Category: Posts

Climate, Disaster, Resilience: Analysis at R2

See continuing analysis of climate, crisis, risk and resilience at R2communications’ post, “Responding to Hurricane Sandy”, at R2sustainability.com, where Ann Goodman and Lakis Polycarpou offer views–editorial and pictorial–of the event and its aftermath.

Calculating the cost of disaster vs. the price of resilience

 © 2012 Ann GoodmanJohnMutter

By June 2012, many had forgotten the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrought on New Orleans some seven years earlier. Few had the foresight to predict Sandy and the crises it would cause New York City and environs.

In the super-storm’s aftermath, most have been concerned with “getting back to normal.” A few are calling for resilient new ways to handle what’s now being dubbed the “new normal” weather pattern.

And a very few are trying to calculate the real costs of the disaster.

One of those is Prof. John Mutter, the Columbia University scientist and economist, who shared his prescient insights with me on the price of climate related disaster last spring. In the wake of Sandy, which occurred right in Mutter’s backyard (full disclosure: mine, too), he with me shared some more recent lessons learned and potential ways forward.

What is striking about Mutter’s viewpoint is his focus on the longer-term economic and business costs of such climate-related disasters—versus an immediate fix—and his suggestions of opportunities to be reaped. Instead of reconstructing what was lost, he advocates taking a longer view to understand what the often lagging and lasting costs of such disasters are.

That approach often means looking not at current losses and rebuilding what was destroyed, but rather at the costs—over time—to business and society, in the long aftermath of the event, including productivity gains that might have occurred without a disaster.

It also means looking at any current destruction less as loss but rather as opportunity to create something completely different, perhaps elsewhere, with more wisdom, foresight, practical insight and technological know-how.

In short, Mutter’s approach suggests a new and different way of calculating the costs of disaster, pointing out that the biggest loss to the economy—the chain of production, consumption and everything that goes into it—doesn’t happen in the moment of crisis but actually begins afterwards “with losses that go beyond the value of the built structures trashed at the time, beyond the capital asset loss, to a deeper economic loss that happens over time.”

He adds that a climate-related—or other—disaster is a process with three key parts: build-up, event and recovery. The recovery period is where the risk of cost builds most—and where the opportunity for genuine correction also occurs, including boosting economic growth after the initial trauma.

The post-disaster period is when we start to understand the “true impacts,” he says, adding that they will be “highly variable, and the length of time it takes to get back to where you were is uneven” for different businesses. Continue reading “Calculating the cost of disaster vs. the price of resilience”

Mid-Autumn Roundup

It’s been a whirlwind season!

Just a few highlights:

Most recently in early October, colleague Lakis Polycarpou and I (of R2: Risk & Resilience, a social media enterprise for sustainability initiatives) moderated a fine panel on sustainable supply chains in the current age of natural disasters at NYC’s Commit! Forum.  Our splendid speakers included Kaan Katircioglu of IBM, Adam Carrell of E&Y, and Cristiana Fragola, recently with NYC’s department of sustainability management.

That workshop came on the heels of the illuminating Planetworkshops conference in a week earlier in Evian, France, where, again representing R2, I spoke on a fascinating panel on social media and sustainable consumption, with US and European speakers. Planetworkshops compiled a video of the conference.

And, reaching back to mid-September, I began the whole trip with a presentation at the Los Angeles Social Enterprise Alliance Summit–on how social entrepreneurs can best exploit social media, using some of R2’s research and recommendations.

Stay tuned here for on more exciting tips and travels with R2!

Can sustainability help JPMorgan Chase bounce back?

 © 2012 Ann Goodman

Even as JPMorgan Chase has incurred billions in losses from botched trading, acknowledged by its CEO Jamie Dimon as an “egregious mistake,” the stalwart bank has been enthusiastically supporting a new environmental strategy that spans all of its businesses.

In a particularly creative move, the bank recently announced it is financing an initiative in New York City to help building owners cover upfront costs of converting old boilers to natural gas. It is also encouraging home owners to make their homes more energy efficient through improvements that may be eligible for tax benefits.

Matthew Arnold, the Head of the Office of Environmental Affairs, sees the move as the sort of innovation he hopes the bank can achieve across businesses to help solve real-world environmental problems.

Appointing Arnold — former leader of PwC’s Sustainable Business Solutions, co-founder of Sustainable Finance Ltd., and COO of World Resources Institute — to the top environmental position a year ago was something of a coup for the bank. In Arnold, JPMorgan Chase has lured not just a daring environmental thought leader, but also a well-known implementer of sustainability projects. Continue reading “Can sustainability help JPMorgan Chase bounce back?”

Ann and Lakis to Speak at Commitforum! in NYC, Oct. 2-3

Commitforum!, October 2-3, NYC

Join Ann Goodman and colleague Lakis Polycarpou at their session “Sustainable Supply Chains in the Age of Natural Disasters”

For 30% discount on entire conference, register at http://www.commitforum.com/ using ID Code GOODMAN30.

In the summer and fall of 2011 a torrent of rain and subsequent flooding washed over Thailand, a major supplier and key link in global supply chains, causing billions in damage and production shutdowns, with global automotive and computer companies among the hardest hit. While the scale of damage was unprecedented, it was only the latest Continue reading “Ann and Lakis to Speak at Commitforum! in NYC, Oct. 2-3”

Environment & Leadership: Tips from a Pro at NAEM Women’s Roundtable

© 2012 Ann Goodman

One of the outstanding presenters at NAEM’s recent roundtable onwomen’s leadership and environment was Susan Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Group Inc. and appointed member of the DEC’s commission
on America’s Nuclear Future (tasked with safely developing long-term solutions for the nuclear fuel cycle), and granddaughter of President “Ike” Eisenhower.
Her career has been one marked by progressive inquiry, critical thought and independent judgment.
She had some particularly wise words to impart to on leadership and environment to an audience of women environmental professionals in the corporate, policy and nonprofit sectors. Here are a few of her tips:

On Leadership: Continue reading “Environment & Leadership: Tips from a Pro at NAEM Women’s Roundtable”

In Search of a Sustainable “New” Economy

© 2012 AnnGoodman

Bob Massie, NEI President

Who better to guide an emerging “new economy” than Bob Massie, the celebrated former executive director of Ceres–among the first organizations to bring together the business, investment and activist communities for a sustainable future—and a father of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) that continues to transform how companies conceive and report sustainability initiatives?

In his new role as president of the New Economics Institute (NEI), Massie is bringing to bear the full scope of his wide professional experience and personal strength—as leader of those groups, as well as business professor, Episcopal minister, apartheid rights activist, political veteran (most recently in his race for the Democratic Senate candidacy in Massachusetts), and healthy survivor of hepatitis, HIV and a liver transplant, recounted in his new book A Song in the Night.

That depth of character and breadth of action will likely be needed to help lead a fledgling movement that, up to now, may have been viewed by skeptics as something of a populist sideline.

I caught up with Massie—one of my longtime heroes in the business sustainability movement–in June at NEI’s first conference in upstate New York, which brought together economists, academics, business leaders, government officials, community organizers and others to examine what’s not working in our economy—as well as experiments that are working–and what role business and finance, in concert with other sectors, can play to help create positive change.

So what is the new economy? Continue reading “In Search of a Sustainable “New” Economy”