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Founder story: Elon Musk (co-founder) is a controversial figure with a complicated history. But he is a forward-thinker that can help drive a more sustainable future.
Industry standards: Automakers have a history of poor environmental standards. The manufacturing process requires loads of resources, equipment and infrastructure. Tesla has a $500bn+ market cap, so we understand that complete sustainability is difficult to accomplish.
Materials: Modern cars use metals (aluminum in common), silica, rubber, plastic, rubber, soy, wheat, rice… to name a few. In terms of sustainability, the lithium ion battery is most concerning.
Tesla's current battery uses cobalt... linked to human rights violations in the Congo. Cobalt also makes the vehicle more expensive. Tesla is currently working to remove cobalt from their supply chain.
Ethics: To hit ambitious production goals, Tesla overworked domestic workers in a pretty ugly way. That adds to their controversy in the Congo. Not a good look when a billionaire does so well and you find out workers were unhappy.
Bottom line: Tesla has sustainability tied to its mission, and they are doing awesome things in the solar energy space. Still, their current business model is not sustainable. Wait until Tesla removes cobalt, improves worker conditions and reduces vehicle prices to make an ethical purchase.
Dig deeper → 5 min.
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The scoop: Hershey is accused of avoiding to pay premiums on cocoa deals that would help alleviate farmer poverty.
Hershey versus West Africa: Hershey denies the allegations. The lvory Coast and Ghana, who make up 2/3 of the world's cocoa production, are preventing Hershey from using sustainability schemes in West Africa.
These schemes allow brands to market their product (in this case chocolate) as fair-trade, ethical, etc.
A broader point about corporate sustainability: Hershey's (alleged) loophole attempt is all too common in the age of crony capitalism.
Corporate sustainability seeks long-term profits by aligning business models with healthier environments and more prosperous economies. Working around basic premiums that keep hard-working cocoa farmers out of deep poverty is not a sustainable business model.
Bottom line: West African cocoa regulators are sticking to their guns on this issue. I don't think they're bluffing. Recommendation: avoid Hershey products until they provide a more transparent response.
List of popular Hershey products to avoid this holiday season:
- Hershey's (duh)
- Pay Day
- Jolly Rancher
- York Peppermint
- Breath Savers
- Ice Breakers
- Heath Bar
- The Whatchamacallit Bar
- Take 5
- Milk Duds
- Mr. Goodbar
- Almond Joy
- Kit Kat
- Good & Plenty
- Pirate's Booty
- Krave Jerky
Dig deeper → 1 min
Curious about running a sustainable small business? Once a fringe business strategy, sustainability has become a prerequisite for any new business hoping to succeed in the long-term. Whether you own a pizza shop, landscaping company, real-estate firm or just starting out, prioritizing sustainability is an easy and effective way to distinguish your small business and ensure long-term stability.
This guide will help you adapt, react and plan for the wave of industry trends that prioritize social impact in a post-pandemic world.
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Big picture: Every influential organization and leader around the world (besides Trump) is telling us to Build Back Better. What are we trying to fix?
A little context: History shows how major global resets can fail poorer nations. Bretton Woods perpetuated inequality behind the veil of humanitarian activism. If the status quo changes the status quo, did the status quo really change?
Some talking points:
- Governments caused the COVID debacle, not the people. Yet, the people face the consequences.
- Governments (and international organizations), perpetrators of the broken system, want to fix it.
- Suggestions from big orgs are abstract and ambiguous, rather than tangible like term limits.
Bottom line: As we watch world leaders discuss recovery options, let’s prioritize tangible change rather than utopian fantasies.
Dig deeper → 2 min
The scoop: the IMF published a statement calling the pandemic recovery plan a ‘new Bretton Woods moment’.
What is Bretton Woods? Bretton Woods was an international conference that took place in 1944 with the goal of preventing another World War by establishing a new international monetary framework.
The legacy of Bretton Woods: Although the agreement no longer serves a purpose in the modern world, its effects are still being felt; there is more negotiation between nations both economically and politically and the global market is more interconnected than ever before.
Lessons for coronavirus, globalization:
1. Make politics people-oriented
Leaders and policy-makers of international organizations are motivated by self-interest and private sector pressure. Likewise, they propose policies that favor private interest and hurt the average worker.
2. Make international finance fair and equal
Loan conditionalities from the IMF are often attached without serious consideration for the interest of the borrowing nation or its citizens. Recommendations by the World Bank and IMF don't always resolve economic hardships for developing nations.
Bottom line: If this is a new Bretton Woods moment, perhaps we can learn a thing or two about our convoluted past of international do-good. Rather than just hit the reset button, we should consider how poverty alleviation requires more than a paycheck.
Dig deeper → 8 min
The scoop: Last week, Ripple’s CEO made an ambitious commitment to go carbon net-zero by 2030 in collaboration with conservation Rocky Mountain Institute and REBA, and pressured other crypto companies to do the same.
- Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple (XRP) was built with a finite supply (100 billion) at its inception, making it easier to control mining activities and mitigate its environmental footprint.
- Compared to Bitcoin’s 4.51 billion lightbulb hours needed to mine it, the XRP Ledger uses just 79,000.
- A lot needs to happen to make do on that claim, but Ripple is the first crypto looking to go carbon net-zero, and they have a plan (see below).
Bottom line: I don’t know if Ripple, Ethereum, and Bitcoin will one day replace Euros, Dollars and Yuan. With that said, why not bet a dollar on the possibility that they one day could?
Dig deeper → 3 min.
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Big picture: GM released a new electric Hummer this week. It got me thinking, is it time to make the switch to electric vehicles?
Benefits of electric vehicles:
- Lower carbon footprint... social impact ✓
- Lower maintenance costs... convenience factor ✓
- Tax credits... financial incentive ✓
Cost of electric vehicles:
- EVs require minerals like cobalt and lithium to function. Mineral mining is a tough industry with poor standards in developing countries like Bolivia and Chile. Organizations are working to change that.
- Electric vehicles have a limited driving range compared to their gas cousins. You may find yourself charging up more than usual.
- High sticker prices: The average price of a new electric vehicle is almost double the price of a gas car.
- Limited amount of charging stations: this is a tricky one, because there are still more charging stations per EV on the road than there are gas stations for gas cars. Unless you go on a road trip, most of your charging will probably be at home anyway.
Bottom line: With billions of dollars flowing in, the electric vehicle moment is not only here to stay, it is booming. If you 1) need a car in your life 2) want to be a part of a cleaner future and 3) can afford the extra monthly cost (for now), then making a switch to electric vehicles is the right thing to do.
Dig deeper ➝ 3 min
Why are wildfires detrimental to our environment?
- Burn millions of acres of forests each year; trees are critical to (1) absorbing greenhouse gases to lessen the effects of climate change and (2) preserving biodiversity.
- Kill and displace wildlife.
- Disrupt water cycles and soil fertility.
- Endanger lives and livelihood of local communities.
How are drones being used to fight wildfires?
- Provide real-time support on the ground for firefighters to improve safety.
- Map weather patterns to prevent spreading of the fire to mitigate environmental destruction.
What are the benefits of a drone compared to a traditional aircraft?
- Safer since you don’t need a pilot to operate it.
- More versatile since a drone can fly in poor conditions and hard to reach spaces.
- More accurate by using GPS and imaging technologies to generate a “smart map.”
More recently, the use of drones for fire prevention in the U.S. has been gaining support from the federal government. Regulatory hurdles are starting to lessen. Plus, the civil-use of drones is now more widely accepted.
Drones are becoming a key technological advancement in fighting wildfires. They can not only protect our communities, but they can also mitigate the environmental impact caused by fires.
Dig deeper → 4 min
The International Energy Agency (IEA) rolled out its annual World Energy Outlook report with a bombshell. Solar power is expected to replace coal as the #1 source of energy production by 2025.
The backstory: In the last few years, governments and corporations flooded billions of dollars into the renewable energy space. Wind & solar energy have become cheaper than gas & oil as a result. It is now easier to manufacture and install solar panels than ever before.
By the numbers:
- The IEA thinks 80% of new power generation will come from renewables.
- We need to boost up investment in the energy grid by at least $460 billion in 2030 to hit our goals.
- The global economy will return to pre-covid levels in 2021, but 7% smaller over long term compared to 2019 projections.
Between the lines: China alone will account for 40% of global growth for electricity demand over the next ten years. Southeast Asia and Africa will see major demand increases for energy over the next few decades.
Meanwhile, IEA's report found that global CO2 emissions will not return to 2019 levels until 2027, due to energy mix with renewables and coal's big drop in 2020.
Zoom out: We need a structural transformation of the global energy sector to hit on sdg's (those UN-sanctioned green goals we keep talking about), and that requires a lot of clean capital stock.
The report makes it clear that low growth of emissions ≠ a climate change solution. It's a means to an end.
Bottom line: Solar will replace coal as king sometime this decade.
Dig deeper → <2 min
The scoop: The world uses a lot of materials to produce a lot of waste.
By the numbers:
- Asia accounts for 60% of mineral extraction and 67% of freshwater use.
- The world disperses 28.7 billion tons of fossil fuels and biomass energy.
- Europe, Asia and N. America account for 78% of fossil fuel output.
- It takes <resources to produce >materials.
- A lot of freshwater, an increasingly scarce resource, turns into wastewater every year.
- Most raw materials and natural resources end up in the land, air or water.
Bottom line: The current production process outweighs Earth's production capacity. To solve that, we need to maximize the life-cycle of products, treat natural resources carefully, and minimize waste.
Dig deeper → <1 min.