The Sustainable Development Goals read like the best-intentioned New Year’s resolutions: End poverty; promote peace and justice; cooperate and partner with others for the greater good; and so on. Makes you wonder if the resolutions will stick.
Yet corporations that have begun to pursue the SDGs see business advantages unfolding that will reap benefits in 2017 and beyond. They are expanding markets, attracting talent and eliminating some risk from operations.
Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Tata, Siemens and others are seeing expanded markets, new recruits and risk reduction. Learn more >>
US outdoor clothing giant Patagonia is calling for business leaders to back regenerative organic agriculture, claiming that certain textile standards are “not going far enough.”
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario
blogs about regenerative agriculture:
A growing number of corporations, researchers, journalists and practitioners have also started using the term “regenerative”—as well as “restorative,” “sustainable,” “ethical,” and others—almost interchangeably, without any clear sense of what we’re talking about. Even worse, we’re increasingly seeing “sustainable” claims combined with conventional (non-organic) farming, which defeats the purpose entirely. How can you rebuild soil ecosystems while simultaneously pumping the soil with pesticides and herbicides?
We shouldn’t tolerate the watering down of agricultural practices that hold potential for enormous benefit to our suffering planet. The risks are simply too great. Meaningless terms with little or no concrete definition inundate consumers at every turn (even the label “organic” can be slippery), causing confusion at best. And some existing standards don’t go far enough. For example, many companies have signed onto the Better Cotton Initiative—a program that includes some important environmental and social provisions but ultimately still perpetuates some harmful conventional practices, including use of synthetic pesticides and GMO seeds.
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And the world tips slowly towards SEMBA…
The Only Way Forward, from the Foreign Policy Thinkers Blog:
“The rise of human agency also comes from the creation of
new professions. Social entrepreneurship and social-impact investing open wide, new vistas for individuals committed to solving global problems. As Roger Martin and Sally Osberg argue in their book, Getting Beyond Better, social entrepreneurs are distinct from direct social-service providers and social advocates. They “seek to shift a stable but suboptimal equilibrium in a way that is neither entirely mandated nor entirely market-driven. They create new approaches to old and pernicious problems. And they work directly to tip society to a new and better state.”
“Social-impact investing has exploded from a few pioneers into a diverse ecosystem of boutique funds, philanthropic organizations, family offices, and large commercial banks. In Capital and the Common Good, author Georgia Levenson Keohane notes that nearly every mainstream financial institution, from Barclays to Bain Capital, now has a social or sustainable finance unit. The landscape is highly specialized by geography and issue area, ranging from small-business development to environmental and economic sustainability.”
A new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Conference for Trade Development (UNCTAD) has found that adopting circular economic principles would put India on a path to positive regenerative and value-creating development with annual benefits of US $624 billion in 2050 compared with the current development — equivalent to 30% of India’s current GDP.
“Traditionally, the Indian economy has been one where reusing, re-purposing and recycling has been second nature. In a world that is increasingly running out of natural resources, this thinking is an asset that must be leveraged by businesses, policymakers and citizens in an organized manner and expanded to include other elements to make the economy truly circular,” says Shankar Venkateswaran, chief of Tata Sustainability Group.
As a result of unprecedented economic dynamism and a rapidly expanding population, India — which is slated to become the fourth-largest economy in the world if current economic growth trends continue — faces significant questions about urbanization, resource scarcity and high levels of poverty, and will be required to make profound choices regarding the path to future development.
The emerging powerhouse market could embark upon an industrialization path comparable to that of mature markets — albeit faster — complete with all of the associated negative externalities it entails. But this scenario is not inevitable. With its young population and emerging manufacturing sector, the country is well positioned to make systematic choices that would put it on a trajectory towards positive, regenerative and value-creating development.
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Scientists have managed to make a synthetic process that converts CO2 into organic compounds faster than plants.
In a study published in Science, the researchers detail how they managed to make a synthetic pathway that converts CO2 into organic compounds faster than plants. In order to find an enzyme to improve CO2 fixation, the researchers carefully selected 17 enzymatic compounds from nine organisms. These were engineered together using stepwise optimization to form a synthetic pathway that converts CO2 into organic molecules.
The technology is still under development, but holds great promise for carbon fixation.
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A new type of solar panel turns moisture in the air into clean drinking water. A single solar panel can produce enough clean water for a family of four.
“We started this company to provide water to everyone, everywhere,” says Cody Friesen, CEO of startup Zero Mass Water.
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Tesla‘s new Gigafactory opened at the end of July in Nevada, with much excitement from both the media and the general public. Only 14 percent of the massive structure has been built, with the rest of the $5 billion project to be concluded by 2020.
According to Tesla, battery cell production will start in 2017; by 2018, the Gigafactory should be cranking out cars to the tune of 500,000 Model 3s per year. A big part of Tesla’s need to build the Gigafactory lies in the reduced expenses for lithium-ion battery production it provides.
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A new study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) describes the role renewable energy can have in elevating the livelihoods of the millions of rural poor, specifically in terms of the impact it can have on the billions of people employed in the agri-food chain. In the study, the agency uses data from the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a SEMBA Advisory Board member.
SELF has pioneered the use of solar power for a wide range of applications including household lighting, water pumping, school electrification, drip irrigation and wireless Internet access.
Off-grid renewables can support productive activity at all stages of the agri-food chain, from irrigation to support food production, through post-harvest processes, including agro-processing and food preservation for storage and transport. Modern renewable technologies also allow sustainable food preparation and cooking.
This story was written by Lauren Hesterman, SEMBA ’17.
EDITOR’S NOTE: SEMBA regularly brings in business icons, executives, and entrepreneurs for hands-on, face-to-face workshops on issues ranging from sustainability to organizational leadership. In mid-October, John Abele, co-founder of the pioneering medical device company Boston Scientific, sat with the SEMBA cohort and talked about innovation and collaboration.
Not surprisingly, I found myself Googling new and exciting ideas no less than a dozen times while listening to John Abele speak to our SEMBA cohort last month. A dozen times – and it most certainly was not because I was distracted or disengaged. Rather, it was quite the opposite.
John is one of those people that has inspiration oozing out of him. His relentless curiosity is apparent through and through. He had me searching for a new Irish company that is selling light instead of bulbs, a human anatomy chart, and the economic theories of Elinor Ostrom. Co-founder of Boston Scientific, where scientific innovation and humanitarian collaboration meet, John Abele has been driving innovative medical solutions for more than four decades. While John’s list of tangible accomplishments is enough to fill up a CV many times over, perhaps his greatest asset is his remarkable ability to collaborate.
Continue reading “Innovation: Top 10 Lessons from John Abele”