Philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss and the Wyss Foundation are committed to accelerating the pace and scale of conservation, supporting innovative academic research, and finding long-term solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Since its establishment in 1998, the Wyss Foundation has led the movement to conserve at-risk ecosystems for future generations to enjoy. Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh, speaks with the Wyss Foundation to understand how the Foundation and its partners have helped local and indigenous communities, national governments, land trusts, and non-profit partners permanently protect more than 100M acres of land and more than 3M sq km of ocean, an area larger than the landmass of India. Mr. Wyss and the Foundation also support innovative climate and sustainability research through the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Wyss Academy for Nature at the University of Bern.

Hansjörg Wyss meets with staff from The Nature Conservancy, one of the primary organizations executing on his $1.5 billion pledge to protect the planet

LUX: Could you share the story behind the creation of your organisation and what motivated you to focus on conservation?

Wyss Foundation: When Hansjörg Wyss first came to the United States as a student in 1958, his weekends hiking and climbing in the Rocky Mountains sparked a lifelong love for the open landscapes of the American West. What inspired Mr. Wyss the most was how our National Parks and public lands – unlike many protected areas abroad – are a public good. More than 300 million people visit our National Parks each year, and the Wyss Foundation is committed to ensuring future generations will be able to do the same on public lands around the world.

Ensuring future generations can enjoy the open landscapes of the American West was core to Hansjörg Wyss establishing the Wyss Foundation

LUX: What was behind your decision to scale up support for organisations working to curb global biodiversity loss?

WF: Climate change and biodiversity loss are the defining problems of the coming decades. As the impact of climate change becomes more apparent by the day, we have seen mounting evidence that the loss of biodiversity presents an existential threat to human prosperity and security. A significant majority of the planet’s surface has been severely altered by humans, and without a course correction, one million species are facing the threat of extinction – many within decades. Seeing the urgency of the moment, our founder committed $1 billion USD to launch the Wyss Campaign for Nature, jumpstarting the movement to conserve 30% of the earth’s surface in a natural state by 2030.

LUX: How did the Wyss Campaign for Nature catalyze collaboration?

WF: Getting conservation done requires close collaboration with local communities, Indigenous Peoples, all levels of government, private industry, and philanthropy. After Mr. Wyss pledged $1 billion to the 30×30 target, numerous other private donors, nonprofit organizations, and governments have joined our efforts. In 2021, we were also proud to increase our commitment to 30×30 through the Protecting Our Planet Challenge, partnering with other funders to pledge $5 billion to protect the planet by 2030 – the largest-ever gift for conservation.

LUX: How did this motivate public and governments’ engagement?

WF: Following years of hard-fought negotiations, nations ratified a plan to protect the planet’s biodiversity at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). The plan calls for wealthier nations to mobilize $30 billion annually to help conserve 30% of the world’s surface by the year 2030. Crucially, the agreement also recognizes and protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, enabling sustainable management by the rightful owners of the land. As Mr. Wyss said at the time, ‘This is a historic achievement, which will protect wildlife and wild places and ensure our children, and their children, have every opportunity to live prosperous, healthy, and wondrous lives.’

Working with organizations like Oceana, the Wyss Foundation is investing in rebuilding marine biodiversity and restoring fisheries

LUX: How does Wyss Foundation partner with others to accelerate impacts globally?

WF: Partnering with land trusts, local and indigenous communities, nonprofits, and governments has been central to our efforts to accelerate the pace of conservation. Leveraging the expertise of our grantees like The Nature Conservancy, we’ve been able to establish long-term partnerships and speed up the land conservation process.

The Wyss Foundation provided funding to expand the Aconquija National Park, protecting a critically important mountain chain in north central Argentina

For instance, in Australia’s Eastern Outback, we helped to purchase and permanently protect more than 400,000 acres of megadiverse wildlands. In Belize, we purchased a 236,000-acre plot, in the Selva Maya tropical forest, home to hundreds of animal species and endangered wildlife like jaguars and black howler monkeys. We’ve also invested in innovative conservation financing programs including the Caribbean Blue Bonds Project, working to help Caribbean nations restructure their sovereign debt to finance the conservation of at least 30% of their marine territory.

LUX: What has The Wyss Institute achieved to date?

WF: The Wyss Institute isn’t a traditional research center. Instead, it is focused on creating new technologies and applications to benefit human health and the environment through the formation of startups and corporate partnerships. Over the past 15 years, it has generated more than 4,000 patent flings, more than 130 licensing agreements, and 58 startups.

One particular area of focus is adapting building materials and technologies to mitigate climate change. As global temperatures rise and pose a threat to human health, developing climate-friendly air conditioning is more important than ever. Wyss Institute researchers are working to develop a low-energy, pollutant-free AC system called cSNAP, based on evaporative cooling that uses up to 75% less energy than traditional vapor-compression systems.

LUX: How will your Foundation continue to advocate for science-based resource management and protect people and planet?

WF: We are proud to see the progress toward conserving 30% of the planet’s surface by 2030, but there’s much more to be done. For the first time, nations around the world are committed to a science-based biodiversity goal.

The Wyss Foundation supported an expansion of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, a crucial habitat for endangered Hawaiian hawksbill turtle. Image courtesy of the National Parks Service

Now, we need to redouble our collaborative efforts and ensure that nations, philanthropists, and local communities are pulling together to execute on our promise.

wyssfoundation.org

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Under the artistic direction of Natasha Ginwala, the recent Colomboscope showed how the Sri Lankan art festival has swiftly become a must-visit not just for aficionados of South Asian art, but for collectors globally seeking to channel exciting new art world perspectives from a region whose global significance is rising.

woman sitting on window ledge

Natasha Ginwala, artistic director. Photo by Victoria Tomaschko

Across venues throughout Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, curators Hit Man Gurung, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, and Sarker Protick choreographed events and showcased the work of 40 eminent artists from Sri Lanka and the Global South, all themed around ‘Way of the Forest’.

Artwork of an eye with leaves

Zihan Karim, EYE (।), 2015, Video projection on installation. Photo by Fiona Cheng

Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), as one of the festival’s lead patrons and cultural partners, supported four artists from Bangladesh to participate: Soma Surovi Jannat; Md Rakibul Anwar; Zihan Karim; Jayatu Chakma. There was a strong theme of sustainability and regeneration in their works.

woman with trees in background

Soma Surovi Jannat, artist.

Man posing with painting in background

Rakibul Anwar, artist.

black and white picutre of man head down

Zihan Karim, artist.

man standing next to painting

Jayatu Chakma, artist.

‘Urbanisation is accelerating deforestation, which removes the potential for forests to absorb carbon and put a brake on global warming. This creates political, economic and societal crises for people and harms our planet,’ says DBF’s founder, Durjoy Rahman.

poster of event with text on it

The Way of the Forest Poster

It was an intriguing way to see how art is leading the challenge against post-colonial legacies and bearing witness to the effects of climate change.

 

See more: https://www.colomboscope.lk/

 

Online Editor: Isabel Phillips

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A coastline
green weeds at the bottom of the sea

Seaview Seagrass, Solent, Isle of Wight, UK, image by photographer and marine biologist Theo Vickers. © Theo Vickers

As sea levels rise due to global warming, there are tremendous challenges for the environment, coastal communities and global supply chains. Mark Rowe reports and discovers ideas, initiatives and infrastructure measures to help stem the tide

The sea is on the rise. All around the world, over the past 100 years, sea levels have risen by up to 25cm. And they are expected to rise by a further one metre in the next 80 years. The main driver of this increase is climate change, caused by humans pumping carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

This is driving sea-level rise through one reason everyone is aware of: melting ice bodies like glaciers and polar ice caps. What is less evident is that, even if all the permanent ice in the world were to melt, oceans would continue to rise as long as temperatures did, due to the physics of thermal expansion: warm water occupies more volume.

A woman wearing glasses and a shirt

Dr Joanne Williams

“We can’t reverse what has already happened,” says Dr Joanne Williams of the UK’s National Oceanography Centre. Science, in the form of thermal lags, means sea-level rises are inexorable. Water warms slowly, so, due to deep ocean heat uptake, sea levels will rise for centuries, whatever we do. “The heat is already in the ocean, the rises are locked in,” Williams continues. “But if we act now, it costs less in the long term and we can plan without having to rush. It’s easier to adapt.”

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In a 2021 report, “Coastlines in Crisis”, by Deutsche Bank Private Bank’s Markus Müller, ESG Chief Investment Officer, and Daniel Sacco, Investment Officer, the authors cautioned that “rising sea levels will put coastal populations and critical economic assets under increasing stress… substantial population displacement is not an unlikely scenario”. These are not abstract observations, and they highlight the challenges, including the human cost.

A man wearing a black top and blazer

Dr Philipp Rode

Most of the world’s populations live by water. Around one in 10 of us live less than 10 metres above sea level and 70 per cent of the world’s largest cities are in low-lying coastal areas. Roughly 40 per cent of the US population lives in coastal cities. So communities, as well as their infrastructure, trade and buildings, both residential and commercial, are all at risk, making the adoption of adaptation planning even more of a priority. As Dr Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities, puts it, “How sub-Saharan African cities will cope is very unclear. But the story of people being forced to move because it is too risky and too expensive to live there any more is one we will hear more and more.”

“The ways in which people are vulnerable varies,” says Williams. She cites Bangladesh, where a one-metre rise would shrink the country by one-third. “Bangladeshi people are used to flooding, but in the future it will happen more often, go further upriver and affect more farmland.” Much of the farming hinterland near Williams’s own city, Liverpool, in the UK, is at coastal level. “Not a lot of people live there,” she says, “but that’s a lot of food production at risk.”

It is apparent, then, that threats from sea-level rise affect more even than coastal ecosystems and coastal communities. They affect everyone through global economics in terms of agriculture, infrastructure, real estate, tourism and global trade. And all this affects the Global North as well as the Global South, the Netherlands as well as the Maldives.

This is because critical national infrastructure, most obviously ports, but also electricity and nuclear power stations, electricity cables, and gas and sewage pipes, are often located on the coasts. Twelve of the biggest US airports are built on coastal areas, and nearly one-third of US GDP relied on the coastal economy, employing almost 55 million people in 2016. It is estimated that 20 per cent of global GDP could be threatened by coastal flooding by the end of the century. Our seas handle 90 per cent of global trade and that means if ports get battered, then cargo – from plastic toys to grain consignments – will get tangled up with knock-on effects.

Yellow and green weeds at the bottom of the sea

An Island’s Wild Seas, the Needles, Isle of Wight, UK, image by photographer and marine biologist Theo Vickers. © Theo Vickers

In the Global South, particularly, effects on sectors such as agriculture and tourism will be especially disruptive, as developing countries are most reliant on them. Saltwater inundation from flooding contaminates freshwater aquifers, making agriculture difficult, threatening food supply and making water no longer potable. That spells trouble for the people of Suriname, where almost three-quarters of the population lives five metres below sea level and most of its fertile agricultural land lies on the coastal plain. The Maldives’ highest point is just two metres above sea level, and, while it performs well compared to its small island peers, tourism accounts for almost one-third of its economy, making its people extremely vulnerable to rising sea-level shocks.

“Rising seas will not see cities sink slowly, millimetre by millimetre beneath the waves. Instead, changes are complex and abrupt,” says Rode. “Sea-level rises make other things worse. If you get a combination of flash floods, storm surges, high winds and high tides, the peak height of impacts will hit places harder. The higher sea levels are, the harder it is to get floodwater from heavy rain out of a city.”

Society does not have a great track record of awareness, let alone action, when small communities, or those from the Global South, are involved. Barranquilla is the fourth largest city in Colombia, with a population of 2.4 million. Located next to the Magdalena River, near the Caribbean Sea, it is a major port. But because of mismanagement and lack of investment in water infrastructure – it has no rainwater drainage systems, for example – it is highly vulnerable to floods and landslides. When the city floods, and it does, the roads turn into dangerous, fast- flowing rivers, sweeping away cars – and people. Sea-level rise is set to compound the situation, and while there is a push for legislation and some agreement to avoid disaster, there is no clear plan, resulting in stressed infrastructure, increased food shortages and poor, often Afro-Colombian communities, displaced to informal slums.

While the residents of Barranquilla still wait for change, the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System was created in New Orleans right after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is the most costly flood-control system on earth and one of the biggest public-works projects in US history. Governments around the world are becoming increasingly conscious of the risks of sea-level rise and are progressively implementing adaptation measures. Shanghai’s authorities place a high value on these because, by 2050, the city is predicted to endure floods and rainfall 20 per cent higher than the global average. To lessen its vulnerability to rising sea levels, the city has built 520 kilometres of defensive seawalls. The OECD warns against complacency, however. Solutions are out there, but they will need to come hand in hand with the regulation and business climate that allows them to become viable commercially.

A man with dark curly short hair wearing glasses

Guy Michaels

Grey or technological solutions are often the direct go-to approach. London, which is estimated to have a water level increase of up to two metres in a low-emissions scenario, has its retractable barrier system, begun in 1974 and in operation since 1982. “And London can always get the Thames Barrier to do a bit more lifting,” says Guy Michaels, Associate Professor of Economics at the LSE’s Department of Economics. “In New York, which is 10 metres above sea level, you can think of ways to potentially close off the harbour.”

Tokyo created a spectacular solution in 2006. The G-Cans flood project is a huge cathedral-like underground cavern supported by 59 towering pillars. Permeable surfaces and a network of pipes divert floodwaters to a reservoir, before being slowly released to the Edo river. The price tag was more than US$2 billion and costs for defending infrastructure along other coastal cities are similarly eye-watering. “You can build defences higher, but there comes a point where you have to ask whether costs justify the outcomes,” says Williams. “When you get a one in 100-year flood, people build back. But what if that event happens again the next year, and then the year after that?”

This is where nature-based solutions come in. While many cities in advanced economies – those, remember, primarily responsible for climate change – have the means to protect themselves through technological solutions, the picture is different in the Global South, says Rode, where emphasis is more on adaptation. Barrier islands, vegetated dunes, coastal wetlands, mangrove forests and reefs are examples of natural barriers to protect shorelines.

They provide several advantages in addition to flood protection, including carbon sequestration, biodiversity restoration, fish nurseries, cultural heritage, recreational activities, tourism and spiritual benefits. Crucially for the Global South, they can be quickly adapted to the real pace of sea-level rise. Planting mangroves can lower wave heights by 71 per cent or more.

Mangroves originally lined tens of thousands of kilometres of coastlines around the world; previously mistakenly seen by humans as a type of coastal weed that could be destroyed for development, they are a good example of the upside potential of mitigation. Properly managed, mangroves store immense amounts of carbon and support a rich ecosystem of biodiversity, as well as protecting the developments on the coasts they have previously been cut from. They survive in a variety of climates and in brackish water, and planting mangroves can provide carbon credits.

Meanwhile, studies in the UK have shown how fringes of saltmarsh 40 metres wide can reduce wave height by nearly 20 per cent; at 80 metres, waves reduce to near zero. Nature-based solutions also give quick returns: estimates for annual flood-damage reduction from coral reefs exceed US$400 million for Cuba, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and the Philippines alone.

Fresh, innovative approaches to protect urban areas include creating holistic “sponge cities”, which absorb heavier rainfall. After a cloudburst in 2011 inundated Copenhagen’s main trauma hospital and caused US$1.04 billion of damage, the Danish government redesigned infrastructure to make roads and pavements more permeable, while using nature-based solutions to plant grass and lay soil to better absorb rain.

Information-gathering to facilitate decision-making is key. Many countries use Lidar, a remote sensing method that pulsates laser light across coastal areas to measure elevation on the Earth’s surface. Australia’s web portal CoastAdapt provides mapping software, coastline morphological information, guidance for decision-making in coastal climate adaptation, and local and international case studies. France, meanwhile, is one country using a combination of a tech-based approach to monitor and evaluate its progress to date, and using that to recommend the elaboration of nature-based solutions and proposals to spatially reshape coastal areas.

A coastline

The artificial peninsula whose sand, as it erodes, protects the natural beaches near The Hague © Craig Corbett

The Netherlands, with 25 per cent of land below sea level and scarred by the North Sea flood of 1953, is widely considered the gold standard, with a creative approach combining monitoring, preparation, and grey- and nature- based engineering. “It did a lot of learning, a lot of thinking,” says Michaels. Anticipating sea-level rises of one metre by 2100, its measures have included the 2003 US$70 million reconstruction project to protect The Hague by raising a dyke 10 metres above the mean water level in Amsterdam and depositing 2.4 million cubic meters of dredged sand along Scheveningen Beach, which pushed the ocean back 50 metres from the shoreline.

Meanwhile, the necessary shift to a more sustainable economy offers the opportunity to restructure many firms and their manufacturing processes. Physical damage to facilities as a direct consequence of flood events or other weather extremes interrupt production and make it hard for employees to show up at work. It makes sense that forward-thinking companies across the globe are preparing for climate change by investing in resilient structures that can resist storms, severe winds and flooding.

Coastal cities may have to be radically redesigned or risk becoming “misshapen”, as Michaels puts it. “Inland cities have development that radiates from a central business district in all directions,” he says. “For coastal cities this is not an option. Rising sea levels will further distort the shape of coastal cities, leading to them becoming misshapen and significantly lengthening the costs of commuting to work.”

Michaels is struck by how stubborn communities can be. “Between 1990 and 2010 we saw development increase by 26 per cent in city blocks prone to sea-level rises on the US east and Gulf coasts,” he says. “That was alarming. We assumed people would avoid building there – the exact opposite happened.”

Read more: YKK America’s CEO Jim Reed on creating sustainable products for less 

Thumbing a nose at climate science only partly explains this, suggests Michaels. “If you assume people have good foresight but still do it, then they’re building in riskier locations because that’s where the jobs are. It’s a trade-off.” Is there a link to the politicisation of climate change? “People who are least aware of climate change can be the most willing to take on risk,” he says, citing politically sceptical Florida. “Miami is at ground zero. The coast is long, low-lying and very vulnerable. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a wide acceptance of what is happening and many locals regard most events as ‘nuisance’ flooding.”

What will trigger meaningful long- term, joined-up action? “Disasters recede into the background quite quickly,” says Michaels. “Maybe that changes if we get a Hurricane Sandy or a Katrina every year.” Williams is more optimistic. “I see people putting the effort in. It’s important not to say things are impossible, otherwise people ask why they or their government should bother taking any steps.” Rode reckons a more fundamental societal shift is required. “Free-riding, the good life as we know it, goes far beyond levels of consumerism that are healthy for the planet. Maybe we need to rediscover the mundane, then decide whether what’s really meaningful in life is that your local river is clean enough to swim in.”

Find out more:

deutschewealth.com/dam/deutschewealth/cio-

perspectives/cio-special-assets/coastlines-in-crisis

This article first appeared in the Deutsche Bank Supplement of the Autumn/Winter 2023/2024 issue of LUX magazine

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People walking in and out of a building that has signs to COP28
People walking in and out of a building that has signs to COP28

COP28 closed last week with an agreement that signals the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era

Following the close of COP28 last week, Markus Müller, Chief Investment Officer of ESG & Global Head of Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank, speaks to LUX about his key takeaways from the conference

LUX: Did COP28 move the dial on climate change?
Markus Müller: Yes, from my point of view it did. Look at the commitments to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and double energy efficiency. But it is what is implied by such commitments that is most interesting. This isn’t just a matter of developing pure supply. We’re also going to have to develop markets – by changing permissions and enhancing grid connection, to mention just two factors out of many.

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We also have to recognise who can do what by when. Rapid adoption of renewables may pose the biggest challenge for the Global South. After nearly 30 years of these climate change conferences, it’s also highly important that fossil fuels have finally formally been mentioned in the commitment for a “transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy”. In statements for previous COPs, there has just been talk about reduction of harmful subsidies. This is a clear step further. The problem for countries is now to make this happen without sacrificing living standards.

Dubai and the sea from an aerial view

Global solidarity was shown at COP28 when negotiators from nearly 200 Parties came together and signed on the world’s first ‘global stocktake’ to ratchet up climate action before the end of the decade

LUX: What was your best professional moment at COP28 and why?
MM: My best professional moment was a talanoa-style dialogue with the Island Youth from Hawaii, Philippines, Palau and Samoa. It was impressive to listen to the Island Youth discuss their views and hear their take on challenges ahead. The dialogue helped me understand how disconnected the world still is on many topics – but it also revealed a lot of hope for the future. We know what to do on climate change but we have to act now.

LUX: What was the biggest disappointment and why?
MM: The biggest disappointment was that the sheer scale of event hindered effective dialogue between businesses, policymakers and NGOs. Compared to recent COPs it was simply too big – in terms of numbers of attendees and, for example, physical distance between their stalls. We could have done a better job in bringing together the “needs” with the “what” and the “how”.

People standing behind a table on a stage with DUBAI 2023 written on a screen behind them

Over 85,000 participants attended COP28 including civil society, business, Indigenous Peoples, youth, philanthropy, and international organisations as well as world leaders

LUX: Do you sense genuine momentum towards changing economic thought to take account of natural capital, or is this still an outlier?
MM: I think that nature is coming more and more towards centre-stage but it still isn’t there yet. Next year’s biodiversity COP (COP16 in Australia) should however help make it clear that if we want to tackle the climate crisis we also need to solve the biodiversity and ocean crisis. We need nature for mitigation and adaptation and we need to think more in terms of natural capital to work out how best to do this.

LUX: “Overall, COP28 did more harm than good. The environmentally damaging deals that emerged from informal meetings will do more harm than any resolutions will do good”. True or false, and why?
MM: False. What about all the positives what we all bring home from our informal conversations too? Also remember how news reporting from this and previous COPs have raised awareness of environmental issues in public discussion worldwide? COPs have normalised open discussion of topics previously seen (wrongly) as not relevant to the global citizen. We probably don’t give enough prominence to the publication of the “Global Stocktake” either. This text lays not only the pathway that nations must take to limit global warming to the previously-agreed-upon goal of no more than 2°C higher than pre-industrial levels—but also individual countries’ progress along this path.

people shaking hands at a conference

COP28 saw Parties agree to Azerbaijan as host of COP29

LUX: Hypothetical question: you are hosting one of the next COPs, and you have absolute power over the final resolution. What would it state – in a way that is both effective and implementable?
MM: I’d make three commitments. First, for Nature and Ocean to join Climate at centre-stage of policymakers’ attentions. Second, to prioritise fixing problems with the allocation of climate finance. Third, and this is very much linked with the second commitment, to put an explicit focus on fairness. Most such finance to middle-income countries for projects that reduce emissions, such as wind or solar energy.

Read more: COP28 Diary by Darius Maleki

Far less goes to the poorer countries, and even smaller amounts to help countries adapt to the effects of the climate crisis. Many participants believe that the focus of future COP meetings needs to be on a fair way to reach targets. As part of this, developed economies need to band together to financially support developing economies in the search for a new, less fossil-fuel intense development path. I think we’ve seen a change in attitudes here in recent COPs and I look forward to them delivering much more here in coming years.

Markus Müller is Chief Investment Officer of ESG & Global Head of Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank

Find out more:  deutschewealth.com/esg

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Split shot of the oceans and some cliffs
Split shot of the sea and some cliffs

The rocky desert coastline of the northern Red Sea. Sea levels around the world are rising and coral is being bleached by acidification due to increasing CO2 levels

Amid much scepticism about whether the global climate summit COP28, taking place in Dubai over the next few weeks, will actually bear any positive results, there are rays of hope. Ted Janulis, investor, entrepreneur and founder of Investable Oceans, outlines the reasons he is feeling cheerful in the run-up to an event that needs to change the way we think about and deal with climate change

In just a few days, 70,000 people will convene in Dubai to attend COP28 (the 28th annual “Conference of the Parties”), where delegates from countries all around the world will discuss how to address the climate crisis. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – tasked with finding ways to reduce emissions – will track member states’ progress on emission reductions and negotiate further collective action, alongside business leaders, climate scientists, journalists, and others in attendance. Major topics will include how vulnerable communities can adapt to climate change and how to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

We’re at a critical juncture for our climate and oceans, so this COP is particularly important. While increased commitments provide grounds for some optimism, our oceans and climate face continuing serious challenges. We’re not on course to stay within the 1.5C increase above pre-industrial levels scientists warn is required to avoid serious environmental and human consequences, and in addition we’re falling far short of the $150 billion per year cited by recent research needed to achieve the goals of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water by 2030. The bottom line, as former president of Ireland Mary Robinson eloquently put it: “We cannot afford to have a bad COP”.

A camel walking by the sea

Desertification and coastal erosion are major issues facing the world

Despite these daunting circumstances, we’re looking forward to seeing oceans having a substantial presence at COP28. This is a continuation of a theme that has gained momentum throughout 2023: there is growing recognition that the oceans, the world’s largest carbon sink, will play a pivotal role in providing solutions for climate change.

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This year’s Climate Week NYC in September was a clear demonstration of this progression, as the number of events, announcements and real outcomes increased substantially from previous years. Amy Novogratz, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Aqua-Spark, asserted that: “Climate Week is feeling very Blue this year, finally!”

External shot of an ocean pavilion

The Ocean Pavilion at the 2022 COP in Sharm el-Sheikh. The 2023 Pavilion features ten ocean themes

A substantial increase in investable opportunities has added to this marine momentum. At least 10 new blue economy dedicated funds have launched over the past year, bringing the total count to over 30. A major focus of these funds is how to measure the environmental impact of sustainable ocean investing. In other recent news, a variety of blue bonds have come to market that involve debt-for-nature swaps, sovereigns and corporations, and Rockefeller Capital Management and KraneShares now offer an ocean engagement themed Exchange-Traded Fund (KSEA).

On the investor side, oceans made their debut on the plenary stage at the GIIN’s annual conference in Copenhagen, where discussions covered the proverbial waterfront, from ecosystem conservation to coastal resilience to blended finance to nuclear sharks. We also saw increased interest in the ocean sector from “terrestrial” investors. For example, sustainable agriculture funds are beginning to look at aquaculture as an attractive adjacent opportunity to their core focus.

Coral reef under the sea

A towering Acropora coral, one of the hundreds of coral reef species that help support up to 25% of all marine life

The upcoming COP28 will seek to capitalise on this surge of ocean interest and activity. Notably, oceans will be included in the COP28 thematic programme for the first time, with a special focus on 9th December. Together with an array of ocean events, gatherings and presentations at different pavilions, this represents a substantial increase in the ocean’s presence in global climate conversations and solutions.

Read more: Baroness Scotland and Markus Müller: a call for action at COP28

One of the highlights of COP28 will be the return of the Ocean Pavilion, which will bring diverse stakeholders together in a dedicated space within COP’s “Blue Zone” for its second year. The organizing partners, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will lead 32 partners through two weeks of events. The Pavilion programming is structured by ten themes organised under three tracks: Changing Ocean, Climate Consequences, and Future Ocean.

A pod of dolphins swimming in the sea

A pod of charismatic dolphins swimming in the shallows. Overfishing and bycatch are major issues for our oceans

The Pavilion is meant to inspire ocean-focused solutions through 70+ panel sessions, meetings and in-depth discussions. We are particularly excited about the “Blue Economy and Finance” theme, which explores the role that finance can play in ensuring that the ocean can continue to protect and provide for human societies in the coming decades. For example, Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will moderate a panel, Frontloading Equity in Financing Coastal Climate Resilience, exploring questions such as: How can we scale climate finance to reduce climate risks, speed recoveries, and reap the benefits of resilience? And how can our quantification of the financial costs of climate change be redesigned to yield equitable outcomes?

Despite all the headwinds, we are hoping for positive progress over the next weeks in Dubai.

Ted Janulis is Founder & Principal, Investable Oceans

Co-written with Helena Janulis, Business Development and Special Projects, Investable Oceans

All photos by Morgan Bennett-Smith

Find out more: www.investableoceans.com

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YKK’s NATULON® Mechanically Recycled Zip is made with recycled yarn and post-consumer plastic bottles

The amount of zips produced by YKK each year far outstrips the number of people currently on Earth. So how can a company mass producing and growing at such scale stay true to values of circularity and sustainability? LUX speaks to Jim Reed, CEO of YKK America, about why he believes cost and speed need not be barriers to a sustainable business

LUX: Can you explain the cycle of goodness and how it relates to the YKK philosophy?
Jim Reed: The cycle of goodness – meaning that no one prospers without rendering benefit to others – was developed by our founder, Tadao Yoshida. One of his inspirations was Andrew Carnegie, a late 19th century early 20th century steel tycoon, who had a philosophy about a business’ obligation to society. As a young man, Tadao Yoshida got hold of a translated copy of Andrew Carnegie’s biography. He was inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s words and he decided that was the philosophy that should drive us. He was always entrepreneurial, but it wasn’t about how wealthy he could get, it was about how he could help. He wanted to contribute to society.

YKK is used by hundreds of major clothing companies including The North Face, Patagonia, Levi’s and Nike

LUX: Your president, Hiroaki Ōtani, said the company’s immediate vision is for ‘better products at a lower cost and greater speed, more sustainably’. How do you plan to chase growth while also racing towards carbon neutrality?
JR: President Ōtani is talking about getting the right materials for the right products to the right customer at the right time. If you think about those concepts, you’re not overproducing. We’re producing over 10 billion zippers in a year, but our objective is that, at the end of the day, every zipper has a perfect spot and nothing gets wasted. On top of that, he talks about better products, lower cost, greater speed, and more sustainability. If we can be more efficient, and some of the obstacles to sustainability – cost – can be reduced, then a sustainable product can match the price of the less sustainable cheaper product and you can match that substitution more easily.

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President Ōtani reorganised our company in a number of different ways five years ago. He created what we call the Technology Innovation Centre. He took all the smartest people in our company and put them in the Technology Innovation Centre, where they were working on pure research, not product development. Innovation and technology have always been an important part of YKK, and particularly now with climate change issues and sustainability, we all need to be making significant changes.

Beyond zips, YKK produces a variety of other products such as snaps, buttons, buckles, and textiles for apparel and industrial use

LUX: How far is the company’s adoption of renewables impacting carbon emissions?
JR: We’re doing very well in that area. We reported at the end of the last fiscal year that we had reduced scope 1 and scope 2 CO2 emissions by almost 47% against our base year. What’s even more significant is that we’re not talking about CO2 emissions per zipper – we’re actually growing our production. Even though our production is increasing, we know our CO2 emissions have to be reduced, and we were able to reduce them significantly. Our 2018 level of CO2 emissions is our base level, by 2030 we’ll cut that in half, and by 2050 we’ll be carbon neutral. Around the world we’re looking at about 32 facilities which are currently using 100% renewable electricity, and very actively working to change the others. That can be a challenge because every facility has a different footprint and has a different source of electricity. But we are continuing to try to find a variety of different mechanisms to employ this.

LUX: What are the pillars for sustainable strategies for textiles packaging and waste management?
JR: For textiles, the main thing is to switch over to recycled thread. We call that NATULON. YKK had been offering to use recycled thread for over 20 years, and we’ve probably had the product for 25 years. Now, the market desires it, and so now we are able to switch over to 100% recycled textile. 26% of our products last year were using it, and that’s going to grow rapidly. We hope that will get up to 41% by next year. We’re working on a complete switchover.

YKK produces more than 3 million kilometers of zips every year

When we talk about waste management, you think about inputs coming into the factory and products coming out, and waste as a by-product of that. You put that waste back into your process. The objective is to get inputs coming into your factory and the only thing that comes out is the product. ECO-DYE technology uses CO2 instead of water to colour the zipper tape. That removes water from the process, which removes the need to take dye out of the water. We also have something called AcroPlating. If you get rid of the need to apply the bad chemicals, then you don’t have to worry about managing the waste on the back end.

Read more: Salomon CEO Franco Fogliato on environmental responsibility in business

LUX: Can you tell us about the partnership between YKK and the Monitor for Circular Fashion? Do you think it could lead to systemic change within the fashion industry?
JR: These partnerships are really important because, just like the UN statement on climate change or the Sustainable Development Goals or the Fashion Charter, all of these statements and actions can really scope the objective to solve the problem. It gives us all targets, and then when we join the Charter, we make promises that we have to stand by. Those are extremely important, because we all need to be speaking the same language and talking about the same objectives. With those statements, the fashion industry can declare to the people of the world that we’re moving in an environmentally-friendly direction and can get the support of their customers, which gives us the inspiration to innovate into that change. Once those goals are clear, then industry can innovate towards it and solve the problem just like we’ve been able to solve any problem when we’re focused on it.

All images courtesy of YKK

Find out more: www.ykkfastening.com/sustainability

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Small Pacific island nations like Tuvalu are at most risk of rising sea levels due to climate change; COP27 last year created a Loss and Damage Fund to alleviate their plight, but no funding has yet been forthcoming

There is a major issue with meeting our sustainability goals: the financial and structural support is, in many cases, just not there. Deutsche Bank’s Markus Müller explains to Darius Sanai what needs to happen to close the gap

LUX: What is the sustainable financing gap and what is the biggest problem we face for bridging it?
Markus Müller: It is usually defined as the difference between the cost of meeting United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) and the amount of investment actually being delivered. Big numbers are common here but we need to put them in perspective – the latest OECD estimated the annual financing gap is 3.9 trillion USD, but this is much smaller than global GDP of around 100 trillion USD. The biggest problem isn’t the size of the gap, but making sure that investment projects and systems are viable. Bringing down borrowing costs and making sure there’s a level playing field for investments are big parts of this.

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LUX: Financing sustainable development should be a priority. But is short-term thinking still making it difficult?
MM: I wouldn’t blame the sustainable finance gap simply on short-term thinking. I think most people are rightly uncomfortable with how close we are to the planetary boundaries, and this is spurring action: we aren’t just leaving this to future generations. Fixing the finance gap now needs innovation, an ability to break free of current ways of thinking and a clear view of where we want to be. Returns and cost of capital remain key issues.

Houston, Texas is attracting new technological investment due to incentives created by the US Inflation Reduction Act, which is in effect a green subsidy

LUX: You have observed that our international social infrastructure for dealing with global collaborative action (the UN, and the economic institutions arising from Bretton Woods) are from another era. Do they need to be updated?
MM: Existing international institutions provide good framework to support transformation. They can cooperate in new ways with other bodies if necessary – note President Macron’s Global Financial Pact summit earlier this year. This is a matter of evolution, not replacement. Look at the discussions, for example, around how to repurpose IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR, invented back in 1969) to support biodiversity and other initiatives.

LUX: The climate crisis – or triple planetary crisis – requires global nations’ collaboration on a probably unprecedented scale. But is such collaboration now more difficult in our increasingly multipolar world?
MM: Collaboration is fragile by nature, but it is still possible in a multipolar world. We start from a base point where the world’s resources – financial, material, natural – are unevenly distributed. Developing economies have more physical resources (for example, metal and minerals deposits) so it may make sense for them to collaborate. But if developed economies want to participate in these discussions, they must deliver more real support. This is often lacking: for example, there have been no inflows into the Loss and Damage Fund agreed on at last year’s COP.

At COP27 in Egypt in 2022, world leaders agreed to take tangible steps towards alleviating the climate crisis, but it remains to be seen whether they will be executed

LUX: Are you optimistic that the US, EU, Russia and China (for example) will agree on and enact workable policy solutions to counter the climate crisis? What would be significant markers of progress?
MM: Yes, I am. We have seen one important, recent example of this: major technology disputes between the U.S. and China did not stop the two sides meeting for climate talks. This shows that environmental issues do not have to become a destructive bargaining chip in broader trade or investment disputes, although we should not ignore the fact that environmental operating standards do have an impact on competitiveness and thus trade tensions. For me, the key marker of progress is continued discussion and agreement to stay within overall multilateral environmental policy targets.

LUX: If we are indeed entering a more unstable era (in terms of global climate and related issues like biodiversity), do the fundamentals of policy making need to change in order to accommodate constant change?
MM: I think this is a matter of learning how to overcome unforeseen challenges, rather than simply accepting instability. As our understanding of environmental issues and how to tackle them gets better, policy will change. The fundamental shift may involve us stopping seeing policymaking as proceeding along an inflexible straight line. We need to be more flexible and accept that policy may zig-zag. Policymakers’ ability to adopt to changing knowledge to find optimum solutions should be seen as an indication of strength, not weakness.

China, one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, has recently cleaned up its urban pollution and has agreed to restart formal climate change talks with the U.S. as of November 2023

LUX: Past successes like the Montreal Protocol were one-time events. How can we ensure more sustained policy progress?
MM: I don’t think we should think of policy advances as one-time “successes”. In reality, we often don’t know the real impact of policy agreements for many years. Some agreements that are hailed as successes at the time – for example, the Aichi goals of 2011 – have subsequently proved insufficient to meet the challenge at hand. The importance of agreements is really that they drive us, one uneven step at a time, towards better environmental outcomes.

Read more: Marküs Muller on the economy and biodiversity

LUX: How important are subsidy and protection programmes for transition technologies, and can they be harmful?
MM: It’s important to distinguish between different sorts of policy support. There are good and long-standing arguments for the support of “infant industries”, in the economics jargon, but we have to be careful that this does not slide into protectionism as these industries mature. U.S. support via the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is giving us a good preview of transition policy support, and what really determines where new industries locate and thrive. (Consider why Houston is attracting new technologies and Miami is losing out, for example.) Ultimately, it’s all about kickstarting specific industries that will really work.

Markus Müller is Chief Investment Officer of ESG & Global Head of Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank

Find out more:  deutschewealth.com/esg

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Huge green field with a cluster of small houses in the middle
Huge green field with a cluster of small houses in the middle

Photo courtesy of Fresh Del Monte

Hans Sauter is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Fresh Del Monte. He speaks to Trudy Ross about the company’s sustainability journey and the importance of creating a culture of respect for the environment

LUX: Could you provide an overview of the company’s sustainability journey and a few key milestones you’ve achieved in recent years?
Hans Sauter: Let me mention that I’m not just Chief Sustainability Officer but also senior vice president for Research and Development. That’s not just out of coincidence. We approach sustainability from a scientific and data-based point of view, not a marketing or sales perspective. I have been with the company for 35 years; I started at the farms doing agricultural research and worked my way up to corporate. I know our global footprint in great detail and have accompanied this process of incorporating sustainability into our operations all along.

About 30 years ago, we started designing our farms to make the best use of the soil, carving out the areas which would be best adapted to our own crops and then leaving those other areas to re-forest and create opportunities for conservation. Starting all the way from water conservation to erosion control, pollination, etc, our operations have transformed themselves over time into combined systems where we see nature and large-scale agriculture co-existing. That’s very exciting.

A green Del Monte farm in costa rica beneath a sunny sk

Photo courtesy of Fresh Del Monte

A few milestones: in 1998, we got our first ISO 14001 certification around sustainability systems. In 2010, we set our first global sustainability goal to reduce our consumption of key resources, like water and fuel, by 10%. In 2015, we got our first carbon neutral certification at one of our operations, specifically the banana farms in Costa Rica. We escalated that last year, to estimate our carbon footprint going all the way from the farm to the consumer. We established programs where we promote those efforts, such as the Del Monte Zero pineapple, where we have sequestered enough carbon through our own on-site forests to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions all through the supply chain up until the consumer’s table.

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LUX: Do you think it is important to engage with the consumer and make them aware of sustainability initiatives, or are you more focused on the problem itself?
HS: We started this journey so long ago that we initially attacked the problems where they were occurring. On our farms, being in tropical and rural areas which are normally the most vulnerable areas and communities, we saw a great need for action. We engaged ourselves in projects to collaborate with our neighbours and see how we could improve conditions there.

We now understand that the consumer needs to hear about those efforts. In the last five years we have been more vocal about those efforts, because we have truly strong programs to talk about. It’s not making a lot of noise about little things; we’re talking about legitimate programs. We have carved close to 30% of our land just for conservation, and that’s what nations are trying to accomplish now – we’ve done it already.

Jumble of pineapples

Photo by Justine Alipate

LUX: Do you have faith that the rest of the food industry is going to continue to engage with sustainability and make this a key focus, or do you worry that there is an element of greenwashing and shouting about sustainability efforts when there aren’t concrete initiatives to back them up?
HS: There’s a little bit of both. There has definitely been some greenwashing and more talking than acting; but on the other hand, I don’t think anything can stop this train. The current events are making us brutally aware that we need to act. I’m convinced that the only thing that is needed is to get to the tipping point. If you have strong leaders that move the needle, the rest of the industry will follow. Just look at the electric motor industry – who would have said we would be moving at the pace we are moving at today? I’m definitely optimistic about the food industry.

LUX: How would you describe Fresh Del Monte’s approach to responsible sourcing, and does this impact your supplier chain further down the line?
HS: That’s probably the most difficult point at this stage. All of us are struggling with scope 3, which is essentially our suppliers. Rapid engagement of that part of our supply chain is crucial and not as easy to move. One of the advantages we have as a company is that we grow close to 45% of what we sell, so we are heavily invested in farming and understand what farmers are going through. That gives us an opportunity to talk to them on a one-to-one basis with a hands-on approach. We collaborate with them and we share experiences.

I think our example will help us leverage some moral authority when it comes to protecting the environment because we have done it, and we continue to do it and invest in it. Definitely scope 3 will continue to be a more difficult area, particularly because margins in the food industry are small. Here the retailers could be very effective in moving that needle because they are the intermediaries between the grower and the final consumer, making sure that they also are a part of this shared responsibility.

LUX: What is the biggest challenge facing the food industry and the agriculture industry?
HS: I would say the biggest challenge is time. The climate is changing so fast and most of us don’t realise that the clock is ticking. We could run out of time to implement large-scale solutions that make a difference.

Vineyard in the setting sun

Photo by Sven Wilhem

I see no shortage of solutions available, but there needs to be a lot of resources invested in research, specifically for many crops in tropical regions where regenerative agriculture practices have not been developed. We are very optimistic about regenerative agriculture in temperate regions, but the rest of the world has not had that privilege and we need to invest in those areas.

LUX: How much of this responsibility for climate change lies with big corporations like Del Monte, and how much do you think lies with the consumer?
HS: We are all in it together. Consumers make the difference with their purchasing decisions. That’s one of the reasons we decided to launch the Del Monte Zero. It’s a small, boutique program. We wanted to make a statement by allowing the consumer to choose a climate-responsible product, so that we are all made aware of what we are going through.

Each of us, in large companies and small companies as well, each of us has a huge responsibility at this point. We are working with our communities and we are looking at our impact on a watershed level, rather than just ‘my farm’. Because it doesn’t matter how much I protect the forest that runs through the river that runs through my own farm, if I don’t bring all the neighbours to protect that watershed, that river will eventually dry. We need to act as communities.

LUX: Waste reduction is a very important issue taking place in the food industry. Has Fresh Del Monte implemented any strategies to minimise waste reduction, and have you seen any outcomes?
HS: This is a very exciting area of opportunity. It can bring more business to the food industry. We initially started investing in waste reduction a long time ago, in our pineapple operations, using food which could not go to market to produce concentrate and juice. With that kind of systematic investment we have reduced waste at the farm level, and almost 95% of our product is used and not wasted. We are working on solutions to compost and to work with cattle-growers.

Food is too valuable to throw away. There should never be a reason to send food to landfill. What we are doing now is taking that one step further and looking at our crop residues, because that’s also a huge area of opportunity and we’re working aggressively to develop composting solutions and also other opportunities. It’s just investing in research and time.

Orange tree branches against a blue sky

Photo by Dan Gold

Read more: Unilever’s Rebecca Marmot on the Sustainable Everyday

LUX: What sustainability developments are you most excited about at Fresh Del Monte?
HS: I would say the most exciting thing which I have seen over the course of 35 years is the development of a culture of respect for the environment. No systems, no programs beat culture. If your team members have a culture of respect and admiration for the planet and your community, everything comes out of there and you have success with your systems and your programs.

We have seen engagement all the way from the farm workers, who have been sharing pictures of the biodiversity that they see while they are doing their field work. The excitement and the passion that we see is huge. When your own farm workers are excited and are taking pictures of biodiversity while they’re working, you have made an impact not only in your farm but also in the community. That multiplies by four every effort in education you have brought in.

LUX: How do you envision sustainable practices in the food industry in ten years?
HS: I envision it having huge contributions from new bio-science discoveries. There are companies which are working on deploying microbes that can fix nitrogen so that you don’t have to apply so much synthetic fertiliser. Synthetic nitrogen is one of the biggest challenges we have in agriculture as an emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. That will definitely make a big difference in the future.

Find out more: freshdelmonte.com

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A pink jellyfish in blue water
A pink jellyfish in blue water

Summer Compass Jellyfish. Photo by Theo Vickers

The protection of biodiversity is becoming a key topic in the sustainability sector. Now we need to measure our economies’ effects on biodiversity fairly and effectively, says Markus Müller in an interview with Darius Sanai
A man wearing glasses and a black suit with a white shirt

Marküs Muller

LUX: How do we measure our effect on biodiversity, or compare worms with whales?
Markus Müller: We need to find metrics that account for local specifics but are globally comparable. There is a parallel with economic activity, because humans live, produce and consume locally, yet we have found global metrics to measure the economics of human interactions.

LUX: What is the most important measuring tool in the context of nature?
MM: One important metric is the Mean Species Abundance indicator, or MSA, which identifies the impacts of an economic activity on the mean species in a designated local area. It indicates the abundance of native species in a disturbed ecosystem relative to undisturbed ecosystems. Another measure is the Biodiversity Intactness Index, or BII. Both can help us obtain information around an ecosystem’s ability to deliver the ecosystem services we depend on, and understand the influence of economic activity on nature.

LUX: But won’t the MSA in a desert have a different metric to one in a rainforest?
MM: The ingredients are different, but it is about the amount of species. We have business activity in a location and from that we get data on its pressure and impact. That shows how the MSA is clustered according to the activity in terms of climate change, land use, nitrogen deposition, hunting, road disturbance and fragmentation.

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LUX: Is the metric accepted universally?
MM: It is getting more recognition by various institutions and participants. However, our goal should not be to have a universally accepted metric for its own sake; it should be on accounting for local specificities with a methodology that, in principle, can be applied globally. It is not 100 per cent perfect, but, given the need for urgent action, as made clear by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, I advocate not waiting till scientists have the perfect metric.

LUX: How will the metrics affect business?
MM: When we know the effect of a business activity on the MSA, we will then know the biodiversity cost of the activity, and we can bring that into the decision-making process around it.

LUX: Is the aim to have a tax or other regulation on businesses that affect the MSA?
MM: Yes. The disclosure of a company’s MSA would allow the market to better price its exposure to nature– and climate-related risks, and take these factors into account for a valuation.

LUX: Would it work like carbon credits?
MM: Biodiversity credits are not comparable to carbon credits in a key sense because, other than for the actual removal of greenhouse gas emissions, carbon credits are used to compensate for current carbon use. Biodiversity credits must be purely an incentive not to destroy biodiversity, not to offset its loss. We can use economic incentives, such as reduced taxation, or a market system in which participants exchange credits.

LUX: How will the nature market develop?
MM: It will likely develop as we’ve seen equity or fixed-income markets develop. I would add the caveat that we should never monetise nature, but understand its value and what it gives us, so we can protect the value that ecosystem services provide, while enabling their uninterrupted flow. We need to prioritise the intactness of nature.

three pink seahorses in the sea

Photo by David Clode

LUX: How will governments regulate this?
MM: It is a question of the governance of nature. If we do not know how to govern nature, we also do not know what kind of mechanism to use to manage and assess its governance. For example, effective governance also means you need to include local communities into the responsibility of governing these resources.

LUX: Is there the desire among governments and voters to make this happen?
MM: On the one hand I think, yes; on the other, it requires uncomfortable decisions. So we need to remind ourselves again about economics and diminishing marginal utility. Humans will act in a familiar pattern for as long as the marginal utility is positive. We only change when it is no longer possible to proceed as we were.

LUX: Will listed companies make decisions based around biodiversity incentives?
MM: Yes, regulation is going in this direction. We see it with 30 by 30 – the initiative to create protected areas across 30 per cent of Earth’s land and sea by 2030. More than 100 countries are signed up. This development must not be limited to a specific region like Europe, we need a joint framework; even better, a joint narrative.

LUX: Is there a risk that companies make decisions based on one factor – biodiversity at the expense of carbon emissions, say?
MM: Yes, this is a risk of sustainability. We see it as a goal but, like economics, it is not a goal but a tool. Ideally, my role will be redundant in 20 years, as sustainability will be incorporated into everything. I think, in time, MSA or BII will be comparable indicators to CO2 emissions.

Read more: Leaders on Leaders: the people saving our planet

LUX: What would you say to an investor who says, “I just invest to make money”?
MM: I would say this way of thinking belongs in the past. We have to acknowledge that a high negative impact on nature is a financial risk as well as an environmental one. Nature-based risks – and opportunities – will materialise and have an impact on a portfolio. Companies not taking these into account, through an adaptive strategy, will have to pay a higher price in the future.

LUX: In five years, will a private-equity fund take MSA into account in decision-making?
MM: Yes, I believe so. I think it will play an increasing role in impact investing, but it will also play a role in the consumer-goods space.

LUX: If you were in charge of the world, what would you ask people to do?
MM: Go back to our roots. Think local, act global. Take account of nature, because we are a part of it. It is naive to disregard the system we are dependent on. We can’t do that any more.

Markus Müller is Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Chief Investment Officer at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank

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Teahpoo Bubble, 2 August 2017, Teahupoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia. © Ben Thouard

As Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, a central pillar of Patricia Scotland’s diplomatic work is to help the group of 56 Commonwealth countries – many with historical links to the UK – adapt to the impacts of climate change. It is an issue she knows all about

Scotland first became familiar with the effects of climate change in August 1979, when she was 24. In that month Hurricane David, a category 5 tropical storm, made landfall in her country of birth, Dominica, in the Caribbean. “It was one of the biggest category 5 hurricanes we’d seen,” she says. The damage was devastating: Dominica’s capital, Roseau, was described as “resembling an air raid”. Around three-quarters of Dominica’s population were made homeless and three-quarters of banana and coconut crops were destroyed.

“I remember it so graphically,” says Scotland. “My father, who was a very skilled carpenter-builder, left the UK and went to Dominica for months to help rebuild, because people had no houses and nowhere to stay. And it was a great shock.”

At the time, it was assumed that such severe storms would occur perhaps once a lifetime. But, owing to climate change, they may be becoming more frequent, as Scotland is only too aware, following two further disasters related to climate-change hazards. In August 2015, Tropical Storm Erika caused severe damage in Dominica and neighbouring countries. Then, in 2017, came Hurricane Maria.

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“It was the biggest hurricane the world had seen at that point,” remembers Scotland. Another category 5, Hurricane Maria encompassed the entire nation. “Everyone on the island was impacted,” she says. Dominica is thought of as a natural idyll with lush green vegetation, but when Scotland visited that year she barely recognised it. “Even the bark from the trees had been removed. I remember looking at one tree – it had one leaf and everything else was brown.” Decades of development, from bridges and schools to roads and houses, had been ripped from the ground and dumped in the sea.

Four decades on from her initial experience, the challenges, says Scotland, are to be ready for hurricanes and storms. “How can we build resilience while also mitigating the issue of climate change more broadly?” she asks. Today, these challenges, which also include encouraging financial institutions to step up and get creative, have become part of Scotland’s job.

Patricia Scotland was born in Dominica in 1955, moving at the age of two with her family to London, UK, where she still lives. In the 1970s she obtained a law degree and was called to the bar, and in 1991 she made history by becoming the first black woman appointed to be what was then a Queen’s Counsel (QC), marking her as an elite lawyer.

Later, in the 1990s, Scotland entered the UK government, holding a number of posts related to law and diplomacy, including a stint as Attorney General, the government’s most senior legal adviser. Her post came to an end in 2010, when the UK government changed. Then, in 2016, Baroness Scotland took up her current role as the sixth Secretary- General of the Commonwealth, a post she holds until 2024.

The Right Honourable Baroness Scotland

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of countries, many of which were once part of the British Empire. Established following decolonisation to maintain the links between the countries, today there are 56 members. Commonwealth states are on the front lines of climate change, says Scotland.

Of the 56 countries, 33 are small states, and 25 of those are small island developing states. “We’d rather call them ‘big blue ocean states’,” she says. “Some of them have [marine] jurisdictions larger than the largest big land states.” These states are heavily exposed to sea-level rise and tropical cyclones, and many depend on marine ecosystems such as coral reefs – which are also threatened by climate change.

Extreme weather events such as hurricanes will keep happening, but, as Scotland points out, we can reduce the impacts if we take action. There are two major approaches to climate change, which go hand in hand: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation means cutting greenhouse-gas emissions as much and as fast as possible, so the climate changes as little as possible. Alongside this, adaptation means helping countries and communities become resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Communities that have adapted suffer fewer deaths and less damage from extreme weather events, and recover more quickly and thoroughly. But adaptation costs money.

In 2009, developed countries promised to finance adaptation programmes in developing nations. They committed to provide $100 billion per year by 2020. “It was a bold recognition that this was necessary in order to assist those member states that had not contributed to the creation of the crisis,” says Scotland. “This was a real question of equity and fairness, because they were the ones who were going to have to adapt and mitigate a situation that they had not created.”

However, the promise was broken: even in 2023, annual adaptation funding is far short of $100 billion. “Although the world made that commitment, it didn’t actually identify how the $100 billion was going to be raised,” says Scotland. Worse, some governments were still contesting the reality of climate change. “That seems unreal now in 2023, but it was very real in 2009.”

And today, the adaptation bill has gone up, partly because of inflation, and partly because the delay has meant more urgency and more severe impacts. A 2021 UN Environment Programme report estimated just how much money is required annually for environmental projects, including adaptation. The bill comes to more than $500 billion per year. Other estimates are even higher. The bill for climate adaptation and other environmental needs will keep going up the more we delay, but there is a silver lining, says Scotland. Investing in adaptation reduces future costs and will enable the global economy to grow more. “This is a real invest-to-save,” she says.

The challenge is mobilising the money. It’s a multi-pronged challenge, but innovative financial strategies are a “really important” part of the solution, says Scotland. Several strategies have been proposed, and she says governments and funders should cast a wide net. “It’s not either-or, it’s all of them. People tend to say, ‘we’ll do this or we’ll do that’. It’s not ‘or’, it’s ‘and, and, and’.”

The Crack, 8 September 2017, Teahupoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia. © Ben Thouard

One useful form of finance is debt restructuring. Many developing countries have significant debts that reduce their ability to pay for new projects and make it harder for them to raise money from elsewhere. Countries like Dominica took out loans to pay for infrastructure, but when the hurricanes destroyed the infrastructure the government still had to pay the debts. “You still have that high level of indebtedness, but then you have to build back better [to become resilient],” says Scotland. “The costs are two or three times higher, but you’re burdened with the last debt with no relief.” This creates a “terrible cycle”.

To tackle this issue, multiple initiatives are helping countries manage or reduce their debt. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the G20 countries created a Debt Service Suspension Initiative. This relieved the debts of dozens of low-income countries, helping them to fight the pandemic, but it expired in December 2021. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth offers its member states a number of tools to manage their debts. The more that low-income countries can control their debts, the more money they will be able to raise for adaptation.

A related concept is a debt-for-nature swap. Here, a country has some of its debt written off, and, in exchange, the government commits to undertake environmental-protection initiatives, which can include climate adaptation. The Seychelles, a Commonwealth member, is a prominent success story. In the 2010s, the country set out to convert $21.6 million of its national debt into nature programmes. These included financing for climate adaptation by improving management of coasts, coral reefs and mangroves – all of which protect against tropical storms and rising seas, and provide other ecosystem services.The country also protected some of its waters.

Read more: Jean-Baptiste Jouffray on the future of the world’s oceans

Scotland says it’s essential to help countries obtain the climate money that is out there. “Most of the countries, unfortunately, that are most in need are least able to get access,” she says. Often they are told that they do not have enough empirical data to support their application, or that they haven’t followed arcane bureaucratic procedures. Scotland compares it to Waiting for Godot. In response, the Commonwealth has created a Climate Finance Access Hub, which provides expert advisers to help countries navigate the application processes. “We’ve already delivered into the hands of our small developing member states $70 million,” says Scotland. The pandemic caused delays, but more is coming. “We have over $420 million worth of projects in the pipeline.”

For Scotland, it’s creative and collaborative projects like these that will ensure countries adapt to climate change. “I believe we can do this,” she says. “This is a matter of choice.”

Perhaps it should be no surprise that an organisation like the Commonwealth, which has such a mix of countries among its members, is ahead of the curve on tackling climate change. Back in 1989, three years before the Rio Earth Summit, where countries agreed in principle to stop climate change, the Commonwealth issued the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment. The declaration highlighted “the serious deterioration in the environment” and called on governments to commit to “sustainable development”. More than three decades later, everyone else is catching on.

Find out more: thecommonwealth.org

This article was first published in the Deutsche Bank Supplement in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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(left to right): Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless, Oceana Board Member Dr. Daniel Pauly, X, Oceana Chief Policy Officer Jacqueline Savitz, and Oceana President Jim Simon attend the Oceana’s 2021 SeaChange Summer Party in Laguna Beach, CA. Photo by Kevin Warn

Jackie Savitz is a marine biologist and the Chief Policy Officer for Oceana, an ocean conservation organization focused on influencing policy decisions. Here, she speaks to LUX about how and why governments need to be pressured to introduce fundamental policy changes for the good of all

LUX: You have an extensive background in environmental science. When did you decide to dedicate your career to ocean conservation?
Jaqueline Savitz: Ever since I was a teenager, I knew that I wanted to protect the oceans. After I was exposed to a marine science program at Wallops Island, VA, there was no turning back. I grew up spending summers at my grandparents’ on the New Jersey coast and fell in love with the ocean at an early age, so when it was clear that ocean conservation could be a profession, I was sold. It was obvious to me – even as a kid – that human impact on the environment needed to be managed, and that the implications of not doing so would undermine the integrity of the environment, including our oceans.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Can you tell us more about Oceana’s goals and values, and your role within the organisation?
JS: At Oceana, we recognize that the oceans can provide food for a billion people or more, on a regular basis, if they are properly managed. Making fisheries sustainable is key, but it’s not the only thing we need to do to realise that goal. We also have to prevent pollution and climate change, which both threaten biodiversity and the health of marine ecosystems. For example, plastic pollution does not belong in the stomachs and digestive tracts of sea turtles, sea birds, fish, marine mammals, or even humans. The fact that this is already the case indicates a threat to the survival of sea turtles as they are threatened or endangered species, and it could also compromise populations that are not yet endangered. We also advocate for transparency which, when built into our policies, or made real through technology, can allow our societies to better manage resources.

As Chief Policy Officer, I oversee Oceana’s campaigns in the United States as well as in Belize, Mexico, and the European Union. My goal is to make sure we have impactful and successful campaigns that rebuild fisheries, reduce illegal fishing, and protect the marine ecosystem from oil and gas development and plastic pollution.

Jackie Savitz speaks as Oceana Presents: Sting Under the Stars in Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.
Photo by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

LUX: Working on this global scale, can you tell us about the challenges you’ve encountered while navigating different political landscapes when working towards policy change?
JS: Oceana works in countries that have a democratic process in place, which is key to creating people-driven change. However, even in a democracy, there are impediments to winning policies to protect the oceans. Strong corporate lobbies like the petroleum, plastics, and fishing industries have a lot of muscle to push back against policies that benefit all of us, such as those to stop overfishing and ensure we have fish in the future, or policies to transition to clean energy and reduce the impacts of climate change. But we have found that we can win when politicians hear science-based messages from diverse voices, all saying that a new direction is needed.

LUX: How can organisations like Oceana effectively communicate complex environmental issues to the public to encourage action and engagement?
JS: Communicating science in a way that makes sense to the public can be difficult, but it is essential and not impossible. We recognise that our audience is much larger than the scientific community, and it includes journalists, lawmakers, and citizens of every profession. We speak to our audience, and that may mean we write scientifically for scientists or legalistically for legislators, and we speak to citizens in plain language that allows them to interpret the message and take action. We have found that when we engage the public, we can influence legislators on all sides and win campaigns that may look impossible at the outset.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro via Unsplash

LUX: How is the use of technology transforming the field of marine conservation?
JS: There are so many technological tools that are now being applied to marine conservation that we should anticipate great leaps forward as a result. Satellites bring us increasingly complex data on ocean conditions and activities, providing the locations of cargo ships, fishing vessels, and more, and introducing a world of new possibilities. The application of machine learning and the ability to work with massive amounts of data is incredibly empowering. Oceana, along with our partners at Skytruth and Google, used those tools to build a web platform that makes the actions of fishing vessels visible in near-real time, and we make it available to the public online for free. It’s called Global Fishing Watch, and it has continued to increase capabilities since its formal launch in 2016. This is creating transparency on fishing globally and allowing Oceana to continue to evaluate fishing activity so we can identify and enforce against illegal fishing.

LUX: Given your background in academia, how do you think we should be bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and policy-making?
JS: Science is fundamental, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Politics is real, and it has an impact everywhere. So much of policy is not based purely on science. It is influenced more and more by powerful lobby groups and the only way I know of to overcome that is to organise voters, real people, who are affected by policies, and make sure their elected officials are hearing from them. Voters are the main source of accountability and when there is accountability, we can create an environment where science and public interests prevail.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry and Jacqueline Savitz at the launch of Global Fishing Watch reception in 2016.
Photo by Franz Mahr

LUX: Oceana has had numerous key victories in the realm of ocean conservation and policy making. Which of these victories are you most proud of?
JS: I’m incredibly proud of our teams that have stopped bottom trawling in 90% of the U.S. West Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington. We have fought bottom trawling in Europe, Belize, and Brazil, as well. And our teams in the U.S., Belize, and Europe have taken many types of gillnets (some of them a mile long and many stories deep) out of the ocean. So much habitat has been protected, and so many animals have survived because of those campaigns. We hope to replicate that elsewhere and continue to increase protections against bycatch, overfishing, and habitat destruction.

LUX: You’ve spoken before about the link between conserving the oceans and feeding the world’s hungry. What key changes need to be made in the seafood industry to address the problems we are facing today?
JS: Governments need to set science-based limits to prevent overfishing, prevent bycatch of species that are not targeted including other fish, as well as marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks, and more, and we need to protect marine habitat that fish and other sea life depend on for activities like feeding, breeding, and shelter from predators.

Read more: Jean-Baptiste Jouffray on the future of the world’s oceans

LUX: What do you hope is the next big policy win on the horizon for Oceana?
JS: On offshore drilling, President Biden is preparing to issue the government’s next five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing. Normally, there would be several new lease sales to petroleum companies in this plan, which could then pursue permits to drill for oil and gas in U.S. waters. What’s different this year is that President Biden vowed to offer no new leases for oil and gas drilling, and Oceana has pressed for a plan that does not include, and therefore would not allow, new leases to be sold.

The industry currently holds more than a thousand leases that it has not even used, so no new leasing doesn’t mean there would be no more drilling. There is enough area leased to support our fossil fuel needs into the next decade, and demand is expected to decline. So, standing by the pledge for no new leasing would be an important and clear signal that the U.S. takes seriously the need to shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, which is the only way we can reduce the impacts of climate change.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro via Unsplash

LUX: What do you believe our oceans will look like in 10 years time?
JS: There is a big push right now to protect marine habitat through the development of marine protected areas. The goal is to protect 30% of ocean habitat by 2030. So, in 10 years we could see a much larger amount of our oceans being protected. If so, it will have a major impact on marine biodiversity. Marine protected areas, when well-managed, can not only provide a refuge for marine life, but also seed the surrounding waters, since fish and other animals don’t adhere to boundaries. The benefits of this movement toward protection will be felt beyond the boundaries of the protected areas, and in much more than 30% of the oceans. There is a caution here, because, without true protection, such as bans on bottom trawling and other non-selective gear, such protections could provide a false sense of success, without delivering the promise of abundant fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.

Our oceans are facing diverse threats from climate change, overfishing, plastic pollution, and more. We know the solutions; it’s not rocket science. But to protect the oceans, we need public engagement to hold decision-makers accountable for making the right policy choices that ensure we have abundant fisheries continuing into the future, with healthy ecosystems free from pollution to support those fish and other important marine animals too.

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A leopard
A river with marshes around it

The Syväysjoki peatlands within the Koitajoki Basin, Finland. Peatlands like this have been damaged through drainage, peat-mining, and planting for commercial forestry © Mika Honkalinna/Snowchange.

Financier, philanthropist and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith explains how environmental conservation became such an important aspect of his life and why it should be at the forefront of all philanthropists’ agendas

I am lucky enough to be raising a family on a former dairy farm in an area of low agricultural productivity, in South Somerset’s Selwood Forest. Until the Victorian era, a great mosaic woodland stretched across this landscape, from Bath to Wells and down to Frome. This was a landscape of extraordinary natural abundance and vibrancy, in large part on account of the grazing, browsing, rootling and dung of the free-roaming hardy pigs and horned cattle that were turned out by villagers into the forest. These were of course proxies for the wild boar and aurochs of an even earlier age, keystones of the forest ecosystem.

People walking on marshes collecting parts

Solent Seagrass Champions restoring seagrass meadows on the Isle of Wight © Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts/Blue Marine Foundation

Recently, alongside two neighbours, we decided to set about reviving the lost woodland. We tore out fencing, switched to native cattle in far lower numbers, rewiggled streams and revived ghost ponds. As the field shapes have begun to dissolve into the landscape, and little patches of crab apple, hawthorn and willow have begun to emerge everywhere, the results have been both startling and magical.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Life has poured back in; the birdsong in spring is at times overwhelming in its intensity, a string of dammed pools created by beavers along the bottom of the valley now abounds with amphibians and dragonflies, the open areas are a riot of wildflowers and tiny chirruping crickets. By comparison, the surrounding landscape seems silent, drained of colour.

hands holding a baby turtle

A baby Hawksbill sea turtle in White Sands, Canash Beach, St.Vincent. Photo by Stephan Hornsey

Immersing myself in this transformation has brought me a greater sense of joy and meaning than anything I’ve done in my life. The natural fabric of the world, in other words that vast life support system on which we depend utterly for everything we have and everything we do, is quite simply blinking out all around us. And yet, here in Selwood, I have seen first-hand that nature rebounds with astonishing intensity and speed. All we need to do is give it the chance. In the grand scheme of things, this is not expensive to do. So why are philanthropists, large and small, not grabbing the opportunity to participate in a movement that is at the same time so vital and so rewarding? Owning land is a niche privilege which appeals to some; but participating in the restoration of nature need not be.

A seal in the sea smiling

The critically endangered monk seal. In Turkey the project is establishing marine protected areas along 500 km of coastline. Artificial nesting platforms have been constructed, which are increasing the monk seal’s breeding success © Fauna & Flora

Just 3% or so of all the money given away philanthropically is directed towards the protection and restoration of the natural environment. Almost ten times as much is given to the arts. Happily though, modest amounts of environmental philanthropy, well directed, is capable of catalysing great change. Lisbet Rausing’s marvellous Arcadia Fund has created an Endangered Landscapes Programme, which dishes out grants of up to €5 million towards the long-term restoration and protection of Europe’s largest remaining intact landscapes. The money is geared towards piecing ecosystems back together, reintroducing missing species, and perhaps most importantly, establishing long-term local prosperity arising from richly abundant nature. It works. Great swathes of Europe are coming back to life as a result of this one programme.

fishing nets hanging on a tree on a beach

Questelles beach, St.Vincent successfully hatched hawksbill nests in 2022. Photo by Stephan Hornsey

Sir Christopher Hohn’s Children’s Investment Fund Foundation has made huge contributions to the Foundation for International Litigation on the Environment, as well as underwriting the spectacular growth of Client Earth. These two organisations are using the law all across the world to win key environmental battles on everything from air pollution in cities to the protection of old growth forests. Each successful case sets a precedent which makes the cost of trashing nature that much higher for companies or governments which might be tempted. This is game-changing work.

horses running in the woods

Reintroduction of large herbivores in the Danube Delta, including König horses, is restoring dynamic ecological processes in the floodplain © Andrey Nekrasov/Rewilding Ukraine

Meanwhile, the big idea of Conservation Collective, which I chair, is that people are far more likely to give their time and money towards restoring nature in the place that they love. There are now twenty locally-focused Conservation Collective foundations across the world, from Barbados to the Balearic Islands, Devon to the Dalmatian Coast. Each one of these is comprised of a dozen or more supporters who give in the thousands rather than the millions, their money strategically distributed to the most effective grassroots restoration and activist initiatives in the place that is closest to their own heart.

Read more: Kering’s Marie-Claire Daveu on the future of sustainability

Vultures are recovering from near extinction in Cyprus, new forest corridors in Sri Lanka are enabling leopards to move between protected areas and the ban on killing sea turtles in St Vincent and the Grenadines is being enforced by local monitors. The network is growing beyond our wildest imaginings, because playing a part in the dramatic recovery of nature is hugely appealing, and ultimately addictive.

a leopard walking

One of Wilpattu National Park’s dominant male leopards, the Kumbuk Villa Male, doing his morning rounds. Photo by Yanik Tissera

Every important victory that has been secured, from the saving of the whales in the 1970s to the turning of the tide on the destruction of the ozone layer in the 1990s, has happened because of small groups of passionate, brilliant people – supported by the generosity of philanthropists large and small. Giving a small amount each month to one of these organisations is a meaningful, radical and powerfully rewarding act, one which far too few people in our society have discovered.

A family sitting on the ground by a river

Ben Goldsmith and his family

The three most effective things any one of us can do towards fixing this, the mother of all issues, and moving our civilisation into a new age of harmony with nature are: to vote with nature in mind; to buy stuff mindfully; and to choose a nature organisation to support with whatever regular amount you can afford. Once you start, you won’t stop. And when your children or grandchildren one day ask you what role you played in all of this, you’ll have an answer for them.

Find out more: conservation-collective.org

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chalk and soil in the shape of a leaf with the Louis Roederer logo in the middle
chalk and soil in the shape of a leaf with the Louis Roederer logo in the middle

LUX attends an exclusive masterclass with Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Cellar Master at Louis Roederer, to try the never tasted before cuvées of Collection 244

Louis Roederer was very quick to notice the challenges that climate change was going to bring to the champagne market. Thus, ten years ago they founded the concept of Collection, to evolve their wines with the ever changing natural landscape. Lécaillon explains that instead of surrendering to the effects of climate change, we need to work alongside them.

A horse in a field
A bottle of champagne surrounded by soil and chalk
A bunch of black grapes

Dramatic changes to our climate leads to powerful changes in the wines we consume. 2019 was a year of record-breaking high temperatures from intense heat waves. However, the 2019 harvest was highly successful, delivering wines that were dense and fresh and forming the basis of Collection 244.

A horse in a vineyard

The blend consists of all the the champagne house’s origins: 1/3 from “La Rivière” Estate, 1/3 from “La Montagne” Estate and 1/3 from “La Côte” Estate. The Collection is made up of 54% of the 2019 harvest and 36% from the wines of the Perpetual Reserve.

On the future of the wine industry and its priorities, Lécaillon said, “after the fight for freshness, we are more in pursuit of finesse, because the wine of tomorrow is the wine of finesse.” 

Two men wearing brown jackets and shirts
branches stood up around a bottle of champagne
A man wearing a suit holding a bottle of champagne

Whilst tasting through the vintage for the very first time, Lécaillon said “it is ripe with high sugar but elegant and precise…expressive & fruity. [The vintage is] still young with a reductive bouquet. Some fine citrus. Hazelnut from Reserve Perpetuelle. Concentrated and fleshly texture. Creamy but fresh and alive. Almost a Blanc de Blancs definition. Elegant, precise and transparent. Round, textured but fresh and light, chalky. Seamless, dense, precise and perfectly integrated. The finish is even more salivating.”

Find out more: www.louis-roederer.com/collection244

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People looking at fabrics on a table
materials hung up mannequins

Sustainable samples at Kering’s Material Innovation Lab, Milan

When Kering, the French luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta, introduced a radical sustainability programme just over ten years ago, the rest of the industry was bemused. Now the group is seen as visionary. Marie-Claire Daveu, the group’s Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer, who oversaw the programme and introduced the first EP&L in the luxury industry, speaks to Darius Sanai about what happens next
A blonde woman wearing a black turtle neck and a white coat

Marie-Claire Daveu

Darius Sanai: How has fashion progressed in sustainability in the past ten years?
Marie-Claire Daveu: I see a big difference. I joined Kering in September 2012 and I think [Kering CEO] François-Henri Pinault was really pioneering. We were a little bit alone when we spoke about this topic and about how we can measure what we do. For us, from the start, it was really key to have the same approach to sustainability that we have for financial commitments – to have KPI metrics and competitive targets. Now, if we look around, we can see more and more that there is better awareness from many companies. The data and the challenges linked with climate change and biodiversity are now well known and recognised by the majority of companies.

The outside window of a Gucci store

Gucci, one of Kering’s iconic brands

DS: Are words being backed up by action?
MCD: Yes, and we need to act operationally. Here are two examples. First, the Fashion Pact [a fashion-industry initiative created by French President Emmanuel Macron and François- Henri Pinault, presented at the G7 in 2019]. We now have more than 250 companies involved, and we have been able to put in place a Collective Virtual Power Purchase Agreement, to buy renewable energy together. Another example is the Regenerative Fund for Nature that we created with Conservation International, linked to regenerative agriculture.

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DS: Will regenerative agriculture become mainstream in fashion?
MCD: It is difficult to say what the future looks like, but I hope so. I think it’s reasonable because you have positive impact on the environmental side and you take the community into account. It’s different to conventional agriculture, and also to organic agriculture, which sometimes can be challenging for communities. You have to accept it takes time because the transformation takes at least three years. For companies like ours, that use cotton, silk and wool, you have to also create a sustainable supply chain.

People looking at fabrics on a table

The Kering Material Innovation Lab team at work in Milan

DS: How can companies with fewer resources match your idealism?
MCD: I don’t think I am idealistic. I’d say I am optimistic, not idealistic. I try to be pragmatic. I am conscious about the challenges, about the issues. My strong conviction is, if you are a company and you do not include this topic in your strategy, I think it is questionable whether the company will survive. Take energy, for example. Energy is crucial to a business model. If you don’t think about efficiency you will have a problem. So we link back – if more and more investors and analysts pay attention to this topic, it will be a challenge to have access to credit if you do not. You will be able to compare companies against each other with metrics.

DS: President Biden just overturned the recent Congress ban on using ESG metrics in investment. Is there still a danger that support will just be in the EU?
MCD: One of the key criteria is that all over the world, consumers are speaking about these things. We won’t have the choice. It is better to anticipate and be well prepared. It is very interesting to see that even in some countries where the regulation and the policies are different, private companies themselves are investing in what we call ESG criteria. Even in countries where the regulation is different, it is still in their interests.

A forest with a stream running through it

View of a Kering reforestation programme in Guyana

DS: So what is the biggest challenge?
MCD: The big challenge is the question of speed. How fast will we be able to transform the business model to make the ecological transition and to really integrate and scale the topic? I don’t have the answer today, because I think it will take us a few years to do this.

DS: Is there a governance issue in less developed economies?
MCD: We have to maximise our operational involvement on the ground for our projects. Each time, we identify an NGO that is global but also local to follow the project and to be really involved, so we can ensure that what we have planned is really implemented on the ground. That’s not a perfect answer, but we want to be sure that what we decide to do becomes a reality. It’s really key to identify the right partner to do this. If I am in Mongolia, I need to know I have the right partner on the ground and, if not, I will come in from Paris and check.

The outside of a Balenciaga store

Balenciaga, another of Kering’s most renowned brands

DS: Do luxury consumers make decisions based around sustainability?
MCD: I am convinced that, for the luxury customer, sustainability is part of the quality, part of the reason they buy a luxury product. For them, it is important that the raw materials are being produced in a way that pays attention to people and the planet.

Read more: Fausto Puglisi Interview: Refashioning Roberto Cavalli

DS: Do consumers understand, say, the link between biodiversity and climate change?
MCD: Do people always make those connections? No, but they are very aware of climate change – they see and live it. It is now something that has already happened. True, sometimes there can seem a distant connection between buying a product and the impact on the environment or biodiversity, and some people will say that their impact is nothing compared to that of a factory. But really, I see a change. The new generation are afraid of what is happening, and we speak more and more about what is happening. It was not the case before, but today, everyone has something to say about the topic.

Find out more: kering.com/en/sustainability

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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Two men standing next to a blue statue of a person
Two men standing next to a blue statue of a person

Oliver Wenden, Vice President & CEO of the Prince Albert II Foundation standing with artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar next to his specially created human-sized enamel sculpture. Photo by David M. Benett

Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation held a joint event with Cap Ferrat based artist, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, to launch the opening of Behnam-Bakhtiar’s solo show ‘Ocean’ at the the foundation’s headquarters, Villa Girasole. The partnership for the show was formed to raise awareness and funds for the conservation of the planet, and specifically the oceans

Olivier Wenden, Vice President & CEO of the Prince Albert II Foundation, noted,  “Sassan’s talent is quite unique. I really love the discussion in his colourful paintings between abstraction and figurative scenes. They also open a discussion between traditional art, symbolic of the Persian mosaic, and modernity.

A half red, half blue painting

Sassan’s commitment to help raise awareness for the preservation of the planet through his talent and art is very essential. In addition to scientific messaging, we need to convey new ecological narratives that are more directly connected to our hearts.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Three women wearing blue, black and white dresses standing between two men

Left to right: Cesc Fàbregas, Natalie Imbruglia, Daniella Fabregas, Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar and Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar. Photo by David M. Benett

When Wenden was asked about his favourite piece he chose the ‘Towards the Ocean’ painting, saying that it “conveys a central question about the place of the ocean in our life. The ocean is our best ally in tackling the issue of climate change, and at the same time it needs all our attention because it is threatened by many human induced pressures. We can’t save our future without saving the global ocean.”

A blue painting

On his show Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar said “If the energy of the ocean had a romantic dance with my own artistic energy, the result would be these site specific works created for the historic Villa Girasole, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.”

A group of people standing outside an entrance arch into a buildng

The guests who attended the private view of ‘Ocean’. Photo by David M. Benett

Read more: The Special Relationship of Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar and Ali Jassim

Behnam-Bakhtiar chose to partner with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation because their “vision on progressing ocean and planetary health is unmatched.” As a true believer in their mission, he is “proud to be teaming up with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.”

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar‘s exhibition will be on display at Villa Girasole from June 30th to September 15th 2023

 

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A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea
An underwater vortex of waves in the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

Creating a sustainable blue economy – meaning we can invest in businesses directly related to the oceans while avoiding negative impact – is one of the most important tasks on humankind’s to-do list. Below, LUX speaks with Muriel Danis of Deutsche Bank about the challenges. Chris Stokel-Walker also speaks to entrepreneurs trying to make a positive impact in the ocean space

Muriel Danis on building investment opportunities in the sustainable blue economy

A woman wearing a white shirt

Muriel Danis

One of the challenges faced by investors interested in the sustainable blue economy is that it is an emerging landscape. “It’s a very nascent space,” says Muriel Danis, Global Head of Product Platforms and Sustainable Solutions at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank. “There are few products dedicated to the blue economy. What we see more often, especially in the private markets space, is a broader, impact approach to investing, with a sub-allocation for ocean-based investments.”

Danis is overhauling the products at Deutsche Bank by making sustainability a central part of the tenet. She is incorporating ESG qualitative and quantitative factors into the product development process to meet regulatory requirements and help identify “best in class” managers and solutions. That is easier said than done. Most liquid products available today focus primarily on what Danis calls a “do no harm approach”: they tend to exclude from investment portfolios any sectors or activities that have a materially negative impact on the oceans. However, in private markets there may be more product opportunities able to deliver material and measurable positive outcomes. “We are seeing a number of VC funds that are directly investing in technologies and capabilities that protect marine biodiversity,” says Danis. “By targeting overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change, they are supporting a sustainable blue economy.”

A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

“We think this will be an expanding universe,” adds Danis. That’s partly driven by investor demand, and partly by increased policy action. A good example is the recent UN High Seas Treaty, which aims to place 30 per cent of the seas into protected areas by 2030. This will support increased finance flows into sectors of the sustainable blue economy impacted by the 30 x 30 agreement. “As the market becomes more mature,” says Danis, “we will see more need for financing to support the transition of business models to what I would call a blue or green model.”

Danis is spearheading that transition by making connections to blue economy pioneers. One such opportunity was the DB x ORRAA Ocean Conference hosted in 2022 in Mallorca. In the first conference of its kind, Deutsche Bank invited a range of companies and their founders, including some of those featured below, to demystify the sustainable blue economy and show how private capital can help achieve positive ocean impact at scale.

Entrepreneurs on creating businesses for the good of the oceans

A new generation of individuals are setting up companies worldwide to radically overhaul how we interact with our oceans, and help save our planet while building a sustainable economy

A woman wearing a black top and glasses

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz

Replacing ship engines with sails
Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz
Co-founder, bound4blue, Barcelona

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz always wanted to be a doctor. “I thought the only way to do good in theworld was to save lives,” she says. But a chance conversation with a teacher who suggested engineering changed her path.

Muñoz became an aeronautical engineer, working on planes and space shuttles before pivoting to the maritime industry. That aerodynamic expertise helped when she launched bound4blue with her co-founders. The challenge was to overcome the shipping industry’s fuel-consumption problem – shipping alone accounts for 2.5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

“I think engineering can help solve today’s hardest problems, make sustainability profitable and be something that can be developed and implemented,” says Muñoz. The company has developed a wind-propelled eSAIL that can reduce emissions by up to 40 per cent, and which it has tested on three ships. “The intention is for around 80 per cent of the global fleet to benefit from this type of solution,” she says.

bound4blue.com

Marine-friendly robotics
Liane Thompson
Co-founder, Aquaai, California and Norway

A woman with long wavy hair

Liane Thompson

As a journalist for The New York Times, Liane Thompson used to travel the world. Once, while she was in South Africa, she reported on an entrepreneur called Simeon Pieterkosky. Little did she know then that she would reconnect with Pieterkosky around a decade later in 2014 to develop Aquaai.

The husband-and-wife’s marine-robotics company builds affordable Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), which it calls Nammu. These are shaped like fish and are used to gather environmental data deep underwater, without intruding on the marine life living there. The AUVs are 3D printed and come installed with off-the-shelf cameras and sensors – deliberately so, says Thompson, so that people can build their own in communities that need them most.

And that need is ever increasing, says Thompson, “given superstorms, floods, the proteins and food sources coming out of underwater farming, and the need to protect marine habitats and corals.”

aquaai.com

Biodiversity-friendly coastal concrete
Ido Sella
Co-founder, ECOncrete, Tel Aviv

A bald man wearing a white shirt

Ido Sella

Marine biologist Dr Ido Sella has been fixated on the impact of coastal construction on the marine environment for more than 20 years. His bugbear? Concrete, as it doesn’t support the same biodiversity as other substrates. In an ideal world, natural reef would mark out ports and create promontories – but that won’t happen. So Sella worked to develop a material that would be better than the concrete used in 70 per cent of coastal infrastructure.

And so, in 2012, ECOncrete was born. A decade ago, the company started experimenting in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The findings were shocking: the mix itself was an issue, as was the surface and the structural strength. ECOncrete solves all three problems: its Admix can be added to regular concrete to provide a better chemical balance for marine life, its texture agents help marine life cling to the structures and their moulds help create ecological niches and strengthen the structures.

ECOncrete is now used in breakwaters and ports globally. “There is a real drive from the industry to look for these solutions,” says Sella.

econcretetech.com

The curve of a wave and the blue sky

Photo by Ben Thouard

Large-scale coral regrowth
Sam Teicher
Co-founder, Coral Vita, Freeport

A man with a beard wearing a white t-shirt and shirt

Sam Teicher

At the age of 13, Sam Teicher gained a scuba- diving certification. “I’ve loved the ocean and nature my whole life,” he says. “As a kid from Washington D.C., I grew up imagining I was going to become a coral farmer.” Teicher studied the environment and climate change in college, then grad school. It was through working at a friend’s NGO between courses that he was first introduced to coral restoration – and it became his life’s work.

Coral Vita, the company Teicher co-founded in 2019, grows coral 50 times faster than it would grow in nature – so it can be replenished as modern life diminishes our reserves of the natural resource. Started with a $1,000 grant from Yale, where Teicher and his co-founder met, Coral Vita is now behind the world’s first commercial land-based coral-reef farm, in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where the coral grown is being used to replenish the reef. In 2021, the company won Prince William’s inaugural Revive Our Oceans Earthshot Prize. “We hope to kick-start the whole restoration economy,” says Teicher.

coralvita.co

Biodegradable packaging and materials
Jack Sieff
Corporate Development Manager, Polymateria, London

A man sitting down with his hands on this lap wearing a suit

Jack Sieff

Plastic waste is a major problem for the world’s oceans, strangling marine life and jeopardising biodiversity systems. There is now an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic waste in the world’s sea and oceans.

Founded in 2015 by Jack Sieff’s father Jonathan, Polymateria has developed biodegradable alternatives to plastic. In 2020, Polymateria reached a major milestone, achieving certified biodegradation of the most commonly littered forms of plastic packaging in real-world conditions, all without creating the harmful microplastics the world is seeking to avoid. “Since the launch of that standard, we’ve seen a domino effect,” Sieff says, as many countries are adopting similar standards.

Polymateria’s biodegradable materials are now utilised in items such as masks and wipes, along with other uses. The company raised £15 million in its Series-A funding before the pandemic hit, and is about to close out a Series-B round, bringing in a further £20 million.

polymateria.com

Autonomous sailing fleet that creates power
Ben Medland
Founder, DRIFT Energy, London

A man wearing a back suit and white shirt

Ben Medland

Engineer Ben Medland didn’t know how to answer when his eight-year-old son asked him, “Daddy, why is the climate broken? And how can we fix it?” Medland’s son had been reading about a recent COP conference, and had noticed that the nearby wind farm just wasn’t moving. What could be done? Medland vowed to try to change things by turning the 70 per cent of the planet that traditional renewables don’t reach – the world’s oceans – into an energy source. He admits that it is a “crazy” idea, but it is one that works.

DRIFT, founded in 2021, creates sailboats, augmented with turbines, which will go through the water, guided by AI to inform them of the most beneficial route to pick up power. The tides themselves generate energy into the turbine, which is stored onboard as green hydrogen using a process called electrolysis.

Better yet, that onboard green energy can then be used wherever the sailboats end up docking – bringing green energy to the parts of the world that need it the most.

drift.energy

This article was first published in the Deustche Bank Supplement in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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Photo by Tim Marshall

Ahead of World Ocean Day, LUX speaks to Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, about his work on the Anthropocene, the blue acceleration, and why saving our oceans must be a collaborative effort
boy in a grey polo neck

Jean-Baptiste Jouffray

LUX: The use of the word Anthropocene has only become widespread in the scientific community fairly recently, but it’s now a key focus of your work. Why is this terminology important?
Jean Baptiste Jouffray: The Anthropocene is often described as this new period or epoch or era where humans have become a dominant force of planetary change, with profound impact on, not just the climate system, but also all sorts of ecosystems and the functioning of the earth’s system. It’s essential to my work as an analytical framework. It’s more than just entering a discussion about whether it’s a geological epoch, which means agreeing when it starts exactly. Does it start after WW2 when we start using radioactivity? Does it start exactly 2000 years ago? Does it start 10,000 years ago when we started to have agriculture and other things? I think it is more important to use it as an analytical framework, rather than focusing on those types of questions. It’s often characterised by unprecedented speed, scale and connectivity across sectors, across people, across regions, across socioeconomic contexts. What do these things mean? How do we make sure we move forward in a more sustainable and equitable way? I think that’s the power of the Anthropocene, in my work at least. Others focus more on the geological aspect of it and the question of whether it is the next geological era after the Holocene or not.

LUX: You say that in your work you use inter- and transdisciplinary approaches, which is a method which is becoming more prevalent across STEM fields. Would you say that this is particularly important when researching sustainability?
JJ: Absolutely. That’s because I think sustainability is a different kind of science. It has been described as a science for which the real test of success will be implementing its knowledge to solve the big societal challenges. So, in that sense, I think sustainability science is about translating knowledge into action. It’s not just about creating knowledge for the sake of it, but really creating knowledge, and ideally co-creating knowledge amongst multiple stakeholders to solve the problems we’re facing. Sustainable science is often said to be problem-driven and solution-oriented, and in that sense you need more than just one discipline. You have to synthesise knowledge across academic disciplines.

Beyond academia, you also need to engage with different societal actors, be it governments, NGOs or the private sector, for instance. It’s true that the coproduction of knowledge should also lead to co-operation in the designing of solutions and their implementation. If it’s just a top down thing, scientists in their ivory tower and the rest of the world, it’s not going to work.

Photo by Ivan Bandura

Photo by Ivan bandura

LUX: You have been involved with SeaBOS, the organisation involved in creating a dialogue between corporations and experts in sustainability. Obviously businesses are becoming more engaged with science, but how are they really doing this and do you think we have a long way to go?
JJ: Yes we do. But it’s good that we have started somewhere. I think SeaBOS is an example of what I just described, it’s scientists coming together with businesses and trying to co-produce knowledge, agreeing on what the challenges are and discussing what the possible solutions could be. It’s really that kind of science-business dialogue that has been a really fascinating experience. I think this is because, ultimately, it is a dance between those two entities; you have to compromise somewhere. For example, scientists usually like to see more results or ambitious time goals, and then the business side also have to deal with the reality of their own operations and what is feasible. You have to adapt to the other side, and this is a really exciting prospect.

We need collective and collaborative action across the whole supply chain. It’s not just miscellaneous companies and scientists: we need the financiers involved, we need governments to set up the right regulatory landscapes to incentivise better practices, and consumers need to be aware of it as well. So it is really that collective and collaborative approach that can accelerate sustainability.

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LUX: Is it realistic to expect consumers to understand the science and the environmental impacts behind their purchases? Do they need to?
JJ: They need to understand it in order to add another dimension of pressure in what I just described in terms of collaborative and collective action. I think consumers have a role to play, but whether they should have the sole responsibility, I don’t think so. In an ideal world, as a consumer you would enter a grocery store and only have sustainable products to choose from, you wouldn’t have to choose between a sustainable version and an unsustainable version, often with a price premium for the sustainable one, which brings more difficulties.

I think for this question it is a yes and no. Yes, they do have a role to play, and we’ve seen it in boycott or buycott campaigns which have had a really strong influence on industry. One of the most widespread mechanisms used by companies is certification or labelling of products, and we do see that it has an impact, but also limits. If you do a survey and show maybe half a dozen labels to a random, average consumer or customer in the grocery store, they will recognise some that do not exist. This was actually done in the context of seafood when consumers were presented with labels; they were recognising some of the legit ones as well as some that were totally made up.

Photo by Ivan Bandura

LUX: How do you see the relationship between science and governmental policy and what role do you think researchers should play in shaping policy and decisions?
JJ: Speaking from my own field of sustainability science  I think scientists have a really big role to play. This goes back to this example of staying in your ivory tower and publishing papers and then moving onto the next one, without really caring what happens next. I think that model of operating – again, for sustainability science, I want to make that distinction because I think there are a lot of applied or fundamental sciences that are different and that we need for the sake of them. But in the context of sustainability, it has to operate with the ambition to translate that knowledge into action, and that means communicating it to different stakeholders, like the private sector, but certainly to governments so that policy decisions are evidence based. That’s really what the IPCC is about in the context of climate change.

On the other hand, however, this doesn’t mean we always need to wait for science to act. I think there is a double-edged sword to big organisations like the IPCC, and that’s why several of the scientists who have been engaged for years in the IPCC and various reports, have publicly said this will be their last report. They will not contribute anymore because it gives the impression that we need to wait for the next report to have more information to act upon, when in fact we have all of the information we need to know in terms of the urgency of the situation and to know the solution to it, and therefore we need to act.

LUX: Can you explain what is meant by ‘blue acceleration’ and what this means for our oceans going forwards?
JJ: The term blue acceleration is something we coined very much in the spirit of the Great Acceleration idea and concept by Will Steffen, who recently passed away and was a giant of science. He used the term of the Great Acceleration to describe an exponential growth. The growth usually starts in the Industrial Revolution, but it really takes off in the mid-50s after WW2. You see across economic and socio environmental variables with population, GDP, deforestation, CO2 emissions across the board, you see that really rapid, exponential growth. Of course, it has its consequences, and it’s often one of the most iconic illustrations of the Anthropocene.

If we go back to the notion of the Anthropocene, how do you visualise, how do you embody the Anthropocene? It could be with those graphs of the Great Acceleration and our work focused on how that relates to the ocean specifically. If we take that lens and look at what happens in the ocean, it looks very similar. So that’s the interesting parallel, that’s why we called it the blue acceleration, because you see a rapid increase across a wide range of sectors. There are multiple increasing uses of the ocean for food, for energy, for materials, and for space as well.

If you look at marine aquaculture or agriculture for instance, it’s one of the fastest food production sectors in the world. If you look at shipping, the volume of goods transported by containers has quadrupled over the past 20 years and more than 1,000,000km of submarine cables have been laid on the sea bed. Undersea cables account for 99% of all international telecommunications that are happening in the world; it’s cheaper, more reliable, faster and safer than satellites.

Offshore wind is another example, one of the most promising marine renewable energies and the only one so far to have been scaled up commercially. It has increased 500 fold in the past 20 years. What the blue acceleration is, in essence, is a new phase of humanity’s relationship with the ocean that is characterised by this rapid increase at the onset of the 21st century, so very recently.

Photo by Danny Copeland

LUX: Can you tell us about the Ocean 100 project?
JJ: The Ocean 100 really speaks to the blue acceleration. If you acknowledge that acceleration and that growth across all sectors, you see that there is a scramble for the sea. Then the question is, who is racing? Or, if you look at it another way, who is left behind?

The Ocean 100 is looking at the big companies, particularly in the private sector, who are involved in ocean based industries. What you see is that a handful of companies often control a really large market share of the sector. For instance, the top ten oil and gas companies in terms of offshore production are responsible for more than half of total offshore production. If you look at the 10 largest companies in cruise tourism, they are 93% of the global market share, so really highly concentrated in terms of revenues. We look at those companies within sectors, and we look at it across sectors just by revenues, to see who are the largest of the largest across ocean industries. That’s the Ocean 100. The 100 largest companies by revenues.

What’s striking is that 47 out of the 100 are oil and gas companies, and 9 of the top 10. It’s a reality check because there is a mismatch between the aspiration of a blue economy, a sustainable and equitable ocean economy, and the reality of today’s extraction where oil and gas is by far the largest industry in the ocean today. The project identified who they were and in a subsequent effort, tried to engage in dialogue. So similar to what SeaBOS has managed to do within the seafood industry, they engaged in dialogue with some of those industries to see what they could do together across industries that they couldn’t do alone within their own sector.

Read more: Markus Müller on the links between the ocean and the economy

LUX: You recently completed your PhD. What is next for you?
JJ: I’ll keep doing it, I’ll keep going at it! I’m just starting a position at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solution, whose mission is to translate knowledge into impact across a series of initiatives. I’m very keen to keep looking at the ocean economy and trying to look at how we make sure it becomes a blue economy. It’s often used synonymously; people think of the blue economy as the ocean economy. I like to make a distinction. The blue economy right now is very aspirational, it would be a sustainable and equitable version of the ocean economy. But the reality that we’re dealing with today is very much a dark blue ocean economy.

I will be looking at the ocean economy, trying to make sense of it, increasing transparency, but not just for the sake of transparency. Transparency on its own is not enough. What you need is accountability as well. Trying to identify the levels of accountability in ocean economic sectors and leverage points to change. Who can set the right incentives? I believe the financial sector has really strong power to create incentives for industry, as do governments. You need a regulatory landscape. It’s not going to happen out of altruism as much as we could wish for this, it’s not how we operate. You need the regulation to be in place to incentivise better practices, and we’re going back to collective action. I think diving into that is something that I’m really keen on.

Photo by Danny Copeland

LUX: In 10 years’ time what changes do you hope to see in the world as a result of your research and the initiatives that you’ve worked on?
JJ: In 10 years’ time we’re past 2030, so we’ve either delivered or not on the Sustainable Development Agenda. So far it doesn’t look that good to be entirely honest, I don’t know if we are on track for delivering.

But I hope we will have got to a point where governments have been bold enough to set in motion the policies that will enable change. We can’t just stick to business as usual with a few incremental changes here and there, or a couple of long term targets that make everyone feel good.

More specifically, when it comes to the financial sector, I really like to think of financiers as either enablers or gatekeepers in terms of their potential influence. I would like to see them enable capital to flow towards sustainable activities. What’s striking in the ocean domain is that SDG 14 is the least financed goal of all of them. The SDG 14, life below water, the ocean SDG, is the least financed over the past ten years. Only 1% of the total value of the ocean economy has been invested into sustainable activity. In 10 years’ time I would hope they do more to fill that gap and enable more sustainable investment.

At the same time, regardless of that ocean finance gap, you have that blue acceleration that is exponentially increasing. This means that capital is going to those sectors, one way or another. That’s where I think of financiers as gatekeepers. Ideally financiers would take the sustainability criteria into consideration in their financial decision. It’s not the norm, but I hope it will be in 10 years’ time. Loans by default should be sustainability linked instead of the other way around, because suddenly that means companies have an incentive, a very tangible incentive to perform from a sustainability perspective.

Find out more: stockholmresilience.org/jouffray

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waves crashing in the sea and rocks on the sea floor
waves crashing in the sea and rocks on the sea floor

Fishes, 24 March 2019, Teahupoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia. © Ben Thouard

Markus Müller discusses how the ocean, biodiversity, the global economy and the world of finance are inextricably linked – and proposes what should be done now to make business fit for a nature-compliant future
A man wearing a suit

Markus Müller

Economics is deeply bound to nature. Portfolio managers in finance often think they invented the idea of diversification. I hate to disappoint them, but it was created by nature first. Nature, like economics, invented diversification for risk protection and to provide the breeding ground for development. If everything stayed the same, there would be no development – this is true for nature and true for economics.

According to some estimates, half of global GDP is directly attributable to nature. Some industries, such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing, use nature’s output to create economic output, and are therefore heavily nature-dependent. The biodiversity of nature is also essential to economics, because the wide assortment of living things provides crucial ecosystem services to the economy. These services range from providing fresh air and clean water to producing food. Nature provides everything that humans consume.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The ocean plays a big part in biodiversity, as two-thirds of our planet is covered with water and more than 95 per cent of that is ocean. If we allow our ocean ecosystems to be depleted, we create risks for nature, for humanity, for the economy and for social stability. Human life is heavily dependent on ocean ecosystems and, if we let them deteriorate, the services we need to live and thrive will not be there. We would lose the critical services the ocean provides, such as the natural governance of carbon sequestration and temperature regulation. It is all one connected chain.

There are a myriad of links between nature and economics. The ocean is a great example of this, and an example of how we undervalue nature in our economic thinking. For instance, do we really understand the financial impact of having 40 per cent of the global population living near the coast with the threat of rising sea levels? Have we really taken into account how vital water is for our livelihoods and do we have an economic model that accounts for this?

 orange coral underwater

Although our understanding of ocean economics has developed, there is still a long way to go. However, we do know enough to start taking action. Some may ask, why is it important to finance the blue economy? The real question is, how do we use finance to transform our current non-sustainable and non-equitable blue economy into a sustainable and equitable one? First, we have to be clear about the goal: to have a sustainable and equitable blue economy and a nature-compliant economic model. Creating such a model is the equivalent of the economics behind building and operating a railway infrastructure. To build a functioning train network first requires a railway system, which is too expensive for private markets to install and is the kind of cost that only a government can afford – but the trains can be provided and financed by private companies.

We need to enable the ocean to deliver its ecosystem services. Many ocean assets need to be protected in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and they are unlikely to generate an investment return. This means assets in MPAs are not suitable for a market system; rather, it becomes a governmental and societal responsibility to protect them and ensure they are not being depleted or overused. Governance is key for this to be successful.

Finance can be a tool that then helps achieve the goal for a sustainable and equitable blue economy. Global financial markets can play a role by providing a premium to companies that operate in the blue economy. In time, these companies that account for the impact that the ocean has on their economic activity can become more profitable and have more stable profit generation than other businesses. Those businesses that do not account for the ocean may find they are at risk: a reputational risk, a physical risk, even a liability risk. Financial markets can also provide indirect support to sustainable companies that understand how their value chains are impacted by the ocean. This is also part of ocean finance.

fish swimming around coral in the sea

In this new economic model, firms link self-interest to the health of the natural machine. CEOs understand their dependency on the ocean and are therefore aligned for protection. This happens through transparency, disclosure and data flow. Regulation provides a framework, which can be supplemented by the private sector if needed, as regulators can’t do everything. The risk to watch out for is using key performance indicators (KPIs) that are not globally or locally accepted in financial markets. Here again, regulation is an enabler.

Companies that are directly involved in the blue economy should employ local people and redistribute the accrued margin to the local communities, based on the understanding that nature needs time to recover. This would be both sustainable and equitable. Self-interests will drive this and it will happen at the local level, bottom up, before eventually forming global coalitions. An economy, or society, works from an agreement of self-understanding. Thus, if humankind can reach an agreement that fossil fuels are not the way forward, then society will find a way to abandon fossil fuels. However, if there is not such an agreement, then global treaties will not be signed.

Read more: 3Sun Gigafactory’s Eliano Russo On The Clean Energy Transition

Literacy in the systemic value of natural capital is incomplete, especially in financial markets. It follows a similar path to the understanding of climate change from the past 40 years. But it is growing. We must now act on propositions such as those outlined here to build the nature-compliant economy of our future.

Markus Müller is Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Chief Investment Officer at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank

Find out more: deutschewealth.com/esg

This article was first published in the Deustche Bank Supplement in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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A ginger model with a wearing a white shirt with a camera next to her head
A ginger model wearing a brown and grey robe with her hand on her head

A portrait of the multitalented Lily Cole

The model and campaigner talks to Ella Johnson about environmental action, NFTs and how fashion can never be truly sustainable

1. What was your first piece of eco-activism?

Without it being intentionally connected to environmentalism, I guess it was campaigning against fur and turning vegetarian as a kid.

2. Why are you an “accidental entrepreneur”?

I’ve never resonated with the idea of business or entrepreneurship. I just have ideas and business has been a good vehicle for executing them, so it’s “accidental”. Perhaps “incidental entrepreneur” is a better way of saying it, as it’s an incidental by-product of following ideas.

3. What is the aim of your 2020 book and ongoing podcast, Who Cares Wins?

To draw attention to climate solutions and to foster a culture of diversity, dialogue and collaboration.

4. Who would be your ultimate guest for the podcast?

Thich Nhat Hanh. Aware it is too late for that.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

5. Why should we take an intersectional approach to environmentalism?

Because all our issues are interconnected and interwoven, both social and environmental. And because the key to embracing biodiversity involves embracing diversity on all levels, such as cultural diversity and diversity of thought.

6. The Queen asks you what to do. What do you tell her?

I ask her to listen to, support and champion indigenous voices. 

7. What was your greatest revelation while researching your book?

That we could halt global warming, draw down more than 15 years of carbon emissions, enhance global biodiversity and essentially stop the sixth mass extinction through a very simple, and technically possible, action: stopping most animal farming.

A child sitting on a sofa with tights on and a sign over her neck that says 'Don't Wer Fur'

Cole, aged around 10, with an early activist fashion statement

8. Can we really stop global heating?

As above, and through many other solutions I look at in Who Cares Wins. Although it might not be possible to stop global heating in the short-to-medium term, we can potentially stop it in the longer term. And we can lessen the extent at which it accelerates, so it’s not too late to do something.

 9. Fashion can never be sustainable. True or false? 

If Adam and Eve swapping out fig leaves for, say, maple-tree leaves, was fashion, then yes, it can be. If most fashion remains made up of petrochemicals – 70 per cent of new fabrics are composed from plastic – and using non-circular business models, then no, probably not.

10. Why did you move to Portugal?

My daughter’s father is Portuguese and it felt like a good move to be closer to his family during the pandemic. Then I fell in love with the country: good nature, weather and people.

11. Have you ever bought an NFT?

Interesting question. I nearly did, as one was originally attached to a tapestry artwork I bought by Éva Ostrowska.

12. What’s your favourite building?

Sant’Ivo in Rome. The floor plan has a weird shape, like a bee. When Borromini drew the plans, he had to put the centre of the compass outside the ecclesiastical space to make it, which some interpret as a nod to the new idea that Earth was not the centre of the universe.

13. Tate Modern or Pompidou?

Tate Modern.

14. Is success about talent or effort?

It takes both, I’d think.

15. Which fictional character would you most want to have dinner with, why, and where?

Ada, from the novel by Nabokov. To pick her brain and play her games. On a sun-kissed beach.

Read more: An Interview with KAWS

16. What next, creatively?

Writing, writing, writing more.

Season 2 of Lily Cole’s Who Cares Wins podcast is available to stream now: lilycole.com/podcast

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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yacht in turquoise water and green island behind it

yacht in turquoise water and green island behind itAino Grapin is CEO of Winch Design, an international design studio for luxury planes, homes and most famously, yachts. Here, Grapin speaks to Samantha Welsh about the increased focus on sustainability in yacht design and the special requests of next generation yacht owners

1. What was the founding vision for Winch Design 36 years ago?

Drawing inspiration from Andrew’s own passion for sailing and the sea, Winch Design first began in 1986 by focusing its creativity on sailing and motor yachts. With a 36-year heritage in superyacht design, our studio is now creating projects across land, air and sea.

The challenge we set ourselves for each day is to realise the dreams of our clients. Their aspirations are, in themselves extraordinary in their sophistication and scale, inviting a creative response that has to be both unique and full of imagination.

A house which has been lit up inside

2. Deeply embedded at the outset in environmental and social responsibility, how is the company working to meet UN sustainable development goals at studio level?

Andrew had a genuine interest in sustainability very early before it became such a hot topic and has driven that passion into the business. We have created our own ‘Life Worth Living’ plan to care for people and the planet through four key pillars: protecting our air, land and sea, caring for our communities, leading our industries and transforming our business. We have also partnered with the Water Revolution Foundation and signed their Code of Conduct, committing to prioritising sustainability throughout our entire supply chain.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

At studio level, we have a dedicated sustainability specialist whose responsibility it is to research, source and test, not only materials, but suppliers too. They manage a resource matrix of sustainable suppliers that analyses and tracks their methods of sourcing, manufacturing and application of each material to check it meets the correct criteria.

3. Data shows the average age of a boat buyer has decreased by over ten years since the pandemic, what does this new generation want from a luxury fit-out?

We are seeing an increase of younger owners, who are typically more in-tune with the effects of climate change and ocean pollution and are more likely to request or be open to innovative and sustainable yacht design.

In terms of interiors, younger clients do not like the high-gloss and dark wood finishes which are typically associated with traditional yacht interiors. Natural textures and experimental finishes are more popular with younger clients.

a white yacht int he sea

Younger clients are also asking for more informal social spaces, a step away from formal dining and entertainment styles traditionally found. This is showing that guests really want to switch off when they’re at sea. Clients are staying on board longer and require more multi-functional spaces.

Explorer yachts are also gaining popularity with the younger crowd. Clients want to be able to navigate around the globe for extended periods of time in a 7* environment. Their yacht must be able to thrive in any environment, no matter how harsh.

4. At project inception, how do you persuade clients to make sustainable choices?

We make sure to introduce all of our clients to sustainable options right at the start of the process. The choice of sustainable materials becomes a part of the narrative of the project and we educate our clients to understand that sustainable options don’t mean you have to compromise on luxury.

Wooden samples with patterns on them

5. Where are you focusing your design energies?

Alongside sustainability factors and the increased popularity in explorer yachts, we are seeing an increased focus on the use of glass on yachts. Huge expanses of glass are being used, to bring the outside in and allow clients to feel immersed in their surroundings. This yearning for a connection with nature has also led to the increase in more refined, natural interiors, with open grain woods, soft, light furnishings and even living walls of greenery.

Read more: Markus Müller on Nature Economy

We have no set house design style and as a result each project we complete is totally unique. Currently we are working on a variety of projects across our yacht, aviation and architecture studio. These include VIP submarines, the world’s largest twinjet plane and the OWO (Old War Office) penthouse.

a yacht in the sea with an iceberg behind it

6. What do clients most want from their time at sea?

Our clients want time to switch off, enjoy time with their family and friends and explore new destinations in complete privacy.

Find out more: winchdesign.com

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green mangroves in a green river

 

“Technologies like renewables have their limits,” says Markus Muller. “The real potential for a sustainable global economy lies in using the wonders of nature to help rectify the planet.”

As has been previously discussed, a fundamental issue underpinning climate change is that the current economic system does not recognise nature as capital. We use and degrade nature freely. But we can go further than that, and say that putting nature at centre stage and appreciating the ecosystem services that it can deliver, would significantly help us counter climate change.

A man in a black suit and white shirt wearing glasses

Markus Müller

It is easy to believe that technology, correctly implemented, will be enough to combat climate change. And it is true that technological transformation, moving away from fossil fuel based production chains towards more electric and alternative energy based production chains, will support the reduction in CO2 emissions and in mitigating the climate change problem. But, if we wanted to electrify the entire world so that everything is based on renewable energy, it would require a vast amount of commodities that we currently do not have. Current estimates suggest we would need 500% of the commodities we already use today. And the extraction of these commodities will harm nature as well. So, technology has natural limits in its ability of adapting to a future counteracting climate change.

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We need the help of nature.

Nature based solutions (NBS) are one of the most important ingredients here. As defined by the IUCN, they leverage nature and the power of healthy ecosystems, to protect people, optimise infrastructure and safeguard a stable and biodiverse future.

Their potential is massive. One exciting aspect is that they can include local communities, especially in the global south, which are currently excluded from global developments. NBS produce societal benefits in a fair and equitable way, in a manner which promotes transparency and broad participation. They also maintain biological and cultural diversity, as well as the ability of ecosystems to evolve over time.

a brown coral under the blue sea

Photo by Francesco Ungaro

The IUCN have estimated that NBS have the potential to reduce roughly 10-18 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions each year (by 2050). This would be a major contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. And NBS also mean the reinvigoration of nature, which will further increase the climate mitigation benefit, including in such crucial areas as the resilience of the coastline.

One discussion in the global market is how to use NBS for carbon credit trading. NBS are one of the carbon sinks and these credits can be traded by companies not just to offset their C02 emissions, but also to steer those companies, via these carbon credit markets, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

And there are other potential benefits. In the ocean, if we put some areas under protection because of NBS, the fish stock will be very likely to recover. The fish stock will swim around, outside the protected area, which could benefit sustainable fisheries also outside such areas; scientists having found that this led to an increase in output. So NBS have multiple potential benefits to the entire planet.

Read more: Markus Müller On Natural Capital

As another example, a healthy coral reef absorbs 97% of the energy of a wave. And this speaks to the further economic potential of NBS. New jobs, for example. We have forest rangers, so why not have coral rangers or gardeners?

green mangroves in a green river

Photo by Vishwasa Navada

In fact, they already have coral gardeners in Tahiti, where they are a source of labour on this breakwater. Creating a coral reef produces environmental and biodiversity benefits, creates labour, and can generate a profit.

There is however, a challenge: complacency and the rebound effect. We know this from countries where recycling has become a tool for reducing plastic waste, but the high recycling ability of a country (Germany is a good example) leads to more plastic production. Therefore believing that NBS will do the trick and lead to absorption should not lead us to think that we can emit further CO2. NBS will only ever work while we are reducing CO2 emissions at the same time. The priority is to reduce CO2 emissions while using the ability of NBS for absorbing CO2 as a mitigation strategy.

Markus Müller is Global Head of the Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank

Find out more: deutschewealth.com/esg

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hay field and the sky

hay field and the skyCan we put a price tag on nature? Valuing the carbon services of plants and animals is essential to bridging the gap between finance and conservation, says Professor Connel Fullenkamp, the leading academic working at the intersection of science and economics. Here, Fullenkamp speaks to LUX about the importance of engaging capital markets in biodiversity financing, and why necessity is the mother of invention

A bald man wearing glasses and a red shirt

Professor Connel Fullenkamp

LUX: You have spoken profoundly about the value of natural assets.
CF: We’re bringing economics, finance, and business into an area where it really hasn’t been brought in before. We start with the approach that says these natural assets have a lot of value, but we don’t necessarily know how to put a price tag on that value. So, we start only with the things that we can find a market price for. This is because we want to speak the same language as investors and policymakers who have to keep their eye on the bottom line all the time.

When we go out and try to put a value on a natural asset, be it an elephant or a mangrove forest, we’re really thinking about this as trying to attach the lowest, believable value. We’re trying to convince people that the value is way more than that. That has got a lot of people’s attention, because it acquaints them with the tremendous value that resides in many natural assets.

LUX: Can there be a system that’s devised for transferring payments? For example, if a company destroys a coastal mangrove plantation, who does it pay for that lost value?
CF: Part of the desire behind this is to prevent the destruction from happening in the first place. But we’re living in a world in which we already have those kinds of swaps going on. So, what we’re trying to do is put an adequate value on that. We are also trying to create the impression that the contributions to things like biodiversity are worth even more. In many cases, of course, it’s the government that owns these assets, so we have to inform them what they are worth.

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For example, we were approached by the UK Environment Agency to help them value their salt marshes, given that they have diminished by 90% in the last century or so. If we can put a price tag on these things, we can help governments make the argument that, firstly, you shouldn’t destroy these things in the first place, and secondly, if you do harm these assets, there’s going to be a steep price to pay.

A bee on a purple flower

LUX: How hard is it to find a valuation when there are so many different factors? For example, with a salt marsh, you have to incorporate the carbon storage or the flood protection, and then the ecosystem’s biodiversity.
CF: It’s difficult to put a total valuation on most of these natural assets because it has proven to be difficult to value something like the contribution to biodiversity. It’s hard to even define what biodiversity is. Biodiversity in a desert is very different to that 1,000 or more kilometres south in rainforests.

LUX: What opportunities are there in terms of constructing a financial pathway for investors?
CF: This is something we’re very keen to create. Ideally, we’d have investors who are interested in investing in natural capital services, such as carbon sequestration, because there’s a fairly well-established market for it. These investors would like to purchase either carbon offsets or have other reasons for wanting to hold carbon credits. They would pay for certificates that would deliver the carbon credits, and then the proceeds would function like a sovereign wealth fund.

Read more: Professor Nathalie Seddon On Biodiversity And Climate Resilience

Hopefully, the main use of that money would be, of course, to establish conservation restoration programmes. This is a long pathway between the financial markets all the way to the people on the ground doing conservation restoration. But unless we create that pathway, I think we’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

LUX: Which opportunities should investors be looking towards, in terms of creating the new financial system to support this?
CF: There are two things that should create excitement. They’d be investing on the idea that these are natural resources will continue to deliver these different environmental services, like carbon sequestration. We’re betting on the recovery of those things. Also, they’re betting on the plus in which carbon will help us understand what the biodiversity benefits are, that can also then be priced. If we get good at establishing these carbon markets, we kind of wrap in these biodiversity services as a plus.

green trees in a meadow

LUX: What are the main hurdles to be overcome?
CF: Governments are very reluctant to think about selling their natural assets to the private sector. And so, our first hurdle is to convince them that, no, you’re not selling the assets. We’re trying to get you to sell the services of the natural assets; in fact, governments need to retain ownership of these assets.

We have to establish a conduit that will help governments protect these assets so that they can continue to generate services and support: mainly the beauty and culture of their countries. Governments are naturally reluctant because this is a brand new thing that they’ve never seen before. The markets are sceptical for similar reasons, and because there are some less-savoury actors out there who’ve already been trying and failing with certain initiatives.

Also, there is, especially in the case of wild animals, scientific uncertainty. So many of these species are facing near extinction across the board. We don’t have time. We need people to say, okay, the science is good enough. We’re willing to believe in it and bet on it.

A tree burning with fire in the background

LUX: Are these outcomes possible?
CF: I’m optimistic. The reaction we get when we talk to people has been overwhelmingly positive. When you get the capital markets involved, you can unleash a tremendous amount of financing that can do a lot of good, hopefully for conservation and restoration.

It is hard to imagine being able to cover that biodiversity financing gap without the participation of the financial markets. So, one of the things that drives my optimism is the fact that necessity is the mother of invention. For addressing climate change, this is one of our best chances. The trick is to put everybody together and get them to work together toward this common goal.

little green plants growing from the soil with water droplets on them

LUX: Will there be developments in attaching more specific prices, in terms of the science around biodiversity and nature-based capital?
CF: Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of excitement in that research. In particular, for example, one of the leading seagrass researchers is very excited about our work and is writing a paper for us. Seagrass is again one of these unsung heroes of blue carbon that sequesters a tremendous amount of carbon. We still don’t know what the full extent of seagrass coverage is anywhere, because nobody’s really had the money or the gumption to go look for it. So just finding out where the seagrass is, how much it covered it can sequester and where it can be restored: those kinds of issues are the type of research that we see coming out of this in the short term.

LUX: Are there accessible ways of investing in natural capital in the way that you’ve outlined?
CF: What we’ve got in mind is a bit different from, say, the sustainability linked bonds or green bonds that we see out there. There again, I think these are they’re all great and part of the solution here. But really, when you’re investing in something like a sustainability linked or a green bond, you’re basically a bond investor. You’re hoping that the money gets put to a certain type of a purpose. And in some cases, you’re going to get some either yield pick up or yield penalty depending on the performance. But really, you’re not making a direct investment, so to speak, or a direct bet on the actual natural capital itself. You’re really not investing in environmental services. That’s to me, in my mind, that’s a really big difference here, that what we’re what we have in mind and what we’re trying to create is really an asset backed market. And the asset that is being used to back the market is the natural capital services.

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

LUX: In an optimistic scenario, how do you see this looking in 10 years’ time with the landscape?
CF: This will be just another asset class that people have available to them to invest in and it will have certain properties. Hopefully it will be sufficiently uncorrelated with other types of market returns to make it attractive as a diversification tool, if not for its own sake, and what it represents in terms of investment in the environment. So ideally, that’s what we’d see people would say. Well, I’ve got some of my portfolio in stocks and bonds, real estate alternatives. And one of the alternatives is going to be these natural capital assets.

Connel Fullenkamp is Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Duke University 

Find out more: duke.edu

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Satellite image
Satellite image

Attribution science explores the link between climate and extreme weather

Flooding in South Africa, wildfires in California, heatwaves in India: each new extreme weather event seems the inevitable conclusion of ecological breakdown. But how exactly are climate and weather linked? Leading attribution scientist Dr Friederike Otto explains to LUX why we need to nuance our understanding of climate change

Dr Otto is co-lead of World Weather Attribution, an international organisation analysing the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events. Named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2021, Otto has identified an information gap in the public’s understanding of climate, which, she argues, is hindering the creation of reliable and resilient systems in the face of extreme weather. She tells LUX why everything depends on the decisions we make in the next decade

LUX: How sophisticated is the public’s understanding of what effect climate change is having on weather?

Friederike Otto: There is still quite a big lack of understanding about how climate change affects weather. There are lots of people who assume that everything bad that is happening now in the world and in the weather is because of climate change. That is a misconception. There is a huge difference between how climate change affects heatwaves versus how it affects extreme rainfall or droughts, and that is something we need to get much better in communicating.

LUX: So, how are climate and weather linked?

FO: Climate change can affect the weather in two ways. One is the thermodynamic effect: we have more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, so the atmosphere gets warmer overall. This means that there is a higher likelihood of heatwaves which are hotter, and a lower likelihood of cold waves, which are warmer than what they would have been. Likewise, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour that needs to get out of the atmosphere as rain, you have an increase in heavy rainfall.

If that was the only effect, we wouldn’t need to do attribution studies. The second effect is weather, because we have changed the atmosphere’s composition and temperature differences. This second effect can go in the same direction as the warming effect – but the effects can also counteract each other. If you don’t get any weather systems that bring rain, it won’t rain. So here we need attribution studies.

Protestor

Otto explains the need for reliable and resilient systems in place to respond to extreme weather

LUX: What do you say to those who think ‘what’s the big deal?’ about the atmosphere getting one degree warmer?

FO: One degree in a heatwave is thousands of people dead or alive. People have pointed out that one degree is lower than the global mean temperature change and that is true. But the year-to-year variation in weather and in temperatures is quite small. If you had one degree added to a heatwave in Antarctica, it would indeed be much less of a big deal, because there is a huge variability in temperatures.

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The heatwave in India is, in today’s climate, a one in 100-year event. With this, you can look at the intensity change: how frequent would this event have been in a world without climate change? What is now a one in a hundred year event used to be a one in 3000 year event without climate change. In other words: a one degree change in intensity corresponds to a 30 times increase in the likelihood.

LUX: So the differences, though seemingly marginal to the casual onlooker, can radically change the climate system?

FO: The climate system will be fine, it will just get hotter. But people and ecosystems have adapted over centuries to a certain type of climate. All of our ecosystems and social systems are very much designed for this narrow range of possible weather that we used to get, so, if you push that back even a little bit, it is much harder to deal with.

Clouds

Climate change has increased dramatically over the last two decades

LUX: What has allowed the field of attributional climate science to thrive in recent years?

FO: Firstly, we are now able to run climate models so that you can actually look at extreme events. Before, you would run a climate model maybe once or twice — and this only gives you one possible realisation of climate and weather. It wouldn’t allow you to look at extreme events.

The second thing is that climate change has increased dramatically over the last couple decades. We see the trends and changes even in weather observations, so we can detect changes without having even touched a climate model. People have really started to develop and design methodologies to use new data and tools to answer these questions.

LUX: How do day-to-day meteorologists react to your discipline, which is still emerging?

FO: Grumblingly, I think – at least at first, because there have been huge divides between meteorologists who have dealt with day-to-day weather forecasts and those working on climate change. Attribution ultimately forces the two together.

Read more: Professor Nathalie Seddon On Biodiversity And Climate Resilience

Attribution has led to a huge recognition now that it is necessary to make meteorology more relevant for the world we live in. Meteorologists have, for a long time, been extremely conservative when it comes to climate science.

LUX: With the rise of quantum computing, do you think there is the possibility that meteorology will also revolutionise?

FO: A lot of new science could be unlocked through that in meteorology. We would have a lot more higher resolution models to look at what is still not very well understood, for example, cloud interaction with aerosols (and so on). It will not mean that we suddenly have an uncertainty-free science. It’s something that people still have a hard time to live with — that there will always be uncertainty when you do scientific studies, and that this is actually nothing special in climate science.

Otto emphasises the need for greater collaboration between scientific disciplines

LUX: Do you think that there is the possibility of more joined-up thinking between climate science, sustainability, science, biodiversity science?

FO: You can’t try and solve one in isolation from the other. It’s still not easy to do that, because most of us are still trained in a very disciplinary way and we speak very different languages, but the upcoming generations of scientists and researchers are better trained in more interdisciplinary research and increasingly funding is being allocated to interdisciplinary research. So it’s happening, but slowly.

LUX: Is there a tendency for governments to use climate change as a scapegoat to avoid accountability?

FO: Definitely. That’s why it’s important to nuance our climate change understanding. With heatwaves, what used to be a 100 year event is now really just ordinary summer in many places. But for many other extremes, the changes are relatively small. For droughts, there are many parts of the world where they are not yet changing because of climate change.

Read more: Melissa Garvey On Saving The Oceans

The drought in Madagascar is a good example: that has led to quite a lot of food insecurity for the population. That was a rare event, and the population was vulnerable, helped only by NGOs. But these NGOs have always come in when there’s a crisis and then gone away again. There has never been a reliable or resilient system to respond to extreme weather. That is a big problem. There is also an element of colonialism, so it’s not something that the global north can completely wash their hands of. But even if we were to immediately stop greenhouse gas emissions, that wouldn’t solve the problem that southern Madagascar has with respect to drought.

Umbrella art installation

Attribution science has led to a huge recognition that it is necessary to make meteorology more relevant for the world we live in

LUX: Personally, do you feel worried about where things are going?

FO: I’m not worried per se; I’m more frustrated. I feel immensely privileged for who I am, that I’m able to live in a world now where I am able to do whatever I want and be whoever I want. Climate change is one result of this societal system that only benefits a few, but it’s not the only one.

LUX: Do you think it’s your role to point out what is happening and let others judge what to do?

FO: It’s my role as a scientist to say ‘this’ is happening because of ‘that’. It’s my role as a human being to say that it is affecting people who are least responsible for the causes. To pretend that climate scientists are not humans: it’s just not useful.

LUX: What will the world and the weather look like in a hundred years?

FO: Everything depends very strongly on the decisions we make in the next decade. Weather changes are very fast with emissions. We still absolutely have the power in our hands to shape the future we want to live in.

Dr Friederike Otto is a Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, and Co-Lead of World Weather Attribution (WWA)

Find out more: worldweatherattribution.org

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solar panel on the grass with rocky mountains behind it

solar panel on the grass with rocky mountains behind it

EY’s Global Vice Chair on Sustainability, Steve Varley, speaks to LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh, about EY’s approach to sustainable investing, the future of sustainability and the steps that need to be taken to fight the climate crisis

LUX: What do you consider to be the principal drivers behind the EY approach to sustainable investment?
Steve Varley: Sustainability is right at the top of the agenda at EY. We announced in October last year that EY has become carbon negative, which means we have reached our target to reduce our absolute emissions, and then offset or remove more than the remaining amount of our emissions, every year. It’s a crucial step forward in our sustainability journey and a key milestone as we work towards reaching net zero in 2025.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A man wearing a black v-neck jumper and shirt underneath standing on the grass with trees behind him

Steve Varley

EY people share our commitment to the environment and to driving long-term, sustainable growth. We want to not only transform EY to become more sustainable, but also help EY clients do the same. This means reframing how business approaches sustainability and putting it right at the centre of how value is created and protected.

Creating a sustainable future requires all of us to be at the table. It demands involvement across borders, services, and teams, across all business functions. It requires alliances between governments, enterprises, and industries. As we like to say: It’s everybody’s business.

LUX: How does a sustainable approach foster growth and add value?
SV: EY clients are increasingly seeking ways to drive value from sustainability. Our Value-Led Sustainability approach focuses on helping clients capitalise on the commercial opportunities presented by sustainability and decarbonisation, but it is motivated by much more than just financial gain. It is central to how we will safeguard and generate new sources of value for everyone on the planet – our people, the society we serve, and the world in which we live.

wind turbines in a wheat field

This means leading a wide range of projects, from helping consumer goods companies drive more growth by developing new business models for greener products to collaborating with financial institutions to calculate carbon emissions from the companies they finance, and from this develop new financing solutions to help these companies decarbonise. We want to keep building on this kind of work and continue to develop services that help our clients find value in becoming more sustainable.

LUX: What is the role of the next generation/Gen Z – what are they looking for when it comes to ESG?
SV: The next generation is driven by purpose and expects more from ESG. This is hardly surprising given that both generations Y and Z have lived through a variety of systemic crises, including the 2008 global financial crisis, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. While previous generations may have seen comparable crises, members of these new cohorts are more sceptical of traditional financial services than older generations and they have higher expectations of authentic and ethical behaviour from the organisations for which they work, buy from, and invest.

Trees with leaves upwards to the sky from an ants point of view

Gen Z is emerging as the sustainability generation. They want to work for companies that have a positive impact on society and the environment, and they want to see increased transparency and greater corporate accountability for ESG ratings. At EY, a large percentage of our workforce come from this generation, and we are really encouraged by their high standards and expectations. They are certainly holding us accountable, as well as holding clients accountable, and we are all the better for it. We need the next generation’s innovation and solutions if we are to solve the climate crisis and deliver future growth that’s truly sustainable.

LUX: Which leaders are the winning in the time of the climate crisis?
SV: Denmark, in my opinion, is a world leader in wind and solar power generation. Most of its energy is presently derived from renewable sources, with the goal of reaching 100% renewable power by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Similarly, the United States has a sizable venture capital ecosystem that funds renewable energy and electric vehicles, and the United Kingdom has enshrined its 2050 net zero aim in law, placing us second in the world in terms of influence.

While this is extremely encouraging, there is a ‘Green Power Gap’ that has been emerging, with only a small group of developed markets leading the way in terms of climate research, innovation, and public funding, and not enough ‘green money’ flowing to the emerging markets, where the effects of climate change are felt most acutely. EY’s Green Money Report outlines clear recommendations for action to help accelerate a green transition that is truly global and where all countries can take part. I really can’t stress the importance of this enough – the opportunity to avert climate catastrophe must be seized by everyone now, not just by a small handful of countries.

A power line in a field

LUX: Can you tell me about the S30 forum?
SV: The S30 is part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) led by HRH The Prince of Wales and it comprises Chief Sustainability Officers from some of the world’s most influential companies, all with the joint aim of accelerating business action on sustainability. The forum was launched in 2020 and I proudly serve as co-chair of the group, alongside the CEO of freuds, Arlo Brady.

Members have been drawn from the most influential businesses in the world covering a wide range of sectors, including consumer and industrial products, energy, financial services, life sciences and technology. At its core, the S30 is a space for members to come together, share learnings and best practices, and explore the successes and challenges they are experiencing in their roles. Most importantly, we are focused on outputs and driving collective action that will benefit not only the business community but protect the world at large.

LUX: What can public policymakers learn from business when it comes to sustainability?
SV: Governments cannot address the climate crisis alone; business must play an important role, and public-private partnerships are crucial. Businesses can help the world accomplish its climate change targets by doing three things: mobilising resources to finance the green transition, leveraging clean technology and innovation, and effectively measuring and reporting on sustainability.

A solar panel below blue sky

In particular, the financial services sector, in collaboration with governments and regulators, can identify legislative and regulatory adjustments to facilitate financial product and service innovation, simplify rules, standardise taxonomies, and track green money flows to guarantee that transition needs are fulfilled globally.

Governments are providing much-needed policy momentum as we approach COP27, but business will play an incredibly important role in the green transition. The private sector can play an even bigger role at COP and companies across different sectors will need to continue to work hard to help achieve the world’s climate goals. In doing so, they will position themselves for green growth in the years to come.

Read more: Coming Together To Save Our Coral

LUX: How optimistic are you about the progress made at COP?
SV: I’m an optimist, but an optimist that seems to worry a lot. Sustainability has gone mainstream, and after COP26 it really does feel like everybody’s business. We are seeing a lot of CEOs now putting the planet at the heart of their business strategy and looking for ways to create value from becoming more sustainable. What is exciting to see is business applying its skills at innovation, embracing disruption and problem-solving to tackle the biggest issues we face, and doing so while creating value for their stakeholders.

green trees and fog

The COP26 debates raised the issue of keeping companies accountable to the climate pledges they make, and the current frameworks in place not being subject to the same level of rigour as financial reporting. It was fantastic to see this topic on the agenda, and the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board was widely welcomed. We all know it will be a challenging road ahead, but leading organisations are already reaping the benefits of implementing clear and transparent sustainability targets into their corporate strategies.

The COP27 climate summit is fast approaching in November and it’s clear that major changes must happen quickly right across business and society. We’re ready to help lead the charge.

Find out more: ey.com

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sting ray swimming above colourful corals in the sea
sting ray swimming above colourful corals in the sea

Alex Mustard photographed healthy reefs in the Maldives

As our oceans warm up, the spectacular coral reefs of the Maldives archipelago are dying. Michael Marshall reports on the new philanthropic project aiming to make them more resilient to climate change

Beneath the glittering cerulean waters of the Maldives archipelago, trouble is brewing. The extraordinary coral reefs that encircle these islands are being damaged by climate change, threatening the country’s very survival.

Fortunately, help is at hand. A local research and conservation institute has bold plans to strengthen the reefs by breeding the most resilient corals and seeding them in the waters of the Maldives. With the help of a new philanthropic initiative, led by Deutsche Bank, the project is ready to set sail.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Maldives is one of the countries most affected by climate change. “You couldn’t find a place more in the front lines,” says Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of Exeter.

As the Earth’s temperature warms, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the oceans are being reshaped. Most obviously, sea levels are rising – and for low-lying islands like the Maldives that is an existential threat. But there’s more: seas are warming, the water is becoming more acidic and low-oxygen zones are spreading. These changes threaten all marine life.

Climate change poses a particular threat to corals. These tiny animals live in huge colonies underwater, and over thousands of years the skeletons of dead corals build up to make vast structures called reefs. The Maldives themselves are coral reefs that grew until they reached the surface, and the country’s islands are ringed by underwater reefs. These are home to an extraordinary range of animals, from sharks to starfish.

beige and yellow corals in the sea

More photography by Alex Mustard of healthy reefs in the Maldives

“Your first experience of a coral reef is completely unforgettable,” says Roberts. “You dive over the reef crest and into that area where it’s just a huge blaze of fish of all varieties and colours.” It’s utterly immersive, he adds; you can “feel yourself being completely consumed by an ecosystem”.

Corals are particularly vulnerable to warming. “It doesn’t take more than a rise of about 1°C above their normal thermal maximum for corals to get into deep trouble,” says Roberts. “That’s what’s been happening.”

A man wearing glasses, with palm trees behind him

Callum Roberts

In 1997-98 and 2015-16, spikes in ocean temperature caused mass coral bleaching events. The corals expelled the algae that live inside them and that they depend upon for nutrients. As a result, the corals turned ghostly white. The first bleaching event killed an estimated 95 per cent of shallow corals. They then underwent a partial recovery, before the second mass bleaching event caused about 65 per cent mortality. “That level of coral death is extremely worrying,” says Roberts.

In a 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that “coral reefs would decline by 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2°C.” So far, the Earth has warmed by an estimated 1.1°C.

To save the corals, and by extension the Maldives, the country’s former president Mohamed Nasheed founded the Maldives Coral Institute (MCI). The MCI aims “to help coral reefs to survive and adapt to the changing climate”. Roberts is one of its scientific advisers.

dead corals in the sea

Alex Mustard also photographed bleached, dead corals highlighting the abundance of sea life at risk if corals are left to decline

The MCI is now being financially supported by Deutsche Bank. In November 2021, the bank launched its Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund, which is intended to support nature-based solutions to marine conservation problems. Deutsche Bank committed an initial $300,000 and hopes to raise $5 million over the next five years. The MCI was brought to the bank’s attention by Karen Sack, Executive Director and Co-Chair of the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance.

A woman with curly brown hair

Jacqueline Valouch

“The lack of funding is one of the big recognised barriers to nature-based solutions,” says Jacqueline Valouch, Head of Philanthropy at Deutsche Bank Wealth Management in New York, who was involved in setting up the fund.

“We’ve got this massive problem, the Maldives Coral Institute has a mission, and Deutsche Bank is funding a really important piece of work to begin with,” adds Roberts.

The funding will enable the MCI to launch a project called the Future Climate Coral Bank (FCCB). The idea is to find corals that have proven resistant to climate change and breed them in a controlled environment, creating more resilient strains. “We’re going to have a living propagated coral farm underwater in which the idea is to explore and test ways of assisting evolution,” says Roberts. These resilient corals can then be reintroduced to the ocean, particularly to reefs with a poor supply of coral larvae. In the long run, this will hopefully mean the Maldivian corals become more resilient.

divers under the sea on the sand

The MCI works on conservation projects including this one at Fulhadhoo, where divers installed a silt screen to prevent sediment from nearby construction from damaging the corals

“The magnitude of that impact to us was unmatched in many ways,” says Valouch. She says the FCCB “could last for many generations,” which is crucial, because her philanthropic clients want “to make an impact on the causes they care about”. “They’re multigenerational families coming from many different regions of the world and they have their family members living in different parts of the globe.”

Valouch and her colleagues plan to spend much of 2022 talking to donors. “We are looking to kick all that off now,” she says. A key element will be introducing prospective donors to the project team, so they can appreciate the talent and passion of all involved. Deutsche Bank is also recruiting a panel of experts who will advise on which projects to fund. “To be able to have that kind of innovation and creativity sit at the table with us is just extraordinary,” Valouch says.

For her, philanthropy can provide the seed funding for ambitious projects such as the FCCB. “It allows other donors to come in,” she says, and enables organisations like the MCI to recruit enough staff to become sustainable.

“I think the private sector has a greater appetite for risk,” says Roberts. That’s especially true for projects such as the FCCB. “This is not research that ends when you publish a study. This is something that has to make a difference on the ground and in the water.”

The hope is that, with the right investment, the corals of the Maldives will thrive for decades to come.

Five approaches to regenerating the world’s coral reefs

  1. Reducing agricultural runoff into the sea improves water quality and coral health.
  2. Coral IVF grows baby corals in the lab and seeds them on damaged reefs.
  3. Artificial reefs can be sunk in oceans to provide homes for corals and other sea life.
  4. Corals can even be given ‘probiotics’ to help boost their health.
  5. Most importantly of all, limiting climate warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and lowering global greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero will minimise the threat to the world’s coral reefs.

— Michael Marshall

A group of school children in blue uniforms sitting in a circle having a lesson

Former President of the Maldives and environmental activist Mohamed Nasheed discusses climate change with children at the Maldives Coral Institute’s Coral Festival in 2020

A partnership of positive steps

The Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) is helping to drive a global response to ocean-derived risks. Backed by organisations ranging from the World Wildlife Fund to Deutsche Bank as global lead banking partner, it wants to save the oceans by deploying the power of the financial world.

Read More: Jean-Michel Cousteau: Choose Life

Its mission is “to pioneer new and innovative financial products” that will tackle climate change, protect ocean biodiversity and help coastal communities become resilient, says Karen Sack, Executive Director and Co-Chair of ORRAA.

A woman with short hair wearing a black t shirt and necklace

Karen Sack

“We aim to drive at least $500 million of investment into coastal and marine natural capital, or ‘blue nature’,” says Sack. She argues that this is in everyone’s interest. The global ocean economy has a total asset value estimated at $24 trillion, but in the past decade only $13 billion has been invested in sustainable marine projects. “We need to change that,” says Sack. “And we need to act quickly.”

Hence the Maldives project. Deutsche Bank were looking for ways to have a positive impact quickly, as well as over the long term, and Sack suggested supporting the MCI. “Lessons learned in the Maldives will help heal and strengthen coral reefs around the world.”

Michael Marshall is a renowned science journalist specialising in the environment and life sciences

Find out more: deutschewealth.com/oceanfund

This article appears in the Deutsche Bank Supplement of the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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blue wave splash
blue wave splash

Marine biologist Matt Sharp was awarded the Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year in 2020 for his incredible images, such as this one of a wave breaking in the Maldives in 2019

Marine life is threatened by climate change, pollution and overfishing. And depleted oceans risk collapsing the whole global ecosystem. A new generation of business startups is aiming to reshape the ocean economy, making it both truly sustainable and profitable. Michael Marshall reports

The blue economy is gaining momentum. Hundreds of startup companies around the world are aiming to protect, and even restore, the oceans, while making a profit. They want to get food and other essential resources from the sea in ways that benefit marine life – or at least don’t harm it. What’s more, there are plenty of organisations that aim to support these startups, whether with money or expertise or both.

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“We are not going to save the oceans if we don’t change the economy,” says Tiago Pitta e Cunha, the CEO of the Oceano Azul Foundation, a Portuguese non-profit that supports a variety of initiatives designed to stimulate the growth of the sustainable blue economy. The good news is that the business case for ocean conservation is real and growing. “There’s a wonderful opportunity for startups and new companies to develop business models,” says John Virdin, director of the Oceans & Coastal Policy Programme at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in Durham, North Carolina.

The ocean certainly needs our help. It faces three big problems – overfishing, pollution and climate change – that “tend to make each other worse”, says Nancy Knowlton, a professor of marine biology and Sant Chair in Marine Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. However, she adds, there have been some real success stories for ocean conservationists in recent years. Take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), for example. These are regions of the ocean in which extractive industries are either banned or tightly regulated, and they have proven highly beneficial when implemented fully. In 2020, fully implemented MPAs covered 5.3 per cent of the ocean, and this area is growing every year. As a result, some animals that were once considered on the brink of extinction have increased in numbers, including many whale species.

At the moment, the blue economy is dominated by “a few really big fish”, Virdin points out. In 2021, he co-authored a study that found 60 per cent of all revenues obtained from the ocean came from just 100 companies, almost half of which were from the oil and gas industry. Such companies have “rigid processes in place, for good reasons”, says Alexis Grosskopf, the founder and CEO of OceanHub Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, an accelerator for ocean impact startups. Those processes “could not be disrupted smoothly and quickly enough, without blowing up or imploding”.

This is where startup companies come in. Small outfits with radical technologies and new ways of doing things can overthrow existing practices, if they’re successful enough. And in the blue economy there are now hundreds aiming to disrupt a variety of industries, from fishing and aquaculture to renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and waste management. Some want to take an existing industry, such as fishing, and do it better, causing less harm to the ocean ecosystem. Others are aiming to restore and repair, actively improving the marine environment while also making a profit.

As with all startups, the challenge is to survive long enough to build a customer base and break even. A startup company may attract an initial burst of funding on the basis of a good idea, which enables it to start operations. But they then face ‘death valley’, when they risk running out of money before they start earning any.

seaweed shot under water

Intertidal seaweed beds on the west coast of Jersey, UK, in 2020

To address this challenge, a number of incubators and accelerators have been established in recent years to help ocean startups become profitable. These include Katapult Ocean in Oslo, Norway and OceanHub Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. Another is Blue Bio Value, which was set up by the Oceano Azul Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2018 to “help entrepreneurs create commercially viable and sustainable businesses” and thereby “accelerate the transition to a global and sustainable blue bioeconomy”. It is now on its fish set of startups.

Previously, the Oceano Azul Foundation – which owns the Lisbon Oceanarium – had focused on ocean education, but its leaders decided this was not enough. “We thought that, as a credible foundation, we need to also put our money where our mouth is,” says Pitta e Cunha. “We only accept startups that, through their production, will ease decarbonisation of the planet or high consumption of natural resources.” Many of these startups are led by scientists, he explains, who have essential specialist knowledge but little experience of markets or running businesses.

Alongside the accelerator, the team has also created an ideation programme to link academic researchers and business leaders, to encourage the formation of new businesses. “We are trying to manufacture new startups, because they are needed,” Pitta e Cunha says.

With so many funders, incubators and accelerators entering the ocean economy, the challenge for the owners of a new startup is how to navigate this business world. Several organisations have now been set up to organise everything and help startups find their way.

At Investable Oceans, in New York, the co-founder and principle, Ted Janulis, likes to say he was “born with an ocean gene”, which means he “can’t walk past a body of water of any type without jumping in and splashing around”. Several decades in finance convinced him that there were market-based opportunities all over the ocean economy. But the investors were scattered and disconnected. “The people who invested in plastic mitigation weren’t necessarily the people investing in better fisheries or aquaculture,” he says. So he set out to create a single platform where people could come and learn about investment opportunities in the blue economy across all asset classes and sectors. “We’re not an incubator, we’re not an accelerator, we’re not a fund and we’re not a broker dealer,” he says. “Our goal is to connect people.”

Plastic pollution along the beach– knee-deep in some places – in the Maldives in 2019

More recently, an umbrella organisation called 1000 Ocean Startups was launched in May 2021 to accelerate ocean impact innovation by bringing together “incubators, accelerators, competitions, matching platforms and VCs supporting startups for ocean impact”. Its members include Katapult Ocean, OceanHub Africa and Investable Oceans and so far it has backed 168 startups: 115 focused on sustainable use of ocean resources, 33 addressing pollution and 20 tackling climate change. “We’re still in the infancy stage,” says Grosskopf. The aim is to back 1,000 startups by 2030.

The challenge for all these companies will be to compete against existing ocean businesses that are not making efforts to be sustainable, and therefore have lower operating costs. Some consumers are prepared to pay extra for sustainable products, but many will not or cannot, so the startups must compete on price to attract mass-market consumers.

Fortunately, there are many routes to success, says Janulis. “Some of it might be that it’s a standalone company that becomes really big,” he says, but startups can also be absorbed by larger companies that see their methods as an opportunity.

Janulis says there is also “a rising sensibility and more awareness”, a point echoed by many. “I was born as a digital native,” says Grosskopf. People from the generation below, he says, are “sustainable natives”. “The consumers of tomorrow, the employers of tomorrow… they have sustainability in their DNA.”

It will soon be impossible for companies to behave unsustainably, Virdin suggests. “These issues of sustainability of ocean ecosystems and communities, they’re not luxury issues,” he says. “These are core issues to the future of the business model, whether it’s social licence to operate or whether it’s risks to your operating environment in the coming decades.”

Scottish coastal waves

Duncansby Stacks last year, on the exposed north- east coast of Scotland, where seals and seabirds thrive

Knowlton cautions that it’s unlikely startups alone can fix the marine environmental crisis. “The problem is that we’re kind of in a race against time,” she says, so there will need to be top-down action as well. “The role of government is really important because it can motivate change quickly.” However, she acknowledges, startups are where creative ideas can be brought to fruition quickly. “I think you have to encourage entrepreneurship – and much of it will fail, but some of it will work.”

Read More: Kering’s Marie-Claire Daveu on benefits of the blue economy

In other words, it’s not a choice between buccaneering startups and rules-based government. To save our ocean, both will have to work together.

Savvy Ocean Startups

Pesky Fish: Many of the fish that are caught at sea, particularly by trawlers, are wasted. Because they aren’t fashionable, they are discarded as ‘bycatch’. The British company Pesky Fish aims to change that by allowing fishers to sell directly to consumers. It has a rapidly updated online shop and overnight delivery service.

Recyglo: Plastic waste is one of the biggest problems facing the ocean ecosystem. Today most plastic enters the ocean from east Asia, where waste management systems are poor. Recyglo is aiming to change that by bringing modern recycling to the region. It already has branches in Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia.

Cascadia Seaweed: Farming seaweed has enormous potential to feed the growing human population, remove carbon dioxide from the air, and restore the ocean by providing habitat for marine animals. Canadian firm Cascadia Seaweed is turning kelp into food for people and farm animals. It is working in partnership with First Nations groups.

This article appears in the Deutsche Bank Supplement of the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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swordfish in the sea swimming to a swarm of fish
swordfish in the sea swimming to a swarm of fish
Is it possible to make money out of our oceans while preserving and even enhancing them? Chris Gorell Barnes thinks so. The Co-founder of Ocean 14 Capital and Blue Marine Foundation speaks to LUX Editor-in-Chief, Darius Sanai about the possibilities in the blue economy

LUX: What is the focus of Blue Marine Foundation going forwards?
Chris Gorell Barnes: The focus is on stopping overfishing – which is undoubtedly one of the worst threats to the ocean. Restoring, regenerating and protecting the oceans and creating large scale Marine Protected areas, all done through innovations and an agile and entrepreneurial approach to conservation.

LUX: How has the foundation succeeded in capturing the public’s imagination where other groups have failed?
CGB: Through actually delivering successful conservation wins and first-of-its-kind innovations for the oceans, and incredible marketing, media and editorial work. (We have a journalist, a filmmaker and a marketer as Co-founders!)

LUX: How important has your background in marketing and content been for Blue Marine Foundation?
CGB: It’s been helpful, coupled with my co-founders’ skills. From the start, we were way ahead with our social media and content approach and have built an incredible media unit to use media to drive significant conservation wins. The film, The End of the Line is in our DNA.

two girls on a boat on the sea wearing wet suits

LUX: How do you persuade corporations to modify their environmental practices?
CGB: By enabling and educating them on the key role the ocean plays in mitigating the climate crisis and feeding the world.

LUX: Are there wealthy individuals who donate with one hand while their investments pollute with the other? What should they do?
CGB: We are very careful with KYC and our donors all share our values and mission alignment.

LUX: What is the highest priority for ocean protection as far as the foundation is concerned?
CGB: End overfishing and ensure 30% of the ocean is fully protected, with the remaining 70% sustainably managed.

Arlo Brady, with Ambassadors of Blue Marine Foundation, Princess Eugenie of York and James Blunt

LUX: You have drawn extensively on celebrity ambassadors for the foundation. Who has done the best job for you, and why?
CGB: From Prince Albert II of Monaco to Simon Le Bon to James Blunt, they have all been incredibly supportive with our initiatives all over the world. And of course Stephen Fry, who narrated the incredible interactive tool we built, The Sea We Breathe. We have also been very smart with brand collaborations such as Christopher Ward, Sunseeker, Moke, Kenzo, and Ralph Lauren.

LUX: It’s 2050: what do you think the oceans will look like?
CGB: I hope that they are thriving: protected, restored, functioning and full of life, ensuring we have a healthy planet and bringing employment, healthy sustainable food and joy to all.

LUX: What and where is the biggest environmental tragedy in our oceans right now?
CGB: Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing is happening all over the world, destroying ecosystems and stealing fish from the most disadvantaged citizens on the planet.

A man standing on a fishing boat wearing an orange jumpsuit and blue top

LUX: How would you explain to an intelligent but distracted business leader that the loss of a seemingly trivial marine ecosystem can have a fundamental effect on people on the other side of the world?
CGB: The ocean connects and carries everything. It is the life source of our planet, providing half the oxygen we breathe and absorbing half the carbon we produce. It also plays a key role in feeding three billion people. We need to protect it everywhere.

LUX: Where does the blame lie for overfishing – consumers, business, or governments?
CGB: The blame is with governments and business. Governments need to stop the ridiculous $22 billion worth of subsidies aiding overfishing; and businesses need to create absolute transparency of the supply chain.

seals in the sea

LUX: Why did you start Ocean 14 Capital?
CGB: We launched the Ocean 14 fund as it was clear that there was a huge need to build the conduit for capital looking at the blue economy. We believe that it is driving necessary positive impact on the ocean and making significant returns for the fund’s investors. Philanthropy is doing an incredible job but we need to attract institutional capital in order to transform the blue economy and this will only come if we create sophisticated impact investment vehicles like the Ocean 14 fund. If we do not create a sustainable and regenerative blue economy, we have zero chance of solving the crisis in the ocean and therefore protecting humanity – this is the most important investment thesis of our time.

LUX: The term ‘impact investment’ can be meaningless. Why is it not in your case?
Chris asked co-founder George Duffield to write the below response.
Because impact is in our DNA. We have spent more than a decade learning how to save the ocean. We work at a company level to build specific impact pathways, that are scientifically accurate and rigorously measured. Only then do we follow those pathways out to high level SDG 14 level goals. In other words, we work from detailed facts, not high-level assumptions. Impact is science, not goodwill.

Poppy Delevigne standing in front of a group of cyclists

Ambassador of Blue Marine Foundation, Poppy Delevigne

LUX: What specific types of companies are you planning to invest in and why will they make a difference?
CGB: The fund’s investment strategy is focussed on ensuring food security and protecting and restoring marine ecosystems. The fund recently closed two transactions: SyAqua is a leading technology and genetics company for shrimp aquaculture, and will help transform the industry to be much more efficient and sustainable. The other company is called AION, who have created a whole new operating model for managing plastics inventory, called Circularity as a Service. This business aims to transform how plastic is managed in big industry – stop plastic entering the ocean and take plastic out of the ocean. We believe that all of the fund’s investments should deliver great returns for our investors and have a positive impact on the ocean.

A man climbing on to a fishing boat from the sea

A man climbing on to a fishing boat from the sea

LUX: Blue finance is still maturing. How can investors be sure that sustainability projects will provide the scale and return they are seeking?
CGB: There is no trade off – we believe it is a win-win. We have the total convergence of drivers in the blue economy – the most valuable companies will be the most sustainable and impactful.

LUX: Why is blue economy investment so underserved currently, and will that change?
CGB: LIke marine conservation, when we started Blue Marine, the blue economy was very misunderstood and overlooked. Governments and businesses have been slow to realise the enormity of the problem and investors have missed the enormous opportunity. But the blue economy is now getting the attention it needs.

mangroves and clouds in the sky

LUX: What will the blue economy look like in five years’ time?
CGB: In 5 years’ time, the blue economy will have matured. Ocean14 plans to launch a larger fund which aims to attract the large institutional investors we need to support the transformation of the blue economy. We believe there will be more funds in the space, and there will be more sophisticated securitisation vehicles for blue carbon and nature-based solutions.

LUX: Do you fear blue washing, and what can be done about it?
CGB: We need to be vigilant, but what we have created is the most sophisticated impact measurement and reporting platform in the blue economy. We need to create and standardise this approach so there is clarity and transparency of what a true impactful business looks like in the blue economy. Then blue washing will have nowhere to hide. There will always be bad actors in the global economy who try to conceal various sins with blue/green washing. But Blue Marine and Ocean 14 are very alert to it, and with the right KYC and due diligence it has no place in our work.

Find out more: 

ocean14capital.com

bluemarinefoundation.com

 

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a bottle and rubbish on the beach
An iceberg melting in the sea with mountains in the backgroundJennifer Anderson, Co-Head of Sustainable Investment & ESG at Lazard Asset Management, speaks to LUX Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh, about the history of her career, the changes in the ESG investment landscape over that time, and offers an insight into why she thinks the industry is at an important inflection point

LUX: What inspired you to pursue a career in sustainable investing?
Jennifer Anderson: My grandmother was a visionary, in my eyes. She was an early campaigner with Greenpeace in the 70s and 80s and often spoke about her work. I remember her talking about her involvement with the Chernobyl Children’s Project, activities to protect the ozone layer and cleaning up local beaches. That certainly sparked my passion for environmental issues. As I continued my education, I sought study options that helped me explore the intersection between business and the environment. At university, I studied environmental economics and development economics. The lightbulb moment was during my work experience with an asset manager, where I first learnt about socially responsible investing (SRI). I remember thinking “Wow, you can have a career in investment focused on understanding how social and environmental issues relate to that”.

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My career continued in asset management in the then ‘niche’ area of SRI, with focus on an ecology fund that was the first authorised green unit trust launched in the UK. I then joined an ESG Equity Research team on the sell side, authoring research on BP’s Macondo disaster. I built on this experience at an asset owner, where I spearheaded ESG and climate integration for pension funds. Since 2019 I have focused on the expansion of sustainable investment and ESG integration at Lazard Asset Management.

A blonde woman wearing a black dress standing in front on trees on the grass

Jennifer Anderson, Co-Head of Sustainable Investment & ESG at Lazard Asset Management

LUX: There has been a bit of an ESG backlash recently. Is this the beginning of the end for ESG?
JA: Far from it. In some ways the public’s growing scepticism was to be expected, and so one could argue the industry needed to go through this, have healthy debate, and adjust approaches to arrive at a better place. The frequency and severity of extreme weather events is increasing, and income inequality continues to widen. The momentum to correct these imbalances is building, but to many it remains slow. So, it is easy to understand the growing ire. There is also a great deal of noise that investors must cut through in this growing space. News headlines about greenwashing create doubt, the current “one size fits all” corporate scoring approaches create confusion. Recently, the S&P 500 ESG Index dropped Tesla, while keeping Exxon. How are investors meant to make sense of all of this?

A dichotomy has also emerged following the war in Ukraine. The situation makes commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuel, challenging in the near term. Longer term, it could accelerate renewables adoption to help achieve energy independence, but it shows the road ahead could be rocky. Spikes in commodity prices tend to disproportionately affect those on lower incomes as food and fuel costs make up a larger proportion of their overall expenditure.

So, who ultimately pays for the energy transition and how will the effects be managed? These are some of the questions that the concept of a just transition seeks to address. How does the transition out of high-carbon activities into greener ones happen in a way that workers, communities, and countries are protected while also maximising the benefits of climate action? The focus on real-world outcomes is certainly growing. ESG strategies have migrated from approaches largely focused on negative screening and exclusions to those centred on ESG integration. The next stage for the relevant industry participants will be evidencing outcomes and impact, which has traditionally been easier to do in private markets. The industry needs to demonstrate value to break through the scepticism.

a bottle and rubbish on the beach

LUX: How important is the role of governments and international frameworks such as the United Nations COP meetings in channelling capital to more sustainable activities?
JA: A global challenge requires a globally coordinated response. It is easy to view climate summits in isolation, but having closely followed their progress over several years, I would say the fundamental shifts are clear. I attended COP26—the climate change conference in Glasgow—in November last year. It was the most widely publicised climate conference ever. The scaled-up presence from the private sector was also noticeable. The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero—comprising 450 financial institutions—have pledged an eye-catching $130 trillion in capital to fight climate change. Investors, companies, and countries are now making net-zero targets the norm. So, if we look back to where we were at COP21 in 2015—where 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal—it is fair to say a lot of progress has been made since, but there is still a long way to go.

LUX: Is there sufficient data to quantify and price environmental and social issues?
JA: Third party tools and data help with benchmarking or as a starting point, but they can be unreliable in isolation, backward looking, or incomplete. Add to that the fact that ESG and sustainability issues are not uniform in scope, scale, or duration across industries and geographies. Ratings agencies combine data from different sources and condense that information into a score. This is a highly subjective process. What sources of information are used and why? How is the information sourced and “cleaned”? How are information gaps bridged? The methodologies and qualitative analysis used vary significantly between ratings agencies, so the scores produced tend to have a low correlation. As an investor you look at this and wonder which is closer to the truth.

A white sign with black writing that says 'system change not climate change'

Sure, clarity from standard setters and accounting bodies will help, but this does not replace the expertise that investment professionals offer. They have a deep knowledge of how governments, regulators, companies, and industries operate. At Lazard Asset Management, our investment professionals are responsible for incorporating ESG and sustainability-related risk and opportunity assessments into their relevant analysis and are supported by in-house expertise in ESG and sustainability—including in climate science, the energy transition, stewardship, and net zero—to help them contextualise and size issues when incorporating them into their applicable financial models.

Financial materiality is dynamic. Governance and human and natural capital issues that are material today may not be material in the future. Investors need a forward-looking, active approach.

Read more: Octopus Energy Founder Greg Jackson On The Green Revolution

LUX: What role does engagement play in making sustainable investments?
JA: I believe engagement is everything. Lazard Asset Management recognises that a company’s governance policies and board structure, environmental practices, labour policies etc, can materially affect a company’s long-term financial performance and therefore a security’s valuation. The firm’s fundamental analysts work together to understand issues that follow supply chains or impact certain geographies, and this is what gives our research depth. With this depth of knowledge, the professionals on our fundamental research platform can interact with management in a meaningful way to understand how this relates to corporate strategy and achieving better real-world outcomes.

smoke coming out of trees and a light orange sky

LUX: What messages do you have for investors starting on their journey on sustainable investment?
JA: Firstly, I would say sustainable investing is no longer seen to be predicated on a trade-off between enhancing returns and having a positive real-world impact. Inadequate governance practices and poor stakeholder management can undermine a company—or even a country’s—long-term prospects, and this can later become negatively priced by capital markets. Secondly, investors need to be very clear on their objectives. Are they ESG-aware and seeking to incorporate financially material ESG issues into their investments and wanting company managements to be challenged on ESG issues that are a cause for concern? Are they sustainability focused—i.e., believe the world is transitioning to a greener, fairer, healthier, and safer place –and wanting to capitalise on this as a structural theme? If so, bottom-up, fundamental strategies can identify the winners and losers from the transition to a more sustainable economy. Beyond this is impact investing, which has a much higher threshold again, and is about evidencing both intentionality and additionally. Every type of investment has different risk-reward profiles. It’s about identifying which ones align with your investment beliefs and objectives.

Find out more: lazardassetmanagement.com/sustainable-investment

 

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pink umbrellas in a town with people in a climate change protest
pink umbrellas in a town with people in a climate change protest

Nature provides services worth over $125 trillion per year globally

The planet’s species population sizes have decreased by 70% since the 1970s. Yet while scientists have proven that biodiversity loss is intimately linked with climate change, it continues to be kept in the shadows of the climate agenda

As the Nature-based Solutions Conference kicks off at Oxford University this week, we speak to Professor Nathalie Seddon about why boosting biodiversity is essential to building the resilience of our ecosystems in a warming world – and why planting trees is not the catch-all solution some think it is.

LUX: The mass of living creatures in the world is undergoing a dramatic diminution. What are the effects of this?

Woman

Professor Nathalie Seddon

Nathalie Seddon: The statistics are startling. We have lost about 80% of wild fish from the oceans and 82% of wild mammals on land, so our habitats and natural ecosystems are basically empty. 97% of vertebrates on the planet are people and their livestock; only 3% are wild creatures that we share the planet with. 9 million hectares of tropical forest are cut down a year; and we’ve modified over 50% of land use.

Biodiversity is important for multiple reasons – material, cultural and spiritual. Our health is intimately linked to the health of all these ecosystems that we are currently destroying. Our nature systems support us in countless ways, providing clean air, water, food, and genetic resources. Over half of GDP depends on natural ecosystems, which generate over $125 trillion worth of ecosystem services each year – from reducing the impacts of droughts and protecting coastlines from flooding or forests from wildfires. These services are dependent on the species and the diversity of the species within them, and are incredibly important to our resilience in a warming world.

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LUX: Why is there so little awareness around biodiversity loss?

NS: Climate still doesn’t get enough attention or funding, but it is considerably more prominent in discourse than biodiversity is. Our economy has also been developed on the assumption that nature’s resources are infinite. People assume that, with enough money, technology will come to the rescue. I think there is a fundamental reason to explain all of these: the age-old idea that humans are not part of nature but rather separate from it; that we must conquer nature rather than flourish as a part of it. This disconnect between humans and nature is the root cause, and therefore also part of the solution to the trouble we face.

Logs

Deforestation contributes to increases in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns across the world

LUX: Are we at a turning point of the understanding of the importance of biodiversity – not just as a desirable end in itself but as an essential part of combating climate change?

NS: In principle, yes. In the international policy and business community, there’s a lot more talk about biodiversity and climate change as two sides of the same coin. But a lot more work is needed to make sure that there is a robust understanding of what that means in practice and how that translates on the ground. For instance, agriculture or commodity production are the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss and also the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Protecting and restoring our biodiversity can help reduce emissions, but about 23% of our emissions come from changes in the land use sector in agricultural and forestry and other land use, so improving what happens in those landscapes can also have important impacts on warming. It’s only still quite a small part of the solution.

There has been a step up in terms of the prominence and emphasis on nature as part of the negotiations on nature-based solutions. But there are huge misunderstandings, including a big conflation of commercial forestry with nature-based solutions. You can’t just plant trees and then delay decarbonisation and transition to renewables.

The Glasgow Science Centre played a key role in last year’s COP26 discussions

LUX: What are the most important steps leaders in business and wealthy individuals can take to combating this?

NS: A lot of businesses and governments are making net zero pledges, covering 90% of the global economy. But you look under the bonnet, and most of them are not underpinned by a really robust science based plan or any funding to enact it.

Talking about how nature, biodiversity and climate are connected is good, but we need to ensure that decision makers who are acting on that basis understand what that actually means in practice.That doesn’t mean offsetting carbon emissions by investing in cheap forestry plantations. It means doing everything they possibly can to reduce those emissions and reduce the damage that they’re doing to ecosystems within their supply chains whilst also investing in projects that are biodiversity based and community led and ideally doing that within their supply chains, which is a process that’s called insetting rather than offsetting.

Read more: Cary Fowler on Protecting the Biodiversity of our Planet

Offsetting is when a company will calculate its impact on climate or emissions so it will invest in probably some trees somewhere that probably shouldn’t be there and feel like it is addressing the problem. Insetting is looking within your own supply chain and investing in high quality, valuable projects within that supply chain, so insetting your damage to the biosphere and the climate within your supply chain. In doing so, you are not only meeting your ESG requirements but also increasing the value in resilience of the supply chain itself. It’s about investing in nature in your supply chains to reduce risk, operational risk, supply chain risks as well as reputational risk.

There is a real need to engage fully with the research community to ensure that those pledges can be met in a sustainable, ethical, biodiversity community-based way and so that’s where the work is. Public-private partnerships between researchers and businesses are really important. Companies in general should adopt a generative, circular economy model and then embed proper robust accounting on natural and social capital in their accounting procedures.

Rainforest

Humans have identified just 3 million of over 12 million complex life forms on the planet

LUX: Is it true that we are still discovering exactly how different species, seemingly unrelated, can have a dramatic impact on the health of the planet and the human race?

NS: There’s upwards of about 12 million complex life forms on the planet, and we have only named around 3 million of them. We don’t know what functions all those species play in the ecosystem, we just know that all species matter and that we can’t afford to lose the predicted 1 million species by the end of the century.

That diversity gives ecosystems the resilience they need in a warming world. It’s like having a diverse investment portfolio – the more different sorts of investments you have, the more likely it is to be able to weather the storm, in that case, a financial storm. In a natural world, the more species you have, the more likely it is that that ecosystem can deal with whatever is coming.

LUX: Are there any causes for hope, or is your feeling that we are doing too little too late?

NS: On one hand it’s all very frustrating because we’ve known for a very long time what causes climate change and what drives biodiversity loss, yet very little has been achieved. Put it into perspective: we have lost about 70% of species populations since the 1970s, despite a huge increase in the coverage of protecting it.

But there are lots of countries that are pledging to do the right thing: community and biodiversity based investments and nature-based solutions, at the same time as big commitments to renewables and reducing emissions. Costa Rica is leading on climate policy and the practice of renewables, plus large areas of land are under recovery and protection. [The same goes for] Moldova, Brazil, Chile and Cape Verde, at least on paper, in terms of how they’re incorporating nature into their climate change pledges.

There are also various companies that are taking a high integrity approach to tackling net zero. Netflix is an example of that: they are reducing emissions across all of their operations as fast as they can, as well as investing in projects that are truly verified in terms of their carbon, biodiversity and social benefits. That’s the real point. You can’t invest in nature if you’re not also doing everything you possibly can to reduce emissions.

Seaweed

Nature-based solutions involve the sustainable management and use of natural resources to tackle socio-environmental challenges

LUX: Who are the laggards?

NS: Most of the main fossil fuel companies are talking about decarbonisation but they’re not making enough progress. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and we need to invest in nature. It’s not ‘either or’, and some of those big fossil fuel companies are just greenwashing their operations by claiming to invest in so called nature-based solutions which often just turn out to be short rotation commercial forestry plantations. That’s a live issue that needs to be fully addressed.

At the government level, many countries are investing in tree planting, while not ensuring that their existing biodiversity and intact ecosystems are protected properly, and in fact actively opening them up. Decisionmakers seem to think that growing a tree is the same as a tree which is in an intact ecosystem, yet science is really clear that there is no equivalent: you can’t recapture the carbon lost through destroying our intact ecosystem in a timely or sensible way through planting trees. .

Read more: Julie Packard: All In Together

LUX: How would you explain to an intelligent but distracted business leader that the loss of a seemingly trivial habitat in one part of the world can have a fundamental effect on people in the other?

NS: The earth is a big, interconnected system. Deforestation rates in the Amazon are increasing to meet global demand for beef and soya, but because Amazonia is a big water pump, this can cause changes in global patterns of rainfall, therefore compromising food security and causing supply chain issues. For the intelligent but distracted business leader who thinks that it doesn’t really matter if we lose all the monkeys or toucans from a forest, it does, because those species play a critical role in the ecosystems and we need to extract carbon from the atmosphere to keep all of us safe.

Ultimately, we need systemic change in how we run our economies. Our economic system prioritises material wealth and infinite growth on finite resources. Unless that changes, we won’t avert climate change and biodiversity. We need to think about circular and regenerative economies, and we as individuals need to enact big behavioural change as part of that. Otherwise, you’re just rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

Nathalie Seddon is Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford.

Find out more: naturebasedsolutionsoxford.org

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Reading time: 9 min
a turtle on the grass
turquoise sea and the deep sea with waves next to it

The Nature Conservancy has grown to become one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organisations in the world. All images copyright: Carla Sanatana/ TNC Photo Contest 2019, Ethan Daniels, Randy Olsen, TNC Belize, Claire Ryser/TNC Contest 2019, Julieanne Robinson Stockbridge

Non profit environmental organisation, The Nature Conservancy, has over 400 scientists working and impacts conservation in over 75 countries and territories. With the UN Ocean Conference currently taking place in Lisbon, Melissa Garvey, Global Director, Ocean Protection at The Nature Conservancy speaks to LUX about the effectiveness of philanthropy and investment to protect the oceans

LUX: The Nature Conservancy has an interesting niche, combining philanthropy and investment. How does that work?
Melissa Garvey: The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive. Building on nearly six decades of experience, we’ve protected more than 280 million acres of ocean, 119 million acres of land, and 5,000 river miles. We are able to accomplish so much because we make careful use of our resources, maximising the philanthropic and public funding that goes toward our science-driven program work.

We are also able to leverage philanthropic funding with innovative finance strategies. The Nature Conservancy has an impact investing unit that works with our conservation colleagues and collaborators around the world to source and structure investment products that support TNC’s mission at scale. With partners, we have been able to originate, structure, fund and close investment vehicles representing more than $2.3 billion of committed capital. Philanthropy is instrumental in supporting our teams to develop, execute and manage innovative finance strategies that allowing TNC to help countries access billions of dollars in long-term funding for conservation.

shellfish in a fishing boat

LUX: Financing is a key barrier hindering ocean protection. How are you overcoming this barrier?
MG: The Nature Conservancy’s Blue Bonds Strategy is one solution. We transform debt into conservation action at scale.

At the heart of these projects is a basic deal: A coastal nation commits to protect approximately 30% of its near-shore ocean areas. In support, TNC refinances the nation’s sovereign debt, leading to lower interest rates and longer repayment periods. The government uses the savings to capitalise a conservation trust fund to support new marine protected areas to which the country has committed.

TNC’s role is to assemble the deals, use our science and a stakeholder driven marine spatial planning process to facilitate the design of a system of protected areas and create a trust fund that holds the government accountable to its commitments—ensuring that we finance real conservation, not paper parks.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

An example of this is the $553 million debt refinancing we completed in Belize in November 2021. This project enabled the Government of Belize to reduce its debt burden and generate an estimated US$180M for marine conservation in support of Belize’s commitment to protect 30% of its ocean, strengthen governance frameworks for domestic and high sea fisheries, and establish a regulatory framework for coastal blue carbon projects. This is especially meaningful to the people of Belize as the country’s tourist-based economy continues to suffer from the impacts of COVID-19

Our goals is to project 4 million square kilometres of ocean and unlock $1.6 billion for marine conservation.

A coral reef under the sea

LUX: Are blue bonds going to become more significant elements in the market?
MG: The TNC Blue Bonds debt conversion structure is highly scalable and replicable. Transaction sizes and overall market are limited by three criteria:

1)Countries committed to achieving the conservation outcomes. As the threat of climate change and awareness of the role that natural resources and biodiversity play in economic growth rapidly increase, most developing countries will require additional financing for conservation.

2)Availability and affordability of credit enhancement, whether through the US Development Finance Corporation or development banks to do more deals in more markets.

3)Availability of debt to refinance: while debt conversions work well with sovereign debt trading at a discount in the capital markets, they are not exclusively for countries threatened by high debt distress. Many countries have high-coupon bonds. Even if these trade at little to no discount, they can still be refinanced with lower coupons and longer tenors to create significant funding for conservation. Many also have commercial bank loans that may be candidates for refinancing into a lower interest rate and/or longer tenor loans.

turquoise reefs in the sea

LUX: How will sustainable blue economy finance need to develop over the next few years?
MG: Sustainable blue finance is essential to national economies and the 3 billion people rely on healthy oceans for their livelihoods. Financing often holds back countries from implementing ocean conservation that will ensure oceans are sustainable into the future. Philanthropic and public funding is essential but insufficient to close this gap.

Today the challenge of financing the sustainability of our oceans is compounded by the Covid 19 health pandemic and the financial crisis, which has placed unrelenting pressure on public finances and slashed tourism revenues. But there is hope. Innovative debt and market approaches can help bring in new funding at a scale that can address the problem.

LUX: Are you looking for UHNWI individual investors, institutional investors or philanthropists?
MG: Philanthropy is instrumental in supporting our teams to develop, execute and manage strategies, policy and partnerships – including innovative finance strategies — that allow TNC to help countries access billions of dollars in long-term funding for conservation. We simply couldn’t do our work without the generosity of individual and institutional supporters.

a turtle on the grass

LUX: Do governments need to become much more active on ocean protection?
MG: Governments are already active in ocean protection, and there is a lot more to do. We are already three years into the decade during which we have to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. So, this year the global community must finally agree a new and ambitions Global Biodiversity Framework, including a target to globally protect 30% of freshwater, land and the ocean. To deliver against this target, countries must also conclude negotiations in 2022 on a new treaty for the protection and sustainable use of the High Seas with clear powers to establish protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction. But we can’t wait for these treaties to be negotiated before we act. The UN Ocean Conference is an opportunity for the ocean community to both demand action and offer solutions.

LUX: Is there is a risk of creating an uneven market with low-regulation governments allowing exploitative practices on a large scale?
MG: There are always a risk like this. But investing in the health of oceans creates long term benefit. Globally, the gross value of marine ecosystem services is estimated at US $49.7 trillion. This suggests that the economic benefits would far outweigh the costs of establishing a 30% global MPA network. We are developing a costing framework to help decision makers in individual countries better understand today’s costs of implementation and management of ocean protection as well as the long term benefits of marine conservation so that governments, NGOs and the private sector can make more informed choices.

LUX: How important will the role of science and innovation be in the Blue Economy? Can you give some examples?
MG: Science and innovation are essential for Blue Economy interventions that change the way that we protect and value oceans. For example, did you know that you can insure the protective value of nature? You can.

divers in the sea with seaweed around them

It works like this: We know that reefs can decrease the power of waves coming on shore by about 97%. That is really important during the ever more frequent – and increasing more severe – storms. But these storms also take a toll on reefs, which leave coastal areas at greater risk to future damage if the reef isn’t restored. We worked with the insurance industry and put that science into insurance models. Together, we came up with the world’s first insurance policy to insure a portion of the Meso-American reef in Quintana Roo, Mexico that protects areas near Cancun and its $10B tourism industry from hurricanes. If a storm hits, the insurance is triggered to ensure that the reef can be quickly restored. This insurance was tested in the Autumn of 2020 when Hurricane Delta hit. The $800,000 insurance payout funded vital reef repair activities. This is a win for nature, a win for coastal communities and will drive further interest in conservation finance and the need to protect marine ecosystems across the globe.

Read more: Julie Packard: All In Together

LUX: There is no metric to compare the value of different nature-based solutions in ocean conservation, and no consistent measure of the effectiveness. Is this true, and is it an issue?
MG: I don’t agree that we can’t measure nature-based solutions. The reef insurance I mentioned above is one example. Here’s another: Blue Carbon Resilience Credits. We know that the coastal wetlands provides a unique opportunity for climate finance. If we restored even a quarter of these habitats, we would add 10 million hectares of carbon-trapping wetlands to our coastlines. That is an area equivalent in size to Iceland. In addition, protecting existing coastal wetlands would prevent the release of 80 million tons of carbon emissions currently being stored by these habitats.

A fishing village with boats in the water

TNC worked with international experts to develop science, flood modelling, and carbon and resilience methodologies for the Blue Carbon Resilience Credit. These credits support not just carbon mitigation, but also quantifiable, verifiable resilience benefits like flood reduction to adjacent communities. We have identified projects across the US and globally and are bringing our first supply of Blue Carbon Resilience Credits to market.

LUX: You say a comprehensive approach is best for ocean investment. How should this work?
MG: To achieve truly durable ocean protection, we have to focus on scale and representativeness of the areas we conserve, as well as ensuring long term financing for conservation, and equity and sustainable livelihoods for the people who rely on oceans. Our global ocean protection program drives new protection, restoration, and management improvement in support of biodiversity and communities.

We work at multiple scales. We address the long-term need to secure large-scale new protection and sustainable financing for marine conservation while we tackle today’s urgent need to restore critical coastal ecosystems — like coral reefs and coastal wetlands — and improve management of our oceans, while we build capacity for communities to manage their marine resources.

Find out more: nature.org

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Reading time: 8 min
plastic bottles compacted in bags
two women sitting on a panel

Heather Clancy and Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact © GreenBiz Group/Louis Bryant III

Is there a one size fits all when it comes to corporate climate action? No matter how big a business is, says Heather Clancy, one thing is for certain: inaction is no longer an option. Clancy is Vice President and Editorial Director of GreenBiz, the media company working to accelerate the just transition to a clean economy. She tells LUX why companies need to work harder to embed environmental justice into their corporate sustainability strategy, and explains how climate fintech may just be key to the green transition
A woman with grey hair wearing a green jacket

Heather Clancy ©GreenBiz Group/Louis Bryant III

LUX: Is there a one size fits all when it comes to corporate climate action?
Heather Clancy: The way a company prioritises is very focused on their individual business. The supply chain of one company could be totally different to that of another. US tech companies, for example, have done a lot on renewable energy, but should be doing more on how they treat and engage with their employees on various issues. Each company must look at what they touch and then make the decisions about which levers to push and pull most directly. The one thing they must do, however, is act. They can’t sit around anymore, no matter how big or small they are.

LUX: How should companies be balancing the ‘E’ and ‘S’ of ESG?
Heather Clancy: Corporations are not spending enough time thinking about how environmental justice is embedded into their corporate sustainability strategies. The pandemic has prompted a lot of soul-searching when it comes to where companies are doing business, but there is still a huge disconnect between the company’s corporate perceptions of what environmental justice means and how they act as a business. There is so much attention being put into making sure workforces reflect the diversity of the community –which is great – but companies need to get a lot more thoughtful about how they engage with the individuals and communities with whom they engage.

For example, one of the biggest blockers to the clean energy transition right now is the supply of materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel. The necessity of these materials – which are used for wind turbines, electric vehicles, and batteries – has prompted a large increase in mining activities around the world, but there has not been enough attention paid to where that land is. A lot of it sits on indigenous territories, and these communities are not being consulted or involved in the plans, or economically compensated if that’s what is required.

Now that we have this supply chain rethink happening, it would be incumbent upon corporations to look closely at where they’re siting their new manufacturing city facilities if they’re going to move them. This means actually including communities in those plans –helping them understand what the plan is and asking them what makes sense.

rows of solar panels

Accountability of corporations is crucial for the green transition. Image courtesy of Andreas Gucklhorn

LUX: Are there enough measurable standards for corporations to be measured by?
Heather Clancy: If you ask them, there are too many standards! What is missing is a push for accountability, especially in the United States. The markets are motivated by these earnings reports that we get on a quarterly basis, but there is no equivalent for ESG measures. I do believe that this will be changing, though. Probably the most important prompter for this has been the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), whose recommendations made a tipping point happen as far as how companies talk about what they’re doing and how they are being held accountable for that. But now things are in place, we need to get some agreement and coalescence around certain of these things.

LUX: What role can early-stage climate tech play in decarbonisation?
Heather Clancy: Small, innovative companies have a real opportunity to innovate and become the new suppliers for larger companies – for example by producing alternative materials like mushroom-based packaging to replace plastic or Styrofoam. It is not coincidental that there are so many corporate venture funds now focused on climate technologies, because these corporations are going to benefit from that innovation when the company goes public down the line.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A great example is the Amazon-Rivian relationship. Rivian was a vaguely unknown electric van maker, which got a hundred-thousand-unit order from Amazon and has now gone on to become public. There is a lot of shakiness in the market right now with some of these suppliers, but that’s fundamental to business. It’s mainly a great innovation opportunity.

LUX: Do you think it’s correct to talk about de-carbonisation and opportunities in climate tech as being ‘opportunities’, or are they still challenges?
Heather Clancy: Look at Allbirds. They had some shakiness with their ESG IPO, but their entire company was created with the idea of using materials in a different way. One of the biggest problems with athletic shoes is the soles, so they worked to create a new type of sole with a new material which has a lower carbon footprint than other sneaker soles. Instead of choosing to make that sole their own proprietary invention, they opened the technology up to other organisations and helped other companies to start using it. As other companies start to use this technology, the costs will come down and it will be cheaper for them to use it as well. That is a company whose entire business model is framed around this.

Two women speaking to each other sitting on chairs next to each other on a panel

Heather Clancy and Hana Kajimura, Head of Sustainability, Allbirds © GreenBiz Group/Louis Bryant III

LUX: What else is exciting you in the climate tech sector at the moment?
Heather Clancy: I am particularly interested in nature-based carbon capture and sequestration technologies. There is an organisation called Project Vesta that’s using nature-based approaches in this way. There’s a big debate about whether we should be investing in those things, because it takes money away from these newer areas, but I think we need to remove the carbon that’s there.

LUX: What role can fintech play in the green transition?
Heather Clancy: The digitisation of sustainability is really important, because it’s becoming part of the financial infrastructure of the companies themselves. Software innovations help companies better understand their climate risks, have a truer accounting of the carbon footprint of their supply chain operations, and to understand whether their carbon offset has the value they think it has. These tools also help people make investments in the other climate technologies.

LUX: What is the biggest barrier to scaling climate tech?
Heather Clancy: Politics. Climate is such a partisan issue in many areas of the world. It has become so easy for one side to weaponise the community and say, ‘look at these renewable energy advocates, they’re making your energy costs go up’. That’s been very damaging in terms of the whole concept.

Beyond that, though, is policy. If there’s one thing that we really are lacking from corporations, it is the voice and end policy support. There are so many policies in place that need to be changed, but there is not enough happening at the federal, state or local levels to help put the policies in place that will make this transition happen more quickly.

plastic bottles compacted in bags

Heather Clancy explains the battle for companies desiring to create and bring in new greener technologies but not wanted to create waste by dumping the old materials. Image courtesy of Nick Fewings

LUX: Should we prioritise de-carbonising existing infrastructure or starting from scratch with new green technologies?
Heather Clancy: I’ve been thinking a lot about net zero buildings and how difficult it is to go in and retrofit a building to become a better performing building. There are incentives that exist which make it much easier to knock the thing down and to build a new one. That’s just a huge waste: why aren’t we reusing those materials? But the policies and the laws make it harder to do it any other way.

The other problem with giving credit for renewal projects is that it caters to the people that have money already. If you are a small organisation and don’t have the revenue, you can’t actually take advantage of some of these incentives currently because you can’t afford to invest in them. This is true of the way some of the clean energy incentives are written in the United States. That doesn’t make economic sense.

Read more: Product designer Tord Boontje on sustainable materials

LUX: Are corporations, consumers, or legislation responsible for leading the green transition?
Heather Clancy: Extended producer responsibilities is the buzzword here. It’s important that corporations be more responsible, and they have to be using their voices as well.

LUX: What should the wealthy be doing?
Heather Clancy: They should model better behaviour, and they also need to put their money where it counts. What Bill Gates with his Breakthrough Energy coalition is extraordinary, and seems to me to be an important model. Likewise, Mackenzie Scott and Laurene Powell Jobs have put money in some extraordinarily unusual places by investing in historically black colleges and communities that don’t usually get the money. They’re doing it quietly, and they’re putting their money to work.

It’s also time for the wealthy to help small businesses get on the bandwagon in terms of ESG – to help them with energy efficiency, with their waste and manufacturing processes. Buying from these companies will enable them to make the shift to greener practices.

Find out more: greenbiz.com

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Reading time: 8 min
consumer goods stacked on shelves in a supermarket
consumer goods stacked on shelves in a supermarket

Unilever, one of the largest suppliers of consumer goods, has committed itself to sustainable ways of working throughout the whole company. Image by Bernard Hermant

Rebecca Marmot is Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever, the consumer giant whose portfolio spans everything from Dove soap to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Under Marmot’s leadership, Unilever has made significant interventions in sustainability milestones like the Paris Agreement and the creation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – yet, she says, much of the innovation is still to be done. Marmot tells Ella Johnson why companies must embrace transparency and collaboration in order to create a truly green value chain
a woman wearing a black shirt

Rebecca Marmot

LUX: What is essential to the success of a company’s ESG agenda?
Rebecca Marmot: Success relies on everyone being on board – from employees to c-suite to investors. For example, we put our Climate Transition Action Plan – which outlines how we propose to reach our net zero target – to an advisory shareholder vote. Over 99% approved it. Making it public increases our credibility, transparency and accountability and helps us engage with stakeholders.

We also recognise that we can’t do this on our own. We need to draw on the ingenuity and experience of experts and peers across the globe to meet our sustainability targets – from specialists creating plastic alternatives to suppliers supporting initiatives to protect and regenerate nature. We know that pioneering new practices requires partnership. We are also calling on governments to accelerate climate action by setting ambitious national renewable energy targets so that consumers can use our products at home with water heated by clean energy.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Can planet and profit ever truly go hand in hand?
Rebecca Marmot: The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which ran from 2010-2020, contained over 70 time-bound targets spanning issues from waste, water and greenhouse gas reduction, to supporting people with training around sustainable agricultural practices. Over 10 years there were notable achievements – including improving the health and hygiene of well over a billion people – as well as valuable lessons in what does and doesn’t work.

The USLP helped clarify our belief that sustainability can unlock superior performance. The business case is clear. Climate change and inequality are huge global challenges, but they also pose very specific risks to the future of our business: for instance, climate-related adverse weather disrupts supply chains and rising inequality limits prosperity and prospects.

people walking through a flood

Climate change directly affects the success of a consumer goods businesses by disrupting supply chains. Image by Jonathan Ford

LUX: How do you avoid greenwashing?
Rebecca Marmot: We recognise that we are on a journey – and need to be transparent about our failures as well as our successes. We didn’t reach all of our USLP targets by 2020, but in falling short, we learnt new ways to approach and overcome challenges.  For example, the need to engage in advocacy to decarbonise the grid – rather than just focusing on promoting shorter showers!

Here, reporting can play a useful role in tracking progress and preventing greenwash. We are calling for the adoption of high-quality, standardised non-financial reporting to ensure disclosures are consistent and comparable across companies and to facilitate allocation of capital to the most sustainable companies.

LUX: How is Unilever working to eliminate Scope 1 and 2 emissions – those generated by your operations?
Rebecca Marmot: First, we need to put our own house in order by transforming the way our factories run: investing in new technologies, increasing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources. For instance, biogas generated from the manufacturing of Marmite helps power the boilers at our Burton site in the UK.

We are also innovating through our brands.  Our Clean Future programme  commits us to eliminating fossil fuel derived carbon from cleaning and laundry products by 2030, and we also recently launched the word’s first laundry capsule made from captured and recycled industrial carbon emissions in China in partnership with LanzaTech.

One of the biggest challenges is that the lion’s share of our emissions are outside of our direct control. About 60% of our emissions come from raw materials and packaging. So, to reach our target, we are working across our value chain and engaging suppliers, partners and consumers in our decarbonisation journey.

Unilever Office

Unilever World Headquarters, London

LUX: Unilever has substantially more influence over its suppliers than consumers. How do you overcome that challenge?
Rebecca Marmot: When you take your Dove soap home and use it in your shower, then clean your shower with Cif bathroom spray, then reward yourself with a Magnum ice cream, the power used to generate the hot water and run your freezer is the area we have the least control over.

We’ve learnt over the last ten years that our ability to influence consumer emissions can be limited; we can’t control how long they spend in the shower or how they source their energy. But increasingly, consumers want to align their purchasing power with their values. We want to make it easy for them to choose our trusted brands – knowing that they are made with respect for the planet and people.

We can design products that help consumers use less carbon – like concentrated laundry detergents which enable people to wash their clothes at lower temperatures. Washing clothes at 30°C instead of 60°C cuts the GHG emissions per load by as much as 50%. We’ve also taken great strides to eliminate phosphates from our laundry products, one of our most GHG-intensive ingredients, which reduces CO2 emissions by up to 50% per consumer use.

LUX: How is Unilever addressing the ‘S’ of ‘ESG’?
Rebecca Marmot: COVID-19 highlighted vast social inequity and reaffirmed our focus on protecting lives and livelihoods. Last year, we committed to ensure that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever earns at least a living wage or living income by 2030.

It also demonstrated global interdependences and the need to work together. At the beginning of the pandemic, Unilever and the UK government established a £100m partnership – The Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) – to provide products, infrastructure and education to help tackle COVID-19. Working with 21 NGOs and UN partners in 37 countries, HBCC has reached over 1.4 billion people and has recently been extended for a second phase. Bringing together the influence and expertise of Government and NGOs, with the brand reach and marketing power of business, has proved truly effective in spreading life-saving programmes.

consumer goods

Unilever’s Positive Beauty row

LUX: Is there a risk that those who are last to take on the costs of a green transition will be winners in the short term?
Rebecca Marmot: Inaction is no longer an option. In a world where the effects of climate change and inequality are glaringly apparent, both ability and license to operate will become dependent on being sustainable.  Research shows that consumers are increasingly shunning companies that aren’t responsible, and employees want to work somewhere that reflects their beliefs. Without action to make supply chains more sustainable, companies simply won’t be able to source the raw materials needed for their products and operations will be stalled by floods and extreme weather. Laggards will likely also be hit by taxes on carbon and virgin plastic which are certainly coming down the line.

We believe the growth opportunities in embracing sustainable business are immense. In our experience, brand purpose grows brand power, and brand power drives market share and sales growth. There is no trade-off.

LUX: Which leadership qualities are necessary to implementing a sustainability strategy while meeting the needs of shareholders?
Rebecca Marmot: Delivering superior performance while creating value for multiple stakeholders requires ingenuity, partnership and, above all, a clear, ambitious plan.

Given how interlinked everything is, we also need to shun silos in favour of systems thinking. For example, we take a holistic approach across climate and nature since we recognise that action to solve one crisis can help to address the other.

Read more: Richard Curtis on the Power of Pensions

We also need to be bold. Last year we established the €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund so that our brands can invest in projects that have a positive and meaningful impact. Knorr will have 50 regenerative agriculture projects over the next five years – supporting farmers and building resilient food chains of the future.

And we need to be innovative – identifying new ways to lower our impact without compromising quality or performance. For example, our R&D teams are using the latest technology to create new means of compacting and reducing the resources used to deliver our products and our Foods business is expanding our plant-based offerings to ensure that sustainable options become accessible to all.

Find out more: www.unilever.com

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Richard Curtis and Keira Knightley wearing red noses
Richard Curtis working on a set with a camera crew
Richard Curtis, the screenwriter and film director behind Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually has launched a new campaign – to ensure people pressure their pension providers to follow sustainable principles. If successful, it could trigger a seismic shift in ESG investments. He speaks to Ella Johnson.

Richard Curtis is celebrated for comedic masterpieces like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). Making nearly $300 million apiece at the box office, his Oscar-nominated films have starred everyone from Hugh Grant to Julia Roberts, Renée Zellweger to Colin Firth – to name but a few. Now, Curtis has launched a campaign aimed at ensuring fund managers put their money where their marketing material is on the green transition. For an industry worth $56 trillion globally, this would be a key pillar in achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goals.

It’s not the first time Curtis has turned his hand to social impact. He is the leader of Project Everyone, the not-for-profit creative communications agency raising awareness around the UN’s Global Goals. Following the 1985 famine in Ethiopia, Curtis also co-founded Comic Relief with actor and comedian Lenny Henry. Through its annual Red Nose Day comedy telethons in Britain, which have involved a star-studded roster of celebrities including Justin Bieber and the Duke of Cambridge, the charity has raised £1.3 billion for disadvantaged communities around the world. It also inspired the launch of a US edition in 2015, which names Jennifer Garner and Jack Black among its contributors and has raised $270 million to end child poverty to date.

Yet with trillions’ worth of pension schemes failing to commit to robust Net Zero targets, Curtis’ next venture could have an even greater (and greener) impact. According to him, it is all well and good spending your life fighting for great causes – but if your pension is funding precisely the opposite cause, what good are you really doing?

LUX: You describe people’s pension investments as a “superpower” hidden in plain sight. What does that mean?
Richard Curtis: It all changed for me when I saw a brilliant TED talk by an Australian cancer doctor called Bronwyn King, who discovered that a lot of her pension money was invested in tobacco companies without her knowing – meaning she’d actually been killing more people with her investments than she’d been saving with her life’s work.

The more I looked into it, the more examples of this I saw. From peace activists investing in weapons, to climate campaigners funding fossil fuel companies, to vegans investing in the meat industry – it was clear that many of us had become accidental investors in the practices we fight against.

pink billboard sign

LUX: What’s the key element of your campaign?
Richard Curtis: A key part of our campaign is to showcase what’s possible if we direct our money towards funding the best companies. Our 21x Campaign centres upon research conducted with Aviva and Route2, which found that moving from a default pension to a sustainable one could be 21 times more powerful at cutting your carbon footprint than giving up flying, becoming a vegetarian and switching energy provider combined.

Imagine if all £2.6 trillion in UK pensions was in sustainable funds; helping tackle the climate crisis, restore nature, alleviate poverty, provide affordable housing, and support medical research – the impact could be extraordinary.

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LUX: Why is this awakening happening now?
Richard Curtis: I think we’re now at an incredibly exciting moment in civic activism. People are no longer waiting on others to change the world for them – they’re taking matters into their own hands and asking ‘what can I actually do to make a difference with my everyday actions?’ They are finding answers in unexpected places: in the clothes they wear, the food they eat, and how they travel. They’re discovering it in the products they buy, the brands they engage with, and the employers they work for.

Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Richard Curtis and Domhnall Gleeson on the red carpet

Left to right: Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Richard Curtis and Domhnall Gleeson arriving for the About Time UK Premiere held at Somerset House, London, 2013

LUX: Does following ESG guidance mean lower returns?
Richard Curtis: Research has shown that investing in sustainable, long-term businesses can have a positive impact on the environment and on society, and still secure healthy returns.

Morningstar examined the performance of 745 Europe-based sustainable funds and found that the majority of them had done better than non-sustainable funds over one, three, five and 10 years. In fact, many industry leaders have called the green transition the greatest economic opportunity of a generation.

We’re entering a time where it doesn’t have to be values vs. value, money vs. morals; you really can have both.

LUX: How are you raising these issues to the top of the agenda for the young generation?
Richard Curtis: Our first job is to get this issue on the radar of businesses leaders and CEOs – making sure that pensions are the new frontier for sustainability minded organisations across. After all, why serve vegetarian meals in the canteen if your pensions are invested in factory farming? Why install renewable energy across your offices, but continue to invest in coal? And why build a world beating sustainability plan if your pension money is directly undermining those actions?

This is a huge gap, but more importantly an enormous opportunity for impact. With customers, shareholders, investors, and employees increasingly asking businesses to ‘walk the talk’, authenticity and consistency across organisations’ climate change strategies can create a real competitive advantage, alongside real-world impact.

Richard Curtis and Keira Knightley wearing red noses

Richard Curtis and Keira Knightley for Comic Relief Red Nose Day

In putting their money where their mouth is, businesses can turbocharge their existing efforts in their race to net zero, engage new customers and clients, and help build a world fit for their employees’ retirement. All while protecting their investments from the worst effects of climate change.

Read more: Catherine Mallyon on The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Success

LUX: Your career has been dedicated to alleviating human suffering – through the £1.3 billion raised by Comic Relief to date; and now, through the £1 trillion worth of pension money that has been diverted towards tackling the climate crisis. How do you maintain clarity of vision and purpose on this scale?
Richard Curtis: Everything I’ve ever done has mainly been the work of so many other people. I’m the guy who opens the door for everyone else to come through. The real answer is that I sometimes do worry that I’m not doing the right things at the right time – but what I try to do is just work out where I, with my limited skills, can be most useful. And, when I find something like Make My Money Matter, I try to actually treat it like a proper job and spend my time making things, and organising events and campaigns – rather than just talking round things. My motto has always been ‘To make things happen, you have to make things.’

Find out more: www.makemymoneymatter.co.uk

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boat in antarctica
boat in antarctica

Lindblad Expeditions travellers explore Booth Island, Antarctica

Sven-Olof Lindblad is an influential Ocean Elder whose work combines marine conservation, education and eco-tourism. He speaks to Sophie Marie Atkinson

In late January 1966, 57 travellers arrived at Smith and Melchior Islands on the Antarctic Peninsula aboard a chartered Argentine navy ship. Pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad was the man behind this voyage, one which had previously only ever been undertaken by professional explorers and scientists. This event marked the beginning of commercial travel to parts of the world that, until then, most could have only dreamt of visiting, as well as the birth of a whole new industry.

Exploration, discovery and an innate desire to immerse oneself in nature clearly run in the Lindblad blood. Lars-Eric’s son, Sven-Olof, spent part of his life in east Africa, where he photographed elephants and wildlife and assisted filmmakers on a documentary about the destruction of rainforests. This experience, coupled with the many trips he joined his father on, ignited a passion that lives with him today.

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By 1979, Sven-Olof had founded Special Expeditions (now Lindblad Expeditions), an innovative travel company that today offers oceanic expeditions aboard small ships. Like his late father (who died in 1994), Sven-Olof’s mission is to enable people to explore hidden corners of the world. Destinations include the coast of Alaska, Baja California, Patagonia, Russia, and even the islands around Scotland. But visiting these regions is only a fraction of the company’s story.

Lindblad Expeditions seeks to take what we currently call ‘sustainable travel’ a step further. “Sustainable travel basically means that you can just continue what you’re doing without causing a negative impact, so essentially ‘do no harm’,” Sven-Olof explains. “I think what we need to do is figure out how to use our energy and our imagination to think more in restorative rather than just sustainable terms. We’ve done so much damage to our environment that we need to shift gears fast.”

man standing on the sea shore

Sven-Olof Lindblad on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, 2014

This is why planetary stewardship and meaningful change are at the heart of the Lindblad Expeditions offerings. They are facilitated in a number of ways. Firstly, the company is carbon-neutral, offsetting all its operations and making it easy for travellers to do the same with their flights. The ships are entirely free of single-use plastic, and all food provided on board is responsibly sourced.

The company has formed a partnership establishing the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund, with donations often coming from inspired passengers, with each of the 15 ships raising finance for different programmes. “We have a hugely successful project called Pristine Seas,” explains Sven-Olof, “the objective of which is to create large marine protected areas. We raise a minimum of $500,000 a year for that programme, often up to $800,000.

Read more: How Science is Harnessing the Power of the Sea

“In the Galápagos, we put hundreds of thousands of dollars into a local school that we believe will educate the future leaders of the islands.” They also help local fisheries implement better technology for their work.

Motivating people to care is another piece of the Lindblad puzzle. “One of the things I love about having this fund is its action, which we often see in the most surprising ways,” he says. “One individual had travelled with us at first to Alaska then to Baja California and then to the Galápagos. He called me one day and said, ‘I’m a trustee of The Helmsley Trust and I’m fascinated with what you do.’ Over a number of years, he became the trust’s most significant conservation investor. He was pumping $9 million a year into the Galápagos and about $6 million into Baja. He had never thought about this field before and these trips just opened his eyes.”

Sven-Olof doesn’t see any of his efforts as philanthropic. “I’ve made a point, in relation to our industry, never to use the word ‘philanthropy’,” he says. “If we gave $100,000 to the children’s hospital in New York, I would view that as philanthropy, but when it comes to anything related to travel, I view it as investment. At the end of the day, natural resources, cultural resources, historic resources – these are what the travel industry depends upon. So why wouldn’t we naturally want to invest in the maintenance of these, our core assets?”

On top of these myriad achievements and endeavours, Sven-Olof is one of 23 global leaders – including Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) and James Cameron – who use their power and influence to protect our marine worlds. These are Ocean Elders. Sven-Olof explains that their primary purpose is to try to sway political decisions, or lobby governments or certain businesses. “There are a lot of scientific resources behind Ocean Elders owing to the fact that members include the likes of Richard Branson, which means we can produce weapons that we can put on desks of prime ministers, weapons signed by all of these people.”

It would appear that Sven-Olof Lindblad, with a fleet of 15 ships and the backing of some heavyweight peers, is more than armed and ready for the war against the destruction of our precious oceans. His role at the helm of eco-travel looks set to continue.

Find out more: world.expeditions.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter Issue.

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turtles ocean

turtles ocean

The health of the world’s oceans is under threat. But the seas can be part of a visionary plan to address climate change and create a more sustainable economy. Andrew Saunders reports on the new science around ocean carbon capture

Photography by Matt Sharp

The power of plants to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow is well understood as a vital tool in the global battle against climate change. But which of the planet’s myriad natural environments does it best? Tropical rainforest? African Savannah? Scottish peat bogs? None of the above – in fact the most carbon-rich ecosystem in the world is not to be found on land at all but in the ocean. Mangrove swamps, such as those found dotted around the coastlines of Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria for example, are the unsung heroes of carbon storage, locking up no less than ten times as much carbon per kilometre square in their branches, roots and soils than even the densest forest.

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Together with other coastal ecosystems, including sea-grass meadows, tidal marshlands and coral reefs, these so-called ‘blue carbon’ resources highlight that the oceans play a much more prominent role in limiting global warming than has been generally recognised.

“Building the ocean’s resilience to change and helping to rebuild marine-species abundance and diversity are not as fully appreciated as they should be as crucial tools in combating climate change, but there is more and more evidence that blue carbon plays a critical role in maintaining the health of our biosphere,” says Karen Sack, chief executive of Ocean Unite, an international network of experts in the science and ecology of the oceans.

Covering some 70 per cent of the planet’s surface, the oceans are effectively a huge carbon sink which has already absorbed around a third of the excess carbon that has been put into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial era. And more than 50 per cent of the carbon in the ocean is blue carbon, despite the fact that such environments account for only two per cent of the total ocean area. Protecting and enhancing them is at least as important as preserving forests, planting trees and rewilding on land, says Sack. “Mangroves, sea-grass beds, fish and marine mammals play a huge role in sequestering and storing carbon. By protecting and restoring these crucial habitats and species, more carbon will be sequestered and stored, resulting in a healthier planet, which is better for us all.”

seaweed

Rock pools in Jersey

The carbon capture and storage potential of healthy oceans is not limited to coastal blue carbon zones alone, however. Other proposals for boosting the potential carbon sequestering of the world’s seas include encouraging kelp forests – essentially huge seaweed farms – and even microscopic algae called phytoplankton to extract carbon from the atmosphere as they grow.

Such initiatives could not only help climate change but also present new and potentially lucrative opportunities for business and investors, says Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland and a member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The panel’s landmark 2020 report, Ocean Solutions That Benefit People, Nature and the Economy, found that a truly sustainable ocean economy could contribute around a fifth of the total carbon reduction required to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement target of a maximum two degrees of climate warming.

Read more: LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on Effective Climate Action

For example, some phytoplankton species can be a source of valuable low or even zero-carbon biofuels and other industrial products. “Some of my colleagues here in Queensland are working on this. Phytoplankton grow very quickly and they can be processed to produce biofuels and high-value boutique chemicals. It’s potentially very interesting but it still has to be proved at an industrial scale.”

The ocean economy could also help feed the world more sustainably – a study by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies found that each kilo of fish landed in the US requires the emission of just 1.6kg of carbon dioxide, compared with between 50kg and 750kg for a kilo of beef produced on land. And if it can be done sustainably, large-scale ocean aquaculture has the potential added benefit of helping to protect and restore many wild-fish stocks threatened by over-fishing. “Well over half the world’s fisheries are in trouble,” says Hoegh-Guldberg, “because they have been fished down to well below sustainable levels.”

Rethinking the way we catch fish, so that sustainable aquaculture in the oceans becomes more equivalent to sustainable agriculture on land, could help stressed wild fisheries recover, he adds. “We are sophisticated farmers on land but we still have a basically Neolithic culture when it comes to fisheries.”

Creating such a climate-positive ocean economy will require a shift in the mindset of business in general and finance in particular to the point where the environmental impact of commercial activity is given equal weight to considerations of profit and loss, says Ocean Unite’s Sack. “Instead of viewing nature as an unaccounted externality that is not valued, the finance and business community more broadly needs to recognise its value, including the intrinsic value of biodiversity, and account for it. It can then take tried and tested financial products and put them to work with nature to build resilience and deliver bankable returns.”

beach pollution

Matt Sharp visited the Maldives in 2019 (above) where he recorded the extent of the pollution on the beaches

Stressing the urgency, she continues, “We’re at an ‘all hands on deck’ moment. By bringing together our collective knowledge and strengths, we can tackle hazards and vulnerabilities, build resilience and adapt to change at speed and at scale. But we have to have public and private sector financing to do that and partner across sectors to spur the type of innovative marketplace that is needed.”

So, nature and profit can co-exist in a sustainable and carbon-sequestering ocean economy. But what about technological solutions? As far back as the 1970s, Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti was the first to suggest injecting CO₂ directly into the Mediterranean to ameliorate global warming, and since then the oceans have been seen as part of a more tech-led – and more controversial – approach. Subsequent refinements of Marchetti’s original idea include pumping CO₂ captured from industrial plants into the sediment layer on the deep ocean floor. The pressure at such depth would liquefy the carbon dioxide, helping – in theory anyway – to keep it safely locked up, miles down in the mud.

Read more: Markus Müller on the Importance of Global Sustainability Standards

Even set against the current scale of the climate crisis, this looks like last-ditch stuff, says Professor Stuart Haszeldine of the School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh University. “I would much prefer that we didn’t have to: it would be a last-resort type of measure, if we haven’t managed to re-capture our emissions in any other way.”

But all the same, less risky technological solutions may well have a place – and the ocean can be part of that, too. Haszeldine and his colleagues at Edinburgh have come up with an alternative plan that could see the ocean surface turned into a kind of giant mirror to reduce the heating effect of the sun. Autonomous, computer-controlled ships would suck up sea water and spray it into the air as fine droplets, forming a layer of mist to reflect sunlight and cool the waters beneath. “We should have started reducing our carbon dioxide emissions 30 years ago,” he says. “This would be a way of cooling the ocean quickly, to reduce the effects of hurricanes [also caused by rising sea temperatures] and of helping to refreeze the melting arctic ice.” The group is currently looking for funding for a trial project to turn its innovative idea into reality. “We could build a pilot boat for a few million, and if it works then building 300 of those to delay the climate problem is well within the capacity of the global shipbuilding industry.”

rays underwater

Spotted eagle rays in the seas around the islands in the Maldives

The ocean surface could also be a platform for renewable power generation, thanks to the developing technology of floating wind and solar farms, says Hoegh-Guldberg. “Our report concludes that there is enormous potential there, and it is both technologically feasible and acceptable to the public.”

So while the climate clock is ticking ever more loudly, there are grounds to be cautiously optimistic that an alliance between science, government and business will yet provide the framework, the finance and the innovative ideas required to keep global warming within just about tolerable limits, and that oceanic carbon capture and storage will play its full part in the process. In Hoegh-Guldberg’s view, “Government needs to set the rules to encourage science to define the problems and the solutions, but then it should be sitting back as business gets involved.”

Hoegh-Guldberg also warns that if we continue as we are, we will end up with a world that is three to four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial era. “So, it doesn’t look too good as it stands now. But humans are very resourceful and there are lots of opportunities. I think we will keep to under two degrees, though not by a lot. Transitions tend to happen very slowly at first; you have to push and push until you get to the inflection point. Then suddenly you’re rolling downhill on the other side.”

Matt Sharp was awarded the Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year in 2020. He studied marine biology and has travelled and worked around the world, documenting marine life.

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Woman standing in snow
Woman standing in snow

Cary Fowler outside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Hemis/Alamy

Cary Fowler is the American visionary who established the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to ensure the security of all our crop seeds come war, famine or plague. Such future-proofing is ever more important, he tells Andrew Saunders

Appearances can be deceptive. The modest steel and concrete protrusion jutting out from the side of a mountain on the remote Norwegian Svalbard archipelago may not look like much, but it’s actually the entrance to one of the most valuable facilities on earth. Within the vaults behind it, tunnelled 120m into the rock and isolated by layers of both physical and biosecure protection to prevent contamination from the outside world, lies neither gold, gems nor fine art but something much more precious – a collection of seeds of the world’s food crops that we all rely on for our daily nourishment.

It’s the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and it was built to help protect the world from the growing threat of biodiversity loss, particularly arising from climate change. Loss of biodiversity may not be as well-known as other risks associated with global warming such as higher temperatures and rising sea levels, but it is at least as important, says Cary Fowler, biodiversity specialist and a member of the team that co-founded the vault in 2008. Because, he asks, where would we be without food to eat?

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“We are in the midst of the greatest and quickest change in climate in the history of agriculture, and our future food security is totally dependent on biodiversity. How likely is it that all the varieties of all the food crops we rely on will be able to adapt and continue to grow in conditions that they as species have never experienced before? We need to preserve diversity so that we can help our crops adapt to these new conditions.”

But how exactly does keeping a collection that so far comprises 1.1 million seed samples (with each sample containing an average of 500 seeds) from more than 230 countries literally on ice at 78 degrees north help manage climate change? As Fowler explains, different varieties of rice, wheat, millet and so forth have specific traits that suit them for specific environments. Short-stemmed cereals are less susceptible to damage from wind and rain, for example, while others may be more tolerant of heat or drought. Samples of plants with those types of traits are a crucial hedge against the uncertainty of the future. The research done by bodies such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico is critical in our understanding of which varieties are resilient to changing environments.

building in snow

The entrance to the seed vault.

“Climate change will advantage some crops and disadvantage others,” he says. “If I had a time machine and could go forward 100 years, I am confident that some of the important crops we grow now will have become much less important, and others will have come to the fore. The seed vault collection makes that kind of adaptation possible.”

So, Svalbard is really a kind of global insurance policy, a backup resource to help maintain food production and preserve lives, societies and economies in the event of any natural or human-made disaster, including, but not limited to, climate change. Many of the varieties it contains are no longer grown because they have been replaced by new varieties that are more productive or easier to cultivate, but preserving them is no less important from a biodiversity point of view. “You might have a sample of wheat, say, that by modern standards is just terrible, but it could have one vital trait that is not found anywhere else – resistance to a disease that we don’t even know about today, for example. We can then crossbreed it to get that trait into the modern variety,” explains Fowler.

Read more: Markus Müller on the Importance of Global Sustainability Standards

The Seed Vault was set up as a partnership between the Norwegian government, the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) and the Crop Trust (of which Fowler was previously executive director and where he is now a senior adviser) to conserve crop diversity in perpetuity. He well remembers the scale of the task that faced him and the team he was leading in the early days. “I’d been in the field for a few decades and I knew what was necessary to conserve crop diversity, but to do it in perpetuity? That was an interesting challenge. There are not too many jobs on the planet that involve doing something in perpetuity.”

man and woman walking through tunnel

One of the tunnels inside the vault

The vault’s construction and location were carefully chosen with that longevity in mind. Carved into the Arctic mountain, it is both physically secure – it could withstand a substantial bomb blast – and naturally cold and dry, the ideal conditions for preserving seeds. The ambient temperature inside the vault is approximately -4˚C, and mechanical cooling pulls that down to the optimum storage temperature of -18˚C. But even if the cooling system should fail, the collection would remain safely preserved for several decades. “There would be plenty of time to get up there and fix the equipment. There are no guarantees in this world, but we did the best we could with it.”

The hardest work, however, lay elsewhere, he says. “The management structure – that was the real challenge. I wanted a facility that involved as few human beings as possible, and that more or less ran itself. So that’s what there is – there are no staff located on site and the facility is naturally frozen.”

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the Seed Vault an “inspirational symbol of peace and food security for the whole of humanity”, and there is a strong social justice element to its role. “I am very aware that when we do have a world food crisis, it will be the poorest of the poor who are the first to suffer,” says Fowler. “I grew up in the time of the civil rights movement in the US and have a strong interest in social justice as well as agriculture. My home is in Memphis, Tennessee, where Martin Luther King was assassinated on 4 April 1968. I was at his last speech the night before he was killed; it was very emotional.”

The next job for the Svalbard team – and for Fowler himself – is to raise the profile of biodiversity, both with the public in general and with philanthropists in particular. “Biodiversity is the greatest world problem that we face that we can actually resolve. If I ask you ‘What’s your solution for climate change?’, that’s really big and complicated. But we do have an answer to the question of how to preserve the biodiversity of food production – we know how to do that.”

What’s required is greater awareness and a willingness for institutions and wealthy individuals to recognise the importance of funding biodiversity, he adds. “If I was a wealthy individual and I wanted, for example, to save the whales forever, that would be a great thing to do but how much would it cost and how would you go about doing it? There’s no organisation in the world which could tell you that.”

greenhouse

Maize plants in a greenhouse at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico. Photo courtesy of The Global Crop Diversity Trust. Juan Arredondo/Reportage by Getty Images for The Global Crop Diversity Trust

By contrast, saving crop diversity is both practical and relatively affordable. Smaller crops could be saved for around $5m, Fowler calculates, and the cost of preserving even the most important global crops is less than you might expect. “I can tell you the answer for rice, which is our biggest crop with the most samples and therefore the most expensive. Somewhere between $35m and $50m in an endowment fund would generate enough income to save all the rice diversity in perpetuity.”

In short, his pitch is that food is the bedrock of human existence, and crop biodiversity is a great way to maximise food security in a time when climate change and a host of other potential calamities are threatening it. “Those sums are well within the scope of a number of wealthy people, and they would be the first to do something quite extraordinary and inspiring. Can you name any other major world problem that we have solved, reliably and forever, within the lifetime of someone living today? Well, we can do it with this one.”

Additional research by Candice Tucker
Find out more: caryfowler.com; seedvault.no

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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sun setting behind the clouds
sun setting behind the clouds

Photograph by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

The pandemic has accelerated the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. However, argues Markus Müller, we must improve global standards continually if ESG is to fulfil its promise of driving economic growth while having a positive impact on the planet
portrait of a man in a suit

Markus Müller

The coronavirus pandemic has made us acutely aware of risks to our existence and how fragile the global economic system is. Many are making the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic part of the reason why ESG has risen rapidly to the top of the global agenda, moving from rhetoric and ambition to action. At the same time, the many facets of ESG are being discussed and examined across a multitude of investment institutions, to establish what it really means and whether it serves a purpose at all.

In my view, ESG prompts a simple question about why and how we do things, as individuals, as investors and as companies.

ESG originally developed from institutional investors screening out negative risks in investment targets. Today, ESG is much more than a combination of investment ratings and exclusions. With the goal of sustainability as our objective, ESG offers a way of understanding and quantifying the non-financial dimension of economic activity and of avoiding the dangers of a ‘submerged iceberg’.

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This means identifying where the risks lie and developing innovative mitigation strategies. Mid- to long-term risk for an investor comes in many forms. Physical risks (damage or threat to physical assets due to natural or climate change) are accompanied by transition risks (business or investment risks on the journey towards a greener economy) and liability risks (reputational issues, breach of standards). These risks can affect companies in a variety of ways. Production disruption, raw material and share price volatility and capital destruction are just a few examples. Importantly, it all involves understanding nature as an asset, as an input factor in our production function.

Innovation means finding ways to avoid those risks while embracing change and preparing for new future-oriented businesses which are ESG-positive. This has two prerequisites. First, we need more data disclosure to measure the impact of what we are doing. Secondly, we need goals and an evaluation method. These two issues are linked: data will give us an understanding of the impact of economic activity and how to steer economic development, which in turn should allow us to refine these goals.

Systematic decision-making is more than just a means to an end in order to achieve an overarching, positive goal within the Purpose Economy. We must also ensure that, when looking at equitability of impact, a distinction is not merely made between labour- and capital-intensive activities. Rather, impacts should be considered in three ways: the impact of individuals (including companies); the impact of politics (including governments and institutions); and the impact of nature (including natural resources).

Fortunately, we already have broad goals. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the linked UN Principles for Responsible Investment, along with the Paris Agreements as well as the (failed) Aichi Biodiversity Targets, have set the initial direction. But there is still no consistent global approach about how to go beyond these broad goals and to put them in a detailed synthesis with financial markets. Standards can help. Reporting is widening its scope: the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) was recently launched to go beyond ESG scores and climate change, to include the risk factor represented by biodiversity loss. The International Financial Standards Reporting Foundation (IFSR) has also proposed the inclusion of sustainability standards within its constitution as it aims for the establishment of an International Sustainability Standards Board.

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

So, we are advancing on multiple fronts, but the scale of the task here is enormous: even within rating agencies, ESG ratings and scores vary due to differing methodologies. Global sustainability standards for company reporting would allow integrating data, insights and ESG themes into business strategy, product-development cycles and risk management. Harmonised standards would also allow us to improve scoring, enabling a more sophisticated discussion of what exactly scores mean and the importance of a company improving its ESG score rather than just accepting it or simply trying to ‘game’ it.

At Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank we continue to develop our methodology to make sense of this evolving landscape on global standards. We use ratings, drawing on the research and analysis of a leading third party provider, but it is important to consider these in context. We realise that we have to give firms credit for improvement on ESG metrics, for example. We also apply exclusions against sectors that go against UN goals and principles and generate long-term risks (around greenhouse gases, for example). Exclusions can also be applied on more individual value-based grounds.

Methodologies such as this require continual improvement through monitoring their effect on sustainability. But the priority should be to ensure that the impact of ESG on a client’s investments should be transparent and that they will lead to improved corporate behaviour on ESG issues. If we wish to make transparent the impact of our ESG activities, and if we want our economies to be ESG-positive, we need to all follow the same methods.

ESG is here to stay as a categorical imperative. It will, at the very least, slow down environmental degradation and will make the world and our lives richer and more meaningful.

Markus Müller is Global Head of the Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank. Find out more: deutschewealth.com/esg

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Mountains and the sun
Mountains and the sun

Consumers and business owners should take time to educate themsleves about the most effective ways to combat global heating. Pictured: The Alps on the Swiss/Austrian border, where the total winter snowfall is predicted to fall between 30 and 50% over the next 40 years according to the Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology

The wealthy play a disproportionate part in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. They have an outsized responsibility to lead the way in combatting global warming. But, crowd pleasing knee jerk reactions will only lead to greenwashing and appeasing the lowest common denominator in the climate debate. Truly effective action requires resources of the most valuable kind: education and thought.

When we published an article by Professor Peter Newell last year outlining the particular responsibilities the wealthy have for reducing carbon emissions, it caused a bit of a stir. The research by Professor Newell, a UK-based academic who was the lead author of a report on the subject by the Cambridge Sustainability Commission on Scaling Behaviour Change last year, showed that the wealthy are disproportionately responsible for CO2 emissions through their consumption, habits and ability to engage in carbon-heavy activities, from flying private to attending art fairs to buying bitcoin.

Not all our readers liked that. They pointed out they participate in carbon offset schemes; that some of their activities are to benefit philanthropic and charitable institutions (theirs and others); and that they were informed about how to lower their personal carbon emissions relative to what they had been before.

To unpick these arguments is complex and points to the quandary many world leaders (political, and other) have, post-COP26, in translating good intentions to make a difference, into effective action.

Are carbon offset schemes effective, or a type of greenwash? How do you balance the benefits of social activities around the world with their carbon cost? (We all have this conundrum, to an extent, encapsulated by the old argument about whether it’s better to buy Fairtrade coffee that benefits an impoverished community in Guatemala, but requires transportation around the world, or no coffee.)

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What does being informed consist of: should you look at the Net Zero policies of companies you deal with (their stated, and often theoretical, intention to not emit carbon, on balance, sometime in the future)? Or their Scope 3 emissions – the total emissions of all their suppliers? Or at their commitment to the new buzz phrase, a “Just Transition”, that will compensate poorer countries and companies for the undeniable costs of reducing carbon emissions?

an old red Ferrari parked in front of a white tent on the grass

Owners of valuable classic cars can claim they are preserving second hand goods with no extra carbon cost, and creating minimal carbon footprint as they are used so little

As a relatively small media company, we can attest to the experience of the latter. Our move to 100% recycled paper, with vegetable-based inks and biodegradable coatings, from our latest issue, increased our production costs by around 40%, for no perceived increase in quality or other commercial benefits, only our own leadership role in responsible culture.

One other challenge – and here I have sympathy with the arguments of some of our readers – is consistency. Firing salvoes at easy targets, while overlooking more significant “culprits”, is baked into society, and carbon emissions are no exception.

One LUX contributor has a classic Italian sports car, which spends most of its life sitting in a dark garage, doing no harm to anything and emitting nothing. A couple of times a year they find the time and opportunity to take it out for a spin.

It is an eye-catching old car, and can’t avoid being the centre of attention, good and bad. Last spring, during one of London’s lockdowns, they took it out to a London park where they were due to meet a friend for a (legal) outdoor coffee. As they were driving slowly through the park, looking for a parking space, a young-ish father on a bicycle with two children on smaller bicycles, riding behind, overtook them and shouted “Polluter!” at the top of his voice.

From his demeanour, smart bicycle and smartly dressed children, he looked like a normal, middle-class chap who might work in marketing (or the media).

Our contributor pondered on this for days. Were they a polluter?

They had bought the car when it was already more than 10 years old, so that was a form of vintage recycling with zero carbon costs of manufacture that any advocate for carbon reduction should approve of. Five months into the year, that was the first time they had driven it and created carbon emissions, a total journey of around 10 miles/16 kilometres, which is approximately one thousandth of the annual mileage of the average driver in a developed country.

a blue ferrari at Blenheim Palace

A gathering of classic Ferraris at Blenheim Palace in England. Are their owners guilty of being ‘polluters’?

When driving, the Ferrari emits around 50% more carbon than the average car, but their total mileage in the car last year was only around 200 miles/320 km, which pegs their automotive carbon emissions at less than a twentieth of the average commuter. They customarily walk or cycle to the office and meetings in London.

Of course, there was no way their interlocutor would have known all this. But other reference points are out in the open.

For example, major airlines in Europe are being compelled to fly empty planes back and forth around the continent, closed to passengers, tens of thousands of times a month, according to reports by the aviation media. This is happening for a theoretically good reason: airlines fight for valuable slots to use in major airports, and the EU stipulates they have to use or lose these slots, to prevent monopolistic behaviour and increase competition.

With low demand due to the pandemic, airlines still have to use the slots: the EU has reduced its stipulations so airlines have to land their planes 50% fewer times at given airports than they usually would, but that still means that Lufthansa, for example, is compelled to fly 18,000 near-empty flights over the course of this winter. A single flight by an Airbus A319 from Berlin to London, say, emits 10 tonnes of carbon. 18,000 flights means 180,000 tonnes of carbon emissions for no purpose.

These numbers do not include the Scope 3 emissions of each flight – the cost of transport for the crew and service teams, and so on – and they are for just one airline, out of dozens following the EU rules.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on climate responsibility

Lufthansa alone is being compelled to create CO2 emissions equivalent to 90,000 car driving commuters over the course of a year (or three million drivers of vintage Ferraris, although there are not that many vintage Ferraris to go around), just to comply with EU rules.

Lufthansa plane driving on the runway

EU based airlines are being forced to create enormous amounts of unnecessary CO2 emissions by flying empty planes

Lack of consistency is sometimes used as an excuse to justify immoral behaviour – “Well, he says X but he does Y, so I am going to do Y also”, which is a fallacy. But equally, if we wish to target carbon emissions, we need to be educated, informed and active.

The EU’s well-intentioned but ecologically damaging rules on aviation slots (which have been picked up by Greta Thunberg, among others) are just an example: not an excuse for us to act worse, but a reason for us to focus on the right areas, educate ourselves, see beyond the obvious targets, which in many cases may not be the correct ones. Assumptions and preconceptions won’t solve our issues; thoughtful action will.

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Reading time: 6 min
dolphin statue in a fountain
dolphin statue in a fountain

Dolphin Square, Dolphin House

Justin Travlos is Global Head of Responsible Investment at AXA IM Alts. His management of a diverse investment portfolio is governed by one underlying principle: all decisions are made in the context of understanding where risk is – from a sustainability standpoint. Here, Travlos speaks to Samantha Welsh about the growing importance of proptech, and why sustainable strategy should not be an exercise in cherry-picking ‘green’ assets but embedded across the entire portfolio
Justin Travlos

Justin Travlos

LUX: You have a track record in driving successful sustainability strategies. Where did this interest come from?
Justin Travlos: Sustainability has long been a personal interest, but it first intersected in a professional capacity in 2007, when I became the head of sustainability for the commercial property business at an Australian real estate investment trust. I worked with a brilliant team to create the foundations of a strategy that was both sustainable and able deliver returns, and is still relevant and performing today. That balance is fundamental. I’ve always seen myself at the nexus of real estate development and sustainability, and the opportunity that brings to make places more appropriate both for people and for the planet.

LUX: Where has AXA been particularly successful in managing buildings to sustainability targets?
Justin Travlos: Asset regeneration always provides a canvas to enable change, and scale helps overcome some of the complexity often associated with these projects. While meeting the latest sustainability credentials is much less complex in new builds, they often raise questions around embodied carbon. Ultimately, it is equally, if not more, important to regenerate existing assets: poor performance of existing stock is a key area of focus for government and regulators when addressing climate change, and thus a key area of transitional risk (and opportunity) for us as real estate investors. Moreover, investing across a diversified, global portfolio allows us to benefit from a number of emerging synergies.

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LUX: AXA IM Alts is Europe’s biggest real estate manager by Assets Under Management (AUM). How do you evolve a best governance strategy for a diverse portfolio of this size?
Justin Travlos: Integration into our investment processes is the key to governance: it was important that our strategy didn’t just have one best-in-class green fund or asset to showcase, but was embedded across our entire portfolio and integral to every investment decision. We look at a broader sweep of both financial and non-financial considerations, and so long as those decisions are made in the context of understanding where risk is, from a sustainability perspective, then that’s the right conversation to have.

While our strategy will continue to evolve, particularly in terms of implementation, it is formed around three the key pillars of decarbonisation, resilience and building tomorrow. Decarbonisation is about reducing our carbon footprint in line with the Paris Agreement targets. Resilience is about understanding the physical and transitional risks of climate change on our assets. And looking at both of these creates insights that inform the types of assets that we regenerate and build – shaping our investments to become building blocks for the future.

skyscraper in london with the road on time-lapse

22, Bishopsgate. Photo by Edmund Sumner

LUX: Is there variation in how regions adopt responsible investment strategies?
Justin Travlos: Yes, due to the different regulations and market practice in place across the globe. In the EU, businesses are now required to embed sustainability risk management into the investment process. AXA is now reaping the rewards from the groundwork that we laid down a long time ago. But our alignment to the regulatory environment in Europe will be subtly different to what is required in America or AsiaPac. The funds that we have in Australia, for example, are much further ahead in their adoption of ESG performance indicators because the market and its regulations governing environmental management and reporting are significantly advanced.

These strategies are also underpinned by data, much of which is still imperfect. As the dataset grows and visibility improves – and advances in technology will play a big part in this – the ability to finetune performance to reset those decarbonisation benchmarks to specific asset classes in specific countries will become invaluable. It will not only provide very clear targets for asset management teams but will provide a comparative global benchmark for measuring performance, something absent from most current sustainability reporting.

Read more: Standard Chartered’s Eugenia Koh on Next Gen Investors

LUX: To what extent are asset managers using proptech now?
Justin Travlos: There’s always been a rule of thumb that if you pick up an asset that’s just been managed in the day-to-day, you can almost guarantee a 20 to 30% improvement in energy efficiency, simply by utilising the latest technology – which is obviously a win-win because it doesn’t require huge amounts of cap expenditure but does generate savings and financial returns.

Ultimately, some building infrastructure and systems may still need an entire overhaul, but proptech will be integral to assets’ value proposition going forwards, as owners and occupiers ascribe greater value to the provision of these data points to achieve their ESG ambitions.

a path in a forest

Forestry Investment, Australia

LUX: Are we collectively doing enough?
Justin Travlos: Looking forwards, I take some comfort from the fact that in just 18 months, humanity has produced not one but several vaccines to bring a population of 7 billion people back from a global pandemic. This shows what can be achieved and I hope against a backdrop of increasing evidence of the impact that climate change is having on the world that that the same sort of ingenuity, thinking and collective effort will prevail. Ultimately, the actions that we take now will have a fundamental impact on where we end up by the end of the century, which is why the urgency of this topic has become central to our approach to sustainability and responsible investment.

LUX: What advice do you have for next gen clients running a lens over family office real estate portfolios?
Justin Travlos: From an ESG perspective, there are three key questions. First, can profitability of the investment be decoupled from carbon? Second, is a change in physical risk going to limit either the operating days of the asset, or the available capital to acquire the asset at the end of the investment horizon? And third, how does the asset support its occupants?

Justin Travlos is Global Head of Responsible Investment at AXA Investment Managers Alts

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Reading time: 5 min
Angkor Wat
Eugenia Koh wearing a blue dress

Eugenia Koh, Head of impact and sustainable investing at Standard Chartered

Eugenia Koh believes that while philanthropic support is essential, capital markets must help to close the funding gap for global sustainable development goals. Here, Koh, head of impact and sustainable investing at Standard Chartered, speaks to Samantha Welsh about current trends among next gen investors and how they are influencing their families to become more sustainable

LUX: Which sectors are your UHNW next generation clients eyeing post-pandemic?
Eugenia Koh: We find that they are particularly passionate about entrepreneurship and sustainable development. We conducted a thought leadership survey at the height of the pandemic, which found that clean water and sanitation, good health and wellbeing, climate action, quality education, and zero hunger were among the causes of highest importance to investors.

LUX: Does this growing preoccupation with ESG have any intergenerational repercussions?
Eugenia Koh: There are increasing demands on the next generation of clients globally as they navigate a wide range of fast-moving challenges which may be very different from those that their parents face. The resilience and increased interest in sustainable investment during the pandemic has helped some next gen investors with educating their families on the topic. One of them had his sustainable portfolio outperform the family’s main portfolio, and this has changed the family’s view to be more receptive to exploring sustainable investments and how they can help with better risk management and performance.

Deforestation in California due to the wild fires

LUX: How easy is it to measure the performance of ESG investments?
Eugenia Koh: It is important not to be overly simplistic in using performance as a marketing tool as not all ESG investments outperform, depending on the strategy used and depth of ESG integration. When linking to performance, the concept of materiality is key. Not all ESG factors are equal and material: ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’ factors differ based on industries. Take, for instance, airlines: their material ESG factors would include fuel efficiency, carbon emissions and health and safety practices, which would have a bigger impact on bottom line and consumer expectations as compared with such issues as child labour. Material ESG factors have a potential impact on financial performance, either in influencing value creation or destruction.

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LUX: How do you foster a sense of community among participants of the Future Global Leaders Programme?
Eugenia Koh: We keep the experience intimate by keeping the number of participants small, but diverse. Our next gen clients come from a variety of backgrounds: some are entrepreneurs themselves; others are involved in their family business, or are doing something completely different. They appreciate the opportunity to discuss topics that are close to their hearts.

A garbage slum

LUX: What’s your go-to advice for next gen investors?
Eugenia Koh: To be clear on their objectives. Just as investors demand rigour in their traditional investments to achieve their financial objectives, they should likewise be clear about their impact objectives and the best approaches to achieve this.

LUX: How can investors avoid fraud, greenwashing and Covid-washing?
Eugenia Koh: Investors should ask their advisers about the ESG strategies of the companies into which they are investing, as well as learning about how ESG factors are integrated into the fund manager’s selection process. At Standard Chartered, due diligence is an important part of what we do. We have launched ESG Select, our in-house review framework, to better support clients in their selection of high quality ESG products with a strong performance track record.

Read more: Deloitte’s Jessica Hodges on Sustainable Investing 

LUX: Tell us about Standard Chartered’s sustainable development goals.
Eugenia Koh: We contribute to raising standards across the world and support the fight against climate change while playing our part in reducing poverty and global inequality. For instance, we are contributing to climate action and clean affordable energy with our commitment to provide project financing services for $40 billion of infrastructure projects that promote sustainable development. We are also looking to raise $75 million for our foundation, Futuremakers, in order to reach 50,000 young people, micro and small businesses to reduce inequalities.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

LUX: What drives your own passion for sustainable, responsible, impact investing?
Eugenia Koh: I remember going to Cambodia as a youth with my church group to engage and help the community there and being struck by the poverty, especially in one of our trips to a garbage slum. My friends and I decided to make an annual trip there to continue engagement with the youths we had befriended, and one of my friends eventually moved to set up a social enterprise in Cambodia. That was my first experience with impact investing and leveraging business to uplift families out of poverty.

My [subsequent] experience in grant-making and CSR has helped me see that while philanthropic support is essential, there is also a role that capital markets and finance can play in sustainable development. There remains a significant funding gap in achieving the [UN] Sustainable Development Goals — the annual financing gap to achieve the SDGs by 2030 currently sits at $2.5 trillion — and we need the private sector and finance to play a role in contributing towards this. I am excited when I come across clients and investors who are passionate about contributing towards this, and to be able to help them in their journey.

Eugenia Koh is Head of Sustainable and Impact Investing at Standard Chartered Bank

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Reading time: 4 min
kitchen design
kitchen design

The kitchen of a Cologne family designed for socialising, with Gaggenau equipment including a 200 series oven, a 400 series cooktop and discreetly hidden fridge-freezer and dishwasher.

The impact of climate change, digitalisation and the pandemic is demanding bold, new visions for our homes and public spaces. Here, Millie Walton speaks to Sven Baacke, Head of Design at the luxury home appliance manufacturer Gaggenau, and Ian Lambert, Director of Cambridge-based architecture and design studio Inclume — who recently created an installation for Gaggenau’s London showroom — about sustainability, adapting to shifting lifestyles, and the experience of luxury

SVEN BAACKE
Head of Design at Gaggenau

Sven Baacke is Gaggenau’s visionary head of design. Visionary in both senses of the word: he is a passionate, radical creative, and a kind of prophet. Then again, part of his job, and perhaps of all good designers, is to anticipate the future and in some ways, also to shape it.

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Baacke is in the business of kitchens, which means any emerging cultural or social trends are filtered through a very specific perspective: “What will that mean for kitchens?” and more specifically, “What will that mean for Gaggenau’s luxury appliances?” Take, for instance, the trend for biophilic design. While the desire for creating living spaces that are more closely connected to nature might not directly affect say, the design of an oven, it does affect the architectural structure of the home, which in turn, means rethinking the positioning of the kitchen and the way that people move through and use the space. “Our customers are increasingly creating environments such as outdoor kitchens or gardens where they can grow their own ingredients,” says Baacke. “But what we think about is: how far can Gaggenau go? Is the kitchen the limit for us, or beyond?”

team of designers

Gaggenau’s design team

The brand’s global success is built on its ability to create a range of good-looking, technologically advanced appliances that effortlessly respond to these shifts and demands in lifestyle. Baacke calls their approach “traditional avant-garde”, in the sense that they are a historic brand with a contemporary ethos. At one point during our conversation over Zoom, he holds up the Gaggenau designer’s handbook, flicking through the pages to show me what seems to be mostly images, which Baacke describes as “mood boards”. “It helps to have guidelines,” he says, “but it’s not a cookbook.”

How does Gaggenau decide what to make next? “Our designers are very curious, so there are always a lot of vibrant ideas floating around. Mostly, we are thinking of what not to do and I don’t just mean physical design, shapes and colours, but also topics. There are so many things already out there. You really need to think twice before you create something new and to ask what difference will a new product make in the world.”

Despite fluctuating trends in aesthetics, the kitchen remains a central feature of building design. Even if it is becoming increasingly integrated into our homes, for now, at least, we still need somewhere to cook, eat and gather. “There’s a big chance the kitchen will become invisible in the future, but there are two poles of opinion about that,” says Baacke.

minimal kitchen design

Paris kitchen designed with Gaggenau equipment by the Russian architecture and design studio IQOSA

Gaggenau’s appliances might look like design objects, with super-sleek metallic finishes and sculptural lines, but they are also made for everyday usage. “The tactile element of our products is very important,” says Baacke. “Nowadays, with the increasing digitalisation of our lives, nothing is really by chance, everything is calculated. So, it’s nice to still have something in your hand, to touch a real material.”

Read more: How Andermatt became a leading luxury destination

At the same time, technological advances have undoubtedly enabled Gaggenau’s appliances to provide increasing levels of precision and ease in both professional and domestic kitchens. The heat in their combi-steam ovens, for example, can be controlled to within one degree, a process which continually revises the estimated cooking time based on temperature-probe readings from three different sensors. They can also be integrated with voice-controlled AI systems such as Alexa. Is this the modern-day definition of luxury?

“There are a lot of products that are high-end, but luxury is more of a feeling. It’s very individual, and it’s not just about the technology,” says Baacke. “We try to create feelings. When you use our appliances in your beautiful home which is connected to your family, that can be a luxurious experience.”

luxury kitchen design

Gaggeanu’s 200 series ovens

Gaggenau’s materials (think stainless steel, dark aluminium, rich woods and glass) are selected for technical and aesthetic reasons, but also durability, which is a crucial part of the brand’s approach to sustainability. Baacke’s response, as always, is to look to the future, and longer-term solutions, rather jumping on the sustainability trend as a marketing tool without properly considering the consequences.

“We create appliances that are really reliable. You can buy our ovens from the 1980s on the internet and they still work and look good,” he says. “But it’s also a mindset. Does a patina on a surface mean that you have to throw it away, or could it be like a leather bag that gets better over time and tells a story? Crucially, for us and the whole industry, sustainability also means repairability. Can you unscrew the appliances? Can you separate the materials?”

Alongside an increased cultural awareness of the environment, the difficulties of the past year have brought with it a new appreciation for a slower way of living, which in turn has led to a renewed interest in antiques, vintage products, and craft and artisanal practices that all speak to a certain feeling of nostalgia. Since 2019, Gaggenau has been supporting small-scale makers and producers through their Respected by Gaggenau initiative, and Baacke himself recently bought a BMW motorcycle from 1973 that he describes as “the true essence of a motorcycle”. “There’s a lot of anxiety about what the future will bring, so I think people need to have familiar things around them, things that make them feel good,” he says.

Sven Baacke: Where to start with redesigning your kitchen

The first question has to be: why? What don’t you like? Is it the colour, the arrangement of cupboards or the appliances? Has your lifestyle changed in some way? Has your family grown, or have your kids moved out? Do you like to host dinners? Do you enjoy cooking with guests in the kitchen, or would you prefer for them to sit while you cook? Start with the small things, and the ideas will get bigger.

installation artwork

Ian Lambert with Fragment in Gaggenau’s London showroom

IAN LAMBERT
Director of Inclume

LUX: Your installation for Gaggenau’s showroom in London made innovative use of paper. How did that project come about?
Ian Lambert: We won a competition which was run by the London Festival of Architecture in partnership with the paper supplier G.F. Smith, so a large part of the brief was to create something using paper. We have used paper in the past and it’s actually a great material to work with because it’s malleable and very lightweight, which especially helped with Fragment, the window installation, as we were suspending 4,000 polygonal forms. The design took inspiration from the craftsmanship that Gaggenau has pursued since it started as a hammer mill and nail forge in 1683. The polygonal forms were an abstract representation of fragments of metal and we chose colours that reflected the history of the brand, with the black signifying the Black Forest in Germany, where the brand was born, and the orange representing the roaring fires of the furnaces used to craft the appliances.

LUX: What’s your process for coming up with an initial design? What are the factors you consider?
Ian Lambert: We usually start with a brief, which will be formatted as a response to a question. Visiting the space, talking with the client about how they’ve used the space, what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, and how we can introduce new things – all these factors provide a narrative and a set of parameters to work within.

LUX: Where do you, personally or as a studio, find inspiration for new ideas?
Ian Lambert: I think we’re inspired by what’s around us. It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific place. Looking online is quite a dangerous thing to do – you don’t want to copy other people, but you can find inspiration in little details from different projects and also by revisiting ideas that you’ve already done. At the end of each project, it’s not the final piece, because we can always improve. We take each project and then try and build on that next time by refining details. Over time, it gets better and better.

Read more: How to create a truly sustainable luxury hotel

LUX: In your opinion, what are the key principles to good design?
Ian Lambert: I think good design makes your actions feel easier in daily life. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to identify with what’s good architecture or good design. It doesn’t have to be noticed, it can be subtle and understated.

LUX: Do you think the pandemic has had an impact on how people perceive their living environment?
Ian Lambert: I think people are beginning to appreciate the things around them and the value of the spaces that they inhabit. Most people have been working from home lately, so it’s about adaptability. You might have your kids or your partner around and you’re also living in the same space 24 hours a day, so you are able to more easily identify the things that work and the things that don’t work.

LUX: How much of a consideration is sustainability in terms of the materials you use?
Ian Lambert: We’ve always been fairly conscious of what materials we use. With an existing house and its various elements, we try to keep as much of the original as possible, but create a new focal point. We also use a lot of materials, particularly in our installations, that are recycled. It presents a challenge as to how we can use and modify them to create a different experience. It might be just paper or some old pieces of timber but it can be aesthetically amazing if you see something that’s been recycled and then used in a very good way. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that using brand new materials can’t be sustainable. You need to consider other elements. If you’re doing an installation for example, how long will it be up for? Will it get chucked away at the end? Or are you then prolonging the longevity of the material by reusing it in a different way?

LUX: What makes a design luxurious?
Ian Lambert: I think luxury is subjective. For us, as a studio, it’s something that makes your life easier in a seamless way, whether that’s through bespoke design or creating a positive experience for someone. For example, we did a project where we made a raft out of sustainable materials such as recycled timber pallets and barrels. We took it to a lake and it was very complex putting it together, but when you sat on the raft on the water in silence beneath the canopy of trees with different shades of light filtering through, it felt like a luxury space. Luxury experiences can also be about the fun and enjoyment of doing something with other people.

Find out more: gaggenau.com/gb

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
luxury hotel bar
hotel bar with mountains in the distance

Lauber’s Hotel CERVO uses recycled materials and geothermal heat. Photograph by Darius Sanai

As COP26 brings together world leaders to discuss climate change, Daniel Lauber, owner of the CERVO Mountain Resort in Zermatt, gives us his six guiding principles on how to create a truly sustainable luxury hotel. No greenwash included

Walk into the CERVO Mountain Resort in Zermatt, Switzerland, and you know you are in game-changing sustainable luxury. All the fixtures, fittings, furniture and decorations inside and outside the main Bazaar restaurant are of found, recycled or second-hand/vintage materials, down to the cloth screens separating tables for Covid-19 security. In the rooms, there are no disposable plastic bottles, either in the bathrooms or minibar; no disposable plastic at all, in fact, as even the bedroom slippers are made of recycled felt (they are then recycled again).

And there’s no greenwashing; Lauber knows the difference between offsetting and zero carbon. His aim is for the hotel to have a zero-carbon footprint or better, an immense challenge.

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Deep boreholes mean all the hotel’s heating is geothermal; electricity is all renewable; produce in the restaurants and bars is discernibly local, sourced from within a 150km radius. All of this is even more challenging in a remote ski resort at 1650m altitude, ringed by some of the highest peaks in the Alps, than in most places.

It’s also one of the funkiest hotels in the Alps; its bar and terrace at the bottom of the Sunnegga mountain piste are the place to be seen at the end of the ski day in Zermatt.

1. Do your homework, set targets and become your own expert

The (geothermal) heating is installed. Now we are trying more and more to go zero footprint or at least a compensated footprint. That’s the next goal, and we are aiming to get to zero waste, maybe by 2024/25.

We work together with myclimate, a Swiss organisation. We are evaluating how big our footprint is. So, the first step is to evaluate and the second step, by the end of 2022, is to try and minimise it with actual plans for things we can change, and what we can’t change then definitely to compensate for it. The end goal is to be zero footprint and then even positive, so we don’t produce a negative footprint at all. As a hotel, that’s quite a challenge, especially as we take into account construction, which always has a negative impact.

2. Make your clients your ambassadors

Doing all this is sometimes (though not always!) more expensive. Then it’s up to us to tell the story to the customer. If they understand it and appreciate it, and most of them do, then we can try to compensate the higher cost of buying with a slightly higher price; and we are lucky that our customers are able to pay that.

3. Go local, but also support family business, and be realistic

The social aspect is very important, as is the economic aspect, because you can be very social and very environmental, but if the business doesn’t work you’re going to lose.

We can work with suppliers who are smaller family businesses to find new ways of being sustainable. I really like that. And I like to give those smaller companies a platform.

For example, most of our ice cream is home-made, but in the summers we have ice cream stands and we sell ice cream from Basel. We could find ice cream that’s closer, but the people producing the one from Basel have a social work space for people who have some health issues or other disabilities and I think that’s nice. It might be 100km further away than other producers, but the mindset they have is so great, it’s worth it.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on climate responsibility

4. Make a virtue out of your ethical sourcing

Generally, we try to use furniture that also has a sustainable approach. For example, the beds are handmade with organic materials. With whatever furniture we created ourselves, we tried to use local carpenters. In the Bazaar restaurant it was a bit different, it’s more themed, so in that instance we tried to work with young designers and companies in Morocco to support emerging designers or the all-women enterprises there. The chairs, the cushions, the carpets were made for us by small enterprises and that’s nice. It’s different to just ordering a fake Moroccan-style cushion produced anywhere.

5. The hard work is on what clients can’t see

It was quite an easy change to be plastic free in the amenities and rooms. It’s good that the customers see that. The bigger challenge to being plastic free is when it comes to the supply chain. Some stuff we need to order comes shipped stupidly wrapped up. And now that’s the second goal. We can’t do it alone, but we try to talk with those companies and ask if they can ship it differently, to see if they can use multi-reusable packaging, for example.

6. Create a virtuous circle and inspire, but don’t proselytise

We have a lot of feedback when customers say, “Ah this is a good idea”, so we do what we can to inspire customers and staff. If you inspire 10 people, it’s already worth it, and if those 10 each also inspire another 10, then it quickly escalates.

To be inspiring is very important for a hotel but it should never pushy. It’s great to inspire guests but if they don’t care that’s fine, too. Inspiring people can also be a bit educational, but I don’t think it’s our job as a hotel to educate.

Find out more: cervo.swiss

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Reading time: 4 min
Glacier landscape
Glacier landscape

Melting glaciers will contribute to dramatic sea-level rises. Pictured: the Gornergletcher and Monte Rosa, Switzerland.

man in front of book case

Professor Peter Newell

Academic Peter Newell made waves in the global media recently with a report describing how the wealthy have a disproportionate effect on climate change, and a duty to change their travel, business and leisure habits. As COP26 kicks off in Glasgow, he speaks to LUX about how moral duties increase with net worth

LUX: How do you define ‘unnecessary travel’?
Peter Newell: It is not for us as individuals to work out what counts as unnecessary travel: governments, cities and businesses can send clear signals about which travel is critical and which is largely unnecessary. Wealthy employers can set sustainable travel policies for their companies. But all of us can also exercise responsible self-restraint. Addressing poverty and social inequality means that carbon will inevitably and justifiably increase for some people, especially, but not exclusively, in the Global South.

To still live within tightening carbon budgets means cutting back on luxury emissions, including where travel to conferences and meetings is no longer necessary when virtual platforms can replace that need, as well as reducing frequent flying for holidays. It is worth remembering that just one per cent of people cause half of global aviation emissions.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What are the ethics of travelling for sporting events and art fairs?
Peter Newell: With finite carbon budgets that have to be shared equally, some activities become harder to justify than others. We should focus less on whether a particular event is ‘essential’, because we all feel what we do is essential, and ensure that we have sustainable and low-carbon forms of travel accessible to all. But until that’s in place, there is a need to reduce unsustainable travel through policy including taxes (to subsidise affordable, low-carbon transport), restrictions on air expansion or carbon rationing. There is an issue of collective responsibility here that trumps individual whims.

LUX: Is there any validity in the idea of personal carbon offsets?
Peter Newell: Personal carbon quotas may have some value but need to be implemented carefully. Offsets are notoriously problematic, subject to double-counting and fraudulent savings, and are really just passing the costs and the responsibility for reducing emissions onto others. Displacing responsibility is not the answer.

LUX: If wealthy individuals only do what is ‘necessary’, what’s the point of being wealthy?
Peter Newell: The issue is both how much wealth people have, because emissions are very closely related to purchasing power (to buy larger homes, cars, flights etc) and how that wealth was generated in the first place. If people make their money from activities driving the climate crisis, that is part of the problem and needs to be addressed. No amount of sustainable living will compensate for that. For wealthier people, it is also about where you invest your money and how you use your influence politically.

LUX: If everybody acts ‘correctly’, jobs will be lost in the oil, aviation and other sectors.
Peter Newell: Most discussions now are about transitions – helping workers to retrain in renewable energy industries or to work in other sectors of a sustainable economy. Research suggests most of them want a secure and reasonably paid job and have no loyalty to fossil fuel companies. There is also a need for compensation and regional development plans, the like of which have been used in helping coal-dependent regions transition to new development pathways. It is about protecting poorer workers as we make the necessary changes and redirecting the vast sums of state support in subsidies and aid that fossil fuel companies receive towards support for jobs in sustainable industries.

Read more: How Durjoy Rahman’s art foundation is promoting cultural collaboration

LUX: What of the tourism industry in the Global South?
Peter Newell: Many in the Global South are amongst the most exposed to the worst effects of climate change, a problem most who live there played little part in accelerating. For this reason, they are rightly demanding tougher action from the Global North, including reducing emissions from aviation. Small, low-lying and Caribbean island states have rightly been the champions of bolder climate action because their lives depend on it, even where some are heavily dependent on tourism. What you also might see, as we have here in the UK, is a huge boost to local economies as people holiday nearer to home. Aviation may become more sustainable through fuel and engine technology, but that will take time and clearly, for all our sakes, wealthier citizens need to reduce the amount they fly.

LUX: Is it realistic to try to recalibrate the desires and aspirations of the wealthy?
Peter Newell: Climate chaos is not a realistic or attractive prospect, but that is where we are headed. So, carrying on with business as usual is not an option. The investment and political power of the wealthy is vast and can be used to positive effect – to divest from fossil fuels, to support low carbon innovations, to use their profile and influence to back key campaigns and to pay taxes that generate the funds to address these challenges. This clearly isn’t happening on anything like the scale required. The wealthy share the same planet as the rest of us. They are part of the same society. With that comes duties and responsibilities to behave in ways that serve common interests. Planetary survival is one of those. This is a key moment for those with power, wealth and influence to use them in a bold and responsible way to safeguard all of our futures, including their own.

Peter Newell is Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 4 min
school children with painting
portrait of a woman in a white shire

Helga Piaget, Founder of Passion Sea

Helga Piaget is the founder of the Monaco-based non-profit organisation Passion Sea, which reaches out to schools around the world with educational and artistic initiatives around ocean conservation.  Here, Piaget speaks to LUX about pushing ocean conservation to the top of the youth agenda and the role of art

If passion could save the oceans, Helga Piaget would have done the job already. An engaging mix of fire and focus, she is sitting with LUX at the Yacht Club de Monaco, speaking about her programme to bring awareness of ocean issues to the younger generation through her art programmes at her non-profit organisation Passion Sea. Born in Germany and based in Monaco, Piaget spends much of her time engaging with schools to try to create a new generation who understand the issues facing the oceans, and the routes to resolution.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Our location is not a coincidence: Monaco’s Prince Albert is one of the most significant high-profile supporters of ocean causes, something in the DNA of the principality with the celebrated Oceanographic Museum and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, as well as being the President of the Yacht Club itself.

LUX: Passion Sea strives to engage young children in the conservation debate. Why?
Helga Piaget: Education is huge. Children are the future – the next adults, and the next leaders. So, if you educate them in the right way, they might be able to make a change. I specialise with younger children because they are sponges. They educate others: when they play, they ask the other kids, ‘Why did you throw that [litter] on the ground?’ Then, they often go home and realise how much trash and plastic is in their households, and the parents learn, too. I think they know even more than us sometimes.

school children with painting

Passion Sea runs educational programs across the globe

LUX: Explain the role of art in Passion Sea’s efforts.
Helga Piaget: We educate through art, because when children paint something, or they have to do poetry, it stays in their brain. You have to get it anchored in their brain, and [the best way to do] that is through art. It makes them happy, too, learning in a happy way. We did a book with artworks from around the world [in 2017], but for the last two years we have been working on [producing] big flags with schools worldwide, with one from each country. It’s really something to be proud of. I’m waiting to do an exhibition on it, but for the moment it’s not the right time. We already have 25 countries, and beautiful works which are all related to the topic of water. A whole class of children [produces] each work: that’s what’s beautiful. When it’s ready, I often go to the school and have a wonderful event with the mayor and the parents. Normally the schools do other programmes afterwards for conservation in their area. It never stops with us.

Read more: James Chen on providing vision for all

LUX: So, for Passion Sea, creativity is a form of activism?
Helga Piaget: Yes. It’s a snowball system, from one [project] to the other. We find one school, and we meet with the directors and teachers who are willing to participate. Then, through the locals, we find the next connection to the next school. If you start in one good point, you get the connections afterwards, and they start working with you. I am very lucky because I have travelled nearly the whole world with Piaget, so I have good connections in most countries. Now I live in Monaco, which I am a citizen of, so I am very well-connected there. Our prince [Albert of Monaco] does a lot there. It’s very important to have people like him, who have a name, in my book. If you don’t have names, people are less interested. They like heroes, someone they can follow. It makes them listen more.

woman and man standing on boat

Piaget with Paris Baloumis, Oceanco’s marketing director

LUX: How difficult has it been to incentivise those in the high net worth community to care about the oceans? Does it ever feel like you like you are fighting a losing battle?
Helga Piaget: Some days it does feel like that. It’s very difficult, but if you have one or two people who understand, it gives you the energy to continue. Two years ago, I was at the Monaco Yacht Show and I was the only one who was speaking about sustainability; everyone [else] was just thinking about money. But the biggest luxury is water, and fresh air. If the water is not clean, who can sell boats? People won’t go to dirty lakes or seas. Everyone has to work together. So I said, ‘The money is in the water.’ Ever since, we have been contacting marinas and boat owners to give them flags for the boats. The flag means they are respecting and protecting the waters. [It’s a way of getting people to] think about how they live, to not to buy too much throwaway material, and to use better products when they clean their boats. A year later there were four, five, six events in construction technology, and everyone was cleaning with these new products. I was delighted. I am really just trying to make people aware. When people see me now, they always ask questions about the topics of nature. They say I am the mother of the oceans!

LUX: What is the nature of philanthropy?
Helga Piaget: Giving the time and energy to make something positive happen. It doesn’t need to be worldwide. Even if it’s small – it can be next door, in the community – it is amazing to see something happen. For me, it’s water and the environment. There is so much being done, but there is still so much to do. Water connects us all, with our body, with our whole planet. It’s important. You must feel where your heart goes – for you need a big passion and you need a lot of time – then think as big as you want.

Find out more: passionsea.com

As with all of our philanthropists, readers who have their own foundations and philanthropic interests are encouraged to reach out to our interview subjects and their institutions directly.

 

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Reading time: 5 min
urban park

Manfredi Catella, CEO of COIMA and president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation

Manfredi Catella is the CEO of COIMA, the real estate company behind Porta Nuova in Milan, one of the most important real estate developments in Europe. He is also president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation which aims to promote sustainable and responsible urban development by improving and animating public spaces. Here, Catella discusses transforming urban environments, mixing business with philanthropy and how technology advances sustainability efforts

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has had an interest in promoting sustainability long before sustainability became a buzzword, how did this come about?
Manfredi Catella: The Riccardo Catella Foundation was established in 2005 in honour of my father, the entrepreneur Riccardo Catella. At the time, not many entities were focused on promoting ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), or impact indicators in investments, and we felt it could be our contribution to set up a non-profit organisation committed to promoting sustainable territorial development. We also have the ambition to educate communities about the effects of climate change and what actions need to be taken to fight and prevent this phenomenon. We do this through a citizen engagement program of civic-cultural projects within the realm of green and public spaces in the city of Milan. We believe it is important to listen to citizens in order to understand their vision for the urban space surrounding their homes and integrate programs and services that can improve their quality of daily life.

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LUX: What is the most exciting philanthropic project you are currently working on and why?
Manfredi Catella: At the moment, the philanthropic project where we are dedicating a lot of our energy to is The Riccardo Catella Foundation’s management of Milan’s third largest park, BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano), which we undertook together with COIMA on behalf of the Municipality of Milan. It is the first public private partnership in Italy that allows a private foundation to manage such a vast public and green space in the city centre. The 10 hectares of the botanical garden, which was developed by COIMA as part of its Porta Nuova development, is a ground-breaking project that aims to involve companies, non-profit sector, and citizens (BAMFriends) in the management of a public area. In addition, we animate the park through a cultural program based on four pillars: open-air culture, education, wellness and nature.

urban park

BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano) is Milan’s third largest park, managed by The Riccardo Catella Foundation

Ensuring the safety of the local community in the outside spaces has been particularly important since the start of the pandemic. We have been increasing services to enable greater green mobility over the past year. The changes are visible to park visitors. In outdoor areas, new bike racks have been set up, with information on anti Covid-19 measures, sanitising gel dispensers and continuous sanitisation services for floors, children’s playgrounds and communal areas. Safety is the starting point for a series of inclusive initiatives such as Wi-Fi enhancement and the launch of the Porta Nuova Milano app, which is designed to book events and services in the area.

LUX: Please explain your workings in neighbourhood community management?
Manfredi Catella: COIMA believes that the only way for the built environment to help fight climate change and to promote diversity is to integrate them into the basic economic, social and environmental model of every real estate development and by setting measurable objectives and transparently reporting on those objectives. We believe in placing nature and humans at the centre of all real estate development and urban regeneration schemes. In Porta Nuova, we have created a thriving urban environment that enables constant interaction between nature and architecture. There are walkways, green spaces, and piazzas with spaces created for exercise, relaxation, and socialising, all of which welcomes 10 million people every year. It includes Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano (BAM), an innovative urban park and botanical garden, which plays host to a diverse programme of cultural events and activities for residents, workers, and visitors alike.

Read more: Michelin-starred high altitude dining in Andermatt

LUX: Why do you think it is important to mix business with philanthropy?
Manfredi Catella: In general, the corporate approach to philanthropy has really evolved, and over the last ten years in particular, there has been a shift towards a model of collaboration and sustainable, long-term initiatives. It is important to mix business with philanthropy because corporations have a highly influential role on the social and natural world in which we live. It is also important as sustainable business models have a strong track record of delivering superior returns. Corporate philanthropy is no longer about simply giving money and walking away. By using the skills, tools, and approach of our business, we can continuously monitor the impact of our work and ensure it is having the best possible outcome for those who need it.

The pandemic has highlighted the fragile nature of our world and we believe that business has a duty to create positive change and a sustainable future as we recovery economically from Covid. This led us to establish the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund in 2020; an investment fund focused on sustainable urban regeneration. We aim to use this fund to redesign new physical and social models for housing, tourism and urban regeneration of neighbourhoods and believe that sustainable real estate can play a central role in a post Covid recovery. As responsible managers of institutional capitol from all over the world, we believe can help shape the future.

skyscraper

Bosco Verticale was designed by Boeri Studio, and built and managed by COIMA as part of the  Porta Nuova development

LUX: Apart from sustainability projects, are there any other philanthropic causes you have a particular interest in?
Manfredi Catella: Since 2018, we have been promoting an important social inclusion project through the Riccardo Catella Foundation, together with the Dynamo Camp association, called the Porta Nuova Smart Camp. It is an inclusive and innovative project for children both with and without serious pathologies and disabilities. Nature, sustainable architecture, and technological innovation are topics at the centre of the camp’s activities, along with incorporating the values of the Foundation and the community of COIMA’s Porta Nuova development.

LUX: How has working closely with local communities over the last 10 years changed your outlook on real estate development?
Manfredi Catella: We are recognised as a sustainable real estate company because it has long been our goal to create projects with a strong positive social and environmental impact on its community. The past year has reaffirmed that we all need to continue conducting our business and investing in a responsible way. The past ten years has taught us that it is essential to always look at the bigger picture. For us, this means that we look at a neighbourhood scale instead of a single building. By doing this, we can effectively redevelop urban spaces and provide a selection of amenities to better serve a variety of city users. For example, the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund has just acquired the railway yard of Porta Romana in Milan, together with Covivio and Prada, and we are very excited about exploring this neighbourhood scale development.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

Through our passion and experience, we have also developed our own sustainable vision called COIMA Roots which focuses on driving sustainable, economic, and social performance across our developments. COIMA Roots has been created in line with our belief that humans and nature should sit at the heart of all urban regeneration and development. To accomplish this, our set of values, or roots, are nature, beauty, affordability, human, happiness, ethics, service, and knowledge.

LUX: What were your principal goals when creating the Riccardo Catella Foundation?
Manfredi Catella: When we started the Riccardo Catella Foundation, our goal was to actively support the local economy and to promote the culture of sustainability and innovation in territorial development. We also wanted to make sure we were improving the quality of urban life and public green spaces through the foundation’s cultural projects. I feel that the challenge to create a place of nature, inclusion and growth in the heart of the city at the BAM park will be one of our challenges over the coming years. We are working to create a park that engages the community through a rich cultural programme inspired by sustainability but at the same time would like to create a sustainable business model that could be replicable for other parks in other cities around the world.

street art

A street art project at BAM in Milan

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has been around for almost 15 years. What has been the most significant change in sustainability during this time?
Manfredi Catella: Two main drivers: awareness and technology. When we began the foundation, sustainability and climate change was not a common topic as it is today. In recent years, we have witnessed a major shift and an increased awareness and now all players, from the public administrations to corporate to citizens, are recognising the need for urgent concrete action. Also, today, we have technological solutions that before were not available and it is fundamental to stay at the forefront of these technologies to continue to push the bar in integrating these solutions in development.

LUX: Which regeneration projects by others have particularly impressed or even inspired your philanthropic efforts?
Manfredi Catella: When we began working on the proposal for the management of BAM, we visited many parks around the world, including The High Line in New York and Millennium Park in Chicago. Then we worked on creating our own interpretation that would integrate well into the city of Milan.

LUX: Is there a major difference in approach between European, Asian and American organisations involved in philanthropic urban regeneration programmes?
Manfredi Catella: Across Europe, philanthropic engagement is an integral part of corporate social responsibility and reinforces related strategies. More and more companies of all sizes are dedicating financial resources, products, knowledge, and time to the common good. The world of philanthropy is renewing itself and dated foundations are starting to make way for a new approach to charity that incorporates social purpose and sustainability through impact investing. We believe that impact investing will become mainstream and that the positive environmental and social contribution will be integrated into traditional investments. We are dedicated and are working actively in that direction.

Find out more: coima.com

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Reading time: 8 min
protestors for climate change
protestors for climate change
Professor Peter Newell made waves earlier this year with a report describing how the wealthy have a disproportionate impact on climate change – and a particular duty to change their habits. The lead author of the Cambridge Sustainability Commission report on Scaling Behaviour Change speaks to Candice Tucker about the power of protest, how duty increases with wealth, and the need for radical action
man in front of book case

Professor Peter Newell

LUX: What is the single most effective non-philanthropic act ultra-high net worth individuals can do to help combat climate change?
Peter Newell: There are many things ultra-high net worth individuals can do to combat climate change. These range from, firstly, reducing emissions associated with their lifestyles, from flying less, avoiding unnecessary travel and changing the way they travel (switching to electric cars, for example) to owning fewer and smaller homes; secondly, withdrawing investments in the fossil fuel economy and investing in low carbon alternatives and thirdly, using their political influence (through access to politicians and donations to political parties) to push for more ambitious climate change.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: To encourage a shift towards a low-carbon economy, should charitable institutions including museums and universities reject donations from companies with poor environmental profiles?
Peter Newell: Yes, companies driving the climate crisis are increasingly losing their social license to operate and so museums, arts institutions and universities refusing to give them a platform or association with which to push their products or enhance their brands is an important contribution.

LUX: How effective are protests demanding action on climate change (such as the FridaysForFuture strikes) in instigating meaningful change?
Peter Newell: Incredibly effective. If we look to the past, few big and progressive shifts in society have come about without social protests and struggle. The battle to address the climate crisis is no different. Without the school strikes, governments, cities and some corporations would not have declared a climate emergency. Protests always force the issue and offer a gauge of how a society feels because they will only be successful if enough people support them directly and indirectly.

LUX: What will it take to reach a political tipping point, where climate change becomes the top priority for politicians globally?
Peter Newell: Climate change impacts everything and increasingly, people are understanding that more and more. It is a health issue, a security issue, an economic issue as well as a human rights and environmental issue. The more people connect their wellbeing and quality of life to climate, the higher up the agenda it goes. Ask people in the midst of forest fires, droughts and record temperatures if they are worried about climate change. For change at the speed and scale now required, we need lots of things to come together at the same: shifts in technology, behaviour, the falling costs of renewables and political shifts including greater representation for younger people and excluded groups. Luckily, some of these things are happening now.

housing with plants growing down facade

The highest consuming and wealthiest groups in society need to radically address their lifestyle habits, says Peter Newell

LUX: Can global governments be persuaded to put climate issues above fractious relationships?
Peter Newell: No one country is immune from the effects of climate change. So, on the one hand everyone has an interest in addressing it. On the other, countries would rather someone else moves first and powerful interests resist more ambitious action. As noted above, climate is also a security and trade issue, a welfare and work issue, a health and human rights issue and governments do pay more attention to those issues. Governments have worked together to address Covid, the key now is to address the causes of threats like that in the destruction of the natural world. Now is a marginally better time for multilateral solutions than a few years ago.

LUX: What can be done to encourage governments to campaign on low carbon policies which may only lead to a benefit long after they have left office?
Peter Newell: There are near-term benefits from low carbon policies in terms of lower fuel bills, jobs, energy security, health and many other things. These bring benefits to consumers, businesses and of course governments themselves in terms of lower health costs, energy independence and a resilient economy. These are the things governments need to emphasise to bring people with them. Some benefits will come after they have left office. That is a good legacy to leave!

Read more: Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava on light and space

LUX: Having worked with the governments of the UK, Sweden and Finland as well as NGOs including Friends of the Earth and Climate Network Europe, how would you contrast their approach to mitigating the effects climate change?
Peter Newell: For more than 25 years, I have worked with most actors in the climate space from governments, local councils, businesses, NGOs and cities. They all have different approaches to reducing emissions and enhancing their resilience to the effects of climate change. This is unsurprising given the different mandates and resources they have and the diverse constituencies they have to respond to. Right now, we need action from all of these actors. Each has a vital role to play in accelerating and deepening change.

LUX: What aspects of international governmental cooperation have surprised you in protecting the environment?
Peter Newell: International cooperation of the environment is generally very slow as countries seek to manage different interests and priorities and agree on the details of negotiating a legal text. It is often a very frustrating process, but occasionally you get significant outcomes such as when governments rapidly phased out ozone-depleting CFCs as part of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, or when the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015 set an ambitious target of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

LUX: How can governments be incentivised to prioritise a low-carbon economy when it may be detrimental to their medium term economic interests?
Peter Newell: Any policy pathway creates costs for some and opportunities for others. With climate change though, we will also lose everything unless we respond in a way that corresponds to the scale of the threat. That also means we have everything to gain. In the short term, we need a just transition to manage and reduce disruption and negative impacts on those sectors that inevitably need to be wound down, while shifting resources and support to sectors and industries whose future is compatible with addressing the climate crisis.

LUX: Will the pandemic effect governments’ approach to climate policies moving forward?
Peter Newell: The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on government finances, so one level this is an even more challenging time to address the climate crisis. On the other hand, the pandemic has shown how quickly governments can mobilise finance, repurpose industries and shift behaviours. These are all things we need to do to tackle climate change. There is also a chance to re-set the economy: how we travel, shop, source our food and how we work. There are opportunities to radically decarbonise all of these areas if governments are bold enough to rise to the challenge. It really is the case that we can build better – and in any case going back to business as usual is not an option because it was leading us towards a climate disaster.

green house emissions statistics

Source: Hertwich & Peters 2009

LUX: How much of the problem is a lack of education in combatting climate change?
Peter Newell: The question of education is often raised in the context of educating younger generations or those with less scientific literacy about the dangers of climate change. In reality, younger people and poorer people often understand only too well the threats associated with climate change and feel a sense of injustice that they are not the ones who caused the problem yet live with its worse effects. So, it is actually richer and more privileged the people the world over that need to re-educate themselves in the need for radical action to address climate change.

LUX: Can changes made by individual citizens, such as eating less meat, have a genuine impact on climate change?
Peter Newell: There is no question that we cannot reach ambitious climate goals without behaviour change. This needs to be led by the highest consuming and richest groups in society and it also needs to address key behaviour “hotspots” around unnecessary travel, diet and housing, for example. But, we also need to think about behaviour change more broadly, beyond what individuals and households do: to consider what we do at work, in our communities and in public life where we often have more ability to shape things in a positive direction.

LUX: Are there reasonable grounds to hope we will avoid the worst-case scenarios caused by climate change?
Peter Newell: At the Rapid Transition Alliance, we talk about “evidence-based hope.” This showcases change taking place around the world today in relation to energy, transport, housing, finance and many other areas, as well as shows how we have met some of these challenges before. This shows how we can meet this challenge. But as well as tapping into all the opportunities I have described here, we need to make tough choices like urgently leaving large swathes of fossil fuels in the ground and standing up to vested interests. We need to make the right choices and the difficult decisions for all our sakes. This will only come from pressure and action on all fronts and on a scale that we have not yet seen, but things are happening, so I remain optimistic.

Peter Newell is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex and a key member of the Rapid Transition Alliance, which supports research and campaigning to tackle the climate emergency. Find out more: rapidtransition.org

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Reading time: 8 min
natural ice landscape
natural ice landscape

Ice Garden by David Sinclair

Over the course of his career, David Sinclair has photographed some of our planet’s wildest landscapes and led numerous polar expeditions, working closely with local communities to protect the natural environment and raise awareness of the impacts of climate change. Here, he discusses his love of the polar regions and why a cultural shift is needed to tackle environmental issues

portrait of a man 1. What inspired you to become a photographer, particularly in the polar regions?

I cannot recall what first piqued my interest in the polar regions, but it wasn’t photography. My first recollection of feeling an intense desire to visit [that area] dates back to a conversation at a party in sub-tropical Brisbane when I decided I wanted to ski across Greenland. By then, through my travels and adventures, I’d fallen in love with mountains, ice and remote wilderness. Greenland was this large mysterious landmass that called to me.

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It was a natural progression as a keen photographer to want to return to capture the majesty of the polar regions and I’ve been returning every year as a photographer, guide and expedition leader. The solitude, the grandeur, the incredible wildlife and the feeling of being extraordinarily and wonderfully insignificant keep drawing me back. There are not many days when my mind does not wander to the icy expanses.

2. Should the issues of human waste and climate change be tackled separately or together?

This is a difficult question to unpack. Human waste and climate change are linked and the impact of both on biodiversity is well documented. Certainly climate change appears to be a more polarising subject and waste an easier subject to tackle. Regardless, we are running out of time to tackle the impacts of both so we need to figure out what works to influence decision makers and business leaders and make the necessary changes to decarbonise and create a truly circular economy.

In my lifetime, the human population has more than doubled and the wildlife population has more than halved. The sixth great extinction is underway and human activity is at its heart. We need to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss head on and to do that effectively I think we need cultural change. So many lawmakers and captains of industry are too far removed from ‘cause and effect’ and are incentivised or motivated to act in ways that imperil biodiversity and the environment. We need cultural change, to embed a deep respect and love for nature, a respect that overrides the desire to exploit it. It’s going to take a monumental effort to change course. I am seeing encouraging signs as more and more people are awake to the perils of losing biodiversity and harming the ecosystems we are reliant on for our own longevity and prosperity.

penguin diving off ice

Diving In by David Sinclair

3. What values do you think remain consistent across your three careers as a photographer, polar expedition leader and lawyer?

I value honesty and integrity. I think I’m honest to a fault, calling things how I see them. While this can be challenging for some, I think people respect you when you level with them. As an expedition leader I think it’s important to be honest with people who have placed their trust in your decision-making. As a photographer, I think it’s important to depict nature in an honest way, not to embellish that which does not need embellishment, and as a lawyer, it is critical to act with honesty and integrity at all times.

Read more: Superblue’s experiential art centres & innovative business model

4. What role do you think photography has to play in trying to promote protection of the Arctic regions?

Photography has a very important role in promoting the protection of the Arctic, Antarctic and all ecosystems and species in need of protection. Strong imagery can be a very powerful advocacy tool. An image can captivate people in a way that an essay or scientific paper or report cannot.

moonrise over a snow-capped mountain

Antarctic Peninsula Moonrise by David Sinclair

5. How has increasing geo-politicisation in the Arctic impacted attempts to preserve the ecology of the area?

The Arctic is a geopolitical hotspot right now. There is increased competition for influence over sea routes and for resources, ironically as climate change makes sea routes and resources more accessible. Heightened exploitation of the Arctic could have devastating consequences for its ecology, compounding the already devastating impacts of human activity outside of the Arctic. I cannot predict how geo-political tremors will impact attempts to preserve the Arctic. It is possible heightened tensions and competition for resources might draw more attention to the Arctic which could help attempts to sway public opinion which could lead to stronger protection.

6. Can you share your favourite expedition memory?

I have so many amazing memories, it’s impossible to choose a favourite. I recall one brilliant day in Davis Strait surrounded by ice. We came across a polar bear eating another polar bear, Northern Bottlenose whales and a pod of orca, and we landed on sea ice. Later, in the evening, we watched the Aurora Borealis dance across the stern of the ship with bioluminescence in our wake.

I wrote in my diary on a ski-crossing of Greenland, “We could not be further from civilisation but life could not be more civilised”. I think this encapsulates the wonderful camaraderie and simplicity of expedition life.

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