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Corporations Make Progress with These 5 Sustainability Projects
1. Climate Change is Changing Minds
Did you know that the US suffered I$92.1 Billion in damages from (14) major storms in 2018? In the first (5) months of 2019, we have seen $6.3Billion in damages from devastating weather events (not counting the flooding in the Mid-west which the government has been slow to tabulate.) Large-scale climate disruptions have drawn attention to this issue better than protestors, high-level cabinet meetings or shareholder resolutions. Weather destroys farm output of nut crops, citrus, pork, chocolate, and honey driving supplies down, and prices up. Action has been slow in US goverment, and so many corporations are taking matters in their own hands. What are the multi-national corporations doing about this? Their Sustainability Projects are focusing on Supply Chain Resilience, finding climate-proof alternatives, and phasing out carbon-inefficient products.
2. LEED is Out of Fashion
The US Green Building Council (USGBC) has been at the vanguard of the green building marketplace for 15 years. Prior to the recession, the commercial real estate market was hot on LEED (the certification program developed by the USGBC to show how green a building is – certified, silver, gold, or platinum). The sharp drop in commercial space rehab and new construction dragged green building from the headlines. Today State, Federal and University renovations and new construction makes up most of the LEED portfolio.
Now that the economy has some legs, real estate developers are looking to build again, but there just is no visible demand for green space for lease. The three other green certification programs compete globally for projects too (BREAM, Green Globes, and Living Building Challenge). The Living Building Challenge is the new darling among the ultra-green. It offers more flexibility and better requirements. LEED itself is struggling to balance the amount of paperwork required with the cachet and rental premium it can garner.
The latest version of the rating system (LEED V4), was delayed due to lack of demand and opposition from its primary users (architects and designers) (1). Bottom line: Looking to build new corporate offices, warehouses or manufacturing space? Look at other Green Certification programs. Designers, builders and green-product manufacturers now focus more on energy efficiency, life-cycle impacts, and recycled content, than making products to meet LEED standards.
3. Energy Utilities Starting to Change
Did you know, that if the state of Texas would be the 5th largest wind power producer in the world if it was its own country?(2) The US also added more solar PV and wind farms to the US electric grid in 2016 than at any other time in history.
The year 2015 also saw some utilities attempt to establish unpopular flat-rate fees for residents and businesses choosing to go off the grid or to feed energy back into the grid. Ratepayers and governments are demanding energy companies do more grid-hardening and proactive protection from possible cyber – and actual – terrorist attacks.
Companies in Denmark are helping the power grid by letting their parked electric vehicles feed power to the grid. The car owners get paid up to $1500/year by the electric company to participate. This is just another example of businesses moving faster than government and utilities, but also being green.
Unique financing mechanisms such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) finance, and Short-term Equipment Leasing, allow corporations of all sizes to save energy using solar, wind and co-generation with spending money! These programs jump start Sustainability projects in many corporations. Check out our article: Solar is Less Expensive Than You Might Think – 8 Reasons Why
4. Human’s / Worker’s Rights & Ending Slavery
Human Rights Watch revported rights violations have risen by 70% in the last six years. Political unrest in northern Africa and the Middle East accounts for most of the increase. A close look at countries who supply parts for large tech and industrial manufacturers, shows that China has worsened, rising from 10th to the 6th worst on HRW’s “Freedom of Opinion & Expression” index.
The International Labor Organization calculates forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits annually (3). Worker’s rights’ and work conditions improved with OEM supply chain audits, but not much. Leading advocates in this area (i.e. Human Rights Watch & Maplecroft) say such as accountability standards and sourcing alternative locations, must be pursued to see real improvement.
What’s in it for manufacturing? The ‘2015 Survey on the Status of Sustainability in Connecticut’, by the CT Business & Industry Association, shows over 70% of large corporations make a sustainability report to shareholders, customers and the public (4). Annual reporting on working conditions worldwide by major suppliers will bring this issue to light. Possibly creating more change.
5. Makers / Product Customization / Instant Gratification
Science fiction says the “replicator” and “transporter” technologies will make and give us all we want in life. How close ar we? Pretty darn close. Ttechnology, communications, and micro-manufacturing processes are coming together. The “Maker Movement” – those esteemed tinkering folks, crafters, and deconstructors of all kinds of devices – have the Lead. By pushing the envelopes of additive manufacturing, computer assembly, robotics and custom-designed wearable gadgets, this group is out in front and making progress towrds the “Star Trek” future (5).
When large-scale manufacturing catches up, you will go online, choose a product, select options to customize it or suggest a new feature. The 3-D printer will make it to order and the drone will deliver it to your door. Will this increase customer satisfaction, brand-loyalty, or reduce the number of product returns? We don’t know yet. But style and individual fit will be the standard. If we make durable and quality goods, the impact on landfills, oceans and us will be greatly decreased.
(2) http://www.Sustainability.com 12/2014