More than 35 CEOs and civil society leaders of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (the Commission) have revealed that sustainable business models could open economic opportunities worth at least US$12 trillion and up to 380 million jobs a year by 2030.
Putting the Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, at the heart of the world’s economic strategy could unleash a step-change in growth and productivity, with an investment boom in sustainable infrastructure as a critical driver. However, this will not happen without radical change in the business and investment community. Real leadership is needed for the private sector to become a trusted partner in working with government and civil society to fix the economy.
In its flagship report Better Business, Better World, the Commission recognises that while the last few decades have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, they have also led to unequal growth, increasing job insecurity, ever more debt and ever greater environmental risks. This mix has fuelled an anti-globalisation reaction in many countries, with business and financial interests seen as central to the problem, and is undermining the long-term economic growth that the world needs. The Commission has spent the last year exploring a central question, “What will it take for business to be central to building a sustainable market economy—one that can help to deliver the Global Goals?” Better Business, Better World—the release of which is timed with the World Economist Forum in Davos and the U.S. presidential inauguration—shows how.
We have to switch tracks to a business model that works for a new kind of inclusive growth
“This report is a call to action to business leaders. We are on the edge and business as usual will drive more political opposition and land us with an economy that simply doesn’t work for enough people. We have to switch tracks to a business model that works for a new kind of inclusive growth,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, chair of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission. “Better Business, Better World shows there is a compelling incentive for why the latter isn’t just good for the environment and society; it makes good business sense.”
At the heart of the Commission’s argument are the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals)—17 objectives to eliminate poverty, improve education and health outcomes, create better jobs and tackle our key environmental challenges by 2030. The Commission believes the Global Goals provide the private sector with a new growth strategy that opens valuable market opportunities while creating a world that is both sustainable and inclusive. And the potential rewards for doing so are significant.
The report reveals 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” in just four key economic areas could create at least US$12 trillion, worth over 10% of today’s GDP. The breakdown of the four areas and their potential values are: Energy US$4.3 trillion; Cities: US$3.7 trillion; Food & Agriculture US$2.3 trillion; Health & Well-being US$1.8 trillion.
“Global Goals hot spots” identified in the report have the potential to grow 2-3 times faster than average GDP over the next 10-15 years. Beyond the US$12 trillion directly estimated, conservative analysis shows potential for an additional US$8 trillion of value creation across the wider economy if companies embed the Global Goals in their strategies. The report also shows that factoring in the cost of externalities (negative impacts from business activities such as carbon emissions or pollution) increases the overall value of opportunities by almost 40%.
“At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the Sustainable Development Goals offer us a way out,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and a commissioner. “Many are now realizing the enormous opportunities that exist for enlightened businesses willing to stand up and address these urgent challenges. But every day that passes is another lost opportunity for action. We must react quickly, decisively and collectively to ensure a fairer and more prosperous world for all.”
While the opportunities are compelling, the Business Commission makes it clear that two critical conditions must be met to build these new markets. First, innovative financing from both private and public sources will be needed to unlock the US$2.4 trillion required annually to achieve the Global Goals.
“As stewards of long-term capital, the investment industry and its clients can support the achievement of the SDGs by creating simple, standardized sustainability metrics integral to the investment process,” said Hendrik du Toit, CEO, Investec Asset Management, and member of the Commission. “We also need new streamlined partnerships with governments and communities that can reduce risks for everyone and bring more private investment at lower cost into sustainable infrastructure development.”
At the same time, the Commission believes a “new social contract” between business, government and society is essential to defining the role of business in a new, fairer economy. The recently released 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reinforces this idea. It shows that while CEO credibility is sharply down, 75% of general population respondents agree that “a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.” And they can do so in ways that align with recommendations and actions outlined in Better Business, Better World: rebuilding trust by creating decent jobs, rewarding workers fairly, investing in the local community and paying a fair share of taxes.
“The promise of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement is a zero-carbon, zero-poverty world,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation, and commissioner. “To achieve these Global Goals, we need to rebuild trust. A new social contract for business where people, their environment and economic development are rebalanced can ensure that everybody’s sons and daughters are respected with freedom of association, minimum living wages, collective bargaining and safe work assured. Only a new business model based on old principles of human rights and social justice will support a sustainable future.”
Throughout 2017, the Commission will focus on working with companies to strengthen corporate alignment with the Global Goals, including: mentoring the next generation of sustainable development leaders; creating sectorial roadmaps and league tables that rank corporate performance against the Global Goals; and supporting measures to unlock blended finance for sustainable infrastructure investment. “We need to show these ideas work not just in a report but on the business frontline,” said Dr. Amy Jadesimi, CEO of LADOL, a Nigerian logistics and infrastructure development company, and a member of the Commission.
“The Global Goals provide a sustainable, profitable growth model for business, and have the potential to trigger a new competitive ‘race to the top,’” said Jeremy Oppenheim, Programme Director of the Commission. “The faster CEOs and boards make the Global Goals their business goals, the better off the world and their companies will be.”
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.