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NEW: Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink: Adding Water to the Sustainability Equation, Betsy Otto, American Rivers
NEW: Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, Chris Lotspeich, The Second Hill Group
NEW: Living Buildings and the Competitive Advantage of High Performance, Brandon Smith, Cascadia Region Green Building Council
Green Chemistry: Turning the Ship, John C. Warner, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Center for Green Chemistry
Life Cycle Assessment: A Tool for Sustainable Manufacturing, Tom Swarr, United Technologies Corporation; Jim Fava, Five Winds International
The Quest for a Manufacturing Model that is Sustainable, Mike Bertolucci, Interface Research Corp.
Sustainable Investing and Portfolio 21, an interview with Carsten Henningsen, Progressive Investment Management
Green Energy 3.0: This Time, It Is Different, Jackson W. Robinson, Winslow Management Company
Green Insurance Products, Stephen G. Bushnell, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company
Providing Incentives to Coffee Suppliers to Produce High Quality, Sustainable Coffee, Ben Packard, Starbucks Coffee Company
Talking Until You’re Green in the Face: Environmental Communications Comes to the Fore, Don Millar, The Element Agency
On the Power of Purchasing and the Potential of 1%, Terry Kellogg, 1% For The Planet
Promoting Green Products and Services: Cure for Asthma and Global Warming?, Arthur B. Weisman, Green Seal, Inc.
Power of Local Government Dollars, Michelle Wyman, International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, USA (ICLEI-USA)
The Green Wave
Climate Change as a Driver of US Market Behavior, Truman Semans, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Ford Motor Company and the Green Wave, Dan Esty, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy
Has the Era of Green Business Finally Arrived?, Joel Makower, GreenBiz.com
Turning the Ship: Environmental Transformation of the U.S. Economy, Brian Kuehl, Harvard Loeb Fellow and The Clark Group, LLC
By Peter Liu, Initial Founder and Vice Chairman of New Resource Bank
When friends learned that I was working to start a bank, I was most often asked these two questions: “When do I get a toaster?” and “People can start a bank?” While the first is a joke that’s a bit dated, the second actually reflects what a good number of people think about a bank. A bank is just there…often times “since 1890” or since a long time ago.
Banks in the U.S. are major aggregators of money…with over $17 trillion of federally insured deposits at last count. People in the U.S. have more bank accounts than brokerage or internet accounts combined. The “everyday, safe and conservative” qualities of banks can still carry a big punch. At the same time “everyday” is changing as we speak. A bank branch with a big vault or safe is very much part the “since 1890” aspect of banking. But the growth of ING Direct from zero to $40+ billion in deposits through an online business model represents exciting change.
In the early 21st century, activists pressured big banks to review their environmental impact actions and strive for “less bad” (e.g. re-examine their financing of rainforest destruction and adopting the Equator Principles). Today, we think it’s high time that banks work to promote “more good”: financing businesses and projects that make a difference. This is opportune as the green and sustainability movements have now evolved into markets as exemplified by organic and clean tech.
The New Resource Bank very much focuses on “more good.” Starting from our first office in San Francisco, we set out to provide a new standard in customer service and finance efficient and sustainable resources in our community. We do so by providing differentiated financing to green businesses and by taking “green” to our community clients.
Since our opening in September 2006, we have been able to roll-out several innovative programs to finance sustainable resources. We introduced a “more money at a lower cost” program for green buildings. Loans for buildings that are designed and built to a green leadership standard will enjoy lower interest rates (1/8th percent) and higher loan to value. This will result in significant enhancement to a developer’s return for building green. In partnership with SunPower, we have also introduced an easy one-step residential solar financing program so home owner can own solar by simply paying a monthly bill close to or less than their current electric bill. Additionally, we are also providing growth financing to innovative companies such as Michelle Kaufmann Design, which is commercializing revolutionary green modular housing units and NextEnergy, which is rapidly growing solar system integrators.
Focusing on entrepreneurs is second nature to us as we are founded by leading entrepreneurs. Our 240 founding investors have helped build leading companies such as Sybase, Lotus Development, Hambrecht and Quist, Ofoto and Silicon Valley Bank. These core members of the New Resource Community also provide us with great green business expertise. Founding shareholders like Bob Epstein (co-founder of Sybase and Environmental Entrepreneurs) and Hal Harvey (Environmental Program Director of the Hewlett Foundation) have been instrumental in promoting policy change that fosters the market for clean technology. Other shareholders like Ray Anderson (founder of Interface Inc.), Jonathan Rose (pioneering builder of sustainable communities) and Paul Dolan (former President of Fetzer Vineyards and co-founder of Mendocino Wine Company) have built and managed successful companies that are pioneers in sustainability.
We also learn about green through our own every day actions. For example, our building has been designed and built with extensive use of efficient, renewable and recycled resources. We are currently applying for a LEED-CI (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification that is tracking Gold.
In comparison to our entrepreneurial core, the banking sector is led today by mega-banks that are formed from successive mergers. Asset and cost rationalization are the keys to making such mergers work, not inventing new businesses. Striving to deliver growth significant and fast enough leads to growth by acquisition. Creating uniformity among a super regional or multi-national platform also causes the mega-banks to standardize operations and underwriting. This also hinders the customization needed to serve an emerging business community. Community banking indeed has been an antidote to mega-banking. Our hopes for New Resource Bank is to redefine community banking by serving not just a “zip-code” community but one that also shares common interests and values in sustainability.
“Everyday transformation?” We hope so. By switching an everyday function such as banking, our clients’ checking, savings or business deposits will help finance sustainable resources. This is just one part of many wonderful “everyday” possibilities. What’s next? Properly inflating our tires to save million of gallons of fuel?
1. What trends do you see in the field of “sustainable investing”? Where has the field come in the past five years and where do you see it going in the next five years?
The term “sustainable investing” is being used in many different ways. For investors, it has become very confusing to know what is “green” and what is “greenwashing.” The trend we are seeing is an increase in the number of companies racing to tell us how much they care, and what they are doing to improve our planet. Through detailed research, we distinguish the companies that are truly backing up their words with action from the companies that are greenwashing. This is one way we try to help investors navigate the confusion.
The first place to start is with a clear definition. For us, sustainability is simply “securing people’s quality of life within the means of nature.” This working definition acknowledges the limits of nature and society’s dependence on nature. It recognizes the fundamental challenge we face in meeting human needs without undermining nature’s ability to support our economy into the future. The primary issue is the limited biocapacity of the earth’s ability to provide the ecosystem services necessary to maintain the products and services we depend on.
The next step is applying this definition with specific evaluation criteria. Portfolio 21’s detailed evaluation criteria identify companies that truly recognize the enormous opportunity that exists to save money by saving natural resources and prosper by providing the products, services and technologies that are needed to create a sustainable society. These companies are developing cleaner and more efficient energy solutions, products designed to be reused and rebuilt, and processes that eliminate the need for toxic inputs while producing little or no waste.
The business and investment case for environmental sustainability has become increasingly clear and corporations that are embracing it are strategically positioned to prosper in the 21st Century.
2. There are clearly more sustainable investment options than ever before. Are there third-party verification processes that exist to help investors decide where to put their investment dollars?
The most helpful resource for investors is The Social Investment Forum, a national non-profit organization specializing in the field. Their website, www.socialinvest.org, has a lot of educational information including a directory of investment services.
3. How do sustainable investment funds perform compared to investment funds that don’t take into consideration social or environmental questions? Are there differences in short-term and long-term performance for these funds?
From our own experience, since Portfolio 21 started more than seven years ago, the fund has outperformed the markets as defined by the S&P 500 Index as well as the global MSCI World Equity Index. This competitive performance has certainly added to investor support for an investment approach based on the understanding that adaptation to changing global environmental investment risks is inevitable. The earlier this thinking is integrated into business practices, the more natural capital we will be able to retain for future generations, and the greater the economic stability we will be able to achieve. We believe companies that prove this understanding by innovating with environmental sustainability strategies have a real competitive advantage today and are poised for further leadership and innovation in the future.
4. What are the investment criteria and holdings of Portfolio 21? What makes it different from other sustainable investment options offered today?
Portfolio 21’s investment criteria seek companies that recognize environmental sustainability as a fundamental human challenge and a tremendous business opportunity. Our unique selection criteria allow us to identify and invest in companies that understand their ecological risks and opportunities and are taking positive action to integrate sustainability strategies in their business models. These companies see the real opportunities and future successes in understanding the ecological crisis and figuring out how to use environmental sustainability principles as core components of an intelligent business strategy.
Over 70 percent of the holdings are international and some of the most innovative holdings include: Swiss Re, East Japan Railway, Dell, Electrolux, Vestas Wind, Herman Miller, Whole Foods, and Interface.
There are six key components of our criteria:
Impact of Products/Services
The company understands the ecological impact of its products and/or services and has taken steps to significantly reduce those impacts. Priorities include:
Corporate behavior is driven by what is profitable and offers a competitive advantage for shareholders. Sustainable business strategies offer companies the ability to meet these objectives by designing ecologically superior products, using renewable energy, and developing efficient production methods.
6. Are there market or policy options that could encourage the growth of sustainable investment opportunities in the United States?
Sustainable investment strategies will continue to grow, by definition, because they will continue to offer the most competitive solutions. Countries with progressive environmental policies will offer the leadership and competitive edge for companies residing in those countries. The fact that Portfolio 21 invests less than 30 percent of its assets in the United States illustrates the leadership is coming from Europe and Japan and that the U.S. is lagging.
In 1979, with the country still reeling from the effects of the oil price spikes in the mid 1970’s, President Carter installed a solar hot water system on the White House roof, and the nation was excited about alternative energy. By 1986, the price of oil had fallen dramatically, and no one noticed when the presidential solar panels were removed.
In 2000, investors staggering from the dotcom crash turned to alternative energy as the next big thing, sending the price of many solar and fuel cell company stocks soaring. By 2003, oil prices had again fallen dramatically, investors moved on, and the highflying stocks crashed – and some burned.
Then in 2006, with oil prices sky-high again, politicians, investors, and even farmers began touting the benefits of alternative energy again. So as we enter 2007, with worldwide oil prices having moderated slightly and hovering around $60, even strong advocates of green energy have to ask: is it any different this time?
While there’s plenty of political uncertainty ahead of us, at Winslow we believe the outlook for alternative energy is indeed different this time, and it is here to stay. We see a wide-ranging and compelling list of reasons new to this cycle, both for continued elevated oil prices, and for long-term confidence in alternative energy, regardless of the price of oil:
As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman often points out, developing viable alternative energy sources that reduce reliance on oil will reduce payments to governments hostile towards America, while encouraging reform within those governments by reducing their oil revenue. In addition, a May 2006 Times article pointed out that national oil companies, which do not grant access to international oil companies, own 77% of the proven oil reserves – oil that we cannot depend on being able to access.
While some American businesses, communities, and individuals have voluntarily cut their emissions, it has not been enough. Both grassroots and political momentum is building towards a regulatory approach of reducing emissions. Seven states are current participants (as of December 2006 – hopefully this number grows over time) in a regional plan to reduce emissions, 28 states have established renewable energy standards, and the first carbon tax was passed in the U.S. in November, when the voters of Boulder, CO approved a carbon tax for all consumers of electricity generated by fossil fuels.
A New Direction
A recent issue of The Economist echoed the fears of many, comparing current interest in alternative energy to the dotcom boom, pointing out that venture capital investments have more than doubled from $30 billion in 2004 to an estimated $63 billion in 2006. At the same time, the current energy system leaves us vulnerable on many fronts – to shortages, to increased and increasing prices, to hostile governments, and to perhaps the biggest threat, a changing climate. We feel that these supply, demand, price, trade political, safety, and climate factors point to an undeniable need for a new direction.
As we examine our global energy situation today and the alternatives, both bad and good, is it any wonder that the demand for green energy is attracting so much interest and capital? We don’t think there has ever been a stronger investment story for alternative energy – increasingly cheaper, undeniably better, and more important than ever before.
By Stephen G. Bushnell CPCU ARM, Director Product Development, Commercial Business, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company
The Front Edge in Insurance:
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company is on the front edge of financial protection for green buildings as the first and only insurance company to develop a series of commercial insurance products, risk management tools and policyholder information addressing the special risks and recognizing the superior features of green buildings.
Green buildings have moved into the mainstream due largely to the profound value proposition they bring (energy efficiency, superior indoor air quality, lower absenteeism, higher retail sales, tenants willing to pay higher rents) and their significant environmental benefits (lower green house gas generation, water conservation, reduced pressure on landfills). We fully expect that Green construction will become the “standard” over the next two years as building owners recognize the benefits and municipalities mandate green construction (as have Boston and Washington D.C., among others).
Fireman’s Fund® understands that green buildings have physical features that may not be fully covered by traditional property insurance policies (vegetative roofs, alternative power equipment and water systems) and has crafted the coverage green building owners need to fully protect their investment. The coverage form also includes coverage to divert debris from landfills following a loss and costs to completely flush out the building following post-loss reconstruction. Many green buildings use their alternative power generation equipment to sell excess power back to the grid; we provide coverage for the loss of this income if the equipment is damaged in a loss as well as the cost to purchase replacement power while the equipment is being replaced.
The commissioning process that certified green buildings undergo directly addresses the most common causes of property loss we pay: electric fires, HVAC fires and plumbing leaks. Commissioning means these systems are not only more efficient, they are safer. Accordingly, we offer our Certified Green Building coverage at a reduced price.
We take this a step further with our Building Commissioning Expense coverage. Following a loss we will pay for the building owner to hire a professional engineer to commission the repaired or replaced building systems. The building is more efficient and safer. As an additional benefit, we will pay for the engineer to “test and balance” the HVAC system to optimize its performance.
Green Building owners have made significant capital and emotional investments in their properties. They deserve proper protection and an insurance partner who understands their commitment.
Barriers to Growth:
Insurance companies typically face legal and regulatory barriers as they introduce new coverages. That was not the case for these “Green” products. State Departments of Insurance recognized the value and quickly approved the coverage filing. The market has enthusiastically received the coverages. The Green Building Community is excited that a major insurance company recognizes the value of their work. Green and traditional building owners need coverages that both protect their investment and offers them the opportunity to become greener.
As a large commercial insurer, our obstacles lie in the prospect of the increased risk of obsolete buildings and the unpredictable catastrophe exposure of climate change.
The proliferation of green buildings, supported by the demands of tenants for green space, poses a real risk of obsolescence for traditional buildings. In addition, climate change experts hold that a majority of traditional buildings in the US must become carbon neutral (through energy efficient/green energy generation upgrades or purchase of renewable energy certificates – RECs) if we are to avoid irreversible climate change.
Fireman’s Fund offers a solution for these traditional buildings – our Green Upgrade coverage. Following a loss, we will use green, energy/water efficient products and components in the repair or reconstruction of the building. Other insurance coverages will only replace with “like kind and quality” materials, essentially returning the building to its pre-loss traditional state. If the building suffers a total loss, we will rebuild as a “certified” green building (based on USGBC’s LEED Rating System), including the costs to hire a LEED Accredited Professional to assist in the redesign and the cost of the LEED registration and certification fees.
Stephen G. Bushnell is the Director Product Development for Commercial Business at Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company
Welcome to the official Blog of Turning the Ship: Environmental Transformation of the U.S. Economy.
Starting February 5, 2007 our contributors will be posting their articles here. For detailed information about the program, please visit www.turningtheship.com.