Share & Reuse in Demanding Times

By Kim Rumph, President, CHEP North America

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An Old Fashioned Zeitgeist

I’m not sure if it’s comforting or disturbing when, from an analysis of history, we witness today’s supposedly zeitgeist concepts alive and well from many moons ago.  That’s what we at CHEP discovered when we began to study the principles of Shared & Circular Economics.

For example; over 2,000 years ago terracotta vessels were used to transport olive oil and wine by the Egyptians, Greeks & Romans; over a hundred years ago, glass milk bottles were used in England to deliver fresh milk from the farm to customers’ doors everyday.

These vessels were the earliest examples of a circular & shared economy that we could find.   And today, most urban cites have a versions for the CitiBike phenomena we’ve witness in the United States.

Of course that does not dilute the power of their principles at all.   All are fine human examples of human sharing.

The Intersection of Shared & Circular Economics

CHEP is in the business of sharing platforms for our customers along their supply chain.  Whether that’s a platform (pallet, reusable plastic container, container) or a transport lane (one truck journey from A-to-B) or knowledge that we utilize across all our customers; we have a business need to share and eliminate unwanted or wasted resources.

Given this, our business model is a demonstration of the efficiency and effectiveness of sharing.

The Extreme Conditions we all Face NOW

Our planet is under incredible stress to feed & water our burgeoning population.  For example, we waste far more food than is required to feed all the hungry people in the world.  What a tragedy of modern (re)distribution.

Governments are turning to the intellectual and organizational capital of organizations to lead practical solutions to this problem.   And organizations turn to their supply chain experts for 75% of their efficiency gains.

Everyday, we at CHEP are eliminating a handling touch here, a transport lane there, packing more efficiently everywhere and sharing everything.   If we give you one example, all the transport efficiencies we bought to our customers last year eliminated 26 million miles of truck trips – that’s the equivalent of 100 trucks traveling 100 times around the world.

And it’s just one rather long example of what’s possible when we share.

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Circular Economy – Business Perspectives:  Moving from Discussion to Implementation

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

Vertaeon LLC

Recent discussions, white papers and seminars on the benefits of the circular economy, as opposed to the traditional “cradle-to-grave” linear economy, serve to increase awareness of this issue and challenge industries to rethink the status-quo. The timing is right – one could point to the need to conserve natural resources, the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, growing population, increasing urbanization, more efficient waste management and a whole host of other reasons to make the case. For instance, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report titled Towards the Circular Economy provides staggering numbers that illustrate the broad-based impacts.   82 billion tonnes of raw materials expected to enter the economic system in 2020, highest ever price volatility levels for food and non-food agricultural outputs, opportunities to save $billions by segregating food waste from other wastes, to name a few.  Multiple business models are emerging including product lifecycle extensions and sharing platforms.

Multi-faceted approach to implementation

Moving from thought leadership to practice on a larger scale would require a multi-pronged approach – one that forces a holistic view of product and byproduct lifecycles, leverages the interconnectivity of value chains, and spawns innovative companies. Even resource optimization, manufacturing footprints, and pollution prevention would be completely revamped in this new paradigm.  At Vertaeon, we envision this multi-pronged strategy would add yet another dimension to growth and expansion opportunity assessments and can eventually create truly integrated, global conglomerates. The seemingly endless scope and scale of opportunities and related challenges make this task seem daunting. So, how do we move past the hype to operationalizing the circular economy?

Key notions

The key would be to aim high while not losing sight of opportunities at the smaller scale/level – and create success stories that help fuel the discussion by delivering economic returns.  From a manufacturer’s perspective, we believe ongoing strategic assessments that include analyses of (a) data on market trends and potentials, (b) waste/byproduct value chains that intersect your primary value chain, (c) improved KPIs both for opportunity assessment and implementation, and (d) effective product innovation are the key to operationalize the circular economy.  From a corporate strategy point of view, growth option assessments will take on new dimensions via evaluating multiple value chains and new product-technology roadmaps including environmental as well as economic considerations.

Another key aspect is to leverage technology in developing transparency in information for collaborating partners as well as developing insights for individual company opportunities.  If we think that the current volume and variety of data within a company is complicated enough to aggregate and analyze, imagine the level of complexity a circular economy business model can bring about to the types and scope of data.

Vertaeon is uniquely positioned as a specialized strategy advisory and data analytics firm to address these planning and implementation challenges.  Our manufacturing and strategy experiences have given us an in-depth look at supply chains both from sustainability as well as from business strategy points of view.  Our data analytics offerings concentrate on operational and market aspects, including resource optimization as well as supply chain analytics.  Our goal is to bring in an easy to deploy solution to complex business operations while synthesizing the data to give clear, actionable insights to decision makers.

In conclusion 

The concept of circular economy has given industrialized economies a wonderful opportunity to create additional value in environmental, market and social dimensions.  Effective implementation with strong organizational commitment will be the key to realizing that value.

Vertaeon (www.vertaeon.com) participates in Wharton IGEL activities and Co-founder Dr. Vipin Varma (WG ’11) serves on the alumni advisory board of IGEL.

Putting the Circular Economy in Motion

By Jennifer Gerholdt, Senior Director, Environment Program, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Dell created a closed-loop recycled plastics supply chain to recycle computers back into new computers.  Philips sells lighting as a service instead of a product that a consumer would otherwise purchase and own. The Dow Chemical Company recovers non-recycled plastics to convert into a usable energy source.

These examples, taken from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report Achieving a Circular Economy: How the Private Sector is Reimagining the Future of Business, help illustrate the concept of the circular economy, in which resources are endlessly cycled back into supply chains and waste does not exist.

The circular economy, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is an economic model that is restorative or regenerative by design and intent, in which products, components, and materials are kept at their highest value at all times. In essence the circular economy about is re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling products and materials, turning waste into a resource, and managing all resources through their life cycles. It is about keeping molecules endlessly in motion.

The concept of eradicating waste, which underpins the circular economy, is not new, but is being fueled by megatrends including rapid population growth, resource constraints, uncertain commodity markets, shifting consumer attitudes and preferences, and more.

In the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Trucost research report, Trash to Treasure: Waste Streams to Profit Streams, we identified the 5,589 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. sent 342 million metric tons of waste to landfills in 2014. In addition, on average, companies generate 7.81 metric tons of waste for every million dollars in revenue.

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If the 5,589 companies reduced their waste by 1%, it would save nearly $1 billion in total.

The report found that companies are not accurately estimating, measuring and managing their waste streams, which means they are throwing away huge opportunities for profit and increased efficiency. Adopting circular economy methods is the best way to eliminate waste and recapture its value.

Companies are pursuing the circular economy as an alternative approach to the linear “take-make-dispose” model that decouples economic growth from resource constraints. The circular economy is, at its core, an economic innovation opportunity. It is about a fundamental rethinking and redesign of products, components, materials, and systems of commerce in which resources are endlessly cycled back into the system. All this represents tremendous opportunity for business and society. Shifting to the circular economy could unlock an estimated $4.5 trillion in additional economic growth by 2030 by turning current waste into wealth, according to research from Accenture.

Despite the megatrends and compelling business case, practical approaches of how companies can put the circular economy in motion are not yet mainstream. To address this, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and PYXERA Global, is hosting Better Business: Better World: Mainstreaming the Circular Economy May 16-17 in Washington, DC. This event will provide an interactive and collaborative platform for more than 300 private and public sector leaders to explore real world examples and gain practical insights for how companies can achieve a circular economy that helps make the world a better place.

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Rethinking Waste Through Technology in a Circular Economy

By Felix Faulhaber, Vice President, Business Intelligence & Supply Chain, Rubicon Global

imageWith the planet facing a resource crunch, our consumption-hungry culture is quickly becoming unsustainable. The linear “make, use, dispose” economy depends on vast amounts of resources — and creates huge amounts of waste. According to “Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage,” 80 percent of goods in the U.S. are thrown away within their first six months of life.

An alternative that’s gaining traction is the circular economy, which aims to weed out waste through a regenerative industrial system. In a circular economy, waste doesn’t exist – all products and materials serve a purpose within the system for as long as possible.

The circular economy’s success rests on four basic building blocks:

  • A cradle-to-cradle view of materials that promotes a waste-free, efficient system
  • An understanding of industrial ecology and how to deploy waste as a resource
  • A commitment to including diverse players from across the market
  • Systems thinking and leveraging technology and data to find solutions

For the model to work, manufacturers, service providers, product users and collectors all have to be on the same page. Adapting to this mindset will require many industries to change, including the waste industry itself.

Viewing waste in a new way

Traditional waste management providers also own landfills and hauling assets, creating incentives for them to break the regenerative cycle and pile landfills high with trash. Waste and recycling provider Rubicon Global is disrupting the industry, however, through a new asset-light, technology-driven model that benefits businesses and the environment.

Rubicon’s proprietary technology platform helps to facilitate a circular economy by connecting haulers and customers in a new way.  Businesses can use Rubicon’s technology to request waste pickups when needed, instead of on a fixed schedule, eliminating unnecessary transportation costs and fuel consumption. Haulers bring the material they collect to processors instead of landfills, and Rubicon’s cloud-based auction site enables businesses to bid on the collected materials. By sending less trash to landfills and selling their waste for recycling or reuse, Rubicon’s customers boost their bottom lines while also doing good for the planet.

The power of technology

Gaining insight into sustainability initiatives is key for businesses that want to create successful circular economies. Rubicon provides customers with detailed pickup data so they can track their progress against diversion targets and manage high- and low-performing materials. Companies can also use data to optimize diversion efforts and the frequency of trash removal, resulting in financial and environmental benefits.

As resources grow more precious, our old industrial system just doesn’t work anymore. By enabling businesses to turn their trash into someone else’s treasure, Rubicon is working to create a more sustainable circular economy.

Rubicon Global has been a longtime supporter of Wharton IGEL and is an active member of its corporate advisory board. Rubicon Global has partnered with Wharton IGEL on two reports that were issued in Knowledge@Wharton; Disrupting the World’s Oldest Industry was issued in March 2014, and more recently The Sharing Economy: Restacking Industry in the 21st Century was issued in December 2015.  

World Water Day: Help XSProject Bring Clean Water to Trash Picker Families

By Karen McDaniels

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Tuesday, March 22 is World Water Day. 633 million people around the world drink contaminated water every day. Would you drink contaminated water? Probably not, so why should anyone have to drink it?

In Jakarta, Indonesia there are more than 500,000 people who earn a living picking through garbage cans and dumpsters for anything they can sell to feed their families. On a good day they earn about $5. One to two dollars of that goes to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking every single day!

This World Water Day, I am asking you to help XSProject bring clean water for bathing, cooking and drinking to 100 trash picker families supported by our non-profit organization. Our MISSION is to break the generational cycle of trash picking by giving the children in this community a K-12 education. Our GOAL is to provide piped clean and filtered water to our community. With your donation to www.xsproject-usa.org and the engineers at Mercy Corps, we can radically change the lives of these families and produce happy, healthy students. And, I will personally send you a note of thanks!

As XSProject’s General Manager, Retno Hapsari (my boss) says: “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us”.

Circular Economy – Why the Hype?

By Edwin Pinero
Senior Vice President, Sustainability and Public Affairs, Veolia North America

There is quite a bit of hype over the concept of the Circular Economy, yet it is rooted in some older concepts. Fundamentally, a Circular Economy is one that is restorative by design, characterized by material reuse and recycling, and renewable energy. The intent is to move away from the linear “take-make-use-dispose” model.

I have been in the environmental and sustainability business for the better part of my 36 year career, and I recognize this idea from before. The concept of Circular Economy can be traced back to the ideas of industrial ecology and design for the environment popular circa 1990s. These movements were based on the concept of mimicking nature by efficient use of materials and energy. The complementary movement of Design for the Environment encouraged product design such that end-of-use disposition resulted in less waste.

So what makes it different? What is so “new” now? The increasingly urbanized middle class is expected to mushroom from 1.8 billion to 3.2 billion people by 2020. This growth is aggravated by the impacts of climate change and previously unseen pressure on existing resources. We knew this already. The fact that growing population and economies strain natural resources is not new. Whereas the earlier movements were largely environmentally based, what’s new is a closer balance of environmental and market and economic forces.

It is the interconnectivity of environmental and economic factors that makes the current discussion new and timely. The Circular Economy concept builds on earlier efforts by adding visibility to the need to address market impacts of growing non-renewable resources shortages and corresponding price volatility. For example, a study by the Ellen McArthur Foundation and McKinsey noted that certain precious metals have only a few decades remaining of supply at current consumption rates. In addition to the obvious impacts of shortages, such stressed reserves lead to wide swings in price volatility, adversely impacting prices and markets.

Still not convinced? There is another driver towards the circular economy, and it comes from the fortuitous timing alignment with the Paris climate agreement. We know that even before the airplanes carrying the negotiators landed back in their home countries after COP21, there was stress about which countries would ratify the agreement. But as we learned from the Kyoto Protocol experience, ratifying and legislating the agreement does not guarantee goals would be met; and conversely, not ratifying does not doom a country to failure. Some countries who signed Kyoto were late or never met their goals. The United States did not sign the Kyoto agreement and we actually met our goals! How can that be and why is this point relevant to the Circular Economy?

The Circular Economy demonstrates that sustainable solutions are those that integrate environmental and economic factors. More efficient use of materials and more use of renewable energy are not only lower in carbon footprint than the fossil fuel-only, “take-make-use-dispose” economic model, but also can be linked to underlying economic drivers.

And that is the wonderful epiphany of the Circular Economy. It will help us deal with environmental and resource issues, temper market volatility, and contribute towards COP21 goals, regardless of what happens with agreement ratification. And that is a pretty good outcome!

It’s Time for Something New

By Andrew Chung, Founder & Managing Partner at 1955 Capital, WG’06

(Story reposted from Andrew Chung’s blog page. Please click here to see his blog.)

Last year, I went to a dinner where Madeleine Albright was the guest of honor, and she said some things that really resonated with me: The U.S. and China are more codependent on each other than any two countries have ever been in history. There’s no escaping the fact that we need each other. More importantly, we need to find the right way to work together.

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Me, Madeleine (holding a pic of my daughter Aria), my wife Coral

That’s why the launch of 1955 Capital is so important to me. It’s a new venture firm I founded focused on funding technologies in developed countries that can be rapidly commercialized and scaled to solve pressing challenges in the developing world — starting with China.

We’re talking about taking on big, bold challenges like air pollution, renewable energy, food security and safety, health care delivery, accessible education, and sustainable manufacturing. I’ve watched as fewer and fewer firms pursue these sectors in recent years due to risk and fear of failure.

There’s also a serious lack of investors who understand the Chinese market and who know how to do business there. I heard recently that only 10% of U.S. venture capital general partners are Asian. Fewer speak Chinese. And even fewer want to explore outside the Silicon Valley comfort zone to build partnerships there. No wonder most U.S. investors advise entrepreneurs with global ambitions to start with the U.S. market first, even if they could grow faster, earlier outside of the U.S. Many investors actively advise against growing in China because of the fear of the unknown and the language and cultural barriers.

The good news is there’s appetite to do something different. Something revolutionary. 1955 Capital has raised $200 million in a first close on anchor commitments — we believe that is a strong signal that others recognize the gap in the market and want to see it bridged.

Our investors also believe we’re the right team to do it. As a Chinese American who grew up immersed in both cultures, I’m passionate about bringing our countries together to solve important problems. I’ve had the rare opportunity to invest in incredibly impactful sectors like energy, food, agriculture, healthcare, and education for over a decade.

At Lightspeed Ventures, I spent 5 years helping to build the firm’s cleantech, genomics, and education practice areas. This led to working with exciting companies like Solazyme and Natera — both of which went public. Their success compelled me to keep investing in these areas when I joined Khosla Ventures, a platform that encourages its investment partners to be contrarian thought leaders in sectors that matter to the world.

Since then, I’ve helped open the door for a number of companies to the massive markets in Asia. I’m especially grateful to Vinod Khosla, my former partner, for his commitment to world-changing technologies and his support as we’ve built bridges for our entrepreneurs to enter frontier markets.

I’m proud to serve on the board of LanzaTech, a Chicago-based maker of carbon reuse technology that turns toxic waste gases from steel mills and other industrial factories into valuable fuels and chemicals. This is a huge issue in China, where air quality is bad and likely to get worse. Despite its unique technology and value proposition, LanzaTech had a challenging time finding partners in the U.S. But when the company met with Chinese groups, including the No. 1 steel maker in the country, Lanzatech found believers who were willing to back its first pilot plants. The company was able to test and iterate in China to develop an even better solution, leading to a successful capital raise of over $100 million and other successful partnerships in both the developed and the developing world.

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Lanzatech-Baosteel pilot plant in Baoshan, China

Lanzatech is one of many stories showing how survival-driven demand in China is pushing critical innovation forward fast. The Chinese market doesn’t just want these types of companies to exist — it needs them to. Home to the fastest growing middle class in the world, China is grappling with a tough combination of environmental issues and the need for better products and higher quality of life. Capital, regulations, and willpower aren’t the problem, access to the right technologies is.

This is where 1955 Capital comes in. Our goal is to help founders who are solving these problems understand the global opportunity and find the right partners in these developing countries, so that they can go the distance. In doing so, we seek not only to close an economic divide, but also a political one. It might sound grand, or even hyperbolic, but I sincerely believe technology is the greatest and most inspiring olive branch that can connect us with critical partners like China, India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and beyond.

We have a historic opportunity to invent a new global future — who wants to join us?

Looking forward to sharing more,

Andrew

@achung

(Story reposted from Andrew Chung’s blog page. Please click here to see his blog.)

BLUER and WEST CHESTER, PA: Creating a more sustainable economic and environmental future

By Scott Tornek (C ’87 and WG ’95), Chief Strategy Officer at the Penn Center for Community Health Workers, and David Mazzocco, Associate Director of Sustainability and Projects at Wharton

BLUER logoThe work of minimizing Penn’s carbon footprint often extends beyond the campus, through efforts of Penn community members in other volunteer organizations.  Scott Tornek (C ’87 and WG ’95), Chief Strategy Officer at the Penn Center for Community Health Workers, and David Mazzocco, Associate Director of Sustainability and Projects at Wharton, served on BLUER in West Chester, PA, as the business outreach director and chair/green building advisor respectively.

BLUER, or Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reduction, is a Borough Council appointed ad-hoc, all volunteer committee whose mission is to help the Borough of West Chester and its community reduce greenhouse gas pollution 10% below 2005 levels by 2015 and beyond. In 2006, West Chester Borough Council committed to participate in the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, sponsored by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), and signaled that West Chester Borough would take a leadership role in promoting public awareness about the causes and impacts of climate change. Establishing BLUER put West Chester Borough’s resolution into action. The committee’s work in preparing and implementing a Climate Action Plan helped break the trend toward rising greenhouse emissions and put West Chester on a track toward a more sustainable economic and environmental future.

To help volunteer efforts with goal implementation, BLUER increased partnerships with other organizations and entities, including West Chester University, the West Chester Business Improvement District, Chester County Hospital (now affiliated with Penn Medicine), the Sierra Club and the Chester County Cycling Coalition, to work together on similarly aimed programs and combine resources, efforts and effects. BLUER’s list of accomplishments with the help of these other organizations is impressive. As a result, West Chester’s emissions are down 11% over 2005 levels, exceeding their initial goal and continuing a downward trend.  This is very encouraging and shows new building codes are working and community members are taking positive steps to reduce their energy consumption.

By the Ordinance that created it, BLUER as a formal committee expired on 31 December 2015. But the work of this committee is by no means complete, and the successful efforts and legacy will continue beyond its charter. BLUER worked with the West Chester Borough government to institutionalize their efforts by creating an interdepartmental “Sustainability Champion” within the Borough’s administrative staff as well as naming an Ecosystem Resource Management Committee as an advisory group. Their job is to coordinate the efforts of various Borough departments and community outreach to achieve the goals of greenhouse gas reduction and other environmental initiatives. BLUER created a Climate Action Plan, but implementation will continue as part of the Borough’s annual goals via its operations, monitoring and accountability of staff. You may find additional information on West Chester Borough’s website.

Today at Penn, Wharton is taking a leadership role in advocating for CAP 2.0, Penn’s Climate Action Plan, by identifying and implementing substantive reductions in the environmental impact of the Wharton community that demonstrate leadership on behalf of our students, faculty and staff.  As Associate Director of Sustainability and Projects at Wharton, David’s role is to manage Wharton Operation’s Sustainability Program to identify and implement actions that reduce Wharton’s environmental footprint and promote sustainable behavior among our stakeholders.

Penn also is making great strides with its sustainable work in the health system. The Penn Center for Community Health Workers is a community-academic-health system partnership at Penn Medicine. The center has developed an innovative, research-based program called IMPaCT that has been scientifically proven to improve the health outcomes of high-risk, low income populations. As Chief Strategy Officer, Scott’s role is to provide vision and leadership for the rollout of IMPaCT to other health systems, government entities and community organizations nationwide. In conjunction with a team of over 40 talented people, he is developing a business strategy and services platform.

Coincidentally, David and Scott both joined Penn October 26th of 2015!

Food Waste: Carrier Advances Global Dialogue

By Professor Steven Finn

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A few weeks ago I published an initial post (Improve the Cold Chain, Reduce Food Waste) on Carrier’s World Cold Chain Summit to Reduce Food Waste held in Singapore in early December.  The breadth and richness of the Summit warrants additional commentary, as so many critical themes on the potential for food waste reduction through an improved cold chain were discussed over the course of two days.

Throughout the Summit, many of the speakers pointed to the environmental externalities associated with food waste.  Carrier/UTC’s John Mandyck, for example, noted that the carbon footprint of global food waste is 3.3 billion metric tons per year, and that the annual volume of irrigated water going into the production of wasted food exceeds the annual irrigated water usage of any nation.  Mandyck also pointed out the potential to ease ocean acidification by reducing CO2 emissions from wasted food.  He set the table for the two-day conference in stating that “when it comes to food waste, we need an ‘all of the above’ strategy.”  He’s right.

Mandyck also noted that if emerging economies accepted cold chain technologies to the level of developed countries, their GHG emissions would be reduced by 50%.  He then posed the question: When talking about game-changing public policy, why wouldn’t food waste be on the list?  Right again; it should be on national and global agendas.  As he pointed out, we are in need of a connected global dialog on food waste (a longtime theme of this blog), and Carrier’s Singapore Summit, building on last year’s London Summit, is advancing that dialog.  The timing is critical as we seek to make a significant move from awareness to action on food waste across the globe.

Several speakers provided excellent commentary over the two-day Summit to educate and energize the global audience.  Joseph Mpagalile of FAO discussed strategy for food loss reduction through cold chain development in developing countries.  Mpagalile began with an overview of FAO’s vision — a world free of hunger and malnutrition where food and agriculture contribute to improving living standards for all, especially the poorest, in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner.  It’s certainly a compelling vision – and one that is clearly aided by the optimization of resources associated with a significant reduction in global food waste.  In addition, he pointed to FAO’s 5 strategic objectives:

  1. Help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition
  2. Make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable
  3. Reduce rural poverty
  4. Enable inclusive and efficient agricultural & food systems
  5. Increase the resilience of livelihood to disasters

Again, reducing food waste aligns with all of them.

Mpagalile noted that of the 1.1 billion tons of annual food wastage around the globe, approximately half occurs in developing countries — and since that is where the bulk of population increase will take place between now and 2050 (and beyond), the value of improving the cold chain to reduce food waste in this region cannot be overstated.

He pointed to large food losses across the supply chain in the North Africa and Near East (NENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) regions — including losses of 40-50% for perishable products.  His conclusion: the cold chain in developing regions must be further developed in a sustainable manner, and “a real commitment to supporting cold chain development is needed, both from governments and the private sector.”  Indeed, this is a prime area for public private partnerships — and such partnerships are a key aspect that the global dialog being fostered by Carrier can produce.

Mpagalile noted several conditions justifying cold chain development, including the strong commitment by multiple governments to reduce food wastage, the increasing production of perishable products, increasing economic and demographic growth, and increasing urbanization coupled with a growing middle class.  He suggested several potential interventions, including strengthening human and technical capacities, supporting research and development in the refrigeration sector, establishing a framework to support investment in the cold chain, promoting public private partnerships to increase cold chain investment, and supporting the development of efficient, environmentally-friendly equipment.

Ultimately, he called for a formal coalition for the development of the cold chain in developing countries — a coalition of public and private entities driving planning and implementation efforts over a six-year period to raise awareness of cold chain issues, support national policies, strategies, and program development, support cold chain capacity development, strengthen regulatory frameworks, and support investment projects in order to increase food security, reduce environmental impact, and increase business opportunities.  In other words, achieve far-reaching triple bottom line impact.

Clementine O’Connor of UNEP followed with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for a 50% reduction in per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduction of food losses along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses).  O’Connor also pointed out the environmental and economic impacts of food waste, and discussed the Save Food and Think Eat Save initiatives (the latter focusing on downstream food waste).  She reviewed UNEP’s guidance methodology for food waste prevention, with modules focused on 1) mapping and measuring food and drink waste, 2) developing national and/or regional policies and measures, 3) developing and implementing programs to prevent and reduce household food waste, and 4) preventing food waste in business supply chains.

She then covered the importance of measuring food waste, including establishing a baseline, informing strategies and interventions, setting internal targets, and motivating personnel.  Importantly, she noted that to date the UK is the only country to have reduced food waste at the consumer level.  Clearly there is vast opportunity here — and given the “what you measure, you manage” adage — such work starts with a good baseline measure.

O’Connor also challenged companies to take steps to reduce food waste, including establishing their own baseline measures, pushing their suppliers to adopt similar baselines, advocating for food waste reduction, and tracking/reporting on progress.  She’s on point.  When companies start requiring their suppliers to demonstrate food waste reduction efforts as a condition of doing business, progress throughout the food supply chain will rapidly accelerate.

Didier Coulomb of the International Institute of Refrigeration followed, reminding the audience that “refrigeration is everywhere” but pointing especially to the increasing need for refrigeration in developing economies.  To support that theme, he noted that 23% of food losses in developing countries are caused by a lack of refrigeration as compared to 9% in developed countries.  Coulomb also noted that increasing refrigeration needs in developing countries means increased environmental impact, and called for technological development to address that challenge.

Judith Evans of London South Bank University gave a European perspective on food waste, including a breakdown of food waste by type, while also pointing to the significant damages to natural resources (climate, water, land, and biodiversity) associated with food waste — poignantly noting that “it just seems criminal that we’re throwing away so much food.”  Evans listed many key issues linked to the problem of global food waste, including population growth, economic growth, urbanization, rising expectations of global citizenry, climate change, depletion of natural resources, slowing agricultural productivity, and undernourishment.  She also pointed to the challenge of economic growth and development — increased food exports require increased refrigeration dependence, coupled with longer cold chains and increased resource consumption.

Regarding urbanization, Evans noted that “every second we have one more person moving into an urban sector…we’re gradually losing our connection to the land and how food is grown, which contributes to the food waste problem.”

Evans pointed to the importance of refrigeration, noting that approximately 50% of current food wastage could be saved with a more efficient supply chain — leading to increased food security, improved health worldwide, billions of dollars in financial savings, and the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions by up to a billion tons per year.  She listed a combination of technical, behavioral, and legislative changes to achieve this level of reduction, including 1) a focus in developing countries on reducing post-harvest losses early in the food supply chain (through better mold/pest control, better refrigeration storage technologies, and better infrastructure, and 2) a focus in developed countries on strategies to prevent waste through the food supply chain (including “whole chain” cooperation), technical improvements (such as packaging improvements to extend shelf life), socio-economic changes (reduced package and portion sizes and improved date labeling), behavior change, and supportive legislation.  The behavior change piece is critical as consumers in developed countries must transition from a “culture of abundance” mindset regarding food to a “culture of responsibility” mindset — prodding retailers to move with them.

Olivier Jan of Deloitte covered the potential of the cold chain to reduce global GHG emissions through food waste reduction.  Addressing a key food system challenge, he asked: Is there an environmental benefit in developing cold chains in emerging economies?  In other words, will the reduction in GHG emissions from reduced food wastage exceed the additional emissions from increased energy use and increased transport distances?  Importantly, Deloitte’s study showed that the decrease in the food loss and waste carbon footprint from an expanded cold chain outbalances additional emissions by a factor of ten (Note: the study was limited to perishable fresh food and developing regions of the world).

Flowing nicely from Jan’s discussion, Pascal Chapot of Nestlé gave a “boots on the ground” overview of Nestlé’s fresh milk collection operations in Pakistan.  In reviewing the complexity of this effort, which involves 170,000 farmers and 110,000 square kilometers, Chapot stressed the importance of the cold chain to minimize post-harvest losses as well as the importance of extensive training among the thousands of farmers in the chain.  He noted that their efforts have resulted in a 1% loss over Nestlé’s value chain, and there remains considerable potential to further reduce those losses by shortening the cold chain, improving equipment design, and continuing training efforts. Notably, Nestlé is also developing renewable energy sources to power chilling centers in the region.

Chapot also covered Nestlé’s shared value concept — the idea that “for a company to be successful over time and create value for shareholders, it must also create value for society.” Linking food waste reduction and agricultural development of less developed regions to its business model clearly fits that bill.

Eduardo Kerbel of Carrier helped close out day one of the Summit with a grower’s perspective on reducing post-harvest losses of fresh produce, beginning with the following key statement:

When it comes to offer(ing) the world good, nutritious, and safe produce, it is a lot cheaper and efficient to spend our resources on keeping and maintaining the condition, quality and wholesomeness of produce that was already produced and harvested, rather than to try (and) compensate for post-harvest losses by producing more and more produce.

Well said.  As EPA’s Food Waste Reduction hierarchy suggests, we should prioritize source reduction in order to optimize scarce resources.  Kerbel went on to review best handling practices in the field and in packing plants, along with optimal packaging requirements and cold chain compliance techniques to reduce food waste.

Day two of the conference began with a session on refrigeration technologies to reduce food losses.  Gerald Cavalier of Cemafroid noted the many challenges to be faced regarding refrigeration, including the challenge of equipment (there are 1.5 billion domestic refrigerators in use), performance challenges (continuity, safety, security, and traceability adapted to myriad environments), sustainability challenges (energy efficiency and emissions impact), the temperature “full service” challenge (economic and technical hurdles) and the qualification-certification challenge (technical standards and protocols). He discussed recent innovations in refrigeration, and closed by advocating a vision for refrigeration involving continuity (the right temperature everywhere at the right time), connectivity (with big data), service, capability (training), environmental performance, and a guarantee of conformity, safety, quality, and performance.

Andy Perkins of Star Refrigeration discussed refrigeration technologies and how we can improve the cold chain.  Mark Mitchell of Supercool Asia followed with a detailed presentation on how to improve the transport cold chain, noting that while we currently have the technology to do so, it is poorly implemented.   Mitchell noted that global food loss reduction can be achieved by dramatically improving the transport cold chain.  Importantly, he stated that part of the solution involves having stakeholders “value food as a precious commodity and not (as) products readily replaced under insurance claims or available in abundance.”  Well said.  Again, the importance of mindset shift away from a culture of abundance regarding food in the developed world cannot be overstated.  Mitchell called for global collaboration, noting that a failure to apply existing cold chain knowledge and technology to the developing world is unacceptable.

Building on the impactful presentations over two days, the conference concluded with hands-on workshops investigating 1) the key steps to building a cold  chain to reduce food loss, 2) how to expand expiration dates to reduce food waste, and 3) the components of a sustainable cold chain.

Reviewing many key Summit takeaways in closing, John Mandyck posited that it is time to move into an era of food efficiency, suggesting that we focus on wasting less to feed more rather than looking toward ever more food production (with its associated environmental impact).  He also pointed to the great potential for a new cold chain coalition organized by FAO, as well as the importance of getting behind Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.

In The IKEA Edge, former CEO Anders Dahlvig argued that business is uniquely positioned to finding solutions to the planet’s major challenges, and that companies have a responsibility to (and should) take a broader role in solving those challenges.  Indeed, it will help ensure their long-term success.  Carrier’s desire to take a lead role in advancing the global dialog on food waste reduction syncs perfectly with its refrigeration business, and, like Nestlé’s shared value theme, it enables the company to create value not only for shareholders but for society as well at this critical juncture in time.  Such responsible leadership is clearly needed to help meet the challenge of feeding nine billion by 2050.   Other organizations would do well to follow.

Steven Finn is a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Organizational Dynamics.

Diving With Green Turtles and Lettuce Coral, While Searching for a Silver Bullet

By Elena Rohner

Plug Akumal, Mexico into Google Maps and you’ll see a tiny town 60 miles south of Cancun on the “Riviera Maya” with a few restaurants, a large resort, and a pueblo on the other side of the highway that 1,200 people call home.

What Google Maps doesn’t reveal is the impact that tourists are having on the reef’s health.

I recently spent 20 days in Akumal—which means Place of the Turtle in the Mayan language—researching the size and health of lettuce coral as part of an Ecosystem Field Studies course run by the University of Montana.  I quickly felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of snorkelers crowding the water to see the town’s main attraction: the gentle green turtles who feast on sea grass at the bottom of Akumal Bay. During my time there, I saw quite a few snorkelers diving down to touch turtles or standing on coral, actions which harm both of the respective organisms.

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Green Sea Turtle seen at Horseshoe Reef, Akumal

Akumal’s tourism industry has skyrocketed in the last five years. Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA), a local environmental NGO, reports that the monthly number of snorkelers increased by more than 400% between 2011-2014, while coral cover in the bay decreased by 79%. CEA is trying to educate tourists about how to reduce their impact with a short informational video before they go out snorkeling, and life jackets that keep people on the surface of the water.

After observing the intense human pressure on the bay, I posited that lettuce corals might be smaller and less healthy on reefs in the bay than further out on the barrier reef. My data was inconclusive on that point, but I did observe fewer lettuce corals in the bay, and those that I did see were often heavily bleached or covered in algae.

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Healthy lettuce coral (A. agaracites form danai) observed at 54ft at Half Moon Bay Reef, Akumal

Coastal and marine ecosystems around the world are degrading rapidly in the face of both local and global stresses. Increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are making our oceans warmer and more acidic; locally, tourism, overfishing, and fertilizer runoff are all taking a toll.  Out on the reefs this translates into more frequent and more severe bleaching events, excessive algal growth, and lower resilience.

I left Akumal with so many more questions than when I’d arrived. The most complicated question I left with was, is it possible to have it all?  Is there a way to ensure that tourists and researchers can enjoy and learn about this incredible marine ecosystem without having such a negative impact?  Is there a tourism business model that generates enough income for the people who live in Akumal while preserving the reef and turtles?

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Unhealthy lettuce coral (A. agaracites form carinata) observed at 47ft on La Isla Reef, Akumal.  Coral is bleached in upper right corner and whole left side is covered in algal growth

I realize that there probably isn’t a silver bullet solution, but I’m interested in exploring whether a market-based approach to environmental protection might be one part of the answer. Diving in Akumal opened my eyes. I saw the harm that’s happening to an amazing underwater world, but I also saw huge potential for improving how we interact with that world.