powered by fat and trained to do so can get through hours of endurance training. After all, how did the cavemen get through?

Alex has now dodged one day of getting closer to obesity or taken a step in the right direction away from it. Obesity has spawned a global health crisis whose cure is now being touted as fasting and the elimination of sugar. If instead of promoting agriculture that is concerned with a wheat, corn, and sugar base which is increasingly obesogenic and narrowly focused, society could move to an agriculture that promotes caloric density of animal products combined with wholesome, organic, diverse vegetables simply by reallocating resources creating sustainability. There is nothing extra to produce and nothing to buy to combat obesity and essentially a conservation of food resources with fasting. Practiced in an intermittent fashion, fasting is safe and easy and sustainable.

 

n.b. – Fasting while healthful, is not indicated for individuals who have struggled with eating disorders, are pregnant or breastfeeding, are under 18, or have a BMI under 20.