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Water Purification Is Becoming A Crucial Part Of The Sustainability Conversation

Emily Dao

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Water Purification

When it comes to water, there are a lot of hidden complexities behind Earth’s most vital resource. Water conservation and proper distribution is a major problem. Moreover, plastic waste that comes from the significant usage of bottled water isn’t a negligible issue either. As a result, there’s been a huge push for water purification. So, here’s the real question: how can companies get people to pivot away from their beloved bottled water that provides such a high level of convenience?

The problem goes back to the fact that access to clean water is far from a reality in all parts of the world. In fact, as many as 63 million Americans were exposed to potentially contaminated water more than once in the last decade. That’s more than a fifth of the country. So, what can be done to solve this crisis without harming the environment?

The private sector gets involved

Areas like Flint, Michigan have significant water cleanliness issues with seemingly little government action. Water purification companies in the private sector seem to be getting more involved in tackling the issue.

For instance, The Rising recently had the chance to chat with Chemist Umit Khiarollaev and Earth Scientist Anatoly Assev, the co-founders of Oollee, a subscription-based water purification startup.

The company leverages a point-of-use purification approach when filtering water. In other words, the faucet has the purifier directly installed.

“Point-of-contact purification stands in stark contrast to bottled water, which is the route many people take to avoid consuming impure tap water,” Oollee’s co-founders said in an email. “People all over the world need safe and eco-friendly drinking water at an affordable cost, and Oollee is ready to offer it.”

Still, Oolee is in a largely competitive market. Majority of people already know about Brita, the Clorox company that has had a similar motivation for the last 50 years. For companies like Oolee, the question really becomes whether it can get users to buy into their subscription model. As of October 2019, it commands $29/month and a $49 installation fee. So, will its more high-tech solution, including an app that lets users monitor water quality, move the needle?

Is the water purification space promising?

Taking a step back, why are companies even dabbling in the water purification space anyway? On one hand, water purification devices save consumers from having to use plastic bottles time and time again. But are people buying into that vision?

Well, the NRDC found that some people spent as much as 1,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than tap. This trend may point to the idea that there needs to be more messaging around the harms of plastic pollution. Only then can widespread adoption of water purification devices happen.

Tackling the plastic problem

According to National Geographic, more than a million plastic bottles are sold globally every minute. In the U.S., people recycled only 30% of those plastic bottles. During the Ocean Conservancy’s annual beach cleanup, the nonprofit visited over 100 countries. It reported plastic bottles and bottles caps were the third and fourth most collected plastic trash material.

If that seems like a lot, imagine this: 80% of plastic bottles end up in landfills. For each of those bottles, it takes 1,000 years to fully decompose.

More and more people are recognizing just how dangerous plastic waste is. Several governments around the world and major companies have announced commitments to curb plastic pollution. Just a few weeks ago, Unilever announced plans to reduce its use of virgin plastics in half and collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.

Looking into the future

Providing clean water while reducing plastic waste sounds like a far cry in an economy where convenience is king. But as companies in the private sector continue to compete for customer loyalty and convince them to switch over from bottled water, it seems like messaging is still an issue—and that’s a problem that will take time to solve.

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Australian National Airline Announces Ambitious Sustainability Plan

Rich Bowden

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Australian national airline Qantas

Australian national airline Qantas, which flew its first zero-waste flight earlier this May, has outlined its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The national carrier, which announced the pledge in a November 11th press release, is the first Australian airline to commit to a net-zero emissions target. Though it appears that its goals are ambitious, the Australian national airline believes that they are fully achievable.

“Ambitious But Achievable” For The Australian National Airline

Qantas revealed the road towards the target will begin immediately and revolved around three key strategies.

It will:

  • Immediately double the number of flights being offset.
  • Cap net emissions from 2020 onwards.
  • Invest $50 million over 10 years to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry.

Alan Joyce, CEO of the Australian national airline, said the announcement reflects Qantas’s need to continue to curb climate change

“We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting program from today and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral,” he said.

He added: “These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious but achievable.”

Joyce told the media that the airline hoped the announcement would encourage passengers to offset their travel’s carbon usage.

“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the program will keep growing.”

Company Behind Qantas’s Offset Program Sees Demand Growth

Meanwhile, Tasman Environmental, the company specializing in carbon offset programs for business clients including Qantas, has reported strong demand growth.

Executive chairman Andrew Grant said the boost in consumer awareness of the effects of climate change propelled the demand growth.

“The demand for our services has increased dramatically as consumer awareness grows around the environmental implications of travel, products and goods and services and the desire by consumers and corporations to lighten their environmental footprint,” Grant said.

Biofuels Preferred Over Investment In Electric Plan Alternatives

The airline industry has come under pressure in Australia over recent years to curb its emissions. Data from the Clean Energy Regulator showed Qantas as one of the top greenhouse gas emitters in the country.

However, an article in an Australian environment magazine points out that the Australian national airline has decided not to invest in alternatives like electric planes. Instead, the company has chosen to back the development of biofuels for its aircraft.

Long-Term Solutions For The Australian National Airline

The airline has committed to working in partnership with government and institutions to reduce carbon emissions. “Qantas will work with industry, research institutions and governments to develop the long-term solutions to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry over the next three decades,” said the company in a statement.

With a number of clear metrics set in place, the Australian national airline will be interesting to follow.

Final Notes: If you are a part of the Qantas team, reach out at tips@mediusventures.com. We’d be interested in staying in the loop about your progress and sharing it out with our readers.

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E-Waste Is Becoming A Sustainability Disaster. And Investors Have Taken Notice.

Avery Maloto

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E Waste

As technology continues to evolve (and end up in landfill), e-waste is proving to be a sustainability disaster. In 2018 alone, humans generated approximately 2.01 billion tons of waste worldwide. To put things into perspective, 2.01 billion tons is comparable to 287,142,857 elephants or 275,342 Eiffel Towers. Certainly, that volume of waste sent into landfills is a significant concern. And along with it, potentially reusable resources are continuously wasted as a result of careless disposal. 

Shockingly, e-waste is responsible for 50 million tons of the total generated waste produced each year. Not to mention, it accounts for 70% of the toxic waste lying in landfills. 

To uncover more about the e-waste issue, I recently interviewed Amanda O’Toole, a fund manager at AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM). She is a part of the firm’s investment team as the Lead Portfolio Manager for Framlington Equities’s (AXA IM’s qualitative equities business) Clean Economy Strategy fund.

We discussed the primary challenges in e-waste as well as why financiers are looking towards waste management as an investment opportunity.

Why Is E-Waste So Hard To Recycle?

When dealing with the improper disposal of hazardous materials, there is a constant risk of land and water pollution through contamination. E-waste similarly causes these pollutive consequences.

For example, batteries leak heavy metals such as lead, barium, and lithium into the soil when placed in a landfill.

As a result, these heavy metals seep into groundwater channels, which eventually enter larger bodies of water like ponds or streams. And as technology continues to develop, the demand for new electronics continues to rise. Estimates show that the number of connected devices will reach 31 billion by 2020.

In O’Toole’s words, “without fundamental change throughout the electronic supply chain, the e-waste epidemic will get worse.”

Amanda OToole
Amanda O’Toole tells us “without fundamental change throughout the electronic supply chain, the e-waste epidemic will get worse.”

Although many companies do already run their own programs for the recycling of e-waste, the reclamation of e-waste is a difficult and complex process.

While complex electronics can contain up to 60 elements from the periodic table, the process of recovering these devices can be complicated and costly.

The question now arises: If it is complicated and costly, what other ways can we deal with e-waste?

Future Economic Potential In E-Waste

The way that O’Toole sees it, e-waste is of particular interest from an investment perspective because of the value of the materials it contains.

When a company is able to extract these raw materials safely, they are able to create a valuable product that can generate revenue.

If the extraction process is cost-effective, it is possible to generate a financial return by reducing e-waste. And in some cases, securing a stable supply of a material may be challenging.

Striving For Clean Technology Through Investments

For the last six months, O’Toole has been working to launch a successful new strategy focused on promoting clean technologies.

In her Clean Economy Investment strategy, she talks about how the fund adopts a unique approach that invests in diverse areas of the market that enjoy structural growth.

Surprisingly, many of these areas are not dependent on macroeconomics. Instead, the product gears towards the interest of mainstream investors.

Through this strategy, O’Toole engages with clients who are not typically interested in environmental value. And with her guidance, clients begin to move towards these areas of the market.

Appealing To the Public

Recently, the rise in social awareness of environmental issues is driving change. This change is partly due to regulations such as building performance regulation and effluence discharge monitoring.

However, consumer demand for things such as meat alternatives and recyclable packaging comprises a majority of the market’s change. In return, brands accommodate this change by developing responsible sourcing policies.

To its advantage, the fund is utilizing this societal trend and implementing it in their own main areas of focus. 

Currently, the fund identified four sub-themes to best represent opportunities for long term secular growth in the Clean Economy:

  1. Sustainable Transport
  2. Smart Energy
  3. Responsible Nutrition
  4. Recycling and Waste Reduction

Framlington Equity’s intention is to invest in publicly listed equities in areas of the global economy which benefit from secular tailwinds. And In the long term, O’Toole argues that consumers will continue to demand the transportation of goods and services; the provision of energy, food, and water; and the use of materials. 

The Bigger Picture

The common theme across the investments that AXA IM makes through the Clean Economy strategy is that these are companies whose goods and services make economic sense for their customers.

Adoption is not dependent on subsidies or a desire by corporates to address environmental issues.

The business case for adoption is based on the need to meet more stringent regulatory requirements. Additionally, companies can gain market share by addressing the growing demand for sustainable consumer products.

Brands would want to invest in order to mitigate potential reputation damage associated with a poor environmental footprint and build a sustainable production cost advantage.

Summary

Companies operating within the clean economy have a critical responsibility to ensure they offer the best solutions for clients while being mindful of the environment.

What’s more, is that when companies demonstrate how their goods and services outperform on relevant environmental metrics, they can gain a competitive advantage.

Financiers have noticed and made waste management a part of their investment strategy.

Final Notes: Is your company doing something to reduce its e-waste or carbon footprint? If so, we’d love to hear from you at tips@mediusventures.com.

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Adidas Sustainability Initiatives: Creating A More Circular Economy

Haider Sarwar

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Adidas sustainability initiatives

According to The Robin Report, around 65 – 75 percent of consumers under the age of 35 say that they want brands to be more sustainable; Adidas sustainability initiatives aim to do just that. Naturally, news of climate change and dangers to the environment have made major impacts on the economic arena. And consequently, increasing demand for sustainable products fosters healthy competition among companies. From sustainable fashion to sustainable foods, Adidas sustainability initiatives have shown the company’s deliberate strides towards creating a more circular economy

Adidas Sustainability Initiatives Include Fighting For Plastic-Free Oceans

In 2017, Adidas and Parley For The Oceans teamed up to tackle the plastic pollution in oceans. Their cooperation created the Adidas Parley shoes. These are sports shoes made out of plastic trash found in ocean.

In that same year, Adidas managed to sell one million shoes made out of ocean plastic. And the number of shoes sold is rising. It is not just shoes, either — consumers can purchase shirts, dresses, and pants now too. All of it is recycled from ocean plastic.

Additional to the push for recycled shoes, Adidas sustainability initiatives hope to help the company shift to totally recycled polyester by 2024. Furthermore, the company promises to keep its quality with recycled polyester.

Additionally, the Futurecraft Loop is a shoe that is 100% recyclable. Adidas will sell the new iteration of these shoes in 2021. It is clear that both Adidas and Parley For The Oceans are dedicated to making the ocean a cleaner place.

The founder of Parley has spoken out against plastic pollution, “Plastic is a design failure, just alien matter that shouldn’t be on this planet.”

Creating An Incentive to Recycle

Just a few weeks ago, Adidas sustainability initiatives took one additional stride by launching a voucher system in the UK. Specifically, the system allows consumers to give back their worn-out shoes.

In return, customers would earn up to $25 in credit toward a future purchase.

Afterwards, Adidas would resell or recycle those worn-out shoes. This develops an intrinsic value in the shoes that people own. Additionally, it teaches consumers to shop more wisely.

Adidas Sustainability Initiatives Extend Past Recycling

Five days ago, the company announced its partnership with International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. This multi-year partnership will pursue innovations in both technology and sustainability.

Moreover, this partnership will mark the first time that footwear innovation will be tested in space. 

Among many other efforts to communicate sustainability with its consumers, Adidas hosted its annual Run for the Oceans. During the race, which occurs on World Oceans Day on June 8th, had runners log the distance they run in one week.

For every kilometer run, Adidas donated $1 to Parley Education School. These donations aided in educating young people on how to tackle the marine problem. Not surprisingly, Adidas surpassed its goal of $1.5 million.

Summary

As consumers become more environmentally aware, so must the companies that provide for them. Adidas and Parley for the Oceans are setting an important precedent for other companies that wish to continue competing in the economic arena.

With companies like Coca-Cola adding to plastic pollution, companies have to make a change if they want continual profits.

Consequently, sustainable products are imperative if companies wish to flourish in a world driven by environmental justice. But Adidas sustainability initiatives are just the first step of many.

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