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RBSNY Will Dig into CSR Potential & Purpose

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Coming up on March 27-28 in New York is the 5th annual Responsible Business Summit produced by Ethical Corporation. This event will feature over 250 attendees with some of the world’s biggest names in CSR and sustainability. This year’s Summit is aimed to help businesses uncover the potential for CSR to drive profit, and shape strategy with empirical justification. To quote Willy Foote, CEO of Root Capital, “The Responsible Business Summit NY, is a powerful opportunity to advance the shared value conversation and, ultimately, contribute to a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

This is an opportunity for businesses of all stripes to find alignment between their core vision and those of others in the growing responsible business community.
Attendees will have the opportunity to network with and hear from leaders of organizations including: Google, PepsiCo, The New York Time, General Motors, Oracle, Wall Street Journal, Intel, Steelcase, and dozens more. You can see the complete list here.

Keynote topics will include:

  • Being a responsible business – what’s not to get?!
  • Climate change policy
  • How Investors and Companies can work together to achieve sustainable long-term growth
  • The Responsible Sourcing Journey
  • How to reshape business to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals
  • Implementing the CEOs vision into practice
  • Aligning Business Strategy Around Social Purpose
  • Creating a business of purpose
  • Leverage global brand presence to resonate purpose in local markets
  • The future for conflict-free supply chains

Three extended interactive workshops will be featured, on Supply Chain Transparency and Traceability, Human Rights, and Storytelling in Reporting.

Sodexo Trends Report Shows Connectivity, Innovation & Uncertainty Are Rewriting the Workplace

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – There are so many trends in the news that it is difficult for businesses to keep track of everything and know what is relevant. Yet it is critical for business and its leaders to be able to recognise the underlying trends driving change, to evaluate their significance and stay ahead of—rather than follow—them.

Google Aims for 100% Renewable Power Next Year

(3Bl Media?Jusmeans) — Earlier this month, software and search giant Google announced that it would run its operations entirely on renewable energy by the end of next year. That might seem like a lot, but when you consider the many data centers with billions of people connecting to them, it’s actually about as much power as the entire city of San Francisco, with its population of over 800,000, uses. For those who like numbers, they used 5.7 terawatt-hours in 2015.

However, you won’t see sprawling fields of solar panels and windmills surrounding every Google facility. That’s because, for the most part, that’s not how renewables work. That’s the image many people have—a log cabin on an isolated mountain top, miles from anything, with a couple of solar panels on the roof connected to a stack of old car batteries.

Most people, and large businesses in particular, that buy renewable power, do so through the grid. That’s to say, they buy an amount of renewable energy, equivalent to what they consume, although the actual electrons, that light their lights or run through their computers, could come from anywhere, including dirty coal plants. That gives them the assurance that they will receive the power they need, anytime, day or night, windy or clam. Some critics have suggested that this is somehow, “less green” than connecting directly, but it’s not. The point is that the same amount of power is being produced and consumed somewhere by renewable sources. That is power that otherwise would have been produced by whatever the power company saw fit to use at any given time, based on price, availability and various other factors.

While today, that could include coal and natural gas sources, that fraction will likely decrease for three reasons. First, renewable costs will continue to fall, making them the “fuel source of choice” for utilities. Next, mass storage will continue to be incorporated, allowing more renewables to be integrated into the grid by making their intermittency less of an issue. Finally, as the grid continues to modernize, and become smarter, power will be instantly dispatchable, from one area where the wind might be blowing to other areas where it isn’t.

Women In Technology Face Many Unique Challenges

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – “Women in the technology industry face many unique challenges that are often beyond their control,” says Dennis Kennedy, founder and chairman of the National Diversity Council.

Greening the Web with Efficient Data Centers

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Mostly, we think of the Internet, the cloud and the explosion of mobile technology as things that save us energy: letting our fingers do the walking, avoiding unnecessary trips, being more precise when we do go looking for something, and buying online. And for the most part, that is the case. Those UPS trucks running up and down your street, even though they are bigger than anything you’re driving (I would hope), they are running a specific route that passes near your house anyway. That makes them more efficient than your going to the store is likely to be. But that is not to say all that convenience comes without a cost.

In 2013, US data centers used 91 billion kWh of electricity. That’s enough to power NYC twice over. That number is expected to grow by half again by 2020. It’s become enough of a concern, that electricity providers have warned that they might not be able to keep up with demand, causing some data center operators to seek their own dedicated power sources, including some, like Apple, Microsoft and Google to use solar  or wind power for theirs.

New Server Technology Reduces the Power Required to Save Energy

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Knowing more about a situation can allow you to address it more efficiently. That’s one of the promises of the Internet of Things. Whether it’s the precision application of water and fertilizer in agriculture to a smart phone app that lets you adjust your thermostat at home if your plans change, knowledge becomes power saved so long as we have the means to act on that knowledge.

But all that energy-saving knowledge can take a lot of energy to store, distribute and access. In fact, data centers, which you can think of as the little men behind the curtain that we now know as “the cloud,” suck up a great deal of energy. In 2013, they consumed a staggering 91 billion kWh in the US alone. That’s enough to power every household in New York City. That amount is expected to grow by half again by 2020.

A number of efforts have been made to reduce the impact of these data centers, both by using renewable energy to drive them, and to improve their efficiency. Earlier this year Apple announced plans to spend $2 billion on a solar “command center” in Arizona. Nearby solar plants with 70MW of generation capacity are expected to meet 100% of the energy required to run the center.

Opportunities to improve the efficiency of data centers have also received a lot of attention and innovation. The servers tend to run hot, which is why more than half of the power they use is devoted to cooling. System architecture studies reveal more opportunities to save energy everywhere from the silicon, to the OS, to the applications, through the infrastructure and all the way to the building. Studies call for the consolidation of metrics, a streamline decision-making process that aligns incentives with investors, and disclosure of performance data.

Google Is a Big Renewable Energy Investor

When someone thinks of Google they likely think first of their browser. However, Google should come to the mind of renewable energy enthusiasts. The reason is simple: Google invests in renewable energy, with a goal of powering its operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

Utilities Dive into Home Energy Services and Products

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - We’ve written in the past about the challenges facing the utility industry, with Barclay’s downgrading the entire industry as a poor investment prospect. The phenomenon of grid defection, customers cutting their ties with the utility in favor of a solar array with batteries, or a grid-tied system enabled through net metering is taking its toll on profitability. Traditional electric utility business models have rather suddenly become an endangered species. Not that the companies will necessarily disappear. Some might, of course, but those that remain will look very different than they do today.

Take a look at NRG, one of the nation’s largest power companies, operating in the Midwest, that has traditionally burned coal for about a third of its power. CEO David Crane, who has a degree in Public Policy from Princeton and a law degree from Harvard, has apparently seen the writing on the wall. The company has taken dramatic steps over the past year including natural gas conversions and plant closings to reduce its dependence on coal. One plant is even being converted to run on low-sulphur diesel. When combined, these changes will result in a 25% reduction of coal purchases.

There was a time not long ago when such moves would be considered iconoclastic for such a staid industry. But that is just the beginning of this latest chapter in the NRG story. Last week NRG announced the acquisition of Goal Zero, a manufacturing start-up that produces small solar charged battery packs. Their products are popular in big box sporting goods stores, ranging from solar powered speakers for camping to 1250 Watt-hour solar home generators.

“It allows us to expand the opportunity of solar,” said Crane. “Our ultimate goal is to energize people wherever they are.”

It sounds reasonable enough, though it’s a big move for a utility company to start selling consumer products. That might just be what it takes to stay afloat in this changing world.

Military and Business Leaders Alike Cite Costs and Risks of Climate Change

Conservatives have been reluctant to talk about or acknowledge the actual cause of climate change, because they fear that doing so will lead to action that will cost money. But despite their efforts to cast doubt on the reality of the issue, awareness is steadily  growing that not only is climate change real, but that over time, the cost of not taking action will far exceed the cost of actions being proposed.

Red state politicians and talk radio hosts continue to press the denial agenda, but among the more respected leaders in traditionally conservative areas such as big business and the military, the tone has shifted considerably.

According to the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP), 60 major American companies from Google to Gap, have reported significant impacts to their business as the result of climate change. Business leaders are making strategic investments now, to reduce future risk. Says CDP President Tom Carnac, “Dealing with climate change is now a cost of doing business.”

Large companies with large supply chains are particularly vulnerable. In a new report entitled, “Major Public Companies Describe Climate-related Risks and Costs,” impacts are described confronting ten business sectors ranging from Consumer Discretionary, to Energy, to Industrial, to Health Care.
Over the three year period since the first report was issued, the average likelihood of physical risks, according to the companies responding, grew from 34% to 50%. And the fraction expecting to see impacts within the next 1-5 years also grew from 26% to 45%. Four of the top five assessed physical risk drivers remained the same over the three years. These were:

  • Changes in precipitation extremes and droughts
  • Major storms (hurricanes, cyclones,etc.)
  • Induced changes in natural resources
  • Uncertainty of physical risks

Sea level rise emerged as a top risk driver this year. The top 3 impacts also remained the same. These were:

  • Increased operational cost
  • Reduction/disruption in production capacity
  • Inability to do business

Other impacts included reduced demand for products and services, and increased capital cost.

Some specific examples include soft drink companies like PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group stating concerns over changing temperatures, unreliable crops, uncertain water availability and surging energy costs disrupting business and putting US$2.5 billion of their sales costs at risk.

Data centers are becoming more expensive to cool as temperatures rise.

Have We Reached the Point of "Peak Cars"?

We've all heard a lot about Peak Oil, the point at which global oil production begins to decline because the accessible supply is simply not as big as it was the year before. Whether it has been passed or is looming in the near future, is still being debated, especially in the light of the recent boom in U.S. production. But it is highly likely that it is imminent, which is, despite the hardship involved, really a good thing, given the carbon emissions entailed, which have not been reason enough for many people, institutions and governments to press for alternatives.

But what about all of those cars and trucks that most of that oil goes into? There are a number of analysts who think that, despite the optimistic sales projections of automakers, we may be approaching the point of peak cars.

Given the fact that more and more people are pouring into cities that are getting more and more crowded, will there come a point where driving a car is simply not the best way to get around? For many, it already has. Here is the US, a significant number of people, particularly young people have relinquished that dream. Based on an analysis by Advisor Perspectives, the percentage of 18-years-olds with driver’s licenses fell from 80 percent in 1983 to 61 percent in 2010. The number of miles driven per person has also downshifted from historic highs by almost nine percent.

Of course, there are many people coming up in the developing world who see car ownership as a rite of entry into the middle class, and emblematic of the American Dream which has spread across the globe through movies and television.

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