NEWSLETTER VOLUME 1 : ISSUE 3: AUGUST 2017
In this third issue of the CCA newsletter, you can learn about the continuing development of our study on sea level rise with the South Carolina Aquarium and the College of Charleston. Additionally, you'll find an eyewitness report from a lively and informative U.S. Green Building Council panel discussion that CCA President Mark Stenftenagel took part in last May. Rounding out the features is a profile of CCA Founding Member Interface Inc., a global leader in sustainability.
A message from CCA President Mark Stenftenagel, to members and prospective members
Though we are a young organization, The Corporate Climate Alliance has decided to make a change in its legal status from 501(c)(4) to 501(c)(3). Initially we believed that our focus should be to create a major lobbying entity for climate action through the donations of our corporate members. We have come to realize that the strength of our advocacy needs to derive from the lobbyists of our own member businesses. Throughout our early efforts as an organization, we have noted the lack of a significant concerted effort by businesses and their lobbyists to tell Congress that climate change legislation is their priority.
The focus of our new approach will be to bring together the lobbying capabilities of our membership to affect climate policy. We believe that the collective concerns of business will gain the attention of state and federal lawmakers more than could any individual effort of ours as an organization. In addition, our members will be able to take advantage of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. We believe that this approach, though perhaps a bit more of an organizational challenge, will produce the best results in accordance with our goals.
Of course our other initiatives will still be pursued with the conviction that we must bring businesses together to address climate change, while we still have the time and resources to do so. I think you will find our latest newsletter informative in this regard. And as always, thank you for joining us in this important pursuit.
CCA President Speaks on USGBC Panel Discussion of Paul Hawken’s Drawdown
From left to right: Professor Archer, Jenny Carney, Grace Rink, Mark Stenftenagel, and Karen Weigert
Last May, CCA President Mark Stenftenagel took part in a panel organized by the U.S. Green Building Council, Illinois chapter, entitled “Defining Carbon Drawdown: What it Means for Chicago and the World.” Moderated by Jenny Carney, principal with sustainability consulting firm YR&G, the panel also included David Archer, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Chicago; Grace Rink, CEO of Quercus Consulting, an environmental policy advisory firm; and Karen Weigert, Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and writer / producer of the documentary Carbon Nation.
The purpose of the panel was to discuss the publication of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by noted environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken. The book has established a comprehensive calculus by which governments, organizations, and individuals can guide their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Showcasing the peer-reviewed research of 70 scientists from 22 countries and six continents, the book takes its title from the point after which greenhouse gases reach their peak concentration in the atmosphere.The book essentially is a reference manual whose mathematical models have been translated into practical “drawdown” methods, ranked according to gigatons (one billion tons) of CO2 removed from or prevented from being released into the atmosphere.
The discussion brought forth by the panel touched on some bare-bones climate science, Drawdown’s relevance to Chicago organizations, and the how its broad appeal extends even to climate skeptics. Jenny Carney spoke on the reach of the book’s 100 proposed solutions: “There’s something to latch onto no matter who you are and what type of work you do and what types of things you care about. They’re also positioned as “No regrets solutions,” so you don’t have to believe in climate change to feel compelled to do some of these things, which is important: we’re not trying to change the mind of entrenched people and how they think about climate issues─we’re trying to get these practical, money-saving, no regrets ideas out there.”
Asked by Carney what motivates businesses to care about climate issues, Stenftenagel responded, “Two things motivate businesses: risk and incentive. What I think we need to do is show business what the risks really are, and at the same time show them that if they do carbon drawdown with their own companies, there are benefits there,” citing Interface (profiled in this issue) and Walmart as successful green companies. Grace Rink responded: “Unless the risk [directly affects businesses’] bottom line, I don’t think they’re going to do anything about this unless somebody tells them they have to do it.” Stenftenagel then pointed out that major corporations near the coast of Charleston, Miami, and Norfolk stand to lose revenue if their employees can’t get to work because of flooding obstructions.
Professor Archer added that regulations would be the best way to get businesses to clean up their operations. He generally put forth a realist, somewhat skeptical perspective given the concerning trajectory that climate data indicate, and a political climate inconducive to progress. He noted that the U.S has 5% of the world’s population, yet is responsible for 25% of CO2 emissions. “It seems to me like we are some sort of adolescent kid who moved into an apartment for the first time, and we haven’t figured out that we need to take out the garbage yet,” he said.
Building on the topic of government regulation, Stenftenagel spoke about attending Earth Day Texas 2017, (a.k.a Earthx) in Dallas, and heeding Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) insistence that major corporations harness their formidable lobbying capabilities in Washington to advocate for better climate legislation. According to Whitehouse, it would take 50 corporations to establish a lobbying presence influential enough to “make Washington listen.”
Regarding local matters, the city of Chicago, according to Carney, has pledged to power all its municipal buildings with renewable energy by 2025. Carney also asked for advice on how the USGBC can work with all Chicago’s 77 official neighborhood communities to implement Drawdown’s initiatives, and Weigert responded, “The question is, 'How does this become specific [to the locale], measurable, but also about community engagement long-term, and then, how do you go tell the story?' If you get this right, this is the model for cities around the country and around the world.”
The same could be said for businesses, considering that Drawdown’s 100 solutions were selected in part according to whether they are “available and scaling,” as well as “economically viable”─or as the research team asked, “Is there a business case?”
In closing, Carney asked the panelists to leave the attendees with a “call to action,” and Weigert’s remark was particularly to-the-point: “Actually do something, do it with other people, and tell other people that you did it, because that is how you’re going to say that your action translated into more action.”
 For example, Professor Archer mentioned the estimate that “humanity has released approximately 500 billion metric tons of carbon: 300 from fossil fuels, and 200 from cutting down trees, which has bought us one degree Celsius of warming.”
Floodwaters bring a coastal community in Horry County, South Carolina to a standstill after heavy rainfall in early October of 2015 (courtesy of Janet Blackmon Morgan/The Sun News via AP).
Sea Rise Study and Conference Taking Shape
In conjunction with the South Carolina Aquarium and the College of Charleston, CCA is guiding the development of a data-driven model that projects the local and regional economic impact of rising sea levels caused by climate change. Rising sea levels will result in increased flooding of coastal cities and regions, and will have an adverse impact on investment, unemployment, migration trends and, ultimately, the tax base of the regional economy. The model will provide a basis for predicting the degree and the timing of the impact, and inform local and regional, public and private leadership as they assess alternative mitigation and resiliency strategies.
We are moving forward on this initiative in collaboration with the College of Charleston's Lowcountry Hazards Center and the South Carolina Aquarium. Projections will be made based on NOAA estimates of the potential number of "nuisance flooding" days (during which business operations are disrupted) in the Charleston area within a span of 5-100 years, focusing on five-, ten-, and thirty-year horizons. As of July 2016, there have been 50 nuisance flooding days in Charleston in the past year, surpassing the 30 days that were expected according to current models. The study leverages the research capabilities of the College of Charleston on regional resiliency, and dovetails with the efforts of the College and the Charleston Resilience Network to investigate the impacts of flooding across the region. Potential out-migration resulting from consistent flooding is a major concern; therefore the study is meant to inform resiliency initiatives that could keep nuisance flooding days at a minimum.
Dr. Norman Levine, Associate Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at College of Charleston, will lead the project. The broader aims of the study are to identify businesses affected by nuisance flooding, correlate flood heights and frequencies with affected businesses, and identify the tax districts and the number of businesses affected by flooding in each of the time periods. These data will be
overlaid with information on how business interruption will be reflected in the tax base, in order to develop a series of outputs, tools, and maps to aid communities and businesses in forecasting and preparing for potential disruption.
Dr. Levine is currently the Director of the Santee Cooper GIS & Remote Sensing Laboratory, as well as the Director of the Lowcountry Hazards Center at the College of Charleston. He also serves as the Director of the South Carolina Earthquake Education Preparedness Program. He is a FEMA HAZUS trainer, and the College of Charleston Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) coordinator. Dr. Levine has published in a number of fields, including Environmental and Engineering Geology, Hydrology, Geography, Computer Science, Disaster Management, Biology, and Archeology. He has held a designation as NASA Climate Change Scientist since 1989, and has been working in the GIS and environmental fields for over 30 years.
The study is slated to be completed within four months, to allow time for CCA and the South Carolina Aquarium to prepare a presentation of the study for a February or March 2018 conference on sea level rise. CCA Director Stuart Williams and Director of Operations Jessica Fletcher have been organizing the conference to focus on the economics of climate change, and how regional businesses and municipalities can best prepare for it. Topics of discussion will include contingency planning, public private partnerships, the state of the coastal economy, the outlook for insurance coverage, and the impact of sea level rise on real estate values. CCA will invite municipal leaders, authors, executives of sustainable businesses, and Dr. Levine to discuss Charleston as a case study based on the results of the project. We plan to market the event to sponsors including manufacturers; law, consulting, and engineering firms; banking institutions, and insurance companies.
Impact Fund in Development
We are continuing our development of the CCA Climate Impact Investment Vehicle. The investments will focus on private equity in growth companies whose products or services have a significant impact on reducing, or mitigating the effects of, global warming and climate change. Fees earned on these investments will help to fund CCA.
We have achieved the following milestones:
TJM Capital has agreed to partner with CCA in the development of an investment vehicle. TJM Capital is a private equity investment firm, based in Chicago, focused on acquiring middle market firms with stable cash flows and attractive earnings growth potential.
The management team is headed by Tom McDonough
and Scott Witt, former colleagues of CCA Treasurer and
Co-Founder Jeff Phillips at BMO Capital Markets.
TJM Capital has a strong track record of successful
investments across a broad array of industries.
A summary term sheet outlining the basis of the partnership
has been developed.
CCA will originate and sponsor individual investment opportunities.
TJM will execute the negotiation, acquisition structuring, fund raising and investment management.
CCA will monitor and measure investment impact.
Fees (including transaction fees, management fees and carried interests) will be split 80/20 between TJM and CCA.
All in all, we believe that the impact fund could become the most effective initiative that we pursue. The extent to which the next generation of green companies succeeds will depend in part upon venture capital inflows of the kind of our fund aims to grow. Contributing members will potentially enjoy a win-win investment, whereby they realize gains in their portfolios while aiding in the mitigation of climate change.
CCA plans to use Paul Hawken’s recently published book Drawdown (see article above) as a standard of reference in our everyday work. CCA will be involved in promoting the book through a formal internal program, which is currently being developed, as well as actively distributing copies to members and to other businesses. The design of the promotional program will be multifaceted and will be a key element in our impact fund program, the upcoming Design Challenge (see below), and our 2018 conference on sea level rise.
Cool the Climate Design Challenge
CCA is pleased to announce that we have entered into a partnership with a group of designers to create a contest meant to address the problems of climate change. Provisionally named “Cool The Climate Design Challenge,” the contest will engage the talents of professional and amateur designers, as well as design students, in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases. The Challenge takes its inspiration from Drawdown by Paul Hawken (see article above), and aims to encourage problem solvers of all kinds to apply the book's proposed solutions to their work. Further details will become available as the project develops, so please stay tuned!
Collaboration with the City of Saint Augustine, Florida
Mark Wilbert, the Emergency Management Director for the City of Charleston, was introduced at a conference in Vermont to the Mayor of St. Augustine, Florida, Nancy Shaver. Upon telling her about CCA’s work with the City of Charleston, she asked that he set up a meeting to look into how CCA could fulfill an advisory role for St. Augustine’s resiliency plans. As we learned from our initial discussions and from colleagues, Mayor Shaver is passionate about building climate resiliency in St. Augustine and throughout the state.
On September 5th, CCA Executive Director Stuart Williams and Director of Operations Jessica Fletcher will travel to St. Augustine to meet with City Manager John Regan, Martha Graham of Public Works, and Mayor Shaver, who is also City Engineer. We plan to discuss how CCA can help St. Augustine develop a digital meme highlighting the area's importance to the ecosystem, in order to attract the funding they will need to tackle sea level rise. We have also offered to help them determine the best ways to get businesses on board with their initiatives, and to encourage municipal collaboration. The City of St. Augustine has also expressed interest in being a part of our 2018 conference on sea level rise.
CCA is privileged to have as a founding member Atlanta-based Interface Inc., an international leader in sustainable business practices and the world’s largest modular carpet manufacturer. Additionally, Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability at Interface, is the Secretary of CCA and a board member. Under the guidance of late CEO and sustainability trailblazer Ray Anderson, Interface has established itself as the gold standard for what can be achieved by companies that sincerely wish to minimize their impact on the planet. In 1994, the company committed to an overhaul of operations to maximize resource efficiency. The campaign came to be known as Mission Zero®, and its aim is “to have no negative impact on the planet by the year 2020.”
Interface is on track to meet efficiency targets, remarkably having reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 92%, and powering their manufacturing facilities with 84% renewable energy. Several of their carpet lines’ materials contain a majority of recycled content, and their Net-Works® initiative repurposes discarded fishing nets into yarn for its products. If these sustainability credentials somehow don’t sound robust enough, consider that the company is developing carpet tile that would effectively sequester carbon, with the understanding that a key component to solving climate change involves reducing carbon waste.
The company recently unveiled a campaign called Climate Take Back, which shows them branching into the role of educator and collaborator for like-minded companies wishing to supercharge their sustainability profile. The four tenets of the campaign are as follows:
1. Live Zero – Do business in ways that gives back whatever is taken from the Earth.
2. Love Carbon – Stop seeing carbon as the enemy, and start using it as a resource.
3. Let Nature Cool – Support our biosphere’s ability to regulate the climate.
4. Lead Industrial Re-revolution – Transform industry into a force for climate progress.
The campaign’s flagship publication is a report featuring results from an extended survey, which places side-by-side the outlooks of 404 climate experts from a variety of sectors, and 300 young business leaders (ages 18-35). Here is a sample of some noteworthy results of the survey: In response to the question, “What is the best example of Climate Take Back already happening?”—a plurality of both climate experts (23%) and young leaders (43%) responded: “The renewable energy revolution,” though 18% of climate experts responded “Business commitments.” When asked what is restraining progress with Climate Take Back measures, a plurality of experts (34%) responded “Business as usual.” As a follow up, 95% of young leaders affirmed that business is not doing enough.
Images from Interface's Climate Take Back campaign materials
CCA would surely agree, and we are looking forward to playing a part in remedying this shortfall in partnership with Interface and our membership as a whole. Read the full survey results here.