Category: June 2013 – Sustainable Business & Investing

The Making Of A Green Jewelry Company And An Activist

By Marc Choyt

The land we bought in 1995 was at the southwestern edge of the Rocky Mountains, where the plains meet the mesa and mountains. To the West was the Sangre de Christo range, mountains covered in fur and spruce rising over twelve thousand feet. Eastward, we could look out toward a thousand miles of flat grasslands. In the summer, rain fell in splashes and the winds had a wild fierceness.

We were passionate about deep ecology and sustainability. We envisioned houses with solar panels where we would build a small community, offer programs and perhaps grow some of our own food. Within a year, we had built a small log cabin. We put in a wood stove and set up a basic kitchen. I would call this place my true home.

Our dream would be funded by our jewelry company, Reflective Images, which we started the same year. Previously, I was a high school teacher. My wife was a self-taught designer jeweler. We were hard-working, and restless. We quit our jobs. With no experience in sales or knowledge of business, I took twenty designs on the road, driving across the country, walking into jewelry stores and cold selling.

I imagined that our company would be a metaphoric journey away from our economic flatlands. Instead, we had stepped off the edge of our flat working-for-someone-else job world. Every resource and even our most heartfelt values would be tested.

The jewelry sector is a commodity-based business, just like oil or lumber.  Often, the cost of a sparkling beauty is the ravaging of natural and human community. To those who wear an engagement ring, the diamond is a symbol of some of the most noble and heartfelt human values. Gold may represent the radiance of the soul.

Yet while we were attempting to start our company, unbeknownst to us, the purchases diamonds funded wars that would ultimately result in the deaths of over three million people. Perhaps there’s no other thing we buy that has a greater split between symbolism and sourcing. Even today, conflict diamonds and dirty gold continue to be prevalent in the supply chain.

The River

A river snaked through our land, though in parts of the country outside the desert southwest, this “river” would have been called a creek. It was a lifeline for our tiny village. Despite, or perhaps because of, the marginal rains that surrounds creeks in northern New Mexico, the riparian zones can be some of the most bio-diverse in the US.

But, in the case of our river, instead of gently sloping banks sustaining fauna, we had ten-foot deep cuts on both sides of the water course.

Cattle had consumed the vegetation beyond the ecosystem’s capacity to regenerate. Without the natural stabilization, the water cut progressively deeper. A few miles outside our valley, the river pathetically dried out.

As we planned a riparian restoration we began to examine the origin of our supply chain. We realized that whatever we purchased to grow our company would also be perpetuating a resource curse [1] in some other part of the world. Essentially, we would be restoring our river in Northern New Mexico by destroying a river in Ghana.

Claiming Responsibility

In the not so distant historical past, when humans ravaged their local environment, they could leave or go to war with neighbors. But now, with climate change and thirty thousand species going extinct each year, the collective local impacts global. But it was harder to judge the carelessness of ranchers when I realized that to run my business I would be doing the same thing on a more international scale.

At that time, no one in the jewelry trade I knew talked about where materials came from. As a new company, to be competitive meant finding the best price and ignoring externalities—focusing on the true cost of the product we were creating. The goal was strong growth: business is all about growth.

Yet we never lost ourselves entirely. For the past eighteen years, aligning economy with our values has been a step-by-step process of looking for opportunities while trying to prosper.

The real issue is an expansion of consciousness—not into some blissful state, but rather, into physicality, the rock and grit of the earth. Foundational, ethical jewelry rests upon two principles: traceability and transparency in the supply chain and fair and equitable relationship with human communities and the ecosystem. We have to consider our business in context to a circle of connections.

Toward Action

We started using recycled metals to make our entire jewelry line and sourcing ethical, fair gemstones as they became available. We soon learned that if the piece was not well designed and competitively priced, it would not sell. Recognizing that gold will continue to be mined regardless of how our using recycle metal, we looked for opportunities to support radical solutions.

The most genuine initiatives for ethical sourcing were taking place among a few under the radar small jewelers and suppliers. There was no organization to connect diverse voices. In 2007, I started a blog about Fair Jewelry that has morphed into Fair Jewelry Action, www.fairjewelry.org a human rights and environmental justice network which provides insider opinions, launches campaigns, endorses producers and provides a place for a community of people who share values.

My company was among the first in North American to make fair trade gold wedding rings. There are over twenty million artisan small scale miners (ASM) supporting over a hundred million people. Much ASM is done illegally in poor regions and is terribly damaging. Fair trade gold (www.fairtrade.org.uk/gold ) supports best practices: third party verified, ecologically responsible producer communities.

Most recently, with our Ethical Metalsmith (www.ethicalmetalsmiths.org) colleagues, we are facilitating the broad distribution of fair trade gold into the North American market. Our effectiveness rests upon our ability to prove concept in our business. To pioneer new market ideas with limited resources has challenging. With our successful river restoration, we had the support of nearly a million acres of wild lands surrounding our river. Our economic ecology has no such nurturing environment.

For our movement to succeed, a circle of relationships to be firmly in place: suppliers, designers, jewelers. But the most important and challenging ingredient is market support. Few consider sourcing when they purchase jewelry. Much progress has been made, but we are just starting out, driven by passion—like where fair trade coffee was in the seventies.

Honoring The Inner River

For many years, I was on the road. In the evenings, I would check into cheap hotels. The roar of the cars and trucks on the interstate. Television and sex leaching through the walls. Acid hours unable to sleep thinking and thinking… No matter how much I sell, never enough money. In the mornings, skin soaked in old cigarette smoke, I would gaze out the dirty metal-framed windows toward the freeway wondering what I was doing with my life.

I want to be in the Odyssey (the journey), I would tell myself. Instead, the business story is the Iliad (the war). Can I find the Odyssey in the Iliad?

Doing the trade shows, being in a business world contrary to many of my personal values, taking people with whom I had little connection out for dinner in order to get sales—all felt like a moderate form of prostitution that was channeling a gash in my own heart’s ecology. When I dared to think of what my own inner river might look like, I saw an image of the Rio Grande flowing through El Paso: straight as an arrow, its banks made into concrete.

Working with the truth: if Gaia is being raped by human activities, then I am being raped too is a horrific reality to grapple with. The evidence of separation and disconnection, the destruction of life support systems, indigenous communities and beauty often fills me with rage and demands action.

I navigated through this ever-widening permutation of gray—the changing ground between profound acceptance, compromise and this is unacceptable , is a deeply intimate, process. Do I find the radical center or draw the line in the sand? How do I use my inner rage, my “Swamp Man,” to create positive social change? These quandaries are razor sharp edges of my own learning, or sacred pilgrims that wonder through my mind.

Even as I staunchly oppose the collective trance of many practices in the jewelry sector, I also recognize that we are part of a greater circle. We are deeply connected even if we stand in staunch opposition to each other.

We must recognize that it is too late to be sustainable. The triple bottom line is only a start—it is way too anthropocentric. We must have planet, planet, planet and see ourselves as an equal part of the whole in circle-based approaches to business . The only profit (excess) that is useful is that which is beneficial to human and ecological communities.

What is our five hundred year plan? How can we increase regenerative activities so that our economy actually rebuilds ecological and human community diversity? If fair trade gold captured just a small percentage of the North American market, the lives hundreds of thousands of small scale miners living in Africa and South America would be improved. Are you willing to spend an extra ten percent on a wedding ring to make it happen?

Earth will survive and transform regardless of whether or not human beings begin to understand that we are part of a circle of interconnectedness. This is all part of a great journey that we walk on together. This work, this service, these activities of the “blessed unrest” must be done regardless of what we might imagine the future to be.

The time is now.  We are the ones we have been waiting for. Collectively, we are will determine whether humanity is in a death throw or a birth canal.

Article by Marc Choyt, Director of Fair Jewelry Action ( www.fairjewelry.org ) and President of Reflective Images, an ethical jewelry company that sells designer Celtic jewelry (www.celticjewelry.com ) as well as unique and unusual wedding rings and engagement rings with ethically sourced diamonds.

Parts of this article were taken from the book in progress, “The Circle Manifesto: The Most Important Book You’ll Ever Read About Life, Business and Blessing.” The author is seeking a publisher and can be reached by email at- reflective@cybermesa.com

Article Notes:

[1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_curse

Investors to Vote on Political Spending Bans at Exxon, 3M, Chevron & Bank of America

 

During this season’s corporate annual meetings, stockholders of Chevron, ExxonMobil, 3M and Bank of America will have the opportunity to weigh in on shareholder proposals calling on the companies to refrain entirely from spending corporate funds to influence electoral politics. These proposals have been filed in the wake of the unprecedented spending levels since Citizens United, and are part of a broader shareholder movement to reign in corporate involvement in politics.

When companies become involved in the electoral process, they are unnecessarily courting political and reputational risk,” said Sonia Kowal, Director of Socially Responsible Investing at Zevin Asset Management. “Companies that choose to refrain from political donations signal that they are able to profitably conduct business without resorting to regulatory favors.”

Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil, 3M, and Bank of America are all facing shareholder resolutions calling for an end to the use of company funds to influence campaign elections. The four companies collectively spent more than $11.5 million dollars in the 2012 election cycle. The record-breaking $6.3 billion spent in the 2012 electoral cycle was largely enabled by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, which allowed unions and corporations to contribute unlimited amounts to “independent” spending organizations.  Proponents of the proposals contend there is little evidence that this spending generated value to shareholders.

“Companies have not demonstrated the value of these controversial expenditures to shareholders,” commented Leslie Samuelrich, Senior Vice President of Green Century Capital Management. “Consequently shareholders don’t want to be left footing the bill as companies make big gambles in politics,” added Samuelrich. Chevron received significant media attention for its unprecedented $2.5 million donation to GOP SuperPAC, which represents the largest single corporate donation since Citizens United. Bank of America, called “one of the most demonized corporations in America” by the New York Times in 2012, has given over $16 million to federal candidates since the 2002 election cycle, and $8.4 million to candidates at the state level since 2003. 3M was targeted for its second contribution to the same highly controversial Minnesota candidate that sparked public backlash and boycotts against Target Corporation. ExxonMobil is one of the country’s largest publicly traded political donors, spending over $14 million in federal and state elections since 2002.  In filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the resolution proponents have elaborated further on the rationale behind each company’s resolution.

Mike Lapham, Director of the Responsible Wealth Project in Boston, commented, “The record spending levels in this year’s elections are deeply unpopular with the majority of Americans. Companies like Bank of America need to listen to their customers and take their money out of politics.”

“It’s not clear that corporate political spending is beneficial to companies or their shareholders,” said Shelley Alpern, Director of Social Research and Shareholder Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management. “Companies should restrict their public policy participation to lawful lobbying activities, and stop putting their thumbs on the scales at election time. The electoral process belongs to individual voters, not corporate or union entities.”

This increase in corporate spending to influence elections is deeply unpopular with the majority of Americans across political lines. According to a 2012 poll by the Associated Press and the National Constitution Center, more than 8 in 10 Americans support limits on the amount of money given to groups trying to influence U.S. elections, with 85% support among Democrats, 81% among Republicans, and 78% among independents.  In the text of the proposals, the resolution filers cite concerns about the reputation risks that Chevron, Bank of America, 3M and ExxonMobil may be exposed to by positioning themselves as some of the largest contributors in election campaigns during a time when public support for high spending levels in elections is so low.

The proposal at Chevron was filed by Green Century Capital Management. Zevin Asset Management filed at ExxonMobil. Clean Yield Asset Management filed the 3M proposal. The Bank of America proposal was filed by individual shareholders affiliated with Responsible Wealth, a project of the nonprofit organization United for A Fair Economy. This is the second year for the Bank of America and 3M filings.

About the Resolution Proponents

Green Century Capital Management ( www.greencentury.com ) is an investment advisory firm focused on environmentally responsible investing.  Founded by a partnership of non-profit environmental advocacy organizations in 1991, Green Century’s mission is to provide people who care about a clean, healthy planet the opportunity to use the clout of their investment dollars to encourage environmentally responsible corporate behavior. Green Century believes that shareholder advocacy is a critical component of responsible investing and actively advocates for greater corporate environmental accountability.

Clean Yield Asset Management ( www.cleanyield.com ) is an SEC-registered investment advisory firm working exclusively with social investors. Since its founding in 1984, Clean Yield’s goal has been to invest to promote a sustainable society while achieving competitive financial returns. Its hallmark is working closely with clients to ensure that it is responsive to their unique financial requirements and personal values.

Zevin Asset Management, LLC ( www.zevin.com ) Zevin’s first objective is to minimize losses rather than seeking to maximize gains.  The firm’s proprietary model of asset allocation, based on scenario forecasting, has been refined over 40 years and has resulted in strong investment results by avoiding exposure to excessive risk. Zevin’s focus on environmental, social, and governance factors has also helped improve the risk/return profile of client portfolios.

Responsible Wealth ( www.responsiblewealth.org ) is a network of business leaders, investors, and inheritors in the richest five percent of wealth and/or income in the U.S. who believe that growing inequality is not in their best interest, nor in the best interest of society. As beneficiaries of economic policies tilted in their favor, Responsible Wealth members feel a responsibility to join with others in examining and changing the corporate and government policies that are widening the economic gap.

Contacts:

Shelley Alpern, Clean Yield Asset Management, 802-526-2525, x103

Leslie Samuelrich, Green Century Capital Management, 617-482-0800

Sonia Kowal, Zevin Asset Management, 617-742-6666, x 308

Mike Lapham, Responsible Wealth, 617-423-2148, x112

Phil Angelides, a Leader in Shareholder Activism and Green Investment, Wins the Joan Bavaria Award

 

Phil Angelides has been awarded the fifth-annual Joan Bavaria Award for Building Sustainability into the Capital Markets. The announcement was made on May 1, the first day of the annual Ceres Conference, which ran May 1-2 at The Fairmont in San Francisco, CA.

Angelides is currently President of Riverview Capital Investments, a real estate investment firm which focuses on clean energy projects and sustainable urban development. From 1999 to 2007, he served as California’s State Treasurer. During his eight years in elected office, Angelides called for a renewed push in shareholder activism and launched the Green Wave Initiative, encouraging investment in green technologies and urging companies to address the financial risks of climate change and reduce their energy consumption.

The Bavaria Award is presented by Ceres and Trillium Asset Management each year to honor an inspiring leader working to move capital markets toward a system that balances economic prosperity with social and environmental concerns. The award honors Joan Bavaria, a pioneer of social investing who founded Ceres and Trillium Asset Management. Joan Bavaria passed away in 2008.

“Phil’s actions were bold and transformational, given that at the time, no other state pension fund had taken steps to incorporate environmental impact into their investments.” said Trillium’s CEO Matt Patsky.

“Phil Angelides has worked tirelessly to push investors and the business community toward a sustainable economy. As California State Treasurer, he helped spur investments that increased returns, created jobs and addressed the financial risks caused by the changing environment,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR). “Phil embodies the spirit of the Joan Bavaria Award and we are honored to acknowledge his contribution to the sustainable investing community.”

Angelides also served as Chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a bipartisan panel charged with conducting the nation’s official inquiry into the causes of the financial and economic crisis and presenting findings and recommendations to the President and Congress. Since 2007, Angelides has served as Chairman of the Apollo Alliance, a national coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders committed to creating green jobs and building a clean energy economy.

A founding member of the Ceres-led Investor Network on Climate Risk, Mr. Angelides served on the INCR Steering Committee and was a motivating force behind the first Investor Summit on Climate Risk at the United Nations in New York. Over the course of his career, he has helped mobilize financial leaders to act on climate and sustainability issues.

“The enduring strength of our economy and society is inextricably tied to our willingness to embrace investments and business practices that create sustainable enterprises, broaden economic opportunity, and protect our environment,” said Mr. Angelides. “I am deeply honored to receive the Joan Bavaria Award and remain committed to supporting the critical efforts needed to confront the enormous economic and environmental risks posed by climate change.”

About Ceres

Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of more than100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $11 trillion. For more information, visit http://www.ceres.org

About Trillium Asset Management

With a history spanning three decades, Trillium is the oldest independent investment advisor focused exclusively on sustainable and responsible investing. Trillium manages over $1 billion in assets for clients including high net worth individuals, foundations, endowments, religious institutions, and other non-profits. To learn more about Trillium, please visit http://trilliuminvest.com

For more information, contact

Peyton Fleming – Ceres  – Email:  fleming@ceres.org

phone: 617-247-0700 x 120 | cell: 617-733-6660

Article Source: CERES

A Model of Sustainability – GreenMoney Journal turns 20

 

By Bruce Krasnow, The Santa Fe New Mexican

For two decades, Santa Fe’s Cliff Feigenbaum has been the sage of the sustainable-investing universe.

GreenMoney’s masthead has a simple message: “Covering sustainable business and investing since 1992.” But those who have watched the industry say it has been the interviews, articles and information from Feigenbaum and his contributors that has powered sustainable investing into the mainstream.

The soft-spoken pundit who founded GreenMoney has nurtured the publication with help from an editor in Washington State, graphic designers in California and a Web-design partner in Santa Fe who is now poised to take the content global.

Earlier this year, Feigenbaum was named as one of the top leaders in trustworthy business thought by the Trust Across America organization. And GreenMoney Journal has been honored by Utne Reader as one of the best of the alternative press for several years.

“He’s really respected in the field,” said Michael Loftin, the executive director of Homewise, a nonprofit in Santa Fe that helps with affordable home ownership. Loftin went to a sustainable investment conference in New Orleans to talk about the Homewise Community Investment Fund and saw how Feigenbaum was connected to just about everyone there.

“Who would have thought some guy from Santa Fe, New Mexico, would have one of the leading publications on this, you’d think it would be in New York or someplace else. But it’s here; that’s pretty cool,” said Loftin.

Feigenbaum often meets investment advisers at funds such as Calvert and Pax World who credit the publication for their careers. “I never know where GreenMoney ends up,” he said.

Feigenbaum said he is one of the investors in the Homewise fund, which aims to finance sustainable development in Santa Fe. He also seeks out credit unions and companies with his own beliefs when he invests his money. Unlike Mother Jones, GreenMoney Journal will refuse advertising from certain businesses, Feigenbaum said.

Slow Movement

When water moves quickly through a field, it causes a flood; when it moves slowly, it brings life. That is the basis of the Slow Food movement and the Slow Money movement, a philosophy spirited by Woody Tasch, a GreenMoney contributor. “Just like you slow water down, you slow money down. Instead of a six-month return, you aim for a five-year return,” Feigenbaum said.

The evolution for Feigenbaum started when his father, who bought and sold dairy farms in the Pacific Northwest, went bankrupt and died of a heart attack at age 46. “I watched him struggle and how he died. I starting thinking about the impact money has on your life.”

Feigenbaum received a business degree from Whitworth College in Spokane, with minors in religion and economics. He then got a job in the business office of a major hospital and noticed that some of the 401(k) mutual funds had investments with tobacco companies.

He talked to the CFO, expressing that it was inappropriate for a health care institution to profit from smokers. His questions spawned more inquiry and that led to a column in a weekly business publication. Within a few months, he had quit the hospital job and started to research, think and write about what was then called “socially responsible investing.” The term has since evolved into a concept now called “sustainable business and investing.”

He used membership lists from social justice groups and sent out some 2,000 newsletters. He attended conferences and started to build a following with professionals, many of whom were thinking about the same things. It was all about “the impact money has on your life and using money to create the kind of world we want to live in,” Feigenbaum said.

Interest in GreenMoney really spiked when he got a mention in Utne Reader, a compendium of thoughts and articles from the progressive press. “People were listening to what we were saying, and reading what we were writing,” he said. Today, federal employees have a choice of sustainable investment options and state pension and investment funds are among his subscribers and contributors.

The Internet Reach

Michelle G. Mosser, owner of Grace Communications on Second Street in Santa Fe, NM had a journey similar to Feigenbaum. She was working for a national advertising agency in South Florida and many of her clients had started outsourcing jobs overseas. She became more aware about profits and what she wanted from a career

“I started to wake up to what was going on in corporate America, there was not much in sustainability and local business,” Mosser said.

She moved to Santa Fe and got involved in a group called LOHAS — Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. “I got very excited when I saw this smart marketing-based research group with common values in people — companies wanting to create a business by doing good,” she said.

It was at a LOHAS conference in Boulder, Colo., that she met Feigenbaum and saw the print edition of GreenMoney on his exhibit table.

“SRI [socially responsible investing] was a very small and tight-knit community and Cliff had pioneered a lot of those relationships with the founders of those firms who were taking ethics and cause into the investment world, and telling their story,” she said.

Still, Mosser saw a huge opportunity to reach out electronically, while maintaining the GreenMoney brand, which is long-term, more deliberate — aka slow. Though Feigenbaum has a Twitter feed, Mosser said GreenMoney is not going to publish daily and try to be all things green. It will continue to tell the big picture story, cover trends and feature in-depth writing on its website and in its expanding E-Journal.

“Whatever we do, we do well, but we can’t do everything well,” said Feigenbaum.

“We aren’t going to be The New York Times of green where we publish daily. We want to sift through to the long-term trends. What is relevant to the leaders in the green sustainable movement?” Mosser said.

Still, Mosser sees a huge opportunity as global markets mature and more cultures learn to invest responsibly — and to a younger generation of investors who matured thinking and learning about sustainability. The GreenMoney website and E-Journal is currently reaching about 30,000 people, with 3,500 of those outside the United States.

A testament to that untapped potential might be an advertisement on the GreenMoney website (www.GreenMoney.com ) from Antioch University for an MBA business school program in sustainability: “Triple-bottom-line concepts (people, planet, profit) are woven throughout the MBA courses,” according to the school. “Profit is not the only measure of an organization’s success.”

Even though he’s been writing about sustainability for more than two decades, Feigenbaum could not have said it any better.

GreenMoney Journal Timeline

• 1991 — Cliff Feigenbaum’s first article on Socially Responsible Investing, co-written with Tom Kliewer, is published by the Spokane Journal of Business.

• 1992 — GreenMoney Journal is launched as a 6-page newsletter with the tagline, “Responsibility from the Supermarket to the Stockmarket.”

• 1993 — Well-known activist Paul Hawken mentions “GreenMoney” by name in the Socially Responsible Business issue of the Utne Reader in the fall of 1993; the pitch sparked broad interest in the publication.

• 1995 — GreenMoney launches website, www.GreenMoney.com

• 1999 — Feigenbaum co-authors a book, “Investing with Your Values,” that’s written with former Santa Fe resident Hal Brill and published by Bloomberg Press.

• 2000 — Feigenbaum moves full time to Santa Fe

• 2006 — GreenMoney launches it first e-newsletter to more than 25,000 readers; it’s designed by Michelle Mosser of Grace Communications in Santa Fe.

• 2012 — GreenMoney celebrates its 20th anniversary by featuring leaders looking at “The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business and Investing.

• 2013 — Feigenbaum was named to The Top 100 List of Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business by the Trust Across America organization

Article Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

MORE THAN A DAY – Aspen’s AREDAY Summit Celebrates 10 Years

 

Transition is the Key to Advancing Clean Energy for a Sustainable Global Economy

Sounding the alarm that our world is in trouble, 1,575 of our most distinguished scientists, including more than half of every living scientist awarded the Nobel Prize, have issued a World Scientists Warning to Humanity. “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.” To put it plainly, humanity is unsustainable.

Now as the AREDAY Summit celebrates its 10th anniversary August 15-18, 2013 in Aspen, CO. with an unparalleled gathering of thought leaders, NGOS, CEOs and environmental activists, a new sense of urgency is felt. Everyone knows the world needs more than a day. The time calls for a new determination and a new leadership to make re-scripting the world’s unsustainable course the central event of our era. For more information on the Summit go to-  www.AREDAY.net

The big question is how to redirect the current financial economy from the stranded carbon assets that are so attractive to business, over to renewable sources, in the timely manner needed to address climate change and environmental degradation. The economic opportunity is extraordinary for the business pioneers who are willing to lead the way. Transition is the watch word of this time.

The common perception that renewable energy and climate change solutions are unaffordable and that vested interests in the status quo will keep it away, may be in for a rude awakening. The coming innovations will not be stopped. Technologies that could bring new promise to the fields of energy, heating, cooling, water, fuels, transportation, construction, waste management, air quality, food security, health, housing and environmental restoration are exploding. Business leadership is appearing and willing to move these discoveries out of obscurity and into the world for an evolution of living.

This August AREDAY will gather such luminaries as Ted Turner, T.Boone Pickens, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Amory Lovins, physicist and Co-founder Rocky Mountain Institute, Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Edgar Bronfman, Warner Music, Hemant Taneja and scientist Lester Brown Founder, Earth Policy Institute to meet with others in Aspen, for a four day solutions-oriented immersion. The goal is to address the demand for an unprecedented “call to action” for climate and advanced energy solutions that will provide tangible and realistic steps for a transition to a sustainable, thriving economy.

AREI has created a collaboration for this year’s Summit with the Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEEI). Co-founder, billionaire Tom Steyer, left his hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management because, “it valued a company’s bottom line – not its carbon footprint.” The unlikely environmentalist is now pledging to spend as much of his fortune as necessary to make climate change “the defining issue of our generation”. AEE Co-founder and Board member Hemat Taneja, will lead a key aspect of the AREDAY collaborative dialogue. An investor in early-stage companies, Taneja is also a Managing Director of General Catalyst Partners.

T. Boone Pickens will be back for his third AREDAY Summit. According to his “Daily Pickens” newsletter, our oil addiction “sucked almost half a trillion dollars out of the U.S. economy and shipped it overseas…” “Worth noting is the fact that the $434 billion that Americans spent on foreign oil last year equals the total amount of unemployment benefits paid to ALL Americans during the five-year span from 2007 through 2011.”

There is a real need to discuss the actual economy of clean tech as well as the legislative initiatives on the state level – as this is where policy is changing. Clean, renewable, green advances provide the greatest opportunity to add jobs, grow the economy and save the environment. 2011 speaker and Empire State Building owner Tony Malkin along with Amory Lovins shared the results from their work in retrofitting this most iconic skyscraper. Malkin says the payback from his investment “created jobs, reduced the building’s energy bill by 38% and cut carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons.”

No one segment of society will move the needle entirely – which is why the AREDAY Summit gathers leaders cross-sector. Getting information out to the public is of key importance as public opinion can be a significant driver for public policy. We are a celebrity-driven society and this is why AREDAY has continued to add the media and entertainment sector to the Summit mix. From Pulitizer Prize winning authors like Thomas Friedman to actresses Mariel Hemingway and Daryl Hannah, artist activist Asher Jay, Oscar and award-winning film producers like Louis Psihoyos, James Cameron, Jamie Redford, and Douglas Sloan, this segment of our participants provides a conduit to the general public. In addition, the annual AREDAY Film Fest and Expo brings education and innovation directly to the community.

When you empower women, economies improve and populations are stabilized,” states Sally Ranney, President of AREI and CEO of Stillwater Preservation. “Women in developing countries are close to the ground, getting their resources from the land. In developed countries, women influence 80% of consumer purchases. AREDAY has continuously brought powerful women into the dialogue, such as oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, NOAA Administrator, Jane Lubchenco, Kelly Rigg, Executive Director Global Campaign for Climate Action, Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capital Solutions, Leilani Munter, racecar driver and “Carbon Free Girl”, Dr. Andrea Neal, genetic microbiologist and Blue Ocean Sciences Founder and Osprey Orielle Lake Founder of the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus.

Sunday mornings at AREDAY have traditionally brought together a cross-denomination group of spiritual and religious leaders of Christian and Jewish faiths and Native American elders, to address the moral and spiritual implications of human action on the environment.

The AREDAY Summit, was founded by Chip Comins, now Chairman/CEO of the AREInstitute. He was originally motivated by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken’s book entitled Natural Capitalism. He realized, that as a society, we are not accounting for the use of our natural resources on any balance sheet. This insight led him on a personal journey to investigate the truth about human-induced anthropogenic forces that are creating major problems within the earth systems.

The first AREDAY was born as a one day renewable energy conference and the conversation revolved around “reducing the carbon footprint”, a phrase not yet in the vernacular. The August Aspen gathering became a yearly opportunity to address a deep ecology that can capture the world’s imagination and inspire implementation of new energy resources, infrastructure and sustainable agriculture.

“From Competition to Collaboration” became the emerging theme, so as to foster cooperative and mutually productive relationships among AREDAY partners, the local community, public and private sectors, NGOs, and governmental agencies. The goal is to harness the capitol and the leadership of fearless pioneers of like mind, who are resolute in reaching the common goals of moving toward a carbon neutral economy.

Since 2004 the AREDAY Summit has been assembling the finest gathering of thought leaders, change agents, business and energy experts, scientists, media moguls, entertainment icons and philanthropists. Jigar Shah, President of Jigar Shaw Consulting and former CEO of the Carbon War Room who has been a regular AREDAY Summit speaker has said: “AREDAY is unparalleled in its reach and convening power to inspire the right conversations to fix our main problems – the deployment of cost effective renewable energy and climate change solutions.”

In 2009, AREDAY produced 13 official side events to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen at COP 15. In 2010, AREDAY helped to facilitate the World Climate Summit Business Conference at COP 16.  Today, AREDAY is a project of the not-for-profit, American Renewable Energy Institute, Inc. (AREI). This development moves the AREDAY Summit beyond a yearly conference. According to Comins, “AREI now provides an umbrella under which we can continue the active interchange we initiate at the yearly AREDAY Summits. The Institute gives us the ability to showcase innovative solutions and visions as well as to assist in creating action plans  such as the “Transitions Roadmap”. An exceptional board of directors includes Sylvia Earle, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn Jan Hartke, David Orr. For more information go to- https://www.areday.net/arei/advisory-board/

AREI is initiating its American Climate & Energy Literacy Initiative. ACELI is designed to create educational curriculum with community colleges based on the science of climate and energy. The vision is to advance clean technology through the community college systems of the United States creating a job pipeline, in partnership with industry, at the conclusion of their two-year degree. AREI is already partnering with the Colorado Mountain College to develop the prototype that will be replicated throughout the other 1,300 community colleges in the nation.

The Summit is gaining a reputation for fostering commitments, collaborations and investments designed to build critical bridges between stakeholders — who sometimes seem like unlikely partners. The intimate Aspen setting provides the perfect backdrop for global thought leaders to immerse themselves in debate and dialogue over potential solutions and roadmaps to a clean energy future. Attendees are invited to engage in the conversation with these formidable influencers.

The importance of a high level dialogue on energy, and how we make this historic and necessary transition, is non-negotiable. According to AREI board member and retired General Wesley Clark and AREDAY presenter, “In the United States today we have an immediate opportunity because of an immediate problem.”

As an empowered citizenry, it is incumbent upon us to push our great country to be an innovative leader in new global standards. However, as four-time attendee Ted Turner states plainly, “We have to stop doing the dumb things and start doing the smart things.” When America leads, the world will follow.

The 2013 AREDAY Summit, will be held August 15-18, in Aspen, CO, at the LEED certified Doerr-Hosier Building at the Aspen Meadow, home of the world-renowned Aspen Institute. Attendance is limited to 300. For more registration information go to- https://www.etouches.com/ehome/index.php?eventid=55876&

Article by Janice Hall —Marketing and Communications for AREInstitute, President of Natural Network International, a business development, trends forecasting & marketing company since 1991, providing marketing intelligence, strategic management for environmental sustainability and clean technology solutions.  Ms. Hall has 30 years of pioneering experience with LOHAS sector companies and also serves on the board of Blue Ocean Sciences.

 

We Can All Be Clean Energy Barons

 

from Mosaic team

To understand how important the financial industry is to the energy industry, and vice versa, you have to go back to the beginning. Both the first home and the first business to be lit with electric light belonged to J.P. Morgan. In the case of the business, Thomas Edison himself was on hand to flip the switch.

Edison needed the help of financiers like J.P. Morgan, and later the Vanderbilt Family, because he was launching an endeavor that required large capital investments. He was laying the framework for what would become big energy and to accomplish his goals he needed big finance.

Fast forward to the present. J.P. Morgan Chase is one of the two largest financial institutions in the world, General Electric is the third largest company of any kind in the world, and the U.S. electric grid is the biggest machine ever built.

To make a long story short, our highly centralized energy system and our highly centralized financial system grew up together and they run together. Finance and energy are the two world’s largest industries and they are inseparable.

With this in mind, let’s turn to a question that’s on a lot of people’s minds these days: how can we get off of fossil fuels? How can we create an energy system that doesn’t cause climate change, harm our health, or diminish our national security?

If we think back to the beginning, we see that energy innovations are only half of the puzzle. Building a new energy system is going to require building a new financial system.

The State of Clean Energy Investing

Building a new financial system requires understanding the current clean energy investment scene. How much are we investing in clean energy and how much investment would we need to avoid catastrophic climate change?

Recent years have brought some good news: clean energy costs are declining rapidly, leading to huge increases in clean energy investment, which are in turn reshaping our energy mix. In more detail:

 Since 1980, the prices for all of our fossil fuel energy resources have remained flat or risen, while solar and wind prices have declined year after year.  From 2008 through to the end of 2012, the cost of solar photovoltaic modules (measured in dollars/watt) declined by 80%. Over the same period, prices for wind turbines fell by 29%.

 These price shifts are huge, tectonic—and even if the media has not picked up on them, investors have. Between 2004 and 2011, global investments in renewable energy increased six-fold, from $42 billion to $257 billion.

Investments in clean energy have led to new clean energy capacity construction. This year will be the third in a row in which the world builds more new clean energy capacity than fossil fuel energy capacity. By the year 2035, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 70% of new energy capacity additions will be clean energy capacity.

The shift underway in our energy system is so profound that few insiders I meet still ask if we’ll shift to a clean energy-dominated system. The question now is: when?

Of course, on a warming planet, when matter. Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) examined the state of clean energy investing, asking: How much investment in clean energy does the world need to make between now and 2030 to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius?

According to the WEF, simply supporting an expected population of 9 billion people will require investing $5 trillion in infrastructure every year between 2010 and 2030. That is, even if we don’t address climate change, we’re going to have to build $100 trillion of new roads and power plants. The problem is that if we invest $5 trillion per year in our business-as-usual, emissions-heavy infrastructure, we’ll also be dooming the economy to ruin. In order to meet population growth and address climate change, the WEF says we’ll have to invest $5 trillion per year plus an additional $.7 trillion per year.

If anything, the WEF’s numbers are conservative. Still, they help to show the size of both the problem and the opportunity ahead. The problem is that we need to find a way to rapidly shift $700 billion dollars per year into a green economy. The opportunity is that this is an investment. Making the shift would provide at least $5 trillion in savings on fuel costs between 2010 and 2050.

In short, creating a clean energy economy is a financing challenge of epic proportions. At the same time, creating a clean energy economy may be the biggest business opportunity of the century.

Our Fossil Fuel Biased Financial System

So why aren’t we investing more, faster? If clean energy is such an opportunity, why is the market not rushing to fill the investment gap?

Our current financial system in biased against clean energy in at least two big ways.

First, there is a mismatch between clean energy technology and our existing approach to infrastructure finance. Our major financial institutions have spent their entire histories learning how to finance huge power plants. Now they are struggling to catch up with a decentralized energy paradigm. The banks have simply not developed—and may never develop—the agility necessary to profitably underwrite many small loans instead of a few large loans.

For project developers, the upshot is that financing for clean energy is expensive. Expensive financing is a problem for any kind of infrastructure project, but it’s a particularly bad problem for clean energy. For a coal-fired power plant, much of the cost comes in the form of fuel expenditures. Solar panels or wind turbines, in contrast, have high upfront costs, but no long-term fuel costs. This means that while high fuel prices can slow growth in the fossil fuel industry, the quickest way to slow down clean energy is via high interest rates.

The second bias against clean energy investment is in the policy realm. The market is filled with distortions, almost all of which favor investments in fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry created many of these distortions, and it has an interest in perpetuating all of them.

For example, the U.S. permits legal structures, such as Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), that are designed to make it possible for people to invest in infrastructure projects without paying both corporate and personal income taxes. But most of these structures are not accessible for clean energy projects. MLPs, for instance, could be a boon to the wind industry, but are currently only legal for oil and gas companies. Mostly MLPs are used to build pipelines—like the Keystone XL.

Or here’s a more breathtaking example. Pension fund managers are required by law to maximize short-term risk-adjusted returns. Yet our laws don’t require fund managers to look at long-term, systemic risk. The trouble is that systemic risk is an immense problem for fossil fuel energy. If governments were to begin moving to limit carbon emissions, fossil fuel stocks would take a beating. According to a recent study, if the world’s governments simply met their existing emissions reductions, 2/3rds of all fossil fuel reserves would become unburnable, worthless assets.

Under current laws, in other words, the only way our pension funds will provide for our personal financial futures is if our governments fail to protect the future of the planet.

The New Clean Energy Barons

The situation sounds dire. We need to invest most in clean energy to avoid catastrophic climate change. If we make these investments, we’ll end up richer. And yet, for reasons both intentional and accidental, our linked energy-financial system is set against the kinds of investments we need.

There is reason for hope, however. While clean energy’s distributed nature makes it a bad bet for big banks, it also makes it a good bet for the rest of us. Bringing a community together to finance a billion dollar coal plant is an idea that would never work. Bringing thousands of communities around the country together to finance thousands of locally operated clean energy projects is an idea that can change the world.

If we want to rebuild our energy system, we need to rebuild our financial system. And if we want to rebuild our financial system, we should start from the ground up. As communities create their own clean energy projects, politicians will take notice, and the political system will change. As communities profit from clean energy, the banks will realize they too have to change.

This vision of distributed finance for distributed energy is already becoming reality. Communities around the country are finding ways to finance and build their own local energy projects. Some forward-thinking states and utilities, realizing that it’s better to be ahead of the future than behind it, are starting to pitch in with new laws and policies, too.

Meanwhile, my company, Mosaic, is one of a number of organizations aiming to leverage the power of the web to flood clean energy with inexpensive capital. Recently, we went live with our largest project to date—a 487 kW solar array on top of the Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey. Eight hundred and twenty three investors from 359 cities in 42 states have directly invested more than a million dollars in the project. The minimum investment is $25 and the investors will earn a projected annual rate of return of 4.5%  — better than Treasuries, better than most bonds, and better than the S&P 500 over the past decade. We’re also working on new plans, such as a partnership called TruSolar, that will standardize the risk assessment process for solar projects, lowering underwriting costs and dramatically increasing opportunities for investment in clean energy.

We’ll need many more models like Mosaic. Nonetheless, the future is bright. J.P. Morgan had the first home in New York with an electric light bulb. Today, Americans all over the country are saving money via solar panels, windmills, EV cars, and efficiency upgrades.

If we want a new, clean energy system, it’s up to all of us to become the new, clean energy barons.

Article by Mosaic team (www.joinmosaic.com ) a clean energy investment platform, and the author of “Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World”.

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