Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2017

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

We experienced a record number of extreme weather events in 2017. We also witnessed a different kind of inversion. As our government reversed environmental and social regulations, companies took voluntary actions to protect people and the planet. In a Harvard Business Review profile of the Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2017, business leaders took steps to reduce climate change. As the new administration pulled out of the Paris Agreement and made an all-out assault on our air, water, climate, and land, multinational corporations joined state and local governments to declare We Are Still In. Large institutional investors such as Blackrock and Vanguard woke up to the risk of climate change in voting with faith-based shareholder proposals.

China accelerated their sustainability efforts, stepping into the leadership position given up by the U.S., by committing to cut coal by 30% and cancelling 103 coal plants; making big moves in electric vehicles; and becoming the world’s largest solar producer. As the U.S. administration moved to relax fuel efficiency standards, GM, Ford and Volvo announced major investments in electric vehicles (EV). France, India, Britain, Norway, and China commitment to ban diesel and gas vehicles over the next couple of decades helped push EV sales up 63% globally last year!

Business leaders like Apple’s Tim Cook stood up stating that sustainability that isn’t about philanthropy, but rather about the core business and its role in society. Companies supported state attorney generals’ suit of the administration’s immigration ban and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Looking ahead at 2018, author Andrew Winston predicted that “Millennials and Gen Z will continue to push for purpose and meaning in work and life”. Companies will set more aggressive sustainability goals and embrace “clean labels” (…like Walmart, Target, and Panera did in 2017). The #metoo movement against sexual harassment will move beyond media and politics to the corporate suites.

Happy New Year!

We Are Still In

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

This month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the Administration’s intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan. This was President Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from electrical power plants, the cornerstone of the US plan per the Paris Climate Accord.

Shortly after the EPA announcement, the We Are Still In coalition announced that the US will be represented by a robust delegation at the upcoming 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), including a US Climate Action Centre and a US Delegation of Climate Leaders as an indication of support for the UN climate talks. The We Are Still In movement is a coalition comprised of approximately 2,500 mayors, governors, state attorneys, business leaders, investors and other prominent climate actors who declared that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. The coalition represents $6.2 trillion of the US economy and more than 130 million Americans, i.e. approximately 40 percent of the US population.

This Clean Power Plan (CPP) was passed by the Obama EPA to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Repeal of the CPP will be fought in the courts. In the meantime, the We Are Still In coalition believes the US can still meet the GHG reduction targets in spite of the repeal of the CPP. GHG emissions in the US are down over 11 percent since 2005, with the power sector down 24 percent. Over the same period, US GDP was up 12 percent, proving that economic growth and GHG emissions can indeed be decoupled.  With natural gas prices depressed, declining renewable energy cost, aging coal plants, increased availability of electric vehicles, and growing public support for climate action (e.g.  the Yale Climate Communication Center reports that over 60 percent of Trump voters support regulating GHG and over 70 percent support renewable energy), this trend will continue.

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has declared:

Paris is everyone’s deal. It belongs to cities, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and all of global civil society as much as it belongs to nation-states. So when President Trump attempted to destabilize the process by announcing his intent to withdraw, there was no domino effect of despair. Instead, he unleashed an inspirational counter-movement in support of the Paris Agreement, which is embodied so beautifully in the We Are Still In Campaign.

Businesses and Investors Need to Act on Climate Now

Alicia Seiger writes in The Stanford Social Innovation Review:

The business case for acting on climate change has never been stronger, and the need to act has never been more urgent. For the past three years, worldwide carbon emissions from fossil fuels have stayed flat while gross domestic product (GDP) has grown, demonstrating that emissions and economic growth aren’t inextricably linked. Decoupling emissions and growth is just the first step. To stay within the carbon budget for 2 degrees Celsius warming—and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change—global emissions have to start falling by 2020. While the President of the largest economy in the world blows headwinds at progress, business leaders and investors must act to bend the emissions curve.

(More)

How do you speak to a climate denier?

–Frank Sherman, Associate Director Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investing

Climate change was on center stage at last week’s ICCR conference in Grand Rapids. Watching environmental regulations built up over many years being weakened or eliminated in Washington, leading to the U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Accord, has been painful. Especially considering the fact that the poorest people on our planet who had nothing to do with causing this problem will bare the blunt of the consequences.

But how do you speak to a climate denier?

(Complete text of How do you speak to a climate denier?)

Global investors urge G7 to stand by Paris Agreement

Seventh Generation Interfaith and several of our members were among 200 institutional investors representing more than USD 15 trillion in assets who sent a letter urging the G7 heads of state to stand by their commitments to the Paris Agreement at their upcoming Summit in Taormina, Italy on May 26-27. These investors ask the world leaders to reiterate their support for and commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, including the delivery of their own Nationally Determined Contributions in full. A briefing paper for governments of the G7 and G20 nations was prepared by six investor organisations including the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change, CDP, Ceres, the Investor Group on Climate (IGCC, Australia/New Zealand), the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change (IIGCC, Europe), and The Principles for Responsible Investment.

“With the US threatening to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement next week, now is the time for investors to make their voices heard by encouraging governments to stand firm on their commitment to the Paris Agreement,” said Fiona Reynolds, managing director of the PRI. “Investors worldwide have come to understand the material financial risks around climate change. Certainly, at the PRI, our members have noted climate risks as their number one ESG concern.”