Coal: An Unsustainable Future

This post was written by Mike Rama, SEMBA ’17.

On Wednesday, February 1, the Senate passed a resolution to remove the Stream Protection Act, a decision that is certain to be stamped with the seal of approval by President Trump in the coming weeks. As summarized by Coal Age, a pro-coal mining news source:

“The final rule (Stream Protection Act) updated the 33-year-old regulations with stronger requirements for surface coal mining operations. The rule would require companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation, unless that would conflict with the implemented land use. The rule requires the testing and monitoring of the condition of streams that might be affected by mining — before, during and after their operations — to provide baseline data that ensures operators can detect and correct problems that could arise, and restore mined areas to their previous condition.”

54 senators opposed the Stream Protection Act, arguing that the law was too burdensome and would kill jobs in the coal industry.

Continue reading “Coal: An Unsustainable Future”

Do You Have What It Takes To Change The World?

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Over the past 25 years, most major business schools have added some kind of program focused on sustainability, corporate citizenship, or social entrepreneurship, though they are not integrated into the core DNA of the institution.

The University of Vermont’s Sustainability Entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA) is unique in that it fundamentally reinvents business screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-38-00-pmeducation and the MBA degree to address the urgent sustainability challenges we face in the 21st century. The curriculum is focused 100% on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship. In this webinar, Professor Stuart Hart will describe the design and significance of the SEMBA — a 12 month, AACSB-accredited program focused on developing the next generation of business leaders who will innovate enterprises to move us more rapidly toward a sustainable world. Vinca Krajewski, a SEMBA graduate and currently Associate Brand Manager at Seventh Generation, will describe her experience in the program and how it has uniquely prepared her to be a changemaker for sustainable innovation.

 

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From the Web: Vertical Farming

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No. 212 Rome Street, in Newark, New Jersey, used to be the address of Grammer, Dempsey & Hudson, a steel-supply company. It was like a lumberyard for steel, which it bought in bulk from distant mills and distributed in smaller amounts, mostly to customers within a hundred-mile radius of Newark. It sold off its assets in 2008 and later shut down. In 2015, a new indoor-agriculture company called AeroFarms leased the property. It had the rusting corrugated-steel exterior torn down and a new building erected on the old frame. Then it filled nearly seventy thousand square feet of floor space with what is called a vertical farm. The building’s ceiling allowed for grow tables to be stacked twelve layers tall, to a height of thirty-six feet, in rows eighty feet long. The vertical farm grows kale, bok choi, watercress, arugula, red-leaf lettuce, mizuna, and other baby salad greens.

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From the Web: Is this the year smart businesses tackle the SDGs?

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.

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Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Tata, Siemens and others are seeing expanded markets, new recruits and risk reduction. Learn more >>

From the Web: Patagonia Challenges Businesses to Support Regenerative Agriculture

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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From the Web: Can the New World Order Be Saved?

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.”

And…

“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.”

 

From the Web: Circular Economy Framework Could Give India a Competitive Advantage

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.

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“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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From the Web: Revising the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI)

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the apparel, footwear and home textile industry’s foremost alliance for sustainable production. Its main focus is on building the Higg Index, a standardized supply chain measurement tool for all industry participants to understand the environmental and social and labor impacts of making and selling their products and services.

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Now, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has launched a new version of its Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), a cradle-to-gate scoring tool that measures and communicates the environmental performance of thousands of materials used in creating apparel, footwear and home textile products.

The original version of the Higg MSI was developed by Nike and later adopted by the SAC in 2012 and incorporated into the SAC’s Higg Index.

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