HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE CAN ONE TREE MAKE?

This article looks into trees in urban areas and asks; how much difference can one tree make?

When people think of trees and forests, they probably think of the Amazon rainforest, the Congo basin or tall giant redwoods reaching for the sky in California. This is a shame, because trees have an indispensable role to play in cities. They make our lives better and our surroundings more beautiful.

This week I was struck by a number of impressive instances of trees in urban areas. I will share them with you below.

Jeremy Barrell wrote:

For years, I have been looking for better images for my talks to illustrate trees buffering temperature extremes. Enspec in Australia came up with this, which is great. 39.8C in the purple foreground tree shade, 50.9C in the yellow road in the sun. It speaks for itself.”

tree in heat

You can find a link to the original Tweet here.

A picture is worth a thousand words and the image above demonstrates nicely the cooling benefits that trees bring to urban areas.

I was also pleased to find out about the progress of Trees for Cities as they are a charity that I really like. They wrote:

Would you believe this is the first tree we ever planted, 24 years ago! 💚 Since then we’ve planted 773,831 more urban trees and counting.”

 

urban trees

 

You can find the picture to the right and a link to the original Tweet can be found here.

In an age of 24/7 rolling news and smartphones where you can access thousands of services at the touch of a button, trees can be contrasted with their slow growth and longevity.

But urban trees provide many benefits and we need more of them.

 

 

 

 

This week I also enjoyed reading The Little Book Of Ecosystem Services In The City by Sadler et al. This may be a small book, but within it contains a powerful message. Cities depend on ecosystem services to make them more liveable, but green urban areas are under threat.

An area that I find particularly interesting is the linking of environmental indicators to human health outcomes. They identify three different types of evidence linking ecosystem services to human wellbeing.

  1. Epidemiological studies linking health benefits of exposure to cultural urban ecological services to an improved natural environment
  2. Epidemiological evidence linking green space to behavioural changes leading to increased levels of physical exercise.
  3. Improvements in psychological (mental) health engendered by exposure to natural places and scenes.

As we can see, trees and green spaces in urban areas, have quite significant links to improved health outcomes.

What you need to know

This article looked into trees in urban areas and asked; how much difference can one tree make?

We looked at evidence from Australia that showed the significant cooling benefits that trees in urban areas can bring.

We looked into Trees for Cities, who are an amazing charity that do so much to help beautify urban areas.

We looked at the health benefits that green spaces in urban areas can confer, which are substantial.

So overall, how much difference can one tree make? The answer is, a lot.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How much difference do you think trees make to urban areas?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WHERE’S THE CHANGE?

This article looks into change at an organisational level. Why is it that there seems to be such a demand for change amongst consumers and employees, but so many people appear to be dissatisfied?

rear view mirror

I came across a quote in a great book called Tempered Radicals by Debra Meyerson that perfectly captured how organisations change. It goes as follows.

Since most changes are small, incremental adaptations scattered throughout organisations, it may be difficult to recognise this movement as change, except retrospectively when small effects have had time to accumulate. In addition, because this process is diffuse, specific causes of change are often difficult to pinpoint. Indeed, the change process looks more like random events and chaos than it does rational cause-effect sequences

So perhaps this is the problem, change is all around us, it is ever present. Some companies are changing for the better, some are changing for the worse.

These small changes make it hard to appreciate progress, even though much transformation for the better has taken place.

Perhaps when we are actually in the moment of change, it can be hard to appreciate the progress that has been made. Organisational change is something that is best viewed in the rear-view mirror.

A big issue is causality. Being able to pinpoint the catalyst for change is very hard. For a big issue like sustainability, which requires action on many fronts over a sustained period of time this is particularly problematic. Oftentimes, credit for change is handed out to executives, when it is the every day heroes in operational roles and in middle management who deserve credit for progress on sustainability indicators.

Change for sustainability is inherently random and full of awkward juxtapositions. One of the most important steps on any journey towards sustainability is to take account for individual and corporate environmental impacts. Environmental problems are not created by someone else somewhere else. We all play a role in creating them and we are all required to play a part in their solution.

What you need to know

This article looked into change at an organisational level.

We looked into Debra Meyerson’s quote from Tempered Radicals which captured many of the reasons why organisational change can be frustrating.

So, when you next hear someone ask, where’s the change? You can tell them that it is all around us, we just need to make sure that it is of the right kind.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you find frustrating about organisational change?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

SELLING SUSTAINABILITY IN 60 SECONDS

This article looks into how to sell sustainability in 60 seconds. This is the amount of time that you may be lucky enough to get with an influencer or a decision maker in your organisation who can help make sustainability happen.

60-seconds-stopwatch.jpg

You may be unlucky and only get 30 seconds. But the points in this article become more important if that is the case.

This is a fairly typical way for getting sustainability moving in an organisation. Particularly in large public companies, CEO’s will divert large parts of their attention to the financial success of the business. Some farsighted CEO’s may connect their financial success to social and environmental parameters, but a lot will not. In this case, they will need persuading.

So, let’s say you work in a large organisation, you are passionate about sustainability and you are lucky enough to get a moment with the CEO. How should you structure your approach?

I came across this great article in Triple Pundit recently, which helped me think about how to approach this. You can find the article here.

The key points from the article for how to create a successful elevator pitch for sustainability are as follows.

  1. Confidence in your offerings
  2. Enthusiasm and energy that is contagious
  3. Conveying a sense of the experience of being a client of your company
  4. Effectively communicating your competitive advantage
  5. Clearly stating the problem you solve
  6. Your delivery

I thought that these points nicely summarised exactly what is needed to persuade people that a sustainable approach is what is needed.

Having confidence in your offering will make sure that people begin to listen to you. Having enthusiasm will ensure that people continue listening whilst you are speaking. Being able to convey something from a client’s perspective will ensure that you position sustainability as something which is very much in demand. Communicating about competitive advantage will ensure your idea is presented as a good business idea, not a nice to have. If you clearly state the problem that you are solving, it will be obvious that sustainability is about solving problems for people and organisations, which it is. Lastly, delivery is very important and holds the key to the success of the whole approach.

What you need to know

This article looked into how to sell sustainability in 60 seconds.

We looked into, CEO’s, who for the most part take an economics first perspective and see environmental and social considerations as less important.

This provides an opportunity for people who are passionate about sustainability to persuade these influential people over to their way of thinking if they happen to meet.

We looked into 6 essential elements to include in this pitch, based on recommendations from a Triple Pundit article.

Overall all 6 are important, but impeccable delivery above all else will ensure that people listen and remember your message.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think is the best way to persuade people that sustainability is important?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS

This article is about partnerships for the goals, which is goal number 17 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

E_SDG-goals_Goal-17

The SDGs are a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new UN 2030 sustainable development agenda. Every goal has specific targets to be achieved over 15 years, starting in 2015.

You can find out more information about the SDGs by clicking here.

There is a lot of good across the 17 SDGs, but for me number 17, partnerships for the goals has always been very important.

To be successful on sustainable development, we need governments, the private sector and civil society to work together more collaboratively to solve the big challenges that are out there waiting to be solved.

No one business, NGO or government is going to solve huge intractable issues like providing clean energy and water to a large and growing global population. But by working together there is more of a chance that these issues can be solved.

What I thought I would do is give 3 examples of partnerships that have impressed me and that have helped to move the sustainability agenda forward.

1. BoKlok

This is a really interesting partnership which sees two iconic Swedish companies team up to solve the problem of providing affordable housing. You can find more about it here.

boklok_alm_red_01

This partnership combines the skills of both parties to solve a large problem that they would struggle to solve individually. It combines Skanska’s experience of building homes with IKEA’s experience of decorating them. Together this partnership has the possibility of creating affordable homes for everyone.

I saw a line recently that said ‘the problem with homes is that they are built like homes, they should be built like cars.’ I thought how accurate this was when I heard it. For all the technological advancements in other areas, the arena of housebuilding has only been modestly touched with innovation. This partnership is exactly the sort of collaboration that is needed to solve a problem that needs to be solved.

2. The Net-Works Programme

We talked about Interface only a short while ago, which you can find here. But they are a sustainability leader and so rightly deserve to be mentioned again.

In the Net-Works Programme Interface has partnered with the Zoological Society of London to buy discarded fishing nets from poor communities. The nets are then recycled into new yarn to make Interface’s Aquafil carpet tiles.

This partnership is great for a number of reasons. It should result in fewer discarded nets making their way into the sea as ghost nets, it means that less virgin materials are required and it has created a new source of income for poor fishing communities. It also makes great business sense for Interface at a time when everyone everywhere is seemingly focussed on ocean plastics.

If you would like more information about the Net-Works Programme, you can find out more by watching the video via the link below.

Making Waste Beautiful: How Net-Works Works

3. P&G, Teracycle & SUEZ

Not three names that you would normally put together in one sentence but these companies have partnered to create packaging that is made from 100% recycled content, including recycled beach plastic.

Recycling winner

Whilst the numbers of units at the beginning of this initiative are small, that is the way with any new project. What they have done is an impressive proof of concept and they can go onto bigger things in the future.

Much like the other partnerships we have discussed, all three of the partners bring something unique to the table. Alone, this challenge would be too big, even for global companies like SUEZ and P&G. But by working together and including the services of recycling trailblazers Teracycle, they have managed to create something remarkable.

What you need to know

This article was about partnerships for the goals, which is goal number 17 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We looked into how partnerships can act as a force multiplier, allowing businesses, NGO’s and governments to solve problems that they would struggle to solve individually.

We looked into BoKlok, the partnership between Skanska and Ikea to help make more affordable housing available.

We looked into the Net-Works Programme which brings Interface together with the Zoological Society of London to buy discarded fishing nets from poor communities and then use the materials to create carpet tiles.

We looked into the P&G, Teracycle and SUEZ collaboration which is pioneering the use of packaging made of 100% recycled plastic, including plastic removed from beaches and oceans.

All of these partnerships show how by working together, organisations can achieve dramatic results that help make sustainability happen.

Goal 17 may be the last goal on the SDGs, but it will be the glue that holds the rest together. We need more bold partnerships and initiatives to help make sure that the SDG’s are achieved across the board.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What is the most impressive partnership that you have come across?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

GREENWASHING & SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into greenwashing from the perspective of sustainability. What is this pervasive marketing offshoot and what can be done about it?

kermit

I came across this framework by TerraChoice and the results from their 2009 study are outstanding. You can find a link to it here.

Their research revealed that between 2006-2008 there was a tripling in green themed advertising. But that 98% of the products they tested that were marketed on this basis failed at least one of their ‘Seven Sins of Greenwashing.’

This shows that this is not a small problem isolated to a few bad apples, but a systemic problem.

Whilst there has been pushback on the methodology that was used to create this report, most notably from Joel Makower from Greenbiz, which you can find here. Overall, I think that the report is helpful in highlighting the problem with greenwashing and provides a framework to measure corporate greenwashing.

If we work on the basis of this definition from the Cambridge dictionary, that greenwashing is:

An attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.”

I think that a lot of people would agree that companies do often engage in this type of behaviour. In the same way that they have an interest in promoting their products and services as best-in-class in other categories, when that may not be the case.

Let’s look at the ‘Seven Sins of Greenwashing’ that TerraChoice have put forward.

7 sins

1. Sin of the hidden trade-off

TerraChoice define this as “a claim suggesting that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues.” From my experience this is a very common problem and comes about because of the complexities of sustainability.

2. Sin of no proof

TerraChoice define this as “an environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.” This is an obvious one that companies can solve by being transparent and using third-party certification where that is available.

3. Sin of vagueness

TerraChoice define this as “a claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer.” This is one which I blame on consumers for believing claims such as ‘all natural.’

4. Sin of worshiping false labels

TerraChoice define this as “a product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists.” This is one which companies can avoid by sticking to well known third-party certification schemes.

5. Sin of irrelevance

TerraChoice define this as “an environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products.”  Again, companies are somewhat to blame for this, but really consumers need to be smarter and not be persuaded by such vacuous claims.

6. Sin of lesser of two evils

TerraChoice define this as “a claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.” This is a very common example. I think it could partly be driven by sustainability league tables which rank tobacco companies, oil and gas companies and car makers with small or non-existing electric ranges in amongst the top most sustainable companies.

7.  Sin of fibbing

TerraChoice define this as “environmental claims that are simply false.” This rests squarely with the companies who are making such claims and if possible, they should be prosecuted for false advertising.

What you need to know

This article looked into greenwashing from the perspective of sustainability.

We looked into the groundbreaking 2009 study by TerraChoice, which revealed that 98% of green marketing claims are false.

We then looked into the ‘Seven Sins of Greenwashing’ which TerraChoice based their report on. These serve as a useful framework to judge corporate greenwashing efforts against.

We looked into each of the seven sins in turn, the blame for most of which lay with the company making them, but we also need smart consumers to not be fooled by such vacuous claims.

Overall, most of the greenwashing claims have their root in the fact that sustainability is a complex phenomenon and too much of an emphasis on one area can cause problems elsewhere.

Ultimately, we also need smarter consumers who are looking into what they are purchasing.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think can be done about greenwashing?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

 

LEADERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into what differs between sustainability leadership and traditional leadership.

london skyline

There was one quotation that I came across recently that struck me as hitting the nail on the head for what the difference is, and I will post it below.

Sustainability requires leaders to be focussed more externally and it consider the interests of a wider spectrum of stakeholders.

It comes from a study by Bertels in 2010 called Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture and you can find a link to that study here.

Good leadership is good leadership, but there are some unique characteristics to sustainability that require a slightly different kind of leadership to ensure success.

Sustainability is different from a traditional business problem that can be solved by management. Sustainability is a wicked problem and so requires fundamental and far reaching change to the structure of most organisations.

Some of the best writing I have come across on the psychology of this is by George Marshall in his book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Humans survived throughout evolution because we are good at dealing with very real, very dangerous and very immediate threats. Such as running from a lion in the jungle or confronting an intruder in the house. We are not programmed to be good at dealing with long-term threats. I did a review of this book which you can find here.

For a lot of CEOs at public companies their life is lived financial quarter by financial quarter and for a lot of small business owners, they live month by month. This is why those who take a long-term approach are leaders, as they dare to be different.

We should never forget the original 1987 Our Common Future, definition of sustainable development.  Their definition can be found in full below.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

I wrote a 4 part book review of Our Common Future, and for those who are interested, you can find a link to part 1 here.

For me, sustainability leadership differs from traditional business leadership as sustainability has a prerequisite for long-term thinking.

What you need to know

This article looked into what differs between sustainability leadership and traditional leadership.

We looked into how sustainability leadership requires an external focus and to consider the concerns of stakeholders that have historically been marginalised and ignored.

We looked into how sustainability is a wicked problem and so cookie cutter leadership styles that can be applied to traditional business problems are insufficient.

Sustainability leadership also has a prerequisite for long-term thinking.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think makes a leader a sustainability leader?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

This article looks into The Great Acceleration. This is a set of graphs created by Steffen, et al in 2015. It is very much the case that the impact of the infographic is greater than the sum of the individual charts.

What they display is exponential growth, which we know is not possible on a finite planet.

great-acceleration

I like the juxtaposition of the socio-economic trends alongside the earth system trends. This is the problem that sustainable development was created to solve. The graphs make it very clear that there are a lot of phenomena that are happening at the same time and many of these are linked.

I remember when I saw the graphs of The Great Acceleration for the first time, my immediate thoughts were of how important an ecological economics perspective is in this debate.

ecological economics

Particularly with regards to the earth system trends, I think that there needs to be a greater realisation that the economy and society exist within the environment. Without a viable environmental system, there will be no society or economy.

This should be used to inspire action by businesses, governments and individuals.

The charts for the socio-economic trends show all of the categories growing at a rapid rate.

For the earth system trends, the ones that stood out for me were the carbon dioxide graph, the methane graph and the tropical forest loss graph. Especially with regards to tropical deforestation, rates have been so high for so long, that we face passing on this ecosystem to the next generation in a very different state than we found it.

What is clear, is that particularly post 1950, these indicators have taken off like a rocket. Particularly when you look at the two datasets together, it is easier to see why many argue that we are living in a new geological age, one where humans are the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

If it is the case that we are living in the Anthropocene, then it makes the case for sustainable development based on the principles of ecological economics far stronger.

One positive takeaway would be that the data for atmospheric methane concentration and stratospheric ozone loss have been slowing or stabilising over the past decade. This shows that change is possible.

What you need to know

This article looked into The Great Acceleration. We looked at the graphs located within the 2015 paper by Steffen, et al.

The data clearly point to an exponential level of growth in the socio-economic indicators and a rising level in the earth system trends, which much change built into the system.

The graphs should work to sharpen the resolve of those who are interested in sustainable development.

Especially with regards to what framework should be used to evaluate progress on sustainable development, it is my belief that it makes the need for an ecological economics perspective greater.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of The Great Acceleration?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby