(Bloomberg) — Top executives, policy makers, scientists and activists are gathering this week for the first-ever Bloomberg Green Festival. The virtual event focuses on the core issues of climate change.
The conference kicked off Monday with speakers, including actor and co-founder of Water.org Matt Damon and HP Inc. Chief Executive Officer Enrique Lores.
Tuesday’s lineup includes money manager Jeffrey Ubben of Inclusive Capital Partners, Royal Philips NV CEO Frans van Houten and Iberdrola SA CEO Jose Ignacio Sanchez Galan. They are addressing the business case for climate action.
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Ikea’s Young Customers Do Research and Demand Sustainability: Brodin (3:05 p.m. NY)
Consumers increasingly expect sustainability and climate leadership, and ignoring those desires can be dangerous for companies, said the top executive of Ikea’s largest franchisee.
Jesper Brodin, chief executive officer of the Ingka Group, said younger consumers in particular are willing to research products and demand sustainability. He said the global furniture brand last year managed to cut its carbon footprint by 4%, even as its sales grew more than 6%.
Brodin also said the fight against climate change has been hindered by myths, including the notion that all consumption is bad. Enough companies in enough industries are now focusing on sustainability that it will soon force other businesses to follow, he said.
“I think we are a tipping point where this is the new reality, and you know how it works, when you create a momentum it becomes very lonely on the other side,” Brodin said.
A customer browses soft furnishings in the bedding department at an Ikea store in Moscow.
Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
Clean-energy Jobs Are ‘Best Bet’ for Post-Covid Recovery: Steve Varley (12:55 NY)
Clean-energy jobs offer the best opportunity for countries around the world to recover from the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said Steve Varley, Ernst & Young’s global vice chairman of sustainability.
“I think it’s the best bet we’ve got as a global economy to drive employment through all parts of society,” he said during a panel discussion about zero-carbon careers.
Varley and other panelists said the appeal lay not just in the scale of the energy transition and the investments it will require. They also argued that the transition will create jobs at many different skill levels.
“We need to understand that there are tremendous opportunities to bring new workers into this space,” said Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
And yet, the pandemic’s economic shock has hit the clean-energy sector particularly hard. Jacobson said the sector accounted for 3.4 million jobs in the U.S. at the end of 2019. About 500,000 were lost as states shuttered workplaces to fight the virus, she said, although perhaps one fifth of those have since been restored.
“We are far behind where we should be under normal circumstances,” Jacobson said. “With Covid, we’ve suffered a great deal.”
‘Mothers Against Autonomous Driving’ Possible if AV Technology Gets Rushed: Jigar Shah (12:35 p.m. NY)
The self-driving vehicle industry risks a backlash if it rushes the technology and kills people in the process, said Jigar Shah, co-founder and president of Generate Capital Inc.
During a panel discussion of zero-carbon careers, Shah said autonomous vehicles would arrive at some point. But he said the companies involved must not rush its introduction and should instead wait until the technology has been proven safe.
“One person dies from autonomous because we rushed it, and suddenly there’s a moratorium,” Shah said. “You’ll have Mothers Against Autonomous Driving, and suddenly you’re set back 15 years.”
International Paper Sees Transparency as Key to Sustainability (11:05 a.m. NY)
More transparency in supply chains is a key part of increasing sustainability in supply chains, said Sophie Beckham, the chief sustainability officer for International Paper Co.
“If you don’t know where your wood is coming from, you can’t do anything about your supply chain” and ensure supplies are coming from land with good forest management, she said.
One big shift in recent years is more partnership between the forest-product industry and environment-focused NGOs and other groups, which is helping to propel sustainability goals, she said.
World Loses 20 Soccer Fields of Forest Every Minute (10:23 a.m. NY)
The world is losing 20 soccer fields worth of forest every minute, amounting to about 1 billion acres lost since 1990, said Carter Roberts, CEO of World Wildlife Fund.
Forests are being destroyed at an “astounding rate” because of climate change, unsustainable food production, development of infrastructure and a lack of valuing of forests by some governments, he said. That means the world is losing a “glittering array of life,” and also losing key ecosystems that help to sequester greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans, he said.
Forest destruction can also contribute to disease, as seen in the Covid-19 pandemic. When wildlife such as bats are displaced from forests and natural areas are overtaken by ranching, viruses can more easily pass from wild animals to livestock and then onto humans, he said.
“Food is going to be a flash point” in the world going forward as climate change makes production more challenging, Roberts said. “We need the world — governments, businesses, consumers — to wake up and realize that there are better more sustainable ways to produce food that don’t destroy forests.”
Read More: Time Is Running Out to Save the Last of the World’s Rainforests
Fires burn in the Pantanal wetlands region in Porto Jofre city, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, on Sept. 11.
Photographer: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg
Philips CEO Says ESG Goals Attract Talent (9:15 a.m. NY)
Royal Philips NV Chief Executive Officer Frans van Houten has found that by focusing on ESG goals, the company is able to attract talent that is “amazing.”
“We are seeing a generation of people who are much more aware of what is happening around them in the world,” he said. “This generation, especially millennials, wants to have a positive impact on the world around them.”
“This is a very positive development and we are early in being part of this transformation and it has paid us dividends,” he said.
The Dutch company also has seen that its customers are increasingly taking sustainability into account as well, he said, giving the example of hospitals that evaluate their vendors based on ESG scores.
“We do not want to cause harm while we innovate,” he said.
Jeffrey Ubben Says Climate Is ‘New Place’ for Excess Return (8:45 a.m. NY)
Jeffrey Ubben, the activist investor who left his hedge fund to launch a new firm called Inclusive Capital Partners focused on social and environmental investing, said the stock market has moved into an era where equity values are increasingly reflecting environmental and social failings.
That provides investors with an opportunity to become activists that can push companies to make improvements in those areas and thus find the “new place” to find excess returns, he said.
“To a certain extent, we caused the harm we’re trying to address,” he said. “If you can fix climate change or at least mitigate it, that’s the next breakout opportunity.”
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