02 August 2010

Subsidy ups and downs, CSR meets high risk, UN water rights and business, and other sustainability news

Top Stories

Europe Slashes Low-Carbon Energy Subsidies as Budgets Shrink.reliability high.
"Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have all announced subsidy cuts, and there are fears that the United Kingdom, making budget cuts across the board as it desperately seeks to reduce a deficit of over 160 billion pounds, will be tempted to go even further." Because of budget constraints policymakers are shifting from subsidies and incentives to prescriptive requirements like renewable energy requirements. Investors still need some predictability in public policy. See New York Times from ClimateWire. Related article "Spain cuts solar incentives by up to 45 percent" at Reuters. [Some subsidies had gotten out of synch with markets, for example where solar subsidies stayed high as solar panel costs plummeted. (Of course subsidies are always attempts to distort markets, to achieve supposed public policy objectives.) Moving to prescriptive approaches will have the effect of shifting costs from the public purse to consumers in some cases. Subsidy policy can be a fragile foundation for investment decisions in the best of times.]

Lessons for the CSR Industry from the Deepwater Horizon Spill.reliability medium.
"Prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident, BP was among the recognized leaders in sustainability reporting. A long-time "A+" reporter against the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), BP has been listed by DJSI, FTSE4Good, has won numerous sustainability-related awards around the globe and regularly topped sustainability assessments, such as the Tomorrow's Value Rating. ... the accident in the Gulf highlights the gap between messaging, perception and reality for the CSR industry." See GreenBiz blog. [World-class CSR reporting and PR are compatible with extreme environmental and financial risk exposure.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Innovative India water plant opens in Chennai.reliability high.
"A desalination plant which begins operating in Madras on Saturday will provide some of the cheapest drinking water in India, backers say. They say that the plant will supply 1,000 litres of drinking water for just over $1 and could well be a "template" for other coastal Indian cities. The company behind the plant says that it is the biggest in South Asia. It will provide 100 million litres of water a day ... The plant - which cost $140m - is the joint venture between an Indian company IVRCL and Befessa of Spain. ... The government-run Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) will buy the purified water for the next 25 years." Story at BBC News.

Executives Link Sustainability with Business Strategy.reliability high.
"most companies see an alignment between sustainability and their overall business strategy, according to a new report and related podcast from Deloitte. The Deloitte report, 'Sustainability in Business Today: A Cross-Industry View,' and podcast, 'Three Things Your Chief Sustainability Officer Won't Tell You,' also find that many companies have a gap between their leaders’ sustainability aspirations and the way that sustainability is enabled within their organizations." See Environmental Leader story. PDF of report here.

Leading Building Owners, Tenants Join Forces to Push Green Leasing.reliability high.
"A group of leading building owners, investment advisory firms and corporate tenants have become allies in a campaign to make commercial office space more sustainable by breaking down the barriers to green leasing. Bank of America, Beacon Capital Partners, Deutsche Bank and its real estate investment manage arm RREEF, JPMorgan Chase, Jones Lang LaSalle's investment arm, LaSalle Investment Management, and Whirlpool Corporation are among the first to enlist in the effort. In doing so, the participants made a commitment to the Green Lease Action Plan and its guiding principles -- and pledge to apply the concepts to properties they own, manage or occupy. .. 'The efficient use of energy and other resources in buildings requires joint action from property owners and occupiers, but there are disincentives that often prevent the two sides from investing in the necessary capital improvements,' said Michael Jordan, senior vice president of sustainability strategy at Jones Lang LaSalle, in a statement." See Greener World Media.

Electric vehicles incentives guide: Country by country.reliability medium.
"Now that we know the purchase and lease prices of two of the biggest-hitters--the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and the 2011 Nissan Leaf--many buyers will want to know is how much they'll save off the purchase price once federal and local tax credits have been taken into account." Details subsidies in U.S., Canada, Europe. From AllCarsElectric blog.

Government and Regulation

UN water rights ruling gives business a chance to lead.reliability high.
"The UN adopted a resolution this week recognising access to clean water as a fundamental human right. The resolution passed with 122 votes, although 41 countries, including the US, United Kingdom, Canada and other developed nations, abstained. ... Although the resolution is nonbinding, its relevance extends to all industries and geographies, according to Faris Natour, director of Research & Innovation at BSR, where leads the organisation's business and human rights program. 'This declaration that water (access) is a human right is a good thing for business,' Natour said in a telephone interview. 'One of the reasons it is good is it provides clarity about what is expected from companies.' ... 'It puts responsibility on companies for non-infringement,' Natour said. 'They have to ensure in their operations they are not infringing on human rights, in this case the human right to access of clean water.' The standard calls for companies to proactively perform due diligence to ensure they are respecting human rights through their policies and management systems. They must also periodically assess human rights as a company and practice transparency by measuring and reporting impacts." See BusinessGreen. Press release here. [Only the UN would issue a press release 5,700 words long.]