Category Archives: Sustainability

Business schools start preparing graduates for a world of climate risks

February 28, 2018

DURHAM, North Carolina

Risks related to climate change are some of the most significant threats facing the global economy, according to the World Economic Forum, which recently released its Global Risks Report 2018.  In a report that scans a spectrum of economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological risks, extreme weather events, natural disasters, and failure to mitigate climate change took three of the Top 5 risks likely to have an impact on the global economy in the short term.

Business schools are taking notice.  “Virtually every industry will be affected by climate change in the future in some way,” says Daniel Vermeer, PhD, associate professor of the practice at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.  “Climate change will shift what agricultural products can be grown where.  Extreme weather events will disrupt distribution supply chains more frequently.  Energy and transportation infrastructure will need to be more resilient.  Real estate portfolios need to be reconfigured.  If you’re a business school student today, you need to be thinking ahead about where the future risks are.”

Fuqua is one of 16 business schools collaborating to host an event on March 23-24 called ClimateCAP: The Global MBA Summit on Climate, Capital, & Business.  Its speakers will include executives from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Bain & Co., Morgan Stanley, Levi Strauss, KPMG, and other big-name private sector leaders.  The summit will be held on Fuqua’s campus in Durham, NC, but will rotate to another business school in future years.

“This summit is not about politics.  It’s not about policy.  It’s about which businesses and investors will successfully navigate a more turbulent future because they’ve identified these risks and adapted accordingly—and which will be left flat-footed,” adds Vermeer.

Statoil, the Norwegian oil and gas company, is one example of a company that’s not shying away from recognizing the risks on the horizon.  “In Statoil we believe the winners in the energy transition will be the producers that can deliver energy at low cost and low carbon. That is why we work to reduce own emissions, grow in renewables and embed climate in all our decision-making,” says Bjørn Otto Sverdrup, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Statoil.  Sverdrup will be speaking at the summit and hopes to help MBA students better understand the profound strategic challenges and opportunities climate issues represent for companies.

ClimateCAP is not the only climate-related conference to be hosted at a business school this year.  In February, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business hosted an innovation summit to bring corporate leaders and entrepreneurs together with faculty, students, and think tank experts to recommend strategies that inspire innovation to tackle climate change.  And in April, the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School will host an event called “The End of the World as We Know It? The Consequences of Extreme Climatic Disruption for Business and Democracy.”

“It is critical that we empower the next generation with strategic knowledge tools in business and sustainability so that they can lead us into a future with fewer climate change challenges,” says Joanne Spigonardo, senior associate director of Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. “Business schools can be catalysts to innovate those changes so that we can ensure a world of economic and environmental sustainability.”

In 2017, Columbia Business School organized an event on “The Near-Term Impacts of Climate Change on Investors” and Yale School of Management also co-hosted a conference on climate change.

“I have no doubt that we’ll see more of these conversations happening at business schools in the future.” says Vermeer. “The reality is, MBA students can’t afford to ignore the impacts and implications of a changing climate.  There will be winners and losers, and many opportunities to seize competitive advantage.  As current MBAs prepare for their careers, they need to be thinking about how to creatively respond to the strategic, operational, and innovation challenges of climate change that will inevitably grow in coming decades.”



Energy Policy Now: The Future of Nuclear Host Communities

Featuring Jennifer Stromsten and Saqib Rahim:

Jennifer is Program Director with the Institute of Nuclear Host Communities and works for the economic development agency that serves the region surrounding Entergy Corporation’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The plant closed in 2014 and is now in the process of decommissioning.

Saqib is a reporter with E&E News who has written at length about Vermont Yankee and the legacy of nuclear plant closures.

February 13, 2018

Nuclear power plants pump millions of dollars into local economies. As the rate of nuclear retirements accelerates, will surrounding communities find a way forward?

A growing number of U.S. nuclear power plants are threatened with early retirement as the combination of rising operating costs, and low electricity prices, have eroded the nuclear industry’s profits. The reactors are often the economic life blood of the mostly rural communities where they’re located.  When they close, many good paying jobs, and generous funding for school and community services disappear. And, unlike most one-company towns, nuclear host communities are burdened with a legacy of nuclear waste that can create barriers to redevelopment.

Guests Jennifer Stromsten, Program Director with the Institute of Nuclear Host Communities, and Saqib Rahim, an E&E News reporter who’s written extensively on nuclear plant closures, discuss community efforts to navigate the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear station in southern Vermont. They also look at the impact that the ongoing storage of nuclear waste at the site is having on efforts to redevelop, and initiatives at the state and national level to give communities more say in the decommissioning process and, by extension, control over their path forward.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 


Building a Green Empire

Netronix Pic

By Julie Spitkovsky, Netronix, Inc.

You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand.  Raising awareness, sharing information and cultivating interest about indoor air quality are important tools for building design professionals to exploit at the start of the design process to achieve optimal indoor air conditions from the start of a project through building occupancy.

Getting people to break habits is extremely difficult.  Paul Scialla, Founder and CEO at Delos explains, “Our built environments can shape our habits, regulate our sleep-wake cycle, drive us toward healthy and unhealthy choices, and passively influence our health through the quality of our surroundings.  We spend 90% of our time indoors, and by incorporating a variety of healthy design, construction and operations strategies through evidence-based programs such as the WELL Building Standard, we have a profound opportunity to advance human health, well-being and productivity for everyone.”  

“Our built environments can shape our habits, regulate our sleep-wake cycle, drive us toward healthy and unhealthy choices, and passively influence our health through the quality of our surroundings.”

Occupant health is a clear economic incentive. In 2007, a study by Mudarri and Fisk estimated that annual costs of asthma attributable to dampness and mold exposure in homes were between $2.1-4.8 billion. By 2014, studies in the health sector revealed reductions in mortality rates, bloodstream infection rates, and medicine consumption in green hospitals, compared to conventional hospitals, indicating that some of these effects could occur because of improved IAQ. Fewer sick days, reduced employee turnover, and fewer medical errors are compelling incentives to design spaces that incorporate evidence based research findings.  


Consumer products and building materials emit dangerous gases like VOCs, Formaldehyde and Carbon Dioxide, influencing indoor air quality.  Many of these types of compounds were not present half a century ago. According to the EPA, examples of consumer products and building materials that are also sources of indoor air pollution include office furniture, flooring, paints and coating, adhesives and sealants, wall coverings, office equipment, wood products, textiles, and insulation.  In 2010, the World Health Organization established guidelines for maximum thresholds of Formaldehyde at .08 ppm, though there are few guidelines for other gases, environmental conditions and particulate matter (the WHO only first identified particulate matter as an indoor pollutant in 2006, explicitly recognizing the limited availability of resources). Indoor air quality (IAQ) is enhanced by using materials that have negligible carcinogenic or chemical emissions, are installed with minimal VOC-producing compounds, offer moisture resistance, and require simple, non-toxic cleaning methods and products. Today, more consumer products and building materials are being studied and certified as low chemical-emitting materials in an effort to control and achieve good indoor air quality.  But is this enough?


One premise for green building design is its impact in the energy sector. Today buildings account for 41% of US energy consumption, with nearly half of that usage coming from the commercial sector. Designers have control over energy consumption and indoor air quality factors such as materials, systems, ventilation, the environmental control scheme, and layout. In 2016, the percentage of firms with over 60% green certified projects reached 18 % and is estimated to triple to 37% by 2018. Under LEED standards, Gold Rated buildings earning 39 points are estimated to reduce environmental impact by 50 percent, while Platinum Rated buildings earning 52 points are estimated to reduce environmental impact by almost 70 percent.


Historically the connection between buildings as repositories and gateways of resource flow and air pollution was difficult to measure.  In office buildings, over 1/2 of end use energy expenditures come from heating, ventilating and cooling.  One of the challenges with flushing ventilation, bringing in outside air at night when the building is unoccupied to cool down the building or remove heat, is the re-introduction of outdoor pollutants and generation of new pollutants.  The reaction between outdoor air and indoor materials is a break in equilibrium at the surface of materials causing the emissions of new pollutants, otherwise absorbed by building structures.  Well-ventilated work spaces proved to have lower levels of  CO2 correlating with decreased levels of worker anxiety and increased levels of productivity.  More specific findings in support of the mounting evidence demonstrating the relationship between Indoor Air Quality & productivity tells us there is 61% higher cognitive functioning in green buildings that meet occupant health and energy efficiency standards set by LEED and 100% higher cognitive functioning in buildings with twice the ventilated air rate required for LEED certification (+Green Plus Buildings).  

“…heightened levels of Carbon Dioxide over the course of a school year can have detrimental physical effects on children’s developing respiratory system.”

According to Bruce White, Vice President of Airthinx, Inc. “We are starting to see, and have a clearer picture of  the health effects of indoor contaminants like PM 1, PM 2.5, PM 10, CO2, CH2O, VOC’s on building occupants. We see from recent studies out of Harvard, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, USGBC & IWBI, what elevated levels of CO2 alone can do to students and building occupants. Specifically, in children, elevated levels of CO2 can cause wheezing and levels over 1,000 ppm can result in a 10-20% increases in days away from school. That alone affects the school not only in lower test scores, but also in funding from the US Department of Education on attendance levels. More importantly, the prolonged exposure to heightened levels of Carbon Dioxide over the course of a school year can have detrimental physical effect on children’s’ developing respiratory system.”


A poor indoor environment causes occupant discomfort, health problems and poor performance.  Building system performance directly impacts maintenance frequency, equipment life, and energy usage. Understanding the process and possible IAQ endpoints (moisture control, drainage, ductwork protection, HVAC production, use of low VOC building materials, minimum ventilation) encourages improved building design. For example, a life cycle assessment (LCA) addresses the impact of a product through all of its life stages. By executing sustainable design in architecture, there is an opportunity for long-term value through modifiable building systems over the life-cycle instead of least-cost investments.

The impacts of evidence based design, a once value added anomaly, are now a requirement for competitive practice.  Occupants heightened exposure to the availability of data & metrics, conditions them to demand more assured outcomes on expensive building projects.  Architects are in a position to make collective and informed choices that will have a broad impact in the aggregate, such as advising about emission testing protocols to ensure test results can be translated into real world use cases. For example, under LEED, designers can earn up to 15 points for implementing indoor air quality measures.


When considering the options available for indoor air quality management, the exclusive reliance on cleaning the air with filtration systems may not be enough. Air filtration cleaning method results rest on the assumption that ‘dirty’ contaminants are eliminated. Rather, the systems selectively remove some pollutants but not others, and generate new pollutants when the systems are not properly maintained. A reliable counterpart and solution is continuous monitoring of air quality levels in any infrastructure, preserving the integrity of the measurements, producing never before seen analytics and information, and creating better indoor environments, everywhere in the world.  In this way, space planning can be more intuitive and give future projects a greater chance of success.   

Building a collective understanding of the indoor air quality problem and its ecosystem, creates opportunities to make informed decisions and inspires actions to transform indoor spaces. 

Mr. Valentine Lehr, of Lehr Engineering in New York weighs in, “As a consulting design engineer, I am aware that the best intentions and latest technology often fail when needed maintenance and constant monitoring are neglected.  At the heart of this is the cost and effort of monitoring these systems and validating proper operation, both tasks which require human input.  Further, while devices to monitor air content have been available, these are usually singularly specific, expensive and need frequent calibration. In that regard, the Airthinx monitor is a significant development and improvement.  It’s low cost, easy installation, ability to monitor multiple potential contaminants and ease of integration with BMS and specialized monitoring/alarm centers allows for an unprecedented number of devices to be installed, and the original design intent to be fully maintained, assuring high IAQ.”

The solution, developed by Netronix’s IoT platform, guarantees the highest standards of security, reliability, and scalability of the network, and enables quick deployment of devices in commercial, retail & residential buildings with simple, affordable integration into any built environment. Each Airthinx IAQ device has nine built-in sensors (PM 1, PM 2.5, PM 10, CO2, CH2O, VOCs, Temperature, Humidity, & Pressure), measuring air quality with industrial accuracy, at a fraction of the cost, making air quality monitoring financially feasible at room level.

“Its low cost, easy installation, ability to monitor multiple potential contaminants and ease of integration with BMS and specialized monitoring/alarm centers allows for an unprecedented number of devices to be installed, and the original design intent to be fully maintained, assuring high IAQ.”

The advantage of a portable device that fits in the palm of a hand with data available instantaneously from a mobile phone, iPad or desktop is accessibility to information, anytime, anywhere.

Knowledge is power!


A Founder With a Vision: Triple Bottom Line Sustainability at Virgin Group

Co-Authored by Joy De Bach (Virgin Atlantic, Regional Commercial Director, East Region), Gabriela Salas (Virgin Atlantic, Global Sales Executive, East Region), & Karen Titus (Delta Air Lines, National Sales Account Executive, Global Sales)

October 18th, 2017

Being a billionaire has afforded Sir Richard Branson many opportunities in life, but after decades of disrupting some of the world’s biggest industries, his latest passion projects have less to do with flying planes and mobile phones and more to do with saving the world.  As employees of Virgin Atlantic and Delta (Virgin’s partner airline), we were fortunate to be able to see Richard at the Authors@Wharton Speaker Series yesterday, and were once again reminded of what an entrepreneurial spirit and compassion for the environment and human rights can do to change the world.

Having recently experienced the devastation of Irma on his Necker Island residence, climate change literally hit Richard, his family, and his employees with the strength of a hurricane.  But rather than dwell on the negative, he spoke of rebuilding infrastructures throughout the islands to come back better than ever before, and views climate change as ‘one of the great opportunities for this world’, encouraging the business sector and entrepreneurs globally to tackle the issues of global warming.

When asked by host, Professor Adam Grant, what his next venture will be, Sir Richard emphasized that he’s setting his sights on the future, focusing on non-profit initiatives to tackle carbon emissions, global human rights, and creating sustainable fuels, just to name a few.  Now, you might think that a mogul with three airlines in the Virgin portfolio which guzzle fuel crossing oceans and continents and saving the environment shouldn’t necessarily be in the same sentence, however Richard and his Virgin Group are achieving just that.  Just take a look at some highlights from the 2017 Virgin Sustainability Report:

  • 8% reduction on total aircraft emissions from 2015 to 2016
  • Continuation of partnership with LanzaTech to create the world’s first commercially viable, low carbon jet fuel from waste carbon gases
  • Installation of solar energy powering an entire secondary school campus and two water systems in Kenya
  • Review and refresh of Virgin’s Responsible Supplier Policy based on international standards of human rights
  • Announcement of a further investment in efficient aircraft with 12 A350-1000s to become part of our fleet from 2019

Yesterday, we were reminded of what a cool boss we have.  We’ve been fortunate to work for and with a man whose vision and compassion could one day further revolutionize the way people travel, consume energy and communicate, as he’s already done for decades.  For the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow, who were able to see Richard speak, we hope some of them heard his rallying cry and will join him in changing the world.





Energy Policy Now: The Future of the EPA and Clean Power

Featuring Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator

October 7th, 2017

This week the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy honored former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with its annual Carnot Prize in celebration of her contributions to environmental policy and to securing a sustainable energy future during her tenure with the EPA.  While visiting the Center McCarthy sat down with the Energy Policy Now podcast to discuss the direction of the EPA under current Administrator Scott Pruitt, likely legal challenges to Pruitt’s effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan, and the larger issue of climate denial in Washington.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 

Smart Air, Smart City

By Julie Spitkovsky, Netronix, Inc., September 24th, 2017

Smart Air, Smart Cities.png

Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider Netronix, Inc. and Airthinx Inc. a leader of indoor air quality monitoring, are working together to provide cities around the world with a low cost cloud based solution designed to monitor air quality across schools, universities, hospitals and work spaces. The advantages of cloud based solutions are mapping, tracking, identification of pollutants, measurement of pollutants, data analytics using historical trends, and data mining. Cities stand to benefit from ubiquitous long term monitoring and management of air quality, in real time with instantaneous data available for quick city wide propagation, like geo-mapping incident reports of high pollution areas.

Conventional Methods

Municipalities are hard pressed to find low cost solutions. Conventional methods for collecting indoor air quality data relied heavily on expensive stationary devices. In the United States, for example, the federal government has a network of sensors on towers monitoring particulate matter. The cost of each sensor is $100,000. While in Edinburgh, the city had a single station monitoring PM 2.5 as of 2013. Thus data is collected from only a few instruments but is representative of a broad geographic area.

Interim Solutions

Moving away from conventional methods, many cities are implementing short term initiatives as first steps towards smart city transformation. In 2014, Chicago deployed 50 nodes mounted on lampposts developed with Argonne National Library and the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology. Barcelona deployed a smart lighting system with embedded air quality sensors that relay information to city agencies and the public as part of their smart city initiative costing in total $230 million. Boston, Los Angeles, and Miami installed park benches equipped with a solar panel that channel electricity via USB ports to charge. Denver in partnership with Google and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) attached mobile sensors to cars throughout a city, collecting 150 million data points over 750 hours of driving time, creating a street level air quality map of the city. Dublin fitted 30 bikes with air sensors measuring carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, smoke, and particulates.

Last year, London attached air quality sensors to ten pigeons to monitor air quality over three days of flights. Louisville gave 300 local residents a sensor that fits on top of their inhaler, tracking locations of inhaler use to help residents manage asthma, collecting 5,400 data points over the 13 months, and identifying hotspots with high inhaler use in order to pinpoint areas with particularly bad air quality.

Philadelphia Transforms

Philadelphia begins the smart city transformation process with its most recent initiative to release open data from city departments. Mayor Kenney also points to ownership and accessibility of light poles and city buildings which can accommodate sensors and wireless access points spread throughout the city. With institutional players like Drexel, Penn, Wharton, CHOP & Comcast, the infrastructure to implement smart city solutions is in place.

Dr. Nasis, founder and CEO of Netronix, Inc. and faculty member of electrical & computer engineering at Drexel, shares insight into the transformation process. “A smart city is a segment of IoT. Many have looked at the smart city as a vertical market on its own, when actually it is a horizontal market with many verticals below it, such as safety, environmental, healthcare, energy, and transportation.”

In the environmental vertical, cities can monitor air quality, water quality and weather. Across the safety vertical, meters already exist that detect gunshots to determine the precise location of the incident helping address crime prevention. Energy, another vertical, can be optimized in street lighting and power plants to keep consumption down. And in the transportation vertical, parking, bus, and traffic can be monitored to enhance quality of life.

‘Many have looked at the smart city as a vertical market on its own, when actually it is a horizontal market with many verticals below it.’

A significant challenge of smart cities is having the tools to address compatibility within and between each vertical. Dr. Nasis cites a “holistic approach, rather than filling in the holes.” The smart parking meter experiment is an IoT solution but also an example of ‘filling in the holes.’ Without an overarching smart city horizontal in place, the initiative did not work. Dr. Nasis concludes, “for a successful smart city, each vertical and the needs of each vertical must be defined, and that requires systemic planning.”

Netronix Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Netronix, based out of Philadelphia, aims to start up 100 companies in the next decade using Netronix’s IoT platform. Smart city solutions can be developed in record time, saving 75 percent of the time and costs associated with the development and production of devices and services using conventional methods.

Information Gap

The IoT is about sharing things, interacting, and learning. An information gap leads to a certain kind of decision making. A smart platform creates opportunities to make more informed choices when investing in the city. The smart part is how you collect and make use of the intelligence. By breaking the information gap, the result is a better understanding, more thorough assessment of exposure, heightened awareness, and a complete picture of the data.

Today, the means for large scale and rapid deployment of tens of thousands of devices transforms air quality monitoring and facilitates the collection of quantitative data in any infrastructure. As a direct result of the IoT, a new paradigm emerges in air quality monitoring leading to the much-needed democratization of air quality data. Knowing about the quality of the air you breathe or the water you drink pushes people to take social responsibility.

Financial Feasibility

A significant cost to a smart city transformation is the installation process. 70 percent of city officials say budget constraints are the greatest barrier to adopting smart city solutions. In many cities, a complete overhaul poses a lofty price tag associated with the redesign of buildings and infrastructure. A cloud based solution with deployment of IoT enabled devices eliminates the once costly installation, configuration and calibration associated with industry reference instruments.

Such a significant reduction in overhead and cost per unit lowers the price of the device to a fraction of industrial reference instruments. Cities benefit from investment because there is no need to redesign infrastructure in order to adopt IAQ solutions as part of a widespread smart city plan. One incentive is real time data that anticipates future needs. For example, with built in GPS, the locations of sensors take into account the points in the city with the most exposure to air quality hazards, protecting city dwellers and workers. The data can also be reviewed by a team to determine appropriate next steps. Monitoring air quality becomes financially feasible at room level in any infrastructure.

Smart Sensors

But even with such advancements, few sensors produce reliable enough data to be used in studies or by regulations. In comparison to static monitoring, continuous monitoring enhances high temporal-spatial resolution and variability of air pollution, which so far has been difficult to address. These characteristics, the level of accuracy, precision and identification of microscopic particles in the air, are distinguishing characteristics of air quality monitors in the market. The ability to continuously monitor air quality levels in any infrastructure while preserving the integrity of the measurements, and producing never before seen analytics and information, creates better indoor environments, everywhere in the world.


Dr. Vasileios Nasis will be presenting at the Wharton IGEL & SUEZ Conference – Smart Utilities: Bridge to Smart Cities of the Future on September 27.



Energy Policy Now Podcast: Where Coal Mining Brings Environmental Benefits

September 19, 2017


Can tightly regulated coal mining help undo decades worth of environmental damage caused by the coal industry?  A Pennsylvania DEP official, and a mining executive, discuss efforts to remediate water and land in the state’s Anthracite coal region.

Pennsylvania’s economy has long been tied to its coal industry.  In the 19th century the state’s pioneering coal companies fueled America’s industrial revolution, and thousands of mining sites opened over the decades that followed.  Yet, over a century later, many of Pennsylvania’s coal mines have closed as the resource’s primacy has waned.

John Stefanko, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations at Pennsylvania’s DEP, and Greg Driscoll, Chief Executive of Blaschak Coal Company, look at the environmental damage that remains after mines have been abandoned, and on cooperation between today’s coal industry, and regulators, to clean up some of that damage.  The focus is on the Anthracite coal industry of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where the remains of a once large coal industry attempts to find profits, while bearing costs for cleaning up the damage of past decades.

John Stefanko is Deputy Secretary for the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations at Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. 

Greg Driscoll is President and Chief Executive Officer of Blaschak Coal company in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society.

Current trends in green and healthy real estate

By Joyce S. Lee

September 9, 2017

“Both nationally and internationally, GRESB has not only changed the conversation about investment reporting but also helped start many conversations by giving visibility to a relevant set of data not previously assembled for investors,” says Andrew McAllan, Head of Real Estate Management of Oxford Properties Group based in Toronto, Canada.

MNP Tower, Vancouver, Canada

Image 1: MNP Tower entrance, credit: Oxford Properties Group

The global property and infrastructure sectors are at the heart of many major investment decisions, including urbanization, demographic change, resource constraints, environmental impacts, political climate and emerging technologies. According to the World Bank, the urban population has reached 54.3% of world population in 2016. The design, construction and operation of current and future assets reflects, drives and potentially mitigates the impact of all of these issues on individuals, communities and society at large.

GRESB assessment started in 2009 with a healthy uptake of large pension funds and their fiduciaries. This portfolio level assessment has become a global benchmark for sustainability performance used by leading private equity firms and listed property companies. GRESB has grown to define Environmental Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) concepts for the real asset sector. The assessment systematizes information for analysis and furthers the understanding across investment portfolios. The GRESB assessment collects information from funds and assets, including data on performance indicators, such as energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste.

The latest year of reporting (2017) reflected 850 funding entities (up from 759 last year) in 63 countries and a total of US$3.5 trillion in assets (up from $2.8 trillion last year). In 2016, even a small single digit percentage reduction of an immense portfolio in each of the reporting areas is significant: carbon reduction is equivalent to 90,197 cars off the road, water reduction is equivalent to 1,200 olympic pools, and waste reduction is equivalent to 14,963 truckloads. This transparency of the real asset portfolio could factor into the investors’ risk assessment and overall financial performance projection.

In 2016, GRESB initiated the Health and Well-being Module in response to rising healthcare costs and increased interest in productivity. The ten survey questions were developed among a global working group of experts: It focuses on needs, strategies and access. One snapshot of the 2016 result is already giving new insights to companies: greater impact could be achieved when the leaders in sustainability, real estate and corporate wellness are in good communication internally. The current year results will be discussed in an upcoming article.

While top level changes or grassroot initiatives are critical, actual implementation are often realized by facility managers who intimately understand the pulse of their physical assets like a living organism. An organization that fully engages this group of professionals is the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). Several BOMA members echo that survey frameworks like GRESB are essential to moving the industry forward as each evaluation garners new motivation and opportunities for reflection and improvement. Many forward looking managers have day-to-day oversight of waste generation, energy and water consumption,. The opportunity to collaborate effectively with human resources to promote health offers yet another upside.

In a recent luncheon with Building Owners Managers Association (BOMA) Philadelphia’s leaders, including its co-chairs of the Sustainability Committee, the conversation circled around education and engagement. As Benjamin Franklin had said, “Tell me and I forget; Teach me and I remember; Involve me and I learn.” Before the formation of this Committee, green cleaning was a leading edge concept. Today, one has to alter a standard template to purchase “non-green” cleaning products. Benefits of green cleaning are accrued to all levels of staff, especially to those who perform cleaning tasks coming in regular contact with these products.

While every sustainability task force has checklists of energy and air quality, BOMA Philadelphia also notices the growing popularity of yoga classes and walking clubs that are initiated by building occupants. Building managers that are forward looking even host stair climb charity events to not only increase physical activity of their employees, but also further engage the local public safety departments, such as fire and police, to enhance public relations and build community trust. Incidentally, these are all pathways towards achieving WELL certifications which place a major focus on health and well-being.

Is health and wellness pervasive enough among building owners and managers? “We see that after providing hand sanitizers and high efficiency filters, building managers are actively seeking all good ideas that are both implementable and have a positive impact on tenants and occupants,” says Kristine Kiphorn, Executive Director of BOMA Philadelphia.


Image 2: CBRE Vancouver Office, credit: CBRE

At CBRE, a global real estate services firm, in Vancouver, a stunning view of the water and a biophilic design feature in its lobby together make an inspiring arrival. In order to raise the indoor quality level, CBRE chose only furniture reaching Green Guard Certification gold level. The risers in the company’s internal stairs, a physical activity feature, read “There is no elevator to Success. You have to take the Stairs”. Inside the base building, the MNP Tower in downtown Vancouver, the fire stairs are equally animated with paint colors to make stair climbing a pleasurable experience. On a sunny day, building tenants could be seen on the property premise competing in intramural games of hockey with many happy onlookers from the sidewalk. This Oxford Properties Group building is managed by active BOMA members.

It is not hard to see a larger trend unfold. As trillions in assets move from the current generation to younger, more sustainably oriented investors, an increased attention to environmental social responsibility and governance reporting measures has incentivized companies to revisit strategies and to boost performance in areas deemed important by this generation. This trend is particularly relevant for business school graduates who plan to work in private equity, real estate investment trusts (REITs) or public companies with physical assets.

Business school students and graduates are investors in their own future. In an ESG report of a potential employer, the performance metrics can speak loud and clear of the companies’ priorities and missions. Other policies towards transparency, travel, sleep, exercise, and nourishment could affect stress level on the job. If the quality of the workplace matters, look for those telltale signs of green and healthy real estate, such as LEED and WELL certifications.

The concept of creating a sense of place in companies and offices becomes a new paradigm to attract the best talents. In the age of connectivity, business school graduates can truly work anywhere. The workplace of choice is entering a brave new world.



JoyceLeeheadshotAuthor’s bio

Joyce Lee, FAIA, LEED Fellow, is president of IndigoJLD providing green health, planning and design services on exemplary projects. She is among a group of 300 LEED Fellows worldwide. In addition to being on the Penn faculty, Joyce has affiliations with Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives and the Penn Urban Health Lab. Joyce served under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, as Chief Architect at the New York City OMB. The Active Design Guidelines, a publication she co-authored, had won recognition from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as well as the Sustainable Building Industry Council., She has been a subject matter expert in the development of a GRESB module..  Her practice continues to assist cities to establish 2030 Districts and assist companies to reach sustainability and wellness goals.


Energy Policy Now Podcast: Electric Vehicle Market Trajectory

By John Paul MacDuffie
September 5th, 2017

The electric vehicle market has become the center of attention for the automotive industry, with overwhelming demand for Tesla’s new, more affordable Model 3 EV as just the latest sign of market enthusiasm.  Yet many perennial EV challenges remain, notably high costs and scarce charging infrastructure.  And nationally, support for EV’s has become more fragmented and, quite possibly, politicized.

In the latest episode of the Kleinman Center’s Energy Policy Now podcast, Wharton management professor and automotive expert John Paul MacDuffie offers insights into the EV market’s growth trajectory, and talks about the likelihood of the market reaching a tipping point.  In the process he tells what recent developments, such as recent announcements from France and the UK to ban gas and diesel car sales within a generation, could indicate for global EV market growth.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society.


Allen Hershkowitz on Ten Years of Sustainability at the US Open

Today marks the start of the US Open, the annual tennis bacchanal that draws 700,000+ fans to the National Tennis Center in New York over its two week run. Seeing compost and recycling bins throughout the 46.5 acre campus is now second nature for those fans as the US Tennis Association’s (USTA’s) greening efforts, among the most comprehensive in the sports world, are now ten years old. It’s been quite a journey to get to this point and there’s no one better to tell the fascinating history of the US Open’s sustainability program than today’s guest GreenSportsBlogger, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, the founder and former president of the Green Sports Alliance and a founding director of Sports and Sustainability International (SandSI). 


By Dr. Allen Hershkowitz

Ten years ago, in the Fall of 2007, I walked into my office at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and found a note from NRDC’s President: “Allen,” it read, “I met Billie Jean King at a dinner last night. She would like to speak with you. To reach her, please call Pam at …”

Billie Jean King wants to speak with me? Seriously? A few calls followed and the request to speak was clarified: The year previous, on August 28, 2006, the US Tennis Association (USTA) National Tennis Center was rededicated as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (BJK NTC). Now that the venue bore her name, Billie wanted to assure it was a model for environmental stewardship. She wanted to make the US Open the most environmentally responsible tennis event in the world.

We arranged to meet at the BJK NTC shortly after the 2007 US Open. I was ushered into a conference room to await Billie’s arrival, along with Joe Crowley, the USTA’s Director for Operations, and other USTA officials.

Billie arrived with her partner Ilana Kloss, Commissioner of World TeamTennis and a world class tennis star in her own right. With the introductions behind us, a partnership was formed between the USTA and NRDC. As Billie requested, our goal was to create the most environmentally intelligent tennis event in the world. I told Billie that doing so would take years. “Great,” she said. “I’m in. Let’s do it.”

In 2007, not one recycling bin existed at the NTC. Today, recycling and composting bins abound and ninety percent of all waste is thus diverted from the landfill. More than twenty thousand pounds of uneaten meals are donated to charities, reducing hunger and greenhouse gas emissions. We pioneered recycling the 17,000 tennis ball cans used at the Open. Tennis ball cans are complex products, comprised of four different materials, (three types of plastic and an aluminum lid), making them impossible to recycle, until we figured out how to do so in 2008, while donating the 45,000 used tennis balls to community organizations.


Compost bin (foreground) and recycling bin (blue band in the rear) along the plaza at the National Tennis Center. These are two of many such bins dotting the NTC complex that demonstrate the USTA’s commitment to sustainability to the 700,000 fans projected to attend the 2017 US Open. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

In 2007 all of the 2.4 million napkins used at the US Open were made from trees. By 2008, all napkins had at least 90 percent post consumer recycled content, an environmental achievement that protects forest habitat and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the Open’s daily Draw Sheet, tickets, media guides, bathroom tissue and paper towels have at least 30 percent recycled content, while paper use in general has been reduced through electronic options.

In the spring of 2008, after agreeing on a logo and a tag line for the US Open’s new environmental program (“Our courts may be blue, but we’re thinking green”), we decided to produce public service announcements (PSAs) to educate fans about environmental stewardship. Billie introduced me to tennis legends Venus Williams and Bob and Mike Bryan, arguably the greatest men’s doubles team of the modern era. Together we produced the first environmental public service announcements ever broadcast at a major sporting event, and it was the first time pro-athletes were engaged for this purpose. Billie, Venus, Bob and Mike all appeared in videos encouraging fans to recycle and buy recycled paper products, use mass transit, and buy organic food. The PSAs are broadcast on the jumbotron at Ashe Stadium to this day. Discussing global warming with Venus Williams is one of the highlights of my career and I like to think that I encouraged her to become the environmentalist that she is today. We also pioneered using the Open’s daily Draw Sheet to share money saving “Eco Tips” each day, and that too is still in use at the Open. And we engaged fans directly: During the 2008 Open sixty volunteers from NRDC spanned the grounds distributing free New York City mass transit MetroCards to fans who answered an impromptu environmental question (“Name one thing you can do to help protect the environment…”).


Billie Jean King and Allen Hershkowitz during the 2008 shooting of the USTA’s “Our Courts May Be Blue But We’re Thinking Green” public service announcements (Photo credit: NRDC)

This week, the US Open Tennis Championships begin anew and the USTA’s greening program has lived up to Billie Jean King’s original vision: The entire event is powered by renewable energy. All energy use is measured, as is waste generation and recycling, paper use, and employee and player travel, and these impacts are converted into measurements of greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past decade the Open has avoided tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Unavoidable greenhouse gas impacts are offset for the approximately 9,000 people who travel to work at the event, including the 850 players.  Mass transit is promoted and last year more than 55 percent of fans arrived by public transit, making it the most transit friendly professional sporting event in the nation. Cleaning products are Green Seal Certified, paints are zero-VOC, water is conserved, and two LEED Certified structures have been built — the newly constructed Grandstand Stadium and the transportation building — and the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, slated to open at next year’s tournament, is expected to attain LEED designation as well.


The 8,000 seat Grandstand stadium at the National Tennis Center (NTC). It opened for play in 2016 as the first LEED Certified stadium at the US Open. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

Since 2009 the US Open’s greening program has been expanded and led at the USTA by Lauren Kittlestad-Tracy, now recognized as one of the most influential environmental leaders in tennis, with support from MIT-trained PE Bina Indelicato, co-founder of eco evolutions and one of the top sustainability experts working in the field.

At the time we started the USTA’s greening program, 90 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution was being pumped into the atmosphere each day. Today, that has grown to 110 million tons daily. This past July was the hottest month on record. Given those grim metrics, the USTA’s work — building on Billie Jean King’s noble vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage others to do the same — is even more important. All businesses should follow its lead.

This piece was originally posted as an op-ed for GreenSportsBlog. That article can be found here.