Seatbelts and Sustainability

Sustainability is like buckling up.

Today when you get in a car, you probably buckle your seatbelt. This wasn’t always the case. When I was growing up, we used to pile in my parent’s VW bug after a cocktail party and rush away at breakneck speeds, all of us without seatbelts. Besides the questionable judgement of driving a martini-fueled bug late at night, if there was a seatbelt in the car it had long ago disappeared into the seat seam along with change, crumbs, and candy wrappers.

In 1983, only 14% used seat belts. Today more than 98% of Californians use seat belts. In my lifetime hundreds of millions of individuals have moved from a habit of ‘no seat belt’ to a habit of ‘seat belt’ with a strong correlating health benefit. For my daughter, putting on a seatbelt is as automatic as texting. However, unlike my daughter’s phone use, which has also moved from non-existent to ubiquitous in a short period of time, it’s hard to argue that seatbelt wearing is attractive, comfortable, cool or convenient. It’s just ‘what you do’ when you get into a car. We now have a mindset — largely hidden from us — that leads us to buckle up as naturally as shaking someone’s hand when you meet them. Seat belt buckling has somehow become part of the day-to-day behavioral auto-pilot by which adults navigate their worlds.

The story of how in a short 30 years this new ‘unthinking’ habit was formed is interesting and tied to a similar shift in mindset surrounding driving drunk, which also used to be deemed ‘ok’, and now isn’t ok. A small group of highly committed activists from an organization called MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) largely shifted the conversation among policy makers, the public and business people about drinking, driving and auto safety. Interestingly, and relevant to sustainability, this profound change in behavior occurred almost without our knowledge. The average 50-year-old seatbelt wearer of today would be hard pressed to answer when they started wearing a seat belt. And, also important, they don’t think about it much. It’s just the way it is.

In this way, sustainability is the seatbelt of our time. Twenty-five years ago we did a lot of mindless, systematic damage to the intricate and beautiful ecological systems that sustain life on earth. Our industrial growth society was thoughtlessly driving drunk, unbuckled, without a care in the world for the baby in the backseat. Today, while sustainable practices haven’t completely moved to the psychological background, and there is plenty of serious damage still being done, there is a solid foundation of mindsets, practices, norms and aspirations that have begun to cut across all demographic segments: from energy producers to stay-at-home moms; from wildland conservation organizations to the department of defense; from accounting systems focused only on cost and profit to accounting systems that assess the true costs of our actions; from the largest retailer in the world to tiny hole in the wall inventors and start-ups. Young and old, wealthy and poor, rural and city dwellers are acting differently. Even without rules and laws (but increasingly supported by policy), people, businesses and governments are considering things like energy efficiency, waste reduction, and biological integrity as a normal course of doing business.

While there are many miles to go, as a society we are beginning to sober up and clip into our seatbelts. In this way, we don’t really have a sustainability problem, we have a mindset problem. As soon as sustainability practices are ‘just the way it is’ we’ll be on our way to a more just and beautiful world.

I align with Arne Naess, a Norwegian eco-philosopher, who was once asked, “Are you an optimist, or a pessimist?” His reply, “Optimist! When it comes to the 22nd century.” Me too.

Read about Jib's recent Chilean adventure via the Patagonia blog

Lago to Lago – Connecting the two great lakes in Patagonia Park

By Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia VP of Public Engagement

The official grand opening of the new Patagonia National Park in southern Chile is scheduled for late November but the park, even now, is attracting thousands of visitors including three of our trail running ambassadors who, in January, ran parts of the 100-plus miles of trails already constructed. Patagonia-the-company funded part of that construction but the new park, projected to be nearly 650,000 acres, has entire watersheds currently outside of the existing trail system.  

Editor’s note: As we continue to expand on The New Localism, it’s important to revisit previous campaigns and breathe new life into them. Today, Rick Ridgeway reconnects with Mile for Mile which is more than halfway to its funding goal. Remember, Patagonia, Inc. will match your Mile for Mile donations through 2015.

In March, I joined two friends, Jib Ellison and Weston Boyles, to scout a potential route that could provide a more-or-less direct link between the two great lakes that bookend the park: Lago General Carrera on the north and Lago Cochrane on the south. These two lakes are so stupendous that when people first see them they appear mythical, like scenes from a Maxwell Parrish painting.

Above: Finding a route above the Aviles Norte on day two. The team had Google Earth maps and an iPhone app that recorded positions that Patagonia National Park will use if they create a permanent trail along the route. Photo: Weston Boyles

 We started on March 1st at Lago General Carrera and were pleasantly surprised to find a cattle trail that gauchos have used to get their animals to summer pasture. But our easy start ended at a fast-moving river that you could probably cross on horseback but on foot was going to be potentially dangerous: the only ford was right above a narrow gorge with no eddies. 

We made camp and made our strategy. The next morning, I stripped and made a ferry-angle swim to other side. My friends tossed me a small line tied to a rock that I secured to a tree. We zipped the packs across and then Jib and Weston made their own swims across the glacial-fed water. We had another crossing later that day but this time we made it with packs on and arms interlocked. 

That evening, we camped at a col between drainages and by the end of the third day we joined one of the existing trails in the new park on a segment that our trail running ambassadors had traversed the month before. We were back at the park headquarters by the end of our fourth day where we reviewed our route and photographs with Kris Tompkins, Patagonia’s former CEO who now directs Conservacion Patagonica, the foundation creating the new park.

She agreed it would make a terrific addition to the park’s trail system. The only thing needed is two, new swinging bridges over the river crossings, a short extension of existing trail to reach Lago Cochrane, and acquisition of the land where we started the hike, property that is currently out of the park’s boundaries. But Kris and her husband Doug have built this park using private donations and philanthropy so acquiring more property, and building one or two more bridges … it reminded me of a sign that Doug used to have above his desk when he owned the woman’s apparel company Esprit. It said, “Commit and then figure it out.”

 

Jib Ellison (left) and Rick Ridgeway (right) wave goodbye to Kris Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia and founder of Conservacion Patagonica, at the start of the hike. Photo: Weston Boyles

Jib Ellison (left) and Rick Ridgeway (right) wave goodbye to Kris Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia and founder of Conservacion Patagonica, at the start of the hike. Photo: Weston Boyles

The beginning of the narrows of Rio Aviles Norte, day one. The trick was to find a route along the top of the narrows. Photo: Weston Boyles


The beginning of the narrows of Rio Aviles Norte, day one. The trick was to find a route along the top of the narrows. Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick contemplating the first and most challenging river crossing. Photo: Jib Ellison

Rick contemplating the first and most challenging river crossing. Photo: Jib Ellison

Rick makes the swim across the glacial water at the first and hardest ford. Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick makes the swim across the glacial water at the first and hardest ford. Photo: Weston Boyles

When Rick reached the opposite bank he was stoked he still had it in him at age 65. The other two tossed him a line, ferried their packs across and then made the same swim. Photo: Weston Boyles

When Rick reached the opposite bank he was stoked he still had it in him at age 65. The other two tossed him a line, ferried their packs across and then made the same swim. Photo: Weston Boyles

Ferrying the packs across the Aviles Sur after swimming across on the morning of day two. Photo: Rick Ridgeway

Ferrying the packs across the Aviles Sur after swimming across on the morning of day two. Photo: Rick Ridgeway

Jib Ellison on day two following a trail made by gauchos herding cattle back and forth to summer pastures. Photo: Weston Boyles

Jib Ellison on day two following a trail made by gauchos herding cattle back and forth to summer pastures. Photo: Weston Boyles

River ferry number two. This time the boys wore their packs and put the old guy in the middle. Photo: Weston Boyles

River ferry number two. This time the boys wore their packs and put the old guy in the middle. Photo: Weston Boyles

On day two, in the most secluded part of our route, we encountered the fresh print of a huemul deer. The wildlife officials at Patagonia National Park were very excited to learn this critically endangered, red-listed species was in this area. Photo: Weston Boyles

On day two, in the most secluded part of our route, we encountered the fresh print of a huemul deer. The wildlife officials at Patagonia National Park were very excited to learn this critically endangered, red-listed species was in this area. Photo: Weston Boyles

Day two, Rick crosses one of the (very) frequent side creeks that flow into the Aviles Norte River. Photo: Weston Boyles

Day two, Rick crosses one of the (very) frequent side creeks that flow into the Aviles Norte River. Photo: Weston Boyles

Camp two, day two, at the headwaters of the Aviles Norte. Photo: Weston Boyles

Camp two, day two, at the headwaters of the Aviles Norte. Photo: Weston Boyles

On the morning of day three the boys dropped into a new drainage lined with hanging glaciers. Photo: Weston Boyles

On the morning of day three the boys dropped into a new drainage lined with hanging glaciers. Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick and Jib on day three in the Furioso Valley. Their route has now joined the one that the Patagonia trail running team followed the month before (see Mile for Mile). Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick and Jib on day three in the Furioso Valley. Their route has now joined the one that the Patagonia trail running team followed the month before (see Mile for Mile). Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick makes dinner with the new Patagonia Provisions Tsampa Soupal, though for him it was “not so new” because he’s been eating tsampa with Yvon on their climbing trips going back nearly 40 years. Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick makes dinner with the new Patagonia Provisions Tsampa Soupal, though for him it was “not so new” because he’s been eating tsampa with Yvon on their climbing trips going back nearly 40 years. Photo: Weston Boyles

Day four, descending the Aviles Sur river that flows into the Rio Chacabuco. The team is now on the trail system already built in the new national park. Photo: Weston Boyles

Day four, descending the Aviles Sur river that flows into the Rio Chacabuco. The team is now on the trail system already built in the new national park. Photo: Weston Boyles

The swinging bridge over the Aviles Sur constructed recently by Patagonia National Park workers. Photo: Weston Boyles

The swinging bridge over the Aviles Sur constructed recently by Patagonia National Park workers. Photo: Weston Boyles

Jib and Rick walk the last two miles, day four. Photo: Weston Boyles

Jib and Rick walk the last two miles, day four. Photo: Weston Boyles

Rick (left), Weston (center) and Jib (right) at the end of the hike in front of a newly renovated hostel and campground that will someday make a welcome ending to the hiking trail that the team pioneered. Photo: a local gaucho with Rick’s camera  

Rick (left), Weston (center) and Jib (right) at the end of the hike in front of a newly renovated hostel and campground that will someday make a welcome ending to the hiking trail that the team pioneered. Photo: a local gaucho with Rick’s camera  

(via Rick Ridgeway at the Patagonia blog)

Paulson Institute Launches CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization with Leading Companies from China and the West

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Dorinda Elliott

delliott@paulsoninstitute.org

 

Paulson Institute Launches CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization with Leading Companies from China and the West

 

 

November 10, 2014—Beijing—The Paulson Institute, in partnership with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), has launched the CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization, comprised of leading Chinese and Western CEOs. The Council met in Beijing today to form the first multi-industry, CEO-led, bilateral group to advance sustainable urbanization.

 

As China continues its transformative process of urban development, with more than 300 million Chinese citizens expected to move into cities by 2030, urban sustainability has become a defining global economic and environmental issue for the 21st century.

 

The mission of the Council, therefore, is to harness the power of business to advance sustainable urbanization through innovative corporate environmental practices, direct actions by companies and governments, and support for effective government policies. The Council will take action via collaborative projects among members that can be scaled across China and elsewhere; advocate for effective policies and actions on sustainability standards; and illustrate best practices through case studies and research.

 

The group will focus on five areas in which businesses are well-positioned to contribute to sustainability in urbanization: buildings, energy, water, transportation, and supply chains.

 

Coming out of the inaugural meeting, the CEO Council committed to action in 2015 focused on 21st Century Buildings and 21st Century Energy. The participants chartered action groups to work on increasing energy efficiencies in buildings to lower CO2 emissions and accelerating renewables integration in tier 1 and 2 Chinese cities. The action groups—comprised of member company and external subject matter experts and shepherded by a dedicated project manager— will be launched immediately and will meet on a regular basis to ensure measurable progress against the Council’s goals.

 

“Achieving more sustainable economic growth can have a significant positive impact on China's economy and on our global environment, which is why this issue is a pillar of our work at the Paulson Institute,” said Henry M. Paulson, Jr., chairman of the Paulson Institute. “The aim of this joint CEO Council is to promote bilateral cooperation on this important issue and to harness leaders from the corporate sector to work together to help solve some of China's greatest development challenges."

 

Zeng Peiyan, chairman of CCIEE, said, "The CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization brings together leading Chinese and Western companies for practical research and cooperation surrounding the main issues relating to China’s sustainable urbanization. It will provide useful theoretical and technical support as well as explore effective ways to put China’s sustainable urbanization into practice.”

 

The 16 founding companies of the Council—eight Chinese and eight Western—have a combined annual revenue of USD 1.4 trillion (RMB 8.6 trillion), with more than 6 million employees and over a billion customers throughout the world. Their collective reach puts these companies and their leaders in a strategically powerful position to help drive both corporate and consumer behavior in ways that will contribute to more sustainable development. The member companies include the world’s foremost retailer, brewer, automaker, e-commerce platform, utility, construction firm, and chemical manufacturer. Each company has already demonstrated commitment to conducting business responsibly.

 

The participating CEOs and companies are:

 

Mary Barra, Chief Executive Officer, General Motors

Carlos Brito, Chief Executive Officer, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Chen Dongsheng, Chairman, Taikang Life Insurance

David Crane, President and CEO, NRG Energy

David Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell

Mark S. Hoplamazian, President and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Huang Nubo, Chairman, Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group

Li Dongsheng, Chairman, TCL

Liang Xinjun, Vice Chairman and CEO, Fosun Group

Liu Zhenya, President and CEO, State Grid Corporation of China

Andrew N. Liveris, President, Chairman and CEO, The Dow Chemical Company

Jack Ma Yun, Chairman, Alibaba Group

Doug McMillon, President and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores

Virginia M. Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO, IBM

Yi Jun, Chairman, China State Construction Engineering Corporation

Zheng Zhijie, Vice Chairman and Executive Director, China Development Bank

 

 

About the Paulson Institute: The Paulson Institute is a non-partisan institution located at the University of Chicago. Established in 2011 by Henry M. Paulson, Jr., the Institute is committed to the principle that today’s most pressing economic and environmental challenges can be solved only if the United States and China work in complementary ways. We take a “think and do” approach in our efforts to advance global environmental protection and sustainable economic growth in the United States and China, while fostering broader understanding between the two countries. With offices in the United States and China, and partners around the globe, our programs promote increased economic activity in both countries to spur job creation and smart urban growth—and equally urge responsible environmental policies. Additionally, our think tank publishes scholarship from renowned global thinkers on economic and environmental issues of relevance to China and the world.

 

For more about the Paulson Institute, visit www.paulsoninstitute.org.

 

About China Center for International Economic Exchanges: Founded by Zeng Peiyan, former Vice Premier of the State Council, China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE) is a comprehensive association with the mission of promoting international economic research and exchanges and providing consulting service. CCIEE attracts experienced economic researchers and has close connection with economic research resources in various fields. It operates under the guidance and supervision of the National Development and Reform Commission in terms of its business scope and is registered in the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The main scope of business and services of the CCIEE is to study economic issues, to conduct economic exchanges domestically and internationally, to promote economic cooperation domestically and internationally, and to provide consulting services.

 

For more about CCIEE, visit: www.cciee.org.cn.

 

Chinese Media Contact: Tina Ren

Email: tina.ren@ogilvy.com

Mobile: 13810415322

Keys to Successful Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration discussed in HBR article


“Addressing global sustainability challenges—including climate change, resource depletion, and ecosystem loss—is beyond the individual capabilities of even the largest companies. To tackle these threats, and unleash new value, companies and other stakeholders must collaborate in new ways that treat fragile and complex ecosystems as a whole.”

Blu Skye’s latest thinking,“The Collaboration Imperative,” is featured in the April 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR). Co-authored by Blu Skye’s founder/CEO Jib Ellison, and Principals John Whalen and Erin Billman, this article distills the key lessons we have learned from our decade-long work in facilitating industry-wide, cross-sector, and multi-stakeholder collaborations that lead to real aligned action and results.

As one of the four articles selected in HBR’s “Spotlight on Practical Sustainability” special feature, “The Collaboration Imperative” draws on Blu Skye’s experience with the apparel industry, the dairy industry, and the aluminum and recycling industry, among others. It unveils a new paradigm in corporate sustainability, where system changes -- beyond the individual capabilities of even the largest companies and NGOs -- are now essential to solving our global challenges.

This article will provide you with a different perspective -- the systems view -- on the sustainability challenge the world is facing. We welcome your feedback, and look forward to hearing from you as we embark on the new era of collaboration.


The Big Idea: The Sustainable Economy

      

Listen:

 by Yvon Chouinard, Jib Ellison, and Rick Ridgeway                   

No one these days seriously denies the need for sustainable business practices. Even those concerned about only business and not the fate of the planet recognize that the viability of business itself depends on the resources of healthy ecosystems—fresh water, clean air, robust biodiversity, productive land—and on the stability of just societies. Happily, most of us also care about these things directly.

And yet collectively we have not been making progress on reducing the damage business does to the world. Admirable companies have launched inspiring initiatives, but the negative impacts of business activity continue to grow.

The problem is simple. It’s generally cheaper to buy the product that has a worse impact on its environment than the equivalent product that does less harm. Higher cost to planet does not translate to higher price to customer. Of course, this is due to the fact that businesses are rarely obliged to pay for the full toll their operations take on the world. Because many of these impacts have been hard to gauge with any precision—or to assign to individual businesses with fairness—their costs have remained external to businesses’ accounting.

But what if those externalized costs could be quantified and assigned? What if we could get to the point where the lowest-priced T-shirt was also the one doing the least harm to the planet and society? In that scenario, consumers’ bargain hunting would align perfectly with business practices that sustain a healthy and just world, and powerful market forces would be put in the service of sustainability’s goals. This is not a flash of brilliance on our part—it’s what sustainability theorists have said all along. “True cost accounting” has long been the holy grail of the movement.

Our companies, Patagonia and Blu Skye, have devoted decades to the business of sustainability, and never before have we felt the optimism we feel now. Developments on three fronts, long in the works and now converging, make it not only possible but inevitable that successful business will become synonymous with sustainable business. First, “prices” are now being calculated for many things that had been considered priceless; second, capital is flowing into companies known to manage those costs well; and third, indices are being established that allow disparate contributors in a supply chain to converge on sustainability standards. Each of these developments has yielded meaningful gains on its own, but because all three have now reached a certain maturity, we are entering a new, accelerated phase of progress. The dots are connecting, and a whole different picture of how to prosper in business is emerging.

The concept of sustainability has evolved across three eras. In the beginning, it was seen as an operational concern, consisting of largely defensive efforts to reduce companies’ environmental footprints and cut waste. That evolved into a more strategic stance—let’s call it Sustainability 2.0. The focus shifted from cost reduction to innovation, and initiatives began to consider whole value chains. Now we’re in the midst of another overhaul of the concept, in which considerations of impact pervade all the decision making of firms. And as for Sustainability 4.0? The 3.0 era will render the term redundant. Instead of asking either “how can we turn a profit?” or “how can we minimize our impact?” managers will see those as two sides of the same coin. Sustainability will simply be how business is done.

 

Putting a Price on the Priceless

The first trend contributing to Sustainability 3.0 is the recent progress on quantifying ecosystem services— that is, measuring, in dollar terms, the value of the myriad beneficial services that natural environments perform. An example is the erosion control provided by mangrove forests: How much would it cost to achieve the same control by other means? Another is the pollination that insects perform: What is it worth to agriculture? The natural world’s services range from the supply of fresh water and clean air to the sequestration of carbon and production of all manner of raw materials. If plant diversity is necessary to support new drug discoveries, what would we pay to have it?

Of course, the bounty of nature is priceless. But the unfortunate effect of our seeing these inputs to well-being as incalculable has been that they are treated as free. That mind-set creates problems when resources turn out not to be limitless or indestructible. A failure to price resources also makes it difficult to think clearly about trade-offs, which many decisions relating to sustainability involve. When inputs and outputs can be stated in like terms (which is to say, dollar terms), optimal solutions can be found.

The importance of quantifying ecosystem services was first acknowledged in the early 1990s, but serious efforts began in 2000. At least two not-for-profit organizations—Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy—and the accounting giant PriceWaterhouseCoopers are currently developing methodologies to value ecosystems. Under the direction of Peter Seligmann, Conservation International has shifted its strategy for protecting wildlands from an emphasis on their intrinsic value to stressing the value they deliver. The organization now has teams working on the arduous task of quantifying the contribution of ecosystems to human life. One product of this effort is a web-based tool called Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES), developed in partnership with the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, which allows users to value ecosystems rapidly and on multiple scales, from local to regional to national to global.

 

To read the rest of the article, go to HBR.org

 

Want to engage?  Check out the webinar with Jib Ellison and Rick Ridgeway, hosted by UPS.