The top six read articles 2016

2016 has been an exciting and challenging year for all of us. If there was one adjective that could describe it, I’d have voted for “uncertain”.

 

The world has lived in stormy times. We’ve seen the Western political establishments being shaken up with the rise of populism. Worldwide inequality levels were steadily increasing and many blame globalisation as its cause.

 

Despite the political turbulence business remained true to its promise and the world has seen ratification of the Paris Agreement.

 

Ranging from blockchain and modern slavery to food security and responsible tax, we’ve compiled a list of our top six read articles in 2016. We hope it will help our corporate sustainability community to navigate through uncertainty while preparing for 2017.

 

GLOBAL GOALS – TELL EVERYONE: CUSTOMERS, SUPPLIERS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS AND FAMILY!

“The Global Goals represent probably the biggest set of BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that the world has seen before”, argues Joe Franses of Coca-Cola European Partners. He shares his key take aways on how to break this down and run a successful Global Goals' workshop.

 

COULD THE BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTIONISE SUSTAINABILITY?

The Internet is missing one thing and the blockchain has it - trust. Jessi Baker, co-founder of Provenance, describes how a new technology called a blockchain might change how we trust companies,  information, and how it empower us as smarter citizens.

 

CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP US TO FEED THE WORLD?

In the next 50 years as diets become richer, experts estimate that to feed a population of 9bn people, more food should be produced than has been during the past 10,000 years in total. Vincent Doumeizel of Lloyd's Register explores how to work together to produce safe and sustainable food.

 

ARE WE ENTERING THE RESPONSIBLE TAX ERA?

Corporate tax avoidance has been a primary ethical concern for the British public since 2013, and businesses must increase transparency to regain public trust. Is it an ethics issue or a result of legal loopholes? Michael Solomon of Responsible 100 asks how far are we from a responsible tax society?

 

WHAT EU REFERENDUM COULD MEAN TO THE UK ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY?  

What would Brexit mean for the UK's environmental policy? In this exclusive blog, David Baldock, executive director at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, argues that the EU has made progress on environmental issues, and outlines the two main scenarios if the UK should vote to leave the EU. 

 

MODERN SLAVERY AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BUSINESS

Forced labour and child exploitation have been guilty secrets lurking in international supply chains for centuries. With the voice of business carrying greater weight than that of conscience, business has a key role to play in addressing modern slavery, says Aidan McQuade of AntiSlavery International.

 

Photograph: Flickr/ victoriacarlson.

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

App for good: Too Good To Go

Breaking big problems into bite size portions seems to be a good strategy in addressing the societal and environmental challenges of today.

 

If each one of us committed to a little action, it would have been a viable solution to many big threats society is facing today. It could be applied to recycling, using less water, switching off the lights, not buying unethical products and so on. It makes perfect sense. Economy at scale at its best just like Adam Smith explained.

 

Now, for some reasons it doesn’t happen. Behaviour change is the hardest bit to break.

 

As Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP pointed out at the recent Crowd Forum discussion: “there is a difference between THE economy and MY economy”. If something doesn’t improve MY economy, sadly it wouldn’t matter that much. Whilst we all seem to care about the climate change and other environmental threats, on a daily basis consumers remain largely unengaged in making sustainable choices if these choices don’t benefit THEIR economy directly.

 

Having clear monetary benefits that affect MY economy married with empowering consumers to solve food waste problems could probably explain the success of Too Good To Go app (TGTG).

 

What does it do?

 

Too Good To Go sees itself as a social enterprise that works hard to reduce food waste in urban areas. The app offers users an opportunity to order meals from the local restaurants and cafes and collect them an hour before closing time. The price for a meal varies between £2 to £3.80.

 

It benefits the consumers as it offers an opportunity to get a meal at a much cheaper rate, whilst it helps the restaurants to reduce their food waste and get paid for it.

 

Is there a problem?

 

Yes, there is.

 

Two polar problems define our global food system - hunger and food waste. More than nine billion people will need to be fed by 2050 in a climate that we know a little about.

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated that 25 percent of the global food calories and almost 50 percent of total food weight are lost or wasted before they can be consumed. Most of such waste in the developed nations occurs in restaurants, households and supermarkets.

 

In addition, food loss contributes to 6 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Tackling food waste is deemed to be one of the most effective ways to balance out the broken food system in rich countries.

 

Why TGTG is an app for good?

 

Within the first six months of TGTG operation – according to the start-up estimations – they prevented “approximately over 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and provided thousands of meals that would have otherwise been discarded to those in need”.

 

As a cherry on the top, you’d enjoy discovering that it also uses environmentally friendly sugarcane take away boxes. There is also an opportunity to donate a meal by using food redistribution scheme in the app, which suggests “donations of £1 to be put towards providing a hot meal to those who need it most”.

 

My two colleagues are enjoying the TGTG meals a lot. What I also noticed is that at least in London, they work primarily with small, non-chain cafes and restaurants. Are they contributing to local food entrepreneurship and empowering SMEs (Small and Medium size Enterprises) by taking away the food waste burden from the owners? It seems so.   

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd. 

 

Photograph: Flickr/ USDA.

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

Can one asset manager change the way we invest?

“I am not an environmentalist; I don’t really understand a lot of this stuff. I just have a passionate love for nature”. This is how Omar Selim, CEO of ESG quant fund manager Arabesque Partners, humbly describes himself as he shares his plans to disrupt the asset management industry with The Crowd Forum. “I have a bit of understanding of finance”, says a man who managed a multi-billion-dollar revenue budget and over a thousand staff, “but zero passion for it. So I try to combine the two to create sustainable finance”. It’s an intriguing starting point.

 

The story of Arabesque  

 

The Arabesque story began at Barclays in late 2008 when Barclays had a 5-year of non-compete agreement with BlackRock following a sale of its asset management division. Selim and his team used this time to “reinvent asset management”, asking what would finance would look like in 10-20 years’ time. A time frame that is generally not associated with the finance community.  

 

His language is also different. “Arabesque stands for the art based on geometry”, explains Selim. “In fact, it represents the beauty of mathematics. You try to understand the beauty of patterns, the information of patterns and to integrate that into the investment process.” He believes the connection between information needs to be introduced into contemporary asset management.

 

“Arabesque is built on two legs – one is sustainability research” (they process over a hundred billion of data points) and the second is “quantative models that extract the information out of the data through the pattern recognition”, using machine learning.

 

Like Tesla and a new generation of in-vogue “mission-driven” companies, Arabesque has a clear societal purpose. It seeks to mainstream sustainable investment, with a particular focus on retail investors, making it easy for you and I to invest as little as a £100 in high sustainability companies. Its key premise is that millennial investors care more about sustainability issues, but have limited access to the market.

 

The founder of Arabesque is convinced that people are increasingly interested not just in returns and volatility, but also how the return has been generated. If it comes at the expense of child labour, corruption or pollution, they would rather seek a return elsewhere. He even has a name for these enlightened minds – “Generation S”, with the “S” being sustainability. He adds “it’s not a function of your age, it’s a function of your mindset”.

 

“If you care about sustainability, you care about money. And you want your money to be invested in the right way”, Selim concludes. Arabesque’s model speaks to Generation S by offering a quant fund that uses big data and artificial intelligence to identify high sustainability companies. And with a strong track record, they’re meeting Generation S’ financial and sustainability desires.

 

The two forces disrupting finance

 

Number one: Equity is the new fixed income.

 

Selim believes that today’s zero interest rate environment is the new normal. 60% of world’s money is currently invested in fixed income, primarily gilts, bonds and treasuries, and this new normal means they will need to look for returns elsewhere.  

 

“Money will have to flow to the other asset classes and equity is the only class that has the necessary liquidity, transparency and regulation. Real estate is regional, commodities are function of geopolitics, and foreign exchange belongs to the central bank.”

 

With that comes a growing interest in how the returns are made. Fixed income investors have limited interest beyond the coupon being paid. With equities, the performance of the investee company determines the investors’ success. “In fixed income, I transfer the risk from one party to another. In equity, I share the risk with the company, and with that comes a change in my attitude”, argues Selim.

 

Number two: Sustainability research is to finance what the X-ray is to medicine.

 

Arabesque commissioned Oxford University to undertake the most in-depth review of studies of the link between Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) performance and financial performance. From over 200 academic papers, the review found an 80% positive correlation between the company’s ESG position and its stock price performance.

 

Sustainability research is a “different, a deeper way looking into a company” Selim says. And with great progress being made in our ability to read from large volumes of data quickly, the industry is now able to use sustainability as a metric for assessing a company’s ability to make a good return.

 

How are Arabesque’s funds outperforming the MSCI by 7%?

 

Selim enjoys using simple metaphors. He compares Arabesque’s investment approach to preparing a good meal: “if you want to get a good meal you need two things – good ingredients and a recipe. To us, ESG is just about selecting the right ingredients, because over time it’s just a good meal”.

 

Arabesque uses an ESG matrix that analyses 200 parameters to understand what is material to a company.  If you’re looking at a mining company, data on energy consumption, health and safety, waste and water management are material. For a bank or a software company, issues like compliance, anti-corruption, legal and governance will be more relevant.

 

The Arabesque algorithm also ranks companies in the same jurisdiction. By assessing the material issues, Arabesque is able to cut out the bottom 25% to get “the best in class approach”.

 

Arabesque has 7,000 stocks in its database, organised by sectors and countries. The investment process starts with the analysis of the top 1,000 stocks, which are then distributed across 5 core strategies to balance the portfolio. At that point, the machine learning begins, with the algorithm choosing the combination of the 100 top picks.

 

Whilst the process sounds magical, Selim admits that it’s not perfect yet. “We are just working with the first 10% of information quality”, and the opportunities will increase as information levels improve. Importantly, Arabesque ranks the top 5% of global equity funds with 7% of outperformance of MSCI in 2 years. 

 

As Selim proudly puts at the end: “we are the firm that implements your values into the finance”. And, this probably best sums up the spirit of this unique asset manager who so elegantly moulds finance, sustainability and Artificial Intelligence into the same equation.  

 

Will it challenge the short-term world of finance in the same way that Tesla is revolutionising the car industry? There will be many who hope so.

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd. 

 

Photograph: Arabesque Partners.

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

App for good: Making a water impact

In an interview with Ben Summers, Sustainability Officer at Innocent Drinks, we explored how Irri-fresca creates a long lasting impact and more efficient water use in a water stressed area of South-West Spain. We also delved into the discussion of the role of technology in addressing the world’s biggest challenges.

 

Why is this app for good?

 

Irri-fresa is looking to see a healthy agricultural sector in Spain alongside a thriving ecological and environmental ecosystem through increased water efficiency. It is an educational programme that helps farmers to manage irrigation system for strawberries efficiently by ensuring no unnecessary water is being used. The key tool for that is the use of an app, which informs farmers about amount and frequency of irrigation.

 

How does the app work?

 

The app is online and free to use (both on a computer and a smartphone). The farmer will input a lot of information about their own farm, such as; the size of the farm, details of their irrigation system, soil type, the nearest weather station – to build up a picture for the software.

 

Having captured all the data, the software will build an irrigation schedule for the farm. It then could be changed on a weekly basis throughout the season, depending on the weather and the climate events. There is a recommended schedule, which fully follows the guidance of the software, as well as an option to customise.

 

What is the background to the project? What drove its development? 

 

The South-West of Seville is an important socio-economic region as it produces over 70% of strawberries in Spain, and it’s in the same water catchment area for Doñana national park. The park is a wetland and a habitat to a number of species that are unique to the area, such as endangered Iberian lynx, and 6 million of migratory birds, which makes it a UNESCO World Heritage site. There were concerns that agriculture in the region was depriving the wetland of water.

 

The first phase of the project was to understand if water use could be more efficient. The research showed that in some cases moisture absorbed into the soil below the strawberry roots, which meant the water wasn’t being used by the plant. Partnership with the University of Córdoba found that farmers could reduce their water use between 10% to 40% and still have the same yield with no negative effects on the quality of strawberries.

 

Why did you choose the tech route to address this water tension?

 

Technology provides the ability to scale. As more and more people use the app there is an ability to capture and refine information and make it even more accurate. It is linked to the local weather station, which helps to make it more relevant and specific. But hopefully in time with feedback we can make the app more interactive, so the users can share their experiences and lessons learnt. In the future versions it could be self-reported. For example, the weather parameters could be entered by the farmers in the region, which will make it even more accurate.

 

What was your biggest implementation challenge and how did you solve it?

 

It would always be a journey when you are encouraging behaviour change. Engaging farmers to use less water takes time. When it’s your livelihood crop, the risks are high.

 

To succeed, it was important to have a solid evidence of data. Secondly, it was key to make that transition in behaviour change as easy as possible. At the beginning of the year you input data, and from there the software takes it over as it produces a schedule to follow. Being on the ground, and having a quality face to face time with farmers was also very important.

 

How scalable is this program?

 

Very scalable. The 7-year history proved that. What’s exciting for the 2016-17 strawberry season is that we opened up the project to more partners via the Sustainability Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI). Through that we have other buyers, such as; Ahold Delhaize, BerryWorld, Coop Switzerland, Group Danone, Edeka, The Coca-Cola Company, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Sainsbury’s, SVZ, Tesco and Unilever.  Innocent buys only 1% of strawberries grown in that region, with more companies participating in the program we now have direct access to farmers representing over 20% of the region’s strawberry production. 

 

In your opinion, what’s the role of tech in addressing the world’s biggest challenges?

 

The technology will be a powerful tool as it facilitates access to the information. The rate and the speed of its change is only going to help. If historically sharing lessons learnt and getting feedback might have taken years, now this process is being spread out through tech, which leads to an increased efficiency and improved pace.

 

Global access to tech is increasing as well, which is also going to open up more regions and opportunities to leverage tech for the communal good.

 

The app we spoke about is about helping, educating and doing it in a simple way to our farmers around water use. What would make it work even better, will be knowing the information on the ground from the farmers, such as; current rainfall and temperatures, any particular diseases or pest that is affecting the crop at a given time. If other members of our supply chain can have access to this information, then together we will be able to respond and adapt much better and faster to any supply chain threats.

 

Are there any tech risks we need to be aware of?

 

The scalability is a great strength, but you need to be mindful of not making anything arbitrary. Just because you can reach more people this won’t be one size fits all approach.

 

Tech shouldn’t substitute personal interaction.   

 

Spending time on the ground, understanding the local community concerns and challenges is important. The relationships side will always go hand in hand with any technological advances. Adopting the tech and adopting the use of this new way of sourcing information takes time and such message is best conveyed by a strong relationship that is built on personal interaction. Whatever your business is it’s really important to engage people to come on a journey with you.

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd. 

 

Photograph: Flickr/ FoodBev Photos. 

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

The Curve has been shortlisted for the Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge 2016

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM, October 13, 2016 - The Curve has been shortlisted for the Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge (EPIC) among 21 finalists. The shortlist, from a total of 80 entrants, was announced at the International Energy Agency’s Innovation in Energy Efficiency conference in Paris on 13 October.

Commenting on the announcement, Jim Woods, CEO of The Crowd, a sustainability incubator behind The Curve, said: “We’re believers in moonshot thinking, creating very ambitious goals that generate momentum. Our mission is to accelerate the complete removal of carbon emissions from the energy consumed by business with the help of the platform. We’re glad to see that others share our passion and believe that The Curve could be an enabler of that.” 

The Curve competed against 80 entrants from global technology companies and innovators from all over the world, which entered their solutions and recommendation policies in the following categories; homes, buildings, mobility, systems and finance. 

The EPIC winners will be selected by the jury committee and will be announced at the Low Emissions Solutions Conference at the UN Climate Summit - COP22 in Marrakech on 13-16 November 2016. The committee consists of the leading minds in the energy efficiency and sustainability space, including the likes of;

 

  • Iain Campbell, MD Rocky Mountain Institute’s Building Programme 
  • Juan Carlos Rubio Castilla, CEO Planetary Skin Institute 
  • Nicholas Eisenberger, MD, SuperCollider 
  • Dan Hamza Goodacre, Director, ClimateWorks 
  • Anirban Ghosh, VP Group Sustainability, Mahindra 
  • Brian Motherway, Head of Energy Efficiency, IEA 
  • Joel Makower, Founder Greenbiz.com 


For more information about The Curve, visit http://thecurve.me/ or get in touch with Elina Yumasheva at elina@thecrowd.me or on +442071609864. 


About EPIC

EPIC – the Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge – is a global initiative devised and delivered by Energy Unlocked with funding from ClimateWorks. Entries were invited from global technology companies and innovators between June and September 2016. A jury of clean energy pioneers and experts including – ClimateWorks Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute, International Energy Agency, World Green Buildings Council, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the B Team – announced 21 regional finalists on 13-14 October at the IEA’s Innovation in Energy Efficiency event. For more information, visit http://epic.energyunlocked.org/ 

About The Curve

The Curve is the TripAdvisor for energy management. It's a peer-to-peer platform that allows companies to share their energy project experience, so that everyone can learn from each other. By focusing on business case data, organisations can find the best returns and star ratings, avoid projects that don't work, draw up business cases and identify the leading suppliers. It's all about advancing energy productivity, drawing inspiration from the market transformation achieved by platforms such as Airbnb, Waze and TripAdvisor. For more information, visit http://thecurve.me/

 

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

Seven things you can do to drive the shareholder revolution

Whilst there are a lot of discussions emerging around the changes we’re seeing in the investment community, both through the growth of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) teams and the use of artificial intelligence and big data, we are convinced that corporate sustainability experts have an important role to play in championing investments’ transparency.

 

In a conversation between some of the leading experts in sustainable finance in the UK – Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environmental Agency, Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officers at Aviva, Catherine Howarth, CEO, ShareAction, we drew up 7 actions that internal teams should be considering, which we think are brilliant.

 

1. Ask if your company's pension fund or pension provider has a sustainability performance that aligns with your company's sustainability credentials. If not, find out who can put that right.

 

2. As a sustainability professional, consider putting yourself forward to be a trustee of your company's pension fund or to join a pensions committee for your firm. The pensions sector needs your expertise.

 

3.  Find out if there is an employee-led team in your workplace or firm focusing on what happens to your pension savings? If not, consider starting one. The results can be impressive.

 

4. If you work for a public company, ask how well equipped your company's investor relations team is to present the company's sustainability credentials to financial analysts, brokers and investment managers. 

 

5. If your company is listed, ask your Investor Relations team if you can meet your House Broker (for example, the investment bank whose job is to sell your corporate story to the market), and explain how your team adds value to the company in the long term. Then work with them to refine the story, and then make sure your CEO and FD can also tell the full sustainability story. With passion.

 

6. Attend your Annual General Meeting (AGM) and listen carefully to the questions asked by shareholders to see where you can help. These are key meetings for the board and senior executive.

 

7. Find out who your top twenty shareholders are. Establish who covers Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) issues within those institutions, and suggest your investor relations team offer them 1:1 sustainability meetings. You will likely get only a few meetings, but each one of them will contain useful information that you can use to tell your team’s story internally.

 

How many of these are you doing at the moment?

 

None?

 

Then you have your check-list ready.

 

If you need further advice for any of the above, the panel members would be pleased to help or advise, especially Catherine Howarth of ShareAction (catherine.howarth@shareaction.org).

 

With thanks to Steve Waygood, Catherine Howarth and Emma Howard Boyd. 

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

Benet Northcote: 'We can’t eradicate slavery without appreciation of human rights'

The John Lewis Partnership’s Director for Corporate Responsibility, Benet Northcote discusses the human rights agenda and what the UK Modern Slavery Act means for business.

 

What the Modern Slavery Act means for the John Lewis Partnership – is it a risk or an opportunity for business?

It’s about human rights, it’s non-negotiable. This is simply about the way we should be behaving as actors in civil society. It shouldn’t be classified as a risk or an opportunity.

 

Do you think the Modern Slavery Act somehow changed John Lewis Partnership’s approach in this space?

We’ve always taken these issues seriously. I think there is no question however, that the Act has sharpened focus on the issue of modern slavery and human rights. It raised awareness of the issue and challenged all large businesses to take action.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenges in implementing the Act and what are the challenges of the broader slavery work?

The way the Act is framed is very simple – complying with the basic elements of the Act isn’t that challenging. What’s more challenging is complying with the spirit of the Act. And that does require a broader understanding of the underlying causes and risks around modern slavery. That’s why we’ve been very clear to link our modern slavery response to our business strategy on human rights. If society is to successfully eradicate slavery, one can’t pretend that targeting that as a single issue is going to remove the systemic causes.

 

Incorporating modern slavery – which is one of the most severe breaches of human rights – as part of a broader strategy on respecting people’s human rights throughout global supply chains will unlock and address instances of labour abuses.

 

What does implementation of the act look like?

There isn’t one answer to this. All businesses have to understand where the greatest risks are in their operations and supply chains and where they can have the most influence and can make the most difference. It’s important to go above and beyond the basic audit or compliance in the areas where we can have a particular impact. Also no one business can address this alone: collaboration is essential.

 

We have engaged NGOs and experts in developing our human rights strategy and in delivering the projects that we are running. Waitrose is partnering with the Wilberforce Institute on assessing the risks in fresh produce. John Lewis is running a model factory programme in the UK. It was launched at the Fast Forward employment practices workshop in January with ten bedroom, upholstery and fitted kitchen suppliers taking part. We have engaged a specialist assessor to undertake the forensic employment practices and HR systems assessment at each site and each factory are testing a mechanism for workers to confidentially share thoughts, feelings and views about the employer and the place they work. However, for all businesses it’s about understanding their point of influence, trying to drive ambitious improvements and sharing learnings and being honest about what works and what doesn’t.

 

Who is responsible for anti-slavery work at the John Lewis Partnership? Where does it sit in the organisation?

We have a formal governance structure and process. Ultimate responsibility sits with the Partnership Board and is delegated through the management board to teams within our trading divisions.  The formal delegation and senior accountability is important in a retail business to ensure that the activity is embedded in how we operate.  For example when you’re dealing with suppliers, it has to be managed by supplier relations and merchandising teams. They are the ones who understand the technical specifications, such as quality of products as well as buying goods and services. They are also the ones who understand what the solutions could be.

 

Some of the biggest scandals tend to be connected to human right violations. In the era of ever growing corporate transparency, what’s the best way to handle the labour crisis?

The starting point has to be understanding the situation, what has happened and focusing on helping the people impacted by the labour abuse. It’s not always clear what the immediate answers are, but working with the supplier to rectify the situation and drive improvements has to be the objective.

 

You have to have a robust approach on how you tackle modern slavery and you shouldn’t be afraid of understanding what the issues are and working to help those victims of modern slavery as well as other companies further down the supply chain. Simply walking away isn’t the answer. Working with the police, NGOs and any other actors involved to try to find the best solution for the individuals is the way forward.

 

What is the role of digital and technology in addressing slavery?

Technology is going to drive the level of supply chain transparency that we haven’t seen before. The potential for our ID tagging or other technologies that are harder to get your head around – these are clearly the technologies that are going to make a difference to the way supply chains operate going forward.

 

Will technology on its own wipe out crime? I don’t think so. I think at the end of the day a criminal will always find a way of distorting the law.

 

How to get started? What would you advise to someone starting the journey?

Firstly, putting the effort in to map out your supply chain early is tremendously important. Secondly, it’s key to understand what it is that you do in the sector best. Identifying the point of influence, areas where you’ve got the most impact is the next stage. Then you can dig down and understand the problems in those areas and put in place programs to explore and address those challenges.

 

I don’t think we can eradicate modern slavery without a deep appreciation of human rights.

 

Benet Northcote is Director for Corporate Responsibility at The John Lewis Partnership. 

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

Get ready to vote: EU referendum

With just a few days to go, you may want to remind yourself of all pros and cons of remaining or leaving the EU based on the environmental equation. Here’s a summary of the top arguments in and out drawn from the opinions that Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Liebreich, Lord Callanan, Professor Paul Ekins OBE well expressed at the Crowd’s Referendum Debate. 

 

CASE FOR REMAIN

 

Cross-border nature of environmental problems. They don’t queue at borders waiting for their passports to be checked. They are by their very nature cross-border, and therefore need cross-border solutions. 

 

The EU harmonises European policies. It is desirable especially for energy and environment polices of European countries to be harmonised on the European level rather than on the national level. 

 

The EU prevents race to the bottom through offering a vital level fields of minimal environmental legislation across Europe. The EU multiplies British influence, ideas and values. 

 

Keeping control and influence. UK politicians will have a positive influence over the EU rules that will continue to affect Britain regardless if they’re a member of the EU. 

 

The EU is more democratic than UK as it gives weight to European democratic values and legitimate aspirations of the member states for the national sovereignty. Brussels proposes the legislation, which is then discussed in the European Parliament (which is directly elected from all member states) by proportional representation – some see this as more democratic than the UK Parliament. 

 

Sovereignty is best exercised in collaboration with other countries. The EU has more clout on the global stage then the individual member states.

 

UK interests in energy and environment would be better pursued inside the EU. It’s impossible to imagine that UK would not want to be a part of the single European market. The UK exports 45% into the single market, 2/3rds of which are goods. 

 

Leave campaign doesn’t have a clear picture of what Britain would look like in the case of Brexit. The majority believe it will be similar to those of Norway and Switzerland, which means having access to the market, but in return having to adopt the vast majority of the EU environmental legislation. But they don’t have a say on formulation of the legislation.  

 

Climate change is the biggest threat the humanity faces. The best minds and technology are needed as fast as possible to tackle the catastrophe. By working inside the EU, humanity has a better chance of responding quickly. 

 

CASE FOR LEAVE

 

Not all good environmental things come from the EU. For instance, since Kyoto protocol, the US has made faster progress in phasing out coal than the EU. Or for the past 17 years, emissions from the energy sector in Germany have not budged. 

 

Some of the most important environmental legislations are driven by the UK. This includes peat care, establishing the marine reserve, the carbon floor price, and the decision to phase out coal by 2020. The EU’s ETC don’t work. 

 

Look at deeds not words. Investment in clean energy in the EU is half of what China is investing in clean energy today.  

 

The EU only talks about leading on the environment, but is not leading. The EU response to the VW emissions scandal was to double the Nitrogen Oxide emission cap for diesel cars. This is not the response of a block that is leading on the environment.

 

Europe lacks an understanding of environmental innovation. The environmental problems can only be solved through innovation. Much of the UK’s tech innovation research is outsourced to the EU, and most of the Horizon 2020 budget is spent on socio-economic rather than environmental projects.

 

The EU takes the environmental debate out of Westminster. The existence of Europe means a lot of environmental lobbing is focused on Brussels rather than Westminster, which takes debate and education out of the UK. When policies then arrive from Brussels, they are then seen to be imposed by the mother ship – without being socialised first. That can make them unpopular.

 

The EU is slow to reform and lacks flexibility. It didn't reform when UK threatened to leave. What makes one think it will reform if Britain stays?

 

The society has every technology we need to solve climate change. Challenge is rather socio-cultural and political. 

 

There is no need to become a part of a superstrate in order to take actions on environment and energy. Collaboration can continue without being member of the club. 

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd.

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

Rick Ridgeway: ‘There is no business on a dead planet’

Patagonia’s VP of Public Engagement, 67, adventurer, environmentalist, on business purpose and corporate growth. 

 

Rick is one of the world’s foremost mountaineers.  With three companions he was the first American to summit K2, considered the hardest of the world’s high-altitude mountain to climb. Rick also participated in the first big wall climb in Antarctica.  

 

We want to use our company as an agent for environmental and social justice protection. Our mission is to make the best product with no unnecessary harm. The 3rd part of that mission is to use our business success to implement solutions to the environmental crisis. That's why we're in business. 

 

Businesses that misuse the word purpose do us all a disservice. We have to define purpose. It starts with acknowledging that the definition of purpose must be more than just a return to shareholders as it has to include responsibility to stakeholders. Fundamentally, that what purpose is. 

 

Commitment to environmental responsibility is a commitment to business value. Because every investment into environmental protection Patagonia has made, has improved our business performance. 

 

Purpose means we get to pick the best people coming out of business schools. Recruitment and retention are the top benefits of staying true to your purpose. 

 

You can go surfing anytime you want, just don't let your co-workers down. That’s how Patagonia employees work. We’ve been at forefront of figuring out how to bring professional and personal lives together as seamlessly as possible. We’ve established a day care centre, which, arguably, became the most innovative thing that Patagonia’s done. And that has become one of the main reasons of having highest employee retention. 

 

There is no business on a dead planet. Why the planet isn't a KPI for a business? Every business KPI should be related to the health of the planet. 

 

Don't buy our jackets if you do not need them! There is a tension between selling more jackets and saving the planet. Patagonia’s board, which Rick admits is rather small, made a decision to take their bestselling jacket line down as it does a lot of harm to the environment. Why? Because it’s crucial to run all your business decisions against your mission. Rationalising business growth is a tough process. Not everybody at the company gets it, but that’s what Patagonia stands for. 

 

Transparency is the willingness to tell the world what we're doing well but also the willingness to share what we're doing is not so good. That’s the only true definition of transparency. We found out that our third tier suppliers used forced labour in dye mills in Taiwan. We made it public and engaged mills and the dye houses, employee brokers and the governments, so the solutions are underway. We don’t think that could have done it better without staying true to our statement of transparency.   

 

Acting sustainably shouldn't be a separate issue for business, so why should it be a separate department? One of the most sustainable companies in the world – Patagonia – doesn’t have a sustainability department.  

 

Rick represents and promotes the company’s core values with external stakeholders including NGO’s, trade organisations, academics and universities, and government agencies. He serves on the boards of Conservacion Patagonica and the Turtle Conservancy, and is on the Advisory Boards of World Wildlife Fund, Unilever USA, and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

 

He was founding chairman of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. During his 12-year tenure at the company he has developed and launched environmental and sustainability initiatives including Freedom to Roam, the Footprint Chronicles, the Responsible Economy Campaign and Worn Wear.  

 

Rick lives with his wife Jennifer in California, they have been married for 33 years, and they have three grown children.

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd. 

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

86% of London’s corporate sustainability experts want to remain in the EU

On the 11th May The Crowd hosted a debate on whether the UK is better off remaining in or leaving the EU from an environmental policy perspective, with over 200 corporate sustainability executives. The final poll result was emphatic: 86% voted to remain, 9% to leave, and 5% were unsure.

 

Was it a victory for remain or for intelligent debate? What startled us most was the positive atmosphere in the room after the debate. With much of the national debate focusing on emotion and sound bites, both sides can quickly become fearful of the wrong outcomes. Thanks to the passionate but intelligent positions of our experts, there was a feeling that both outcomes could be OK as long as we have the right people making decisions.

 

We had some of the leading minds on both sides of the argument, with tight moderation by Axel Threlfall. We began with an overview of our environmental policy relationship with the EU from The IEEP’s David Baldock, who made it clear that there needs to be a lot of upside if we are to undergo a period of considerable environmental policy uncertainty. The remain argument was articulately made by Caroline Lucas MP and Professor Paul Ekins, with support from Lord Marks. Michael Liebreich and Lord Callanan made the case for leaving the EU.

 

There were so many good points, but here are four arguments that we found striking.

 

The EU undermines our cultural willingness for environmental policy

 

Michael Liebreich made an argument for leaving that we hadn’t heard before, and which generated a lot of conversation afterwards. He said the existence of Europe means a lot of our environmental lobbing is focused on Brussels rather than Westminster, which takes debate and education out of the UK. When policies then arrive from Brussels, they are then seen to be imposed by the mother ship, which increases them being unpopular.

 

“The fact is why would any NGO bother doing all the campaigning for all these things to influence the Tory party, my party or to change the debate in this country when quite clearly you get funded in Brussels to do so. And then the results are imposed… The politicians don’t really mind because they can turn out and say it’s Brussels fault.” – Michael Liebreich said.

 

The EU provides important environmental policy stability

 

One of the grounding arguments for remain is closely linked to the nature of the UK election cycle. When a newly elected government changes environmental policies it weakens the business case for key internal decision makers, diminishing the company’s willingness to respond. The EU protects against such volatility and gives credibility and security for companies to invest. Businesses would rather have a slow moving stability rather than fast moving volatile political environment.

 

Environmental problems need to be solved through collaboration

 

We had a healthy debate on air pollution, with all panelists agreeing that the London has one of the worst air pollution in Europe. For Lord Callanan that’s a sign that the European approach isn’t working. But for Caroline Lucas it is an example of why we need to collaborate more on policy. “Environmental problems do not queue politely at borders waiting for their passports to be checked. They are by their very nature cross border and therefore need cross border solutions.” Echoing his partner point, Professor Paul Ekins says: “if you want to collaborate, you have to be a member of the club.”

 

The EU lacks an understanding of environmental innovation

 

A big thrust of Michael Liebreich’s argument was that we need innovation to tackle environmental challenges, and he cited Elon Musk as example of why we can be optimistic. His views drew a lot of discussion on Twitter, #crowdforum. Michael told the audience that very few Horizon 2020 grants go towards environmental innovation – there are only 2 graphene projects, for example – whilst there are hundreds of social engagement projects. “We can only make environmental progress through innovation. Europe is not innovative” – he said. 

 

At the beginning of the debate, Axel Threlfall quotes some of the latest public polls, which are showing around a 45% Remain vote. The question we’re pondering over is why we got such a different outcome for this vote from the national vote. Is it because environmental policy requires more collaboration than other areas of policy making? Is our community just more collaborative than the population at large? Are we lacking in little Englanders? Whatever is the answer to that question, one thing we know for sure is that if the vote on the 23rd June is for Brexit, this community will feel a significant sense of loss.  

 

Watch the full EU referendum debate here.

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd. 

  • twitter
  • fb
  • stumble
  • linkedin
  • reddit
  • email

Pages