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World Values Day: Values As A Route To Sustainability

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value and action by Outi-Maaria Palo-oja via flickr

Ed Mayo, the Secretary General of Co-operatives UK comments on how ethical values can encourage people to go beyond their own interests and come together to solve environmental issues.

His comment can be viewed below:

The dominance of markets and economics over our lives and over habitats and other species on earth is a challenge not just for how we act, but also how we think. We have become conditioned, even when advocating a more sustainable path, to couch it in terms that are in tune with that dominant framework – of benefits and incentives, individual and collective, that can accompany a greener future.


The dramatic challenge of migration in the face of war and environmental collapse – with the number of people affected by weather-related disasters rocketing 65-fold in 30 years – has reawakened a second great, twentieth century narrative for collective action, which is nationalism.

We need a response that is rooted in values. As powerful as self-interest can be, only ethical values can encourage people to go beyond their own or their group interests and understand themselves as a collective. Values can help us to come together.

I remember years ago, Hazel Henderson saying to me that the success of campaigns like the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which I had the privilege to chair, was not just the debt relief temporarily afforded to the poorest countries, it was that such campaigns demonstrated the emergence of global citizens well in advance of the structures of global governance.

The encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, on the environment and human ecology is a model approach to bring values and faith to bear, to address what Herman Daly calls the ‘wild facts’ of climate change, resource constraints and species loss.


The question is whether business needs to quieten its voice and simply be a sideline on this, or whether there is a role for values in business. I believe that there is.

Of course, it is hard for mainstream businesses to be authentic about ethical values, such as sustainability or equality, because, unlike principles of customer service or making money, they don’t necessarily fit well with the reality of power and control.

Professor Gideon Kunda of Tel-Aviv University, who researches organisational culture, describes today’s approach by managers to encouraging the value of teamwork in many an enterprise as a form of ‘deep acting’ – what he characterises as the ‘feigned solidarity’ of the modern workplace. Finton O’Toole, writing in the Irish Times, talks of the toxic effect that high pay and bonuses for leaders can have on their workforce. Many low-paid jobs are demanding, but there can be a dignity to work: ‘most people actually want to do their jobs well and do them honourably’. If business leaders equate status with pay, it is hard to demonstrate that they believe in the dignity of their workforce.

So values are not easy. But that is because values challenge us. They ask hard questions. Above all, what are you in business for? All businesses are there for a purpose and, to be truly coherent, their values should not just illustrate how to achieve that purpose but also exclude practices that get in the way.

Some of the emerging innovations in technology and commerce need a values framework anyway. Machine learning, automation, nanotechnologies – all of these risk being markets that run ahead of public trust and approval. As Simon Burall, Chief Executive of Involve and one person has helped to run public dialogues with the UK Government Sciencewise programme, says, the public want to talk about questions of what is natural, whereas the technologists want to talk specifics, such as whether there are times in which hybrid or ‘chimera’ embryos can be used for research.

With challenge, though, comes innovation. There are now some excellent examples of businesses that have worked out how to build values into the heart of what they do – how to recruit for values, how to build them into the supply chain, how to govern for values and how to build new products and services around values. That has been my interest – how to make it easier to bring values to life, so that they can become an everyday tool for business, rather than something abstract or just to pay lip service to.

Business needs to be a servant and not a master when it comes to sustainability. But if we did take ethical values in business as seriously as we take their commercial inventory and finance, we would indeed see very different patterns of business and business leadership emerge over time.

In any conflict, there is often the clash of underlying values and only be working on those values in dialogue can peace come. Conversely, in the very best team work and co-operation, there are underlying values that are aligned and cohesive. If the future depends on how we work together, an awareness of values need to be at the heart of all we do.

About the Author:
Ed Mayo is Secretary General of Co-operatives UK. His new book, Values: how to bring values to life in your business, will be published today.

 

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.


Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.


The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?


A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.


“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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