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A Metamorphosis in Our Midst
We are now settling into 2015 — transformational times, no less, which quite naturally invoke a feeling of trepidation. Tectonic shifts in our socio-economic models, strategic and operational management, and leadership development are metamorphosing our prevalent paradigm into something as different in look and feel as a butterfly is from a caterpillar. In the early stages of a pupa’s metamorphosis, cells quite different from the caterpillar organize into groups. These ‘imaginal cells’ run up against the opposition of the old caterpillar’s immune system, which perceives them as a threat to the caterpillar’s existence. Over time, as the system of the old caterpillar begins to break down, these new formations spawn forth the structures, processes and logic of the butterfly; ditto for the metamorphosis in our midst. We know an era is ending and a new one being conceived when the fundamental assumptions and illusions of the old worldview are exhausted by their inability to deal with the challenges of the day.

World Economic Forum, Davos

Pharrell Williams and Al Gore announce Live Earth 2015
The unlikely combination of Pharrell Williams and Al Gore have announced what they hope to be the largest global campaign in history, in the form of a second round of Live Earth concerts to promote awareness of climate change. The concerts will take place across all seven continents – including Antarctica – on 18 June. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the pair were joined by producer Kevin Wall to unveil an event aiming for a global television audience of 2 billion across 193 television networks.

The shackles of wealth and entitlement that trap Davos leaders
In Davos, the elite will not put up with anything other than perfect ski slopes – even if the climate change they are helping to create is stopping nature from doing the task herself. It is a powerful metaphor that the World Economic Forum gets under way surrounded by mountain slopes that owe some of their beautiful whiteness to 380 massive snow canons that have spent months pumping out hundreds of millions of litres of cold water mixed with air. I was discussing this issue yesterday with Nick Robins, co-director of UNEP’s inquiry into a sustainable finance system. He says the snow canons are a perfect analogy for the state of mind of political and business leaders – which is to prop up the existing system for as long as possible. That, of course, cannot succeed because denial hastens the very collapse they seek to avoid. We need a new way of thinking and we need it fast.

Energy and Climate Change

China cuts energy intensity almost 5 per cent in 2014
China beat a key energy efficiency target in 2014, cutting its energy intensity by 4.8 per cent from a year earlier, the State Council said on Tuesday, as it tries to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The government had aimed for a 3.9 per cent cut in energy intensity after a 3.7 per cent drop in 2013 in order to meet its target of cutting energy intensity to 16 per cent below 2010 levels by 2015. Energy intensity is a measure of the amount of energy needed to increase GDP, and high levels of energy intensity indicate a high cost of converting energy into GDP. China aims to lower the efficiency measure by relying less on energy-intensive manufacturing, mostly powered by coal, which is causing massive health problems and has made China the world’s biggest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Solar industry gets $33.3m boost to fuel commercial take-up
The flagging Australian solar industry will get a $33.3 million boost as the government’s green investment bank combines with a Chinese partner to spur companies to take up more photovoltaic panels. The Clean Energy Finance Corp, which the Abbott government has been seeking to axe, will provide as much as $20 million to the venture with ET Solar to encourage more shopping centres and other big power users to cut their power bills. “There is huge scope to expand and deepen the solar PV market in the commercial sector,” Oliver Yates, the CEFC’s chief executive, said in a media release.

Report: Consumer Products, Manufacturing Sectors Enjoying Best Financial Returns on Solar
Consumer products, manufacturing and heavy industry sectors are getting the best financial returns on solar power—the most popular renewable power technology for corporates—according to a new report by RE100, an initiative of The Climate Group in partnership with CDP. The report, Renewable power: the journey to 100%, features case studies from RE100 corporate partners and was released this week at the World Future Energy Summit, an event organized in partnership with Masdar and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report also found that heavy industry, construction and manufacturing sectors are the biggest investors in renewable energy, led by those in Europe.

Environment and Biodiversity

Shell Affiliates Pay $900,000 to Resolve Air Violations
Three Shell Oil Company affiliates have agreed to pay $900,000 as part of a settlement with the EPA to resolve Clean Air Act violations, including selling gasoline and diesel fuel that did not conform to federal standards. The agency says these violations resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollutants from motor vehicles.

Economy and Business

Public trust in business at its lowest since 2008
For how many years do business leaders need to hear that their customers do not trust them nor the companies they lead before they do something about it? To coincide with the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos, public relations company Edelman has just released its 15th annual trust barometer, which signals that a short recovery in people’s faith in the corporate sector has gone into reverse. In fact, trust in business declined in two-thirds of the 27 markets the survey covers and is now below 50% in 14 markets, the worst showing since 2008. The largest drops occurred in Canada, Germany, Australia and Singapore.

How concerned are CEOs about climate change? Not at all
In a critical year for action to prevent runaway climate change, one would hope the issue would rank high on chief executives’ list of business risks to worry about. So it comes as a shock to discover that climate change appears so low on their list of concerns that professional services group PricewaterhouseCoopers did not even bother to include it in its global survey of business leaders.

From urban aquaponics to fruit jerky: meet London’s green entrepreneurs
The London Leaders programme helps sustainable businesses get off the ground. Here are some of this year’s enterprises.

On the roof of an old shopping centre in Stratford, east London, stands a shipping container. Within it, a tank the size of a hot tub is full of water and hundreds of small, edible fish. On the top, a specially adapted greenhouse grows salad greens and micro-herbs in tightly stacked, vertical columns. Water is pumped from the bottom to the top before slowly dripping down tall plastic tubes, directly feeding diluted fish droppings to the roots of the plants enmeshed within. Run by entrepreneurs Kate Hofman and Tom Webster, Grow Up Urban Farms’ GrowUp Box is the first commercial aquaponic urban farm in the UK.

Shell and BP face investor calls for transparency on climate change risks
Oil giants Shell and BP are facing calls to disclose business risks associated with climate change after more than 150 investors filed a resolution ahead of the annual general meetings later this year. The Aiming for A coalition, which includes major investors, asset managers and insurers, have challenged the two fossil fuel companies to stress-test their business models against the requirement to limit global warming to the internationally agreed 2C.

What’s Next For CSR? Thoughts and Predictions for 2015
2014 was a landmark year. Megatrends like demographic shifts, technological breakthroughs and rapid urbanization collided with milestone events — such as India’s 2 percent give-back mandate and the People’s Climate March — to re-shape how the world views businesses’ responsibility in the marketplace. I recently participated in a Twitter chat, on behalf of PwC and the PwC Charitable Foundation, with TriplePundit and Dave Stangis of the Campbell Soup Co. During the chat, we touched on these issues and how they will impact the way we think and act as responsible business organizations in 2015. While there were many important insights and trends, there are seven that I believe will transform the landscape in 2015.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Grand & Toy, TerraCycle Expand Successful Coffee Pod Recycling Effort
Office Depot affiliate Grand & Toy has launched a retailer recycling program for office products in conjunction with TerraCycle Canada. The announcement comes after a successful five month K-Cup Pack pilot recycling partnership between Grand & Toy and TerraCycle for customers in Southern Ontario; the program, now expanding throughout Canada, will also include recycling for office supplies and computer accessories.

Why Durable Bioplastics, Not Biodegradable, May Be the Answer
To conclude this series about bioplastics and the biodegradability (or lack thereof) of plastic products and packaging, I want to discuss the future of what I consider to be one of the only viable alternatives to plastics derived from non-renewable resources: durable bioplastics. The key word here is durable, because biodegradable plastics of any composition are not the long-term sustainable solution we need. When you compost a biodegradable plastic cup, that polymer can no longer be reused and maintained, meaning all of the energy and material inputs are lost in the soil. Durable bioplastics that can be recycled present us with a more viable opportunity to mitigate our dependence on oil-based plastics, but realistically offsetting our dependence on petroleum polymer first requires decreasing the overall demand for plastic.

Politics and Society

Obama: ‘No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change’
President Obama last night used the State of the Union address to underscore his commitment to ambitious action on climate change, declaring he will not let the Republican-controlled Congress “endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts”. As anticipated, Obama highlighted newly published data from NASA and the NOAA demonstrating that 2014 was the warmest year on record and argued that escalating scientific and security warnings demand a response. “One year doesn’t make a trend, but this does  -  14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century,” Obama said. “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what  -  I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.

India Prime Minister Modi demands ‘paradigm shift’ in climate debate
Just days before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes US President Barack Obama for a state visit, he has called for a “paradigm shift” in the global approach towards tackling climate change that redoubles efforts to reduce the cost of clean technologies. Chairing a meeting of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change on Monday, Modi suggested countries with huge solar power resources should club together to drive research and development in reducing the cost of renewable energy.

Poll: Energy Efficiency is America’s No. 1 Housing Concern
Safety, affordability and privacy – it’s no surprise that these were some of top housing needs identified in a recent national survey of more than 10,000 households. But the No. 1 unmet housing concern, which the Demand Institute that carried out the poll defined as the “satisfaction gap” between what respondents actually have and what they said was important, was not as easily expected: energy efficiency. Survey respondents were given a list of 52 housing and community concerns and asked to rank them, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how important they felt the issues were and how much their current home satisfied these needs. The result: 71 percent of U.S. households polled placed a great deal of importance on energy efficiency, but only 35 percent felt their homes were very energy efficient with low monthly utility costs (the respondents making up percentages answered these questions with an 8, 9 or 10 ranking).

Built Environment

How Aussie Post achieved a major asset value uplift with green thinking
According to project director Campbell Williams of Norman Disney and Young, sustainability was a core focus for the program of works, which encompassed a complete overhaul of electrical, mechanical, hydraulic and fire systems, as well as upgrades to glazing, the facade, lobby, interior fitouts and landscaping. The building also now has the infrastructure in place for electric vehicle charging to be installed in the basement carpark, with the aim of introducing electric vehicles for parcel delivery by the end of the year if Australia Post’s current EV trial in Melbourne proves successful. Market estimates of the building value before the upgrade was about $45 million pre-upgrade, but during the upgrade’s early stages in 2013, it sold for $168 million to AXA Real Estate and Eureka Funds Management. According to Williams, the uplift in value was largely due to the five star NABERS and 5 Star Green Star Office ratings the building was on track to achieve.

Food Systems 

UK should take a lead role in the EU drive to overhaul deep-sea trawling
There is a tendency to think of the deep waters around the British Isles as cold, dark, desolate places that cannot be compared to their vibrant tropical counterparts. Cold and dark, yes, but those of us who have had the privilege to visit and study these areas know that they are anything but desolate. The UK’s deep-sea ecosystems comprise a fantastic variety of life, including cold-water corals, sponge fields, and unique underwater habitats and species. They are important, beautiful, fragile, and under constant threat from one of the world’s most environmentally destructive and economically wasteful methods of fishing – deep-sea bottom trawling. This year the UK government has a rare chance to achieve a long-term win for its deep-sea ecosystems, its taxpayers and the public if it seizes a historic opportunity to secure protection for Europe’s deep ocean.


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