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Exclusive interview: Steve Burt CEO EQi Group

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Steve Burt is the Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, founder and original investor in EQi Group. Steve has spent the past 14 years working with economics data relating to sustainability value, P&L resiliency and investor risk. Steve has used his 25 plus years experience in data acquisition, analysis, visualisation management analytics and operational applications to shape business methods in sustainability application. He has focused on increasing value and long term profitability and talks to Blue & Green about how he is doing that wit EQi Group.

 

In 140 characters or less – what is EQi?

EQi is a data and technology company providing business intelligence to increase economic performance, ecological balance and social compatibility.

What was the driver for creating EQi – what gap did it fill?

I founded EQi to provide businesses teams with trusted economic indicators and analysis tools that could accurately translate the economics of sustainability. I wanted to empower businesses at every level to use their operating data to develop individual sustainability strategies by understanding their own particular profit & loss material risks.

A key driver was to integrate economic performance with ecological and social impact management to start building a more inclusive economic approach to our current business model. I strongly believe that we need to provide companies, their customers and their investors with quantification processes to make informed decisions.

Today, sustainability has been dominated by compliance and marketing perspectives, completely missing the opportunity to create and drive value through creating lean and efficient business operations. I created EQi to change that misdirection so that sustainability can be understood and used for economic profitability while maintaining ecological balance and social compatibility.

Over the past 15 years I have seen more and more executive teams seek to understand sustainability and what it means in financial terms and the effects to their business. However, to-date executive teams have found it either impossible, highly time consuming or very expensive answer their normal business questions. The primary aim of EQi is to give executive teams the tools to do their job.

Business teams face three pain points, 1) Acquiring the relevant data, 2) Ensuring the data is accurate and relevant and 3) Easily turning the data into information. EQi addresses these three data pain points with evolution®, the first resource efficiency planning exchange.

We neutralise the data pain points by accommodating the challenge of multiple IT systems, departmental silos and global supply chains in a single exchange with seamless and secure multi stakeholder interface. With one single record evolution tracks not only all the different relevant metrics, but also integrates the many different stakeholders involved (suppliers, etc.), letting each extract the pertinent information for their role.

We eliminate transparency gaps, data blockages and cost blind spots throughout a supply chain, exposing the risks a company could face, where they could originate, and highlighting the possible resource efficiency improvements that could drive sustainable innovation and long term profit growth. We created one record and one truth so that an entire value chain can participate in a shared value process to benefit every stakeholder.

Who is it primarily for?

evolution is for every business that seeks to improve their resource efficiency management processes and reduce operating risk. It is designed for all size businesses to use as needed, turnkey, regardless of size, expertise or legacy systems. evolution provides the shared value process that connects global organisations and micro businesses for mutual benefit.

We at EQi are passionate about building an inclusive business society, which benefits all its stakeholders, that empowers micro businesses to build resilient operations as part of the global value chain. It’s time to provide a true value chain where everyone engages in providing customer satisfaction as one team, shared value process in action.

We strongly believe it is time that we make it easy for businesses throughout a value chain to share information and create an integrated reporting approach which informs every stakeholder. EQi offers the integrated value chain reporting solution.

What difference does EQi want it to make?

Our vision is to make it easy for businesses to identify their value creation opportunities and drive innovative thinking to drive the next level of business efficiency and sustained profitability.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

The main task is to change the current conversation from one which uses the current definition of ‘sustainability’ (i.e., conversations that centre around compliance and reporting) to one that centres around democratising information and shared value and considers a socially/ecologically balanced approach to business.

One barrier is the challenge of easily and cost effectively acquiring the relevant data a business team needs to make operating decisions that drive efficiency. A second barrier is the lack of transparency throughout supply and value chains. Another barrier is corporate culture and behaviour. The last barrier is the most difficult to address but the most powerful once changed.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

I have met many people over the years that are passionate about helping business to change however in recent years a few people come to mind who I applaud.

They are people in prominent positions who are taking the lead on the world stage, such as Paul Polman, CEO of Unilver; Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO PepsiCo; Marc Boland, CEO of Marks & Spencer; Sir Ian Cheshire, CEO of Kingfisher; Jochen Zeitz, Director of Kering and Chairman of the board’s sustainable development committee, and Co-Founder and Co-Chair of The B Team; Andrew Steer, President and CEO of World Resources Institute; Rachel Kyte, Head of Climate Change at the World Bank; Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to name a but a few.

The more business leaders who demonstrate how being sustainable brings increased profit performance and how holistic strategies to managing a company make a business stronger, the more the more hesitant adaptors will follow. The investment community also has a big part to play. It is encouraging that impact investors are fast growing along with main stream global financial institutions, stepping up to the challenge of funding sustainable growth.

It’s not just people but also publications such as Blue & Green Tomorrow, The Guardian, GreenBiz and Triple Pundit along with organisations such as Sustainable Brands playing an important role. I have started a conversation about business change and idea sharing on LinkedIn which is attracting people who wish to share practical ideas and build an inclusive business process.

When business leaders understand sustainability and can measure it as a core part of a business performance we will see sustainable brands building sustainable profits and creating a sustainable future for our planet.

Is company action today commensurate with the massive economic, social and environmental challenges we face?

The business community is starting to develop conversations about the future of our society and how it will be structured. However we are against a climate clock, which is ticking. The problem is we still don’t understand how fast the climate is changing and hence how quickly we need to act.

Business are truly in a tough position since they need to maintain financial performance to satisfy the markets while calculating how much investment should be made in which change and how quickly. I would honestly state I fear business is behind the curve; hence I believe the pace of change to sustainable operating models needs to increase.

The challenges we face are enormous. We as a society will only be able to master these challenges if all stakeholders become part of the solution. I believe the common dominator is accurate, verified and trusted data that can be turned into information everyone can understand. We don’t need gurus or big gestures, we need democratised information that society can make honest decisions with, that consumers can use to purchase with confidence and that drives economic stability, ecological balance and supports social compatibility.

Sustainability is not just about low carbon or diluting modernisation, it’s about smart consumption, long term profitability and business resiliency.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about EQi?

Please visit our website at www.eqi-group.com or follow our blog here. Of course, feel free to contact me or any of my associates directly.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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