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Economy

Are cities where sustainable futures will be made?

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Cities – those grey, urban, concrete structures – could be the green centres of the modern world. Rolling hills and lush fields may be actually green, but in terms of contributing to a sustainable future, quiet countryside towns may have a far smaller impact.

Of course, urban areas contribute more to the degradation of the environment, emitting fumes and using resources at a far greater rate than less densely populated areas. Yet equally, city citizens use more public transport than rural dwellers, have the opportunity to recycle more and the ability to walk between places. Denser living also allows for more ‘sharing’, albeit often unconsciously, of resources.

A 2007 report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) looked at 11 major cities on four continents, including London, Tokyo, New York and Rio de Janeiro, and found that city dwellers had lower greenhouse gas emissions than the per capita average for the country. A Londoner in 2004 emitted the equivalent of 6.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide, compared with 11.19 for the UK average, and New Yorkers were found to register footprints of 7.1 tonnes each, less than a third of the US average of 23.92 tonnes.

Cities have to be the place where sustainable futures are developed. In 2007, the global population tipped to being predominantly urban, and this is only going to grow – by 2050 we are going to be up to 70% urban.

It’s not necessarily about building eco-cities. As important as it is to focus on the future, things have to happen now. There are around 170 eco-city projects around the world, with definitions varying, but it seems that many have failed, and some may be sustainable for the environment, but not for the people who live in them.

Dongtan, one of 10 eco-city projects in China, was a miserable failure, not balancing idealism with realism. Many of these cities are without hospitals, shops, and, therefore, people.

What it is about is developing initiatives that allow people to live the lives they are used to, but that facilitate the opportunity to make changes that are not so dramatic they become unattractive and thus are not committed to, but do make a difference.

The majority of eco-friendly projects and sustainability initiatives are coming out of cities. This is partly a result of the sheer number of people. As Steve Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From and Leo Hollis in his more recent book Cities Are Good For You explain, cities are wonderfully creative places due to numbers and the connections between those numbers – fertile breeding ground for great ideas.

Although schemes such as London’s commitment to hybrid buses (with 600 expected to be in use by 2016) or the $2.6m awarded by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to organisations with plans for capturing stormwater runoff as part of the Flushing and Gowanus Green Infrastructure Grant Initiative have significant and large-scale results (as well as cutting costs for local governments), the real inspiration comes from grassroots initiatives.

Here are three of my favourite city schemes, all proving that cities are good for us.

King’s Cross Skip Garden

Created and run by “the Generators” – the name given to the young people involved with the project , this initiative simply involves taking an old skip and filling it with soil to grow fruit and vegetables, which they then serve at their own Skip Cafe, sell to local businesses, including the Guardian’s café, and turn into jams and chutneys.

Flashmobbing in The Hague

The Hague is, as befits the capital of Europe, a leader in this field. Recognising that encouraging more people to live sustainably needs to have fun at its core, the city has organised a gardening flash mob, where more than 150 people turned up to ‘green the street’.

Living roofs

Living roofs and walls are growing in cities all around the world, and it’s not hard to see why, as they make so much sense. Making the best of underused space, providing green locations in areas where very few people have access to a garden, improving air quality, and looking great – they tick all the boxes.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Photo: Arsel via freeimages

Further reading:

Sustainable cities will ‘save lives’ and improve economies, says Bloomberg

London’s ecosystem is as complex as anywhere. Should it be a national park?

Thriving, livable and green, Melbourne walks the talk as a sustainable city

London, Bristol and York among Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge finalists

Cities double climate change action as Bloomberg lays out plan for UN role

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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