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4 Root Causes of Unsustainability

The SSC Team July 31, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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There are 4 reasons why we are unsustainable as a society and in this Alexandre Magnin examines the root causes of unsustainability based on based on science, cycles of nature and social issues.

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/4-root-causes-of-unsustainability/

Why Standards Would Benefit the Green Finance Industry

The SSC Team July 26, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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It’s safe to say we all agree that green efforts in any industry should be applauded and the same is true when it comes to finance. But while a desire for green finance continues to grow worldwide, how can investors and issuers best identify and evaluate risk when the industry has no standards?

It’s clear that the industry is seeing major growth. In 2017 the issuance of labeled green bonds (PDF) jumped to nearly $160 billion and the self-labeled U.S. green bond market more than doubled, powered by a mix of municipalities, states and large corporations. But as these new and innovative financing options are being established, it seems increasingly important that some mandatory standards be created to guide those working in the industry.

Standards in the world of green finance would be beneficial for both investors and for issuers. For investors who are building their green portfolios and need assurances of best practice and reliable ways to monitor the quality of green instruments — regardless of which geographies or industries they invest in — a sense of best practices and who is meeting them would clearly help with decision making. When it comes to issuers, common standards would clarify options in terms of issuance while also ensuring that deals are being appropriately structured and reaching the right investors for each project.

Standardization also serves to enable innovation because it establishes a level playing field. While ING was first to issue a sustainability rating-linked loan, they have since observed that other banks have embraced different set-ups. Five years ago, Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) and the International Capital Markets Association (ICMA) both set out to establish a voluntary set of guiding principles for participants.

The framework from both organizations was focused on the process that needed to be followed when issuing green bonds: how issuers should describe the allocation of proceeds to investors; how a second opinion should be obtained; and how they should set about reporting in a transparent way.

And as a way to help kick-start the market, these served as helpful principles that could reassure investors and facilitate the uptake of green bonds, without being overly prescriptive about the use of the finance.

But the market has greatly expanded since 2013 and questions related to the use of green bond proceeds — their so-called "content" — have inevitably arisen: Which projects will qualify in specific sectors? Where should the boundaries be set? Where should classifications lean towards green or social bonds?

While CBI and ICMA with the input of other banks and stakeholders have continuously refined their earlier standards, the fact that the principles remain voluntary means that issuers do not need to follow them. On the flip side, if the standards around the industry become too settled, it will be difficult for the market to support the wide range of investor who would like to participate.

Who are these investors? Well the green finance industry has groups coming from varying green backgrounds, including investors with dedicated mandates for green bonds, investors with diversified portfolios that include pockets of green, and investors who find green bonds attractive but don’t have a dedicated mandate in place.

Because of their varying levels of commitment to being green, the investors might have different standards. Those with a dedicated green mandate are going to put potential issuers under much higher scrutiny than others.

And this is where there is a fine line to maintain between what investors want and expect, and what issuers want and need. It’s simply a fact that different industries are moving at different speeds when it comes to sustainability and different industries will face distinct challenges along the way. Within the investor community, there are a range of perceptions about standards and the various investment opportunities available.

Chief executive of the Loan Market Association, Clare Dawson, summed up the need for green finance standards perfectly, "With any new market, establishing a general framework for the product such as the Green Loan Principles (GLPs), which we recently launched, is beneficial as it helps create a common understanding of what people are looking at. We will be seeking to develop the GLP further to accommodate a wider range of loan structures, including revolving credit facilities, to maximize the number of borrowers able to take out green loans."

While issuers and investors have managed admirably with a voluntary patchwork of existing guidelines this far, a fresh set of commonly adopted standards will be the key to allowing green markets to expand. If these standards put the emphasis on process over content, it should create better conditions for green markets to thrive in future. And that’s great news for everyone.

TED Talk: To Eliminate Waste, We Need to Rediscover Thrift

The SSC Team July 19, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

Andrew Dent is hitting all the right notes in this talk about reducing our waste creation. Dent believes there should be no such thing as throwing things away because no matter what it is — used take out containers, broken toys or an old pair of undies — it inevitably ends up in a landfill if we dump it. It’s time to get smarter about the way we make, and remake, products. Dent’s focus is centered on the idea of thrifting, basically avoiding the purchase of anything new. His talk also explores advances in material science, like electronics made of nanocellulose and enzymes, which can help make plastic infinitely recyclable.

Facility Managers: Putting Energy & Sustainability Practices to Work

The SSC Team July 17, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In this white paper from GreenBiz, you can learn more about how Facility Managers are prioritizing energy, water, and waste efficiency initiatives in response to current market conditions.

Key sustainability findings from surveyed facilities professionals and market insights on topics including: How Facility Professionals are Utilizing Energy Data to Drive Low/No Cost Efficiency Initiatives; The Role of Right-Sizing and Right-Streaming in Driving Toward Waste Reduction Goals; Go-to Strategies for Water Conservation and more.

 https://www.greenbiz.com/whitepaper/facility-managers-putting-energy-sustainability-practices-work

Taking the Trash to a Whole New Level

The SSC Team June 28, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While we have been recycling certain products for a long time, there have been some pretty amazing innovatinos when it comes to building products on the market. These new materials are taking the idea of a sustainable approach to building to a whole new level. Take for example the creation of luxury building materials from waste. One truly great feature of this upcycling trend is that the new materials are being developed by designers who will use them, which means that they are actually attractive as well as useful.

 

These new materials are being used as substitutes for conventional woods, plastics and stone, and often come in sheet or tile form that are ready to be cut, shaped and manipulated by architects and designers.

 

Really, a Danish company at the forefront of this movement is focused on taking used textiles and transforming them into a sheet material similar to plywood.

 

In fact, companies around the world are coming up with some pretty clever new building materials turning items as basic as bottles and as strange as dirty diapers and sanitary products into materials that can be used for construction.

 

When it comes to embracing sustainable living, those are thinking well outside the box and turning products — like the notoriously hard to recycle plastic grocery bags — into building materials are making incredible strides.  In Building with Waste, which compiles these unique new materials, the authors speculate that, in future, we could end up re-using pretty much everything. This would be pretty darn helpful since we are on track to double municipal waste output by 2025. That’s a pretty terrifying thought.

 

And it isn’t just building materials, there are products being made with carbon dioxide. Collecting CO2 from the world’s smokestacks is hard, but once it has been collected what can be done with the carbon? To address this problem, people have invented technologies that convert captured CO2 into new products — crazy in a great way, right?

 

Solutions so far have included a lot of creative ideas such as converting carbon dioxide into carbon fibers which can be used as lighter-weight alternative to metal to make products like wind turbine blades, race cars, airplanes and bicycles. A company in Calgary is combining CO2 with waste products, such as fly ash left over from burning coal or petroleum coke, to create nanoparticles that can be used as additives for concrete, plastic and coatings to enhance performance and increase efficiency.

 

These innovations and more prove that many in this world are working toward a more sustainable future. We must continue to find creative solutions for reducing waste in order to take care of our most precious resource — the earth.

Mining Companies Can Care

The SSC Team June 5, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When it comes to the mining industry, we know that there is a lot at stake for the environment. However, we don’t often think about mining companies as business that care about sustainability.

While fossil fuels and mining companies tend to be dismissed as unable to create sustainable strategies, but many companies in the mining industry are trying to mitigate their impact.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting we have worked with mining companies, like Teck Resources Limited and a global resource leader in Scandinavia.  

 

Through our work with natural resource companies, we helped to identify emerging sustainability trends and best practices in the mining industry. The result of which has been that Teck has garnered national and international attention for its sustainability performance. In fact, in 2017 they were recognized among the best of their peers for social and environmental responsibility.

 

Mining companies can care.

 

And in an industry this big, with heavy materials circling the globe and creating significant environmental impacts, it’s vital that those in the sustainability field continue to push for more companies to embrace changes like Teck.

 

While the traditional corporate responsibility agenda has required that mining companies work with greater transparency and coordinate with local communities during the life of their projects, the sustainability agenda for mining is getting broader. For example, the industry itself has so much to lose if they do not try to understand and manage global trends, including the intense pressure their business is putting on the world’s very limited natural resources.

 

With alternative energy solutions taking off, we might think there is less need for mining, but as the population continues to increase (we are closing in on 9 or 10 billion) — and more and more of us have disposable income, our demands on these resources just keep growing. Unfortunately at the same time the demand is rising, the richness of ores (the “ore grade”) has been in long-run decline for most elements. Copper ore grade is down from 4% a century ago to well under 1% now (and falling). Copper mining isn’t just affected by natural resource pressures; it embodies natural resource constraints.

 

With all this information available, we must continue to monitor mining companies and encouraging them to engage in more mindful practices that can lessen their negative impact on the world around us all. 

TEDTalk 3 Creative Ways to Fix Fashion’s Waste Problem

The SSC Team April 26, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

We may all have too many clothes in our closet that we keep meaning to sort through and donate, but did you ever think about the clothes that never make it to anyone’s closet? If you thought that last season's unpurchased coats, pants and tops ended up being put to use, you’re wrong. Sadly, most of it (nearly 13 million tons each year in the United States alone) ends up in landfills. Clearly the world of fashion has a massive waste problem, and Amit Kalra wants to fix it. Here are some creative ways that he believes the industry can evolve to be more conscientious about the environment —and gain a competitive advantage at the same time.

 

Guests, Properties Need to Coordinate in Minimizing Food Waste

The SSC Team April 24, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Perhaps when you travel you are the type to throw everything for weeks in a single backpack and rough it, but it seems like most of us are falling into a dangerous mindset where going on vacation (or even attending an event) changes the rules when it comes to sustainable practices.

 

You might give in and do everything the easiest way possible because, well, you’re on vacation! What’s the big deal about buying a bottle of water everywhere you go? Or loading up your plate a little more than necessary in the morning at the hotel’s breakfast buffet only to have to throw a third of the food away? But there is so much we should be doing when traveling or attending events in order to minimize our detrimental impact on the environment — particularly as sustainability consultants!

 

Here are some areas where you can improve your personal level of waste while traveling or organizing events while at the same time encouraging your clients to make changes. First you may need to help your clients better understand the benefits that come from implementing a sustainable development strategy which incorporates people, planet and profit for long term success. Sam Trainor-Buckingham outlines that there are many practical benefits for the hospitality industry in this area.  

 

In so many travel experiences people encounter a buffet. This overstocked and overwhelming area of a hotel or cruise is, in actuality, greatly contributing to a massive food waste problem.

 

The FAO reports up to one third of food is spoiled or discarded before consumption, a terrible thing when 800 million people around the globe are considered chronically hungry.

 

We are particularly guilty of this wasteful behavior in the United States where per capita food waste has increased by ~50% since 1974, with each individual generating upwards of 220 pounds of food waste per year.

 

A recent study found that only slightly more than half the food put out in hotel buffets is actually consumed so not only is food going to waste, but hotels are wasting money by overstocking. With this info in mind, some hotels are looking to improve their offerings in order to minimize waste such as offering smaller plates, having stations with nutrition information and more.

 

But it isn’t just a hotel issue. We are a culture where food seems to be everywhere and we need to be more mindful of how we can reduce this terrible problem. Just a few weeks ago Ashley Weisman published A Step-by-Step Guide to Zero Waste Events on Greenbiz.com. Weisman issues a challenge — to make zero-waste events the new norm.

 

In order to do so you must collaborate with your venue and your vendors. With the right information, you can work to divert waste to compost and recycling. You just need to make sure you ask the correct questions, such as: What type of waste infrastructure does the venue have in place? How is food waste normally disposed of ? Where at the venue can you intercept waste between the event and the landfill? Are there compost and recycling bins in the kitchen for meal prep?

 

For zero-waste events you also need to make sure that the back of house staff is trained, which should take no more than 10-15 minutes, including time for questions. This will allow you to list what items are compostable and recyclable, explain why it matters and how their efforts will make a difference and add that responsible waste management is becoming the new normal. Just think, your event will not only have an immediate impact, but it could make an impression on vendors, the venue, the attendees and the staff who may work toward adopting similar practices for future events.

 

The bottom line is that this waste is not only hurting the environment, but it is also hurting businesses bottom lines. It’s time to work with your clients to help them improve their food offerings, the way they handle waste, and the items they chose from the start. In time, they are bound to be pleased with a reduced footprint and a reduced budget. 

What is Augmented Reality and Why is it Important to Integrate it into Sustainability Advocacy and Strategy?

The SSC Team December 26, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While the technology for augmented reality is still in its infancy, the capabilities are proving that AR could be key to helping bridge the gap between data and understanding data.

While reality is three-dimensional, the incredible amount of data we now have available to us to help inform our decisions and actions remains trapped on two-dimensional pages and screens. This gulf between the real and digital worlds limits the ability of many to fully take advantage of the incredible depth of information provided by billions of smart, connected products (SCPs) worldwide.

In “Why Every Organization Needs an Augmented Reality Strategy” Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann examine what AR really is along with it’s evolving technology, how companies should deploy AR, and the critical choices that they will face when it comes to integrating AR into strategy and operations.

So what is augmented reality? It is a set of technologies that superimposes digital data and images on the physical world in a way that can release untapped and uniquely human capabilities. More broadly, AR enables a new information-delivery system, that could profoundly impact the way data is structured, managed, and delivered online. While the internet has dramatically impacted the way that information is collected, transmitted, and accessed, its model for data storage and delivery—pages on flat screens—does have limits: It requires people to mentally translate 2-D information for use in a 3-D world.

This is not always an easy task — think about that Ikea direction sheet you had to work with the last time you put together a dresser and you understand the challenges.  But by superimposing digital information directly on real objects or environments, AR can provide people with the opportunity to process the physical and digital simultaneously, eliminating the need to mentally bridge the two, improving the ability to rapidly and accurately absorb information, make decisions, and execute required tasks quickly and efficiently.

AR is poised to enter the mainstream with one estimate putting spending on AR technology at $60 billion in 2020. AR will affect companies in every industry and many other types of organizations, from universities to social enterprises. In the coming months and years, it will transform how we learn, make decisions, and interact with the physical world. It will also impact how enterprises can assist their customers, train employees, design and create products, and manage their value chains, and, ultimately, how they compete. While challenges in deploying AR remain, pioneering organizations including Amazon, Facebook, General Electric, Mayo Clinic, and the U.S. Navy, are already implementing AR and seeing a major impact on quality and productivity.

So you get the basic concept, but might still be uncertain as to why AR will be necessary? Take this example from The Guardian about climate change and how people have a very difficult time making long-term decisions (or even accepting it’s reality) because they do not see it happening right in front of them and therefore don’t see a reason to worry. Scientist and artists have already come up with some super creative ways of using augmented reality to help people see and feel the future if we don't do something today. Including the app After Ice which helps may help those who don’t understand the dangers of climate change experience the impact from wherever they are standing making it “real” for them in a way that reading or diagrams hasn’t been able to do.

Other interesting uses of AR include White Noise, an installation that pits realtime data on consumption against conservation — consumption almost always wins. Or artist and designer Catherine Sarah Young collaboration with scientists from Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland, last year to develop the exhibition The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures which speculated about the future of our environment through a the lens of high fashion. The interactive projects allowed visitors to discuss their ideas about what makes a sustainable planet and a desirable future.

While AR won’t be a part of every business tomorrow now is a good time to get ahead of the game and start to think about how this incredible technology could help your business better tell its story of serve it’s customers or employees. It may seem like the future, but it is going to be a part of our every day life before long. 

4 Tips for Getting Closer to Zero Waste

The SSC Team February 9, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

Zero waste is a lofty goal, but it generally pays off because most of the time less is actually more in sustainability planning. Here are a few helpful hints about waste and recycling to push your waste strategy to zero.

1. Choose “single stream.” By allowing employees to sort recyclable material into a single receptacle, you can expect to see an increase in recycling of up to 50%. Make it easy for employees, and they’re more likely to participate!

2. When crafting a zero-landfill strategy, don’t just focus on recycling. Be sure to include options like: closed loop solutions (reuse), composting, and supply chain management.  Remaining materials that can’t be recycled or reused can be converted to energy through conversion technologies: waste to energy, plasma gasification, and anaerobic digestion.

3. Think about waste conveyance design during new construction. Make sure you consider the following:

  • Internal areas for collection, storage, and separation of materials
  • External space for multiple container sizes and service areas
  • Design for ease of use

4. Cover all of the bases when reviewing recycling, sorting, composting or other waste stream management programs

  • Signage
  • Bin size
  • Bin type
  • Tenant education, key component to gain buy-in maybe have a kick-off meeting and continuous reminders with metrics and goals
  • Space constraints
  • Service area

If your organization wants to get a better handle on its waste, a great first step is conducting a waste audit. We’ve developed a toolkit (webinar, guidance, and templates) all around How to Conduct a Waste Audit. If you find that your team doesn’t have the gumption to sort through all that trash, contact us to arrange a waste audit done by sustainability professionals!