Category: Sustainability and Business

Taking #OurAccord personally for Earth Day

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 days ago

Taking #OurAccord personally for Earth Day

People often think of climate change as a policy issue, one that is best dealt with through legislation and mandates. In fact, when MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman presented a webinar on the topic, The Dynamics of Climate Change—from the Political to the Personal, one of the questions asked by the audience was how they can take political action to help solve the climate change problem. Sterman reminded them that solving the climate change problem does not have to be something only addressed on the scale of the Paris Accord. Local governments and even individuals can play a role in changing day-to-day behaviors that ultimately impact the world in which we live.

"In the face of uncertainty, it's all the more important to express and act on support for #OurAccord at individual, relational, and organizational levels," said MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay in a recent post, referring to current politics. "At the individual level, we can all work toward a healthy, vibrant, low-carbon lifestyle. At the relational level, we must build our skills in going beyond the choir and having conversations about climate change and sustainability with people who don't agree with us." Jay's most recent book, Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World, offers tools for conducting the difficult conversations we must have about climate change.


The Greenovate Awards

Take, for example, the 10th Annual Greenovate Boston Awards. Coinciding with Earth Day, this year's awards will recognize outstanding achievement in climate action and environmental sustainability in the Boston community. Award categories include waste reduction, sustainable food, alternative transportation, and community engagement, among others.

While finalists for these awards feature corporate initiatives, government officials, and nonprofits focused on environmental issues, they also include many individuals from various Boston neighborhoods. Here are just a few.

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Sustainability tools demystified: MIT Sloan launches SHIFT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 8 days ago

There are a seemingly endless number of sustainability challenges to solve, and an equal number of tools with which to address them. If you’re a sustainability practitioner, you might feel overwhelmed with number of resources available. Consultants, academics, and companies all create tools and guides to help practitioners—each with a slightly different approach. How do you whittle down the hundreds of carbon footprint tools available, for example, to find the best tools for your purposes?

While having a lot of tools is typically a good thing, wading through this glut of resources can slow companies down in the journey toward sustainability—and even prevent them from implementing sustainability measures altogether.

Enter SHIFT (short for Sustainability Help, Information, Frameworks, and Tools), an online aggregator that helps its users find, compare, and choose the correct sustainability tools for research and business purposes. A cross-sector collaboration led by the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan and Valutus, the mission of SHIFT is to make it easier for leaders at all stages of development to “hardwire” sustainability into their organizations. SHIFT is both a platform of resources and a community of practitioners working together to curate and review tools based on their own experiences. The platform also includes curricula that combines resources into a sequence that supports individual and organizational learning.

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What does the Trump administration mean for climate change efforts?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 7 days ago

climate change policy

On November 4, 2016, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change policy (#OurAccord) became international law. "Humanity will look back on November 4, 2016, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster," said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar in a joint statement that day.

Four days later, on November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. And overnight, the set of policies required to fulfill the promises of the Paris Accord were under threat.

Here's what we know. President Trump has called human-caused climate change a hoax. He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency "in almost every form." Trump has attacked Obama's Clean Power Plan as "a war on coal." And, perhaps most significantly, he has promised to renege on the U.S. pledge under the Paris Agreement, which commits more than 190 countries to reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.

And so now, we wait.

However, as recently reported by ClimateWire, "For every conservative who dreams about ripping up the Paris Agreement, there's a company executive who wants to stay in." Shortly after the election, hundreds of U.S. businesses urged Trump to uphold the Paris climate deal. More than 360 companies and investors--from DuPont, eBay, and Nike to Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co., and Hilton--made their plea in an open letter to the incoming and outgoing administrations and members of Congress. (The signatories have since grown to over 700.)

And many companies are walking the walk. In a recent press release, Google announced it will reach 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality in 2017. Iron Mountain signed a 15-year wind power purchase agreement that will supply 30% of its North American electricity needs with renewable energy. And here in Boston, MIT, Boston Medical Center, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation have formed an alliance to buy electricity from a large new solar power installation, adding carbon-free energy to the grid and demonstrating a partnership model for other organizations in climate-change mitigation efforts.

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Fast fashion: What's the true cost of a bargain?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 14 days ago

fashion waste

American consumers love a bargain. In fact, consumers will often choose a bargain over ideals; this past spring an Associated Press-GFK poll found that, "when it comes to purchasing clothes, the majority of Americans prefer cheap prices over a Made in the USA label." This, despite decades of political rhetoric about the need to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

But there's a bigger, hidden cost behind our love of a deal—particularly our love of cheap clothing. In today's market, there's no shortage of options for buying amazingly inexpensive, yet trendy clothing, including big box stores, "fast fashion" stores such as H&M and Primark, and off-shore clothing retailers advertising on Facebook. Some of the messaging inherent in these brands is that the items are so cheap, it's OK to purchase them for only one wear. You can buy that novelty sweater for the "ugly sweater holiday party" or any other frivolous clothing item for a one-time event. After all, it cost less than a night out, or even an entrée at many restaurants.

However, the dirty little secret that these retailers, manufacturers, and their supply chains don't share is the true cost of the disposable clothing industry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded." According to MSNBC, "10 percent of the world's total carbon footprint comes from the fashion industry, and apparel is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally."

The fast fashion industry not only generates textile waste, but the economics behind it demand the clothes be produced using massive amounts of cheap material and cheap labor. This means relying on the laborers at the very lowest end of the wage spectrum in countries with few protections for workers. While the fashion industry on the whole is a job creator, many of those equate to low wages, forced labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and even child labor, which is now rampant through apparel supply chains.

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Next steps for C-ROADS and climate change

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 months and 2 days ago

Earlier this spring, MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman presented an important and well-attended live webinar, The Dynamics of Climate Change--from the Political to the Personal. One of the highlights of the webinar was a live demonstration of C-ROADS (Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support) a free, award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the live Q&A sessions immediately following the webinar, Sterman fielded a great number of questions from the audience. However, there were simply more questions than could be answered in the time allotted. We recently posed three of the larger, unanswered questions to Sterman, and we have shared his responses below.

What's next for C-ROADS?
The next steps for C-ROADS are driven by the negotiations and conversations occurring during the Paris climate agreements. First, there will be a new interface that will be easier to use and more widely available. (You can view a video preview of it here). And while the team behind C-ROADS will continue to work with negotiators and policymakers, they are also actively seeking to increase the number of skilled users. If you are interested in learning how to use C-ROADS in any setting--from the classroom to the community room to the boardroom--you can join the movement at: https://www.climateinteractive.org/programs/world-climate/

The team behind C-ROADS also has a number of other related projects in the prototype phase, one of which is EN-ROADS, a simulation tool (similar to C-ROADS) for understanding how we can achieve our energy transition and climate goals through changes in energy use, consumption, and policies. The tool focuses on how changes in global GDP, energy efficiency, R&D results, carbon price, fuel mix, and other factors change carbon emissions, energy access, and temperature. It is ideal for decision-makers in government, business, NGOs, and civil society.

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Learning about climate change through interactive simulations

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 months and 7 days ago

Learning about climate change through interactive simulations

Scientists like to think that fact-based presentations using the best scientific evidence could change the opinions of people who don't believe in climate change. Unfortunately, that approach doesn't work. Even seeing the impact of climate change doesn't always work; NPR recently reported that some visitors to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, still dispute climate change, despite seeing first-hand how quickly the glacier is shrinking. That's not just a story about a few people: Research shows that showing people research doesn't work. If facts and evidence don’t work, and first-hand experience doesn't work, can anything help people learn for themselves that climate change is real, and that the world powers and developing countries alike must act now to prevent further damage to human well-being?

John Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at MIT Sloan, believes the answer is yes. Sterman says "No one can tell you what to think. The key is creating an environment in which people can learn for themselves." But how can this be done for climate change? By the time the effects are obvious, it will be too late. In such situations, simulation is the best method.

As Sterman detailed in a recent MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@workTM webinar, "The Dynamics of Climate Change—from the Political to the Personal," C-ROADS (Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support) is a free, award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. C-ROADS translates how national and international policy changes will affect greenhouse gas emissions, average global temperatures, sea level, and ocean acidification. Users--be they policy makers, scientists, business and community leaders, citizens, or students--can analyze up to 15 different nations or negotiating blocs at the same time, while also asking "what-if" scenario questions of the model. The model runs in less than a second, so users get immediate feedback showing the likely impacts of their policies. "No one tells you what scenarios to try," Sterman says. "You are free to explore and see what it would take to limit global warming and climate change."

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Flexible jobs help make every day Earth Day

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 3 days ago

work from home

April 22, 2016 marks the 46th year of Earth Day, a movement that gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling human energy toward environmental issues. And while this one day brings wider recognition to achieving any number of sustainability goals, each and every day is an opportunity for people to think and act in ways that can impact climate change.

One surprising way people and companies can have a positive impact on climate change is to offer employees flexible work options. According to Flexjobs, the leading job search site specializing in telecommuting, part-time, freelance, and flexible jobs, “Much of an individual’s carbon footprint is based on when, where and how he or she is required to work.”

In fact, the company found that if people who held telework-compatible jobs worked from home just two days a week, the U.S. would:

  • Save nearly 52 million gallons of gas
  • Save over 2.6 million barrels of oil
  • Reduce wear and tear on highways by over 1 billion miles a year

"In the U.S., where commuters travel primarily by car, where access to public transportation is often limited and inconvenient, and where super commuting is on the rise, we need to do more to promote the environmental benefits of working from home," says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. "Remote work generates meaningful benefits, from lowering commute-related gas and oil consumption, pollution, and carbon emissions to reducing a company’s need for office space to overall energy savings and minimizing the need for work-related travel through remote collaboration tools like web and video conferencing."

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#OurAccord: How individuals can play a role in climate change

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 2 months and 24 days ago

Jason Jay, Lecturer on Sustainability and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan believes the December 2015 UN international climate change negotiations, commonly referred to as the Paris Accord, "represents a possibility that the world can come together and solve one of the most complex problems we face as a civilization."

In his article, "The Paris Accord is #OurAccord," published in the Huffington Post, Jay argues that when it comes to climate change, "There is no 'they'… the beauty of this moment is the possibility for every building block of our society to come together behind this singular crisis and opportunity--our organizations, our neighborhoods, our schools, our families, all of us as individuals."

It might be hard to envision how the actions of individuals can truly impact climate change, but perhaps we should all embrace the challenge and recall Lao Tzu's famous quote, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." So what steps can we take to play our own role in climate change. 

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