Is expanding battery capacity unrealistic or ambitious?
The challenges of an energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables are unfolding in front of our eyes. The intermittency of renewable energy is already proverbial – the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind can pick up or die down in a matter of minutes. Neither of them has any consideration for the ebbs and flows of human energy consumption.
A whole new area of stationary battery research has emerged in response to these hard facts, and the number of battery electricity storage projects is currently on the rise. Business intelligence company Solar Media reported in Q2 2020 that the battery storage market passed the 1GW mark, with deployments getting larger in capacity – 48 per cent of them were over 30MW. The fact that the pipeline of projects is increasing much faster than deployment also suggests dynamic sectoral medium-term growth.
BESS projects in the UK
Battery energy storage system (BESS) projects in the UK are expected to proliferate in the next couple of years. Moreover, most of the deployments recently completed or in progress have a tagline to them highlighting why they are the first of their kind. The Energy Superhub Oxford in Cowley, which integrates energy storage, EV charging and low-carbon heating, sports the first hybrid battery combining legacy lithium-ion technology with vanadium redox flow battery power – in addition to being Europe’s most powerful EV charging hub.
The hub’s battery storage system was the first in the UK to be directly connected to the transmission network on 23 June this year and Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewables, has plans to use it as a template for 40 other similar sites. The same month, UK battery start-up Zenobe, the UK’s leading independent owner and operator of battery storage, announced that it’s going to build one of the largest (100MW) grid-connected batteries in Europe at Capenhurst, Chester, with EDF as its trading and optimisation partner. Its battery is scheduled to go active in April 2022.
Challenges of green energy transition
However, connecting renewables to the grid is easier said than done. Not only are renewables intermittent, but they also impact the stability of the grid differently from fossil fuel-generated electricity – a lesson that the National Grid learnt the hard way. On 23 May 2020, when the lockdown was already well in place, the electricity market offered a near 100 per cent zero-carbon opportunity, which the grid couldn’t take advantage of at that point. Instead, to maintain the grid’s frequency at a steady 50MHz and avoid the mayhem that extreme frequency volatility can cause, the National Grid had to pull back some wind and hydro and replace it with gas and biomass.
It needed to do this because inertia that works in a similar way to a car’s shock absorber against sharp fluctuations in frequency is a by-product of the burning process in coal and gas-fired generators but is non-existent in renewable energy generation. The more solar and wind energy we want to transmit to the grid, the more we need to rely on inertia services, which, for example, hydroelectric power stations can provide when they operate without actually generating electricity.
National Grid’s relatively new fast-acting frequency response service, dubbed Dynamic Containment (DC), is another measure to tackle the same problem. With the percentage of renewables on the grid increasing, system inertia is set to fall, which will result in the system deviating faster from 50MHz. Therefore, a faster-acting service such as DC, which can extend the frequency range for which little or no intervention is needed, as well as decrease the response time of batteries, can greatly contribute to critical system stability.
National Grid has also been a pioneer in implementing power-flow control technology to remove bottlenecks from its transmission network. Again, as more renewable generation comes onto the network, circuits in it become unequally loaded, with some of them reaching full capacity and others staying below their limits. National Grid has been the first to deploy US-based Smart Wires’ SmartValve technology at scale, which is capable of removing constraints from the network by routing power through circuits that have available capacity. The deployment of 48 smart valves at three substations in the north of England is expected to unlock 1.5GW of electric capacity for renewable energy.
As these examples show, plenty of inroads have been made into connecting renewable energy sources to the grid and delivering green electricity to consumers. However, the task in hand also looks enormous. The Future Energy Scenarios document of National Grid ESO estimates that the UK needs 13GW of electricity storage by 2030 to be on track for its zero-carbon pledge by 2035, which, given the current momentum, is a big ask but far from infeasible. But, as Eelpower, the company at the forefront of the UK’s switch to sustainable green energy and electricity storage, maintains, much more low-carbon generation capacity will also be needed to replace the two-thirds of UK generating capacity (old coal-fired, gas and nuclear) that will be closed down by 2030.
To meet the ambitious decarbonisation targets the UK has undertaken, both green electricity generation and storage must expand at full throttle.
A clear line of sight
The recent COP26 summit in Glasgow brought the full focus of the world’s media on to the topic of climate change and the need for all of us to operate more sustainably. The message that emerged was clear: without immediate and concerted action, the future of our planet is bleak, and businesses must lead the way in helping to develop solutions.
This common perception is also echoed by the findings revealed at the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit, which showed that 50 per cent of companies globally say that supply chain sustainability has grown in importance since the Covid-19 pandemic.
For many organisations, this means ensuring that items are produced and sourced responsibly, drawing on a supply chain that is committed to operating in an environmentally sustainable and morally responsible fashion.
At the heart of this is traceability: the ability for brands to demonstrate to consumers, shareholders and investors just where products – and individual components of these – have come from, enabling them to comply not just with ever-tighter regulation but also with the demands of society and an increasingly ethically and environmentally conscious public.
"To take action on something, you have to be able to measure and monitor it," says Max Winograd, VP, atma.io and Connected Products, Avery Dennison Smartrac. "We’re seeing a tremendous amount of activity around trying to measure what’s actually happening today, then monitoring it and taking action to reduce carbon emissions."
Having clear visibility over a supply chain has become even more important due to the pandemic, which disrupted many organisations’ operations. Covid-19 interrupted the manufacture of vital components, shipping routes and port capacity, as well as causing inflationary pressures and supply shortages. In the UK, the problem was compounded by Brexit, which led to serious labour shortages in many sectors, including manufacturing and logistics. Being able to identify exactly where items are at any point in time and when they are likely to arrive can help organisations respond to any challenges and implement strategies to help avert any crises.
Until recently, though, implementing effective traceability has proved difficult.
"Since the 1970s, the fashion industry has essentially outsourced all production across vast geographies," says Jason Kibbey, CEO of technology platform Higg. "As a result, the supply chain has been highly disaggregated. Until about 10 years ago, most companies didn’t even know the makeup of the various components of their supply chain. Collecting information meant either embarking on a very expensive exercise or a deep amount of collaboration and trust among every aspect of that value chain. There just weren’t the resources or availability of information to do that."
As a result of this lack of supply chain visibility, poor practice has been able to continue, with devastating results for the planet.
Now, though, things are starting to change. atma.io is the vision of Fortune 500 global materials science company Avery Dennison, aiming to connect the physical and digital worlds by assigning unique digital IDs to everyday items.
"Atma is Sanskrit for the word “soul”, and the idea is that a soul is something that persists throughout a life’s journey," explains Winograd. "If you think about the soul of a product, it’s a unique identity and you can learn what has happened throughout the product’s lifecycle. With that information, you’re then able to learn from the product, find out how it’s made and what it’s made of, discover how to give it a second life or extend its life and find out how to authenticate its impact on the world."
The digital identity serves as an initial "snowflake" in a snowball of data, says Winograd, which collects more data throughout the lifecycle. "It gets data from every step of the supply chain, from raw materials through to purchase and then every time consumers interact with it," he says. "It’s another touchpoint to communicate with the consumer, but it also allows brands to understand how consumers are interacting with products. That then helps brands make more sustainable decisions around how they design products and how they enable circularity." The data itself is stored in a connected product cloud, he adds, with more than 16 billion physical items already on the platform and 300 new ones being added every second.
As well as helping businesses monitor the carbon footprint and sustainability characteristics of products, such clarity of information can help build closer ties between brands and their customers. "Brands want to be able to have a more personalised experience and engage with their consumers," says Winograd. "They want to be able to connect with the consumer post-purchase in new and unique ways and ultimately build more loyalty and trust."
"There’s also a desire to use that item-level information to get a more granular view of what’s happening in their supply chain. That might be identifying bottlenecks or realising when certain products from certain factories are driving higher recalls or returns and then being able to act quickly when there is an issue. It helps the brands minimise any wasted costs related to those operational and management issues."
The platform is already attracting interest from a wider range of businesses and sectors, including the apparel and fashion, food, beauty and pharmaceutical industries. "We are privileged to work with six of the top 20 apparel brands globally by revenue and four of the top 10 quick-service restaurants," says Winograd. "With those customers, we have a mix of different use cases around connected products."
atma.io has taken steps to ensure the information contained about products is accurate. "We have a couple of different ways to ensure trust in the platform," says Winograd. "Analytics are a core part of what we offer so, for example, if something happens that goes against what would be considered a typical flow of a product, we can accurately identify where there could be an outlier or an alert, relative to things such as diversion, duplication or an illegitimate product, so we can augment existing brand protection strategies." atma.io also works with a number of blockchain partners to provide encryption for the data and the use of a distributed ledger, which can provide a second layer of verification, he adds.
atma.io has recently partnered with Higg, the sustainability insights platform, which allows consumer goods companies to measure, manage and share the social and environmental impacts of their full value chain. "We created the Higg platform several years ago because we recognised that apparel and footwear value chain needed trusted technology to scale standardised measurement if the industry wanted to see significant progress," says Kibbey.
"Every company built their own code of conduct and independent infrastructure and it didn’t create an environment of collaboration, which is required for continuous improvement. There was a strong desire to look at how we could measure and share data differently and at scale for the whole industry."
Partnering with ecosystems such as atma.io makes sense, he says, to help create an open exchange of data and create a critical mass of organisations using the platform. Higg operates a network of 45,000 users, 500 brands and retailers and tens of thousands of manufacturers’ factories, all of which will now benefit from atma.io’s capabilities.
With more pressure on businesses to demonstrate their credentials than ever before, and to build up closer relations with customers, Winograd believes organisations cannot afford to delay. "Once you begin to put digital triggers on individual products, you can start to understand how efficient your supply chain is from a sustainability and carbon footprint perspective and take action," he says. "It’s about thinking where you want to be in five years’ relative to any pledges and working out what action you need to take today to get there. The time for action is now."
To find out more about how atma.io can help you take action on sustainability, visit atma.io.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM AVERY DENNISON
Building purpose into your business
In the video above, Bates Wells partner Luke Fletcher discusses how the Better Business Act is seeking to build purpose into every business across the UK.
There is a growing concern in the UK that capitalism in its current form isn’t working. Campaigns such as the Better Business Act, the British Academy’s Future of the Corporation summit and movements like B Corp are gaining traction, fast. Recent research shows that UK consumers, and particularly younger generations, are hitting companies that do harm where it hurts. And younger people in particular are not likely to have the wool pulled over their eyes by greenwashing.
What can you do to make sure your company isn’t left behind in this groundswell of change – and where should you start?
Think about your goals, values and aspirations
Before you get started, you should look at why you are looking to embed purpose, how far you are prepared to go and who is leading the charge. For this to be really successful, buy-in needs to come from across the organisation, but it needs to be led from the top. There is a range of models that you can adopt to embed purpose into your company’s governing articles, such as a social enterprise model, B Corp or traditional business that commits to doing less harm.
You might also look at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and think about how they align with your work. Another really handy tool is the B Impact Assessment, which anyone can use as a way to benchmark where they are now and help set aspirations. Once you have learnt more, talk internally at all levels about what your values and aspirations are and how you might best achieve them.
It can be daunting to start a journey to make your business more purposeful, but the good news is that purposeful businesses generally love to talk about what they are doing and to bring others on the journey with them. Reach out to the B Corp community in your sector or local area, follow key networks on LinkedIn, find a B Leader, go to talks and webinars and get yourself up to speed.
You should also look at your existing network, as you are likely to find that you already know some purposeful businesses. Chat to them and find out what they are up to. We are always happy to talk to people thinking about becoming more purposeful and to share our experiences: we have been a B Corp since 2015 and our lawyers were involved in setting the standards for the UK.
What practical steps can you take now?
Embedding purpose isn’t about standing still; it’s about continuous improvement. Once you have done your research and thought about your operating model, you should set some aspirational goals and agree on how you will meet them. Make them timebound and let your commitments be known so that you can be held to account. Think about how you will measure and report on your progress and how you will resource this work. Some tangibles to consider:
Build resilience now
The past couple of years have shown us that we need to build resilience and flexibility into our businesses if we are to survive. A range of factors from the pandemic to the climate crisis to Brexit will increasingly have an impact on our day-to-day operations. Building resilience now just makes good business sense. Some things to consider:
The decision to become a more purposeful business is just the start of a long and exciting journey. Taking the first steps towards that now will put you in a position of leadership and help you to survive the legal and regulatory changes expected in the coming years to address the climate and social justice issues we face.
At Bates Wells, top-tier legal advice is coupled with a real desire to drive change. Visit bateswells.co.uk to learn more
By Angela Monaghan, Purpose and Impact Lead, Bates Wells
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM BATES WELLS
Digitally printed packaging boosts brand sustainability success
Jose Gorbea, HP Indigo Head of Brands Innovation
Packaging is one of the most destructive forces we have on our planet – and HP is the only printing company in the world that removes 26 per cent of packaging waste.
The ‘one-size-fits-all’ era is over, and the print industry has been undergoing a steady evolution with the rise of the digital press. Over 50 per cent of consumers are looking to buy more sustainably and 68 per cent say they rely on brands to be leaders in driving positive social and environmental change. Brands are realising that packaging is a vital area where they can make a difference – revaluating how it is produced, used and disposed of – and a powerful tool for driving sustainable practice and behaviour change.
The biggest challenge for brands is the problem of production and waste. The carbon output in manufacturing processes is disturbing the planet’s natural ecosystem as packaging waste continues to pollute coastlines, clog waterways and cost the global economy billions of dollars each year. Although packaging remains an important part of how we safely and hygienically transport products around the globe, we can do more to reduce the impact that this has on our planet. If we want to divert from the climate crisis, now is the time to co-create and work to cut around 65 per cent of global emissions ahead of 2030.
However, this is not just a challenge for the supply chain; it encompasses the entire value chain and is an issue that touches almost every industry across the globe. When a brand adopts digitally printed packaging as part of its media plan, the cumbersome stages of analogue printing are removed, dramatically accelerating the speed to market, reducing the amount of waste produced and erasing the need for minimum order quantities. Not only does digital print remove up to 80 per cent of CO2 emissions, but it can also work with a wider range of substrates and environmentally friendly materials.
HP Graphic Arts has partnered with brands and proven that digital print boosts sustainability credentials and brand reputation. Whether it’s saving endangered elephants or giving underrepresented communities a voice, it is through the adoption of digital print that brands can amplify their purpose on pack, resulting in authentic, timely and relevant campaigns – all while being more sustainable. Crucially, digitally printed packaging is a powerful process and offers the building blocks for a better future.
We are the co-creation generation! Let’s unlock creativity for a better world www.reinventing-creativity.com
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM HP
COP26: how unlocking nature’s power can help the UK step up its fight against climate change
World leaders have been gathering at COP26, the UN climate summit in Glasgow, against a backdrop of flooded homes, closed roads and cancelled trains across the UK caused by extreme weather. These conditions are a stark reminder that as well as dramatically reducing our carbon emissions, we must also begin adapting to a climate that is already irreversibly changing.
Yet the UK’s third climate change risk assessment report warns of a growing “adaptation gap” between the risks the country faces and the action it’s taking, while the Environment Agency states bluntly that the UK must “adapt or die”.
A problem with climate adaptation is that conventional engineering solutions are rapidly becoming unaffordable and unsustainable. We can’t keep on building higher sea walls, extracting more groundwater from our land’s depleted resources to irrigate crops, or installing energy-guzzling air conditioning to fight heat.
Instead, nature-based solutions that reintegrate aspects of the natural world into our environment can help sustainably, affordably tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, while supporting local economies and improving people’s wellbeing.
Further inland, planting woodlands can help manage floods by intercepting rainfall, while restoring natural curves in artificially straightened rivers and recreating floodplain wetlands can slow floods. At Eddleston Water, a river valley in Scotland, these initiatives reduced flood peaks by 30 per cent, protecting 500 properties downstream from damage.
Peatland degradation is another threat to landscapes. Healthy peatlands not only store vast amounts of carbon but also supply good-quality drinking water that requires little treatment. But when the peat dries out, it erodes into streams, turning the water brown.
On the Garron Plateau in Northern Ireland, peat degradation contaminated water supplies for 12,000 people. But reducing the number of grazing sheep on peatland and blocking drainage channels to keep peat wet allowed peatland mosses to regrow, cutting water treatment costs and lowering carbon emissions.
On farmland, techniques like adding more organic matter to soil can improve soil health and build resilience to pests, heatwaves, droughts and floods. And in urban areas, adding “green infrastructure” like parks and green roofs (roofs covered in vegetation) can help to cool cities and absorb water, preventing flooding in heavy rain.
Our research showed how governments could be missing opportunities to develop nature-based solutions. So in a recent review, commissioned by WWF and RSPB, we asked people working with nature-based solutions about the challenges they faced – to understand how we might better build these solutions into landscapes.
We found that, despite growing recognition of the role nature-based solutions can play in climate adaptation, policy support is lacking. For example, agroforestry (growing trees among crops or on grazing land) can protect livestock and crops in extreme weather. Yet it’s not covered by woodland planting grants and farmers aren’t trained in it, meaning that it’s rarely practised in the UK. And adding green walls and roofs to buildings, especially outside of London, also lacks widespread policy support – so these are rarely installed by developers.
We were surprised to find that some projects were struggling with regulations designed to control damaging activities, such as mineral extraction. Small charity-led projects trying to restore seagrass beds in coastal waters – to protect against floods and support fish – can face licensing fees of thousands of pounds from the Marine Management Organisation, even though they are only supporting the local ecosystem.
We also found that better standards are needed to make sure nature-based solutions provide their full benefits. Sustainable drainage systems are a key example. Good drainage systems consist of a connected network of ponds and wetlands, which capture and clean rainwater from urban areas before releasing it into the environment to avoid overloading sewers.
However, standards for sustainable drainage systems in England focus on the amount of rainwater collected, so many new drainage systems simply use underground tanks and pipes rather than creating pleasant outdoor spaces that help wildlife to thrive. New standards drafted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs would bring England up to the high standards in place in Wales.
Similarly, when building developers are asked to boost sustainability by adding green roofs, the default option is often to unroll a cheap, thin, pre-grown vegetation mat that doesn’t offer much insulation and may not survive a dry summer.
In contrast, the Green Roof Organisation, a not-for-profit trade association, encourages planting a mix of wildflowers and including wildlife-friendly features such as logs or piles of stones. These thick, high-quality green roofs can cool buildings by as much as 20℃ and absorb up to half of the annual rainfall, while providing habitat for insects and birds.
It’s important to be careful when using techniques that could alter the balance of local ecosystems. For example, planting certain tree species in the “wrong place” can do more harm than good. Non-native tree species usually don’t help wildlife flourish. And trees can dry out carbon-rich soils, deplete local water supplies, or crowd out native grasslands and the species that depend on them.
Also, converting cropland to woodland in the UK will displace food production elsewhere, and could drive overseas deforestation to make space for new farmland: unless we free up space by eating less meat and cutting food waste.
To unlock the self-regulating power of our planet’s environment, nature-based solutions need to go mainstream. For that to happen, governments need to provide more funding and design more supportive policies along the lines we suggest in our review: helping people create resilient, healthy landscapes that dampen the effects of climate change.
Alison Smith, Researcher in Nature-based Solutions, University of Oxford; Alexandre Chausson, Researcher in Nature-based Solutions, University of Oxford, and Nathalie Seddon, Professor of Biodiversity, University of Oxford
The role of humans in the management of a smart city
To be truly innovative, one of the major challenges cities are already facing is being able to design urban solutions that take into account – and in real-time – the requirements of their inhabitants and visitors. When we talk about smart cities, concepts such as innovation, technology and IoT quickly come to mind.
Yet we rarely look into what citizens bring to the table and that needs to change: inclusion strategies must be created to avoid causing or even widening gaps between citizens and their specific needs.
The importance of creating smart citizens
Technology has completely transformed the way we work, move around, socialise and interact with one another. Social networks, connectivity and mobile phones have revolutionised our behaviour. In the field of smart cities, the actual role that technology and real-time data will play has yet to be defined. What is certain, however, is that it will form a key role in our lives.
Technology will be present and smart city planning must be made bespoke, with attention to every detail and considering the needs of individual cities. The success of smart cities relies on the way technology solutions engage with citizens. That is why citizens must take a leading role in the design, creation and evolution of such solutions.
It should not be forgotten that the ultimate goal of a smart city is to provide a better quality of life and ensure better prosperity for businesses and citizens.
It is true that technology and data are key elements in the creation of smart cities, but without the smartness of people, proper engagement will not be achieved and smart city projects are doomed to fail.
But it is not just about giving humans the information or data to create a smart municipality. It is about empowering citizens to contribute with their own initiatives in the creation of smart cities or smart communities.
In short, it means that they support the establishment of smarter cities either as an individual expert or in a more corporate sense by launching or engaging with non-profit organisations, associations, digital innovation hubs and project consortiums in an attempt to add their voice toward addressing urban challenges.
Image: Stock photo ID:680847168
Cities focused on citizens
Developed by Emergya Group and Secmotic (a FIWARE Foundation Gold Member), FIWOO proposes a new paradigm of urban strategy, considering the city as a complex and dynamic system whose most important objective is the well-being of all its citizens.
Based on FIWARE and its main open standards, FIWOO allows the application of data-based policies, analysing and automating responses in real-time, while gathering information from all over the city to create active communication channels with citizens to solve their mobility, health or safety needs.
FIWOO solution has key performance indicators (KPIs) that systematically monitor such objectives, involving all levels of municipal and organisational management. This enables the government to make data-driven decisions and be more open and transparent, in turn becoming more efficient in managing the services provided to citizens.
For example, citizen challenges, based on critical KPIs for the city, could be created. In real-time, citizens would see a change in their behaviour. Biking to work instead of driving would mean less traffic, less need for car parking spaces and reduced air pollution.
Similarly, citizens could kick-start their own initiatives to improve their neighbourhood through citizen participation. Such actions can bring about immediate consequences, improving environmental or social indicators that could be observed in convenient dashboards.
This is how FIWOO focuses on citizens:
Watching and listening: Inform in real-time and involve citizens in the decision-making process.
Thinking: Analyse, compare and decide on human and environmental needs.
Acting and growing: Make decisions and prioritise the digital and energy solutions to be implemented at any given moment and in the most sustainable way.
A human-centred intelligence strategy for smart cities suggests a promising collective schema, focusing on the collective perceiving, processing, learning and thinking and based on citizens’ participation and cooperation.
The proposed idea and its implementation routes could change the current circumstance of data intelligence to meet the human demands on urban functions.
Want to know more about how FIWOO can help you? Visit fiwoo.eu
by Jose Benitez, CEO, Secmotic; Carlos Corrales, COO, Secmotic; Luis Romero, Managing Partner, Emergya Grupo; and M. Giménez-Medina, Product Manager, FIWOO
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM FIWOO
Affordable housing needs to evolve — the future puts communities first
Daniele Russolillo, COO & Deputy CEO, Planet Smart City
The urbanisation of communities around the world is causing challenges for the most vulnerable members of our society. In its current form, it is creating large impacts from a social and environmental perspective: cities worldwide are responsible for more than 70 per cent of climate change emissions and two-thirds of final energy usage. One of the most significant drivers for this is that property developers around the world have for too long been unable to find a balance between building sustainably following the latest innovation trends on urban living and building affordably. This has created a problem for low-income people who, due to their financial position, are contained within poorly built or overcrowded homes without access to services. Even more worryingly these low-income communities have been served by small, undercapitalised developers who cannot afford to innovate. This has created a relentless cycle of stress, underservice and unhappiness for many communities around the world.
However, there is better way forward. Planet Smart City, the global leaders in smart affordable housing, has developed a unique replicable and scalable format that combines proptech, proprietary research, and a unique understanding of the needs of each local community to build highly tailored large-scale housing projects with a full fledged ESG approach. Driven by its best-in-class Competence Centre in Turin, Planet Smart City’s approach sees the group build new communities in areas with large housing deficits such as India and Brazil. To help empower communities to build better lives, the company draws on more than 200 smart solutions focused on environmental impact, social wellbeing, technological transformation and innovation in architecture and planning.
For example, in Smart City Laguna—the group’s largest project to date—Planet enabled residents to save time, effort and money by introducing a simple Library of Things for residents. Prior to living in Laguna, residents would have had to drive to a nearby town, buy a tool for a high price, and use it a handful of times. By implementing a simple solution like the Library of Things, residents can now borrow tools for pre-booked time and at no cost through the Planet App. This enables people to spend their money on other areas of their life and adds an increasing level of convenience.
Moreover, through the Planet App, residents can access a large portfolio of services built around their needs. For instance Planet Smart City encourages residents to reduce their energy consumption through gamification frameworks. Entering into friendly competition with neighbours to use utilities more efficiently helps to create a more sustainable society and at the same time saves people’s money, providing a great example for your generations.
Planet Smart City is offering a credible option to contribute solving these global issues and, following its latest fundraising round, will continue to deliver new greenfield projects in areas with huge housing deficits around the world.
We build places that matter to empower communities and enhance people’s lives. To find out more click here.
Here’s how to convince CEOs to support government climate action at the expense of their own profits
There is now widespread consensus that limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5℃ requires fundamental changes in sectors like energy, food, transport, construction and finance towards more environmentally friendly production and consumption. This could include, for example, shifting towards a 100 per cent renewable energy system, or replacing fossil fuel-powered vehicles with electric ones.
Government action is seen as crucial to helping support and coordinate this transition. But one key barrier has been lobbying by powerful corporate interests, who are concerned that government intervention might increase their costs and perhaps even eliminate their industries altogether. The millions spent on lobbying against climate policies by the oil and gas industry is a prime example.
But as the world warms, growing numbers of CEOs are pushing for more ambitious policy interventions to tackle the climate emergency. To investigate why the corporate lobby might be changing its stance, we looked at business involvement in the development of the UN sustainable development goals between 2012 and 2015.
Several high-profile multinational companies were involved in developing the goals, including Unilever, Nestlé, GSK, Aviva and Pearson. Many advocated strongly for which specific goals should be achieved, and what role governments should play in achieving them.
We reviewed 25 documents communicating corporations’ views, and observed nine meetings between business leaders and policymakers. We also conducted 57 interviews with 45 CEOs and senior executives representing 30 companies involved in this process.
We found that many companies were making strong calls for ambitious government intervention towards fighting climate change, through a mix of public investment, financial incentives and regulation.
For example, many were calling for governments to introduce carbon taxation (taxing greenhouse gas emissions to help low carbon alternatives become cheaper) and to move towards banning certain high-carbon activities (such as putting a date on when petrol cars or gas boilers can no longer be sold). Many companies also pushed for government subsidies for fossil fuels to be ended and given to renewable energy projects instead.
Conventional wisdom tells us that corporate lobbying tends to be focused on weakening government intervention. However, the leaders we spoke to justified their lobbying for increased government intervention by arguing that the world sorely needed sustainability transitions across multiple industries.
Many leaders felt they had a responsibility to use their influence to encourage these transitions. This included calling for more ambitious intervention from governments, even if that added costs in the short term.
Others argued that businesses require a thriving, stable society to operate, and cannot survive in a failing world. And in some cases, increased public investment, incentives and regulation could grow markets, encouraging companies to align environmental responsibility with commercial incentives.
For example, renewable energy subsidies helped grow the market for solar panels on roofs; regulations banning the sale of petrol cars increase the market for electric cars; and taxing carbon could help grow the market for low-carbon alternatives like LED lighting.
So why don’t all companies devote time and energy to lobbying for more government action? When pressed on this point, many CEOs took the conversation in a different direction, citing personal life experiences as a cause of their lobbying.
These included being personally exposed to climate-related suffering, having been the target of NGO campaigning, and being challenged to engage by others: from other CEOs and non-executive directors, senior political figures and public intellectuals to their own children.
Often these experiences were linked to participation in climate networks, such as the UN Global Compact – a non-binding pledge encouraging businesses to commit to sustainability. We call this action in response to being challenged by others “the echo of conscience”.
As the public continues to hold corporate leaders to higher and higher standards, our work suggests how we can encourage more CEOs to push governments towards radical climate action. People involved in working towards sustainability transitions must enlist CEOs to positively influence one another’s decisions through sustainability-focused CEO networks.
We must create opportunities for CEOs to have first-hand experiences of the problems caused by their industry’s impact on climate – as well as opportunities for CEOs to be personally challenged by respected figures and people they care about, especially their children. Finally, we need to encourage corporate HR departments to focus on these elements in leadership selection and development, to make sure those who lead the world’s companies are also leading the world towards a brighter future.
Matt Gitsham, Professor of Sustainable Development and Human Rights, Hult International Business School; Ajit Nayak, Associate Professor in Strategy, University of Southampton, and Jonathan Gosling, Emeritus Professor of Leadership Studies, University of Exeter
Digital services for the public good
Over the past 20 years, digital transformation has shaped our daily activity beyond recognition. The platform economy has delivered a range of new services for people, from easy home deliveries, to on-your-doorstep mobility options and hassle-free city trips. And today, in the midst of a global pandemic, many of us find we can hold meetings, events and even conduct office jobs from the relative comfort of our own homes.
For cities, meanwhile, digital transformation brings other benefits, such as greater revenues from tourism. In many ways, city administrations are drivers of this transformation: cities power innovation ecosystems, invest in tech start-ups, support digital skills development and provide digitalised public services.
Nonetheless, digital transformation creates many challenges for cities. This is partly because existing legislation was not designed to take the new business activities of the platform economy into account, leaving gaps where current regulations are unable to rein in some of the negative impacts of digital services on public life.
What can cities do to protect local retail against unfair competition from global online retail platforms? How can the right to housing be ensured if short-term rental platforms do not comply with the rules that govern the real estate market? And what can be done to protect the rights of platform workers?
In places where the freedom for digital services does not serve the public interest, current European legislation makes it very difficult for city administrators to take effective measures against globally operating companies.
Matching our online and offline worlds
Cities, as the level of government closest to citizens, are only too keenly aware that digital transformation can create both new opportunities but also new layers of inequalities, unless the policies guiding the process are user-centric and citizen-focused.
Indeed, in a recent joint statement by 22 European cities, city representatives pointed out that cities welcome tourism as an important source of income and employment for many people, but the responsible rental of private homes can only be done if the necessary regulation is in place.
Central to this debate is enabling the flow of data between public authorities and businesses, without which the enforcement of regulations, taxation and health and safety rules cannot be applied.
More precise data – on, for instance, short-term holiday rental (STHR) – would enable city administrations to levy taxes and better serve the interests of residents, who should be their primary concern. Additionally, data can also be used to create better public policy and better services.
For example, the consequences of illegal housing rentals can include reducing the stock of houses intended for residential use, the increase of nuisances (such as noise disturbance) in city districts, and sometimes breaching other areas of public safety such as how many people can stay in one location. With access to the right data, city authorities can start to work with these companies to address these issues.
Yet the status of collaborative economy companies is often ambiguous, given that their evolution has occurred since the EU’s e-Commerce Directive was first introduced, which provides the current grounding for what are considered “information society services”.
Moreover, there is often little incentive for collaborative economy platforms to do anything about illegal activity occurring through their services. With this in mind, we need better ways for cities to flag up illegal activity, as well as placing more responsibility on service providers, such as requiring platform economy businesses to take down illegal goods and services from their sites.
In this endeavour cities are natural allies of European policymakers working towards a more digitalised society which puts people first. Cities are ready and able to work with the European Commission and European Parliament to ensure an effective EU framework that protects and empowers people and businesses, while ensuring data and new technologies are used to deliver better public policy.
Let’s ensure that what is illegal offline is also illegal online.
Eurocities wants to make cities places where everyone can enjoy a good quality of life, is able to move around safely, access quality and inclusive public services and benefit from a healthy environment. We do this by networking almost 200 larger European cities, which together represent some 130 million people across 39 countries, and by gathering evidence of how policy making impacts on people to inspire other cities and EU decision makers.
Secretary General, Eurocities
A blueprint for the future: we are the cities we make
Cities are the home to humankind. Such a bold statement would have probably been contradicted just two decades ago, but today the world is unquestionably urban. Facts are simply eye-opening: 55 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas and multiple sources estimate that these numbers will continue growing in the next 15 to 30 years.
If anything, cities are the epitome of complexity: densely populated, hosting a myriad of networks and infrastructures at many levels, and witnesses of the incessant dynamics of society. That also makes them relentless ecosystems in constant need of sustenance. Reaching the perfect equilibrium between the unstoppable urbanisation of the planet and the sensible distribution of resources has become one of the major challenges of our generation – if not the main one.
Smart cities are, since the coining of the term, an approach to this equation. Initially, the term itself meant many different things to different people with diverse focuses on elements such as technology, sustainability, urbanism and architecture, and policymaking. Ten years ago, Smart City Expo World Congress debuted as the first international event, promoting what then was a radically new idea: integrating all the existing approaches and shaping a new standard.
The event has since become a witness of every change in trends, from hyper-technological cities to human-centred metropolises and from efficiency-obsessed managing to inclusive and collaborative policy‑making: a beacon of what is yet to come. In this sense, the pandemic has surely shifted the urgency of some improvements and the quick deployment of certain technologies. In the next few years, we will see a rise in the use of contactless public services, AI bursting deep into the fabric of our cities and even traffic congestion curbed by new teleworking schemes.
Recent examples prove how some solutions not only efficiently combine some of these technologies but also enable the reshaping of the way cities function and how they can help citizens adopt more sustainable habits. Last year, Transport for Greater Manchester rolled out the first-ever AI-controlled junctions, where cameras and sensors identify different types of road users and control traffic signals. The immediate benefit of such a solution is to reduce traffic congestion, but in the future, such services will allow city management to prioritise some modes of transportation over others, such as cycling and walking, which will also reduce emissions.
Cities are not just the stage where lives play out. They are also an expression of their citizens: who they are and who they want to be. By deploying certain services and solutions, we are paving the way for a better tomorrow, drawing the blueprint for the future.
From 16-18 November, Smart City Expo World Congress will celebrate its 10th anniversary by strengthening its role as a world platform for knowledge sharing. Not only will it bring together the leading thinkers, companies and institutions in the urban innovation ecosystem, but it will also widen its reach by hosting two new events: Tomorrow. Mobility and PUZZLE X. The former will focus on promoting the design and adoption of new sustainable urban mobility models, while the latter aims to use Materials Deep Tech to build a better and more sustainable future. Together, we will try to gather the tools we need to reshape our cities – because we all want a better future for the coming generations, and cities will be the final battling ground. Cities will be the key, and we are the cities we make.
by Ugo Valenti, Director, Smart City Expo World Congress
Conscious consumerism may help save the planet
Karli Hiscock, Partner, Bates Wells
In the above video, Bates Wells partner Karli Hiscock explains the role the B Corp movement could play in the future of responsible business; what being a B Corp means to Bates Wells; and how Karli helps businesses to operate more sustainably through her role as a real-estate lawyer.
Today’s consumers are shifting their buying habits. A new wave of ‘conscious consumerism’ has seen an upward trend in buying decisions informed by whether a brand has a positive social and environmental impact. Whether it’s a person buying for themselves or a business procuring goods or services, it will be those purposeful brands that can demonstrate a genuinely positive impact that will benefit from this shift in buying behaviour. Businesses that carry on ‘business as usual’ will increasingly find their goods and services are more likely to be left on the shelves.
Let’s start by busting some misunderstandings about purpose and impact.
‘You can only pursue purpose and impact at the expense of profit.’
Nonsense. Profit is good. And profit is essential for all businesses. If an impact-driven business was not able to turn a profit or, indeed, not trying to turn a profit, how would it be able to invest in all the things that create that positive impact (the right people, a sustainable supply chain, reduction in carbon emissions and positive actions to support the environment, work to support diversity and equality, and developing outstanding products and services for their customers)?
‘Corporate purpose is a fad.’
Please. Fads are dictated by the times we live in.
When Milton Friedman proclaimed his theory of shareholder primacy 50 years ago, the UK was a very different place – and an awful place by today’s standards. Homosexuality was illegal. There were no laws against race or sex discrimination. We had no minimum wage.
The world has moved on from businesses existing just for shareholders.
How will we solve society’s problems if businesses don’t play their part? If the public sector doesn’t address the critical problems we face socially and environmentally, is it all on the shoulders of the third sector? Charities do an amazing job, but they are underfunded and can’t do it on their own. It’s time for corporates to step up.
‘The current system works.’
Inequality is widening; we have a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis; and we have 750 companies backing the Better Business Act, all saying that the current system is broken and that we need to transform the way we do business.
What are the benefits of pursuing purpose and impact?
The supply chain: For a business thinking about its impact, a good place for it to start is its supply chain.
By buying from a purpose-driven business, you create a positive impact by virtue of that business creating a positive impact. And if your business is purpose-driven, other businesses will buy from you to enhance their own positive impact.
At Bates Wells, many of our clients are purpose-driven organisations who want reassurance that advisers in their supply chain are maintaining the same environmental standards and share the same values they do. It is this virtuous cycle that will create exponential positive impact and increase sales at the same time.
Brand development: Doing things like treating staff fairly, reducing your carbon footprint and giving a percentage of profits to charity are all part of brand development that strengthens a company’s reputation and increases client loyalty, creating more value for a business. We’re working with more and more commercial organisations in the purpose-driven space, and our commitment to these things has meant we can differentiate from other law firms trying to get a share of this expanding market.
Recruitment: In many industries, it’s a tight race for the best talent. For us, focusing on purpose and impact allows us to attract talent that might otherwise be drawn to larger firms. The generations coming through now are driven by values and will investigate yours before deciding whether to join your team. We consistently punch above our weight and retain great people because they want to work somewhere that shares their values and makes a difference.
We have seen first-hand how working with purpose to generate positive impacts can really help our business grow and mature. While for us this is a choice, it is increasingly likely that a lot of what we already do will become a requirement if the UK is to keep up with other markets and address the challenges around climate change and social inequality before it gets too late. Isn’t it better to do this now, while you have space and time to do it your own way? Purpose is good for business and good for the planet… what could possibly be the argument against it?
At Bates Wells, top-tier legal advice is coupled with a real desire to drive change. Visit bateswells.co.uk to learn more
By Martin Bunch, Managing Partner, Bates Wells
Big business and climate change: finally, sustainability pays
One thing becoming clear during the debate over how to respond to climate change is that prioritising profit at the expense of the environment, or disregarding the social consequences, is not just morally unacceptable, it is increasingly difficult. Big corporations are under pressure to take real action on emissions or risk the wrath of protesters, investors and even shareholders.
As part of COP26, former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, led the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) initiative as part of the UN Net-Zero Banking Alliance. Members now include 450 organisations that control a total of $130 trillion (£95 trillion) in assets. This accounts for around 40 per cent of global assets.
These companies have signed up to reducing their greenhouse gas and climate change contributions to net zero by 2050 by combining action with accountability, with signatory banks setting an intermediate target for 2030 or sooner, using robust, science-based guidelines.
A spectrum of “purpose and impact-driven” enterprises now exists. This means that organisations actively trying to solve social and environmental problems as part of their main business activities.
These range from social enterprises helping with environmental and social causes locally and nationally, through to certified B corporations, allied to a non-profit set up by three business and private equity experts to “accelerate a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy”. B corporations are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
Businesses now have a range of ways to ensure their activities provide a social or environmental benefit. Trying to solve social and environmental problems sets a new purpose for organisations and in doing so, these companies want their solutions to have an impact.
So now even the largest corporations are buying into the purpose and impact trend. Companies publicly listed on stock exchanges want to attract investment and give investors confidence that their business will provide a better than average return on that investment.
Purpose and impact in investing terms can be captured by environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments which report and track these factors as well as financial performance. In the US S&P500 index (which tracks the performance of the 500 largest companies on US stock exchanges), 16 of 27 ESG investments outperformed the market in 2021. In Europe a sample of 745 Europe-based ESG funds shows that the majority have done better than non-ESG funds over three, five, and 10 years.
The strong performance of ESG investment is turning both corporate and investor heads. The notion that fossil fuel is a sure-fire investment has also been questioned as future returns are expected to be lower. Earlier this year, leading petrochemical corporations ExxonMobil and Chevron suffered shareholder revolts over their failure to demonstrate strategies to curb emissions, while Shell suffered defeat in the Dutch courts in a citizen-led case and was ordered to expand its plans to cut its levels of emissions.
The ability to ignore social and environmental risks in investment portfolios is evidently reducing. Meanwhile, the benefits of investing in socially and environmentally responsible business are becoming clearer and more attractive.
The 2017 Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is moving towards greater scrutiny of scope 3 emissions of greenhouse gases. Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions that are incurred by a company’s activities such as transport, employee commuting, waste disposal and so on, which are created as part of the business’s value chain.
For the finance sector this typically includes the emissions of companies in receipt of investments and lending. This initiative will likely be boosted further by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) which launched the world’s first net zero standard at the end of October 2021. This initiative will help organisations measure greenhouse gas and climate change contributions across all of their activities.
What this means is that customers of banks themselves will also have to be net zero if banks are to achieve their own commitments. So if a small company is looking for a business loan, its lending bank will expect that company to also have net zero commitments on greenhouse gases and climate change.
Financial firms signed up to GFANZ also have huge investments in stocks and shares. Large companies listed on stock exchanges which are looking for investment will need to convince banks that they too will be moving towards net zero on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Businesses which cannot demonstrate clear commitments to net zero will have far fewer lenders and investors to choose from.
Eight years after the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce was set up, finance and business are finally now aligning themselves to social and environmental goals. Companies which pay careful attention to their social and environmental impact will have more opportunities to secure investment.
Socially and environmentally responsible companies with sustainability at the centre of their business are already finding success in the market. And the way financial markets are moving would indicate that investment in sustainability will only continue to pay off.