Corporate Sustainability

Technology for Sustainability - Nike Considered

Earlier this month, I attended a seminar on sustainability innovation in the tech industry at Dreamforce 2010, salesforce.com’s 8th annual conference (anyone familiar with Dreamforce, or with salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff, should recognize this massive understatement—imagine a sales event-rock concert-thought leadership expo and you’ll get a rough idea). Titled “How Efficiency, Collaboration & Innovation Can Help Mitigate Climate Change”, the session brought together Eric Olson, Senior Vice President at Business for Social Responsibility; Lorrie Vogel, General Manager of Nike Considered; and Ted Howes, co-lead of IDEO’s Energy Practice, to share their thoughts on the role of technology in solving one of  society’s biggest challenges.

I was particularly intrigued by Lorrie Vogel’s discussion points, which covered two exciting topics: Considered Design, Nike’s closed-loop design vision, and the GreenXchange, an open platform for sharing patented design information (which I will cover in my next blog post). For this discussion, I want to discuss Considered Design and some thoughts about the broader implications that sustainability implementers of all types can draw from Nike’s model.

At its core, Considered Design represents a coordinated approach to tackling what sustainability means (definition) and how it is achieved (implementation). For a major footwear and apparel manufacturer, sustainability issues cut to the heart of business: making core products in a completely new way, without sacrificing quality. Considered Design serves as Nike’s big first step toward realizing a long-term vision of closed-loop design for all of its products.

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Exciting Opportunity for Cleantech Startups in California

The California Sustainability Alliance is pleased to share with you an exciting opportunity for cleantech startups, IBM’s SmartCamp Silicon Valley.

The event, to be held on September 8th and 9th, will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, and experienced mentors who want to build a Smarter Planet. Focused on helping society become more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, SmartCamp will provide five selected startups with world-class mentorship and a direct route to seed and venture capital. The winner will receive a three month mentorship with IBM and an invitation to the international SmartCamp finals in Ireland on November 15th. Applications are due before August 8th, at http://ibm.com/ie/smarterplanet/smartcamp.

The Alliance will be participating in the event, and we can’t wait to hear all of your great ideas! In the meantime, tell us – what kind of technologies would you like to see to make our planet smarter? What cleantech startups are you most excited about?

LA Business Council Sustainability Summit, Part Four: Renewables and Feed-in Tariffs

In sunny Southern California, no discussion of sustainability would be complete without mention of solar power.  At the recent Los Angeles Business Council 2010 Sustainability Summit, which the Alliance attended as a Cooperating Organization, a full panel was devoted to renewable energy, both solar and wind.

The panel opened with a talk on feed-in tariffs (FiTs), which are guaranteed rates for excess on-site renewable power generation to be sold back to the grid (equivalent to allowing a utility customer’s electric meter to run negative and produce income for the customer). The presentation was given by J. R. DeShazo, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. As an author of Designing an Effective Feed-in Tariff for Greater Los Angeles, a study recently conducted in partnership with the LA Business Council, DeShazo was able to give an in-depth review of the FiT value proposition and of important variables impacting program success.

Los Angeles has aggressive renewable generation goals, aiming for 20% renewable power this year and 40% by 2020. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has also set a goal of eliminating coal from the generation mix by 2020. However, achieving these goals will be a challenge. Today, only 14% of the city’s generation mix is from renewable sources, falling significantly short of the 20% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) target. To help close the gap, DeShazo’s study recommends implementing a carefully designed FiT, focusing on large multifamily, commercial, and institutional buildings with plenty of roof space available for solar. The study found that such a program would contribute approximately 3% to the city’s RPS. Beyond this contribution, a well-designed feed-in tariff has several significant benefits :

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LABC Sustainability Summit Part 3: Villaraigosa’s Keynote

The California Sustainability Alliance recently attended the Los Angeles Business Council 2010 Sustainability Summit as a cooperating organization – here’s part three in our series on what we learned there. The event was brimming with impressive speakers and panelists, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who expressed pride in his perfect attendance record at this 3rd annual event.

The mayor began by expressing his perspective on the sustainability value proposition, which he believes contributes not just to the environment but also to jobs and the overall economy. He then took a quick dive into the financial crisis currently facing the city of Los Angeles, which has tried to raise electricity rates in order to maintain solvency. He explained that he believes rates need to go up not just to keep the city solvent, but also to enable action on important policy goals. In particular, the city is heavily reliant on coal for its power generation. While this choice helps to keep rates down, Villaraigosa expressed his conviction that the city must change its generation mix to incorporate more low-carbon sources such as natural gas and renewables.

Villaraigosa spent the remainder of his keynote addressing one of his passions – improving public transit in Los Angeles. He focused on Measure R, which was approved by LA County voters in 2008 with an overwhelming two-thirds majority. The measure provides $40 billion in funding over the next 30 years for numerous transportation projects, including several related to sustainability, such as:

  • Doubling the size of the rail system in Los Angeles County
  • Building a “subway to the sea”
  • Establishing bikeways and pedestrian improvements
  • Maintaining low fares for public transit while expanding service
  • Carpool lanes

Measure R is an unprecedented investment in public transit; and to make it even more impressive, Villaraigosa has championed accelerating the timeline from thirty years to ten. While completing the numerous projects in Measure R will be a challenge – it requires cooperation amongst all 88 cities in Los Angeles County – the initiative will be a true game-changer, vastly improving both environmental sustainability and quality of life for Los Angelenos. Measure R is also expected to create 166,000 jobs and save 10 million gallons of gasoline annually, contributing to economic growth and energy independence. Emphasizing the diverse benefits of this project, Villaraigosa called on business, academia, and health professionals to work together in support the initiative, concluding, “The time to act is now.”

As a former Angeleno, I can’t wait to see my hometown finally build a more sustainable transit system. For those of you currently living in Los Angeles County, tell us – how is implementation of Measure R affecting your daily life? What do you think the County’s transit priorities ought to be?