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Morals or Money?

The Sustainability conversation hinges on these levers.

What’s the best way to convince people to change how they live? What they buy? To be more sustainable?

On one hand, we can urge people to take care of the earth because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s the morals case.

This includes appealing to peoples’ sense of fairness and rightness and desires to leave a good healthy world for future generations.

While that is a compelling draw in many arenas, the moral case doesn’t fly in the business world or with all groups of people.

The other hand says that the way to sell Sustainability is to demonstrate that there will be cost savings and revenue opportunities.

That’s the money case.

Convince your CFO that making the supply chain more efficient (and reducing carbon emissions) will save money and speed time to market.

Or show your neighbor that swapping out incandescents for CFLs will lower his energy bill.

So which approach is more effective?

Guardian writer Adam Corner examines the morals-or-money research in this new article and comes out on the morals side.

Via guardian.co.uk:

Moral case for sustainability more effective than economic?

A recent Dutch study suggests that engaging the public in the moral rather than economic case for sustainability might be more effective, with lessons to be learned at policy level

He followed up a few days later another article that applies this research to the real-world roll out of the UK’s new Green Deal energy efficiency program.

Via TalkingClimate.org:

The Green Deal: What happened to climate change
The dangers of using an overly-economic framing for cli­mate change and sus­tain­ab­ility mes­sages are well doc­u­mented.

For one, pro­moting the Green Deal to people in this way will do abso­lutely nothing to make the next big ini­ti­ative – per­haps a big push on public trans­port – any easier. No-one is being encour­aged to think about what cli­mate change means, or how dif­ferent beha­viours (around the home, and when com­muting, for example) might be related. No-one is being encouraged to think about cli­mate change at all.

The exclus­ively eco­nomic framing of the government’s flag­ship public engage­ment policy sends a clear mes­sage: we should take part in the Green Deal because we might make a few quid – or at worst, not lose any.

As Corner points out, the research shows that when incentives disappear, so do the new behaviors. By focusing too much on the money, he argues, the UK government might be missing a huge opportunity to start a game-changing conversation about Climate Change.

The practical, rubber-meets-the-road answer of course, as with any complex problem, is that we need to use all the persuasions available to us. Not morals or money. Both.

The morals case asks us to change our behaviors for the future, and the money case helps bridge the gap to get there.

I believe–and incentives research backs me up–that when you give people the chance to do the right thing, with a full understanding of what’s at stake and how much things cost–more often than not, they will.

 

It’s warm and sunny today in Doha.

That’s where representatives from UN member countries are gathered for another round of UN climate talks.

It’s a fitting location in many ways. The world overall is getting hotter and dryer.

(At least where it’s not getting colder and wetter.)

Will the talks bring us any closer to a global climate treaty designed to hold us under the 2C degree tipping point? There’s a lot at stake, well described in this Environmental Leader article.

As much as I deeply admire the UN’s work, I’m doubtful for any significant outcomes.

If Sandy couldn’t rattle souls to put climate change at the top of the political agenda, then I don’t hold much hope for a conference half-a-world away.

Not to mention that host country Qatar is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases per capita and has not announced any reduction goals.

The two-week event includes release of a new UN report on the increasingly liquid state of the planet’s permafrost. Very bad news.

Climate Change. Hasn’t come up in the debates.

Via ScientificAmerican.com:

Climate Change a No-Show at Presidential Debate, but Candidates Clash on Energy

Three debates down and one to go, and climate change has still not been addressed by the presidential candidates and their running mates in face-to-face confrontations.

I’m hoping there’s a “yet” at the end of that sentence. Hasn’t come up in the debates yet.

There’s one more chance on Oct. 22 for the top men on the ticket to grab the reins.

Will climate change will become a top national energy and security focus, or not?

If I were going to handicap the bet, I’d put my money on President Obama.

The 2012 Republican platform doesn’t even include the words “climate changes.”  (In a sharp contrast to the 2008 platform.) Hard to discuss something you don’t acknowledge.

President Obama’s 2012 Democratic platform speaks the word, and loudly:

2012 Democratic Platform

We know that global climate change [emphasis mine] is one of the biggest threats of this generation—an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.

Not that the future-looking business world needs any convincing.

Among the sustainable business community, climate change is a top 3 priority.

Via Environmentalleader.com:

Climate Change Among Top Sustainability Priorities for Business, Poll Finds

Human rights, workers’ rights and climate change are the top three sustainability priorities for companies in the coming year, according to a poll of 500 business leaders.

Tens of thousands of citizens agree and want to hear the candidates talk about climate change at the last debate. This is one of the many petitions circulating on social media.

We can’t afford to wait anymore for government to fully partner with business and civil society on climate change.

There’s precious little time left for “yet.”

 

Homegrown renewable, clean energy.

Without fracking, drilling, stripmining, or pipelining.

I didn’t know that the U.S. government was planning solar sites on public lands:

Obama Administration Releases Roadmap for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

More via renewableenergyworld.com:

Western Solar Zones to Streamline Development on Public Lands

The document, released by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, is the culmination of two years of dialogue between regulators, environmentalists, industry advocates and the public at large. On Tuesday, the DOI unveiled the much-awaited Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which sets a vision for development on public lands in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The Interior has approved 17 zones for utility-scale solar energy projects on about 285,000 acres of public land with combined resources of nearly 32,000 megawatts (MW). It also sets up a process to allow development of what the DOI calls “well-sited projects” on 19 million acres outside those zones. PEIS estimates that the zones and the variance areas will eventually lead to about 23,700 MW of development.

The plan is being well-received by environmental groups and local stakeholders.

Via SustainableBusiness.com:

DOI Issues Well-Received Solar Plan for US West

Leading environmental and solar industry groups issued a press release endorsing the plan, including Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Audubon Society,  Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Solar Energy Industries Association, Southern California Edison, Vote Solar, First Solar, and Brightsource Solar.

U.S. public lands are our Commons. Deciding how to use, maintain and preserve  our country’s resources is a shared responsibility among all of us.

So is NJ solar in better shape now, or not?

On July 23, Governor Christie signed a solar-saving bill that will prop up New Jersey’s solar industry.

Via NJSpotlight.com:

Christie Signs Bill to Help Stabilize Solar Sector

It took a lot longer than expected, but a much-debated bill to maintain and potentially enhance New Jersey’s efforts to develop solar energy in the state was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Chris Christie.

The bill (S-1925), a priority of the Christie administration with bipartisan support in the Legislature for more than six months, aims to ensure investments in solar do not dry up in New Jersey, which is second only to California in the number of solar arrays –with 16,000 systems installed here.

But in the same breath, the Christie administration announced plans to slash the funds that help businesses and NJ homeowners buy into the solar market.

Via NJSpotlight.com:

State May Slash Clean Energy Fund Almost by Half

The state is considering cutting its funding for new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects almost in half, a consequence of the Legislature’s and Christie administration’s decision to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from New Jersey’s clean energy program.

In a draft proposal circulated by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities last week, the budget for the clean energy program would allocate $339 million in new spending, a sharp reduction from the $651 million proposed by the agency last December.

The cuts are a result of the diversion of money raised from gas and electric customers to help homeowners and businesses find ways to reduce their energy use, and promote the development of cleaner sources of producing electricity, primarily solar and wind.

The clean energy fund has helped propel New Jersey to be a leader in promoting clean energy, a status underscored by the fact that is second only to California in the number of solar installations.

The cuts aren’t certain. Michael Winka, director of NJ’s Clean Energy Program is requesting stakeholders and citizen comments on the proposal.

I expect he’ll be getting a lot of mail in coming weeks.

 

 

Why on God’s green earth would you want to block the U.S. Navy’s progress towards clean, secure, renewable energy?

Not to mention saving American taxpayers’ money?

Via SustainableBusiness.com:

Navy Proceeds With Biofuels Plans, Despite Attempts to Block It In Congress

The U.S. Navy is moving ahead with its goals of slashing its energy consumption and powering its fleets with biofuels, even though Republicans are trying to block their efforts.

That caused an uproar in the House, bringing the Department of Defense’s newfound commitment to renewable energy to a head. The House and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to block the Navy from buying biofuels if it costs more than petroleum in the 2013 Defense Department spending bill.

From my perspective, while I don’t agree with all the actions taken by the U.S. military, I believe that the very-smart-people in our military do know how to innovate and implement.

Like say, the Internet.

This Reuters.com story provides a little more back story on opposition to the plan:

Navy moves ahead on biofuels despite congressional ire

Near as I can tell, does Congressional opposition boil down to the idea that, by advancing biofuel technology, the U.S. Government is stealing R&D opportunity from the public sector?

Or diverts money from oil-aligned interests?

Either way, I’m proud of the U.S. military’s commitment to moving ahead with clean, renewable energy innovation.

Rio+20 ended today.

Read The Guardian’s coverage on how and why the conference was such a disappointment to so many.

The final The Future We Want outcomes document shows few solid, significant commitments.

And that despite months of review and negotiations at pre-conference events.

For months, the outcomes document negotiations were plagued by parenthetical “nopes” and “can’ts”  and “won’ts.”

So it really wasn’t that much of a surprise.

(To see how partisan and political interests worked in action, read this Treehugger post on how women’s reproductive rights were essentially scrubbed from the document.)

An on-the-ground wrap-up:

Via treehugger.com:

Rio+20 Ending: Saying Goodbye to All That

Thinking about going to Riocentro, I checked my e-mail when a Wi-fi signal miraculously appeared and saw a press conference call: “‘Inclusive’ Green Economy Given a Go Ahead by Heads of State at Rio+20,” “New Indicator of Wealth Beyond GDP.” Those were good headlines. But then the words: “if embraced over the coming months and years,” “nations agreed that such a transition could be ‘an important tool’ when supported by policies,” “nations wishing to forge ahead.” The inverted commas on Inclusive and An important tool are not mine.

It stopped being funny to criticize this. To think about the amount of money spent in business class flights and five star hotel rooms and silver lining at dinners and venues rental and flyers to make this happen is simply depressing, and is a waste that exactly contradicts everything this conference should stand for.

And another wrap-up post, with some excellent links to other summations. Well worth clicking through beyond the amusingly sarcastic first paragraph:.

Via sustainablebusinessforum.com:

Rio+20: The Future We Want

Rio+20 is done and dusted. And the wrap-up? If the future we want is anything like the 49 page document of the same name compiled by Summit leaders, it’s full of fluffy bunnies, rainbows and birthday parties. In other words, a whole lot of ephemeral motherhood statements and not much substance.

Tchau, Rio.

Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.

With few solid promises expected from the Rio+20 main stage, let’s look instead at a Side Event report that picks up the energy from the 2000 Millennium Summit.

Remember 2000? The world’s leaders came together at the “dawn of a new millennium” and vowed to end poverty by 2015.

Here’s the inspiring original United Nations Millennium Declaration.

And how the environment fared:

Respect for nature. Prudence must be shown in the management of all living species and natural resources, in accordance with the precepts of sustainable development. Only in this way can the immeasurable riches provided to us by nature be preserved and passed on to our descendants. The current unsustainable patterns of production and consumption must be changed in the interest of our future welfare and that of our descendants.

Elsewhere: to “intensify,” “strive,” and “spare no effort.” I like that.

(To properly frame this positive momentum, the September Millennium summit was held two months before the U.S. Presidential election, and three months before the U.S. Supreme Court handed the election to G.W. Bush. It was probably the worst-year ever for Vice President Al Gore and a huge thud of dismay for millions. “An Inconvenient Truth” was still six years away.)

Now, where was I? Right. 2012 edition.

Via GreenLaw, with thanks:

Global Environment Outlook: Environment for the future we want

The United Nations Environment Programme recently released its fifth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), a report on world progress towards the environmental aspects of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For those who lack the time to absorb all 525 pages of the report, UNEP provided a shorter trending report, Measuring Progress, which uses approachable charts and succinct text to show the state of global environmental goals (GEGs). The report was featured at a Rio+20 side event last week, and UNEP created a briefing document for policymakers.

The new Global Environmental Outlook offers scant really good news, scarcer great news. But it does show progress towards the environment–and future–we want.

As GreenLaw author and Pace University dean Lin Harmon recommends, it’s a worthwhile read.

Not attending this week’s Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development conference?

Me either.

So I was especially glad to attend the June 15 Institute for Sustainable Enterprise breakfast seminar at Fairleigh Dickinson University for an informative, engaging conversation with three speakers about what’s happening in Rio and the likely outcomes from it.

The Rio+20 conference brings together participants from government, business and civil society worldwide. The goal is to create “The Future we Want” through building green economies and eliminating world poverty.

Host and ISE Senior Advisor Jeana Wirtenberg welcomed the full  room of attendees by saying that “we have an historic opportunity to get it right” and asking the room to commit to Sustainable action in our personal and work lives.

First up was Ira Feldman, president of Greentrack Strategies. He gave an overview of  what Rio+20 is all about and what key stakeholders bring to the table.

He cited three key reasons UN-watchers and the Sustainable Business community have generally low expectations for this year’s event, compared to the inaugural Sustainable Development conference 20 years ago in Rio and the follow-up meeting he attended 10 years ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. These reasons are: the world’s gloomy economic state, the slow and noncommittal progress pre-conference on the policy-oriented Negotiated Outcome Document, and a sense from business and industry participants of weak governmental leadership.

Ira aptly described the challenge of concurrent policy negotiations, 560 side events (which he likened to a World’s Fair), and protests, all packed into three days, as a three-ring circus. The challenge, he said, “Is how do you think about all the Sustainability issues, what is the mental map, with everything in play?”

As a partial answer to this question, Ira explained how Sustainability has evolved in the past 20 years from philanthropic action to a core business strategy, and is now poised to transform into “Sustainability to Scale.” (Ira referenced the World Business Council for Sustainable Development‘s work on this idea.)

Realistically, Ira said, conference outcomes will include negotiated and specific language on GDP alternatives that will be used to guide future discussions.

Next up to speak was Amanda Nesheiwat, who will attend the Rio+20 conference as a UN Youth Delegate representing young people. (Her other hats include being a student representative for the Foundation for Post Conflict Development and a founder of the NJ Sustainable Collegiate Partners.) During pre-conference negotiations at the UN, she said one of her frustrations was repeatedly hearing the words”We cannot commit to…” from delegates.

In Rio, she said she will bring the youth’s perspective that world leaders must move beyond short-term thinking and lack of creativity, commit to “more action, less talking,” and move on Climate Change. I have no doubt she will be a powerful, insistent voice for change in Rio and continue this work when she returns home.

(As a side note, I found it refreshing that Amanda mentioned the need for creating and living with “sustainable consumption.” I personally believe that Sustainability means using less as well as using the world’s resources more efficiently.)

ISE Research Fellow Bill Russell capped the presentations with his thoughts on engaging citizens to meaningful action. He talked about attending the March 2012 Citizens’ Summit to Address Sustainability held at Yale University and his dismay at seeing Old Guard Thinking on stage instead of new participants with new ideas. Bill echoed the low expectations for Rio+20, offering his viewpoint that dominant government players are not working interdependently with business, NGO and citizen stakeholders. His call-to-action for himself and breakfast seminar attendees was to commit to staying engaged.

In the question-and-answer session that followed the presentations, ISE Fellow Matt Polsky touched on Sustainable Business in New Jersey with a reminder about the 2010 policy brief prepared by ISE for the Christie Administration called Developing and Implementing a Sustainable Growth Strategy for New Jersey.

The event ended on a positive note with audience contributions about restoring  equity to the Sustainability conversation; the emergence of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and sustainable accounting; the work of ecological economist Herman Daly; and innovation as a new mindset.

I was extremely sorry to miss the post-seminar roundtable discussion. Thanks to the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise for hosting this year’s breakfast seminars and I look forward to the series’ return in the fall.

The tide is turning towards Sustainable Business.

Next week, the world’s government, industry and citizen groups will convene in Rio de Janeiro to discuss Sustainable Development.

This week, the Sustainable Business community held a first-of-its-kind full-day Washington summit.

The Alliance of Sustainable Business Council,a group of business owners with a commitment to Sustainable Business practices, also met with White House and Congressional officials.

The group supports business-friendly legislation and policies that are also kind to the earth and protect future generations.

Via CSRwire.com

ASBC Issues Call to Action at Historic White House Meeting

The largest U.S. business organization focused on sustainability has sent a letter to the White House and Congress, calling for a growing economy compatible with shared prosperity and environmental stewardship. The message was also conveyed to Administration officials at a first-of-its-kind, day-long summit at the White House on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, and will be shared in meetings with Senators and their staff on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.

Since all politics is local, it’s important to get connected and active in our own business community.

Check out the Member names down the left column of the  White House letter. It’s a long list of Sustainable Business groups nationwide.