Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

Sustainability: New Perspectives and Opportunities

August 10, 2012 Comments off

Sustainability: New Perspectives and Opportunities

Source: Knowledge@Wharton

After five decades of sustainability debates and policymaking, the world still lacks a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the complexity of the issues. This report, produced by the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, analyzes the main aspects of sustainability — from the environmental challenges facing cultures around the globe to the quest for a sustainable supply of water and food. Green business practices are seen through the lens of the tradeoffs involved and consumers’ attitudes towards the environment. The report also looks at what kinds of governance structures are needed to encourage sustainability worldwide and to improve collaboration among government officials, companies and nonprofit organizations.

Best Global Green Brands 2012

July 31, 2012 Comments off

Best Global Green Brands 2012
Source: Interbrand

Though “green” was once the province of empty promises, the world’s most valuable green brands have earned their place in our report, which examines how leading brands perform in the arena of sustainability and how their environmentally conscious efforts are perceived by the public. These two critical halves—performance and perception—make up the whole of a green company: one that operates sustainably and has built a positive image that can be leveraged to strengthen brand value.

The best green brands are vital, relevant, powerful and pioneering. They are profitable, ethical, and ecologically responsible. They have a proven record of performance, strive to operate with transparency and they practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability. The best green brands show us what is possible.

After evaluating the world’s top brands on the basis of their performance as well as the public’s perception of their green credentials, Interbrand and Deloitte have carefully ranked—and wholeheartedly applaud—the 50 Best Global Green Brands that are featured in this report. These strong, highly innovative brands are paving the way to a new era of stability, prosperity and confidence—and they embody our greatest hopes for the future.

Critical Housing Finance Challenges for Policymakers

July 18, 2012 Comments off

Critical Housing Finance Challenges for Policymakers
Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

This paper focuses on four critical policy challenges in the area of housing finance that were developed with input from the What Works Collaborative during the Fall of 2011. The four issues that are the focus of this paper are

  1. Mortgage lending to underserved groups;
  2. Mortgage financing for the evolving rental housing market;
  3. Mortgage lending in distressed neighborhoods; and
  4. The role of mortgage finance in supporting investments in sustainable housing.

The paper is divided into four separate sections devoted to each of these topics. For each policy challenge, the paper addresses the following questions: Why is this a critical issue for policymakers? What barriers and challenges may require public-sector involvement to address? What are key policy levers or private efforts that both research and future policy interventions may be built around? What are the key issues where research is needed to inform policymaking in this area, and what are examples of research projects on each issue?

New Publication – The Economics of Space Sustainability

July 1, 2012 Comments off

New Publication – The Economics of Space Sustainability
Source: Secure World Foundation

Economics plays an important role in space sustainability and is often a missing or misunderstood part of the discussion. SWF Technical Advisor Brian Weeden has published a new article in The Space Review that examines space sustainability, including space debris, from an economics perspective. Mr. Weeden discusses the difference between public, private, and common goods and the traditional perspective of space debris as pollution that can be dealt with through microeconomic incentive mechanisms such as taxes or cap-and-trade schemese. Mr. Weeden explains why these generalizations and conclusions are not likely to provide a useful solution of space debris, especially for space debris in low Earth orbit.

As an alternative, Mr. Weeden outlines the application of more recent developments in economics, including information and game theory, and their link to current intiatives such as the code of conduct and SSA Sharing. Finally, Mr. Weeden discuses ongoing SWF research into the application of sustainable governance of common-pool resources to space and what lessons it may have for the long-term sustainable use of space.

CRS — Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012

June 26, 2012 Comments off

Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or “Rio+20”) convenes June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This conference marks the 20 th anniversary of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992. Governments participating in the 1992 meeting politically endorsed the objective of “sustainable development” as achieving economic, environmental, and social development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Rio+20 begins from the premise and findings that the objectives of the 1992 Rio conference have not been achieved. The U.N.’s fifth Global Environmental Outlook, published in June 2012, found significant progress toward only four of 90 internationally-agreed goals associated with sustainable development. It found back-tracking on eight goals. Stakeholders widely agree that changes in policies and institutions are desirable to improve implementation, but do not agree on means. It seems unlikely that Rio+20 will produce any agreements that would require congressional action or be legally binding. Some proceedings, however, may engender congressional interest in concepts proposed for simultaneously achieving economic, social, and environmental objectives. Rio+20 could influence views and actions internationally on development paths and practices, thereby affecting regional and global economies, demand for development aid, transnational environmental issues, and conflict incidence and resolution. Therefore, Congress may take interest in the conference. In addition, proceedings may reference the non-binding, 1992 Agenda 21, produced at UNCED in 1992; media coverage could raise questions from constituents that Members may wish to address.

The Rio+20 organizers indicate that “[g]overnments are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the many examples of success we have seen over the last 20 years.” However, with strongly divergent views among the expected 115 Heads of State and up to 50,000 participants, Rio+20 may be more like a trade show than political negotiations. Indeed, some observers suggest that the conference may yield many deals among private participants. It is not expected to produce a treaty or any other binding commitments of national governments. Some observers wonder whether a meaningful communique can be successfully negotiated. High-level participants will be prompted to address issues that include

  • the definition of “green economy,” and whether a definition gives adequate emphasis to social aspects (e.g., “fairness”) of sustainable development;
  • whether “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) should replace or supplement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by the U.N, General Assembly in 2000 and expected to end in 2015, as well as how SDGs might be negotiated, and what priorities might be set among them;
  • how to reform international environmental institutions, particularly whether the United Nations Environmental Program should be strengthened;
  • what actions, if any, might lead to improved implementation of existing sustainable development goals, given slow progress so far;
  • whether governments may commit to greater financial and technological assistance to low-income countries to assist their sustainable development.

Report Shows More Corporations Disclose Water Risk Following SEC Guidance, Though Data is Lacking

June 21, 2012 Comments off

Report Shows More Corporations Disclose Water Risk Following SEC Guidance, Though Data is Lacking
Source: Ceres

Overall corporate disclosures of water-related risks have increased since 2009, but most reporting remains weak and inconsistent according to Clearing the Waters: A Review of Corporate Water Risk Disclosure in SEC Filings, a new report issued today by Ceres.

Since 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission has required companies to disclose financially material risks from climate change to their investors. These risks include “significant physical effects of climate change, such as effects on the severity of weather (for example, floods or hurricanes), sea levels, the arability of farmland, and water availability and quality.”

In light of this guidance, Clearing the Waters analyzes changes in water risk disclosure by more than 80 companies between 2009 and 2011, finding that though reporting has risen, it is lacking especially in regard to data on financial impacts, quantitative water metrics and potential supply chain risks. The report covers water use in eight water intensive sectors: beverage, chemicals, electric power, food, homebuilding, mining, oil & gas and semiconductors.

Greening the Supply Chain: Best Practices and Future Trends

June 14, 2012 Comments off

Greening the Supply Chain: Best Practices and Future Trends
Source: Knowledge@Wharton (University of Pennsylvania)

The more corporations around the globe focus on sustainability, the more they realize that their greatest challenges and opportunities often lie outside their own offices and manufacturing plants. To make a truly significant lifecycle leap, large companies have to work on greening their supply chains.

Recognizing this, Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) devoted its 2012 annual conference to “Greening the Supply Chain: Best Business Practices and Future Trends.” Attended by noted academics and professionals, the conference covered a broad range of topics.

This special report, a collaboration between IGEL and Knowledge@Wharton, zeroes in on four of the most pressing issues in the field, using information from the conference, as well as additional interviews and research.

Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey

June 7, 2012 Comments off

Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey (PDF)
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Cities around the world are increasingly aware of the need to prepare for greater variability in temperature, precipitation, and natural disasters expected to take place as a result of global climate change. In recent years, numerous reports and manuals have been written and networks formed to offer guidance and facilitate the exchange of ideas and information. However, since systematic studies have not been conducted, the information and methods being disseminated often are based on the efforts of a limited number of cities and wisdom drawn from experience in other domains. To gain insight into the status of adaptation planning globally, approaches cities around the world are taking, and challenges they are encountering, a survey was sent to communities that are members of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. A total of 468 cities (44%) completed the 40-question survey, with the majority of respondents being from the U.S since this is where ICLEI has the largest membership.

See: Survey — Latin American and Asian cities lead way in planning for global warming (EurekAlert!)

Africa can choose…a sustainable future

June 7, 2012 Comments off

Africa can choose…a sustainable future
Source: World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

The “Africa Ecological Footprint Report : Green Infrastructure for Africa’s Ecological Security” takes stock of the health of Africa’s ecosystems, as well as trends in resources use patterns. It also lays out recommendations on implementing green development pathways for Africa .
The report highlights a steep decline in biodiversity in Africa: 40% in 40 years. This decline reflects a degradation of the natural systems upon which Africa’s current and future prosperity depends.

In addition, rapid population growth and increasing prosperity are changing consumption patterns, with the result that Africa’s ecological footprint—the area needed to generate the resources consumed by a given group or activity – has been growing steadily. Africa’s total ecological footprint is set to double by 2040.

Continuing on a business-as-usual scenario means jeapordizing the natural systems on which lives and economies depend. Yet Africa is in an advantageous position to act. This report showcases successful initiatives across Africa as solutions to be up-scaled in areas such as renewable energy, integrated water resource management, ecotourism, and forest conservation.

Raising native plants in nurseries: basic concepts

June 6, 2012 Comments off

Raising native plants in nurseries: basic concepts
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Growing native plants can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. This booklet, particularly the first chapter that introduces important concepts, is for the novice who wants to start growing native plants as a hobby; however, it can also be helpful to someone with a bit more experience who is wondering about starting a nursery. The second chapter provides basic information about collecting, processing, storing, and treating seeds. Chapter three focuses on using seeds to grow plants in the field or in containers using simple but effective techniques. For those native plants that reproduce poorly from seeds, the fourth chapter describes how to start native plants from cuttings. The final chapter provides valuable information on how to successfully move native plants from the nursery and establish them in their final planting location. Several appendices expand on what has been presented in the chapters, with more details and specific information about growing a variety of native plants.

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook

May 24, 2012 Comments off

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice

Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook was developed for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) based on a recommendation from its Institutional Corrections Technology Working Group (TWG).The TWG, which consists of leaders from correctional agencies across the country, has recognized the growing importance of greening initiatives.

This guidebook provides correctional administrators with a brief, yet comprehensive and informative, view of sustainability-oriented green technologies. It reviews green technologies’ evolving role in correctional institutions and presents issues to consider when acquiring and implementing green technologies to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of resource use. It also addresses the opportunities and challenges involved in selecting and implementing green technologies in correctional settings.

The guidebook has seven chapters that provide information and insight into specific types of green tech- nologies.The authors selected these seven topical areas because they include most — although not all — of the green technologies in use in corrections in 2011. Subsections on future trends indicate possible additions and enhancements to the field.

Each chapter contains lists of specific technologies, including well-established and more traditional exam- ples, as well as emerging technologies that have proven effective in saving money and increasing the efficiency of resource use while protecting public safety and staff security.

New Ceres/Sustainalytics Report Shows Most U.S. Companies Falling Short on Sustainability

April 30, 2012 Comments off

New Ceres/Sustainalytics Report Shows Most U.S. Companies Falling Short on Sustainability
Source: Ceres

In the first major assessment of progress on a unique Ceres Roadmap to corporate sustainability released two years ago, Ceres and global research and analysis firm Sustainalytics today released The Road to 2020: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.

The findings – based on an assessment of how 600 U.S. companies are responding to environmental and social challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and supply chain conditions – show individual examples of leadership but significant need for overall improvement.

“While there are encouraging pockets of sustainability leadership in the U.S. business community, far too many companies are only taking small, incremental steps,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, in announcing the report at the opening of the Ceres annual conference today in Boston. “Sustainability has yet to gain traction at anywhere near the scale and speed required given the global threats we face.”

+ Full Report

CRS — The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

April 24, 2012 Comments off

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The G-20 is an international forum for discussing and coordinating economic policies among major advanced and emerging economies. Congress may want to exercise oversight over the Administration’s participation in the G-20 process, including the policy commitments that Administration is making in the G-20 and the policies it is encouraging other G-20 countries to pursue.

The G-20 rose to prominence during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, when it played an arguably influential role in coordinating international responses to the crisis. The G-20 is now considered the “premier” forum for international economic coordination, a position previously held by a smaller group of advanced economies (the Group of 7, or G-7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

G-20 leaders have annual meetings (“summits”), and meetings among lower-level officials occur more frequently. Meetings primarily focus on international economic and financial issues, although related topics are also discussed, including development, food security, and the environment, among others. Previous summits have, for example, focused on financial regulatory reform, global imbalances, funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), voting power of emerging economies in international financial institutions, and fossil fuel subsidies.

The 2012 Summit
The next G-20 summit is scheduled to be held in Los Cabos, Mexico in June 2012, and will be the first hosted by a Latin American government. The Mexican government has indicated that the summit will focus on the following.

  • Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment.
  • Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth.
  • Improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world.
  • Enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility.
  • Promoting sustainable development, green growth, and the fight against climate change.

Effectiveness of the G-20
Some analysts say that while the G-20 was instrumental in coordinating the response to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, its effectiveness has diminished as the urgency of the crisis has waned. They argue that the G-20 has failed to provide adequate international leadership in key policy areas, including responses to the Eurozone crisis and forging a conclusion to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. They also maintain that the G-20 as a group is too heterogeneous to achieve real coordination and its agenda is too ambitious. Others argue that the G-20 serves as an important institution in the international economy. They argue that the G-20 is a critical forum for discussing major policy initiatives across major countries and encouraging greater cooperation, even if agreement on policies is not always reached. They also argue that it serves as a useful institution as a steering committee for other international organizations, such as the IMF, and that having the G-20 policy-making infrastructure in place is important for timely international responses to future crises.

Center for Green Schools at USGBC and McGraw-Hill Research Foundation Release New Report Examining Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance

March 5, 2012 Comments off

Center for Green Schools at USGBC and McGraw-Hill Research Foundation Release New Report Examining Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance (PDF)
Source: U.S. Green Building Council

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation today released a new white paper titled, The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Learning: A Call for Research, at the second annual Green Schools National Conference in Denver, Colo., a conference dedicated to growing green schools across the nation.

The new white paper, co-authored by Lindsay Baker, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at University of California, Berkeley (on behalf of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC) and Harvey Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insights & Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction, part of The McGraw-Hill Companies, sheds light on the critical need for research around how the school building—through design, maintenance and operations—impacts the health and performance of the students in those buildings.

“We looked at what students experience in their classroom environments and linked that to six types of experiences—how students hear, breathe, see, feel, move, think and learn” said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insights & Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction. “There are ways that we can design new schools, and invest in improving existing ones, to help improve a child’s experience and enable that child to learn, and feel better.”

The paper explored research from two perspectives: how the built environment can impact a child’s experience in the classroom, and how different stakeholders could play an important role in bringing more research on green schools to light.

+ Full Document (PDF)

America’s Conservation Compact is Eroding Despite Farmers’ Support

March 3, 2012 Comments off

America’s Conservation Compact is Eroding Despite Farmers’ Support
Source: Environmental Working Group

A new research paper finds that most farmers support the long-standing conservation compact that has helped protect the rich soil and clean water that sustain food, farming and public health.

Conservation Compliance: A Retrospective…and Look Ahead by conservationist Max Schnepf concludes through a comprehensive review of public opinion polls that the farming community has consistently supported the historic deal between taxpayers and farmers that was struck in the 1985 farm bill. Under it, growers agreed to keep soil from washing away and chemicals out of waterways in return for generous taxpayer support.

Seven polls taken in the last 30 years show that a solid majority of farmers believe that bargain is a fair one.

“The conservation compact was a godsend for agricultural and conservation groups and farmers,” Schnepf writes. “In the 10 years following the 1985 farm bill, farmers did more to curb soil erosion than at any time since the infamous Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.”

Schnepf notes that Environmental Working Group’s 2011 report, Losing Ground, found that high prices, intense competition for farmland leases and ethanol mandates have put unprecedented pressure on land and water. As a result, the historic gains in soil conservation the compact achieved are being lost.

“Conservation is once again being pushed to the back seat – the very situation that led to the compact in the first place,” said EWG Senior Vice President Craig Cox. “We need to reinvigorate the compact just to keep things from getting worse, let alone make long-overdue progress on pollution problems that have gone unchecked for decades.”

+ Full Report (PDF)

Sustainability 2.0: Using sustainability to drive business innovation and growth

February 23, 2012 Comments off

Sustainability 2.0: Using sustainability to drive business innovation and growth
Source: Deloitte

For a useful perspective on how many leading organizations are approaching sustainability as a core business strategy, think back to when the World Wide Web was new. Initially, organizations established a website, providing static content and little to no interaction with their customers or employees. It was a trendy thing to do. As the Web evolved, so did organizations’ view of the technology. They adopted a strategy that integrated applications and practices to foster greater collaboration and information sharing among employees and customers. Now, the Web is transforming how organizations conduct business, ranging from improving efficiency to creating new, innovative products and services—all with an eye toward improving the bottom line.

Adoption of sustainability may be following a similar path.

At first, organizations were just trying to be good corporate citizens, focusing on energy conservation and offering “green” products. It felt good to do, but it wasn’t central to the business. More recently, many business leaders have begun to view sustainability as a more integral component of their business strategy, identifying opportunities and risks as a way to enhance revenue, margins and brand value. Organizations with a broader, more strategic plan for sustainability will not only drive innovation across their enterprise—including transforming key processes—but may also influence what their customers want and how their suppliers operate.

+ Full Document (PDF)

U.S. Department of Education Releases Environmental Justice Strategy

February 16, 2012 Comments off

U.S. Department of Education Releases Environmental Justice Strategy
Source: U.S. Department of Education

The Department of Education today announced the release of its draft Environmental Justice (EJ) strategy. The Department’s draft EJ strategy focuses on healthy learning environments for students, energy-efficient school facilities, sustainability education and environmental literacy, and energy efficiency in the Department’s facilities. This draft EJ strategy is the Department’s plan to address environmental justice concerns and increase access to environmental benefits through the Department’s policies, programs, and activities.

The Department is committed to meeting the goals of Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” which states that each participating federal agency should make environmental justice part of its mission. Specifically, this release is the latest step in a larger Administration-wide effort to ensure strong protection from environmental and health hazards for all Americans. In August, federal agencies signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898” (EJ MOU), which committed each agency to, among other things, finalizing an EJ strategy and releasing annual implementation reports. Links to the other federal EJ Strategies can be found on the Environmental Justice Interagency Workgroup webpage at

US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau releases guide to help women prepare for, find and succeed in ‘green’ jobs

February 15, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of “Why Green is Your Color: A Woman’s Guide to a Sustainable Career,” which is designed to help women find and keep higher paying jobs in the clean energy economy.

The online publication, available at, will help workers learn about a range of in-demand and emerging jobs, as well as job training opportunities and career development tools, in the clean energy economy. The guide also serves as a resource for workforce development professionals, training providers, educators, career counselors and women’s advocacy organizations.

Careers in Recycling

December 12, 2011 Comments off

Careers in Recycling
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

This report provides information on various career opportunities in the recycling industry. The first two sections provide an overview of the industry. The third section details a number of occupations involved in collecting and processing recyclables. For each of these occupations, it provides a description of the job duties, the credentials required (e.g., education, training and licensure), and information on wages.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: A Novel Multistock Spatial Model for Assessing Population Biomass

December 12, 2011 Comments off

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: A Novel Multistock Spatial Model for Assessing Population Biomass
Source: PLoS ONE

Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is considered to be overfished, but the status of its populations has been debated, partly because of uncertainties regarding the effects of mixing on fishing grounds. A better understanding of spatial structure and mixing may help fisheries managers to successfully rebuild populations to sustainable levels while maximizing catches. We formulate a new seasonally and spatially explicit fisheries model that is fitted to conventional and electronic tag data, historic catch-at-age reconstructions, and otolith microchemistry stock-composition data to improve the capacity to assess past, current, and future population sizes of Atlantic bluefin tuna. We apply the model to estimate spatial and temporal mixing of the eastern (Mediterranean) and western (Gulf of Mexico) populations, and to reconstruct abundances from 1950 to 2008. We show that western and eastern populations have been reduced to 17% and 33%, respectively, of 1950 spawning stock biomass levels. Overfishing to below the biomass that produces maximum sustainable yield occurred in the 1960s and the late 1990s for western and eastern populations, respectively. The model predicts that mixing depends on season, ontogeny, and location, and is highest in the western Atlantic. Assuming that future catches are zero, western and eastern populations are predicted to recover to levels at maximum sustainable yield by 2025 and 2015, respectively. However, the western population will not recover with catches of 1750 and 12,900 tonnes (the “rebuilding quotas”) in the western and eastern Atlantic, respectively, with or without closures in the Gulf of Mexico. If future catches are double the rebuilding quotas, then rebuilding of both populations will be compromised. If fishing were to continue in the eastern Atlantic at the unregulated levels of 2007, both stocks would continue to decline. Since populations mix on North Atlantic foraging grounds, successful rebuilding policies will benefit from trans-Atlantic cooperation.

See: Comprehensive View of the Status of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Science Daily)


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