In late October, I had the wonderful privilege of attending VERGE, a GreenBiz conference in San Francisco. The four-day conference brought together the sometimes contradictory, but mostly congruent, worlds of technology and sustainability. Here are the 5 themes that were prevalent over the course of the week:
#1 Technology is our best solution to global sustainability problems…
Over three days, I saw dozens of examples of cutting edge technology that is helping government, communities, and business dramatically reduce their energy use (and, as a result, their carbon footprint). Some were well established in today’s marketplace, like Autodesk, whose suite of software platforms provide a wide variety of sustainability planning and design features for products, buildings, and land areas. Others are still in the early stages of market penetration, like Strawberry Energy, which sells stand-alone, solar-powered mobile device chargers for public spaces.
#2 … Except when it’s not.
That said, there were lots of times that presenters and participants challenged the notion that technology can save us from the problems of unsustainability. In the agriculture tracks, I heard repeated questions from audience members about how social sustainability issues—such as labor rights—play into sustainability strategies for agriculture and food companies. While the focus of the conference was on ways that technology can help us achieve sustainability goals, there were recurrent and appreciated pleas throughout the week not to forget the people around the world without access to high-tech luxuries.
#3 There is no consensus yet about the future of the sharing economy.
There was a lot of talk throughout the conference about the so-called sharing economy. While I didn’t take a poll, there seemed to be a pretty even split between those who believe the sharing economy will be a major disruptor of business-as-usual and those who believe it will continue to be a fringe player. Regardless of one’s take on the idea, there was definite enthusiasm for several business ideas pitched at the conference. My personal favorite was Munirent, a platform on which municipalities can rent out equipment that isn’t being used, and rent equipment that they need from adjacent towns. It’s a win-win concept – good for the environment, good for city managers, and good for taxpayers.
#4 Logistics is at the heart of next-gen sustainability solutions.
Given the global trends towards distributed manufacturing, real-time and immediate delivery demands, and increased climate change regulation, the evidence is clear: businesses must place sustainability logistics in the inner circle of their sustainability plans.
#5 Big data is a sustainability paradox.
The theme of big data ran through most of the VERGE presentations—and for good reason. Access to more data and better data has been, and will continue to be, essential in tailoring smart sustainability solutions in an increasingly complex world. At the same time, there was a general feeling that big data has taken on a life of its own. That it isn’t always being used appropriately. Whether the data is too expensive (such as the exorbitant prices that some municipalities charge for details on private parcels of land), or whether the assumptions for using the data are flawed (or hidden), or whether there is simply a lack of technical prowess in managing and analyzing the data—it is clear that the full value of big data has not yet been realized. One step in the right direction is the amazing work begin done in sustainability visualization – representatives from both Autodesk and The Elumenati provided jaw-dropping visualizations of big sustainability data. (Sadly, I could find neither presentation on the web, but a similar presentation from Autodesk is embedded below.)
Overall, the Greenbiz VERGE conference was a smashing success, and I walked away with a headful of new ideas, interesting perspectives, and an education in the latest sustainability technology. Even now, two weeks later, I am still thrilled and somewhat mind-boggled to think of the ways that technology will help us better manage natural resources, connect and share ideas, and improve product and building design. I look forward to sharing these findings with my clients and continuing to see how the technology, and the people behind them, evolves in the coming years. Now, if I could just quickly figure out how to put what I gleaned from the conference into a data visualization, I could have saved you some reading time!
Understanding Your Tenant’s Sustainability Needs (and how you can help!) by Stephen Bushnell
As a building owner your reasons for going green are pretty obvious; reducing expenses and improving ROI, increasing the value of your property, ensuring that your building is competitive, managing your environmental foot print and making the property more attractive to tenants. But, have you take the time to understand why your tenants want to be in a green building and how you can help them realize their green objectives?
Controlling the costs of energy and water are two important issues for any business. Tenants pay as much attention to this aspect of green and sustainability as do building owners. There are a variety of ways that owners and tenants share energy and water costs, many of which are spelled out in the lease or, especially for residential buildings, determined by how the building is metered. No matter how the costs are allocated both owner and tenant(s) have a vested financial interest in reducing overall energy and water use.
Another green practice with bottom line impacts is waste management. Recycling and reducing waste bound for landfills are key goals of many tenants. Building owners can help by making the building recycling friendly with convenient areas for recycling inside and outside the building. However, remember that many recyclables are flammable. Exterior storage and pick up sites should be away from the building so any accidental fires will be confined to the container.
A growing number of cities require or incent restaurants to compost their food waste. Building owners with restaurant tenants should consider adding pest resistant compost facilities for food waste.
A fundamental element of LEED is the reduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the interior of the building. Combined with occupant friendly ventilation, reduced VOCs can result in a healthier indoor environment. Green buildings can result in improved employee health and wellbeing and reduced absenteeism. “Daylighting” is another hallmark of green buildings. Design of the interior space, wall placement, windows and full – spectrum lighting systems create more efficient and comfortable environments like AGPOM Member Douglas Emmett’s lobby pictured here.
These features can result in one of the most significant benefits for tenants, improved employee productivity. People working in green buildings are healthier, happier, and more productive. In a recent DOE study, it was shown that worker productivity in a green building increased by 15%. In another study by The Rocky Mountain Institute, air quality improvements fostered increased productivity of up to 20% and reduced absenteeism by up to 25%.
Improved health is important for your residential tenants as well. Who wants to live in a poorly ventilated box full of a toxic stew when there are alternatives? Our own experience backed by several studies reveals that parents are motivated by issues impacting the health of their children.
Finally, many commercial and residential tenants have a strong desire to make the world a greener place. Whether driven by personal values or corporate sustainability programs, tenants take a very big step to realize this goal by leasing green space. Supporting your tenants as they green their space is a win for both of you. Taking a little time to understand their plans and how you can support them goes a long way to realizing your green and sustainable goals.
In September, we had the great privilege to attend the RILA Sustainability Conference in Minneapolis. Over the course of several days, we delved into a number of sustainability issues relevant to the retail sector. Now that we’ve been back in the office for several weeks, there is one aspect of the event that we keep coming back to: megatrends.
Retail Everywhere - mobile payments, pop-up stores, and online shopping
Augmented Reality - mobile and wearable technology
Distributed Manufacturing - localized production and 3D printing
Advances in Biotechnology - genetic engineering and synthetic biology
Shifting Demographics - the “greying and browning” of America
Urbanization in the US - resurgence of cities
Global Economic Shifts - economic center of the world is moving South and East
New Approaches to Health & Wellbeing - explosion in digital healthcare and changes in lifestyle approaches
Ubiquity of Data - big data benefits and privacy concerns
Radical Transparency - rapid increase in consumer access to data and information
Self and Community Reliance - focus on DIY and ultra-local community
Rise of the Sharing Economy - shift away from consumerism to shared and rented material items
Empowered Consumers - access to environmental and social information, as well as social media, are changing the power dynamic between consumers and retailers
Circular economy - closed-loop, zero-waste industrial systems
Decline in Ecosystem Services - environmental degradation takes its toll on nature’s ability to purify air and water, grow food and fuel
Water Insecurity - freshwater scarcity and price fluctuations
Resource scarcity - as key natural resources grow scarce and expensive, global supply chains will feel the impact
Time poverty - pressure for greater convenience and on-demand delivery, increased stress and mental health problems
Geopolitical instability - competition for resources and at-odds ideology drive local, tribal, and national unrest
Energy transformation - changes impacted by energy security, increasing demand, advances in technology, and climate change
Education revolution - new teaching delivery (MOOCs) and focus on making education more widely accessible and affordable
Coping with climate change - direct impacts (extreme weather, sea level rise) and societal response (regulation, adaptation)
Obviously, there are a handful of megatrends directly related to sustainability, but the really interesting realization was that ALL of the 22 megatrends have sustainability implications. The trend toward distributed manufacturing (#3) and retail everywhere (#1) will have huge consequences particularly for energy and freight-related transportation. Urbanization (#6) will have a profound impact on transportation systems and the environmental burdens placed on municipal wastewater systems and local energy grids. Even geopolitical instability (#19) has ramifications for supply chain security and reliance on fossil fuels.
We’ll be further exploring how using these megatrends to plan for a sustainable and resilient future can help your business. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this question: has your organization thought about any of these trends may impact your success? If not, why not? And better yet: How soon can you get started?
AGPOM recently partnered with BOMI International (the Independent Institute for Property and Facility Management Education) to bring AGPOM members 10% savings on a variety of sustainability courses, competency-enhancing certificate programs, and industry-recognized designations.
With several course delivery options and a selection of programs proven to increase job performance:
98% of graduates have become more efficient as a result of their education-and add value to a company
68% of graduates have experienced a decrease in monthly expenses-both individuals and employers benefit from a BOMI International education.*
About BOMI International
BOMI International, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1970, provides critical education and expertise to industry personnel with property, facility, building systems management, and sustainability responsibilities. More than 27,000 industry professionals hold one or more BOMI International designations, and over 90,000 property and facility management professionals have turned to BOMI International for their continuing education, professional development, and staff training needs.
BOMI International offers several courses that are approved by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for the LEED Credential Maintenance Program (CMP). Designed by industry leaders and subject matter experts, BOMI International’s course curriculum delivers new concepts that can be applied to your job right away. All courses may also be applied to one or more of BOMI International’s programs, making it easy for you to start with a course, earn a certificate, and achieve your designation.
BOMI International’s five certificate programs help you gain recognition from employers and coworkers for your expertise in key subject areas and begin your journey toward earning a BOMI International designation.
BOMI International designation programs are recognized as marks of distinction and excellence throughout the property and facility management industries. Earning a designation will give you a better understanding of how to increase the value of your properties and operate your sustainable buildings and facilities at peak efficiency.
Systems Maintenance Administrator (SMA®) Designation
Systems Maintenance Technician (SMT®) Designation
Course Delivery Options
As an AGPOM member, you have the option to select a study method that works best for your budget, schedule, and learning style. Choose from the following course delivery options:
Instructor-Led Online: 15-week interactive online course led by an expert instructor.
Self-Study: Convenient, self-paced course to be completed within six months.
Corporate Onsite Instruction: Tailored to meet the needs of an organization. **
Today is the first day of the 2014 ISSP Conference, and I’m here in Denver excited for the conference to get started! ISSP, or the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, annually holds a conference to allow sustainability professionals from all around the world to come together to discuss, network, and learn from one another.
The next two days will be filled a variety of speakers covering a wide range of topics relating to sustainability. As much as I would like to attend each and every breakout session, I just don’t think that is possible. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of some of the sessions I am looking forward to:
Joel Makower’s keynote address on the state of green business
The Responsible Revolution: The Business Case for Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability presented by Jeffrey Hollender
Building Resiliency in Supply Chain Communities: A New Hub for Thought Leadership, Investment and Action presented by Sarah Beaubien, Jennifer Gallegos, and Mary Beth Cote Jenssen
Energy Trends, Policy, and Embedding Initiatives: Sustainability Practitioners Going Beyond plenary session
Influences and Trends in Sustainability Reporting and Assurance presented by Chris Hagler
A View from the C Suite presented by Jane Okun Bomba
The Future of Sustainable Innovation presented by Tim Swales
Overall, I’m eager to see (and hear) how the sustainability industry has changed in the past year and what’s to come in the future!
If you are also attending the ISSP Conference, feel free to let me know – I would love to grab coffee with you!
By now, you may have noticed that there’s a veritable “alphabet soup” of reporting formats being delivered in the various software systems that you may be researching. So what types of reports does your business need to generate? Here’s a brief description of the major report “standards” – and just because the reporting body says they are a standard, doesn’t mean that they are the right one for your business. The listing is alphabetical – we aren’t playing favorites here…
The Carbon Disclosure Project (www.cdproject.net) currently (as of June 2011) claims a participating population of 3,000 organizations in 60 countries worldwide. Their goal is to collect and harmonize greenhouse gas emissions data from these groups to facilitate establishment of reduction targets, business decision-making, and investment direction. Walmart has also asked its suppliers to report using this standard.
This might be right for you if… You are looking for a widely accepted and recognized reporting format that will align with your customers’ or suppliers’ needs, or if you sell (or want to sell) your products at Walmart.
The Global Reporting Initiative (www.globalreporting.org) has produced a leading reporting framework for companies to disclose their sustainability performance; approximately 1,500 companies used this framework in 2009 and the number was expected to increase significantly in 2010.
This might be right for you if… You are looking for a widely accepted and recognized reporting format that will align with your customers’ or suppliers’ needs
ISO14000 and ISO26000
The International Organization for Standards is a globally recognized body that bridges both the public and private sectors, producing business standards for more than 160 countries, ISO14000 covers Environmental Management standards and ISO26000 covers Social Responsibility standards.
This might be right for you if… You currently implement or adhere to other ISO operational standards at your business such as ISO9000 for Quality Management.
UL Environment (a subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratory) has launched ULE880, a standard covering Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations; ULE’s goal is to help companies gain clarity and understanding of what makes a product sustainable (and therefore helps them figure out if their products are sustainable or not). This standard is similar to what UL has accomplished in consumer electronics safety and other similar industries.
This might be right for you if… You are a manufacturer and produce other products that currently undergo UL testing and certification, or would like your product to undergo ULE certification and testing.
The United Nations Global Compact (http://www.unglobalcompact.org/) is built around the UN’s ten universally accepted principles for human rights, the environment, labor and anti-corruption.
This might be right for you if… You are looking for a broad global standard covering overall Corporate Social Responsibility and/or have a global presence and are seeking a common standard for your worldwide operations.
Walmart Sustainability Index
In 2009, Walmart launched the Walmart Sustainability Index (http://walmartstores.com/Sustainability/9292.aspx), built around a brief survey targeted at their 100,000 global suppliers. After assessing their suppliers, Walmart intends to build a life cycle analysis database managed by a consortium of universities, suppliers, retailers, NGO’s etc. The final goal is the development of a simple label for consumers, to help the make more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions.
This might be right for you if… You sell (or want to sell) your products at Walmart
At the end of the day, you need to pick a package that is going to allow you to generate the report that your company needs. You don’t HAVE to report to any of these standards in the U.S. (if you are in Europe or elsewhere, please check with your local regulations), and you may not have to publish a report at all. However, since you identified a sound business reason to be reporting in the first place, let that input guide your choice of standards.
Now that you’ve read this article, tell us what you think! And be sure to check out the full white paper.
In 2011, the Weinreb Group released CSO Back Story, which highlighted Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO) at the time and provided an analysis on the position and the evolution behind the title. Three years later, the Weinreb Group published a follow-up to the initial report, now examining the shifts and growth of the position over the last few years.
During their analysis of the CSO position, the Weinreb Group found some interesting statistics. Over the past three years, the number of CSOs in the US are up from 29 to 36, and 42% of CSOs are women (the Weinreb Group analyzed only US companies that are publicly traded and the official title of the position is “Chief Sustainability Officer” for this report). Right now, seven companies are on their second CSO, compared to 1 in 2011, and the number of CSO appointments is growing each year.
But throughout their analysis, the Weinreb Group noticed five distinctive shifts in CSO roles and they are as follows:
CSOs in many businesses across the country are now using sustainability to drive business. While many companies are still implementing recycling programs and reducing energy consumption, they are now showing the benefits of sustainability on an organizational level and a stakeholder level. Many CSOs see this as not only good for the company on a corporate level, but they realize how much the customer benefits from sustainability as well.
Sustainability initiatives within the company are no longer enough for a CSO. Many CSOs are seeing an expansion of their role to innovation across the company by bringing corporate social responsibility (CSR) to procurement, design, and even marketing. As sustainable products become more important to the company and the customer, calls for innovation are needed at the CSO level. Often, many people from a variety of departments – EH&S, product stewardship, etc. – are being brought into sustainability teams to help drive innovation.
When appointing a CSO, it brings forward both internal and external signals to stakeholders. Externally, stakeholders see that you are a part of the C-Suite, indicating a position of importance since you are included at the core decision-making at the senior levels of the company. Internally, by appointing a CSO, it can indicate where the company stands on certain issues. When employees see that you are a CSO, it shows that the company is serious about CSR.
Becoming a CSO grants you access that spans from employees to some of the highest levels of leadership within the company. By having access to all the different departments, executives, and policy makers, it allows for more influence. CSOs are now using their access to help develop and execute corporate sustainability measures within the company while showing the importance of CSR to top level executives.
A Team Sport
Almost any CSO will be quick to tell you that a company’s CSR success was not because of them, but rather the entire team. With having to implement change across an entire company, CSOs feel as if they help bridge the gaps between various departments, but it really is a team effort to implement a new system.
You don't have to be a CSO in order to be a sustainability leader. Check out our white paper on how to become a sustainability champion at any level.
Sustainability is spreading rapidly across industries all over the world. Multiple quality example can be found in Sea Delight’s programs in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ecuador. We want to share the highlights and details of these programs with everyone in Strategic Sustainability’s community for the sake of education and perhaps a model to use in your own business.
Sea Delight partnered with FishWise in 2012 to support Sea Delight’s new sustainable seafood program of Fishery Improvement Projects (“FIPs”). Now two-thirds of Sea Delights inventory comes from fisheries involved with FIPs. Bravo!
FIPs aim to improve the environmental, economic, and social aspects of fishermen/fisherwomen, their workplaces, and their communities. One of Sea Delight’s specific goals is to help make fishing communities around the world more sustainable so that the supply of seafood is continuous and plentiful.
In 2013 FishWise carried out extensive research on five fisheries that Sea Delight wanted to make more sustainable. The fisheries, located in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ecuador, needed to become as sustainable as possible and perhaps achieve certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (“MSC”).
Taken from their 2013 annual report, here are the updates and highlights on Sea Delight’s 5 FIPs:
1) Indonesia - Tuna
The FIP started in 2010 and the goal is to be MSC certified by 2020
Working with government officials in 2013, Sea Delight was able to help train fishermen on the proper ways to use the log book, collect data, and the proper circle-hook technique
Additionally, Sea Delight has achieved successful implementation of FIPs with suppliers
With Sea Delight investing in FIPs for 2013, another highlights was that Sea Delight was able to register all the fishing vessels they use in Indonesia
Full membership was accomplished with Seafood Savers* (Ali can you insert a footnote and give a brief description of what Seafood Savers does- this will give us another group to market the article to), adding to the list of other organizations and stakeholders, including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), and Indonesian Tuna Commission
Fishermen are now trained on how to reduce catch of non-target species and the incorrect hooks were donated
Next steps include assisting the government in valuing the importance of enforcement, increase the supply chain transparency, and beginning stock assessments
2) Indonesia - Snapper & Grouper
The FIP started in 2010 and the MSC certification date is still to be determined
Sea Delight worked to eliminate harmful practices, which includes cyanide and dynamite fishing, trading endangered species
Became a full member of Seafood Savers, in addition to WWF, MMAF, Provincial Fishery Department
Pilot projects to improve data collection, initiate illegal fishing surveillance, and improve data collection were launched
Next steps in this FIP include introducing MMAF logbooks to fishermen, developing a management plan for snapper and grouper in Banggai
3) Vietnam - Tuna
The FIP started in 2012 and the goal is to be MSC certified by 2019
Stakeholders agreed to pursue a formalized FIP and a FIP Action Plan was finalized
FIP partnership agreement began
Transitioning to meet the Conservation Alliance’s definition of a comprehensive FIP
Next steps include providing input and feedback to the FIP coordination unit, working with the FIP coordination unit to support traceability measures, cooperating with any audits of the supply chain
4) Vietnam - Snapper & Grouper
The FIP started in 2011 and the MSC certification date is still to be determined
Fishery observer trips were conducted to collect length and weight data on catch composition
A Trace Register traceability system was implemented
Does not yet meet the Conservation Alliance’s definition of a basic FIP
Next steps include the continuation of data collection, compiling and analyzing the data, establish a formalized FIP
5) Ecuador - Mahi
The FIP started in 2009 and the MSC certification date is still to be determined
Developing a traceability plan to Sea Delight’s supply chain and assistance from the Ecuadorian government and WWF
Attended a stakeholder meeting to explore opportunities to support the FIP
Implemented a billback program to help develop a traceable supply chain
Next steps include continuing work with WWF to establish a supply chain traceability program, procuring and supplying circle hooks to the local fishermen, providing stakeholder input when and where possible
What we noticed
The Sea Delight 2013 Annual report shows a strong effort to improve sustainability in these countries. Moreover, their efforts are creating sustainability achievements and progress. The report on these 5 FIPs is filled with nuggets of information and provides excellent detail. However, the report isn’t the most user-friendly out there. The text is organized in an outline format with only a few pictures to break everything up. Don’t be discouraged, though, there is great information in the report!
The ocean is just one of many areas that sustainability can focus on, and it is an area that is also hard-hit by climate change. Here is a blog post about climate change is affecting everything around us.