What does climate change mean for business?

Businesses ignore climate change at their own peril, as it will affect their supply chains and profit margins, among other things. Taking the effort to mitigate climate change and prepare for potential risks will pay off in the long run, said experts at the 2015 International CSR Summit.

The upcoming United Nations climate conference in Paris this December will see governments across the world try to ink a legal treaty to curb climate change, but no progress will be made if business is not involved.

Companies must cut their fair share of emissions – not only because they bear much responsibility for causing climate change, but their profits, brand image, and the stability of their supply chains could also be threatened if their inaction allows global temperature rise to reach dangerous extents.

This was the consensus among government and business leaders at the 2015 International CSR Summit, held on August 26 at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Tang Tuck Weng, senior director of the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) – the agency in charge of Singapore’s efforts to tackle climate change – cited the 2011 floods in Thailand – which destroyed factories owned by multinational giants such as Seagate and Honda – as a reminder that even if extreme weather events do not happen in Singapore, they can have an impact on businesses and operations here”.

“It isn’t enough to plan for what happens just in Singapore,” he said. “Instead, we must look at the global value chain”.

David Vincent, head of the United Kingdom’s Southeast East Asia Regional Climate Change Network, British High Commission Singapore, added that the private sector is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and therefore must “help deliver the emissions reductions we need to see”.

For example, he shared that in 2013, just 50 of the world’s largest companies were responsible for about 10 percent of total global emissions – or 3.6 billion metric tonnes of emissions – according to non-profit CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Investing in energy saving equipment, developing resource-efficient manufacturing methods, and offering repair services to extend the lifespan of products are some ways that businesses can reduce their environmental impact, Vincent told an audience of about 200 guests at a panel discussion on business and climate change.

The annual conference was organised by the Global Compact Network Singapore – the local branch of the United Nations Global Compact – and convened business leaders, government officials, corporate social responsibility practitioners, and civil society leaders over two days to exchange ideas on corporate social responsibility.

Tang added that such measures are bound to be a “no-regrets strategy” for most companies, due to their positive impact on long-term profit margins, stakeholder satisfaction and public reputation, among other benefits.

Sustainability pays off 

One company that can attest to this is American carpet tile makers Interface. The outfit has invested much effort and resources into sustainability, and as a result, “absolutely seen profits and resilience go up” said Rob Coombs, president and chief executive officer of Interface Asia Pacific.

He explained that traditionally, carpet tiles are a very resource-intensive products, but Interface in 1994 promised to “eliminate any negative impact our company may have on the environment” by 2020. Under an initiative known as Mission Zero, the company set targets on reducing the use of energy, raw materials, water, and cutting down waste generation and carbon emissions.

With five years to go before the 2020 deadline, Interface is “about 65 percent of the way there”, said Coombs. Strategies such as incorporating biomimicry – which copies natural processes into product design to make it more sustainable – have helped it be more environmentally and socially responsible.

Including marginalised communities into the company’s supply chain has also boosted the business’s sustainability efforts, Coombs added. An example of this is an initiative known as Net-Works, which Interface runs with the conservation charity Zoological Society of London.

Interface buys discarded fishing nets from fishing communities in the Philippines and turns them into carpet tiles, which simultaneously provides an additional income to villagers, prevents discarded nets from contributing to marine pollution, and helps Interface meet its goal of sourcing 100 percent recycled material.

The firm is also experimenting with a business model which leases, rather than sells, carpets to clients, so that it can eventually take them back and recycle or dispose the tiles responsibly, shared Coombs.

“This is the only smart way to run a business,” he said, adding that these measures have reduced costs for the company, made manufacturing processes more efficient, and helped design a better product. They have also won Interface business from sustainability-conscious customers and boosted employee engagement, he added.

Meanwhile, Japanese electronics multinational Ricoh is trying to reduce its environmental impact by shifting away from a business model where customers must buy new products when they break to one where products are designed to be easily repaired, or refurbished and re-sold to price-conscious buyers.

Adrian Lim, head of Ricoh Singapore’s managing director’s office, added that the company also offers consultancy services to encourage behaviours such as reducing printing, energy conservation, and recycling in offices. Through these efforts, Ricoh hopes to engage its vendors and clients on sustainability, he noted.

Ahead of the carbon market curve

NCCS’s Tang noted that sustainability in the private sector could be greatly accelerated with the introduction of carbon pricing, a policy where companies must pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, either in the form of a tax or by purchasing permits for emissions.

The current price of many goods and services does not include the negative externality – that is, the hidden cost on the environment – explained Tang. But he said he hopes that the global agreement in Paris will set in motion the process for a global carbon pricing scheme.

Companies can pre-empt a global price on carbon by reducing their carbon emissions now, said the panel members. Many solutions already exist, such as switching to cleaner energy, improving energy efficiency, and cutting down on energy use, they noted.

As for companies which continue to ignore climate pressures, they “will find life difficult under an effective carbon market”, said Vincent.

Wayne Visser, director of British advisory firm Kaleidoscope Futures Lab, who also spoke at the event, noted in a separate keynote address that “it is very easy to create short term value in a business, but that quickly comes crashing down when we hit resource limits”.

Only when companies focus on creating long-term economic, social, and environmental value do they become “truly sustainable”, he added.

Source: eco-business

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Reconnecting People with Nature through Architecture and Design

By Whitney Hopkins, Vail & New York City

“The more we know of other forms of life, the more we enjoy and respect ourselves…Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life.” — E.O. Wilson

A recent, satirical New Yorker piece by Andy Borowitz quoted a fictitious resident who blamed scientists “for failing to warn us of the true cost of climate change. They always said that polar bears would starve to death, but they never told us our lawns would look like crap.”

Although this does not represent a real person’s exact feelings, the underlying sentiment sadly has more than a hint of truth. To many people, the impact of a changing environment seems distant and completely separate from our existence until we are directly confronted with the negative results.

Poorly conceived design divides us in urban areas from our wilds and has contributed to seeing nature as something isolated from us. Yet reinvigorating our bond with nature is a challenge architecture and urban design are well placed to address.

Architects and designers have control over our built environment; by changing the way we design cities and buildings to connect to rather than disconnect from nature, we can change our proximity to nature and shift our physical relationship to the environment.

Photo: Schristia. Creative Commons.

The separation that we have crafted over the centuries through our isolating designs hasn’t come without costs.

Obesity, ADHD, autism, a decline in creativity—these are all connected to a lack of environmental connection.

Unfortunately, this estrangement from nature has not only directly impacted our health, it has impacted our ability to respond to crucial modern challenges, such as climate change, because these dire environmental topics feel removed from us.

The environment appears distant because we designed it as such. Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan describe this impact in their seminal book, Ecological Design:

“What do we learn from this kind of ‘nowhere’ environment? When living and working in nowhere places becomes normal, it is no wonder that we literally lose some of our sensitivity toward nature.

Through the daily experience of the designed environment, we learn detachment… As nature has receded from our daily lives, it has receded from our

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Yet despite putting up physical barriers between nature and us, we still cannot shake our deep tie to and need for other species.

Humans have an ingrained desire to connect. E.O. Wilson describes this impulse in his ‘Biophilia Hypothesis’ in which he explains,

“…When human beings remove themselves from the natural environment, the biophilic learning rules are not replaced by modern versions equally well adapted to artifacts. Instead, they persist from generation to generation. For the indefinite future… urban dwellers will go on dreaming of snakes for reasons they cannot explain.”

We crave connection to the natural world, even if we, individually, have always been seemingly divided from it.

By calling architects and urban designers to ‘Make Nature Visible,’ as Van der Ryn and Cowan request in Ecological Design, we can begin to design places grounded in their own unique environment.

In this way, designers can revive an awareness of the natural systems that affect us and recover place-based knowledge.

The advantages of interacting with and seeing nature are numerous. Beyond technical benefits, feeling the presence of the living world around us elevates the spirit.

Supporting this movement, many architects and urban designers are inventively finding ways to reconnect us with the touch and feel of our wider biological community.

Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen
Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen 


Children seem particularly moved by biophilia and quickly gain many advantages from access to the outdoors.

Schools that get children outside into natural places find that their students perform better academically (this has proven especially true for low-income students) and are more engaged and motivated to learn.

These benefits come in addition to decreasing the need for disciplinary action, reducing stress, and increasing student attention spans.

But the gains are not just performance-based—it turns out that the outdoors even improves vision andincreases Vitamin D levels, all advantages that make students healthier.

There are some great schools that strive to put children outside and reflect this philosophy in their design.

Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen
Photo credit: Thorbjõrn Hansen Daycare Center in Holbæk, Denmark

Sitting at the highest point in the neighborhood, the daycare center on the outskirts of Holbæk, Denmark provides a base for an outdoor-oriented school.

Teaching children outside has long been a traditional education approach in Denmark, with ‘forest schools’ dating back to the 1950s.

This daycare, designed by Henning Larsen, includes large south-facing windows, a green roof, and gardens to allow children to play outside throughout the entire year.

Fuji Kindergarten in Japan

Physically encircling a tree, the innovative Fuji Kindergarten, designed by Yui and Takaharu Tezuka, highlights nature as a teacher every day.

The children can play on an outdoor structure that surrounds the tree, climb the tree itself, or just admire the tree from every room in the school.

The school furthers its connection to nature with lots of glass and open air, which means the outdoors flow seamlessly into the indoors.

Photo by Katsuhisa Kida/FOTOTECA.

Bronx Zoo School Proposal in the Bronx, New York

In the New York City borough of the Bronx, few people have close interaction with their natural environment. This proposal, which I designed for a public school in the Bronx zoo, was aimed at rectifying this problem.

Our connection to the ecological systems becomes apparent day-to-day through this school’s open architecture and outdoor classrooms and is bolstered by the whooping crane breeding program, which is integrated into the school and managed by the students.


Connecting patients to nature has been innately valued for centuries—the first health centers were at remote monasteries intended to foster the tie between healing and the environment.

Now, a growing body of modern scientific evidence supports this notion; patient outcomes appear to be closely related to interacting with nature.

Connection to the natural environment has been shown to improve overall healthcare quality in multiple ways by reducing staff stress and fatigue, increasing the effectiveness in delivering care, improving patient safety, and reducing patient stress.

All this leads to improve health outcomes and patients who are happier and heal faster. Hospitals foster this by having views, natural light, and access to gardens or the outdoors.

The few following hospitals do this exceedingly well.

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey, California

Designed in the early 1960s on the California coast, the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula was ahead of its time in pulling the outdoors inside a healing environment.

The patient rooms and public spaces have large panoramic views of the surrounding forest, gardens, and courtyards and a flow between all the indoor and outdoor spaces.

It has been recently expanded and remodeled by HOK to be state of the art while maintaining the original natural tranquility.

Photo: Frank Keillor. Creative Commons.

Children’s Psychiatry Center (KPC) in Genk, Netherlands

In an artistically crafted, patient-centric building, the Children’s Psychiatry Center in the Dutch city of Genk innovatively marries a designed outdoor environment with the hospital.

Children’s well being was at the core of OSAR’s design, so every space in the center captures views of internal courtyards, gardens, or the forest.

In so doing, the hospital reduces the stress of the patients, their families, and the staff and creates a safe and warm atmosphere within the center.

Children Psychiatric Center, Genk, Belgium. Photo courtesy of OSAR.


Because the evidence of diverse benefits is so strong, contact with nature in the workplace has become a central element in the design of healthy office spaces.  Various studies have repeatedly shown thataccess to outdoor gardens or parks, indoor plants, and windows with views of natural places reduceworker stress levels.

Beyond manipulating stress levels, it appears that employees are also happier and more productive with a connection to nature.

And firms greatly benefit because sick leave and worker turnover is reduced.

With all these advantages, it is no wonder that creating contact between nature and workers is happening in offices, manufacturing plants, and every type of work environment in between.

Photo by Greg Williams. Creative Commons.

Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, Michigan

A historic manufacturing facility that had been deemed a heavily polluted brownfield site, Ford transformed the facility into a vibrant, sustainable new factory.

Nature takes center stage at the facilities, which boast the largest green roof in North America, various treatment ponds and gardens, natural vegetation, and ample day lighting.

As a result, the productivity of the workers increased and sick days decreased.

One complaint: the amplified bird poop from the population that has taken up residence on the factory premise.

Selgas Cano Offices in Madrid, Spain

Within the urban area of Madrid, the architectural firm of Selgas Cano made waves with their design for their own office.

Sunken into the ground, curved glass opens the office up to spectacular and unusual views of the surrounding woods.

The space is filled with natural light that bounce of the bright interior colors.

Reportedly, employees love working in the space.

Selgas Cano Office 2885_Iwan Baan
Selgas Cano Office. Photo: Iwan Baan.


In urban areas, the expanse of human construction can particularly estrange people from the environment, so it becomes crucial to consciously give residents access to natural places.

A recent Danish study by Stigsdotter and colleagues found that people who lived more than 1 kilometer away from green space were generally less healthy.

They also showed worse vitality, were at higher risk for depression, and reported higher levels of stress and pain.

These advantages must partly contribute to the increased values of real estate adjacent to urban green space.

Some cities are working hard to bring nature into the urban core by creating or revitalizing parks and seeing green space as an essential element in their infrastructure.

Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, with a highway running over it.
Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, with a highway running over it.

Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea

A stream runs through the center of Seoul, but for decades, most people would never have known.

After years of polluting the Cheonggyecheon river, the city covered it in 1968 with an elevated, 8-lane hightway, hiding the river from view.

But in 2003, the mayor began an initiative to improve traffic and restore the river.

The Cheonggyecheon park opened in 2005, bringing people into close contact with the water and newly established parks through a central urban corridor.

This project revitalized the local busineesess, improved transportation, and made the citizens happy by providing them with a delightful green space and reconnecting them to their historic river.

Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul.</p><p>Photo: David Maddox
Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul. Photo: David Maddox

In partnership with nature

With nature providing such joy and many health benefits, it is time that architects and planners leverage designs that highlight the environment in our built spaces.

We can hope that beyond making a healthier and happier world, we can also prompt a more ethical relationship to nature.

As Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan conclude:

“Design transforms awareness. Designs that grow out of and celebrate place ground us in place. Designs that work in partnership with nature articulate an implicit hope that we might do the same.”

Whitney Hopkins is a designer in architecture and product design. She is interested in how design shapes society and the environment and has expertise in empathy, sustainability, and biomimicry.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective


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GREEN BUILDING is rapidly becoming the norm for new large building projects. As awareness, price and environmental pressures rise, so too has the demand for sustainable office and commercial space. New design strategies, building materials, and approaches are contributing to an ever more innovative and rapidly changing built environment. Get the latest thinking, perspectives, case studies, and projects as they unfold in multiple presentations and interactive discussions at the 9TH ANNUAL GREEN BUILDING CONFERENCE.
GREEN BUILDING is rapidly becoming the norm for new large building projects. As awareness, price and environmental pressures rise, so too has the demand for sustainable office and commercial space. New design strategies, building materials, and approaches are contributing to an ever more innovative and rapidly changing built environment. Get the latest thinking, perspectives, case studies, and projects as they unfold in multiple presentations and interactive discussions at the 9TH ANNUAL GREEN BUILDING CONFERENCE.