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July 26, 2013
Alliance News - economy, environmental affairs, environmental justice, green business, sustainable landscaping, water conservation, water efficiency, water energy

On July 18, the water and environmental industries lost one of its leaders. The California Sustainability Alliance (Alliance) joins the many others mourning the loss of Lillian Kawasaki, who passed away on that day.

Ms. Kawasaki was a founding member of the Alliance’s Advisory Committee and offered invaluable advice on the organization’s start and early development. We will miss her wisdom and support, and will strive to keep her commitment to the environment and sustainability alive in the Alliance’s work.

Craig McDonald, Managing Director for Navigant Consulting and Project Director of the Alliance summed up Ms. Kawasaki’s influence: “Lillian’s insight, leadership, and vast knowledge of the water energy landscape was essential in shaping the Alliance’s great work in these fields.”

Highlights of Ms. Kawasaki career include launching the City of Los Angeles’ Environmental Affairs Department, heading the city Community Development Department and serving as assistant general manager of environmental affairs and economic development for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Additionally, she was a member of numerous state and federal water policy committees during the course of her career, serving on the board of the Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California and such professional organizations as the Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment.

For more on Ms. Kawasaki’s remarkable life and commitment to public service and the environment, see her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

October 16, 2012
Built Environment - green building, green business
Green Office Building

As it happens, “greening” your business could mean a boost for the environment as well as your company’s bottom line. There is now empirical evidence showing the adoption of sustainable policies, including environmental management and product standards, increases employee productivity, creating real and positive impacts on a company.

In the past decade, studies have shown that the improved lighting, ventilation, and general environment of Energy Star and LEED certified buildings lead to a decrease in employee sick days and an increase in perceived productivity, and thereby, economic benefits. A recent study by UCLA professor Magali Delmas and University of Paris-Dauphine’s Sanja Pekovic delves a little deeper and is the first to demonstrate how a company’s environmental commitment affects its productivity. The study, Environmental standards and labor productivity: Understanding the mechanisms that sustain sustainability, was published this September in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. Check it out here.

The findings are surprisingly clear: employee productivity is 16% higher at companies that adopt environmental practices. “Green” companies include those that follow international standards and adopt eco-labels such as “fair trade” and “organic.”

The robust jump in productivity can be attributed to a “virtuous cycle.” As described by Delmas, companies attract top people, then adopt environmental practices, and in turn, attract even better people. Patagonia is a prime example of the cyclical improvement of sustainably-minded companies. It has seen widespread success in the outdoor adventure retail space, is applauded for its longstanding sustainability efforts, and attracts an average of 900 applicants for each open position. After adopting a range of sustainability measures, a boutique hotel in Santa Monica, CA, also saw improved employee health and happiness.

Green companies create motivated employees who receive more training and improved interpersonal relationships. The result is increased employee productivity over conventional firms. Management will hopefully take note of the success of such companies and studies that consistently reveal the economic benefits of sustainability initiatives. As Delmas attests, “Adopting green practices isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for your employees and it’s good for your bottom line.”  

December 16, 2010
Corporate Sustainability - benchmarking, green business
Nike Considered designs will lower the company's environmental footprint.

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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September 21, 2010
Water Energy - green business, water energy

Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green buildings - all are hot topics today as the public becomes more aware of its energy use and environmental impacts.  We focus on how we can reduce energy use in our homes, offices, cars, and appliances, yet there is a little known piece of the puzzle many of us are missing: water.  Supplying, treating, and delivering clean water to our population requires significant amounts of energy.  Additionally, significant amounts of water are required to produce electricity in our fossil fuel plants.  As water supplies dwindle and water and energy demand increases it’s clear that the water-energy relationship is going to be stressed; this is an issue we cannot ignore.

California consumes roughly 38 billion gallons of water a day to supply its cities and farms.  The electricity consumed by California's water infrastructure alone accounts for approximately 7.7% of state’s total electricity requirements.  In response to drought conditions and limited conventional supplies, water managers are increasingly looking to unconventional sources (such as desalination) that require significantly more energy per gallon than current supply options today.  If we continue down this path, supplying water in the future is going to require significantly more energy, further stressing the water-energy relationship.

While there has been wide scale innovation in the energy sector in the last several decades, the water sector has been lagging.  However, a group of experts, entrepreneurs, and volunteers aim to change that.  Imagine H2O recently launched its 2010 Water Energy Nexus Prize Competition, its second annual global business plan competition for water startups.  The 2010 competition will award $100,000 in cash and services to the world’s most promising water businesses that save energy.  Winners are also provided access to Imagine H2O’s Incubator Program that provides free start up services and connections to water leaders, potential customers, and financiers.

This competition is a great opportunity for start-ups looking for assistance in developing their ideas and technologies into successful companies.  Last year, fifty entrepreneurs applied for Imagine H2O’s 2009 award (aimed at water efficiency).  The competition awarded its grand prize to Fruition Sciences and named two runners up:  Rainwater HOG and WaterSmart Software Inc. Follow Imagine H2O’s competition on the web via Twitter or by joining their online community.

July 15, 2010
Built Environment, Climate, Corporate Sustainability, Water Energy - green business

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?