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Climate Change Initiatives

Many companies are already addressing the elements of social justice, environmental stewardship, transparency, and fair labor practices in their company values. The Business Roundtable in the US announced the release of a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. There are many possibilities for a company to show social responsibility. We address three initiatives below.

Transportation

In one future world, we will live in the less expensive suburbs or rural areas and come into the city for work in our driverless vehicles. To avoid expensive parking fees, we’ll send our vehicles out to roam around, hang out at the mall and grocery store and come pick us up when work is over.

A professor at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, Fulton has been publishing work on a mobility program for the future world. He says, and back up his claims with science, that three things have to change simultaneously for the future of transportation and climate change to work: electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and ride-sharing. The Paris Agreement in 2015 hopes to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees. Some estimate this means 100 million new electrical vehicles on the road by 2030. 

The snake in the woodpile is the lithium-ion battery, and the extensive mining for raw materials that is needed to supply the battery power for electric vehicles. There is concern that the current levels of energy use to produce these batteries means they will have a higher carbon footprint for much of their life, compared to current petroleum-based internal combustion engine vehicles. We can hope that the scientists who are working on this technology can continue to improve methods and materials used in manufacture, and lower the carbon footprint of these batteries. 

If so, then the electric vehicle could change our futures–if it is accompanied by autonomous drivers and ride-sharing.  Fulton suggests that these three things- electric, autonomous, and sharing- have to occur together for transportation to work in the future. 

There can be little environmental benefit from electric cars or from driverless vehicles, in isolation. Each confers some benefits. Autonomous vehicles are not piloted by drunk drivers. Electric vehicles run on cleaner energy. But with an estimated world population of 11 billion by 2050, the newest estimate, we can’t all have a car of our own, ready to drive us around. We have to learn to share. The problems of climate change, and the resources necessary to support 11 billion people on the earth, suggests that change is needed not just in one element of our current transportation system, but in all three together. 

Fulton’s policy initiatives will hopefully be supported by good science in the next couple of years, and industry is already taking on the challenges of transportation in the future. Lyft expects driverless vehicles to account for most of its riders within five years. Tesla’s new trucks are already popular, and are sleekly beautiful as well. Human behavior change–the willingness to wait and share a ride–is going to be more of a challenge for inventors and entrepreneurs. 

We might consider looking at transportation infrastructure change from a global health perspective. A combination of two things: more walking, and less riding, might impact the truly frightening statistics on global diabetes rates. The catastrophic effects of loneliness and social isolation might be impacted by taking to the streets, on foot, in search of our next burger and fries. If shared, autonomous, electric vehicles could provide transportation for the elderly, the disabled, and those travelling long distances, and the rest of us work online and walk to the store, pub, and burger joints, we might see impacts both in ourselves and in our world.

Coffee beans

Global stakeholders throughout the coffee industry, consumers, foodies and farmers are beginning to understand the catastrophic nature of global climate change: it is not just that the world is in danger, but our supply of high quality coffee beans is affected, and that catastrophe is happening right now. In the highlands of Ethiopia, coffee bean quality and yield had dropped. Costa Rica and India have had similar decreases in yields. Worrisome pests, disease, changes in global weather patterns, and the entire coffee ecosystem teeters on the brink of disaster. What is going on, and, more importantly, what is being done? 

Coffee needs a relatively narrow band of climate, weather, and elevation to produce really superb beans, in the quantity needed for global demand. The cloud-forests and fragile, diverse mountain ecosystems that grow the best coffee have a unique blend of temperature, rainfall, sunshine, nurse-trees, companion plants, and pest and disease resistance. Even a change in global temperature of a degree can change rainfall patterns and promote diseases that can impact the coffee crop radically.

For many countries in the narrow tropical zone that supports the coffee ecosystem, this commodity product in one of only two that grow uniquely in these areas- the other being cacao- and entire political and economic systems depend on the revenue brought by this product. Climate change has the potential to destroy the coffee farms across this tropical zone. 

What is being done to protect the world from what can only be described as a global catastrophe? The SCA, the Specialty Coffee Association, sponsored a conference in October in Guatemala City to address the challenges and look for solutions. With stakeholders from across the coffee supply chain, the conference, called Avance, sought cross-cultural collaboration and problem solving to address the changes in the industry. Topics under discussion included farm labor and the development of producer’s cooperatives, issues affecting profitability of coffee farms, including new markets outside of traditional commodity markets, and climate-smart practices for farmers. Some of the climate-smart practices, specifically developed to address the impacts of climate change, include reforestation, encouraging diversity, and safe pest and disease control. 

With a goal of sustainability, rather than short term profit, many agricultural organizations are looking at on the ground changes in farming and culture practices that can reduce the negative impacts of climate change to the coffee crop. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture has launched a Sustainable Coffee Challenge that is looking at sustainability through the lens of productivity and quality of the crop, as well as fair labor practices and profitability. Part of the Coffee and Climate Initiative, this organization works with groups of smallholders and farmers throughout the regions that grow coffee, attempting to develop techniques and farming practices that will allow the coffee crop to adapt to the changing climate. The organization is a not-for-profit, based in Columbia, with a global reach and a goal of reducing poverty and hunger through support and education of farmers. 

The Coffee and Climate Initiative is a best-practices education and resources center that seeks to provide a open-source model for sharing information and support among smallholders and coffee farms globally. Using a toolbox model, with interactive support and exchange of information, this model is part of a growing effort to include the small farmers and producers in problem-solving and decision-making. Originally developed by a group of coffee producers in Finland, the organization now had global partners and is involved in sponsoring work across the coffee-growing regions in Africa and Vietnam. 

Solar

Below are three changes to watch for:

1. The marriage of software and solar. Geli, which stands for Growing Energy Labs, Inc., has raised $7 million with the intent of taking the “internet of energy” to the next level. The company boasts software that allows for better communication support among grid operators and individuals relying on solar power. Their technology addresses multiple facets of the industry, and it seeks to streamline and simplify all of them.

2. Portable chargers for electric cars. In the age of the electric car, the age-old issue, is keeping them charged. But a California-based company has come up with a solution. The charging station, called EV ARC (Electric Vehicle Autonomous Renewable Charger) won a global award for energy innovation in September. These units have the potential to be smart choices for the business owner interested in cultivating a green atmosphere. Reports say, “The EV ARC can store between 24 to 36 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Since the units stand alone and generate their own power, there is no electricity bill from a utility that the owners have to pay each month.”

3. Installation prices are dropping. One of the most expensive steps of solar power, is the very first: installation. However, SMASHsolar has developed a new type of panel that is easier to install than ever before, and that ease means that it will cut down on the labor, training, and overhead costs typically associated with installation.

Conclusion:

There are a lot of possibilities to do something about climate change. Within a company you can reduce the CO2 footprint, if you start initiatives in production, procurement, administration and other areas. All initiatives are change projects that need to set-up properly in order to achieve an impact. Contact us for support!

By Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy is a management consultant in Europe, focusing on top-management consultancy, corporate reporting and crowdfunding. Furthermore he helps establishing and funding start-up's. Dr. Georg Tichy is a lecturer at university and trainer for start-up's, takes on speaking engagements about financial and nonfinancial management-related seminars and conferences, and publishes on current economic issues in professional journals

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