Tag Archives: climate change

The Win-Win-Win of Impact Investing

By: Nathan Sell*

Ask not what your investment dollars can do for you, but ALSO what they can do for others, and the environment. That’s the idea behind Impact Investing, an emerging paradigm shift in philanthropy. This form of socially responsible investing generates both measurable social and environmental impact as well as returns on investment. Mark Tercek, CEO of the Nature Conservancy and former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs is at the forefront of linking business and the environment for a better world as he discusses in his recent book “Nature’s Fortune.” Tercek, and the new wave of impact investors are proving that your investments can make money AND do good.

Impact investing in the environment is quickly coming to scale as the value of ecosystem services to clean air and water, armor shorelines, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation is being realized. Cities like Philadelphia are leading the way in green infrastructure investment. Over the next 25 years, Green Stormwater Infrastructure will help the city to combat the extreme weather patterns as well as prevent Combined Sewer Overflows resulting in greener cities and cleaner waters for which the initiative is named.

Novo Nordisk entered China in 1994 and immediately noticed that a diet high in starch was leading to diabetes in a large portion of the population. Combined with rapid pathogen spread due to urbanization, the health of the people in China was (and continues to be) at risk. Novo Nordisk put their efforts toward alleviating some of these health concerns. By training doctors in diabetes care and prevention, the company has helped to save over 140,000 life years. The shared value of impact investment ensures companies like Novo Nordisk remain profitable while helping the communities in which they work.

Impact investing also has the potential to bring promising technologies to scale. Without investment, it’s possible that companies like d.light may never have gotten off the ground. With the help of investment, this for-profit social enterprise has been able to sell affordable solar lamps to those without reliable power. The result? D.light is bringing safe, bright and renewable lighting to people around the world, allowing students to do their homework, families to cook, and an overall better quality of life to over 34 million people.

Impact investing may prove better for people and the planet than charitable giving. Investing in businesses that do good by people and the planet can ensure the success of their mission, allowing for long term solutions, rather than a potential band-aid in the form of a grant or gift. If your investment could benefit the triple bottom line, rather than just YOUR bottom line then you’ve found the rare win-win-win scenario. The next time you invest, think strategically about what your money can really do.

*Nathan is a recent graduate of the Master of Environmental Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania and a current ORISE Fellow with EPA Water.

“Yes We Can” Obama’s environmental legacy begins with reducing US carbon emissions

By: Nathan Sell**

Seventeen years after the United States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol; the first steps have been taken to address greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama and the EPA have taken a historic stance, solidifying the environmental legacy of this administration. As one of the world’s greatest carbon emitters, this will have a real impact on global emissions, but perhaps more importantly, show that the US will no longer stand idly by when it comes to climate change, setting an example for other large emitters like China and India.

Power plants account for roughly 30% of carbon emissions in the US, and new regulations will reduce emissions from these plants 30% by 2030 in comparison to 2005 levels. The good news is that we’ve made a great deal of progress on this goal to date before this regulation was announced. Since 2005 emissions in the US have been decreasing largely due to the natural gas boom, increased renewables use and the recession. According to Time magazine, we’re down 16% since 2005, more than halfway there.

The impacts on human health and safety are perhaps the most impressive. It is estimated that this legislation will prevent some 2,700 to 6,600 deaths related to air pollution and prevent 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks amongst children in the United States. On the other hand, the GOP claims that this legislation will cost 800,000 jobs and $50 billion/year. If this were to be the case, which seems unlikely, it would still be money well spent, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Ultimately this is the first step to a reduced carbon economy, but it cannot be the last. Reducing emissions just means that we’re putting LESS carbon in the atmosphere every year, but the CO2 concentrations will continue to rise. Having recently passed 400ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, we’re not even close to lowering that number. Regulations and incentives will be a major player when it comes to innovative technology both in terms of energy production, climate adaptation and mitigation. Now that the first step has been taken, we must continue this journey for the future of our planet.

 

**Nathan is a recent graduate of the Master of Environmental Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania and the current IGEL Coordinator.

The Malaysian Airlines Flight Disappearance and the Future Epic Battle between Data for Good and Evil

By Gary Survis*

It was only a matter of minutes after the discovery of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that questions began to be asked about the data.  How could a Boeing 777 jet airliner disappear without a digital trace?  What about the data the airplane collected?  What about the tracking data?  The transponders?  How about the satellite “pings”?  What can  the cell phones’ GPS’s tell us?  It was assumed that the quickest path to answering questions about the mysterious flight disappearance was to decipher the big data digital stream that the plane must have created.  One response was a “crowd sourced” effort to use big data to locate the plane.  People believed that in this age of data omnipresence that leveraging data to solve the mystery was the obvious next step.  Some of the same people who feared the NSA’s intrusions and monitoring, were hoping that data held the answer to this enigmatic puzzle.

Malaysian flight 2

But, as the story began to unfold, it became apparent that whoever was perpetrating this “deliberate” act also understood the power of data.  The slow discovery that the transponder and ACARS system (used to transmit maintenance data to the ground) were “turned off” showed a high level of sophistication and knowledge of the data a modern jet creates.  In fact, during a typical 6 hour flight, an airplane will create between 250 and 500 Megabytes of data.  Those responsible for taking action on this flight understood data, how it might be used to locate the plane, and the need to control it.

And so it seems that we are embarking on a journey to a new era where there will be an epic battle between those that will use data for good and those that will seek to control it for evil purposes.  Today, when we talk of big data, we recognize that we are only in the early stages of this transformation.  The internet of things promises even more data in the future from a multitude of industrial devices and sensors.  Who controls this data and for what purpose will be one of the defining discussions of our age.

starwars

One area where there is hope for data being leveraged for good is in the area of sustainability.  We face many seemingly intractable challenges to our future including feeding our population, evolving to respond to the reality of global climate change, and managing our finite resources in the face of unrestrained development and growth.  The list of projects where big data is being used to attack these issues is encouraging.  Space Time Insight is using geospatial visualization to help utilities deliver the smart grid and integrate more renewables into their mix.  Google and the University of Maryland are partnering to develop satellite driven high resolution interactive maps that can track deforestation due to fire, logging, and other sources.  Companies like Monsanto and DuPont are developing “prescriptive planting” technologies that gather and then feedback data to farmers on everything from planting depth, distance and farm machinery productivity.

And these are but a few of the many very promising uses of big data in sustainability.  On March 27th, the Wharton School’s Initiative for Environmental Leadership (IGEL) will be hosting a conference to examine this topic entitled Sustainability in the Age of Big Data.  Companies such as Shell, SAP, IBM, Dow, and others will be grappling with both the power and promise of big data in the sustainability space.  The hope is that business will begin to harness the immense potential of big data to be used for good and begin to solve some of our society’s most pressing problems.

It is still early days in defining how we will use all of this data that we will be creating in virtually every aspect of our lives.  At Syncsort, where I work, we are helping the Fortune 100 begin to discover how to employ this data in transforming their business.  I remain optimistic that good will prevail over evil.  But, I am also realistic.  With open source technologies like Hadoop, massive open data projects, and increasingly inexpensive computing technology, it has never been easier for those that wish to use data for evil to have sophisticated tools previously available only to governments and the largest commercial enterprises. As with the Malaysian Airlines flight disappearance, people want data to be used for good, but it can also play a more sinister role.  Let us hope that we truly understand data’s power and that good prevails over evil in this epic battle for the future of big data.

*Gary Survis is Chief Marketing Officer, Syncsort Data Integration, leading Syncsort’s global Big Data integration marketing team. Gary is a seasoned marketing executive with experience combining traditional and digital marketing tools to provide practical solutions to today’s marketing challenges. He is also currently a Lecturer at Wharton and a Senior Fellow at Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. 

Energy Efficiency: Still Wasting in the Building

by Silvia Schmid

CompositeSAP

Last week’s conference “Building Energy Efficiency: Seeking Strategies that Work” offered the opportunity to discuss the many barriers to advancements in energy efficiency beyond current standards. The event was cohosted by the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), the Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, and the Wharton Small Business Development Center, in partnership with the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub and sponsored by SAP. Speakers and panelists provided valuable insights on the current status of energy efficiency in buildings, addressing topics ranging from consumption measurement and increased transparency, to some of the psychological challenges inherent in adopting more energy efficient behavior. The common message throughout the day was how much remains to be done to make energy efficiency a mainstream priority.

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Supply Chain Compliance: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

by Derek Newberry*

If events like Apple’s Foxconn debacle teach us anything, it is that even reputable companies with strong supplier codes of conduct can face serious compliance issues where regulatory mechanisms are lacking.  I reflected on this recently when leafing through the summary report from last year’s Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) Conference “Greening the Supply Chain”.  While I enjoyed reading about the participants’ experiences in sustainability management, I was struck by the short shrift they paid to the all-important question of compliance, despite acknowledging that when it comes to producing tangible results, this really is the “elephant in the room”.

Indeed, ensuring that suppliers adhere to social and environmental criteria and comply with applicable legislation is a thorny problem in settings where the boundaries of corporate responsibility are unclear and enforcement can be costly and onerous.  This is doubly true in production chains characterized by numerous small suppliers and sparse governmental regulations, as is the case in much of the global agricultural sector.  How can we create regulatory mechanisms that enable these sustainability programs to look as good in practice as they do on paper? Continue reading

Of Climate Change and International Policy Architecture

by Samantha Guidon*

StavinsERobert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Harvard University. Courtesy of Stephanie Nam/Penn Law.

On February 27, 2013, Harvard University’s Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government Robert Stavins came to Penn for a presentation entitled “Climate Change, the IPCC, and International Policy Architecture” as a part of the Risk Regulation Seminar Series, an initiative jointly sponsored by the Penn Program on Regulation, the Wharton Risk Management & Decision Processes Center, and the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL). Continue reading

Water: Emerging Risks and Opportunities Summit

by Samantha Guidon*

On February 8, 2013, with an imminent Winter Storm Nemo on the horizon, over 250 industry leaders and key players in the water sector came together at Goldman Sachs in New York City to begin the dialogue on addressing water risks throughout the country. Students from the Master of Environmental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania joined the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) team in attending this event to gain key perspectives from leaders in the water sector. Entitled “Water: Emerging Risks and Opportunities Summit,” the conference identified areas in need of improvement and discussed opportunities from various points of view. A welcoming address from David Solomon, Co-Head of the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs, established the overall goals of bringing together capital, technology, and policy in order to determine best management practices within the water sector. Continue reading

Five Insights from ACORE’s National Renewable Energy Policy Forum

by Candice D. McLeod*

Acore

On February 6th, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) held its 10th annual Renewable Energy Policy Forum on Capitol Hill. The event featured a host of industry, financial and government leaders, who spent the day discussing the progress of the renewable energy industry, from the industry’s current purgatorial state due to impending policy deadlines to the potential implications of the current fiscal and partisan climates.

The overall themes were clear – more financing options for renewables, renewable energy policy stability, and China setting the global rhythm.

Here are five main insights drawn from the forum:

  1. Renewable energy markets continue to grow significantly. Perhaps we should stop referring to them as “alternative sources” of energy
  2. Economic security -keep your eye on Iowa and rural America
  3. More policy stability, please
  4. More financing options -MLPs  & REITs
  5. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

1. Renewable energy markets continue to grow significantly. Perhaps we should stop referring to them as “alternative sources” of energy

John R. Norris, Commissioner, U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opened the panel Renewable Energy Market Growth with the statement, “[if] it wasn’t for an economy that’s walking with a limp and a dramatic decrease in natural gas prices, the renewable energy market would be twice the size.” Continue reading

350.org and the “Do the Math tour”

*by Meg Schneider

*Views presented in this article reflect those of the author and should not be construed as the views of Wharton, IGEL or the University of Pennsylvania.

Bill McKibben, the environmentalist who wrote the high-profile Rolling Stone article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, came to Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church November 17 for his “Do the Math” tour for 350.org. The talk began with a short speech from Swarthmore student Sara Blazevic on her campaign to encourage Swarthmore’s divestment from fossil fuels in its endowment. Josh Fox, best known as the director of Gasland, also talked about grassroots organizing.

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IGEL’s Sixth Conference-Workshop

Save the date for IGEL’s Sixth Conference-Workshop on “The Nexus of Energy, food, and Water”, to be held on Thursday, March 21st, 2013. Objectives of the conference include providing an overview about sustainability as it relates to energy, food, and water, the multitude of strategies needed to evaluate water risk in the global economy, as well as the intersection between energy resources, food supply, and security. Speakers will include Andrew Winston, author of “Green to Gold”, Jeff Seabright of Coca-Cola, Perry Moss of Rubicon Global, Tamara Thies of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and many more. The keynote address and prelude to IGEL’s conference-workshop will be delivered by General John Ashcroft, followed by a VIP Dinner the night before, Wednesday, March 20th, 2013. For more information, please view the conference agenda.