Harnessing the Green Business Revolution, with Sustainability Speaker Peter Boyd
Business and environment expert, Peter Boyd helps companies accelerate the adoption of business solutions that lower carbon emissions and increase long-term profits. Driven by his personal motto that “There is no Planet B,” Boyd has been at the forefront of the green business revolution for nearly a decade. He has been launch director and COO of Richard Branson’s global initiative, an advisor to the “B Team” on their ‘Net-Zero by 2050’ initiative, and Chair of The Energy Efficiency Deployment Office for the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change. Currently he serves as Executive Fellow at Yale University’s Center for Business and the Environment. His latest venture, Time4Good Group, allows sought-out leaders to optimize their time so that they have more energy to dedicate themselves to the environmental and social causes they care about.
SPEAKING.COM: What is a “Net Zero Emissions Economy” and why is it important that we reach one?
BOYD: Put simply, most of us have been brought up to know that we should ‘leave the campsite as good as we found it’. We need to achieve this same goal when considering the treatment of our planet so that we don’t leave the world in a worse state for our children and grandchildren. We are the first generation with a real shot at being able to do that, and the last generation where our improvements might be able to limit the worst effects of climate change.
The term “Net Zero” is also about restoring balance. A ‘Net-Zero Emissions Economy’ is when our remaining emissions from fossil fuels are in balance with the natural world’s ability to absorb those emissions. We don’t have to achieve ‘absolute’ zero emissions, but we do need to achieve the balance in order to stop human-caused warming of the atmosphere. Though the question focuses on ‘emissions,’ we also need to achieve ‘Net-Zero’ in our management of other areas as well, such as water and waste.
SPEAKING.COM: What do we have to do to turn a Net Zero Emissions Economy into a reality?
BOYD: We have to ‘bend the curve’ of emissions over the next few years. “Mission2020” among others do a great job in spelling out some of the areas where that ‘bend’ can happen – renewable energy, zero emissions transport and land use being particularly critical.
More broadly, we can and should apply the ‘Net-Zero’ concept to every level of our economy. Fortunately at the global level, the countries that gathered in Paris for COP21 under the UNFCCC spelled out a Net-Zero aspiration in the Agreement.
At the next level down, countries and multinational companies can target ‘Net-Zero’ by working out their negative impacts and mitigating them with positive actions such as reducing the energy they consume, getting all their energy from renewable sources, and purchasing offsets for the impacts that they cannot reduce themselves. Fortunately, 94% of the activities to reduce emissions will also have a positive impact on economic growth.
At local levels, we can apply ‘Net-Zero’ to a city, town, small-business, community, and even on an individual scale. Once we ensure that our negative impacts on the planet are, at-a-minimum, balanced by our positive impacts, we can live in an economy that can thrive within the ‘planetary boundaries’ of nature.
SPEAKING.COM: You started working with Carbon War Room in 2009. How much progress have you seen toward a Net Zero Emissions Economy and what were some of the key initiatives that made that progress possible?
BOYD: Clean energy is a technology, not a fuel, and its output has become progressively cleaner, more abundant and cheaper. On the other hand, fossil fuels are commodities; prices tend to be volatile and upwardly-mobile as the extracting and refining of the commodity gets dirtier, harder and more expensive to bring to market. In this case, fundamental economic trends are actually helping us advance towards a Net-Zero world. These trends create a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ of a cross-over of costs – namely, ‘when’ we will cease to have an argument regarding the most effective way to create our electricity and move our people and goods. We will not run out of fossil fuels before we move to the clean economy, or as my old boss used to say, “we moved on from the stone age before we ran out of stones”.
We have also seen significant progress in the political realm. We need only compare what the world achieved at Paris in 2015 versus Copenhagen in 2009.
The progress at state and city levels is even more impressive. Mayors today feel directly elected and accountable for creating clean, livable, smart cities for their citizens. In fact, more than 500 mayors gathered in downtown Paris to rally behind the ‘Under 2 MOU’ at the same time as countries were gathered in Le Bourget for the UN conference.
However, many challenges remain in specific sectors and geographical regions, and there is still a lot of work to be done if we want to further reduce market failures and accelerate the transition to a truly sustainable future.
SPEAKING.COM: If the technology is available and it’s more profitable for businesses to implement it, what is stopping the private sector from making more progress toward addressing climate change?
BOYD: In many sectors technological progress and business model innovation have created environmentally beneficial cost savings (and new revenue streams), but stubborn market failures can slow the transition. As an example, Carbon War Room’s work in the Shipping industry helped highlight the need and opportunity to address market failures at the industry level to allow economically rational actors to pursue greener options that in the long run are often much more profitable. This work included publicizing information on relative vessel fuel efficiency – essentially creating “an energy-star fridge sticker” for every ship – and also included helping create new finance mechanisms to encourage capital to flow to fuel-saving technologies.
SPEAKING.COM: Looking at untapped opportunities, what industries today have the most potential to become more environmentally sustainable while growing profits?
BOYD: Most sectors are now finding areas of their operations in which they can become sustainable and grow their business at the same time. Working out how to thrive in an economy of net-zero environmental impact and zero poverty is the emerging long-run business imperative for everyone, regardless of industry. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UNFCCC’s Net-Zero target – agreed within 3 months of each other in 2015 – are helping reinforce that at a global level and it is vital to consider the long-term influence those agreements will have on this shift.
That being said, there are still many untapped opportunities across energy, water and waste; and then across specific sectors and geographies. In energy, the changing economics and improving technology of power generation along with the massive shift of vehicles from oil & gasoline to electric is creating opportunities, as are technology and cost improvements in water and waste.
For the investor and pioneering company, there are numerous opportunities emerging thanks to the convergence of two or more big trends. A good example is where the Internet of Things is combining with Big Data, the clean-energy revolution and new business models.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some actions that smaller businesses – regardless of industry – can take to contribute to a healthier planet?
BOYD: I think smaller businesses, recognizing their particular assets and liabilities, are in an excellent position to lead the economy to Net-Zero. As an advisor to small start-ups at Yale University, I frequently see tremendous potential for the younger generation in particular to solve climate change, and create successful businesses in the process.
Entrepreneurial companies in the ‘clean’ tech solution space will lead the pace of transition rather than the incumbents. In the case of the auto industry, it is striking to see Tesla’s market capitalization now exceeding Ford’s. Likewise, in the shipping industry, we at Carbon War Room saw many of the most exciting fuel-saving innovations coming out of small & medium-sized specialists.
For small businesses in a fossil-fuel-consuming sector, the transition to energy efficiency and renewables could have a quicker positive effect on the bottom line, and garner new fans from competitor customers for doing the right thing faster than the larger incumbents. The Kentucky coal-mining museum’s recent transition to solar as a means of cutting costs demonstrates that scale and core mission do not need to interfere with going renewable .
SPEAKING.COM: Throughout your work, have you had to collaborate with people who did not believe in man-made climate change and if so, how did you approach working with them?
BOYD: I haven’t met many people who purposefully wanted to leave the world in a worse state than they found it. It is often worthwhile starting the conversation from a fundamental value-based wish such as “leaving the campsite as you found it (for the next generation)”; and then, as the conversation progresses following the cliché “seek first to understand, then be understood”.
Normally it is possible to establish a lot of common ground regarding what needs to be done next, regardless of whether ‘climate change’ is, or is not, a ‘belief’. Working with the shipping industry, we seldom challenged hard-wired belief systems – especially if different sides of the table could agree on a common solution that satisfied many objectives including cost savings, cleaner air, improved health, international competitiveness, steadier jobs in a growing sector, and more.
More recently I’ve helped draft communications intended for government audiences across the political spectrum that seek to unite around a solution without necessarily agreeing word-for-word on the problem.
SPEAKING.COM: How do you think the new presidential administration’s stance on climate change will affect the private sector’s progress towards a Net Zero Emissions Economy as well as the United States’ role in this area on an international scale?
BOYD: The clear hope is if the administration wants jobs, resilient infrastructure, and healthy citizens – they will work out where they can achieve all three – whether or not they embrace a pro-climate or ‘Net-Zero’ agenda.
The current administration has clearly set out its agenda to deregulate and weaken legislative and government agency response to climate change . They are also reviewing whether the US ‘stays in Paris’. Most voices in the debate across the political spectrum (including the Coal industry) are clear on the merits of retaining an important seat at the global negotiating table on such an important issue.
While they try to slow our transition to a Net-Zero economy, it is hard to see what can actually be done, other than at the margins, to significantly decelerate the global response in the face of the massive underlying trends I pointed out above. The administration does have the ability to reduce US private-sector competitiveness by creating a confusing signal that runs counter to global trends and the increasing demands of their investors and customers.
Even so, we shouldn’t underestimate the number of private sector and sub-national – particularly city-level – institutions that will stay on the right course despite changes at the federal level. The local levels are where stakeholders feel the effects of greener jobs and clean air initiatives in real time. As others have written, the 57,000 coal mining jobs are unlikely to bounce back; meanwhile the fastest growing job in the USA is ‘Wind Turbine Service Technician,’ adding to the 470,000+ already employed in the clean energy field.
SPEAKING.COM: How did you go from Carbon War Room to your current enterprise, Time4Good?
BOYD: My work at Carbon War Room was chiefly about tracking down and trying to solve the biggest market failures I could find. While there, working for Sir Richard Branson, Jose Maria Figueres (Former President of Costa Rica), and Jigar Shah (Solar investor, Founder of Sun Edison and co-Founder of Generate Capital,) I was struck to find a more pervasive market failure than climate change for our scarcest, non-renewable resource of all – our Time.
The demand on Leaders’ time is growing exponentially for unstoppable reasons: the world’s population is growing and becoming more connected, meaning an expert can find themselves with ‘no place to hide’. Meanwhile, the supply of time is resolutely fixed – everyone needs sleep and cannot truly multi-task.
I decided then to devote my entrepreneurial career to solving for this market failure and helping Leaders in diverse fields maximize their use of time for positive impact.
SPEAKING.COM: Could you explain to us how the Time4Good model helps in-demand leaders maximize their time and influence?
BOYD: Time4Good runs a unique service for the world’s busiest people to maximize their use of time. Our consulting service helps drive a much more intentional use of time through a Leader’s life, and across their teams.
Our online platform helps a diverse group of Leaders respond more effectively to those trying to get hold of them. This in turn protects and enhances Leaders’ reputations, improves the quality of new meetings, and generates meaningful income for the charities they care about.
For the ‘Rising Star’, they now know where they stand. The platform effectively provides a way for ‘Rising Stars’ to donate to the Leader’s favorite charity (as well as their own), while clarifying and democratizing the access to the Leader’s calendar. For those who don’t get the calendar slot, they can still feel closer to the Leader than before by being invited to join an inner circle that could receive preferred communications from the Leader and their team.
To bring sustainability speaker Peter Boyd to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.
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