Our newsletter, to be delivered twice monthly, will explore pertinent issues related to smart technology, clean energy and sustainable agriculture. Our goal is to keep a finger on the pulse of industry trends and how they relate to Novus’s goals and success.
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Redefining the raison d’être: What it takes to build a net-positive company
Writing for the Harvard Business Review, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and adviser Andrew Winston outline the ways a corporation can become a net-positive company — that is, one that “improves well-being for everyone it impacts and at all scales — every product, every operation, every region and country, and for every stakeholder, including employees, suppliers, communities, customers, and even future generations and the planet itself.”
The two — whose recently published “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2021) outlines this concept in greater depth — make the case that while net positivity might at first sound like a lofty goal, it not only helps to address the world’s most urgent needs but also has the potential to create new economic opportunities.
Here’s why: We’ve seen recently that major disruptions are tremendously costly. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, has cost the global economy some $22 trillion.
Meanwhile, businesses face increasing pressure to create solutions from several angles. Investors, for example, are demanding more action toward implementing effective ESG frameworks. Financial regulators now insist on improved transparency and disclosure. Business customers are becoming more interested how their suppliers are tackling climate and diversity benchmarks. And a growing segment of the workforce — particularly Millennials and Gen Zers — simply won’t work for employers whose values are not in alignment with their own.
On the other hand, companies that work toward net positivity are able to achieve a more wholistic engagement with the world at large. This mutual affinity leads to greater collaboration — and greater rewards.
Polman and Winston say currently there are no net-positive corporations, but there are four basic steps toward achieving this goal.
- Focusing first on serving stakeholders: customers, communities, employees, business partners. Shareholder rewards will follow.
- Taking full ownership of external actions like investments, logistics and supply to ensure every step toward providing a good or service isn’t counterintuitive to a corporation’s mission and values.
- Looking toward ways to work with competition and even critics. Starting with collaboration on low-risk efforts can yield more efficient and sustainable practices for entire industries.
- Systemic change won’t come from a single actor. The for-profit sector, government and civil society must come together to achieve what Polman and Winston refer to as net-positive advocacy.
In Other News
Energy traders eye emissions
Major energy-trading companies like PLC, BP and Royal Dutch Shell are ramping up their carbon-emissions trading arms to take advantage of a growing carbon-emissions market. Traders are able to turn profits by facilitating deals between heavy emitters like steel producers, who are able to purchase additional allowances from companies that stay below government-mandated limits. Last year, the value of this global market grew 23% to $281 billion. By 2050, that value could reach $22 trillion.
A wastewater solution with a clean-energy bonus
It’s well-known that agricultural production and industrial food processing are major producers of water pollution. These industries are vital to our existence, but a recent report from the World Bank predicts a devastating fresh-water shortage in many regions by 2030, which means wastewater management solutions will be increasingly important. The woman-led startup Aquacycl uses microbial fuel cells accelerate water-treatment processes while also producing clean energy.
Can VC get into the ESG game?
Competition among venture capitalists to find the next high-growth unicorn has made the industry hesitant to focus on startups espousing ESG principles. But an uptick in market demand for sustainable and ethical products and services has driven an increase in mission-driven startups, and major asset managers have created impact funds built around ESG ratings. The Stanford Social Innovation Review outlines four strategies for VC funds to integrate ESG into their own operations.
New federal office to study health inequities tied to climate change
The Biden administration has announced it will create a new federal office structured to study and address the climate crisis’s impact on health outcomes — in particular the disproportionate effects on poor communities. The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity will be part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Public health officials and medical experts have long urged the government to recognize the urgency of this issue.
Catch of the Day
Those salmon fillets you buy at the grocery store are delicious and nutritious, but they’re also responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds of fishy byproduct. Now Bear Grylls, a former soldier in the British Special Forces and outdoorsy star of shows like “Man vs. Wild” has signed on as cofounder of Goodfish, a snack company that uses salmon skin to make crunchy chips in flavors like sriracha lemongrass, sea salt and spicy bbq. The company is able to upcycle as much as 240,000 pounds of fish a month to make their crunchy, carb-free and protein-rich treats.