Archive for the ‘Environmental Sustainability’ Category

US is World’s Most Transparent Real Estate Market

A report released last week by Jones Lang LaSalle’s 2012 Global Real Estate Transparency Index reveals a renewed impetus in transparency improvements across the world’s real estate markets. Nearly 90% of markets have registered progress in transparency since 2010.  The United States ranks as the world’s most transparent real estate market in 2012, followed by United Kingdom and Australia.

It is interesting to note that environmental sustainability has emerged as an important transparency factor with the UK, Australia and France being the most transparent markets in terms of real estate sustainability. The UK  introduced the world’s first Green Building rating system while Australia has been the test bed for new environmental laws, regulations and incentives.

Why is Transparency Important?

Rising levels of transparency are associated with an increase in foreign direct investment – this is a powerful incentive to encourage free-flowing information and apply local law fairly and consistently.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s Real Estate Transparency Index charts the steady progress of real estate transparency in 81 markets across the globe. It highlights the important differences you experience when transacting, owning and operating in foreign markets. It also provides governments and industry organizations with a point of reference to measure and improve transparency within their own markets.


Source: Jones Lang LaSalle

To read and download the full report, please visit:

From Fuel Efficient to Fuel Independent

Nissan Motor Co. announced today that its eagerly anticipated, 100% electric car, will cost just over $25,000 in the U.S. This move should benefit US consumers as Nissan’s rivals will be pressured to lower prices on similar vehicles. The Nissan Leaf, is a four-door hatchback which Nissan expects to hit US showrooms later this year. At under $30,000 Nissan hopes to attract the mainstream car buyers to this 100% electric vehicle that can travel up to 100 miles on a single charge from a home outlet. Currently, General Motors Co., which also will begin selling its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car later this year, said that it will look at Nissan’s pricing before announcing the Volt’s price closer to its December sales date. The Volt, can travel 40 miles on a full electricity charge before its small gas engine kicks in to provide power. Still other competitors, such as Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, also plan to introduce fully electric cars, but those will come out after the Volt and Leaf hit showrooms in December. The Volt and Leaf are the first two electric cars to go on sale that will appeal to the mass market.

Nissan says the Leaf will cost 3.76 million yen ($40,000) in Japan. It will price the car lower in the U.S. because it wants to sell more of them in that market. The automaker says it is confident it can still make money at that price. GM argues that the Volt is a better value than the Leaf because drivers don’t have to worry about running out of electricity, as the car’s gas engine gives it nearly unlimited range. Although the Volt can travel farther, GM will still compete with the Leaf on price, specifically among drivers who don’t drive that far or who have a second car for long-distance travel. The Leaf will appeal mainly to suburban commuters, a smaller market, because of its 100-mile range limit.

Overall, many analysts see the cars as the beginning of automakers trying to determine how to equip and market electric cars. With the strong success of Toyota’s Prius sales, the market for fuel efficient or fuel independent cars is widening, causing automakers to focus more of their attention on this growing segment.


Green Your Thanksgiving


With Thanksgiving only two days away, we wanted to post this story about Greening your Thanksgiving by Sierra Club’s Cara Longpre.

It’s almost time for Americans to visit with loved ones, express gratitude, and eat a really, really big meal. This year, the Green Life is providing tips to help you celebrate Thanksgiving with less impact.
Tip #1: Try Regional Recipes

Traditional Thanksgiving meals tend to favor fall produce, so it’s a great time to focus on locally grown fruits and veggies. Consider adapting time-honored recipes to reflect your region’s growing season and history. For a fun challenge, plan either one dish or the entire meal with ingredients grown or produced within 100 miles of your home. Check out the Daily Green’s 100-mile Thanksgiving meal plans for five different U.S. cities to find examples of creative, local solutions.

Tip #2: Buy a Heritage Bird or Go Meatless
Want to celebrate “Turkey Day” without supporting environmentally destructive factory farms? You can help preserve species diversity by purchasing a free-range heritage turkey from a local farm. If meat isn’t a must-have, consider skipping the bird altogether and building a hearty meal around vegetarian dishes such as autumn tempeh salad or butternut squash enchiladas.


FedEx and UPS competing to be “Green”

FedEx and UPS are both becoming green. Are they doing it to help the environment or as a better business practice? An article by Marc Gunther explores both UPS and FedEx’s sustainability practices. Regardless of who is “greener,” the fact that major companies are competing to be more environmentally efficient and sensitive makes everyone win.


Highlights citing “greenness of FedEx and UPS” by Marc Gunther


  • FedEx has promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft by 20% by 2020, on a pound per available ton mile basis. It was the first U.S. shipping company to do so. “UPS would not have set a reduction goal if we hadn’t not it first,” Jackson says.
  • It has created a corporate citizenship blog, signaling a willingness to be open and to engage with critics.
  • It has engaged constructively in Washington. FedEx CEO Fred Smith lobbied a few years ago for fuel-efficiency standards for commercial vehicles.
  • Their Boeing 777 freighter, uses less fuel and produces fewer emissions than the rest of its fleet. Even better, it can fly from FedEx’s Memphis hub to China without having to stop for refueling in Anchorage, as its older planes do.


  • UPS recently took the shipping rivalry to a new level by deciding to offer customers a “green” option of paying a small fee, between 5 and 20 cents, to offset the carbon emissions of their shipping
  • UPS willalso reduce emissions from their airlines by 20 percent between 2005 and 2020.
  • UPS has already reduced emissions by 28 percent, to a level well below those of FedEx. Its CO2 pounds per available ton miles was 1.54 in 2005, while FedEx’s was 2.26. The result is that, even in 2020, FedEx won’t be as efficient or as low-carbon as UPS was in 2005.
  • In 1990 UPS began buying more efficient aircraft engines and planes. “We did it to reduce our fuel burn,” Wicker said, and to cut costs. They werebn’t thinking of “green.”But the company has been consistently retiring older, smaller, noisier, fuel-guzzling planes and buying newer, larger, quieter and more efficient ones. UPS’s fleet “is the most efficient cargo airline in the industry,” Wicker says.
  • UPSers — that’s what they call themselves — note that their company measures its carbon footprint more accurately than does FedEx. UPS includes its buildings, trucks, trains and planes, as well as its use of electricity and the carbon burned by outside contractors. (That’s Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3, for carbon geeks who are reading along.) FedEx does not include the emissions of many of its drivers because they are independent contractors. “If you are going to make a decision on who to ship with based on who’s most carbon efficient, you have to compare an apple to an apple,” Wicker says.
  • The company is counting on the development of biofuels for jets to achieve its 20 percent by 2020 carbon target.

When Green Becomes Routine

Jim Witkin of the New York Times and Green Inc. recently interviewed Eric G. Olson a management consultant and author of the coming book “Better Green Business.”


In his book, Olson says carbon footprints will become just another measure – like profitability and growth – for businesses, and that the word green will gradually disappear from the business lexicon over the next 5 to 10 years, as environmental stewardship becomes fully integrated into everyday business practices. Several external forces will drive this transformation, Mr. Olson said – particularly as large consumer products companies and retailers like Wal-Mart require suppliers to manage their own environmental footprints. Companies without a clear strategy and committed leadership, Mr. Olson argues, will come up short.

Green Inc. recently chatted with Mr. Olson about the green business transformation. Excerpts from that conversation follow.

Q.When will green become an outdated term in the business vocabulary?

A.When we have an accepted, widely adopted and mature set of standards and practices for things like carbon footprint and other measures of resource use, like the accepted financial measures businesses use today. Carbon footprint, for example, will just become another measure along with profitability and growth. Also, branding of environmental initiatives will become commonplace and less of a differentiator in the long term. Consumers will be able to make informed choices based on environmental labeling, like today’s nutritional labels. But there’s a lot of ground to cover between now and then.

For example, Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index could be one major driver for this kind of standardized labeling, but by some estimates, only 10 percent of its global supplier base is currently prepared to measure and manage environmental impacts with the necessary rigor.

Q.How would you recommend these other 90 percent accelerate this transformation?


How the World is Going Solar Without Us

By: Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for The New York Times

Applied Materials is one of the most important U.S. companies you’ve probably never heard of.  It makes the machines that make the microchips that go inside your computer.  The chip business, though, is volatile, so in 2004, Mark Splinter, Applied Materials’ CEO, decided to add a new business line to take advantage of the company’s nanotechnology capabilities- making the machines that make solar panels.

The other day, Splinter gave me a tour of the company’s Silicon Valley facility, culminating with a visit to it’s “war room,” where Applied maintains a real-time global interaction with all 14 solar panel factories it has built around the world in the past two years.  Not a single one is in America.  Five are in Germany, four are in China, one is in Spain, one is in India, one is in Taiwan and one is even in Abu Dhabi.

The reason all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three perquisites for growing a renewable energy industry:

  1. any business or homeowner can generate solar energy;
  2. if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and
  3. the utility has to buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop.

That is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation.  With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry.


Where Does All That “Stuff” Come From?

by Shelby Stanger

Ever wonder how that little radio you bought for less than $5 at Radio Shack was made? Where did the materials come from, who assembled it, how did it make it all the way to your local store for less than five bucks, and where does it go when you throw it away?

Recently, I happen to stumble upon Annie Leonard’s “Story of Stuff” The 20-minute web documentary gives viewers an easy-to-understand view of the production cycles of every day goods we consume and what happens to them when we are done with them, what she calls the “materials economy.” Some may argue the video oversimplifies global production cycles, but it conjures a laundry list of connections between consumerism and how buying “stuff” affects social and environmental issues. It also might just make you think a little more before you buy something you don’t really need.


Green Homes Save The Earth and Lower Your Payments

by Shelby Stanger

I recently read a statistic from the National Association of Home Builders that between 40 to 50% of homes to be built in 2010 are expected to be green. With the word “green” being thrown around a lot these days, I decided to talk to Keith Rodgers of Rome Construction in South Carolina. Rodgers has been in construction for over 23 years and has helped lead the charge towards sustainable home building in the South since 2004 when he built the first Earth Craft (green building standard) home in South Carolina.

“Everybody’s using the green buzz word, but having a “green” home is not just about having bamboo floors or carpet made from recycled fibers,” Rodgers said. “If you want to have the most impact on helping the environment, you have to look at the building science behind your home first.” (more…)

Solar Power International Conference

I think that everyone interested in alternative energy should take the opportunity to visit the Solar Power International Conference. 

Solar Power International, previously called Solar Power Conference and Expo, was created in 2004 when the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) joined together in partnership to fill an obvious void: the US was missing a business-to-business solar conference and expo. With an industry growth rate of more than 40% per year, there was a need for a single event where industry could come together with potential customers, policymakers, investors, and other parties necessary for continued rapid growth. It didn’t take long for the event to establish itself as the premiere solar event in the US, growing from 1,100 attendees to over 12,500 in just 4 years! (more…)

Environmental Sustainability, What Can Your Vote Do?

What about your political candidate’s commitment to the environment? One key foundation of our company is environmental sustainability. We look at this in every investment and in every venture we take part in, but there is something that we all can do to help this cause. Make sure your vote includes a vote for the environment.  There are 3 independent resources that can help you make your decision.

League of Conservation Voters

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which is dedicated to turning environmental values into public policy, applauds lawmakers for their work during the first session of the 110th Congress to move America toward a clean energy future and to prepare for the challenge of addressing global warming.  Visit the site to see how your candidates voted on environmental legislation with the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard. (more…)