The State of Green Business, 2016

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BY Joel Makower –

The good news is that there’s some good news. And that bad news is getting, well, less bad.

That’s one way to read this year’s State of Green Business.

Our ninth annual report (download PDF), published today and produced in partnership withTrucost, continues our tradition of taking the pulse of corporate progress in sustainability, in the United States and around the world. It looks at both common measures (energy, waste and carbon) and some less-common ones (corporate reporting of natural capital profit or savings, for example, or companies’ low-carbon investments) over the past five years.

The report assesses the performance of U.S. companies in the S&P 500 index as well as those in the MSCI World Developed Index, which includes more than 1,600 companies in 24 developed markets. It also offers up the 10 trends for 2016 that we think you should be watching.

Let’s start with the trends. We’re pretty proud about our track record here, as we identify waves that are getting ready to crest. Last year, for example, we identified food waste, stranded assets and green bonds among last year’s trends to watch. All seemed to garner increased attention and action during 2015.

For 2016, we identify the circular economy, green infrastructure, carbon recycling, microgrids and the b-to-b sharing economy among our 10 trends. All, we believe, will gain traction in the months ahead, becoming a growing part of the corporate sustainability scene.

Another is the growth of the “blue economy” — the newfound focus on the business of oceans, from mapping and mining to stewardship and “smart sailing” initiatives for the shipping industry. There’s a cottage industry emerging in turning ocean plastics into materials, transforming a pollutant into a product. And growing attention to sustainable fishing, including the human rights aspects of the commercial fishing industry. All told, a sea change in thinking about oceans.

Just the facts

The second half of the report are the numbers — a set of more than 30 metrics produced with Trucost — assessing how companies, in aggregate, are making progress on key environmental measures.

One promising area of progress is in the financial cost of natural capital impacts — the aggregate dollar value of environmental degradation caused by companies’ resource use and emissions. Trucost calculated the value of hundreds of natural-capital inputs consumed (such as water or commodities like fossil fuels) and outputs generated (such as waste or greenhouse gas emissions) by companies’ operations and supply chains over the last five years.

After years of increases, the costs took a downward shift for the most recent year of data, suggesting that companies are becoming more efficient and environmentally responsible.

Still, business has a long way to go before declaring victory. In the U.S., the value of natural capital used by business exceeds $1 trillion per year, or 6 percent of national GDP, in terms of the environmental and social impacts associated with pollution, ecosystem depletion and related health costs. This number is almost $3 trillion for global companies.

If you put that number into context by comparing it to corporate profits, you get a troubling picture. The profits of more than half of all U.S. and global companies would be wiped out if these companies had to internalize and pay market rates for their environmental impacts.

The trends are more positive when it comes to other trends, including low-carbon investments, fossil-fuel divestment, sales of green bonds, investor use of environmental data, companies’ use of science-based targets and increased efficiency in energy, water and waste.

For example, 51 percent of U.S. companies and 49 percent of global companies publicly have disclosed greenhouse gas reduction targets, as of 2014, the most recent year with full data. That’s up about 10 points from five years earlier — and doesn’t count the relative deluge of commitments that were made last year in the run-up to COP21. Water-reducing targets are up even more.

The report also shows a modest but notable increase in the number of companies with science-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, the beginning of a promising trend. So, too, companies’ reporting of the climate emissions from the use phase of their products: Growth roughly has tripled over the past half-decade.

Money talks

Investors are finally waking up, and not just the so-called socially responsible ones. In the report’s foreword, Trucost CEO Richard Mattison cites the Montreal Pledge, which commits investors to measuring and disclosing the carbon footprint of their portfolios on an annual basis, which attracted 120 signatories representing just over $10 trillion in assets under management.

And the U.N.-led Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition, formed to help cut greenhouse gas emissions by mobilizing institutional investors committed to decarbonizing their portfolios, “smashed through its initial target of $100 billion, and is now overseeing the decarbonization of $230 billion in assets under management.”

There’s also ramped-up efforts by giant pension funds in both the United States and Europe, along with the aforementioned market for green bonds, which has tripled to $42 billion in just two years. All told, it suggests that the smart money is looking for low-carbon and sustainable outcomes.

Said Mattison: “We can say that 2015 was the year that the investment community made critical commitments to finance sustainable growth.”

And, he might add, 2016 could be the year when mainstream investors recognize that sustainability is no longer a “nice to do,” but an opportunity for revenue growth, risk mitigation and other means to create shareholder value. That, indeed, would be a game-changer.

Cleantech Startups 101 – Keith Gillard, Pangaea Ventures

As part of our ongoing “Cleantech Startups 101” blog series, this week we interview Keith Gillard, General Partner of Pangaea Ventures Ltd. Keith has been investing in cleantech and advanced materials start-up companies since 2001, initially with Mitsubishi Corporation and then as President of BASF Venture Capital America Inc. He is also a Foresight board member.

 Foresight CAC office

What’s your background and how did you become involved with Foresight?

KG: I’ve had what you might call a “non-linear” career.  I’m an entrepreneur by nature. Right out of university I worked with a boutique investment banking firm, but was running a record label evenings and weekends, which I soon turned full time by quitting the day job. From there I founded a series of software companies before being headhunted by Mitsubishi to run their Canadian venture capital activites. At that time everyone was still thinking “internet”; it was all software, software, software. Everything changed in 2001 after the bubble popped. I re-focused on fuel cells and other alternative energy solutions – which weren’t known as “cleantech” until years later.  I joined Pangaea after establishing the BASF Venture Capital America office in Silicon Valley, and haven’t regretted my decision. Pangaea is the best in the world when it comes to advanced materials.

I knew Neil Huff [Foresight’s Managing Director] when he worked at Ballard, and we stayed in touch over the years and throughout our various ventures. My partners and I agreed that being on the Foresight board of directors was a good thing – Foresight is focused on adding value to the local cleantech ecosystem, which is aligned with what Pangaea is trying to do. I like to help other entrepreneurs as much as I can, even if I’m not investing in their ideas – by making introductions, giving feedback, adding value.

Cleantech has struggled as an investment class in the past; do you see any signals that this is changing or about to change?

KG: There is definitely a signal-to-noise issue. There have been some massive failures that have obscured the successes. There are tremendous investment opportunities within cleantech, but historically most of the dollars have been directed into capital-intensive plays that were highly dependent on oil prices being $100/barrel and up. Or into capital-intensive plays that didn’t anticipate China moving directly into the solar market.

As a result, “cleantech” can be a tough sell right now in venture capital (VC) circles. Less so for advanced materials, which is perceived to be a subset of cleantech that cuts across all industries. Most of our investments have a cleantech angle but, because of our expertise and defined focus, our current fund hasn’t been impacted by cleantech being out of favour. The challenge for active investors in the cleantech space is that it has become more difficult to syndicate deals; you have to think about who else would invest in each round. The good news is that the investors still playing in the space understand it and can add a lot of value. It’s smart money.

In terms of how cleantech entrepreneurs have responded, some have pivoted (like to “clean web”), others have focused on designing and communicating their value proposition so that it demonstrates their idea/product has a large market with customer traction – the focus isn’t on cleantech alone.

What are the greatest cleantech investment opportunities right now?

KG: Agriculture and food technology, for starters. There is tremendous urgency around this, and a lot of acquisition activity. There are more people in the middle class and more mouths to feed that want better, richer, more “American” food – and there’s greater awareness of the environmental effects of fertilizers and pesticides, which are necessary to achieve a high yield. About 70% of pesticides are being phased out as a result, and moving in to replace them is the next generation of bio-pesticides, microbial plant stimulants, better fertilizers, and all sorts of new technologies. They’re promising to not only replace the old technologies but also deliver a better performance. There’s no trade off.

Energy storage is another growth area. Batteries are at the heart of the mobile application, cell phone, drone, and electric vehicle industries. There’s an even bigger potential market for flow batteries, which will make solar, tidal, other intermittent energy sources into good baseline power providers.

What advice would you give to cleantech entrepreneurs?

KG: I’d tell them three things.

Market segmentation is critical. You need to understand the broad, world-wide market but you also need to segment that market. Figure out exactly where your product can compete effectively and go after that market. It could be the largest, it could be the fastest, but focus on the low-hanging fruit. The other markets you can license out. Foresight and their Executives in Residence (EIRs) can help you with market segmentation, or you can tap into the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).

Protect your IP. A lot of entrepreneurs baulk at the cost of filing and prosecuting a patent. But keep in mind that, if anyone finds out what you’re doing and files a patent – even if they’ve done none of the work themselves – it will block your ability to patent your work. At a minimum, you should file a provisional patent. The clock on your protection starts from the moment you file, and it gives you 12 months to gather enough data to finalize the patent. Be smart about what you disclose to people – do not put your IP in jeopardy.

When you’re raising money, keep in mind that there are different types of investors – and each type of investor has a different timeline and a slightly different motivation. Angel investors can often be more patient money that will nurture your company, but they only invest locally. VCs operate on 10-year time horizons, and where they are in their timeline will determine whether they make early- or late-stage deals. For example, if you talk to a VC in year 1 of their fund, that VC has 9-10 years before that investment matures and exits; if you talk to a VC in year 5 of their fund, they only have five years to watch that company mature and exit.  There’s a perception that VCs are greedy because of their expected rate of return but keep in mind that no profit is guaranteed and they have to expect a high rate of company failure. VCs are going to compare your opportunity to every other one we see or have seen before, so the upside potential had better be enormous, or we’ll choose another deals.  VCs take big risks, and can add an enormous amount of value, for which we hope to be rewarded!

Cleantech is a focus of the GLOBE 2016 Innovation Expo, which is taking place March 2-4 in Vancouver alongside GLOBE 2016. Foresight will have a booth at the Powerhaus Pavilion and will also be holding an event on March 2nd in the Foresight Presentation Theatre: the Foresight-ARCTIC Showcase: Fast-tracking Cleantech Innovation in the Resource Sector.

For more information, see the GLOBE 2016 website

US wins in controversial WTO ruling against India’s solar push

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Ruling says “domestic content” clause in India’s Solar Mission violates trade law, prompting warnings “outrageous” decision will undermine clean energy development

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) yesterday dealt a blow to India’s ambitious National Solar Mission, sparking warnings from green groups that the trade watchdog is undermining the Paris Agreement’s efforts to mobilise investment in clean energy.

The US had brought a complaint against the Indian government-funded mission, which aims to rapidly boost solar capacity across the subcontinent, arguing a “domestic content” clause requiring part of the solar panels to be produced in India was in violation of international trade rules.

The Solar Mission was the centrepiece of India’s INDC national climate action plan submission under the Paris Agreement. But the WTO rejected India’s argument the programme helps the country to meet its climate commitments, and said domestic policies that violate WTO rules cannot be justified on the basis they fulfil international climate commitments such as those set out under the Paris deal.

The ruling was welcomed by the US government, which is keen to deliver greater trade liberalisation for fast-expanding clean tech markets.

“This is an important outcome, not just as it applies to this case, but for the message it sends to other countries considering discriminatory ‘localisation’ policies,” said Mike Froman, US Trade Representative (USTR) in a statement. “Discriminatory policies in the clean energy space in fact undermine our efforts to promote clean energy by requiring the use of more expensive and less efficient equipment, raising the cost of generating clean energy and making it more difficult for clean energy sources to be competitive.”

The Indian government may now have to adjust some of the policies underpinning its Solar Mission to comply with WTO trade rules or risk sanctions. However, India is considering an appeal against the ruling through the WTO’s appellate body, according to a NDTV report.

Green groups blasted the decision saying it sets a worrying precedent where trade law trumps the Paris climate accord and accusing the US of hypocrisy given many US states have adopted their own local content rules.

Bill Waren, a trade analyst at Friends of the Earth, said the campaign group was dismayed that climate policy was effectively being made by an international trade tribunal. “The government of India reasonably provided some preferences for local producers of solar energy in order to convert from a carbon economy to a green economy,” he said. “The WTO decision, finding India’s solar energy programme in violation of international trade law, is an outrage.”

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, an economic justice coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, added that the move formed part of a wider trend that sees trade agreements undermine climate change policies, arguing that it highlights the dangers of upcoming trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

“Current trade rules limit governments’ capacity to support local renewable energy, undermine clean technology transfer and empower fossil fuel companies to attack climate protection in secret courts,” he said. “In the last three months alone, Ecuador was ordered to pay $1bn for cancelling a petrol contract under a Bilateral Investment Treaty, and now India has been found guilty by the WTO for building solar panels and supporting local jobs. Trade policy cannot continue to be a hindrance: governments must be free to implement sound climate policy.”

However, free trade advocates, including some of those currently working to introduce new rules to remove trade tariffs for clean technologies, argue local sourcing requirements can push up the cost of clean technologies and undermine R&D investments in developing new low carbon technologies.

This article is part of BusinessGreen’s Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

Promoting Your Business to Condo and HOA Influencers Using Digital Marketing As you probably know, most people who are looking for information look online.

That’s why no one cracks their Yellow Pages anymore. It’s so much easy to type your question into Google.

That’s what this brand new blog is all about.

marketing-clip-art-31907But what is the best and most effective way to do that for YOUR condo or HOA related business? That depends.

Are you a part of a large national or even global corporation, or do you mainly focus on serving your local or regional area of the country?

Local, Regional, National

Since there are so many options, your first step should be to figure out which ones are best for your situation.

If you are a local business, you should zero in on the options that allow you to target potential customers in your coverage area. This may seem obvious, but you’ll save yourself time and money if you put a little planning in before breaking out the credit card.

That’s not to say that you have to spend money. If you’ve already built a solid social media presence, you can spread your message without setting up any paid campaigns. You have “earned” your audience.

Even if you have a lot of twitter or Facebook followers, you can increase your exposure by adding a paid component.

Studies have shown that if a company shows up in paid and free listings together, the boost they receive in terms of click through rate is actually greater than if that same company only showed up in an unpaid listing.

Research Your Competition

Be a spy. Take advantage of what your competition is already doing to inform your actions.

Do a search on twitter and Facebook for the service or product you offer. Include your city or town in this search. Who do you recognize? What is it about their messaging that makes you want to click (or not)?

How can you make your message more compelling than your competition’s?

The best way to do that is by offering something. Do you do free estimates? Do you have valuable topical knowledge you can share?

Make a List. This list will form the foundation of your online messaging.

5 most common issues faced by landlords

unhappy frustrated angry woman office stress issuesConcerns over unpaid rent, unoccupied property and unruly tenants rank highly among the worries that can keep landlords up at night.

A specialized form of landlord insurance can provide landlords with peace of mind knowing they are covered for the risks associated with property investment, should the unforeseen occur.

With preparation and dedication, property investment can be an attractive wealth creation strategy for Australians. Like any investment, it’s not without its risks.

These are the top five pain points of property investment:

1. Unpaid rent

Concerns over rent being paid on time can become a major stress point for property owners relying on the income. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

If the tenant falls into arrears, a breach notice should be sent for non-payment of rent. If the tenant still doesn’t pay rent after receiving the first notice, a second notice should be sent to terminate the lease and request vacation from the property. Landlords should refer to their local laws and their lease agreement as these requirements may differ in each state/territory.

Landlords should complete thorough checks of potential tenants’ references during the screening process, specifically looking for issues with missed or late payments.

2. Unoccupied property

Having a rental property unoccupied can place significant strain on an owner’s cash flow.

Presenting a well-managed property may help to broaden your pool of prospective tenants, reduce time and money spent on advertising and decrease the number of days your property remains unoccupied between tenancies.

Items once considered luxuries are now standard requirements. Not offering these comforts can make a real difference to the property’s appeal and may impact the amount of rental income the landlord earns.

3. Managing paperwork

There is a sizeable amount of paperwork that goes with being a landlord, and left unchecked it can build up and become a burden.

A good property manager can save landlords from potential paperwork headaches by managing the administrative side of the investment property for them.

4. Maintenance issues

Leaky taps, broken tiles and repairing faulty appliances can create headaches for tenants and landlords.

Landlords who skimp on maintenance with quick fix solutions often find that it actually costs them more in the long run. With the popularity of home renovation shows like The Block, landlords are given the false impression that improvements to their properties are achievable within tight time frames and with limited practical experience or knowledge.

Do-it-yourself fixes can result in substandard workmanship and legal liability claims if there is an injury or loss resulting from a safety hazard.

5. Unruly tenants

No landlord wants to wake up to news that their property has been trashed.

While most tenants do the right thing, there is a minority that violate their lease agreement by behaving poorly or undertaking illegal activity at the property.

Some tenants may breach their pet policy, fail to adhere to noise requirements or smoke at the property. Although it’s rare, other tenants may use the property to distribute or manufacture illegal drugs.

Tenants involved in illegal activity go to great lengths to hide their activities. Routine property inspections can help mitigate these risks by identifying problems before they escalate.

– See more at: http://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/property-management/landlord-quick-tips/5-common-issues-faced-landlords/#sthash.qfkWAfq6.dpuf

LEED v4 in trouble? 50 projects now certified BUT how did they perform?

LEED v4 in trouble? 50 projects now certified BUT how did they perform?

by  –

LEED v4 has been polarizing and provocative.

Nearly 50 buildings are now LEED v4 certified. But how did they do? Let’s look at the data, freshly scraped off the U.S. Green Building Council databases.

v4 by the numbers

Rating System

This one comes as a shocker. Nearly all of the certified v4 projects are either existing buildings or interior fit-outs within existing buildings. This is an alarming trend. Is v4 not market-friendly for new construction? Will we see less new buildings pursuing LEED certification? Either the energy efficiency requirements are too expensive now, or the material freebies projects enjoyed in the last version are creating nostalgia.

v4 by the numbers

Certification Level

Gold has become the coveted project target for Class A commercial development. This has been a consistent trend in the last five years. Silver has emerged as the favored Baseline. In fact all public buildings in New York City are required to achieve LEED Silver certification.

v4 by the numbers
Project Country

Where are the first 50 LEED v4 projects located? Here is the full breakdown.

 

  1. United States (24)
  2.  China (5)
  3. Germany (3)
  4. United Kingdom (3)
  5. India (2)
  6. Italy (2)
  7. Turkey (2)
  8. Canada (1)
  9. Greece (1)
  10. Hong Kong (1)
  11. Mexico (1)
  12. Portugal (1)
  13. Switzerland (1)
  14. Taiwan (1)

v4 by the numbers

Project State

It comes as no surprise the United States has the most LEED v4 projects. After all, it is the U.S. Green Building Council’s green rating system. Which states are the early adopters?

  1. California (5)
  2. District of Columbia (3)
  3. Michigan (3)
  4. Colorado (2)
  5. Georgia (2)
  6. Illinois (2)
  7. Pennsylvania (2)
  8. Wisconsin (2)
  9. Connecticut (1)
  10. North Carolina (1)
  11. Washington (1)

Are the first 50 projects indicative of how LEED v4 will fare in today’s real estate market? Time will tell.

Global green building sector tipped to double in just two years

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Major new survey reveals proportion of building companies planning to secure green certification for over 60 per cent of their projects will increase from 18 per cent currently to 37 per cent by 2018

Demand for green certified buildings is continuing to soar with the market doubling every three years. That is the central conclusion of a major new report backed by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), which found that a sharp increase in interest in green buildings in emerging markets such as China, India, and the Middle East will see demand for green certification double as early as 2018.

The report, which was carried out by Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation with support from the WorldGBC the US Green Building Council, and Saint-Gobain, draws on a survey of over 1,000 building professionals from 69 countries. It found that while currently only 18 per cent of building companies have more than 60 per cent of their projects independently certified as green, the proportion is expected to rise to 37 per cent by 2018.

The projected increase in demand is good news for increasingly popular green building certification schemes, such as LEED, BREEAM, and Green Star, as well as the expanding ecosystem of clean tech companies specialising in green building technologies.

Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC, said the surge in demand was being driven by the increasingly widespread acceptance of the “strong business case for green building”.

The report highlighted how building owners report seeing a median increase of seven per cent in the value of their green buildings compared to traditional buildings – an increase that WorldGBC said was consistent between new green buildings and those that are renovated green.

Moreover, respondents to the survey highlighted lower operating costs and enhanced quality assurance as compelling reasons for securing green building certification.

There was also further evidence the trend is being driven by demand from corporate customers, with nearly half of all respondents saying they expected to do a green commercial property project in the next three years.

“The survey shows that global green building activity continues to double every three years,” said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer at United Technologies Corporation, in a statement. “More people recognise the economic and productivity value that green buildings bring to property owners and tenants, along with the energy and water benefits to the environment, which is driving the green building industry’s growth. It’s a win-win for people, planet and the economy.”

Wills also stressed the growing importance of emerging markets to the green building sector.

For example, the report found that Brazil expects six-fold growth in the percentage of companies that expect to certify the majority of their projects as green, rising from six per cent to 36 per cent by 2018, while five-fold growth is expected in China – from five per cent to 28 per cent – and four-fold growth is anticipated in Saudi Arabia, rising from eight per cent to 32 per cent.

“Green building is playing a critical role in the development of many emerging economies, particularly as their populations grow and create a pressing need for a built environment that is both sustainable and ensures a high quality of life,” Wills added.