greenfutures No.79 January 2011
Cities in motion Choreographs for seamless connectivity
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Sea change: shipping steams slowly into the future Cashing in on sustainability’s hidden rewards 2011: five key trends that could shape the year
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For all that we complain about the stress and hassle of urban living, there’s something very seductive about the city. And it’s hardly surprising. We’re drawn to it in search of work, love, people and power. No wonder that in empires past, exile from the capital was a fate close to death. The very word ‘politics’, after all, means ‘concerning the city’. Sure, some people escape to that rural idyll, all roses-round-the-door seclusion. But for most, if they’re honest, it’s mainly just swapping a view, not a way of life. A case of urbe in rus, sustained by wifi. But if there’s one whacking great downside to cities, it’s the fact that – the blessed cyclist excepted – we spend half our time going nowhere slowly, stuck in gridlock or waiting for the bus. We shrug our shoulders as though it’s inevitable. But it needn’t be. There’s no immutable law of physics that says it has to take hours to get across town. In ‘Round, round, get around’ [p18], we look at smart new ways in which the cities of the future might break free. Many involve innovations in technology, while others just mean thinking (very) differently – often getting what we need without travelling at all. Some even bring the country into town, such as the spectacular spiralling market gardens featured on p10 – the latest incarnation of the much-hyped ‘vertical farm’. No amount of high rise agriculture will ever produce all the food a city needs, of course, let alone the vast array of other products that keep urbanites purring. Few of us give much thought as to how these all arrive on our shores. It might as well be by magic; in fact, much of it is by ship. It’s long been an article of faith among environmentalists that sea freight is vastly superior to air. And it’s true that, tonne per tonne, the sea is greener. But a simple slogan of ‘ships good, planes bad’ hides a murkier picture. Most of the ships on today’s seas are old, dirty and polluting, and together they pump at least as much carbon into the sky as aviation. Which makes shipping a big, fat sea elephant in the living room of climate change – one that’s just starting to get noticed. In ‘Sea change’ [p26], Huw Spanner explores how leading companies are responding. As with cities, a looming climate and energy crisis is spurring some imaginative new ideas. Some seem almost ingenuously simple. Take the practice of ‘slow steaming’, which makes a virtue of a snail’s pace delivery for the surprising amount of freight which isn’t time sensitive. Then there are new technologies, like fuel cells, and reinventions of old ones too – the return of sail power (only this time the sails are enormous kites, tugging vast container ships over the waves). There’s even talk of nuclear-powered freighters – although the prospect of a Somali pirate getting his hands on one of those will probably keep that particular solution firmly on the drawing board, and quite right too… Piracy, some wag remarked recently, is just about Africa’s only booming industry. It was meant to be flippant, but it epitomised a received wisdom about the continent as basket case which is starting to look somewhat outdated. The unlikely but undeniable rise of Africa is one of five key trends we’ve identified which could help reshape thinking in 2011. For the rest, see page 16. And here’s hoping your own year shapes up nicely.
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Green Futures January 2011
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As Head of Futures at Forum, James Goodman is accustomed to having his eyes on the horizon, scanning trends in everything from food to fashion to the next wave in IT. For this issue, he lowers his gaze to the coming year, tracking the rise of emerging economies, the open society – and bees.
Matt Kaplan covers everything from engineering and epidemiology to chemistry and conservation, regularly contributing to New Scientist, Nature, and The Economist. When not stuck behind a desk, he runs wilderness expeditions in far flung regions of the world – and then writes about those, too.
A former editor of the current affairs magazine Third Way, Huw Spanner writes for The Independent, Sublime and DfID’s Developments magazine, amongst others. The sea runs in his blood; his father was a naval architect, his grandfather a marine engineer. So he’s steeped in his subject for this issue…
David Bent, who leads Forum for the Future’s work on business strategy, advises leading companies on how to profit from sustainability. After studying Physics at Oxford, he took an MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice. He is also the first chartered accountant to write a musical about selling your soul to the devil – Faust and Furious.
Green Futures January 2011
Number 79 January 2011
16 Features 16 2011: five trends to watch James Goodman and Martin Wright pick out some key signals set to shape the sustainability debate this year. 18 R ound, round get around... More than half of us live in cities, and seem to spend half our lives going nowhere slowly. Matt Kaplan and Anna Simpson chart new thinking and technologies that could help us beat the traffic.
26 Sea change With a carbon footprint larger than Germany’s, shipping is under intense pressure to clean up its act. Huw Spanner charts the future of an industry which is slowly steaming towards sustainability. 32 How to count your blessings Without a compelling business case, companies struggle to take sustainable development seriously. But for those who do, says David Bent, sizeable rewards lie in wait – in cash.
Dispatches from the front line of green innovation, including:
24 A thousand words This year’s Prix Pictet winner: bucolic landscape or rubbish tip?
40 Getting to know you Leading brands cuddle up to their consumers Unilever UK
4 The homes of the future Peter Madden sets the context 6 Buried treasure Today’s waste – tomorrow’s energy 8 Sun trapped Solar power hits the highs 10 Inspiral gardens Green grows up 12 Stalking the wind Reed-like turbines bend in the breeze 15 The juice The latest on electric vehicles
35 Forum update Defining a low-carbon society, devising climate-wise insurance, and going global in the US and South America 46 Feedback Readers respond online and in print 48 Jonathon Porritt What politicians should learn from business
41 Pastoral care Farmland therapy for the hurt and angry Triodos Bank 43 Nothing to declare? Will tighter standards flush out the greenwash – or get in the way of the good enough? Ecover 44 The sea, the sea Harnessing the power of the waves and the tides Entec UK
Green Futures January 2011
Green Futures January 2011
Inside out The larder makes a comeback, saving energy and space With the Green Deal set to boost the retrofit of domestic and commercial properties, the humble home is increasingly at the heart of the UK’s sustainability drive. Alongside the (rather dull but) exceedingly smart prospect of loft insulation and double glazing, are innovative new designs, from TV screens that dim automatically when you look away, to clocks that tell you how much energy you’re using day to day [see GF79, p6]. But not all great ideas are new. The humble larder is set to make a comeback, thanks to its eco-credentials – using zero energy to store food at between 3-5°C. Compare that to your average refrigerator, which gets through 694 kWh per year for the same result. The fridge also takes up valuable space in kitchens, which will be increasingly coveted as
The homes of the future
Green Futures January 2011
Domestic energy generation starts on the mattress
Peter Madden is Chief Executive, Forum for the Future.
Photos: ARTHUR XIN; Electrolux
The home of the future is unlikely to be the curvy white pod of science fiction. On the outside, most houses in the UK will still look 19th century – partly because the public are profoundly conservative in their architectural tastes, but largely because the vast majority of houses that will be standing by 2050 have already been built. It’s on the inside that they will be different – with everything from floor to ceiling retrofitted to inject some intelligence, efficiency and adaptability into the old shell. Intelligence will come from an array of sensors which automatically switch lights and taps on and off, order your groceries and even monitor your health. A central control system will manage the home for maximum efficiency, and show when the fridge needs defrosting, or if the micro-generator isn’t running at full efficiency. Houses will be interactive and fully wireless, allowing us to access data from any point. A drive for extensive resource efficiency could see water harvested and recycled within each home. Integrated solar panels and microgen combined with ultra-thin insulation films will allow some houses to come off the grid. Food will be grown in gardens, roofs and balconies, tended by the increasing number of home workers, and fed by composted domestic waste. The interior of houses will be more modular, changing to suit needs during the course of the day and over your lifetime. Walls on rollers will
But Tom Astin of Electrolux welcomes Hubert’s attempt to rethink the way we store our food, an innovative contrast to incremental efficiency improvements on the standard fridge-freezer. Moreover, he adds, “the technology behind this design already exists, so it could certainly be rolled out in the near future”. – Hannah Sims
Photos: Jessekarjalainen / istock
Peter Madden puts the future in context
allow you to reconfigure your space from office, to lounge, to bedroom. And instead of paint we’ll have floor-to-ceiling screens, where you can join a work conference or watch a movie, change the colour to suit your moods, or just switch to the latest fashion in wallpaper. There are trends pushing us towards these outcomes. Demand for housing is rising due to both population growth and more one person households. But new homes are not being built at anything like a matching rate. So we will have to make smarter use of what we have, and rethink the space and resources we need day-to-day. We should look, too, at where the innovation is coming from: much of the housebuilding industry – with some notable exceptions – is stuck in traditional bricks and mortar. The IT and consumer goods companies, on the other hand, see the home of the future as a commercial battleground, where they are investing huge resources to win. And we can already pick up weak signals as to what tomorrow’s homes will be like: solar PV is booming, smart meters are being rolled out, and everyone from Sony to Panasonic to GE to Microsoft has a showcase house of the future. This will probably be a good thing for sustainability. Although there are limits to how efficient we can make old houses, they do contain a lot of embedded carbon, and making better use of what we have should be a key sustainability principle. Indeed, the way we think about our housing – the fact we are happy to buy second hand and that we repair, make do and mend – should be a model for our wider consumption habits. And because these designs will not come from massive centrally planned schemes, but from consumer facing companies engaging millions of people in small changes to their daily lives, they should make sustainable living more popular and desirable.
urban populations grow and kitchens shrink. Nicolas Hubert’s concept design for an external refrigerator, winner of the Electrolux Design Lab 2010 competition, solves the energy and space problems in one fell swoop. It’s fitted to an external wall, and slides open across a window for easy access. During the cold season and at night it collects, filters and reuses the cool outdoors air to chill the food. And when the weather warms up, it draws on a combination of photovoltaics and the mains supply for its energy needs. Hubert had the idea when living in China, where many families store their food on the balcony during colder months. Critics – including David Jullien, CEO of effciency advice centre Act on Energy – worry that few would be prepared to open their window to the chill, when all they want is milk for a nice hot cuppa – and that the heat lost by doing so could outweigh the energy savings.
Exercise in the bedroom can only mean one thing, can’t it…? Not necessarily. Designer Arthur Xin, of the cheekily named ‘sexindesign studio’, has come up with an energy generating bed that provides sport of a kind not normally associated with your boudoir. Exercise rings attached to his Ecotypic bed can be used whilst standing, or even, for less enthusiastic athletes, lying down. The kinetic energy produced by pulling the rings is stored in a battery beneath the bed, and used to power the integrated LED lighting system or the speakers blaring out your
wake-up tunes. The design also features flower boxes, enabling you to nurture a bedroom garden as well as your health and fitness. Xin is not the only innovator exploring unusual forms of micro power plants. From the bedroom to the bathroom, a team of designers in Paris hopes to turn the simple routine of showering into a source of power. The prototype Piezo Shower captures the energy of the water by channeling it through a series of tiny pipes. The pipes contain piezoelectric fibers, which convert the friction of the flow into electricity to heat the water. And to complete your morning energygenerating routine, you could munch your toast on an Empower rocking chair, converting the motion to drive a range of portable electronic devices, such as MP3 players or mobile phones. It will feel even better if you’re sitting outside at one of Afroditi Krassa’s PV patio tables, designed to capture power from the sunlight which would otherwise merely make you squint over the coffee. – Fiona King
I passionately believe that by recasting the argument for action on climate change away from the language of threats and punishments and into positive, profit-making terms, we can have a much wider impact. UK Prime Minister David Cameron
Green Futures January 2011
Yesterday’s waste, tomorrow’s energy Since the dawn of time, Man has settled close to those resources most essential to survival. Prescient, then, that Europe’s energy-gorging cities are near the 150,000 landfill sites dotted around the continent. Why? Because, if a pilot project by UK company Advanced Plasma Power (APP) goes to plan, these mounds of debris may soon be feeding the grid. Whilst several other European countries are engaged in feasibility studies, it is near Hasselt, in Belgium, that this rubbish revolution is springing into life. There, APP plans to dig up 16.5 million tonnes of waste from a landfill site dating back to the 1960s, and put it through a gasification process (called ‘GasPlasma’). The
Where there’s muck...
The hunt for rare minerals is on
synthetic gas produced will be combusted, giving off steam to drive a generator, which will in turn feed a 60MW power plant – enough to supply 60,000 homes. Of course, gasification isn’t the only way to deal with waste. More familiar techniques include recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion. But, APP claims, the GasPlasma process has the highest landfill diversion rate of any other waste management technology, leaving behind only 1.5% of the input. Moreover, according to an independent analysis of the CO2 emissions of the process, GasPlasma has a negative overall carbon footprint. And can just anything be used as feedstock? Energy expert Dr David Fulford
Some of the most innovative steps in recycling are driven by a supply crunch. And that’s the story of the Dowa Mining Plant in Kosaka, northern Japan. It had been out of action for 20 years. But now, following China’s decision to limit export of the rare earth minerals it produces (currently 97% of global supply), Dowa’s furnaces are roaring once more. Only this time, there’s no ore or copper in sight – just mountains of expired electronics, and sacks full of computer chips. Chopped into small pieces before being melted at 1,400°C, these abandoned mobile phones and laptops become a molten stew, rich in valuable and rare earth metals such as indium and antimony, used in liquid crystal displays and photovoltaic silicon wafers respectively. Some gold, even, has been recovered.
points out that only organic and biomass waste can easily be gasified to produce the syngas. But that doesn’t rule out re-use of another kind”, he adds. “Any metals and mineral wastes [can be] broken down into a glassy ash that can be used in the construction industry, to make concrete, cement and screed mixes.” [For an artistic view of the ‘hidden beauty’ of rubbish, see ‘Thousand Words’ – pp24-25.] Elsewhere in Europe, Austria’s Renewable Energy Network has had a similar plant in operation since 2003. The gasification plant, which supplies the nearby town of Güssing with power and heat, uses a feedstock of biomass from within a 5km radius, and has an energy output twice that required to operate the plant. – Sam Jones
Green Futures January 2011
Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Corporal charge Phone takes on the warm glow of its owner
fuel tank. Target markets for the two products include home users, commercial garbage disposal sites, schools and other large institutions. Overall, it’s another example of the way smart thinking is being applied to harvest small but significant amounts of energy from sources close to the place where it will be used. – Sam Jones
Photos: Mark Schneider / Visuals Unlimited / Alamy
The only by-product is lignin powder, a valuable ingredient used in many pharmaceuticals. Of course, that’s just part one of the process: you then need to turn the sugar water into ethanol for fuel. But this too can be done in the home. You simply feed the sugar water (adding in any waste alcohol you may have lying about) into a portable converter – the MicroFueler, also by E-Fuel – which comprises distillation apparatus and a holding tank. Thanks to “state-of-the-art semiconductor technology”, the company claims, the whole process is combustion-free. The ethanol can be used as vehicle fuel, as effectively demonstrated in Brazil where over 90% of cars produced are ‘flex fuel’ (designed to run on any combination of ethanol and petrol – see Sol e Sombra, p16). And it can also be connected to a generator to produce electricity. According to E-Fuel, one MicroFueler can produce over 300,000kWh of energy. The newly launched MicroFusion Reactor is currently looking for ‘Series A Funding’ (the first significant round of venture capital finance), and so commercial costs have yet to be released. But the MicroFueler went on sale in 2009 for US$9,995, plus $1,995 for a
Photos: E-Fuel Corporation; Chris Elwell / istock
What do you do with the food left on your plate at the end of the meal? For many of us, the answer is a guilty shrug: it goes straight in the bin. All those little scrapings of chips and peas add up to a mountain of lost resources. Indeed, it is estimated that up to half of the food produced for the US market goes to waste; and, in the UK, up to 6.7 million tonnes of household food is binned each year. Council food recycling schemes remain sporadic, so as little as 3% of this organic treasure is composted or sent to anaerobic digestion plants. The remainder is sent to landfill, where it gradually decomposes, leaching out methane into the atmosphere. But now you can scrape your plate straight into a domestic fuel conversion system. Californian start-up E-Fuel has launched a reactor capable of converting organic kitchen waste, and any cellulosic materials such as wood, into sugar water within just two minutes. The ‘MicroFusion Reactor’ is a standalone appliance which uses hydrolysis to break down the raw materials.
Over 300 tonnes of electronic material must be melted to yield just 150 grams of rare earth metals. Of course, China may not always have such a near monopoly on rare earths. The company US Rare Earths Inc recently claimed that it had found important reserves in Idaho and Montana, and Boeing announced its intention to use remote sensing technology to map all available or hidden rare earth elements in the US. But some will be keeping their fingers crossed against any major finds. As energy expert David Fulford explains, the shift towards a “cyclic approach, in which as much as possible is recycled, and supplies are [only] topped up from resources that need to be mined, [is] a clear improvement on [today’s] linear system, where all resources for manufactured goods come from mined raw materials.” – Sam Jones
The relatively resilient performance of the clean energy sector during the current economic downturn shows that it was not a bubble created by the late stages of the credit boom, but is, instead, an investment theme that will remain important for the years ahead.
Home brew Reactor turns food waste into fuel, on the spot
Antimony: it’s elemental
It’s one of the great irritations of our time. You set off and realise that your mobile phone is almost out of battery. No one can reach you; you’ll inevitably miss a train, and there’ll be no way to let the office know you’re going to be delayed. But what if simply slipping the phone back into your pocket could make it all alright? Because the heat from your body would charge it right back up… A British designer, Patrick yland, has worked with Nokia to develop a concept phone called the E-CU: that’s ‘E’ for eco and ‘CU’ for copper. It’s encased in a highly conductive copper ‘skin’, engraved with a pattern resembling cracked earth to increase the surface area.
The casing transmits the heat to a thermogenerator inside, which then converts it into electricity. The phone can be charged by placing it next to any source of heat: by your radiator, on your snoozing cat, or simply in your pocket. It’s another example of the growing trend in harnessing power from the human body alone, whether through heat or Hot to trot
motion [see GF77, p9]. There are 62.5 million mobile phones in the UK alone, and as their applications increase, they’re becoming all the more energy-hungry. The need to charge them without mains power is prompting a rush of solutions, from wind-up chargers, to solar PV, to mini-hydrogen fuel cells. As Hyland sees it, designs like his have huge potential to prevent waste. “Fifty-one thousand tonnes of mobile phone chargers alone are wasted annually”, he says. “This can be prevented with self-chargeable appliances.” Hyland recognises that, for now at least, thermal energy is a rather specialist, underdeveloped form of power. “But there is a demand”, he asserts. “I certainly didn’t expect the reaction [my idea] got after I posted it on the web.” – Shirley Mann
Green Futures January 2011
Just how pervasive will PV panelling become? The days where we simply slapped a brace of photovoltaic (PV) panels on our roofs as an afterthought will soon be gone. Instead, PV will be a staple of our infrastructure, integrated into our pavements, roads, walls and windows. At least, that’s where a range of new developments is heading – and, given the space constraints faced by over-
populated cities, it’s a trend to be welcomed. Two Spanish companies have teamed up to produce a concept PV pavement tile. Onyx Solar – which specialises in strong PV glass as a construction material for walls and facades – and Butech, a subsidiary of Porcelanosa Grupo, designed the tile with terraced rooftops and other public spaces in mind. Made of solar glass laid over a ceramic base, the tile can easily withstand the weight of pedestrians and furniture, enabling
architects to combine energy generation with recreational space. Similarly, the US start-up Solar Roadways has developed a prototype PV panel for integration into road surfaces, following a $100,000 grant from the Department of Energy (DOE). The design comprises three layers: a base to house the wiring and data cables; a middle layer to hold the PV modules, LEDs and supercapacitors; and a reinforced glass surface, designed to match the traction of asphalt. The idea is that the electricity generated would feed directly into LED road markings, as well as linking to the grid. Solar Roadways anticipates a second round of DOE funding to turn the design into a commercial product. But with photovoltaics integrated into the very stuff of our floors, walls, roads and roofs, upgrades may prove a tiresome task. “Building integrated certainly looks nicer [than an add-on]”, says Anne Wheldon of the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, “but once you’ve integrated the PV, you are stuck with it: you can’t substitute it for a more advanced model, or take it with you when you move house!” On the other hand, if integrated PV becomes standard, then wherever you go, it will be there already. – Lowana Veal
How to stay cool in Santiago Smooth curves, natural light... welcome to Chile’s greenest office. The new headquarters for private equity firm Empresas Transoceanica in Santiago looks nothing like a conventional commercial set up. But it is expected to use just one-fifth of the energy of a comparable Chilean office. A wood-wrapped north facade deflects solar radiation, while allowing for natural light to pour into the office space, and a 75m-deep ground source heat pump uses naturally cooled water to lower internal temperatures. The local climate, explains Alex Brahm, the lead architect from Chilean firm +arquitectos, makes cooling, rather than heating, the main energy burden. Much of the efficiency gain is achieved thanks to passive design principles aimed at reducing exposure to sunlight (rather than intensifying it, as is the aim with such designs in colder latitudes, including northern Europe).
Tonnes of gold, the equivalent of roughly 16% of the total reserves in the world’s gold mines, that remain dormant in used electronics in Japan, according to Kohmei Harada, the Managing Director of the Japanese National Institute of Materials Science.
Green Futures January 2011
The Maldives has yet to calculate its renewable energy potential, but with $30 million of international donor funding promised to help it achieve its goal, putting up a few panels is perhaps the least Nasheed could do… Another tiny step – but not a token one – is India’s plan to install an 80kW PV system on Sansad Bhavan, the parliament building, which will both be used on site as back-up, and fed into the grid. Compared to the national goal of a total installed capacity of 20GW by 2020, this is perhaps insignificant. But it highlights a real commitment to renewables on India’s part. Many financial and policy incentives are already in place, including feed in tariffs, and solar-powered equipment is also being made mandatory in hospitals, schools, and government buildings, with an extra $86.3 million recently allocated to this initiative alone. Interestingly, none of the global leaders in solar PV capacity (Germany, Spain or Japan) have taken to high-profile PV installations. When asked if they should, Bill McKibben, founder of the campaign group 350.org (which advocates reducing CO2 emissions to 350ppm), simply said: “When First Lady Michelle Obama planted an organic garden on the lawn outside the White House, organic seed sales went up 30%.” – James Belgrave
Photos: Schmidt-z / istock; +arquitectos
of the White House in 2011, producing some 20,000 kWh of electricity annually. And he’s not alone. Several world leaders have set out plans to install PV systems on government buildings – but whether these are merely token gestures, or part of a concerted policy, is up for discussion. Solar power in the US currently counts for less than 1% of installed capacity, but recent policy provides for significant new investment. A total of $3.1 billion in funding for the solar industry is expected as part of the economic stimulus package, alongside other financial incentives such as loan guarantees, feed-in tariffs and the extension of tax credits. The ‘payments-in-lieu-of-credits’ initiative has already supported 200MW of new PV installation. Meanwhile, in California, loan guarantees are helping to build a manufacturing facility, which could produce enough panels to increase capacity by 230MW a year. Obama may have basked in the solarpowered limelight, but President Nasheed of the Maldives has beaten him to it, with 48 panels installed on the roof of the Mulee Aage, his official residence in Male. The 11.5kW system will produce around 15,000 kWh of electricity annually. It’s a gesture in line with the country’s pledge to be ‘zero-carbon’ by 2020.
Photos: MAlbuquerque / istock; Rrodrickbeiler / istock
President Obama has announced plans to install up to 75 photovoltaic panels on the roof
Pretty cool, huh?
Power play Are prominent solar displays purely for show – or do they reflect policy?
The HQ is expected to become the first in Chile to receive a gold rating from the internationally recognised LEED green building certification system. Crucially, the scheme includes a three year programme to monitor how much energy the eventual occupants consume once the building’s in use, and encourage them to be more efficient. It is precisely this issue that Martin Hunt, Head of Built Environment at Forum for the Future, identifies as a key sustainability challenge for commercial properties: closing the gap between a building’s design, and its actual performance in practice. “The design might be great. But if it’s not being used properly, that could drastically reduce its efficiency.” New ways of addressing this are being developed, Hunt adds. The introduction of ‘green leases’, where tenants have financial incentives to use the building in more environmentally friendly ways, are becoming increasingly prevalent, he says. – Nick Chan
South Africa plans the world’s largest solar power station South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has confirmed plans to build a 5GW solar power station – the world’s largest to date – in the Northern Cape. And it’s a good place for it. This region is one of the sunniest in the world. An initial feasibility study declared
that 5GW of cost-effective electricity generation would be achievable through a combination of solar technologies in the area – although the exact mix and time frame have yet to be agreed. A range of options are being considered, including concentrated photovoltaics – in which lenses or mirrors focus the rays onto tiny PV panels, and concentrated solar power (which
focuses the sun’s rays to turn water to steam and so drive a generator – see GF78, p8). According to Jonathan de Vries who, as Special Adviser to Peters, is in charge of the project, the park will meet nearly one tenth of South Africa’s electricity needs – helping to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. South Africa currently consumes 45-48GW of electricity per year, 90% of which comes from coal-fired power stations. The US engineering company Fluor Corporation is to produce a more detailed master plan for the proposed $10-15 million facility, in collaboration with the Clinton Climate Initiative and the US Department of Energy. Leading players in the solar world are enthusiastic. “We need to see more solar parks [like this] if the full potential of both photovoltaics and solar thermal is to be realised,” says Jeremy Leggett, Executive Chairman of Solarcentury. “Governments across the world are slowly shifting their support to renewables… with incentives such as the feed-in tariff, but there must be a bigger shift in support of these technologies – and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.” – Flemmich Webb
Green Futures January 2011
Inspiral gardens ‘Green hearts and lungs’ rise above the city It looks like a wide, white spiral staircase, light and airy, rising up into the skies above the city. Each storey is brimful of green – vegetable gardens and orchards springing from thin layers of organic compost, sheltered from the wind, warmed by the sun and watered by the rain. The ‘Spiral Garden’, devised by Spanish architects Saida and Benet Dalmau Alsina,
Anna Julibert Foyo and Carmen Vilar Agea, won a prize in 2010’s Incheon International Design Awards, staged annually by the Korean city of that name. The architects see it as a social as well as agricultural space, envisaging local people taking walks around the gardens, perhaps tending some as their own allotments. At present it’s just a design concept rather than a physical construction. And some critics question just how viable it may be in practice. John Christophers, award winning Associate
Condensed version PepsiCo cooks up a water-neutral future
of the Royal Institute of British Architects, thinks that “soil depth, orientation and levels of sunlight could be an issue with the tiered approach.” But it’s yet another example of the growing excitement around the potential of ‘vertical farms’ to provide nourishment – dietary and spiritual – to city dwellers [see GF78, p26]: tackling the shortage of available land at ground level by creating gardens in the sky. – Sam Jones and Martin Wright
You’ve heard of carbon capture and storage, but how about water capture and reuse? PepsiCo, which owns Walkers crisps, is perfecting a new technology to ‘harvest’ the water lost when potatoes are cooked, then reusing it to clean, peel and slice them when they enter the plant. Spuds can be up to 80% water, with a huge amount of that being lost in the process of making crisps. However, by placing a cold lid above the steam to capture condensation and installing membranes in waste pipes to clean water, PepsiCo could harvest over 3,000 litres of water every hour. PepsiCo admits it has made a “significant investment” in the technology, but it will be worth it: the cost savings could be huge, if the company succeeds in its ambition to unplug its main UK manufacturing sites from the water grid by 2018. Ashok Chapagain, a water footprinting expert with WWF-UK, is impressed – up to a point. “It’s a good first step,” he says, “but the supply chain water footprint, which is much larger than the operational one, still remains pretty much the same.”
Slim city How to game your way into a green urban future
Green Futures January 2011
important, he says, “but you can have a much more powerful impact if it becomes part of the community infrastructure”. Planning and design issues, rather than technical ones, are often the main hurdle to overcome, Hunt adds. So practical examples which work will all help build confidence in the wider prospects of such local energy hubs. – Nick Chan
Photos: Melhi / istock; CityOne
especially important to trial new technologies before incorporating them to stores elsewhere. Decentralised power generation improves energy security, but it is the prospect of a supermarket helping to power the community that makes the Waitrose project “an exciting place to be”, says Martin Hunt, Head of Built Environment at Forum for the Future. Renewable technologies are
Photos: ww.sbda.cat, www.cas-da.net
Retailers could become energy hubs for local communities A supermarket which has been designed to go ‘off-grid’ may also offer a glimpse into a future where retail outlets act as local energy hubs. A Waitrose store in the Isle of Wight in southern England is due to open a biomass power plant later this year. Fuelled by locally sourced woodchips, it will supply the store’s electricity, cooling and heating needs. And it’s been designed with extra capacity, so as to have the potential to supply heat to local housing. Energy efficiency measures and onsite renewable technologies are becoming increasingly common in supermarkets. A biomass boiler has enabled Sainsbury’s to add an extension to its Durham store while reducing the outlet’s overall carbon emissions. A biofuel generator at Tesco’s zero carbon store in Cambridgeshire [see GF78, p31] exports excess energy back to the grid. Paul van Heyningen, Tesco Climate Change Manager, said that such flagship developments were
Taking the soggy out of the chips
What’s one of the best ways for city planners to tackle climate change? Sit back and play a computer game. Unlikely, perhaps, but the developers of IBM’s new CityOne game have high hopes that it could transform strategic thinking on urban futures. Players are presented with a series of energy, water and economic problems, whilst charged with providing an urban space conducive to growth – all within a total available budget. They’re armed with a series of gauges measuring business climate, citizen happiness and environmental wellbeing, and assisted by several simulated consultants (presumably a lot cheaper than the real thing). Among the challenges they face in the 100 or so ‘real world’ scenarios are traffic congestion, water shortages and supply chain problems. They’ll be expected to use techniques such as service reuse, cloud computing and collaborative technologies to help make organisations in city systems more ‘intelligent’ and responsive. Among the choices they make is whether to deploy new technologies, or re-organise
Technical fixes can help address water scarcity risks to business and the environment, says Chapagain, but better management of water at the river basin scale is the real key. Some companies, PepsiCo included, have started to realise that: in November it set out its goals for sustainable farming in the UK, including the use of i-crop, a new web-based crop management system helping growers to calculate both water use and carbon emissions. Water is certainly rising up the corporate agenda. According to CDP Water Disclosure, a new programme from the Carbon Disclosure Project, a “significant number” of companies are now aware of current and near-term waterrelated risk to their operations and supply chains. Nowhere is this more acute than in the food and drink industry – which accounts for 10% of all industrial water use. As Forum for the Future’s Dan Crossley, puts it: “You only have to look at food companies like Unilever, with their recent Sustainable Living Plan, to see how much of a threat they think water scarcity can be – as well as an opportunity.” – David Burrows
existing systems to make them cleaner and leaner. After the allotted number of ‘turns’, they’re awarded a score which can be compared with like-minded individuals the world over. The game itself has built-in cloudcomputing capabilities, allowing players to communicate and confer with industry experts. Forum for the Future’s cities expert Ben Ross applauds the concept, but questions the merit of focusing on one city, where “outsourced issues, such as emissions, pollution and labour standards have complex
lifecycle impacts.” Nonetheless, CityOne embraces a burgeoning trend, with the recently released ‘Empire and State’ online game offering a similar “social strategy simulation” approach – without the sustainability essentials. Given the complexity of the challenge ahead, such games may remain an exciting novelty rather than an innovative solution, unless they develop to model the fictional decisions over longer, more realistic timescales. – Sam Jones
Green Futures January 2011
Business calls for carbon cuts Europe needs tougher targets to stay competitive, say companies Some of Europe’s largest corporations, including Acciona, Google, Marks & Spencer and Nike, have called on the EU to set tougher climate targets. They want Europe to agree to cut emissions by 30% by 2020 (from a 1990 baseline), rather than the present target of 20%. The move comes against a background of growing impatience among leading businesses with governments’ failure to set clear policy signals on climate. Drawn up by members of the Climate Group, Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and WWF Climate Savers Programme, the declaration calls on the EU to invest in energy security, and green technology and infrastructure. It warns that Europe risks losing out to China and the US in the race to exploit the growth potential of a low carbon economy. Previously, the consensus among most companies was expressed by Business Europe, a collection of 40 business federations across the EU. “We do need to bring the low-carbon agenda forward,” says Director General, Philippe de Buck. But he adds: “Rather than focusing the discussion on new emission reduction targets, the European Commission should work on encouraging the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies.” The fact that a significant number of major companies are now breaking with that consensus represents a real shift, says Luc Bas, Director of European Programmes at The Climate Group. – Flemmich Webb
Stalking the wind New energy design sways with the breeze With wind farms’ potential constrained by public opposition and a hostile media, there’s a premium on designs which might prove more aesthetically acceptable. Cue the Windstalk, a new concept developed by New York design firm Atelier DNA. Rather than using huge blades to sweep the wind from the sky, the 55-metre resin stalks, reinforced with carbon fibre, are made up of a series of ceramic disks and electrodes connected by a single central cable. When the stalk sways in the wind, the disks are compressed together, creating a charge in adjacent electrodes. Effectively, it works on piezoelectric (kinetic energy) principles: converting motion into power [see GF77, p9]. The resulting current is collected by
the cable and stored in two batteries at the base of the stalks. Atelier DNA claim that the total electricity output of a Windstalk array could equal that of a traditional turbine farm, largely because the stalks can be much more densely situated. The design won second place in the Land Art Generator Initiative, which awards installations which combine artistic merit with large scale clean energy generation. Although it’s at present just a concept, the Windstalk has already been earmarked for Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste metropolis [see p19]. The $20 billion dollar project’s first phase is due to be completed by 2015, with 1,203 Windstalks tasked with feeding 20MW into the grid. While Windstalk technology may be affordable to the deep pockets of the Middle East, cost is likely to be a limiting factor
elsewhere – at least until it’s proven technology. Nonetheless, as Mike Cheshire, spokesperson for green energy supplier Ecotricity, says: “Cost is always going to be a factor when building any source of energy, but the price of fossil fuels can only keep going up, and Finland and France are demonstrating the spiralling costs of building new nuclear plants.” – Sam Jones
While an elephant is 10,000 times the size of a guinea pig, it needs only 1,000 times as much energy. Jonah Lehrer discusses the findings of Max Kleiber in The New York Times.
Green Futures January 2011
A turbulent third quarter for clean technology received a timely stimulus in November with the announcement of the winners of General Electric’s ‘Ecomagination Challenge’; the first of several rounds of innovation funding intended to exploit what GE sees as a “$20 billion opportunity”. In collaboration with four leading venture capital firms – Kleiner Perkins, Emerald Technology Partners, Foundation Capital and Rockport Capital - contributed $10 million collectively – GE is investing $190 million over the next 18 months, in an effort to spark the development of a smart electricity grid. The investments will flow to 11 companies and one educational programme, who are working on a range of projects including energy
storage, energy management software and electric vehicle charging services This sort of collaboration between start-ups and established players is seen as vital to the continued growth of the cleantech sector, since most young companies are ill-equipped to deal with the complexities and capital demands associated with bringing cleantech innovations to the market. Among the winners is Columbia University’s School of Engineering, which has developed a plan to optimise recharging Manhattan’s first fleet of electric delivery vehicles, to be deployed by FedEx Express in 2011. “This is a great win for New York City,” said Columbia’s Roger Anderson. “It promises a quieter, safer, and healthier environment for all of us who live and work here.” – Gordon Macrae
If you’re searching for someone to invest in submarine cables, you could always try Google. The company behind the world’s favourite search engine is buying a 37.5% stake in the development of the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC). This 350-mile long ‘clean energy superhighway’ will link together a host of new wind farms planned for construction off the eastern seaboard of the US, bringing the power they generate neatly to shore. Google’s partners in this $5 billion venture are the Dutch-Swiss investment fund Good Energies, and the Japanese trading company Marubeni Corporation. Construction work on the first farm is expected to start in 2013, with the initial 1.5GW coming onstream in 2016. In time, the AWC’s cables could be carrying 6GW and supplying nearly two million households in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The US aims to be generating 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030. According to its Department of Energy, at the start of 2010 land-based turbines had a total capacity of nearly 35GW (including some
9.5GW in Texas, which has more than doubled its capacity in two years). However, it was only in April 2010 that approval was granted for the first wind farm to be built in US waters, in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts. A recent report commissioned by the DOE found that by 2030 offshore wind could feasibly provide 54GW of the country’s generating capacity. And it calculated the total resource of exploitable wind, in US coastal waters and on the Great Lakes, could amount to as much as 4.15 terrawatts (4,150GW). Harnessing the winds off the country’s Atlantic seaboard alone could create more than 200,000 jobs, the DOE estimates. ‘Transmission backbones’ such as the AWC do away with the need for individual wind farms to lay cables directly to shore, so reducing environmental damage and simplifying the approval process. They also allow larger farms to be sited further out to sea. This means they can catch stronger and steadier winds, while being all but invisible from the shore.
Photos: Petrovich9 / istock; Monap / istock
Ecomagination Challenge channels funds to cleantech start-ups
Photos: Dario Nunez Ameni
Smart grid winners
Google makes the links from wind farms to the shore
The amount, in square miles, of coastal and marine waters to be protected as nature reserves following the recent UN biodiversity summit in Japan. The 193 signatories of the Nagoya Protocol also agreed to protect 17% (almost 10 million square miles) of the planet’s land and inland waters by 2020. That would be a significant increase from the 13% of land and just 1% of marine areas currently covered. The agreement is an attempt to fulfil the goals set out at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, and aims to put biodiversity on a par with climate change as a major global issue.
Green Futures January 2011
Danes do it cheaper Blue sky thinking helps Denmark go green
Wind, biomass to power country into low cost fossil-free future Denmark could become fossil fuel-free by 2050 – at a net cost of just US$2.95 billion, according to the government’s climate commission. Its report makes the case for investing an amount equivalent to 0.5% of the country’s annual GDP in renewable energy to achieve the goal. So why so cheap? Prices of fossil fuels will rise over the next four decades, the commission argues, while renewables become relatively
cheaper – hence the small net total of investment required. In part, it is anticipating price rises through global supply crunches and international climate agreements. But it also proposes substantial tax hikes on fossil fuels phased in over two decades, rising from five Danish krone (US$ 0.90) per gigajoule in 2011 to DKK50 by 2030. The Commission comprises independent academics and OECD experts. It was set up by the Danish government two years ago, charged with working out what it would take to create a zero fossil fuel economy, while reducing green-
The electric East house emissions by up to 95% by 2050. It concluded that ending the use of fossil fuels, and switching mainly to wind and biomass power, would reduce emissions by 75% compared with 1990 levels. (Further reductions would entail wide-ranging changes elsewhere in the economy, particularly agriculture.) Most of the technology to achieve this is already in existence, the commission said, and includes smart grids with electric cars feeding into as well as charging from them, and new international interconnectors. These will enable wind power to be exported when there is a surplus, with electricity imported when the wind drops. Efficiency improvements are also essential to achieve a net reduction of 25% in total energy consumed, the commission said. Denmark is already a world leader in wind power, with 3GW installed capacity. Under the commission’s plan, this would rise to between 10GW and 18.5GW – the vast majority offshore. Responding to the report, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen promised that the government would shortly present a route map charting “how to become fully independent of fossil fuels. A plan for a transition like this will touch every part of society and every corner of politics: we are facing tough choices.” And he added: “This can’t be achieved today or tomorrow, but I know that we need to get started.” - MW
The juice: the latest on EVs Surface charge Remember Scaletrix? Well, the prospect of cars that take energy from the surface under their wheels now looks like it may be poised to scale up to the real world. At the moment electric vehicle (EV) users depend on access to a socket to power up, which means that they worry that their car’s battery is going to let them down at an inopportune moment. But technology development company HaloIPT (pictured below) says it is close to perfecting a solution to what it calls “charge anxiety”.
Would sustainability at home come more naturally if resource use was a clear, emotional choice? That’s the idea behind Yan Lu’s ‘Poor Little Fish’ sink, which has an unmistakable emotional tactic to encourage water conservation. The sink user must actively consider the life of a goldfish, whose bowl above the sink slowly drains, while they wash their hands. As the hand-activated sensor tap turns on, a solenoid valve releases fresh water through the faucet into the sink. At the same time, a micro pump draws water out of the fish bowl into a separate pipe, to be held in a tank behind the wall, seemingly placing the fish in imminent danger. When hands move away from the sensor and the tap stops running, the valve turns off and the micro water pump stops working. The held water is then re-released with a siphon action, refilling the fish bowl. The water only sinks to a level safe for
Green Futures January 2011
the fish, before being activated to ‘recharge’, restoring the tank and the fish bowl water to equal levels. This sink design is still in prototype stage, but spurred on by considerable interest, Yan is developing it for commercialisation, scoping out suitable sponsors and manufacturers. Yan is a London-based Chinese designer/engineer who frequently works with emotional imagery to encourage sustainability. “There is a huge disconnect between our everyday behaviour and the images we see about our changing environment,” he says. “With Poor Little Fish, I tried to bring these types of images to the human scale, showing the immediate cause and effect and thus encourage an immediate change in human behaviour.” Other ideas include the aptly named ‘Melting Wax Lamp’, featuring a shade crafted from wax, which melts into interesting and random shapes when in use, but threatens to disappear if left on for too long. While his ‘Annual Ring Tissue’ draws a link between a tree’s life span, and paper use, by visually representing its annual rings. – Emily Braham
Photos: Yan Lu; Maridav / istock
Sinking feeling employed as part of new behaviour change tactics
Photos: liopuga / istock
Save water – or the goldfish gets it
Everyman’s EV The race for the EV market is hotting up with major manufacturers launching a new generation of more affordable models. Nissan has just stolen a march on rivals by winning the European Car of the Year title for 2011 with its LEAF (pictured right), an all-electric hatchback that will go on sale in the UK in March. The LEAF will cost around £28,000, but in the UK purchasers will qualify for government aid. Sales of EVs in the UK have plummeted in recent years – only 55 were registered in 2009 – but from January UK buyers will be eligible to up to £5,000 from the government. And the focus was on EVs at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, where a number of major manufacturers unveiled all-electric models, including Toyota and Mitsubishi. The
It has demonstrated adapted electric cars in London that recharge automatically while parked over a transmitter pad on the road surface. And the company, which is backed by the engineering consultancy Arup, says cars that recharge as they move over electrified roads could be feasible in the not so far distant future. Halo’s Inductive Power Transfer employs the same technology that is used to recharge electric toothbrushes. Other companies are working on wireless charging, but HaloIPT says its approach is more practical as it allows for a greater gap between charging pads. But David Bott, director of innovation programmes at government advisor the Technology Strategy Board, questions the usefulness of wireless charging. “The transfer is less efficient if your car is not plugged in,” he told Green Futures. “At the moment plugging in works – and it’s cheap.”
Obama administration is also supporting EVs, and buyers in the US qualify for a tax credit. Toyota has updated its RAV4 EV, a small four wheel drive. In its first incarnation between 1998 and 2003, only around 1,500 were sold, but Toyota is counting on better sales when the
China is aiming to put more than a million electric vehicles onto the road each year by 2015, according to the state-run People’s Daily. It claims that new plans for the auto industry are about to be published and will make “new energy” – electric and hybrid electric – vehicles a national priority. China’s long-term target is for 100 million new cars and buses to be produced each year by 2020, it says. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is pledged to invest more than 100 billion yuan over the next 10 years to support new energy vehicle production, “in order to make China the world’s largest new energy automobile production country”. EV manufacturers in India, meanwhile, have had a boost in the shape of a government decision to extend support in their domestic market. The subsidy package is worth up to about £13.4 million between now and 2011 and will represent 20% of each vehicle sold to Indian customers.
Pawan Goenka, the automotive sector president of G-Wiz manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra, said the move will encourage development of alternative fuel technologies across India. But Goenka, who leads the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said the government would have to continue supporting the country’s “technology leap” beyond 2011.
new version goes onto the US market in 2012. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is an all-electric micro car that has sold well in Japan. The company plans to begin selling it in the US by the end of the year and in the UK and Europe from mid-2011. – Julian Rollins
Green Futures January 2011
3. Biodiversity: it’s a business issue Business is used to counting carbon; now it may have to start counting bees. Biodiversity is shrinking fast, and the consequences are just starting to bite. According to a study by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity [see GF78, p43], natural pollinators like bees are worth over $200 billion a year to the world economy. (If that sounds a lot, imagine pollinating crops by hand, as Chinese farmers had to when bee populations were wiped out by chemicals.) Meanwhile, against a backdrop of growing uncertainty and rising fuel costs, food prices soared in 2010. Volatility is the rule, but they seem set to rise further this year, triggering concerns about commodity speculation and wider food security – not to mention food riots. So how are we responding to these twin, related threats? So far, so slow. Take one example: ICCAT – which in any sane world should stand for the International Commission for the Collapse of Atlantic Tunas. It’s agreed a catch quota for 2011 that scientists say gives the species a 1 in 3 chance of commercial collapse. It’s an all too familiar example of the failure of governance set-ups to manage ecosystems – reaching environmental limits, and not knowing what to do about it. One thing is for sure: we certainly can’t tackle biodiversity in isolation. Burning forests to grow more food would boost global warming, leading to further food shortages in the future. And some misguided efforts to tackle climate change – such as the mass conversion of cropland to biofuels – mean more food insecurity in the here and now. We are facing the acid test of our ability to tackle threats at a systemic level, rather than picking them off one by one. If you’re looking for a silver lining, try this. Climate change helped spark the cleantech boom; could business take a similarly entrepreneurial response to the conservation crisis? The UN estimates that the battle to avert ecosystem collapse could generate a $5 trillion industry. And McKinsey’s reports that CEOs now think of biodiversity in the way they thought of climate change in 2007: a worrying issue on the horizon that they ought to start planning for now...
2011 five trends to watch In the first of an annual series, James Goodman and Martin Wright track the trends which will influence the coming year’s sustainability debates.
1. Nowhere to hide, as the open society finally arrives
4. The return of climate change: will science strike back?
Wikileaks is just the start. When anyone can tweet and be tweeted, keeping the lid on is no longer an option. 2011 will see transparency become the new normal, thanks to the unprecedented rush of digital empowerment. Three in every four people on the planet have a mobile phone, and the use of Twitter is growing at over 1,000% a year. In the last few months alone, we’ve seen consumers able to:
2010 was the Year of the Sceptics. By contrast, 2011 could just see the triumph of science, for two reasons. First, the facts are increasingly stark. 2010 looks set to equal or exceed 1998 as the warmest year on record. And it doesn’t stop there. 1998 hit record levels in part because it coincided with the warming impacts of ‘El Niño’. By contrast, 2010’s highs have happened despite the cooling influence of ‘La Niña’. Second, in the wake of Climategate, scientists are realising that pure research ain’t enough: they need to communicate much better, too – and engage openly with their adversaries. The more that happens, the more threadbare the rhetoric of denial will appear. Grudging agreement at Cancún will help; all the more so because both China and India have come on board as never before. Climate diplomacy has shrunk back from the brink. And as political power plays get under way in the run up to Kyoto in December, so the issue will start to creep back onto the front pages. This doesn’t mean scepticism will melt away overnight, any more than the Himalayan glaciers. With the impacts of global warming, as ever, lagging behind the rise in temperatures, the sceptics will still find a hearing. And they’ll be fired up by a new kind of energy. For years, advocates of bold action on carbon cuts have argued that energy insecurity strengthens their case. That’ll be harder to maintain now that shale gas has entered the mix. Not only is it relatively cheap, but there is a truly humungous amount in the US. The science may be settled, but the coming year will show that the debate is far from over.
• monitor working conditions in one of Asda’s Bangladeshi clothes factories via a live cam feed • compel Gap to abandon ditching its cherished logo • use their mobiles to pull sustainability information from a product’s barcode
2. Africa: from basket case to boomtime?
Green Futures January 2011
Photo: Gawrav / Kai Krause
It may still be wracked with civil war and failed states, but Africa is fast emerging as the world’s unlikeliest opportunity. Rich in resources and people, its economies are set to grow by 6% next year, pulling in record levels of investment. By 2020, says McKinsey, there will be 128 million Africans with discretionary spend. And the continent’s on track to have the lowest dependency ratio in the world by 2030 – an achievement associated with rapid development. Around that time, too, the Sahara could be the powerhouse of Europe, thanks to concentrated solar power… By then, of course, China – which has already grasped Africa’s potential both as a market and a resource mine – could well be the world’s largest economy. And if present trends continue, it could also be the biggest investor in green technology. If you’d made that prediction a couple of decades ago, you’d have been cast as a hopeless Maoist dreamer. It’s a salutary reminder of the speed with which a settled world can shift. So 2011 will surely see new markets, new influences – and new competition for resources.
Photo: Schnuddel / istock; Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters; Rotofrank / istock
…and then add their own subversive messages (“this product’s rubbish/cheaper in the shop across the road”) using Stickybits software. Command and control won’t cut it anymore. The result will at times be messy, barely manageable: think Wikileaks again. Scared companies will try, and fail, to stuff the genie back in the bottle. Smart ones, by contrast, will seize it as a golden opportunity to get close to their market and learn from their customers.
5. CEOs have finally cottoned on – what now? As the year turned, there was growing evidence that virtually every CEO worth their salt saw sustainability as vital to future business success. Of those surveyed by Accenture, 93% agreed with that statement. Other polls reported similar results. More intriguingly, nine out of ten CEOs questioned by the Echo consultancy on behalf of the International Business Leaders Forum believed their companies would have to employ new sustainable technologies to remain competitive five years from now. No wonder HSBC estimates that the low-carbon market will be worth a cool $2.1 trillion by 2020.
Green Futures January 2011
Round, round get around…
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.
By 2040, two in three people on the planet will be city dwellers. What can major metropolises do to avoid chaos, congestion and overcrowding? Matt Kaplan and Anna Simpson take to the streets of the future.
Green Futures January 2011
Cities never really sleep. Even in the small hours, before commuters surge from their homes onto the roads, the things they need for the day ahead are travelling to and fro: groceries from the countryside; water down the pipes; electrons through cables; news down the wire. In many cities, all this ebb and flow is like a relay race without proper teams: there’s no real coordination, and so the baton keeps falling between the runners. The people responsible for public transport don’t speak to the ones distributing the food; the energy providers don’t communicate with the information experts. Delivery vans make a one-way trip and come back empty; leftovers from the canteen travel, at best, to composting sites, and at worst, to landfill – while fresh and processed food is brought in from far away. The daily frustrations of city dwellers asides, this failure to think and plan across different sectors means we waste everything from energy, food and water, to money, time and space – all critical resources that no city with a burgeoning population has to spare. By 2040, two in every three people on the planet will be living in urban areas, and providing them all with the bare necessities – never mind a seat on the bus – will be a huge challenge. It may seem a way off yet, but less than 30 years isn’t much time in which to make major changes to infrastructure that – in some of the bigger cities – has been around for centuries. Where do we begin, and whose job is it anyway? In an effort to help get things started, Forum for the Future has launched Megacities on the Move, a new initiative in partnership with the FIA Foundation, Vodafone and
Photo: Tom Stoddart / Getty
T S Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)
EMBARQ (the sustainable transport centre). It’s set out six key priorities for action to ensure the smoothest flow of people and resources (see box, p22). Top of the list is a new integrated approach to mobility: not just getting folk about, but giving them “choice, flexibility and seamless connectivity”, whatever it is they’re after. As Sue Zielinski, an expert in sustainable mobility at the University of Michigan, puts it: “The goal is not transport, but accessibility – more productivity, more mobility, more beauty in one day.” So what does this much-needed mix of beauty and accessibility look like? For one answer, look to the deserts of Abu Dhabi, in the UAE. If everything runs to plan, then out of the sands will rise Masdar: a carbonneutral, car-free metropolis, due to open officially in 2018. The plaza at its centre is designed to be a pleasant place to walk, rest and meet people – as well as a beacon of clean technology. Giant ‘petals’ flare out during the day, offering shade from the sun and capturing its warmth in solar thermal ‘stalks’. Fruit and vegetables are grown in layered hydroponic gardens; rainwater captured from the roof is stored in a vast underground tank. The city is energy independent, generating much of its power from a vast parabolic trough-style concentrated solar power plant. This alone should produce around 100MW, and will be complemented by a mix of photovoltaics, wind and biomass. Transport links are laid out so that you’re never more than a two-minute walk away from the nearest station – be it the solar-powered personalised rapid transit system, or the light railway. If all cities were as efficient as this, we’d be
laughing. We’d be pretty damn sustainable, too. Masdar may or may not live up to expectations, of course. But even if it does, it’s not the easiest example for others to follow. It has enjoyed the luxury of starting from scratch, whereas most of our major cities have grown slowly over centuries or even millennia, despite sporadic interventions from urban planners along the way. We find ourselves in and amongst a hotchpotch of new build and old; straight and winding roads; smart avenues and sink estates. Getting around depends on haphazard transport links, each with their own timetable and payment system. So, leaving others to walk Masdar’s narrow and uniform streets, let’s head north for a reality check,
If all cities were as efficient as Masdar, we’d be laughing
Green Futures January 2011
Tackling the need to travel has to be at the top of the list
across the Levant to Istanbul. With a population of nearly 13 million, the former capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires is now growing at a dizzying pace. Its mass of gecekondus (makeshift housing literally ‘built overnight’) are sending it sprawling into the surrounding countryside. Getting to work through the crush is increasingly tough. In an effort to ease the passage, the city authorities have installed a new underground funicular railway – to compliment one which has run continuously since 1875 – as well as a new metro, which will eventually have 32 stations across the city. And in 2009 it launched the world’s only intercontinental bus rapid transit system, which crosses the Bosphorus Bridge from Europe to Asia. It carries over half a million passengers a day, saving them, on average, two hours that they might otherwise have spent on congested roads. But, even with all these new developments, travel times in the city have risen by 24% in the last decade. Sibel Bulay, Director of EMBARQ in Turkey, is quick to acknowledge that the situation is simply untenable. If the next 30 years bring more of the same – more people, more demand for public transport, and more cars on the road – then Istanbul could become “a dismal place with severe limitations on energy use”. For Istanbul,read Mumbai, or Rio, Bangkok or Lagos… Something has to change, and it will take more than a new rapid transit network. So what are the key shifts we need to make? Megacities on the Move calls for “completely new ways” to produce and access goods and services. Clearly, no single form of transport or wireless gadget is going to provide this. Rather, we’ll have to be on the ball with a whole range of new possibilities. For a start, we’ll need to spot the potential in alternative sources of energy and battery technology, and invest heavily to roll them out. We’ll have to learn to think beyond the car, exploring other low-carbon and congestion-averse ways to get about – all the better if they help to make us healthier and happier – like cycling or even walking. Transport aside, we need to reconsider how we organise our lives and where we go to get what we need. Can social hubs like cafes and pubs double up as collection points for locally produced food or postal packages? And just how much can we do online?
Green Futures January 2011
All aboard It’s a huge agenda, acknowledges Forum for the Future’s Ivana Gazibara, leader of the Megacities project. As she sees it, changing people’s behaviour and the way they use goods and services has to be part of any solution. “The things people value and the way they behave do a lot to shape our future”, she says. But even for those who find the idea of a low-carbon lifestyle attractive, it can be hard to know what to change, and old habits die hard. Nigel Underdown, Head of Transport Advice at the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, would like to see more people asking themselves if they really need to make that trip. “Tackling the need to travel has to be at the top of the list” he says. “Because, whether your priority is reducing carbon or congestion, all the other interventions are just not going to deliver fast enough.” It may not be fast enough for some, but information technology is certainly delivering change at quite a rate. Knowledge-on-the-go, thanks to wifi enabled smart phones, has enormous potential to connect people to the things they need. GPS systems offer instant updates, making it easier to avoid traffic jams and less likely that you’ll waste time searching for a parking space.
Cute, clean and stackable: CityCars on the streets of New York
Reliable access to information can make new possibilities less intimidating and more desirable. People are already using their phones to find charging points for electric vehicles, locate the nearest shops, or check out the best places to eat: imagine what might be possible in 2040. It’s largely thanks to online social networks that community-based sharing schemes have taken off. A few years back, you might have asked a friendly neighbour if you could borrow a few eggs once in a blue moon, but it’s unlikely you’d have accosted the next person in the queue at the post office and asked to borrow her car. Now, sites like WhipCar make it easy to rent one in your area whenever it’s not in use – or to make a bit of extra money by signing your own wheels up to the scheme. For some, this seems too whacky an idea. Underdown questions whether many car owners could be persuaded to sign up: “They tend to be rather precious – or they’d probably never have gone in for ownership in the first place”. But for borrowers, there are a number of clear wins. You don’t have the hassle of maintenance and a permanent parking spot; your oneoff trip is fully insured; and you can choose a different vehicle each time to fit the occasion – whether you’re moving house, going to see your folks for the weekend, or simply feel like a spin in the country – with the roof down and the wind in your hair. Or, if your neighbour’s car doesn’t cut it, you could try New York’s CityCar scheme. Its tiny twoseater electric vehicles zip about weighing less than a thousand pounds each. They’re designed by MIT to be ‘stackable’, rather like supermarket trolleys, and can be picked up from combined parking and charging stations with the swipe of a card. Changing minds about car ownership – perhaps the status symbol of the 20th century – is one thing. Getting people onto bikes is another. Cycling is one of the cheapest, quickest and most efficient ways to get around a city. But expensive cycle schemes like London’s ‘Boris bikes’ could soon look passé. Try comparing its complex and expensive infrastructure to quick-fix initiatives like New York’s Social Bicycle System (SoBi, pictured left). It cuts out the need for plug-in stations altogether by attaching all the security and technology to the bike itself. A unit with built-in GPS and wifi simply clamps onto the frame like a lock. All you need to do is register via the website, use your mobile phone to track down the nearest bike, unlock it with a code, and you’re away. Mobile apps can also give people the confidence to explore on foot, too, without the worry of getting lost. Take the urban route planner WalkIt.com. Just by telling you how far you’ll be going and which routes would be the most scenic, or the safest, WalkIt helps to make transport-free travel a real option: “We often associate the ‘walkability’ of a place with major changes to the landscape, through pedestrianisation and urban redesign”, says Hugh Knowles, an expert in behaviour change at Forum for the Future. “But sometimes all you need is a map.” Of course, an app is more than just a map, and the bonus features it offers – like flagging up points of interest and the odd pub along the way – could help to bring walking back into vogue. Already, more people are recognising the pleasure of an urban stroll. As Mrs Dalloway put it, “I love walking in London ... it’s better than walking in the country”.
Intelligent infrastructure Encouraging people to get smart about their options is just the start of intelligent mobility. Vehicles are getting smarter, too: the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has launched IntelliDrive to give cars the ability to self-navigate. The smart software uses wifi to pick up signals from other vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure – from traffic lights and road signs to mobile phones – and turns the data into instant decisions about speed and direction. DOT claims it could make collisions a near impossibility. Similarly, Nissan is piloting a robot car with ‘anticollision’ capacities inspired by – unlikely as it may sound – the behaviour of fish. Just as schools of fish instinctively form a narrow line where the passage is tight, or divide into two separate lines to circumvent an obstacle, the EPORO (below) uses lasers and wireless communications technology so that individual pods can travel safely in a much larger group.
Dummy text dummy text dummy text dummy text dummy text Green Futures January 2011 21
How to make a city flow
As important as road safety is, the really exciting potential here is the power of well-managed traffic systems to ease – or even put an end to – congestion. As things stand, you might hear about a tailback on the radio, or get an alert from your GPS – but by that stage of your daily commute you’re probably already in the thick of it. Something as simple as synchronised traffic lights could make a huge difference. “When it comes to smart driving,” explains Underdown, “there’s only one imperative: don’t stop!” In many city centres, that’s simply impossible. Crawling down congested roads can feel a bit like playing a broken record, and each stop-start wastes time, energy and money. Already, taxi firms like Addison Lee – currently in the running for an Energy Saving Trust (EST) Fleet Hero Award – are making massive fuel savings thanks to congestion-tracking and route-planning software (see GF75, pp12, 35). Devices to encourage smooth driving techniques can be effective, too. One award-winning example is the app which simulates a glass of water sitting on your dashboard, threatening to spill over your lap if you brake too abruptly.
3. Think people, not just cars There are already one billion cars in the world, projected to grow to two billion within decades – but cities are already struggling with impossible levels of congestion. Designing our cities around people could help lure us out of our cars and onto our feet (or our pedals).
Megacities on the Move has identified six essential priorities for action. They should be relevant for everyone involved in rethinking cities, whether you’re a government official, urban planner, transport provider, corporate hot dog or the Mayor.
4. Get online Mobile apps and web-based services have enormous potential to reduce the need for travel altogether – but they can also help coordinate the journeys we do make, with massive efficiency wins.
1. Integrate How we get about, how we shift our supplies, and how we access the things we need can no longer be considered in isolation. A new, holistic approach is needed – as well as much more talking and decision making across sectors.
5. ‘Re-fuel’ our vehicles We need significant investment in alternative fuels, electric vehicles and battery technology – as well as smart infrastructure to encourage super-efficient driving.
2. Prioritise the poor Everyone has to be able to access services, food, social hubs, jobs and information – whatever their income. Good transport can go a long way to help people make money, but it has to be affordable.
6. Change values and behaviour Pushing low-carbon, healthier urban lifestyles into vogue could take a huge weight off our roads and transport systems – and off our thighs, too...
The future is ... light?
communicate with the other pods on the line, avoiding congestion. It’s all beginning to sound rather friendly. Take a pick of these urban mobility solutions, and you’ll find communication at the heart of almost all of them. You have pods sensing each other’s speed and distance, traffic lights working in tandem, EPOROs gadding about like schools of fish, and communities sharing cars. Could planning for the smoothest flow of people and resources in a city be as simple as making conversation? Matt Kaplan is a regular writer for The Economist. Anna Simpson is Deputy Editor of Green Futures.
Gordon Feller, Director of Urban Innovations at Cisco Systems, has come up with a real-time visual representation of movement and energy use in a city, which he believes could play a major part in changing perceptions of resource use and personal impact. He and his team have collaborated with San Francisco’s Department of the Environment to develop the Urban EcoMap: an online tool that taps into a whole range of publicly available information about a particular city, including data from smart phones, a network of street-based sensors and GPS. You can see just how much energy is being used in congested transport systems or by commercial and domestic buildings, at any time.
Green Futures January 2011
Photo: SV Luma / Shutterstock
Mapping urban energy
Photo: Epicstock / Shutterstock
Something as simple as synchronised traffic lights could make a huge difference
Roads and cars have their part to play in short-term efficiency gains, but it’s possible they won’t feature much in the future. Instead, expect personal rapid transit systems – like ULTra. Developed in association with the University of Bristol, this is currently being piloted between the car parks and terminals of Heathrow Airport. Small, computer-driven electric pods nip about at ground level or on elevated tracks to stay clear of pedestrians. Their energy consumption is exceedingly low: just 0.15kwh per pod travelling at 25mph. They run on easy-build ‘guideways’ – nothing more intricate than a 25cm curb, which the vehicles detect using lasers. You can summon one from a waiting bay with a quick swipe of your smartphone. Once it’s picked you up, it will use Wi-Fi and sensors to
Green Futures January 2011
Reimagining rubbish At first and even second glance, it’s an exquisite Chinese landscape. A delicate, Zen-like painting. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. It’s rubbish. Piles and piles of it, covered in green mesh netting. Artist Yao Lu, one of the winners of this year’s Prix Pictet, photographs it and then subtly manipulates the images. He’s making a point about the sweeping changes to the Chinese scene, but also about the ‘hidden beauty’ of waste: its potential to be transformed from an eyesore to a rich resource of new materials and energy. Photo: Yao Lu/Prix Pictet
Sea change “ ”
One in every 30 tonnes of CO2 generated by human activity today comes from a ship.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine some of the green transport success stories that lie around the corner. What comes to mind? A vast graceful airship? A solar-powered car? Some clever piece of videocon kit? What you probably didn’t picture was a cargo ship the length of three football pitches, powered by liquid natural gas, currently being designed by Korean ship builder DSME as part of its Econology programme. Or a huge container vessel, selfloading, smooth-sailing and powered by liquid natural gas, that’s been dreamt up by the Japanese shipping line NYK. But these are just the kind of innovations that will be needed if shipping is to face up to its impact on the world’s climate. To be fair, ships are, relatively speaking, climate-friendly. Over the last 40 years, technological advances and economies of scale have cut fuel consumption dramatically – particularly when compared with other modes. Today’s articulated lorry pumps out about 50g of CO2 per kilometre for each tonne of goods carried. Aeroplanes account for at least ten times as much. By comparison, a largish freighter may emit just 15g per tonne-kilometre (tkm); an oil tanker a mere five. Still, all those grams add up. Nearly 80% of global trade by volume is transported by sea, with some 53,000 vessels clocking up over 50 trillion tkm a year. So immense is this weight of traffic that the industry’s emissions now total over a billion tonnes a year. That gives it a carbon footprint larger than Germany’s – and substantially larger than that of the aviation industry. One in every 30 tonnes of CO2
Green Futures January 2011
generated by human activity today comes from a ship. And the industry’s relentless growth looks set to continue as long as the global population keeps increasing and living standards around the world go on rising. By 2040, all other things being equal, the carbon footprint of shipping could easily double. Of course, all other things can’t remain equal. One way or another, by 2040 we have to cut our emissions drastically, perhaps to below 9 billion tonnes a year in total, if we are to have a chance of avoiding that critical 2°C rise in global temperature. Inevitably, shipping, for so long an ‘invisible industry’ operating far beyond most people’s horizons, is now coming under intense scrutiny. Already, stringent new regulations to reduce onshore air pollution will require operators to cut their emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide (though, ironically, the latter has a short-term global cooling effect). It is only a matter of time before they are obliged to slash their carbon emissions as well. So, realistically, what is achievable? Some headline-grabbing claims have been made. NYK says its ‘super eco’ container ship could be sailing in 2030, achieving savings of around 69%. More optimistic still is the Scandinavian company Wallenius Wilhelmsen. Its ‘Orcelle’ concept ship presents the tantalising vision of a vast freighter taking to the seas by 2025, emitting just water vapour and hot air. Sceptics doubt the technology – a combination of fuel cells supplemented by the energy of the sun, wind and waves – will prove viable. As one put it: “This ship won’t work. But you’ve got to admire their ambition.”
Photo: Nadav Kander / Prix Pictet
Shipping has long been one of the world’s ‘invisible industries’ – but its carbon emissions are now bringing it under the glare of critical scrutiny. Huw Spanner asks whether this vast industry can start to steam towards a cleaner future.
And it’s an ambition that is beginning to spread. Back in January 2010, Samsung Heavy Industries, the world’s second-largest shipbuilder, promised that from 2015 all its new builds will emit “up to 30% less” greenhouse gases than today’s equivalents. DSME’s Econology is aiming for 50% CO2 reductions by 2020, and Mitsubishi has unveiled plans for a large container ship which will achieve 35% reductions. Even so, it’s easy to get carried away by some of the numbers that appear in the media, mistaking optimum figures for day-in day-out averages and adding everything up to make 105. It can take a decade to get a new ship off the drawing board and down the slipway, and that vessel may then be in service for as long as 35 years. That means that many of the ships that will be sailing even in 2040 have already been built. And they will incorporate the technology – and the attitudes to the environment – of five to ten years ago. In this respect, shipping has a lot in common with houses, planes and power stations. There is no single, revolutionary new idea that is going to turn the shipping industry green. Instead, insiders are looking to a mix of technical tweaks and ‘smarter steaming’ to accumulate enough modest savings to add up to something really substantial. That’s the strategy of the huge Danish shipping line Maersk, which aims to halve its carbon emissions per tkm over the next 30 years. It plans to cut 25% by 2020, mostly by retrofitting its current fleet (for example, refining the shape of ships’ bows and installing better propellers and a waste-heat recovery system) and by using it more efficiently. The balance will be achieved by 2040 through buying higherperformance vessels. One key innovation the company has pioneered is ‘slow steaming’. At lower speeds, a vehicle encounters less resistance and therefore moves with less effort. Maersk reports that since 2007 this alone has cut its fuel consumption per container by 12.5%, and even bigger reductions are around the corner. Slow steaming saves money, saves carbon, and also gives clients a more reliable date of arrival. “It looks as
if this will become the norm,” says Jacob Sterling, the company’s Head of Climate and Environment, “because it is such good business. Once customers get used to it, there will be very little incentive for shipping lines to revert to faster speeds.” Some experts argue there’s scope for greater ambition. Del Redvers, Head of Sustainability at the engineering consultancy BMT, believes that if current solutions, both operational and technical, were applied rigorously across the whole industry, “a reduction in carbon emissions of 20% or more is already feasible, and should be on the table now.” Lloyd’s Register puts it higher, at 30% plus. “The target”, says Redvers, “has to be ‘realistic plus a little bit more’ – at least another 5% every year, in the expectation that we’ll be able to develop the technology.” Cost-cutting will be a major driver of change, he believes. A saving of even 0.5% is an appealing proposition to a company whose fuel bills run into millions of dollars a month. The price of fuel already looks certain to rise thanks to new regulations on sulphur emissions. “There are very few other industries that can make 20-30% cuts in carbon emissions and actually save money,” observes Dr Simon Walmsley, Head of the Marine Programme at WWF-UK. Pressure from carbon-conscious shippers, such as Walmart, Ikea, Tesco and Volkswagen will also help. And that pressure is mounting fast, says Sam Kimmins, co-ordinator of Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Shipping Initiative: “They are increasingly asking the shipping industry to declare what it is producing in terms of carbon. It’s the big branded retailers, and some of the big bulk importers”, who are making things happen, he says. “They are starting to own their share of responsibility for the impact of getting their products and raw materials into their factories and onto their shelves. It’s a question society is increasingly asking of them, and they’re passing it onto the shipping industry. So the industry’s starting to feel the heat.” “This is something quite new,” says Jacob Sterling, “and it’s very good news. Many of our clients have
Green Futures January 2011
Just over the horizon… The next decade could see major innovations in both operation and design. The industry is sure to become more highly automated, with computers processing detailed information about weather conditions and currents to work out routes and speeds that will minimise fuel consumption. The widening of the Panama Canal will allow even larger vessels through from 2014 – and if rising temperatures do indeed eliminate the ice in the Arctic Circle, the (small) consolation is that many shipping routes will become much shorter. On the technological side, ships designed to be fuel efficient in operation, rather than cheap to build, will be lighter, both hydro- and aero-dynamic, and needing to carry less ballast. Air lubrication holds out some promise – injecting a stream of microbubbles under the hull or trapping pockets of air beneath it can reduce frictional drag, delivering savings of as much as 20% with very slow-moving, flattish-bottomed vessels such as tankers. Patterning a hull with ‘riblets’ that mimic the rough surface of a shark’s skin is, somewhat counter-intuitively, another way to smooth its passage through the water. And (like various new paints and coatings) it also deters algae, barnacles and slime. By 2020, new ships could be burning LNG or biodiesel made from algae, or even be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Modular engines will be designed to be easily replaced or upgraded as better technology is developed. Huge computercontrolled ‘towing kites’ (which, flying much higher than mastmounted sails, can catch stronger and steadier winds) can already be retrofitted to many ships, and hold out the prospect of cutting average fuel consumption in tankers and bulk carriers by 15% or more. Lighting, heating and other ‘hotel services’ can be powered by solar panels or, when in port, the onshore grid. Savvy ship owners will act sooner rather than later to upgrade their vessels, says Kimmins. “As new legislation comes onstream, forcing ship owners to act, there will be a rush to the retrofitter. So while we’re in a downturn, with ships laid up in harbour, this could be the perfect time to act.”
Green Futures January 2011
shift in how a ship is being run, because ports can say who can and can’t use their facilities. If ports are provided with the right information, and with the right co-ordination between them, they could act as major enforcers and enablers of sustainable shipping.” In this respect, shipping is very different to aviation, says Kimmins. “Airports don’t want to impose too many restrictions because they fear they’ll lose the trade. Ports are different, because there aren’t that many that can take today’s huge ships. So that gives them some hefty leverage. If the big four European ports got together (Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Marseille), they could make some huge changes.” Then there is the industry’s notorious ‘split incentive’ problem: the fact that, in general, ship owners don’t foot their vessel’s fuel bills – and so have little interest in paying the (sometimes prohibitive) upfront costs of making their fleets more efficient. The Carbon War Room is talking to banks and investors to try to devise new models of finance. These might, for example, persuade someone outside the industry to stump up most of the $3 million cost of an air lubrication system – in return for a share of the considerable sums of money it would save in the long haul. Market forces alone are not going to be enough, however. Regulation, too, says Del Redvers, is crucial, “at a level that will make people’s eyes water”. The industry is notoriously conservative, if not a little complacent. Many ships do not even have a fuel gauge. Shipping companies are often loath to look further than the nearest bottom line, and some regard the environment merely as a nuisance. There is a lack of co-ordination, transparency and accountability – and some shipping operators simply lack scruples. Monitoring behaviour out on the far high seas isn’t exactly easy, either. The proper authority to impose new standards worldwide is the International Maritime Organisation, and in the past it has shown itself capable of doing so, on SOx and NOx, ballast water and the recycling of ships. But it can only operate by
Ship owners don’t foot their vessel’s fuel bills – and so have little interest in paying the upfront costs of making their fleets more efficient
been working on sustainability issues for years, and now they are beginning to look at their suppliers. If we don’t respond to their demands, we risk losing their custom.” In fact, Maersk sees this development as an opportunity for substantial competitive advantage. “For us”, says Sterling, “the best option is to try to be ahead of the curve. Month by month, we tell our customers what our CO2 emissions are, and how they compare with the industry average. Some of our customers may not yet know that this is an issue for them – but once they know they can get [carbon savings] from us, they go to their other suppliers and demand it from them as well.” More information is essential. Alisdair Pettigrew is a shipping specialist working with the Carbon War Room (which researches market-based solutions to climate change). “At the moment”, he says, “there is nothing out there on the fuel efficiency of individual ships so that a charterer could say: ‘I need to charter eight vessels but I only want ones rated A, B or C – and I’d like to reap the benefit of their low fuel consumption.’ Likewise, port authorities who have their own air quality and carbon targets to meet might want to introduce incentives for ‘cleaner’ ships using their facilities, and disincentives for ‘dirtier’ ones. Ship brokers and insurers, too, might want to factor the fuel efficiency of a vessel into the prices they quote.” All of which would require environmental performance data to be freely available for each and every ship on the ocean. Which is exactly what The Carbon War Room is planning. It’s working with other organisations to develop a free-access website that will benchmark and index the world’s sea-going vessels individually. Technological breakthroughs could take that a stage further, says Kimmins. “There are technologies around now which allow any individual ship to be tracked precisely across the oceans: where it’s been, how fast it’s been going, what fuel it’s been consuming, what route it’s taken, etc. Like a tachograph in a truck. That can create an enormous
Photos: NYK Line
Sleeker with sails: NYK’s concept ship starts to take shape
Green Futures January 2011
Human cargo And still they come: today’s freight fans out across the globe
The sea elephant in the room is the relentless increase of traffic by sea
consensus, and reaching this may take years and years. It can make the EU look positively speedy by comparison. Indeed, observers are certain that, if the IMO does not act by April 2011, Europe will impose standards of its own on all the shipping that uses its ports. There is clearly a pressing need for either some kind of cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon levy on fuel. Simon Walmsley argues that some of the huge sums of money this would potentially raise should be ploughed into publicly-funded R&D, to accelerate technical innovation and make it available right across the industry. The rest, he suggests, should go into a climate change mitigation fund for the developing world. The sea elephant in the room, of course, is the relentless increase of traffic by sea. This is in part a result of the marginal cost of shipping anything from iron ore to plastic toys halfway round the world. Even the visionary concept ship Orcelle was designed to carry cars from Britain to Australia… But extrapolating existing trends is a dangerous game. The coming decades might well see the growth curve start to flatten out. Trade may become more localised again due to factors both positive and negative – rising living standards in China and elsewhere, more
Ed Gillespie charts the pleasures, or otherwise, of a plane-free course around the globe.
extreme weather, piracy and resource wars. By 2040, one must hope, the amount of oil and coal being carried across our oceans will have dwindled (though there may well by then be a huge regional trade in fresh water). And if shipping lines pass on to their customers the extra costs they incur both in emitting CO2 and avoiding emissions, that too may help to curb the expansion of seaborne traffic, nudging it within the limits of sustainability. Whatever transpires, shipping is likely still to be part of the problem, but also a big part of the solution. What’s most needed now, says Simon Walmsley, is a paradigm shift in how the industry operates. “We need a big operator to say: ‘We have to make this whole business more efficient – cargoes, ships, ports – and then we can save money and the environment.’” Are there reasons to be hopeful? Yes, reckons Del Redvers. “Shipping companies want to reduce their carbon emissions. There are technologies that can help them to do it and the political will to make it happen. All that is needed is an understanding of what is really possible – and a process that gets us there.” Huw Spanner writes for The Independent.
Forum for the Future is working with a number of leading players in the sector to chart what a sustainable and profitable shipping industry might look like in 2040. The three-year Sustainable Shipping Initiative will look beyond current issues of regulation and compliance to the critical trends and challenges facing the industry in the coming years. This is a high-level initiative that, to date, involves: ABN Amro BP Shipping Cargill
DSME Gearbulk Lloyd’s Register
Maersk Line Rio Tinto RSA
Tsakos Wartsila WWF
For more information, contact Sam Kimmins: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Futures January 2011
Photos: Justin Guariglia / Corbis
Sustainable Shipping Initiative
Four years ago, cargo ships got big. Really big. The launch of the 400-metre long, 170,000 tonne Emma Maersk created a shipping Leviathan. It symbolised the huge growth in marine traffic internationally, which has seen the number of cargo ships double since 1990 to over 50,000 vessels and their capacity increase fourfold. There are more and bigger cargo ships plying the world’s trade routes then there have ever been before. On the surface (in more ways than one) this should open up new possibilities of travel for carbon-conscious passengers, too. But the reality isn’t so simple. In 2007-08, as part of a round the world trip undertaken without once taking to the air, I spent over 45 days at sea on various cargo vessels. Not as a galley-hand or honorary deck-swabber, as penniless marine hitchhikers might have secured a passage 20 years ago, but as a fare-paying passenger, booking my place via specialists freightertravel.co.nz. The experience was revelatory, offering a fascinating insight into the hidden muscle of a trade in which a million sailors escort our goods around the world – not to mention a unique perspective into their lives and cultures. From warbling karaoke with garrulous Filipinos (...my girlfriend, the only woman onboard, sang ‘Like a Virgin’ to a crew who hadn’t seen land for two months...), to playing brutally intense table tennis alongside former heavyweight boxers from the Ukraine, it was clear that merchant seamen live a tough and isolated life far from home. As a passenger you are very much a tiny part of the cargo, which is why the personal carbon footprint of a container ship passenger can be as low as 1/300th that of someone taking a comparable flight. Legal restrictions also mean that a ship must have an onboard doctor to carry more than a dozen guests, so you are typically a novel
minority component of the crew. It’s not inexpensive – and at between £60-100 per day, it’s comparable to (and certainly feels like!) a cheap hotel. However, once you factor in full board on top of this, and allow for the distances travelled, financial costs can end up being broadly comparable to flying. From the shipping companies’ viewpoint, the financial benefits of carrying tourists are at present minimal. So it’s not surprising that many are taking an increasingly dim view of passengers. Heightened security in ports, complicated bureaucracy and the desire to minimise avoidable hassles are all combining to reduce the number of available berths on cargo ships. So despite the appeal of ocean crossings without the crap cabaret and casinos of conventional cruise ships, the opportunities to ‘cargo cruise’ are sadly diminishing. Not that cruise liners are a low-carbon option compared to container ships. Over 13 million punters took a cruise last year, and whilst the pleasures of luxury marine travel compared to cattle-truck aviation are undeniable, the carbon footprint is typically far worse: a return trip to New York on the QE2, for example, is 7.5 times more carbon intensive than a flight. Meanwhile, my personal hopes for the future of low-carbon travel rest on the return of commercial airships – which should be 90% more carbon efficient than conventional aircraft. I like to daydream about a return to a gentler, more genteel, form of aviation for long global journeys. At 48 hours from London to New York, they would be slower than a plane but faster than a ship, with neither deep vein thrombosis nor seasickness. Let’s revive the galleons of the skies!
My girlfriend, the only woman onboard, sang ‘Like a Virgin’ to a crew who hadn’t seen land for two months...
Ed Gillespie is Co-Founder, Futerra Sustainability Communications.
Green Futures January 2011
Creating a business case for the complex and uncertain field of sustainable development is no easy matter. But for those who persist, says David Bent, sizeable rewards lie in wait – many of them in cash....
How to count your blessings
Green Futures January 2011
2%’, as the phrase goes). That is fine for many of the decisions the tools are used to make. But these are often either blind to the wide array of potential financial dividends from sustainability initiatives – as with the Sainsbury’s example above – or they simply cannot cope with its inherent uncertainty. A new, more sustainable product, for example, might be hugely successful in the coming years, as energy and resource prices spiral, as tighter regulation kicks in along with generous incentives for green innovations, and as consumer preferences shift and markets realign. But when it comes to capturing the value of those advantages, there is inevitably an element of conjecture. The numbers are much ‘softer’ than financial decision-makers are used to. As a result, the sustainable innovation looks less well developed, less mature – essentially, less of a good bet – than an unsustainable alternative. So when faced with a choice between the familiar and the fuzzy, decision-makers often play safe – as they see it. But in so doing, they take what may well be a bigger risk of missing out on future opportunities. As a result, companies get stuck in a vicious cycle: they want a cast iron business case before they will act, but they can only get the data they need by going ahead and taking a punt on innovation, which many will understandably be reluctant to do. Changing this pattern means finding ways to make what looks ‘fuzzy’ solid and important: making it show up on the spreadsheets, as it were. Often, this means expressing it in terms of shareholder value. At Forum for the Future, we’ve developed a toolkit to help do just that [see box, ‘Making it count’]. It is clear that specific sustainability challenges are already hitting value drivers. Any company with an agricultural supply chain is worried about security, quality and cost of supply. The Climate Act in the UK and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme are affecting the cost of energy use. Customer expectations and purchasing behaviour are shifting – just look at the rapid mainstreaming of fair trade. And as the Carbon Disclosure Project demonstrates, investors, too, are already asking tough questions of management. These and other factors are all shifting the future landscape in which companies will operate. Sustainability professionals are well placed to map out its contours, identifying opportunities to create real value for their business. David Bent is Head of Business Strategies at Forum for the Future.
Short-term action, long-term vision For short-sighted companies there is a standard business case about capturing known ‘win-wins’, which both satisfy shareholders and contribute to a more sustainable future. Some actions taken in pursuit of this, such as cutting costs by reducing waste and emissions, should in theory show up on the standard finance professional’s radar. Others, such as retaining market share by protecting the brand, may be more ‘fuzzy’. For more astute companies, there is a strong business case for taking a leadership position: effectively reshaping the landscape so that there are more sustainable business opportunities to capture. Leading companies like Marks and Spencer, Unilever and GE are making long-term investments to do just that: shaping customer demand, investor expectations, the regulatory environment, their innovation pipeline, supplier capabilities and more. Such investments may be hard to quantify using today’s financial tools. But their long-term value cannot be overestimated.
Making it count Over the years, Forum for the Future has learnt a lot from working with its corporate partners on the nitty-gritty of the business case. It’s distilled those experiences into a toolkit called Better Decisions, Real Value. Aimed at sustainability practitioners and enthusiastic financial professionals, it can help them find the leadership business case for their company. Photos: Blackjake / istock
When faced with a choice between the familiar and the fuzzy, decision makers often play safe – too safe
It was 2008, and Julius Brinkworth had a problem. As Head of Energy and Environment at Sainsbury’s, he had created an investment programme which could make the retail giant’s stores massively more energy efficient. It would save large amounts of carbon – and money, too. There was just one snag. The upfront costs, which ran to hundreds of millions of pounds, had to be signed off by the Capital Investment Committee. Would it get the green light? It seemed touch and go. But then Julius discovered something surprising. He looked into how the committee calculated the net present value (one way of measuring whether an investment is worthwhile). He discovered that this completely ignored the Carbon Reduction Commitment and Enhanced Capital Allowances – two UK government schemes which reward companies for becoming more energy efficient. This may not sound that exciting – but for Julius, it was a real breakthrough moment. He realised that, by failing to take these rewards into account, the committee was in danger of turning down what would otherwise be a demonstrably sound investment. Once the monies available from those schemes were added into the pot, the decision was straightforward. Sainsbury’s made the investment. The principle that sustainability saves money is nothing new, of course. There are plenty of examples out there. Take BT. What’s interesting, though, is how often the financial upside comes as a surprise. When Marks and Spencer launched ‘Plan A’ in 2007, its budgeted cost was £200 million. Within a couple of years, it was breaking even; and by 2009-10, the various initiatives which made up Plan A had actually added £50 million worth of net benefit to the company. With rich pickings like these on offer, you would imagine that finance departments would have become adept at identifying savings from sustainable development. In practice, this is often far from the case. Instead, many SD specialists have similar problems to Julius Brinkworth. They want their companies to succeed through sustainability, but they struggle to express the business case for the particular product, programme or strategy. And that means they struggle to convince their colleagues that there is one. Why is this? In essence, it’s because sustainability is both complex and uncertain. And that puts it outside the comfort zone of most corporate financial decision makers. For the most part, the tools they use to calculate costs, risks and benefits assume that tomorrow will be more or less like today (‘today plus
For more information, visit: www.forumforthefuture.org/projects/better-decisions-real-value or contact David Bent on 020 7324 3662 or email@example.com
Green Futures January 2011
Low carbon Caribbean
From wind to water to waste, Latin America is taking strides towards sustainability, says Jemima Jewell. Central America isn’t usually seen as a hotbed of renewable energy, but for two countries at least, that’s starting to change. And it’s driven as much by worries over energy costs and security as it is by concerns over carbon. In the Dominican Republic, three major new wind farms will come onstream this year, adding a combined 133MW of capacity. Enrique Ramirez, President of the National Energy Commission, said that the country is looking to wind power as a significant way to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. It recently set a target to source 25% of its energy from renewables by 2025, supported by a landmark law providing for incentives which have galvanised rapid investment in the sector. For a country whose energy needs are heavily dependent on unsustainable government subsidies to oil, this makes sense in more ways than one. These developments coincide with the launch of the Spanish-language version of a key Forum for the Future report in the Dominican Republic later this year. El clima future para el desarrollo (The future climate for development), explores the “huge opportunity” around low-carbon, climate-resilient development. It considers future responses to climate change in low-income countries, and includes four scenarios for different possible futures in 2030 [see GF77, p16]. The report also highlights the potential for cities to take a lead on the issue, even as national governments falter. The urban context is particularly relevant in Latin America, where 79% of the population live in cities – projected to reach 85% in 2030. Last year, at the World
Photo: Radovan / istock
Mayors Summit on Climate in Mexico City, 135 city leaders signed up to a range of commitments to reduce emissions and promote measures to adapt to climate change. Mexico City is leading the way, with a comprehensive, 15-year ‘Green Plan’ which addresses seven key areas for action: • habitability and public space • land conservation • water supply • transportation and mobility • waste and recycling • air pollution • energy, and a climate action program. The Mexican capital has committed to spend 7% of its total yearly budget to help reach its target of a 12% reduction in carbon emissions by 2012 (from a 2008 baseline). And Mexico City isn’t alone. Among its fellow signatories is Brazil’s Curitiba, home of the acclaimed Bus Rapid Transport system [see Sol e Sombra, p22], and Bogotá, Colombia. Its impressive network of bicycle routes (‘ciclorutas’) has quintupled bike use in the city. Jemima Jewell is a Senior Strategic Adivisor at Forum for the Future, and lead author of the report,The Future Climate for Development. Both Spanish and English versions of The Future Climate for Development will be available to download from http://www.forumforthefuture.org/ projects/the-future-climate-for-development
Green Futures January 2011
Tomorrow’s leaders Since 1996, Forum for the Future’s Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development has been training the sustainability leaders of the future. Each issue, we track the career of a Forum alumnus.
Nikki White Class of: 2008-09 Currently: Head of Destinations and Sustainability at ABTA, The Travel Association Why I chose the MProf I’d been working in advertising, at a time when more and more people were beginning to ask questions about sustainability and how it linked with communications. I realised that not many people knew about this in the advertising world, so I did a short course in ethical enterprise in Scotland – and just thought, “I need to know more”. Someone up in Scotland had got onto the Masters Course, so that’s how I heard about it. What I learnt I realised quite how limited I’d been just focusing on the business world. Working in different sectors held quite an appeal for me, as I’d been in the same one since I graduated. So the chance to understand how government and the public sector work was just fascinating. I learnt a lot about myself, and about leadership – which was great, as I’d come from a director position in my previous role. I knew I’d do things differently in the future.
Insurers must wake up to climate change, says paper.
Career to date Before the Masters I was at the advertising agency Fox Kalomaski, which specialises in travel – a lifelong fascination for me. I was there for 13 years, and I know it’s unusual to stay with an organisation for so long, but a lot changed in the time I was there. By the age of 30, I was on the board, which was my big personal success. Now I’m at ABTA, in charge of crisis management. So, when something like a hurricane hits, we’re in touch with the tour operators and liaising with the Foreign Office, trying to keep everyone calm...
Insurance is arguably one of the most important tools we have, when it comes to protecting the planet’s most vulnerable communities against climate change. But, according to a paper by Forum for the Future, some developing countries could soon be regarded as ‘uninsurable’ – unless the insurance sector finds alternative ways to spread risk. No modern economy could function without insurance – and, given our changing climate and its unpredictable impacts, none should. It’s a vehicle designed solely with the future in mind. It spreads risk over time and space, and offers a safety net in case of sudden turns of fortune. Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change, by the Forum’s Director of Sustainable Financial Markets, Alice Chapple, argues that the huge risk that this represents has yet to be fully recognised by the insurance industry. Some countries and communities face more frequent losses from storms, floods, heatwaves and other catastrophic weather events. And so those which are less likely to be affected may prefer not to pool their risk with those which are more vulnerable. Developing economies are particularly threatened, since everything is subject to unpredictable weather patterns, from homes and crops to businesses and energy supplies. For some countries, adequate insurance could be the difference between a viable future and economic collapse.
What I plan to do next I’ve only been at ABTA a year. We’ve made a lot of progress getting sustainability on the agenda, with two key elements: thriving destinations, and responsibility in a finite world. But there’s still a huge agenda to work on. One of the most interesting things for me is integrating health and safety with sustainability. I don’t think the two have been tackled together often, but there’s so much cross-over. We need to look at the livelihoods of the people in the travel destinations, their public health, the infrastructure of water supplies... Advice for future leaders Be comfortable in your own style, and take confidence in it. You’ll find it’s like a burden lifted – you don’t have to fit in with anybody else! Nikki White was in conversation with Katie Shaw.
Madeleine Lewis reflects on the achievements of the climate change communications campaign Farming Futures.
Green Futures January 2011
finance director of the value of sustainability, there’s a chance to nail the arguments once and for all, with the workshop ‘Finding your business case for sustainability initiative’, led by Forum for the Future (see ‘How to count your blessings’, p32).
New partners Since the last issue of Green Futures , Danone, David Lloyd Leisure, Delhaize Group, Delphis Eco and Innovia have joined Forum for the Futures as partners.
Photo: Adrian Sherratt / Alamy
To register visit: www.baseshow.co.uk
Farming Futures joined Sir David Attenborough and a diplodocus when it picked up the award for ‘Best Public Sector Campaign’ at the Global Green Awards 2010, hosted by the Natural History Museum. The veteran broadcaster won a special lifetime achievement award at the ceremony, which was held under the looming skeleton of the dinosaur: a reminder that the most powerful creatures on Earth can be victims of catastrophic climate change. Farming Futures has come a long way in five years. Starting out as a small, awareness-raising sixmonth campaign, it is now the leading climate change communications project in the agricultural sector. It has built a powerful online presence, and propelled climate change into key media within the sector. Surveys show
Photo: ChrisHepburn / istock; Elenavolkova / istock
Nail the case for sustainability at BASE 2011.
Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change can be downloaded here: www.forumforthefuture.org/ projects/ClimateWise
A rich harvest
Sustainability is no longer a marginal marketing exercise, but a commercial imperative. Anyone working in business or the public sector will be able to improve their profitability and spot opportunities for growth at the one-day conferenceled event and exhibition, BASE 2011, taking place on 16 February in London. The event offers practical guidance and the chance to forge new partnerships – the key to really innovative work. It is geared around a series of high level keynote speakers, including Dame Ellen MacArthur (left), and CEOs/Chairs from Sky, Coca-Coca, PwC, GE, Cisco, Interface, SABMiller, and TUI Travel. And for anyone still working to convince their
“Climate change is a global problem which requires global cooperation”, says Chapple. “We cannot expect developing countries to play their part if insurers refuse to support their economies by offering cover against the impacts of climate change.” A more general problem is the focus of current insurance strategies on short-term risk. Few are equipped to take into account the physical, regulatory or market impacts of climate change. And even fewer reward businesses for taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or limit climate risk. On the contrary, some even penalise it. So, for instance, clean energy providers using less proven technology face higher premiums than established producers of fossil fuel power. Among eight recommendations to the industry, the paper suggests that insurers rate businesses according to how they contribute to climate risk. One possibility would be a ‘climate premium’ to discourage high-carbon activity, and fund action to limit and adapt to climate change. The paper insists on the critical role of the insurance industry in creating a low-carbon economy, and in preventing and managing climate risk. But, says Chapple, cross-industry collaboration and support from government are needed to fulfil this potential. – Anna Simpson
it has brand recognition among 50% of the target audience: principally farmers. When it launched in 2006, climate change wasn’t even on the agricultural agenda – five years on, the issue is a clear priority. The brightest and best in agricultural science are researching it, supermarkets are rising to the challenge, and food brands are looking to influence consumer behaviour. The award has come at a great time for Forum for the Future. We are furthering our work within the food system, and plan to build on the momentum we’ve generated via Farming Futures. Madeleine Lewis is Strategic Advisor for Farming Futures at Forum for the Future. You can contact her on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Futures October 2010
Forum for the Future works in partnership with leading organisations, mainly from the public and private sectors, to find practical ways to deliver a sustainable future. For more information, visit www.forumforthefuture.org AkzoNobel Elizabeth Stokes, 01928 511695
Delphis Eco www.delphisworld.com
Alliance Boots Andrew Jenkins, 0115 968 6766
Ecotricity Matt Thomas, 01453 756111
Arup Chris Trott, 020 7636 1531
Ecover Mick Bremans, +32 3 309 2500
Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy Jane Howarth, 020 7410 7023
EDF Energy Darren Towers, 07875 110289, email@example.com
Aviva Investors Steve Waygood, 020 7809 6000
Energy Saving Trust 020 7227 0398, www.energysavingtrust.org.uk
AXA Insurance Truska Angel, 07974 833109 Balfour Beatty Jonathan Garrett, 020 7216 6837 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Matt Hale, 020 7996 2054 Benchmark Software Simon Harvey, 01458 444010 BCME Ailbhe O’Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org Birmingham City Council Sandy Taylor, 0121 303 1111 Bottletop Cameron Saul, email@example.com British Council www.britishcouncil.org
Entec UK Ltd Francesco Corsi, 0191 272 6128 The Environment Agency Brian Francis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) James Simpson, 020 7811 3315 Marks & Spencer Rowland Hill, 020 8718 6885 Morrison Construction Guy Wilson, guy.wilson@ morrisonconstruction.co.uk
Firmenich SA Neil McFarlane, +41 227802435
PepsiCo UK & Ireland Andrew Slight, Andrew.Slight@pepsico.com
FirstGroup Terri Vogt, 07799 885171 Food and Drink Federation Nicki Hunt, 020 7420 7132
Cafédirect Whitney Kakos, 020 7033 6022
Heineken UK Richard Heathcote, 01432 345277
Capgemini James Robey, 0870 904 5761
IGD Dr James Northen, 01923 851919
Cargill Europe Fiona Cubitt, 01932 861916
Innovia Films Lucy Cowton, 01697 342281
Carillion Louise Perry, 01902 316258
InterfaceFLOR Ramon Arratia, 020 7490 3960
Carmarthenshire County Council www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk
Chi Group www.chilondon.com
Jaguar Land Rover Fran Leedham, email@example.com
Green Futures January 2011
London Borough of Croydon Bob Fiddik, Bob.Fiddik@croydon.gov.uk
Panasonic Simon Eves, 01344 853325
Halcrow Group Nick Murry, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sustainability West Midlands Simon Slater, 0121 237 5890, Simon.email@example.com
Finlays Michael Pennant-Jones, 020 7802 3239
Bupa Andrew Smith, 020 7656 2343
Delhaize Group Megan Hellstedt, +1 207-885-2148, firstname.lastname@example.org
Leeds City Council Tom Knowland, 0113 395 0643
O2 Simon Davis, simon.davis@O2.com
GSH Group Nicola Barker-Wyatt, 01782 200400
South West Tourism Neil Warren, 01392 353234
Fife Council Neil Gateley, 08451 555555
BT Richard Spencer, 07736 636882
The Co-operative Group Chris Shearlock, www.co-operative.coop
Kraft Foods and Cadbury Jonathan Horrell, 01242 236101
Natural England Julian Lloyd, 0300 060 0243 www.naturalengland.org.uk
Sandra Latner, 08452 683135
Colors Fruit Julian Fisher, email@example.com
Sony Ericsson Gustaf Brusewitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eurostar Louisa Bell, 020 7922 2442
British Waterways Jim Stirling email@example.com
City of London Simon Mills, 020 7332 1431
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council Phil Monaghan, www.knowsley.gov.uk
John Lewis Partnership Moira Thomas, 020 7592 4413 Johnson Matthey Sean Axon, 020 7269 8400 JT Group John Pontin, 01275 373393 Kingfisher Jamie Lawrence, 020 7372 8008, Jamie.Lawrence@kingfisher.com
Powys County Council Heather Delonnette, 01597 827481
Tesco Ruth Girardet, 01992 644053 Tetra Pak Rupert Maitland-Titterton, 0870 442 6000 Thames Water Utilities Helen Newman, 0118 373 8343 Thomson Reuters Julia Fuller firstname.lastname@example.org Time Warner www.timewarner.com/corp Triodos Bank William Ferguson, 0117 980 9770 TUI Travel Jane Ashton, 01293 645911 Unilever UK Helen Fenwick, 01372 945000 United Nations Environment Programme Niclas Svenningsen, +33 144 37 14 33
Pret A Manger Nicki Fisher, 020 7827 8888
Pureprint Group Richard Owers, 01825 768811 Rail Safety and Standards Board Shamit Gaiger, 020 3142 5380 Rexam Plc email@example.com, www.rexam.com Royal Dutch Shell Elfrida Hughes, +31610974798 Royal Mail Group Matthew Neilson, firstname.lastname@example.org RSA Paul Pritchard, 020 7337 5712 RWE npower Anita Longley, 01793 892716
of people surveyed say they are more likely to believe advice if it is endorsed by an independent, expert body like the Energy Saving Trust.
Tata Global Beverages Sara Howe, 020 8338 4590
Pureprint Group Richard Owers, 01825 768811
Prudential Fay Hogg, 020 7548 3581
63% Endorsed Advice Service Setting the standard for trusted advice
Chris Burgess, 01635 677932 Volac Andy Richardson, 01223 208021 Warburtons Sarah Miskell, 01204 556600 Welsh Assembly Government Victoria Thomas, 029 2082 1667 Wessex Water Dan Green, 01225 526000 Willmott Dixon George Martin, 01932 584700 Wm Morrison Supermarkets Steven Butts, Steven.Butts@morrisonsplc.co.uk WWF-UK Dax Lovegrove, 01483 412395
With over 17 years experience, the Energy Saving Trust has set the standard for delivering high quality, accurate and trusted energy saving advice to UK consumers. Our Endorsed Advice Service is designed to train your staff to deliver this best practice energy saving advice to your customers. We work with you to ensure the standard is constantly maintained and that your staff continue to develop their knowledge, expertise and skills.
The Endorsed Advice Service is a tailored programme of training, assessment, monitoring and continuing professional development, suitable for any organisation delivering energy saving advice to consumers over the phone, face to face or in-store. Through endorsement by the Energy Saving Trust, your organisation could join others benefiting from increased trust, improved customer satisfaction and stronger corporate responsibility credentials.
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Jack Cunningham email@example.com SC Johnson Chris Lambert, 01784 484100
To find out more, call 020 7222 0101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting ‘Green Futures’. Alternatively, visit energysavingtrust.org.uk/endorsedadvice
Severn Trent Will Anyan William.Anyan@severntrent.co.uk Skanska Jennifer Clark, 01923 776666
Getting to know you
A revolution taking place in farms and fields across Europe offers better support for vulnerable people and a boost to rural economies. Bevis Watts shoulders the scythe.
Green Futures January 2011
Take the multinational house of brands, Unilever. It’s bullish, with the ambition to double the size of its business. But recognising that growth at any cost isn’t viable, it has set ambitious targets to halve the environmental footprint of its products, sourcing 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably and help more than a billion people improve their health and wellbeing – all by 2020. But there’s only so much it can achieve on its own. A full life cycle analysis of 1,600 products in its 14 biggest markets found that the majority of its environmental and social impacts are beyond its direct control, with 70% related to consumer use. As many as 2 billion people buy a Unilever product in any given day: so if the company is serious about meeting its targets, it needs their help. This gives it a chance to get creative. Toilet bleach Domestos, a Unilever brand, has launched an online app inviting people to track what happens when you flush: how far and fast the wastewater travels and where it ends up. If this doesn’t prompt you to think twice about when you pull the handle and what you wash away, perhaps nothing will. There’s even the option to track the flush from celebrity locations, such as Buckingham Palace and the Kremlin. Some brands are looking to get even closer to their shoppers. Persil has been running a pilot with a group of consumers, who have agreed to let it monitor the way they wash at home. A series of small chips or ‘loggers’ placed in the machine and water
pipes, feed Unilever information on how much detergent you use, the temperature you wash your clothes, and the length of the cycle. The data helps Persil understand real behaviour in the home, which in turn inspires product development for ranges such as the Small & Mighty liquid concentrate. “There’s a difference between what consumers say they do and what they actually do,” says Amanda Sourry, Chair of Unilever UK and Ireland. “To get them to change their habits, we need to know why they wash the way they do – not just what they tell us.” The concentrated formula cuts packaging, CO2 emissions from transport and shelf space for retailers by as much as two-thirds. For Sourry, it’s a no-brainer: “If everyone used concentrated variants, we would save over 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road”. And it goes to show that small actions can add up to significant change. “Overall consumers have a growing awareness of the issues we’re facing around health and the environment”, Sourry explains. “But many people feel helpless at an individual level. Switching from one brand to another and making small changes to the way you use a product does make a difference in the scheme of things.” – Anna Simpson Unilever UK is a Forum for the Future partner. www.unilever.com
Photo: Peter Mernagh
We see our skin as a sort of clock. “Fifty?” exclaims a flattering new friend. “You can’t be!” Wrinkles may be the most striking indicator of years, but all our organs tick away at a rate of their own, depending on how we treat them. “My skin might be doing alright,” you counter modestly, “but my heart’s going on for 60…” Now you can prove it. A new online tool has been developed to help you work out the ‘age’ of your heart. Not literally in years – you probably know that already: but in terms of its relative vitality. You enter details of your diet, weight and exercise routine, and the number of candles on the cake fades into insignificance... If you think your heart could do with losing a few years, you can use the tool to create a three-month lifestyle plan. It’s all part of a campaign by spreads brand Flora to encourage healthy living, while promoting products like Flora Proactive, which claims to help reduce cholesterol levels by up to 10%. Over 3 million people used the Heart Age tool in the year following its launch, and the campaign aims to draw in 100 million users globally by 2020. It’s one example of the way in which brands are expressing an interest in the everyday lives of consumers. For many, it’s simply good marketing: interacting with consumers on a personal level inspires loyalty. You’re much more likely to pick up a product by a brand you already have some kind of friendly feelings towards. But it’s also a way to assume responsibility for their environmental and social impacts.
Photo: Webphotographeer / istock
Brands get close and personal in a push for widespread behaviour change.
“I learned to be less aggressive all the time, ’cause it don’t get you nowhere”, says a teenager from East London. “You can’t be aggressive to a sheep.” This student, from Cardinal Pole Catholic School, Hackney, is just back from five days at Jamie’s Farm in Bath. It’s a charity that offers young people from challenging backgrounds the chance to help out with farmyard animals and get stuck into a range of physical tasks, such as hedging, weeding and fencing. Along with fresh air and exercise, it provides a safe context to engage with animals and adults alike – helping edgy youngsters build selfawareness and esteem. It’s one example of a quiet revolution underway across Europe in the way we care for society’s most vulnerable individuals. A network of over 2,000 ‘care farms’ has sprung up in the last decade, offering therapy, education and the chance to learn new skills to people with learning disabilities and mental health issues, and to young adults from deprived urban areas. Care farming is still a relatively new concept – but it’s one with promise. There are already around 150 farms in the UK, hosting as many as 6,000 adults and young people each week. The set-up varies, from smallholdings acting as day centres, to community farms where support workers and disabled people live together. There’s something deeply intuitive about caring for people through nurturing the land – many of us have experienced the therapeutic value of a few hours in the garden. Now, the evidence of its wider benefits is mounting. A three-year study by Loughborough University found that gardening can have a positive impact on the motor, communication and social skills of people with mental health problems, learning difficulties and physical disabilities. “Many of those who took part in the study were socially excluded and institutionalised in their daily lives [with] little opportunity to get out in the fresh air and work alongside others”, said Jo Aldridge, one of the principal researchers. “Being outside in the fresh air, working with nature and nurturing plants all helped to improve health and well-being.” Another study by the UK’s National Care Farming Initiative (NCFI) found significant
improvements to physical health, self-esteem and confidence among 72 participants from seven care farms. Health care trusts are also starting to recognise the benefits, sending patients out to the farms, too. It’s also a compelling economic proposition. Costing on average £30 a day to provide care for one person, it’s considerably less expensive than mainstream care provision: a point that should make it appealing to policymakers at a time of significant cuts in public spending. And for many participants, the opportunity to work in a team is a first step towards paid employment and independent living. Rural economies also benefit from a new source of income. In the Netherlands, where the number of care farms has increased from 75 in 1998 to around 1,000 today, farms are generating over £50,000 each year from care provision alone. A similar growth rate in the UK could have a huge impact for struggling farmers... But it won’t happen on its own, says NCFI’s Debbie Wilcox. “There’s growing recognition of the benefits that nature has on an individual’s
health, and care farming is part of that social movement. “But”, she insists, “buyin is needed from big organisations and government departments to develop the sector and professionalise it.” Getting care farms off the ground isn’t just a challenge, says Wilcox: it’s an opportunity. And it’s one that Triodos Bank has spotted. In the Netherlands, it has lent €46 million to around 50 care farms to support their growth. And in the UK, it supports a wide range of organisations with a care-farming element, including Camphill Communities, the Magdalen Project, Church Farm and Jamie’s Farm. What’s not to support? The concept offers effective, inexpensive care provision for some of society’s most vulnerable groups, and helps farmers diversify their income. If common sense has anything to do with it, care farming should take off in a big way. Bevis Watts is Head of Business Banking, Triodos. Triodos is a Forum for the Future partner. www.triodos.co.uk
Green Futures January 2011
Nothing to declare? Greenwash is the target of a new range of regulations – but some companies are getting caught in the crossfire.
Contributing to a greener society Skanska UK is contributing to a greener society. Being a Swedish construction and development company, we drive green through everything we do and have embedded sustainability into the culture of our company. We really are making a contribution to reducing our environmental impact and have introduced our Green Initiative – we want to play our part. For us, it is very much about visible leadership. The impact of this to our staff and the business as a whole must not be underestimated. That is why all of our senior managers drive eco cars compliant with our UK Green Car Policy and undertake environmental site inspections. From life cycle analysis and costing, to carbon and water footprints, we are shaping a greener way of working for our clients and supply chain. Skanska’s leadership makes a difference. Our Green Business Team is on a mission to accelerate and reduce the environmental footprints of the projects in which our green solutions are already playing a part.
We believe it is good for the environment, good for our clients and good for business. To see what we believe in and the real projects we have carried out visit: http://www.skanska.com/en/About-Skanska/Sustainability
Photo: Greg801 / istock
In 2010 Skanska UK was named the Best Green Construction Company and 2nd Greenest Company across all industries by the Sunday Times.
From smoothies to loo roll to soap, it’s easier than ever to find ‘green’ products for our homes and families. Even in the supposedly sceptial US, retailers are offering an increasing number of ecooptions. That’s the conclusion of a study by science and business consultancy TerraChoice. It assessed the entire product range of 24 stores across North America, and found that the number claiming to deliver environmental benefits increased by over 70% in both 2009 and 2010. On the plus side, it shows that more companies are recognising that shoppers care about the impact of their sprees. For some businesses, this is a real driver of change, prompting them to undertake ecological impact assessments and think creatively about how to improve their green performance. But for others, it simply prompts a splurge of greenwash: the use of misleading or unsubstantiated information to entice the trusting consumer. The danger, says Ed Gillespie, CoFounder of sustainability communications consultancy Futerra, is that too many dodgy claims will eventually make cynics of us all: we will end up dismissing all assertions of greenery – real and bogus – with equal scepticism, so “undermin[ing] the nascent green market”. Encouragingly, trading standards agencies are on the case, with a new wave of regulations coming into force to protect consumers against false claims. The US
Federal Trade Commission has warned against the use of third-party certification where the terms of qualification aren’t specified, and against blanket claims, such as ‘eco-friendly’. Following one recent court case, Ben & Jerry’s removed the label ‘natural’ from all its packaging in response to complaints from a health advocacy group that the ice cream contains some processed ingredients. In the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency has taken a similar approach. It set a precedent by upholding complaints against a BMW campaign. The company had implied that, at 210g/km CO2, a car had a “low” level of emissions – which is perhaps true relative to other luxury vehicles, but still more than double the lowest emission car on the mass market. New EU legislation is focusing on the thorny question of how to compare the performance of different purchases. Companies that market a product as ‘green’ are now required to prove that its overall environmental impact is less than competing options. The idea is to promote a more holistic approach, so – for example – it might be used to question the credentials of a smoothie drink made with organic ingredients but sold in packaging that can’t be recycled. Regulatory interventions like these certainly offer better protection for consumers – but what sort of impact do they have on businesses struggling to do the right
thing? Gillespie is concerned that the fear of getting it wrong has sparked another trend: ‘greenhushing’. Some companies which have made genuine green progress, he says, “are growing wary of sticking their head above the parapet in case they’ve got anything wrong” – a reticence that could stunt their growth. Moreover, tighter regulations mean that those companies which do want to tell consumers about their credentials now have to work much harder to prove them. “It’s certainly an added burden”, says Effi Vandevoorde, International Communications Manager at Ecover. “Putting claims on packaging is becoming less and less cost-effective. In some cases, we’re inclined to just take them all off…!” For the moment, though, Ecover still feels that highlighting the relative impact of their cleaning products is worth the effort. So, in Denmark, it recently removed an ingredient from a detergent to ensure a claim met consumer expectations, rather than remove it from the packaging. Whether all these regulations will reverse the claim-making trend – or whether more companies will simply rise to the challenge – remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure. As green becomes mainstream, its pioneers will have to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. – Anna Simpson Ecover is a Forum for the Future partner. www.ecover.com
Green Futures January 2011
The sea, the sea
Taking our Environmental Ambition to the next level
Will bold support for wave and tidal unleash a lucrative new force?
Green Futures January 2011
that it’s going to compete with offshore wind (let alone coal and gas), straight out of the box. The finance went to six projects: two to harness wave energy – the Pelamis floating ‘snake’ and Aquamarine’s seabed-sitting ‘oyster’ – and four that are developing similar tidal turbines: Atlantis, Hammerfest Strøm, Marine Current Turbines and Voith (see GF76, p9). All of them are potential winners. The fact that this funding had to be spent within 18 months really concentrated minds. None of the money was wasted on duds or digressions. That’s not to say that everything tried has been an instant success, but the problems encountered have been genuine ones, and valuable lessons – about hardcore physics, but also about the practicalities of testing machinery at sea – have been learned. Britain is an obvious centre for marine energy. It has good exposure to the north Atlantic and an intricate coastline with lots of tidal streams – features that could make it the natural hub of the global market. There’s the potential to generate considerable sums for investors, and create thousands of jobs. Already, most of the leading technologies are being proved in the UK. What’s needed now is a gradual shift from grant-based support to revenue. If all goes well, the first commercial-scale farms – which will generate power, save carbon and make some sort of return – are likely to be in the water by around 2015. The new Government may not believe in Keynesian economics, but it has pledged specifically to support the development of wave and tidal power – and the private sector has shown its readiness to respond. Richard Boud is an Associate Director at Entec UK. Entec UK is a Forum for the Future partner. www.entecuk.com
Since 2007, the UK’s food and drink manufacturers have been reducing their environmental impact under the auspices of FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition. In 2010 our members reviewed our targets and challenged themselves to make a bigger difference to the environment by: Cutting CO2 emissions by 35% by 2020 Sending zero waste to landfill by 2015 and contributing to a new supply chain waste prevention target Minimising the carbon impact of packaging by 2012 Boosting water efficiency as part of a sector target to cut usage by 20% by 2020 Reducing transport by contributing to an industry target to save 80 million HGV miles by 2012 Photo: Jcrosemann / istock
Around the shores of Britain, a massive energy generator is ceaselessly turning over, day and night. It’s inexhaustible, and it never fails. In theory, the sea – as it’s better known – could give us all the electricity we need and more… If only we could work out how to harness it. Since 2004, grants worth a total of £42 million on offer from DECC’s Marine Renewables Deployment Fund have been sitting around untapped, because no one could get any new technology to the stage where it would qualify. The Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change talked of “five years lost” and called it “extremely disappointing”. The condition that companies failed to meet was three months’ continuous, full-scale operation in the sea. It wasn’t so much that this bar was set too high as that there was little financial assistance available to help anyone to clear it – and ‘proving’ devices in the sea is notoriously difficult and costly. Then, in 2009, as part of its huge fiscal stimulus package, the last Government came looking for things that would respond to a short, sharp shot in the arm. They knew that the green power market was certain to grow, and they judged that wave and tidal were a good bet. And so they launched the Marine Renewables Proving Fund, administered by the Carbon Trust, with £22.5 million to disburse. The aim was to get the most mature projects to the point where they could qualify for a grant from the Deployment Fund. And the plan was to reduce the risk for private investors, by putting in up to 45% of whatever it would take to get there. It was that rare thing: the right money aimed at the right target by some very astute civil servants, and it really got things moving. Despite the recession, it brought in some £40 million, mostly British, from utilities, private investors and venture-capital funds. That’s really impressive, because this technology represents a considerable risk. Even if it works reliably (and survives everything nature throws at it), it may still prove not to be cost-competitive – and there is no way
To find out more about our Five-fold Environmental Ambition, and how we are minimising our impacts across the supply chain, please call us on 020 7420 7114 or visit www.fdf.org.uk
Making a real difference
Just read your article on greening the sex industry (or making it more ethical) in the latest issue, and thought it was really interesting, and well written. I wasn’t sure what you would do with it when I started reading, but it worked. It’s about time people talked about these kinds of issues more openly. Giovanna Dunmall
greenfutures No.78 Oct 2010
SHOPPING MONEY SEX Transforming a few of our favourite things...
Ethical sex: contradiction in terms – or the new frontier? Something ventured: surfing the next wave with the cleantech VCs Brands and behaviour, nudge nudge… plus Terry Leahy – consumer revolutionary?
Ethical sex? I have more than one difficulty with Anna Simpson’s article on the sex industry [GF78, p16], which omitted crucial elements of the analysis I gave when she interviewed me. So to put the record straight: I believe a culture that tolerates the diminution of women – or men – to sex ‘objects’ causes massive damage at an individual and societal level. When it comes to human and social capital, prostitution and pornography have resoundingly negative scores. Paying for, or selling, sex inevitably diminishes human capital. Both parties are engaging in a commercial transaction that is as far away as it can be from the real purpose of sex: reproduction and/or the expression of a loving and deepening relationship. Men who consume pornography develop attitudes that make it more difficult for them to sustain mature, mutually satisfying relationships. It is too simplistic to buy the argument of the International Union of Sex Workers, which says that as long as prostitution is consensual, it is OK. (They would say that, wouldn’t they?) Where is the view of feminist groups, such as the campaign to stop the normalisation of prostitution, www.demandchange.org.uk? There is a vast international criminal network that supplies (abducts, trafficks and coerces) young girls in particular, but young boys, too, to work as prostitutes. Like drugs, this is a high value-added trade, with a supplier’s dream customers – the addicted and vulnerable. Evidence from New Zealand, Germany and the
Green Futures January 2011
Netherlands shows that illegal trafficking and abuse flourishes alongside the legal brothels, suggesting legalisation is not enough. The cardinal mistake of the article is to bundle together sex as a voluntary activity among willing partners on the one hand, with the commercial transactions of prostitution and pornography on the other, and call it an industry. This leads to some illogical arguments, including the daft conclusion that the ubiquity of pornography means we just have to put up with it. Would Anna say the same of CO2 emissions, or poverty? No amount of CSR overlay about the energy performance of the brothel or the film studio can make prostitution or pornography benign. And isn’t there something rather horrible about selling pornography to fund conservation (as in the website, Fuck for Forest)? We can surely stop the degradation of the environment without resorting to degrading people instead. Between sex as part of a loving relationship and sex as a commercial transaction lies a vast territory heavily populated with confusing and corrupting messages and experiences. In that middle ground, young and old search for an understanding of their own sexuality, struggle with inadequate guidance on how to make lasting relationships of any sort, and are bombarded with the promise of great sex for buying everything from yoghurt to tractors. The evidence, I would suggest, is that more people are being shoved towards the pornography and prostitution end of the spectrum than towards the life-long loving relationship end. Consider the premature sexualisation of children and spreading anxiety about physical appearance. How else to explain the growth in plastic surgery on breasts and even vaginas, or the pressure to demonstrate your ‘worth’ by having sex at the earliest possible age? Anna doesn’t use the word love once, seeing sex’s value only in impersonal ways. True, prostitution and pornography may not go away, but all efforts are needed to help decriminalize and even de-industrialise them, through clever interventions, including
exit strategies for sex workers. Our most important task is to help people be well enough informed to navigate the media maelstrom and arrive on the shores of sufficient confidence to enjoy great sex in a long-lasting and trusting relationship. Sara Parkin Encouraging the use of sustainable condoms is one thing; condoning porn, lap dancing and prostitution is another. Sex object culture, driven by the mainstreaming of the porn and sex industries, promotes attitudes associated with discrimination and violence against women… How can they be seen as features of a sustainable society? There is no mention of the links research has identified between sex work and poverty, substance abuse, time in care, childhood sexual abuse… And one look at sex buyers’ websites and their horrifying comments on the women they buy will tell you that very few would care about ‘decent wages’ and ‘access to services that promote health and welfare’. Normalising prostitution, as this article suggests we should do, increases demand, ignores the violence and poverty that drives many women into it, and undermines any efforts to deal with this destructive industry. Anne It was really refreshing to read such a candid and open account of an industry which I rarely see written about in such a way, when there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. I have to admit that I felt ashamed of some of my misconceptions about the industry and I am pleased to see an article that encourages an open and frank debate. Rosalyn Parker It’s great to have an article dare to tackle issues like this which so often just end up being swept under the carpet… And it was good to actually hear the voice of prostitutes, too, who hardly ever seem to get quoted when people write about the subject… Whatever we think of the sex trade, how can we change it if we don’t engage with it? Hugo L
This is a thought provoking article. The sex trade is a long way from becoming sustainable because of the attitudes of most of the population ... However, rather than sitting back and simply watching it be the way it is, it is surely wiser to get started now on the task of making it more sustainable. Cole Roberts Nice work taking on a taboo topic. Lisa Hymas, Senior Editor, Grist Great article, let’s hope it raises respect for the sex industry. Tuppy Owens, Chair, Sexual Freedom Coalition If we don’t communicate about the sex industry, it will just stay in the shadows to cause more repression. Doing nothing is not the high road for sure. Gale Madyun A brilliant piece and beautifully written. The case you make could do with even wider publication. A C Grayling Few sectors rival the global economic importance of sex, but so far sustainability professionals have left it completely untouched. Can they really afford to? Anna Simpson makes the case for a warmer embrace.
Sex: the next ethical industry?
Is there really any fundamental moral difference between paying for food in a restaurant and paying for sex, freely sold?
Charlotte gently closes the door and slips into the adjoining room, where her colleagues are having a giggle over a cup of tea. She flicks on her phone and scans her account. All the tabs are green: earnings high, health risks low, working hours reasonable, carbon footprint tiny, client feedback off the scale… All that’s left for her to do is rate her own wellbeing. She thinks of the baths, massages, cuddles and caresses she’s given that week; the sweet, serene expressions breaking through from behind weary frowns – and gives herself a discreet pat on the back: she’s a do-gooder, and it makes her feel great. It’s a far cry from the view most people have of sex work. According to the more familiar narrative, it is the industry which dare not speak its name, consigned to dark streets and seedy districts; rarely regulated, often criminalised. Women of low means and lower self esteem shrink under its stigma. Their clients are aggressive and abusive, and they’re desperate for a way out. Any job would be better, wouldn’t it? There’s certainly an ugly side to the sex industry. Exploitation and trafficking play a part – but evidence suggests to a much lesser extent than is widely thought. “Horror stories happen”, says Catherine Stephens of the International Union of Sex Workers, “but they are a minority. Some people take a very strong ideological view around this, seeing all prostitution as violence against women. The implication is that a sex worker’s consent is fundamentally invalid.” The latest evidence challenges the view that brothels are full of trafficked women living in fear of violent pimps. A study by the UK Human Trafficking Centre in 2009 found that the largest police raid to date on brothels, flats and massage parlours failed to find a single case of forced prostitution. It’s not only inaccurate to suggest that the majority of sex workers do not choose their profession, says Stephens: it’s patronising and disempowering. “Neither having sex nor getting paid is inherently
Green Futures October 2010
dangerous or degrading.” According to stereotype, men who pay for sex are on some power trip. But in the vast majority of cases, says Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Reader in Psychology and Social Policy at Birkbeck College and author of The Price of sex: Prostitution, policy and society, the reality is very different. She asserts that, for many punters, “mutuality is part of the attraction… Sex workers [actually] get bored by constant interrogation [from clients] about their wellbeing”. Meanwhile, the public mood appears to be shifting. A recent BBC poll found 71% in favour of greater social acceptance of prostitution. Individuals selling sex to others is, of course, just a small part of the sex economy. Far from being underground or taboo, many aspects are legal, even glorified (think high class courtesans or beautifully crafted lingerie). It’s a trillion dollar cross-sector industry spanning live entertainment, pornography, pharmaceutical products, clothes and accessories. And, as hackneyed clichés about the ‘oldest profession’ remind us, it’s been here forever. It’s certainly proved almost impossible to regulate out of existence. Though that hasn’t stopped us trying. Laws against selling sex litter the statute books of almost every country down the ages. There have been countless endeavours to keep erotica out of sight – from the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum, to the prosecution of Penguin for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960, to the X-rating for sexually explicit films. Today, the web makes a nonsense of any attempt to restrict who sees what. The number of people with access to porn has rocketed. (Ironically, the porn industry effectively encouraged a whole range of innovations now part and parcel of everyday internet use – from online payment systems to chat rooms to video streaming.) A quick Google search cuts out altogether the need for embarrassing trips to the pharmacist, sex shop or red light district. It’s easier than ever before to buy sex. Demand remains stubbornly high, despite the
Photo: Krivenko / Shutterstock
Green Futures October 2010
Anna Simpson replies: First of all, let me acknowledge that, in the original article, I should have prefaced Sara Parkin’s suggestion that we apply a five capitals analysis to the sex industry with her concerns about its morality and impact. I apologise for this misrepresentation. However, the aim of my article was not to condemn the industry for its failings, but to ask what a sustainable version would look like, and to explore whether and how we could bring it about. My starting premise was that the industry is, like it or not, a fact on the ground. And so the question of whether it could become acceptable – even, dare I say it, exemplary – is far from idle. Of course, there’s nothing exemplary about abuse or exploitation of any sort. But the assumption that sex work is inherently
dangerous or degrading can, with bitter irony, actually make life harder for those involved. In November 2010, The Economist warned that laws designed to suppress human trafficking and sexual exploitation, leading to the closure of bars and brothels, have “helped the police to beat, rob and rape sex workers ‘with impunity’”. Citing a report by Human Rights Watch, it asserted: “most migrant sex workers have left home for good reasons of their own – among them a desire to work away from their families, and to earn more money.” I am greatly saddened by Sara’s dismissal of the opinion of sex workers themselves. (“They would say that, wouldn’t they?”). Such an attitude can inadvertently create a climate of stigma and condescension which marginalises sex workers and creates obstacles to safer working conditions for them. No positive change can come about if we refuse to engage openly with those at the industry’s heart. And change is needed. The industry is far from sustainable as it stands, and I share the concerns of my critics about the objectification of women and sexualisation of children. But, as Sara acknowledges, the assumption that the sex industry is solely responsible for this social trend is questionable. Advertising and the media also have a lot to answer for. So, just to be absolutely clear: I am not saying that prostitution and pornography, particularly in their current forms, are wonderful things: there are clearly massive problems with both. I am saying that they are realities that are not about to go away, or be moralised out of existence – however much some might wish that to be the case. And so I am asking if there is a path of positive engagement which could help transform them for the benefit of all involved: workers, consumers, the whole world… Brand values I enjoyed ‘Fire brands’ [GF78, p26]. Having worked with government and with brands on sustainable behaviour change, my experience chimes with your central premise. Brands are better equipped to nudge people towards sustainable behaviours than government or maybe even NGOs. You’re right to call out the service model as one way in which brands can evolve a more sustainable approach to growth, but I would like to see more brands actually confront the problem about “limits of consumption” as Sally Uren puts it. At the moment we have a very simplistic notion of the alternatives: either we accept the cycle of stimulation and satisfaction of desire, or we turn our backs on it and settle for a life of sacrifice. The first of these is unsustainable; the second, unappealing.
I don’t think there are any easy answers, but it’s clear that brands have to move beyond the current model – the picture that you paint in your first paragraph. Andrew Sleigh Tesco unchallenged? Martin Wright has some serious questions to answer following his interview with Terry Leahy [GF78, p31]. Not a single question about food and only one reference to it – food deserts – to which, arguably, supermarkets like Tesco, made significant contributions, then turned into a business opportunity with their ‘Metro’ stores. Here in Huddersfield, with a new super-Tesco more or less agreed outside the ringroad, the few remaining [independent] food shops shiver in anticipation. Not a single question about incessant heavy trucks ruining air quality, deterring cycling, delivering food from distant warehouses after being flown from every continent, often when those products are in season in the UK and in our own gardens. No questions about people being dependent on their cars to carry home mammoth shopping... Martin links Tesco with M&S and the Co-op as leading climate change activists. Does he never do the shopping? Here, when Yorkshire asparagus is in season, supermarkets still import it from Peru! Even the Co-op (claiming to be the largest farmer in the UK) imports red onions in season from New Zealand and the broccoli in its own brand quiche from Ecuador! Meanwhile Tesco expands its empire, following our own imperial past, into India and China. David Browning Martin Wright replies: The litany of criticisms levelled at Tesco and other supermarkets – referred to briefly in the article – have been very well rehearsed elsewhere, as has Tesco’s response to them. I really don’t think that going round them again would have been particularly interesting. By contrast, there’s been little coverage of the thinking behind Tesco’s hugely ambitious goal to be zero carbon, with all that implies in terms of food miles, etc – or the fact that its CEO is in favour of universal carbon labelling, personal carbon trading and green tax reform. Debates around these issues are crucial for the way in which any major business – Tesco included – can operate in the coming decades. For clarification, the article didn’t claim that Tesco, M&S and the Co-op are “climate change activists” (although if we’re to deal with the threat, they certainly need to be!), but it did cite a Brand Green opinion poll which identified them as the leading UK brands in tackling the issue.
Green Futures January 2011
Register Now! 17 - 18 March 2011, Business Design Centre, London, UK
Chronic political procrastination is the worst possible backdrop for sustainable business plans
I’ve got to the point where I can’t bear listening to or reading any coverage about international climate change negotiations. I gave up half way through the proceedings in Copenhagen in 2009, and blanked out proceedings in Cancún from start to finish. It’s hard enough keeping one’s spirits up at the best of times, without gratuitously hurling oneself into this particular pit of despair. The truth, of course, is that our politicians’ hands are tied. The mid-term elections in the US left President Obama encircled by a Republican-dominated House of Representatives, with a sharply reduced Democratic majority in the Senate. That means there will be no movement on climate for at least two more years. European leaders are mired so deep in economic and fiscal difficulties that real leadership on climate change has become an extremely rare commodity. And China and India are now so adept in the game of ‘After you, Uncle Sam’ that progress seems permanently blocked. They’ve got their own economic priorities as well. That’s democracy for you. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and the wheels on the world economy today certainly need plenty of grease. So it cuts little ice pointing out to politicians that pretty soon – if we don’t get a handle on accelerating climate change – the wheels are going to fall off completely. And that’s what scares the life out of business leaders today. When it comes to developing their own sustainability action plans, a combination of chronic political procrastination and the confusion and indifference of the public – not to mention worsening climate impacts – constitutes just about the worst possible backdrop. The contrast of the corporate with the political world couldn’t be greater. As chance would have it, I was present at three high-level events at the end of 2010, involving the Chief Executives of Unilever, GE, and The Co-operative Group. And cracking good events they were too. First up was Paul Polman launching Unilever’s new Sustainable Living Plan. As an advisor to Unilever for more than 15 years, I have to declare a rather obvious interest here, but for me this is undoubtedly the best integrated sustainability plan (covering hygiene, nutrition and education, as well as resource management) amongst companies of a similar size. Whilst doubling the size of the business over the next ten years, Unilever aims to halve the environmental impacts of its products, source 100% of agricultural raw materials from sustainable suppliers, and help over 1 billion people in developing countries improve their
Green Futures January 2011
health through better hygiene and clean water. As Paul Polman said: “This is about long-term value creation. In fact, it’s the only way to do business long-term”. In a different setting, I listened to Jeff Immelt, Chief Executive of GE, deliver the Annual Lecture for the Prince of Wales’s Business and Sustainability Programme. He immediately endeared himself to his audience of senior business people by declaring that “climate change is happening, and it’s happening because of our emissions”. In contrast to Paul Polman, he focused almost exclusively on the technology end of corporate sustainability, pointing to the astonishing success of Ecomagination (GE’s cleantech powerhouse) in raising revenues from $5 billion in 2005 to $22 billion today. GE invests $2 billion a year on R&D in cleantech, and will increase that commitment to $10 billion a year over the next decade – providing a pretty good picture as to the sheer scale of the revenues they must be anticipating. And finally, Peter Marks, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, launched its new report, Tackling Global Poverty for a Fairer World. By any standards, this is an inspiring story, with some of its most pioneering initiatives (on Fairtrade, ethical finance and environmental sustainability, for instance) going back nearly 20 years. And the campaigning passion The Co-op brings to bear on all these challenges still distinguishes it from every other major company in the UK. Three speeches. Three indisputable leadership positions. Three good reasons to feel better about the future. And before you accuse me of failing to address the countless corporate horror stories on the other side of the balance sheet, and the fundamental contradictions of so-called ‘sustainable consumption’, rest assured that such reflections are never far from the work that the Forum does with our Corporate Partners. Nor do we forget the work of countless NGOs around the world that influence and enable many of the most creative initiatives in the business world today. Taking all that into account, it is still instructive to compare the mulling mediocrities of Cancún with the drive of today’s most progressive business leaders. Draw your optimism where you may, is my advice, and do so gladly. Jonathon Porritt is Founder Director of Forum for the Future. Jonathon’s blog is available as a podcast at: www.jonathonporritt.com Listen to Jonathon at: ipadio.com/phlogs/jonathonporritt
Responsible Business 2011 - A new two-day, not-for-profit event consisting of UBM’s Responsible Partnerships Exhibition and the inaugural BITC Responsible Business Convention.
Free-to attend exhibition providing an opportunity to explore and develop the strategic alliances and business partnerships between the voluntary and corporate sectors.
High-level strategic convention delivering practical solutions to help businesses create long-term, sustainable business models with economic, environmental and social value.
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17 - 18 March 2011, Business Design Centre, London, UK
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