Conscious Capitalism In The News: Blockchain is empowering the unbanked in Africa, Facebook’s ESG risks, Meet the designers who fixed Facebook – in a week, Green chemistry is a thing, and more…
Carbon offsetting, is a type of sustainability solution that encourages individuals and corporations to reduce their “carbon footprint” by investing proportionally in other environmental conservation projects of some nature elswhere. These projects could be anything from planting trees, investing in environmental projects and green technology, or buying renewable energy contracts from solar and wind farms. This means that companies can pollute, and then make up for it by doing “good” elsewhere.
For example, Google recently announced that it is now 100% “carbon neutral,” which means that it has allegedly purchased enough solar and wind contracts to balance the amount of carbon it spews into the environment. While Google has stated that its goal is to “get to a point where renewables and other carbon-free energy sources actually power (its) operations every hour of every day,” in the meantime Google is purchasing renewable energy outside of the region where it actually spews carbon.
Running parallel to carbon offsetting is the the ongoing exporting of e-waste. Electronic waste is comprised of toxic components which should not reach the environment. In 2014, 41.8 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide, of which roughly 25% came from the United States. 80% of the e-waste generated in the US is exported to Asia where there are looser regulations for disposing of this stuff.
We are exporting our environmental responsibilities. How is this sustainable?
The world has entered a new era of ‘conscious capitalism’ where it has become fashionable to acknowledge profit’s negative externalities. But tackling urgent, irreversible climate change … means reckoning with the difficult truth that we need structural shifts in the way we consume and produce.
The growing sentiment in the public today is that the chemical industry is not doing enough to promote safe and “sustainable” chemistry. The truth is that the products manufactured today often have negative effects on both human health and the environment. 8.3 percent of all deaths and 5.7 percent of the total burden of disease worldwide are related to chemical exposure.
In an effort to address these concerns, the 2nd Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference was held in Berlin last year. The conference gave industry leaders from companies such as The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Merck and Covestro a chance to debate what counts as ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ for their organizations. The conference resulted in five key areas the panelists agreed were critical to inspiring a more sustainable chemical industry.
- Green chemistry needs to anticipate the problems it aims to solve. Aligning industry efforts with the UN Sustainable Development Goals cannot be done without looking at chemistry’s role.
- Green chemistry should not aim to justify negative perceptions of other elements of chemistry. Rather, it should focus on how to build upon the innovation of the chemicals industry and position itself as the next progressive step.
- Break down the green chemistry silo. Sustainability needs to address how users experience products, and how they can recycle and dispose of them.
- Involve the circular economy into the product life cycle. Chemical innovation is a cross-disciplinary effort; working collaboratively to create sustainable products provides an opportunity to promote the positives of green chemistry.
- Inform the public and demonstrate the value of safe, sustainable chemistry. Ensure that the public understands why a product is more sustainable than conventional alternatives, and what this means practically for the consumer, the environment and the industry.
The 3rd Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference will be held in May 13th-16th in Berlin.
The World Bank estimates that between 2011 and 2014, the number of unbanked adults dropped by 20 percent to 2 billion. Why? Innovations in technology— particularly mobile money, which is helping to rapidly expand access to financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A study by MIT estimates that in Kenya, access to mobile-money services increased daily per capita consumption levels by 2 percent, lifting people out of extreme poverty. By 2015, more than 270 mobile-money services were operating in 93 countries, with an estimated 411 million accounts.
Bitpesa is taking it a step further by offering cross border payments between Africa and the rest of the world. BitPesa is a digital foreign exchange and payment platform that leverages blockchain settlement to reduce the cost and increase the speed of business payments to and from frontier markets.
Founded in 2013, by Elizabeth Rossiello, in its first few years of operation it has already enabled over 6,000 users in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda to make payments across borders and run their businesses, and has recently expanded to Ghana.
Bitpesa is the first company to create a market between an African currency and Bitcoin, the first company to create a market between mobile money and Bitcoin, and the first female founded crypto exchange in the world.
Companies with user data carry inherent ESG risks. For Facebook, data privacy is the major governance risk it carries.Since the Cambridge Analytica story first broke, Facebook stock fell 16% through April 5th. Funds which incorporated Facebook stock were hit hard by its data controversy.
Loosely governed private data, the root cause of Facebook’s current trouble, is among the major environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks for 2018 highlighted in a recent report from Sustainalytics, Morningstar’s ESG-research partner.
As a result, some investment funds now are lumping Facebook in with big polluters and other corporations they consider ethically challenged. BetaShares Global Sustainability Leaders ETF, the largest ethical ETF traded in Australia, removed Facebook from its fund.
Nordea Bank, the biggest bank in the Nordic region also blacklisted the Facebook stock, no longer allowing its sustainable investment unit to buy any more stock in Facebook due it’s privacy risks. As a group, such risks are referred to as governance risks, representing the “G” in ESG. Today, governance is increasingly a core aspect of many portfolio managers’ investing processes.
As a provider of a true-to-label ethical ETF, we have been careful to ensure there is diligent and ongoing monitoring of the constituents of the fund, to ensure the ETF continues to meet its objectives and those of its investors. – Alex Vynokur BetaShares CEO
Though Facebook has already announced some new policies, Zuckerberg’s response has run along the lines of “we’re fixing it, but this will take years.” But when FastCoDesign challenged San Francisco design firm NewDealDesign to design a more transparent and honest Facebook, its designers fixed some of the social network’s biggest problems in less than a week. Here is an overview of what they came up with.
- Force all app developers into agreements that promise they don’t save your data on their own servers.
- When you’re logging into an app through Facebook for the first time, show a more specific breakdown of what the app sees, and exactly how the app plans to use your data.
- Users should have the option to use any app and choose to share nothing at all with a third-party company. It would simply verify that you are who you say you are through Facebook.
- Facebook should put simple reminders about which apps are accessing your information into your feed on a regular basis.
- When you type in Messenger, a pop-up should come up every now and again explaining that this supposedly private discussion is actually being recorded. It should do the same thing for text and photo posts in your feed.
- Facebook and other services should be constantly explaining what they do to the user, not having them sign a one-time contract and burying the information in deep settings and legal agreements.
- Finally, maybe we wouldn’t care so much if Facebook was both more transparent about how our data was being monetized, and if it cut the user in on the deal. Facebook is now making roughly $20 per U.S. user, per quarter.
If Facebook can’t win back the public’s affection, perhaps it can buy it instead. Cut us in!