28 Oct 2015, 09:27
In recent times, we've been hearing about the negative effects of communication technology and the Internet. But in between all the media influence, desensitization and information overload lies some positives and we're going to have a look specifically at how shopping via the Internet is a greener option for us and our only planet.
For starters, shopping through your computer without leaving your seat means you'd have to muster up less energy than if you get up and drive! On a serious note though, a study conducted by the Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute had revealed that we leave a lower carbon footprint behind when we shop at home versus driving out eight miles to buy a thumb drive. Not having to drive the vehicle a certain distance for the procurement of only one item definitely has significant, positive impact on the environment when looked at on a large scale.
When you're on the hunt for a specific item, you could end up driving from store to store and that's inconvenient as you'd have to spend money on petrol, tolls and the item itself. Shopping online means you can browse as much and as long as you'd want without having to do extra driving. Seated on your own couch, you can search for precisely what you want and play a green role for the environment too. At the same time, you can scour the Internet and find the best rate for anything you want to purchase.
On top of that, keeping transactions online reduces the need for stores to print out receipts and other paperwork. With that, fewer trees are being chopped down to make paper that will most likely not end up in the recycling bin. As a buyer, you too can also have a record of your transaction saved online which means no more unnecessary printing for record-keeping.
Ordering online also means that your item and the items of a hundred other individuals will be placed in the same UPS, DHL or FedEx delivery van, which means that the energy used to deliver all those products is significantly lesser than having one hundred individuals drive out to different locations in order to procure what they need.
While shopping online, you can also reap the benefits of coupons and promo codes! Tonnes of coupon sites are on the rise and they provide you with endless lists of discounts that you can use for whichever brand you are shopping for. ChameleonJohn.com is one of those websites and a routine check with the website can help you save lots of money in the long run.
While shopping online can have its disadvantages such as not being able to touch or feel your products before purchase and products not meeting expectations when arriving, there also many benefits that can come out of it. Saving money is definitely one of it as most coupons are made for online purchases only, but what's great is how we can help reduce our carbon footprint. Do your part and go green by shopping the paperless way today!
23 Sep 2015, 09:00
This week the UN is calling businesses to step up their actions to tackle climate change by taking full responsibility for their own emissions with a new campaign, Climate Neutral Now.
This highlights the responsibility of business in tackling climate change, saying it has never been more important. The UN says: "As one of the major contributors of carbon emissions, responsible businesses and organisations need to measure, reduce and offset their emissions."
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), urged voluntary action by businesses and individuals to avoid catastrophic climate change: "It is going to require action today and tomorrow and everyone need s to get on board from governments and corporations to cities, regions and individuals," she said.
In this, the UN aims to set an example: Secretary-General Ba Ki-moon announced that the United Nations will be climate neutral by 2020. Some of the world's biggest companies - including Microsoft, Aviva, theadidasgroup and Sony - are already showing leadership by becoming or pledging to become Climate Neutral, and encouraging others to follow their lead.
At ClimateCare we have 18 years' experience of delivering robust and effective programmes to help governments and business around the world become Climate Neutral. Clients value our approach to measuring, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions through Climate+Care projects that both protect the environment and improve lives - tackling poverty and empowering communities in the developing world. Supporting these multi-impact projects enables businesses to demonstrate responsible action on climate change and at the same time, their commitment to tackle wider social and environmental issues.
Going Climate Neutral can also deliver a range of business benefits you might not even have considered. From demonstrating environmental credentials and building customer confidence in your brand, to improving staff engagement with your broader sustainability programmes. It can even deliver business growth opportunities - building resilience in supply chains, supporting growth in key markets and helping to launch new products and services.
One of our long-standing corporate partners, Aviva, recently spoke to Business Fights Poverty setting out a business case for the insurance sector to follow its lead and go Climate Neutral, highlighting the benefits of doing so through an integrated Climate+Care programme - that delivers cost effective social impacts as well as cutting carbon.
"If climate change continues to happen at the rate it is, it will impact our business model and will impact what we can insure going forwards, so there is total consistency between our core business and what we do in terms of offsetting our own emissions," said Zelda Bentham, head of sustainability, Aviva plc.
We are delighted that the UN's influential voice is now encouraging others to follow the lead of the pioneering clients we work with. But why is this encouragement needed?
Corporates continue to make great strides in the transparent reporting of their negative impacts - carbon reporting and reduction programmes are becoming the norm, but the final step – taking full responsibility for the remaining immediate negative climate impacts through offsetting – is often still missing.
Businesses that make the decision not to offset their carbon emissions cite reasons ranging from misunderstandings about how the process works, to whether internal reductions are more cost effective. However, there is simply no argument about whether you should take action to reduce or offset your carbon emissions – the reality is that you need to do both in order to really be considered to be a responsible business.
And, as businesses start to talk about becoming net positive and delivering positive social and environmental impacts through their business operations, we believe it is essential that they first take full responsibility for their unavoidable negative impacts. For carbon emissions that means neutralising the climate impact through carbon offsets - going Climate Neutral must become a hygiene factor.
Once they've committed to Climate Neutrality, businesses we work with say it becomes easy to see where offsetting fits into the hierarchy of actions to tackle climate change. Many recommend putting an internal price on carbon emissions as a simple way to identify when it becomes financially prudent to move from carbon reduction to offsetting – ensuring money is always spent where it will have maximum impact.
The world is currently on track to exceed the two degree average warning limit. To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to take action now. Quite simply, it is not enough to reduce your carbon footprint – you need to offset it as well. The UN campaign, adds weight to the calls for businesses to go Climate Neutral - and responsible business leaders such as Aviva, Sony, Microsoft and others are showing the way.
Those who choose to go Climate Neutral with a Climate+Care programme will also be able to channel their support to projects that cut carbon and deliver against your priority social and environmental goals in locations that make sense for your business.
To find out more about what Climate Neutrality means for your business, call our expert team on +44(0)1865 591000 or visit www.climatecare.org
From offices in the UK and Africa, ClimateCare works with businesses and governments around the world to deliver integrated Climate+Care programmes which protect the environment and improve lives. Established in 1997, to date it has improved life for over six million people and cut 16.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions. ItÂ’s certified B Corporation and holds a QueenÂ’s Award for Sustainability for it outstanding contributions to tackling climate change and alleviating poverty.
16 Sep 2015, 16:47
Issues regarding sustainability and eco-friendliness continue to prompt discussion around the world. To do their part for the environment, more companies are enforcing green initiatives ahead of time. For example, the SAP recruitment agency Eursap has recently teamed up with The National Forest and will be planting a tree for every SAP consultant they successfully place.
Aside from the inherent positives for the planet, taking preventive measures to protect the environment can cut workplace costs and increase staff morale. Here are four ways in which going green at work can also save your business money.
A business can help the environment by encouraging staff to use alternative commuting methods instead of driving to work. Public transport uses less energy and produces less pollution compared with solo travel in private vehicles.
Cycling to work is a great option that is becoming increasingly feasible as plans for segregated cycle lanes increase. Not only does it take more cars off the road, but cyclists can also reap plenty of health benefits from the exercise.
If commuters are concerned about arriving at work perspiring and tired, an electric bike may be the answer. New bike manufacturers such as Eco Expedition Electric Bikes are trumpeting the e-bike for its green power and suitability for commuters.
Encouraging green methods of transportation will reduce the carbon footprint of your business and highlight your environmental commitment. Over time they could save money through diminished travel or fuel costs – expenses that many businesses cover which is not tax deductible.
Encouraging employees to work from home is another way of reducing the carbon footprint of your company and the need for extra workspace. It could be a very popular decision too: two thirds of workers would jump at the chance of working from home while 36 per cent of employees would shun a pay rise in favour of telecommuting.
Allowing staff to telecommute means they do not need to travel to work. This means there are fewer vehicles on the road. Telecommuting could reduce carbon emissions by more than 51 million metric tons a year – the equivalent of taking all New York’s commuters off the road.
Recently, businesses have been embracing telecommuting as a way of reducing the need for permanent office space. Embracing a culture of flexible office space and short-term lets for when you need them can help a business to avoid skyrocketing office costs.
In the digital age, working in the cloud has become far more efficient for modern businesses. Paper can be eliminated from the office as documents can be exchanged and collaborated on electronically, via a third-party provider such as Google Drive or Microsoft's OneDrive.
This reduces the impact on the environment and simultaneously allows a business to cut costs on storage, printing cartridges and office space. Additionally, centralisation to the cloud gives you access to free email accounts, word processing and other services – meaning you can cut costs by abandoning standard office computer software.
Making your business paperless for your front of house, in the office or when dealing with clients should go hand in hand with your behind-the-scenes interactions. For example, with your accountants. Contractor accountant 3 Wise Bears has already taken its services online, with cloud-based accountancy software. This provides a simple, separate space for all your accounting invoices and interactions.
However, you will need to make sure your digital and physical data stays safe. In an article by Top Web, the office clearance company Clearance Solutions was mentioned as saying that even huge companies sometimes forget to use data destruction services when going digital. If you’re dealing with personal information, neglecting to dispose of confidential information correctly can throw your business into disrepute.
Greener workplaces are much healthier environments for employees to work in. Absenteeism costs UK businesses an estimated £36bn each year and poor air quality is one of the leading causes of office illness.
A simple way of improving air quality is to introduce plants to the office. Plants absorb toxins from the air and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. A NASA study found that certain plant species not only take in carbon dioxide but also absorb toxic compounds such as benzene and formaldehyde commonly found in offices. This benefits both the environment and the productivity of your employees.
A study also found that employees are 15 per cent more productive when offices are filled with houseplants. Employee performance on memory retention and other basic tests was improved substantially when one plant per square metre was introduced to the workplace.
16 Sep 2015, 10:27
Across Europe and beyond, billions of Euro of public finance are being committed to energy efficiency. According to the International Energy Agency, private investors and lenders are also 'increasingly interested' in investing in energy efficiency. Key drivers include ever-tightening legislation along with a host of well-established co-benefits - increased energy security, better air quality, reduced fuel poverty and job creation. The European Commission puts the size of the investment required for building energy efficiency retrofits to meet their climate and energy goals at around €100bn per year . And yet the market is fragmented, characterised by high transaction costs and unpredictable savings and has yet to take off.
Where is the tipping point for large-scale energy efficiency retrofit of Europe's buildings?
Follow the money
In theory, it's never been so easy to access finance for energy efficiency. Germany's public investment bank, KfW, committed a total of €16bn to energy efficiency in 2013, and the European Investment Bank (EIB) provided €2.1bn across the European Union. France's Caisse des Dépôts committed €453m to energy efficiency in 2012 and the United Kingdom Green Investment Bank provided €181m. Green investment banks are also being established (and have energy efficiency as a target sector) in Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Many energy efficiency funds exist at national and regional level across Europe and are set to be boosted by a whopping EUR 38 billion via the European Structural and Investment Funds allocation to the low carbon economy between 2014 and 2020. In 2012, global energy efficiency investments across all sectors totaled $310bn representing a very significant and growing market opportunity for investors and businesses.
Leading financial institutions are increasingly aware of the opportunities. According to Urs Rohner, Chairman of Credit Suisse Group AG, "our research demonstrated that Europe can probably save another 10 to 15 per cent of energy by 2030 with appropriate energy efficiency measures with no negative impact on economic growth. We therefore believe that more efficient energy will have double benefits, to Europe's environmental and economic growth targets."
And yet despite this promise, on the ground the market seems to be somewhat... sluggish.
Establishing a bankable project pipeline has often proved challenging - even for 'role model' fund eeef (European Energy Efficiency Fund, the acronym is pronounced 'triple-e-f') targeting the public sector. Peter Coveliers, Chairman of the Management Board said: ‘2012 was characterized by building up a sustainable pipeline and closure of its first transactions', with the most recent annual report stating that 'projects in this field are developing at a moderate pace'.
According to Ingrid Holmes of independent environmental organisation E3G, 'these are consistent issues with energy efficiency funds in the public and private sectors. It's easy to raise the money - but hard to find the bankable projects. The barriers are on supply, not demand'.
And Tristan Oliver from the project development unit at RE:FIT (UK national public sector ESCO program) echoes this sentiment, saying 'this is not an easy thing to do. You have to do a lot of work and really encourage the public sector to make it work. Our clients don't yet have the confidence, knowledge or experience to undertake energy performance contracts - they don't just walk in the door, we have to go out and find them'.
'Energy efficiency is not sexy'
Confidence is the watchword here. Two years ago the United Nations Environment Program and the European Commission convened the Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG) to look at the barriers to energy efficiency investment, with rapporteur Peter Sweatman at the helm. EEFIG counts heavy hitters such as BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, ING, KfW, Société Générale, the EIB, and EBRD among its members.
EEFIG succeeded in building the consensus across a group of 120 experts representing major financial institutions, policymakers, industry, and civil society and published the group's findings in two EEFIG reports on how to drive new finance for energy efficiency investments for buildings, industry and SMEs.
A leading conclusion from the EEFIG is the necessity to build investor confidence in energy efficiency. And how? Through the 'launch of an EU-wide initiative to develop a common set of procedures and standards for energy efficiency and buildings refurbishment underwriting for both debt and equity investments', according to the report.
"Given that energy efficiency contributes 49 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions reduction, boosting investor confidence at this stage is critical" said EEFIG rapporteur Peter Sweatman.
Better Living Through Better Process
Five years ago, the NGO Environmental Defense Fund originated the Investor Confidence Project to contribute to market development for energy efficiency renovation projects by streamlining transactions and increasing the reliability of projected energy savings. The intention: to build a marketplace for standardized energy efficiency projects. The idea is that individual projects can then be aggregated and traded by institutional investors on secondary markets - just like mortgages or other profitable asset-backed securities.
Already ICP has gained traction in the United States through inclusion in federal and bank lending programs, and this summer the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International announced the relaunch of its BOMA Energy Performance toolkit based on the ICP standards.
ICP Europe, led in part by Senior Advisor Dr Steven Fawkes, launched earlier this year. Already the ICP Europe project consortium is attracting political and financial support, including €1.92m from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme.
Fawkes certainly knows his stuff - he's a member of the Investment Committee of the London Energy Efficiency Fund and comes with 30 years' experience of energy efficiency, including founding two energy service companies.
"Governments and NGOs have for years been talking about how energy-efficiency is the low hanging fruit, often bringing a healthy return on investment," says Steven. "But, despite the actions of a few market leaders such as M&S, investing in it is clearly not as easy as it's made out to be, otherwise everybody would be at it. We want to change that. We want to make it become an indispensable part of every institutional investor's portfolio."
On 14 September ICP Europe released its first draft Protocols on large tertiary (non-domestic) buildings and standard tertiary buildings for review. The ICP Europe Protocols are an industry best practice assembly of existing European and national building energy renovation standards, practices, and documentation aligned to create the data necessary to enable underwriting and managing of energy performance risk. The protocols are open-source and can be used by anybody in the market at no cost.
Until 2 October, ICP Europe is looking for feedback on the first draft protocols. Stakeholders are invited to contribute through the Technical Forum and to participate in unlocking the potential of energy efficiency as a global asset class by joining the ICP Europe Ally Network.
Panama Bartholomy, ICP Europe Director, points out: "The EEFIG report sends a clear message to the efficiency community. Never before have so many large and small, public and private investors come together to find ways to give us the financing we need to meet our building renovation goals. The consensus is crystal clear: the lack of a standardized process for developing and underwriting projects is the biggest barrier to confidence in our industry. What we are now doing is bringing together the owners, financiers, engineers and governments to develop exactly that process. The financiers have finally made a clear ask - how will we respond?"
The Investor Confidence Project Europe welcomes all organisations interested in building an investable energy efficiency marketplace to join their Technical Forum to help develop European-wide project development and underwriting process. To sign up go to this link: http://europe.eeperformance.org/technical-forum.html
05 Aug 2015, 15:21
President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan offers concrete evidence that the US is serious about getting to grips with its greenhouse gas pollution. Unveiled to great media fanfare at the White House, the regulation is designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants 32% below their 2005 levels within the next 15 years. It is certainly an ambitious move by Obama, keen to be remembered for doing more to save the planet than any president before him when he leaves office next year. And it must give some hope for the Paris climate talks later this year.
There are also other signs that the tide is turning in the global effort to tackle climate change.
When Norway's US$890bn (796bn euros) government pension fund - the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund - recently announced plans to sell off most of its investments related to coal, it continued something of a trend for de-risking portfolios with a low-carbon future in mind.
The previous year, the heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune, who control around US$860m (€769m) in assets, set a precedent when the Foundation withdrew its funds from fossil fuel investments as part of a wider divestment movement involving 800 global investors promising to remove US$50bn worth of support over the next five years.
It is a situation - reinforced by the Bank of England investigating whether or not fossil-fuel industries pose a threat to the stability of the capital markets - that is forcing companies to re-think their longer-term business strategies. Despite the politics of climate abatement slowly showing signs of alignment, it is this focus on corporate risk - rather than political promises - that seems to have captured the imagination in driving carbon reduction in the business world.
However, a renewed consideration for the long-term might well be in vogue, but progress by companies to address their environmental and social impact is still slow. In a post-two degree world, certain crop yields in the US, India and across Africa are expected to decrease by up to 30 per cent; up to 30 per cent of animals and plant species could face extinction; and 30 per cent of the annual sea ice could be lost in the Arctic. If you think about what's required to avoid these scenarios (as described by the likes of the World Bank and National Research Council), we not there yet - not by a long way.
It's time for companies to look beyond their own operations and consider the wider impact of their business and look at the entire system that sits beyond their own boundaries. By looking along the value chain of suppliers, manufacturers and raw material providers at one end, and customers and consumers at the other, businesses can get a broader view of the risks - and work towards addressing the materials, water and energy being wasted across sectors.
Just 15 per cent of AkzoNobel's total environmental footprint lies within our direct control. So, through our Planet Possible strategy, we aim to work more closely with both our suppliers and customers to find new ways of reducing our overall impact. By 2020, we want our entire value chain to be between 25-30 per cent more efficient.
Central to this is helping our customers be more efficient. For example, our biocide-free coatings prevent organisms from clinging to the hulls of ships, helping shipping companies travel faster, use less fuel and produce less emissions. Our Rediset additives enable asphalt to be laid without the need for high-temperature (high carbon impact) mixing. And our Dulux Weathershield KeepCool, an exterior paint which can reflect up to 85 per cent more infrared radiation than traditional exterior paints, is helping to reduce energy use in buildings by up to 15 per cent.
By working in partnership with others, it's a lot easier to unlock some of the solutions that are required in this emerging low-carbon, resource-constrained world. Right now, as part of the Together for Sustainability initiative, our chief procurement officer - along with his contemporaries from BASF, Bayer, Evonik, Henkel, Lanxess and Solvay - are exploring ways to build a chemicals industry standard for sustainable supply chains based on current best practice across the sector.
Elsewhere, we are part of a major Dutch consortium exploring how we might use household waste as a feedstock for our chemical plants. We're even looking into the possibility of producing chemicals from beet-derived sugar feedstock - again, working with others.
But enhanced collaboration demands new types of relationships that move beyond the traditional, purely transactional supplier relationships that companies are most familiar and comfortable with. These new partnerships must be based on transparency and trust - and the sharing of costs, risks and benefits.
AkzoNobel, and other leading companies, are proving that limitations to the world's resources and a changing climate do not have to limit ambition and imagination as we strive to do more with less. We have also realized that many of the world's biggest challenges cannot be solved alone. But working with others doesn't have to be daunting. After all, you never know where innovation will come from - even the White House.
Chris Cook is AkzoNobel's Planet Possible Programme Director
ABOUT INDUSTRY VOICE BLOG
BusinessGreen's Industry Voice blog offers experts from across the low carbon economy the opportunity to present their views, opinions and analysis on the latest green business developments
Browse posts by date