New study estimates how long mined metals circulate before being lost

Image of a pile of metal fragments.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Almost every aspect of modern society relies on materials that are limited on Earth. In order to live within the limits set by our planet, we have to figure out how to make the most of what we extract and reuse whatever we have extracted. A new study released this week looks into how close we are to reaching that ideal for 61 different metals.

Along the way, its authors figure out how long different metals stay in circulation before they’re lost and identify the stage at which those losses take place. While a lack of recycling is a major roadblock on the way to a circular economy, it’s far from the only one. For many metals, including some critically important ones, we discard huge amounts that are present in ores we mine for different elements.

Mind your metals

Tracking that many metals through their entire life cycle is a huge task, but the authors were able to build on previous work by Japanese researchers who developed a software model called MaTrace. The model is designed to track the flow of materials from production to loss, estimating losses at each stage of the material’s life cycle based on empirical data.

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#green, #lifecycle-analysis, #materials, #metals, #recycling, #science, #sustainability

Turning waste into gold drugs

Image of green colored solutions in glass vials.

Enlarge (credit: Krisana Antharith / EyeEm)

Earth Day was April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

Countless things we use in modern societies, from food to food containers, rely on industrial-scale chemistry. That chemistry often produces materials that aren’t useful to us—and in some cases, they’re hazardous or toxic. Not only are these materials wasteful, but paying to dispose of them safely can add to the costs of materials.

Early developments in green chemistry have mostly focused on finding reaction pathways that limit the production of unwanted byproducts and the use of toxic solvents. But researchers are looking beyond that, trying to find ways to better integrate chemistry into a circular economy, where source materials are either sustainable or recycled.

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#chemistry, #green, #green-chemistry, #science, #software, #sustainability

New EV vs. old beater: Which is better for the environment?

New EV vs. old beater: Which is better for the environment?

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Earth Day was April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

For many, buying an electric vehicle puts a stake in the ground—if I’m going to drive around town, I’m going to do it while reducing my carbon footprint.

“Gone are the days of burning toxic gasoline. A new age of electrons and instant torque are upon us,” you might say, standing next to your new vehicle and blue recycling bin.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #carbon-life-cycle, #cars, #features, #science, #sustainability

EU plans to label natural gas and nuclear power plants “sustainable”

EU plans to label natural gas and nuclear power plants “sustainable”

Enlarge (credit: iStock)

The European Union says it wants to “prevent greenwashing” among investors, but a new proposal may end up encouraging the behavior it wants to banish.

The European Commission put forward a plan today that defines what counts as a “sustainable investment,” something that’s all but required to manage a transition to clean energy. But to the chagrin of several EU countries, environmental groups, and asset managers, the proposal would allow both natural gas and nuclear to qualify as “contributing substantially to climate change mitigation.”

The split-the-baby approach came about because some countries, including Germany and Poland, lobbied for the inclusion of natural gas, while others, notably France, lobbied for nuclear power. Germany, which is in the process of shuttering its nuclear power plants, remains heavily dependent on coal and has been boosting its use of natural gas to “transition” away from coal. France, on the other hand, uses relatively little natural gas and gets nearly all of its electricity from nuclear power plants.

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#carbon-emissions, #climate-change, #european-commission, #european-union, #natural-gas, #nuclear-power, #policy, #sustainability

Researchers demonstrate complete solar-powered hydrocarbon production

Image of mirror and associated hardware.

Enlarge / Either of two reaction chambers (bottom) can be targeted by concentrated sunlight. (credit: ETH Zurich)

Carbon capture. Hydrogen production. Synthetic fuels. All of these technologies have been proposed as potential resources for dealing with the crises created by our carbon dioxide emissions. While they have worked in small pilot demonstrations, most of them haven’t demonstrated that they can scale to provide the economical solutions we need.

In the meantime, a group of European researchers sees the methods as part of a single coherent production platform, one that goes from sunlight and air to kerosene. Thanks to a small installation on the roof of a lab in Zurich, the team has been producing small amounts of different fuels using some mirrors and a handful of reaction chambers. While the full production process would also need to demonstrate that it can scale, the researchers calculate that the platform could fuel the entire commercial aircraft industry using a small fraction of the land in the Sahara.

The process

There are only three steps involved in the process of turning air into fuels. The first is separating out the raw ingredients, specifically carbon dioxide and water. This is done using a small commercial unit from a spinoff of ETH Zurich; the device uses a heating/cooling cycle and amines that absorb both CO2 and H2O at environmental temperatures, releasing them when they are heated. Critically, the supplied water is highly pure and doesn’t compete with the many other uses we have for clean water.

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#chemistry, #fuels, #green, #green-chemistry, #science, #solar-power, #sustainability

Salesforce reaches Net Zero energy usage, announces updates to Sustainability Cloud

Salesforce has often preached about responsible capitalism, and today at Dreamforce, the company’s annual customer extravaganza, it announced a notable achievement in the battle against global climate change. The company said that it has achieved effective Net Zero energy usage across its entire value chain with 100% renewable energy, while purchasing carbon offsets when that’s not possible.

At the same time, it announced updates to the Sustainability Cloud, a product that the company sells to other organizations to manage their climate initiatives, proving you can be responsible, and still be capitalists. Suzanne DiBianca, chief impact officer & EVP for corporate relations at Salesforce, speaking at yesterday’s Dreamforce press event says the company is proud to be an example of a large organization taking positive climate action.

“I’m very excited about our commitment to climate action around being a Net Zero company today. And this is not in 2030, not in 2040, not in some other future moment. We know we have to accelerate, and we have gotten to Net Zero today including our entire value chain, which is Scope 1, 2 and 3. Very few companies have gotten here,” she said.

There is a lot of sustainability jargon there, so we spoke to Ari Alexander, GM of Sustainability Cloud to break it down for us. Alexander explained that the sustainability community measures a company’s carbon footprint in three main areas known as Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3. “Scope 1 and 2 are what you own, what you operate, what you control and then what energy is procured in order to power your operation,” he said.

Scope 3 is everything else your company touches, which is referred to as ‘up and down the value chain’ in industry parlance. “The vast majority of the emissions that a company is responsible for are actually not in their direct operational control, but relate to their upstream suppliers that they procure goods and services from, or in the case of other industries the downstream use of the product or the life of a product,” he said. A downstream example might be what happens to your phone after you trade it in for a new one.

So when Salesforce says that it’s Net Zero up and down the value chain, it involves everything it controls and every company it interacts with in the act of doing business. Because there are so many variables here outside of Salesforce’s control, Alexander says when the company can’t ensure that a partner or vendor is in compliance with the standard set by the company, it buys what he calls “high quality carbon offsets.”

“Also for where we can’t do that immediately, we are purchasing high quality carbon offsets to make up the difference to be able to be fully Net Zero now, while we continue on that really important journey of reducing to absolute zero across the supply chain [over time],” he said.

In addition, the company announced updates to the Sustainability Cloud, the commercial tool it has developed to sell to other companies, using the same tools and technology that Salesforce is using in-house.

“Sustainability is undergoing a transformation in that it’s going from something that’s a nice to have to something that’s actually at the heart of business transformation itself. That it’s one of the mega trends of our time and growing exponentially every year, and part of what that means is that companies are moving significant resources in order to respond to the climate crisis and moving sustainability to the core of how they do business,” Alexander said.

At the same time, the company published a blueprint based on its own plans to be a more sustainable organization called the Salesforce Climate Action Plan (link to pdf) that it is making available for free online.

The company also announced plans to accelerate its tree planting goals to grow 30 million trees this year. This involves working with other organizations to plant, grow and restore 100 million trees in a 10 year period, a goal that they have been pushing to make happen much sooner.

Company president and COO Bret Taylor speaking at the Dreamforce press event said that the climate crisis has had an impact on everyone, and he believes Salesforce can have a meaningful impact based on its behavior while acting as an example for other organizations.

“We’re showing up at Dreamforce, […] really to recognize that we think business is the greatest platform for change and to paint a picture of this vision for inspiring every organization to become a trusted enterprise and address these crises [like climate],” Taylor said.

#bret-taylor, #cloud, #dreamforce-2021, #enterprise, #greentech, #saas, #salesforce, #sustainability

Tanso nabs $1.9M pre-seed to help industrial manufacturers do sustainability reporting

The climate crisis is creating massive demand for data capture as industries grapple with how to decarbonize. Put simply, you can’t cut your carbon emissions if don’t know what they are in the first place.

This need to gather data is a big opportunity for startups — and a wave of early companies have already been founded to try to plug the sustainability data gap, through things like APIs to assess emissions for carbon offsetting (which in turn has led to other startups trying to tackle the data gap around offsetting projects…).

One thing is clear: Requirements for sustainability reporting are only going to get broader and deeper from here on in.

Munich-based Tanso is an early stage startup (founded this year) that’s building software to support sustainability reporting for a particular sector (industrial manufacturers) — with the goal of creating a data management system that can automate data capture and sustainability reporting geared towards the specific needs of the sector.

The startup says it decided to focus on industrial manufacturing because it’s both an emissions-heavy sector and underserved with supportive digital tech vs many other industries.

The founders met during their studies at universities in Munich and Zurich — where they’d been researching the assessment of organizational climate impact. Their collective expertise crystalized into the realization of a business opportunity to build a data management system for a notoriously polluting sector that’s facing a mandate to change.

In the coming years, European regulations will expand sustainability reporting requirements — with the EU’s ‘Green Deal’ plan setting an overarching goal of Europe becoming the first “climate-neutral” continent by 2050.

Specific (existing) reporting requirements within the bloc include the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which will apply to more than 50,000 companies — requiring they report on their sustainability metrics, starting in 2023.

The UK (now outside the EU) already introduced some reporting requirements for domestic companies, under the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) regulation, which has applied since 2019 and applies to over 12,000 businesses in the UK in varying degrees of detail depending on the size of the company.

So there is a clear direction of travel in the region requiring businesses to gather and report sustainability data.

Tanso has just closed a $1.9 million pre-seed raise with the aim of getting its data management support software to market in time for an expected surge in demand as sustainability regulations like CSRD start to bite.

The raise is led by German early stage b2b fund UVC Partners, with participation from Picus Capital, Possible Ventures, and a number of business angels.

Tanso is still in the R&D/product development phase, with co-founder Gyri Reiersen telling TechCrunch it’s currently working with a number of manufacturers to “figure out the sweet spot” for automating data gathering so it can come to market with a scalable product offering. She says the team raised a relatively large pre-seed exactly to see it through until it’s got something fit to launch (it’s hoping to have something “solid, verified and scalable” by the end of 2022, per Reiersen).

The goal for the product is a single platform that gathers and holds all the customer’s sustainability data and can automate the generation of reports to meet regulatory requirements — including auditing.

From 2025, Reiersen points out that CSRD reporting needs to be “auditable”, meaning that you have to have “some form of transparency and traceability”; and also that the “correctness” of sustainability reporting will be a C-Suite responsibility. So that must concentrate boardroom minds.

“Going beyond that it’s all about how can you use this data and the insights that the data gives you to make predictions and models going forward for how should we develop our products? What makes sense to do going forward to make?” she adds.

“What we’re prototyping currently is to streamline the workflow of information gathering,” Reiersen also tells us, discussing the product dev process. “Also to have really good, fundamental user-flow for the users to use our product. And then doing the deep dives on integrations over time.”

She says the challenge is finding the trade-off between usability and “digging into the data”. “For us it’s very important to have a scalable product, especially having it fully scalable from 2023 when the CSRD are started because then there will be desperation on the market. Companies will need to have something,” she adds.

“We need to have these solutions… that take one step in the right direction for all companies and not just have a couple of carbon neutral companies… So for us it’s more about finding the productizable use-cases in the beginning to make this a scalable product.”

But she also warns over a proliferation of overly “shallow” offerings in the space — driven by marketing-led ‘greenwashing’ (and bogus carbon offsetting) rather than a genuine desire to correctly identify the problem and course-correct which is what’s actually needed for humanity to avert climate disaster.

Reiersen adds that she got really interested in this space through her university work researching the overestimation of carbon offsets through deep learning.

“There is such a need for accountability and making sure that the product that is being developed actually do their job correctly. Because it’s so easy to just have a black box and trust it. We can’t afford having systems that overestimate or underestimate. It needs to be accurate and it needs to be validated,” she says.

“Going forward accuracy will mean more and more and then you need to access the ‘real data’ and not just ‘guestimations’,” she predicts. “And that’s where we see that of course we need to be very front-end/UX-friendly, and making it easy for people to enter the right data and have a very user-friendly, usable product and that people are guided through the process of gathering the right data… but also over time really focusing on how do you integrate and get access to the data at the data-base level?”

 

#artificial-intelligence, #carbon-offset, #early-stage-startup, #environmentalism, #europe, #european-union, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #munich, #picus-capital, #sustainability, #sustainability-reporting, #tanso, #uvc-partners

Index leads $12.2M seed in Sourceful, a data play to make supply chains greener

Supply chains can be a complex logistical challenge. But they pose an even greater environmental challenge. And it’s that latter problem — global supply-chain sustainability — where UK startup Sourceful is fully focused, although it argues its approach can boost efficiency as well as shrink environmental impact. So it’s a win-win, per the pitch.

Early investors look impressed: Sourceful is announcing a $12.2 million seed funding round today, led by Europe’s Index Ventures (partner, Danny Rimer, is joining the board). Eka Ventures, Venrex and Dylan Field (Figma founder), also participated in the chunky raise.

The June 2020-founded startup says it will use the new funding to scale its operations and build out its platform for sustainable sourcing, with a plan to hire more staff across technology, sustainability, marketing and ops.

Its team has already grown fivefold since the start of 2021 — and it’s now aiming to reach 60 employees by the end of the year.

And all this is ahead of a public launch that’s programmed for early next year.

Sourceful’s platform is in pre-launch beta for now, with around 20 customers across a number of categories — such as food & beverages (Foundation Coffee House), fashion and accessories (Fenton), healthcare (Elder), and online marketplaces (Floom and Stitched) — kicking the tyres in the hopes of making better supply chain decisions.

Startup watchers will know that supply chain logistics and freight forwarding has been a hotbed of activity — with entrepreneurs making waves for years now, promising efficiency gains by digitizing legacy (and often still pretty manual) legacy processes.

Sustainability-focused supply chain startups are a bit more of a recent development (with some category-pioneering exceptions) but could be set for major uplift as the world’s attention spins toward decarbonizing. (Just this month we’ve also covered Portcast and Responsibly, for example.)

Sourceful joins the fray with a dual-sided promise to tackle sustainability and efficiency by mapping client requirements to vetted suppliers on its marketplace — handling the buying and shipping logistics piece (including a little warehousing) — and taking a commission on the overall price as its cut of the action.

At first glance it’s a curious choice of name for a sustainability startup, given the fact that sourcing (a whole lot) less is what’s ultimately going to be needed for humanity to cut its global carbon emissions enough to avert climate disaster. But maybe the intended wordplay here is ‘full’ — in the sense of ‘fully optimized’.

The UK startup is attacking the supply chain sustainability problem from the perspective of doing something right now, arguing that making a dent in consumer-driven environmental impacts of sourcing stuff (packaging, merchansize, components etc) is a lot better than letting the same old polluting status quo roll on. 

However, given all the unverifiable ‘eco’ marketing claims being attached to products nowadays — or, indeed, other forms of flagrant ‘greenwashing’ (like bogus carbon offsets) that are cynically trying to convince consumers it’s okay to keep consuming as much as ever — there are clearly pitfalls to avoid too.

If you’re talking about packaging — which is one of the products that Sourceful is deeply focused on, with a forthcoming design capability offering that will help businesses to customize packaging designs, pick materials, size etc based on real-time data, all with the goal of encouraging ‘greener’ choices — less really is more.

Ideally, zero packaging is what your business should be aiming for (where practical, ofc). Yet Sourceful’s service will, inevitably, support demand for packaging supply and manufacture. At least in the first blush. So there’s a bit of a conundrum.

“You can put a carbon footprint score on packaging in general. So you could say packaging overall is this amount so the best thing you could do is not use any packaging. But the reality is, for most brands right now, especially for ecommerce, if you’re trying to deliver your product to the customer there needs to be some packaging — and so if packaging is unavoidable in its current form or in another form then the best thing you can then do is optimize that packaging,” argues CEO and co-founder Wing Chan, when we make the point that zero packaging is the most sustainable option.

“Right now we think the best solution is to help you optimize your packaging — the next wave will be around circular forms of packaging. Packaging that you can return back to your courier, packaging that you can reuse in another form. But we wanted to start with what is the current pain point. And the pain point is: I’m buying packaging, it’s very expensive, it’s very time-consuming and if I try and get it to be ‘green’ I either put a marketing spin on it or I don’t know how to actually make it more sustainable.

“But I definitely agree with you that long term we’ve got to think about how do I get the supply chain number as close to zero and then offset whatever’s remaining.”

For now, then, Sourceful is using data — combined with its marketplace of vetted suppliers (~40 at this stage) in the UK and China — to help companies optimize sourcing logistics and shrink their supply chains’ environmental impact.

It does this by putting a “carbon footprint score” on the product choices its brand clients are making.

This means that instead of only being able to claim “qualitative things” — such as that a product uses less plastic or a different type of plastic — Sourceful’s customers can display an actual benchmarked carbon footprint score (in the form of a number), based on its lifecycle assessment of the stuff involved in making up the finished product.

“It’s a lifecycle view,” says Chan. “For example if you take packaging we look at the box, we look at what is the cardboard material, where does it come from, how far has it travelled, what type of material is it, how much material gets used, how is then transported — for example is it a manufacturer in Asia all the way to the UK — so we get an overall score. So rather than it just being comparing paper and plastic we actually help the brands to see an overall quantitive outcome.”

“We’ve built the [software] engine that allows you to make choices and see the actual output — so, for example, if you make your box bigger what does that actually do to your carbon footprint score?” he adds.

Sourceful has an internal climate science team to do this work. It is also building on publicly available data sources, per Chan — such as ecoinvent (“the market standard based data”) — but he says the public data available isn’t up-to-date, saying it’s also therefore working with researchers to update these key sources with the last five years of data.

It wants the protocol it’s devised for scoring carbon footprint via this lifecycle assessment to become a universal standard. Hence it’s currently going through an ISO certification process — hoping to have that in place before the planned public launch of its platform in Q1 next year.

“There’s two ISO standards for doing a lifecycle assessment and normally you’d get ISO approval for a specific product but we’re getting ISO approval for the whole methodology — essentially the platform that we’ve built,” explains Chan. “There’s an independent panel of people, from universities, from other consultancies, who will be reviewing this as part of that ISO review — that’s why it’s so important to us that we’re doing that.”

The vetting of the suppliers on its marketplace is something Sourceful is doing entirely by itself, though — without any outside help. So its customers still need to trust that it’s doing a proper job of monitoring all the third parties on its marketplace.

But, on this, Chan argues that’s since sustainability is core to its value proposition it is incentivized to do the vetting in a more thorough and comprehensive way than any other individual player would be.

“The key thing for us is we combine both the data capture you would do when you’re understanding a supplier — asking all the questions about how their supply chain works and all of the laws entered by the new country — but we’re coupling that with a human visit as well. So we have a team in the UK as well as a team in Asia who actually go and visit the manufacturers. So it’s an extra layer of comfort for the brands that we’ve actually spent the time to go and meet them,” he suggests.

“The second thing is, as part of our marketplace build, we’re understanding how their supply chain works — in order to build the lifecycle assessment we actually understand each stage of their manufacturing process. So we have a much deeper understanding of their way of operating than all of the other platforms would have. So, yes it’s more involved, but we think that gives better accountability and a more accurate outcome.”

“We’re taking [the vetting process] to another level,” he adds. “We didn’t find anyone that was going into the same level of depth as us — so that’s why we’ve done it ourselves.”

Pressed a little more, Chan also tells TechCrunch: “Supply chain risks never disappear but the thing is how much investment are you making to learn more about it? And for us because we’re capturing this data on lifecycle assessment it’s part of that process of understanding the supplier. So rather than it being another cost that we pay to go visit the manufacturer, we see it as part of our data gathering — a key part of the platform.

“So rather than it being a cost to minimize, which is why a lot of companies end up in trouble because they don’t visit [their suppliers] enough, we’re invested in making sure that data is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. And the manufacturers see that because they want to have a score that’s good, they also want to understand where their footprint could be improved. So it’s a partnership, rather than it just being a bunch of tick boxes to check — which is what a lot of the audits are… We’re here to try and understand their process better.”

Zooming out to look at the driving forces pressing for supply chain sustainability, Chan suggests demand for greener sourcing by businesses is being driven by consumers themselves — who are certainly more aware than ever of environmental concerns. And can, to a degree, vote with their wallet by choosing more eco products (and/or by putting direct reputational pressure on businesses, such as via social media channels).

There is some regulatory pressure, too — such as existing sustainability and carbon reporting requirements (typically for larger businesses). Along with the overarching ‘net zero’ targets which governments in Europe and elsewhere have signed up for. So there should be increasing ‘top down’ pressure on businesses to decarbonize.

Chan also points to another swathe of environmental laws coming in — such as those banning things like single use plastics — which he says are creating further momentum for businesses to re-evaluate their supply chains.

Nonetheless, he believes the biggest source of pressure for companies to decarbonize is coming from consumers themselves. So — the premise is — brands that can present the strongest story to people about what they’re doing to reduce their environmental impact — backed up by a certified lifecycle assessment (assuming Sourceful gets its ISO stamp) — stand to win the business of growing numbers of eco-minded buyers, at the same time as netting cost efficiencies by optimizing their supply chains.

(And, indeed, part of the team’s inspiration for Sourceful’s business was to challenge the idea that consumers are to blame for the world’s environmental problems — given the lack of choice people so often have over what they can buy, not to mention the paucity of information to inform purchasing choices.)

“In the absence of government regulation on [lifecycle assessment] we’re actually saying to the brand, you’ve got existing products, we’ve measured the material, production, transport, all of these things — given you a carbon footprint score, and actually when you go and look at alternatives we can quantitatively assess the difference between those options. So rather than just pandering to the latest marketing buzzword you get a quantitive view on that,” he says.

“So what we’ve been showing is you can move to a more sustainable outcome — from a quantitative point of view — but also save money. So we’re tackling both problems. The supply chain itself is not very efficient so we can save money and the supply chain is not very transparent so we can give them better visibility into their actual carbon footprint.”

“Every brand that we’ve met that has been started in the last two years, their founder or their premise of the brand had sustainability involved — it’s such a hot topic that if you start a fashion brand or a beauty brand or food brand you have to have somewhere in your mission statement/founder story about your commitment to sustainability. So we thought that’s where the market is going to be. But actually we saw more established companies had the same view — that their consumers are also asking for there to be change in how they talk about their products, how they understand their lifecycle journey. So actually I think the government drive on regulation is of course important but it’s still far behind and actually consumers are driving more of a change,” he adds.

Sourceful’s offering includes a warehousing ‘managed service’ component — where it’s using a predictive algorithm to power auto-stocking so that brands can store (non-current) inventory in its warehouses (to save space etc) and have the goods shipped to them as they need them.

Being able to source supplies like components or packaging in bulk obviously reduces purchasing costs. But depending on how it’s done, it may also mean you can optimize things like transportation requirements, which could limit shipping emissions, so there are potentially efficiency and sustainability strands here too.

“Sea freight is several times more energy efficient than air freight so if we can organize more shipments to go via sea freight than air then that’s a major win. The[n] if we can fill the container up with different client orders so that you end up with one very full container, rather than lots of containers with half of it empty, you’re also going to save a lot of energy too. And so that’s another part of the journey that we do,” says Chan. “The other thing is because were aggregating orders with the manufacturer — they actually have better utilization as well, which is more efficient for them. So all of these things are really important to driving the overall cost as well sustainability score down.”

“The more we thought about it, the more there are so many parts of the supply chain which haven’t been optimzied,” he adds. “So many times you order 2,000 boxes it comes in these air freight shipments and someone has to courier it to you in one trip — there’s so many places where aggregating and being smarter about data you can save so much footprint.”

 

#carbon-footprint, #carbon-offset, #danny-rimer, #e-commerce, #eka-ventures, #environmentalism, #europe, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #logistics, #product-management, #sourceful, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #sustainability

Tech can help solve US cities’ affordability crisis

U.S. cities are in the midst of an affordability crisis. Just between May 2020 and May 2021, home prices saw their biggest annual increase in more than two decades and construction material prices increased by 24%. The cost of renting has risen faster than renters’ incomes for 20 years. Construction needs to play a critical role in fixing these pressing issues, but is the industry ready?

Construction is a $10 trillion global industry that employs more than 200 million people worldwide. But despite its size and importance, the industry’s annual labor productivity has only increased by 0.1% per year since 1947.

Since 1947, we’ve witnessed amazing advances in technology and science. Industries like agriculture, manufacturing and retail have achieved quantum leaps in productivity with improved bioengineering increasing yields and the introduction of cutting-edge logistics bringing affordable consumer goods to the mass market. Labor productivity in these industries increased by over 8x between 1947-2010, compared with 1x in construction.

Why, amid all this progress and innovation, do millions of construction workers in the U.S. still have to rely on manual, pen-and-paper processes for critical parts of their work?

We’ve heavily underinvested in the technology that can help save us from the crisis we face. Historically, entrepreneurs, technologists and investors haven’t spent the time to understand the specific needs and workflows of the construction industry.

Today, more than $800 billion a year is spent on commercial construction, but just a tiny fraction of that goes toward construction technology. In recent years, construction ranked lowest of all industries for technology spending as a percentage of revenue — coming in at just 1.5% — far below the all-industry average of 3.3%, let alone industries like banking, which came in at 7.2%.

A massive chunk of that annual spending — more than $250 billion a year — is spent on construction materials. And they’re only getting more expensive. Materials represent roughly a third of a project’s cost, yet most contractors have to rely on manual workarounds created long before the invention of smartphones to order materials.

This results in both workers on the job site and in the office being overburdened and spending far too much valuable time on paperwork, chasing down materials and fixing errors.

Office teams receive hundreds, if not thousands, of materials requests from the field, all in different formats — including requisitions written with a marker on pizza boxes. They have to manually convert handwritten requisitions into purchase orders sent to suppliers via email, spreadsheets and PDFs, retype order information into their accounting systems, and play phone tag with their suppliers and field teams to keep tabs on order statuses.

Unfortunately, all of that chaos often leads to mistakes, missed opportunities to buy at the best price and project delays.

The mayhem continues for accounting teams, who have no easy way to reconcile their invoices or know if they’re paying the right amount, let alone track rebates and payment terms across different vendors.

Meanwhile, foremen — whose time is more valuable than ever in the current labor squeeze — are often spending less than 30% of their time doing what they do best: building. Without an easy way to select the exact materials they need and track them to delivery, cases of the wrong materials showing up at the wrong time are too common, throwing project timelines off track and creating a huge amount of waste.

Technology can make ordering and managing materials much easier, allowing workers on site and in the office to focus on other critical tasks. It can also help contractors catch common errors before they derail a project and help us build in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Buildings are more than bricks and mortar; they’re hospitals, schools, homes and small businesses. The buildings that surround us quite literally shape our lives. Our communities need them — we need places to meet, learn, play and heal. Imagine if the things that we rely on to create vibrant communities were cheaper to fix — or faster to build?

A new generation of workers who grew up with phones in their pockets are now joining the construction industry and expecting change. By fixing the broken supply chain, we can make construction faster, cheaper and more efficient.

We can move forward and solve our most urgent needs as a society — from building affordable housing to fixing our nation’s infrastructure — and make our cities more affordable and accessible to all.

#column, #economy, #manufacturing, #opinion, #real-estate, #sustainability, #tc, #united-states

Private equity giveth, and private equity taketh away

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Alex and Grace and Chris gathered to dig through the week’s biggest happenings, including some news of our own. As a note, Equity’s Monday episode will be landing next Tuesday, thanks to a national holiday here in the United States. And we have something special planned for Wednesday, so stay tuned.

Ok! Here’s the rundown from the show:

That’s a wrap from us for the week! Keep your head atop your shoulders and have a great weekend!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#allbirds, #compound-foods, #databricks, #drift, #equity-podcast, #hum-capital, #ipo, #s-1, #sustainability, #tc, #toast, #vista-equity-partners, #y-combinator

UN’s IPCC report on climate change sounds “code red” for planet

A major UN scientific report has concluded that human activity is changing the climate at an unprecedented rate. The report has been describe as a “code red for humanity” by its authors.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is stern and blunt in its conclusions: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans, and land,” it says.

The IPCC – a grouping of scientists whose findings are endorsed by the world’s governments – warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts, and flooding and a key temperature limit being broken inside the next decade.

This “means that the world will hit one-and-a-half degrees warming much earlier than expected, possibly the middle of 2034” says the report.

The IPCC says going past 1.5C will create more intense and more frequent heatwaves.

Prof Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, UK, one of the report’s authors said: “It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet.”

However, the scientists say a catastrophe can be avoided if the world acts fast, and, with deep cuts to the emissions of greenhouse gases, could stabilize rising temperatures.

And scientists are hopeful that global emissions can be cut by 2030 and reach net zero by the middle of this century.

The report is the first major review by the IPCC since 2013 and comes less than three months before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

IPCC report key points:

• 1.5C will be reached by 2040 in all scenarios unless emissions aren’t slashed in the next few years

• Keeping to 1.5C will require “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in emissions and slower action leads to 2C and more suffering for all life on Earth

• Human influence is “very likely” (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice

• Heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe

• There will be likely increases in ‘fire weather’ in many countries

• Drought is increasing in more than 90% of regions

• Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900

• The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850

• The recent rate of sea-level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971

• A rise of around 2m in sea levels by 2100 cannot be ruled out – and neither can a 5m rise by 2150, threatening millions of people in coastal areas

• Extreme sea-level events that occurred once a century are projected to occur at least annually

Under all the emissions scenarios considered in the report, all targets for reductions targets will be broken this century unless huge cuts in carbon take place.

Solutions proposed by the scientists include using clean technology, carbon capture, and storage, or planting trees.

Another co-author, Prof Piers Forster from the University of Leeds, UK, was quoted as saying: “If we are able to achieve net-zero, we hopefully won’t get any further temperature increase; and if we are able to achieve net-zero greenhouse gases, we should eventually be able to reverse some of that temperature increase and get some cooling.”

The IPCC report found that 2,400bn tonnes of CO2 have been emitted by humanity since 1850, and that we can only leak another 400bn tonnes to have a 66% chance of keeping to 1.5C.

This means the planet has spent 86% of its carbon ‘budget’ already.

Furthermore, no-one is safe from the effects of climate change.

“We can no longer assume that citizens of more affluent and secure countries like Canada, Germany, Japan, and the US will be able to ride out the worst excesses of a rapidly destabilizing climate,” says Prof Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy. “It’s clear we’re all in the same boat – facing a challenge that will affect every one of us within our lifetimes.”

Below are links to TechCrunch’s most recent Climate and Sustainability coverage:

#climate, #greentech, #sustainability, #tc

Tech leaders can be the secret weapon for supercharging ESG goals

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors should be key considerations for CTOs and technology leaders scaling next generation companies from day one. Investors are increasingly prioritizing startups that focus on ESG, with the growth of sustainable investing skyrocketing.

What’s driving this shift in mentality across every industry? It’s simple: Consumers are no longer willing to support companies that don’t prioritize sustainability. According to a survey conducted by IBM, the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated consumers’ focus on sustainability and their willingness to pay out of their own pockets for a sustainable future. In tandem, federal action on climate change is increasing, with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and a recent executive order on climate commitments.

Over the past few years, we have seen an uptick in organizations setting long-term sustainability goals. However, CEOs and chief sustainability officers typically forecast these goals, and they are often long term and aspirational — leaving the near and midterm implementation of ESG programs to operations and technology teams.

Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering.

CTOs are a crucial part of the planning process, and in fact, can be the secret weapon to help their organization supercharge their ESG targets. Below are a few immediate steps that CTOs and technology leaders can take to achieve sustainability and make an ethical impact.

Reducing environmental impact

As more businesses digitize and more consumers use devices and cloud services, the energy needed by data centers continues to rise. In fact, data centers account for an estimated 1% of worldwide electricity usage. However, a forecast from IDC shows that the continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2021 through 2024.

Make compute workloads more efficient: First, it’s important to understand the links between computing, power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Making your app and compute workloads more efficient will reduce costs and energy requirements, thus reducing the carbon footprint of those workloads. In the cloud, tools like compute instance auto scaling and sizing recommendations make sure you’re not running too many or overprovisioned cloud VMs based on demand. You can also move to serverless computing, which does much of this scaling work automatically.

Deploy compute workloads in regions with lower carbon intensity: Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering. While the compute capabilities of regions are similar, their carbon intensities typically vary. Some regions have access to more carbon-free energy production than others, and consequently the carbon intensity for each region is different.

So, choosing a cloud region with lower carbon intensity is often the simplest and most impactful step you can take. Alistair Scott, co-founder and CTO of cloud infrastructure startup Infracost, underscores this sentiment: “Engineers want to do the right thing and reduce waste, and I think cloud providers can help with that. The key is to provide information in workflow, so the people who are responsible for infraprovisioning can weigh the CO2 impact versus other factors such as cost and data residency before they deploy.”

Another step is to estimate your specific workload’s carbon footprint using open-source software like Cloud Carbon Footprint, a project sponsored by ThoughtWorks. Etsy has open-sourced a similar tool called Cloud Jewels that estimates energy consumption based on cloud usage information. This is helping them track progress toward their target of reducing their energy intensity by 25% by 2025.

Make social impact

Beyond reducing environmental impact, CTOs and technology leaders can have significant, direct and meaningful social impact.

Include societal benefits in the design of your products: As a CTO or technology founder, you can help ensure that societal benefits are prioritized in your product roadmaps. For example, if you’re a fintech CTO, you can add product features to expand access to credit in underserved populations. Startups like LoanWell are on a mission to increase access to capital for those typically left out of the financial system and make the loan origination process more efficient and equitable.

When thinking about product design, a product needs to be as useful and effective as it is sustainable. By thinking about sustainability and societal impact as a core element of product innovation, there is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in socially beneficial ways. For example, Lush has been a pioneer of package-free solutions, and launched Lush Lens — a virtual package app leveraging cameras on mobile phones and AI to overlay product information. The company hit 2 million scans in its efforts to tackle the beauty industry’s excessive use of (plastic) packaging.

Responsible AI practices should be ingrained in the culture to avoid social harms: Machine learning and artificial intelligence have become central to the advanced, personalized digital experiences everyone is accustomed to — from product and content recommendations to spam filtering, trend forecasting and other “smart” behaviors.

It is therefore critical to incorporate responsible AI practices, so benefits from AI and ML can be realized by your entire user base and that inadvertent harm can be avoided. Start by establishing clear principles for working with AI responsibly, and translate those principles into processes and procedures. Think about AI responsibility reviews the same way you think about code reviews, automated testing and UX design. As a technical leader or founder, you get to establish what the process is.

Impact governance

Promoting governance does not stop with the board and CEO; CTOs play an important role, too.

Create a diverse and inclusive technology team: Compared to individual decision-makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. Additionally, Gartner research found that in a diverse workforce, performance improves by 12% and intent to stay by 20%.

It is important to reinforce and demonstrate why diversity, equity and inclusion is important within a technology team. One way you can do this is by using data to inform your DEI efforts. You can establish a voluntary internal program to collect demographics, including gender, race and ethnicity, and this data will provide a baseline for identifying diversity gaps and measuring improvements. Consider going further by baking these improvements into your employee performance process, such as objectives and key results (OKRs). Make everyone accountable from the start, not just HR.

These are just a few of the ways CTOs and technology leaders can contribute to ESG progress in their companies. The first step, however, is to recognize the many ways you as a technology leader can make an impact from day one.

#artificial-intelligence, #carbon-footprint, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-services, #column, #energy, #environmentalism, #esg, #etsy, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #machine-learning, #open-source-software, #opinion, #sustainability, #tc, #thoughtworks

Enlist the Ocean in Combatting Climate Change, Experts and Advocates Argue

“Blue carbon” taken up by marine plants and animals is mostly neglected in climate policy, they say

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #environment, #sustainability

Clouds May Speed Up Global Warming

They may make both the best and worst-case scenarios for climate change less likely

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #sustainability

Wild Pigs Release as Much Carbon Emissions as 1 Million Cars

The invasive animals uproot soil, exposing it to microbes that release greenhouse gases

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #sustainability

Pesticides Are Killing the Organisms That Keep Our Soils Healthy

They harm worms, beetles and thousands of other subterranean species that are vital to agriculture

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #forum, #sustainability

Heat Wave Death Toll Will Rise With Thorough Count

The 117 fatalities recorded in the Pacific Northwest so far include only those directly attributed to heat

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #environment, #health, #public-health, #sustainability

‘Advanced’ Nuclear Reactors? Don’t Hold Your Breath

With little hard evidence, their developers maintain they’ll be cheaper, safer and more secure than existing power plants

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #sustainability

What to Expect from the Next Major Global Climate Report

Next month the IPCC will begin releasing its periodic assessment of the state of climate science

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #sustainability

Wildfire Smoke Drives People Indoors, Raising COVID Risk

The particulates in smoke also cause lung inflammation that may make people more susceptible to the virus

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#health, #natural-disasters, #public-health, #sustainability

Indonesia “sea-to-table” platform Aruna hooks $35M led by Prosus and East Ventures Growth Fund

When Aruna’s founders first met at university, they wanted to find a way to use their studies in information technology to help family members who were running small fisheries. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest fisheries producers, but the industry is very fragmented. This means fisheries, especially small ones, deal with fluctuations in demand and price instability. Aruna was created to bring them closer to customers like restaurants and exporters, the way farm-to-table startups are aggregating the agricultural supply chain.

Aruna announced today it has raised $35 million in Series A funding led by Prosus Ventures and East Ventures Growth Fund, with participation from SIG and returning investors including AC Ventures, MDI and Vertex Ventures. Aruna says this is the largest Series A investment to date in Indonesia’s agritech and maritime sector.

The company works primarily with small fisheries (or ones that have boats with about one to two metric tonnes of capacity) and focuses on sustainability, helping suppliers adhere to the United Nations Goal 14’s targets. These include preventing overfishing, protecting coastal ecosystems and giving small-scale fisheries access to more resources and markets.

Aruna was founded in 2016 by Farid Naufal Aslam, Indraka Fadhlillah and Utari Octavianty, who met while studying information technology administration and management at Telkom University. Fadhlillah and Octavianty came from families in the fishing industry, and the three wanted to create something that would solve some of the challenges they faced.

“This was the main idea, but the bigger thing we saw at the time was the advantage of Indonesia’s position as a large agricultural country with big potential in the seafood industry,” Aslam told TechCrunch.

According to the World Bank, Indonesia is the world’s second largest fisheries producer. The sector creates about $4.1 billion in annual export earnings and supports more than 7 million jobs.

But Aruna’s founding team saw two major problems while analyzing coastal communities. The first one was market access and getting fair prices for seafood. The second was access to working capital.

To solve the first issue, Aruna was built to shorten the supply chain, which Aslam said can have six or seven layers between fisheries and buyers like restaurants, markets or exporters.

Buyers make purchase orders through the platform, which are then distributed to fishery communities that Aruna organizes to focus on particular types of seafood. This helps them predict demand, guarantee return business and prevent overfishing.

Aruna also built a logistics network that includes more than 45 collection sites, or warehouses where seafood is delivered by fisheries for quality checks, processing and packaging. Aruna’s warehouses are a combination of facilities that it owns or runs with partners. Deliveries are performed by third-party logistics providers.

The platform currently has about 20 product categories and will use its funding to expand into more. Its commodities include high-value products like lobster, which are shipped by exporters to markets like Malaysia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States.

One of Aruna’s main requirements for fisheries on the platform is sticking to its sustainability process. According to the World Bank, one of the biggest issues facing Indonesia fisheries is overfishing, which hurts marine biodiversity. Aruna team members work with fisheries to standardize their equipment so they comply with government regulations and chose locations that are not overfished.

By focusing on a few types of seafood each, fisheries that work with Aruna are better able to ensure the quality and traceability of their products, and manage pricing fluctuations.

The second problem Aruna is working on is lack of access to working capital. To help fisheries get low interest, collateral-free loans for equipment and other things they need for their businesses, Aruna partners with financial institutions and fintech companies. When an Aruna fishery applies for a loan, the platform is able to provide transaction data collected on the platform for credit scoring.

The company also announced today that it has appointed Budiman Goh as its president, and Octavianty as its chief sustainability officer. Its funding will be used to expand to new areas in Indonesia, hiring data analytics and tech development, including IoT devices to help perform quality checks.

Aruna plans to focus on Indonesia for the near future because of the large number of fisheries in the country.

“Currently we have 21,000 fishermen on the platform, yet there are about 2.7 million fishermen in Indonesia, so there is a lot of room to grow,” Aslam said.

In a statement, Sachin Bhanot, Prosus Ventures’ head of Southeast Asia investment said, “Having built a robust supply chain and technology infrastructure steeped with deep industry knowledge and expertise, we believe Aruna is uniquely positioned to service the growing global demand for sustainable fishery product, while supporting the livelihood of local fishermen.”

 

#agritech, #aruna, #asia, #fisheries, #fishing, #food, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #maritime, #southeast-asia, #startups, #sustainability, #tc

Western Drought Has Lasted Longer Than the Dust Bowl

Dry conditions have drawn down reservoirs, fueled massive wildfires and stunted crops

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #environment, #natural-disasters, #sustainability, #weather

Australia’s Criticisms of Proposal to List Great Barrier Reef as ‘in Danger’ Don’t Stack Up

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is under pressure from pollution and climate change

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #environment, #policyethics, #sustainability

China Launches World’s Largest Carbon Market: But Is It Ambitious Enough?

Experts welcome the trading scheme, but question whether it is up to the task of helping China achieve its climate goals

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #sustainability

Cities Pledge More Green Space to Combat Urban Heat

Four U.S. municipalities—Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle—were among those that signed on

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #sustainability

Today’s Wildfires Are Taking Us into Uncharted Territory

Data on 2,000 years of Rocky Mountain forest fires shows skyrocketing damage

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #natural-disasters, #sustainability

Space Has Better Internet than Antarctica, But that Might Change

A proposed fiber optic cable could make it easier for scientists to transmit crucial climate data

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #engineering, #sustainability

To Save Bats and Their Habitats, We Must Protect the Land Rights of Indigenous People

In the Brazilian Amazon, as in many parts of the world, those who live on the land are best positioned to protect its biodiversity

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#conservation, #sustainability

Thawing Permafrost Is Artificially Chilled to Stabilize Alaska Oil Pipeline

Damage to support structures raises the threat of an oil spill in a delicate ecosystem that would be difficult to clean up

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #environment, #sustainability

Drought Threatens to Close California Hydropower Plant for First Time

Shutting down the plant, which has run continuously since 1967, would squeeze already tight electricity supplies

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #energy, #sustainability, #weather

National Park Nature Walks, Episode 9: Inside a Migratory Bird’s Sanctuary

Here is our next installment of a new pop-up podcast miniseries that takes your ears into the deep sound of nature. Host Jacob Job, an ecologist and audiophile, brings you inches away from a…

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #sustainability

National Park Nature Walks, Episode 9: Inside a Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Here is our next installment of a new pop-up podcast miniseries that takes your ears into the deep sound of nature. Host Jacob Job, an ecologist and audiophile, brings you inches away from a…

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #sustainability

Pacific Northwest Heat Wave Killed More Than One Billion Sea Creatures

The massive loss could destabilize local marine ecosystems

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #sustainability

Pacific Northwest Heat Wave Killed More than 1 Billion Sea Creatures

The massive loss could destabilize local marine ecosystems

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #sustainability

Cities ‘Game’ Federal Program Meant to Reduce Flood Risk

The program, offering reduced insurance costs, does little to encourage adaptation to sea level rise

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#natural-disasters, #policyethics, #sustainability

Mighty Buildings lands $22M to create ‘sustainable and affordable’ 3D-printed homes

Oakland-based Mighty Buildings, which is on a quest to build homes using 3D printing, robotics and automation, has raised a $22 million extension to its Series B round of funding.

The additional capital builds upon a $40 million a raise the company announced earlier this year, bringing its total funding since its 2017 inception to $100 million.

Mighty Building’s self-proclaimed mission is to create “beautiful, sustainable and affordable” homes.

The company claims to be able to 3D print structures “two times as quickly with 95% less labor hours and 10-times less waste” than conventional construction. For example, it says it can 3D print a 350-square-foot studio apartment in just 24 hours.

Execs say the new capital will go toward making supply chain improvements and moving up research and development timelines. The money will also go toward helping it achieve a new goal of achieving Net-Zero carbon neutrality by 2028 – which it says is 22 years ahead of the construction industry overall. 

“As a founding team, we have long been passionate about solving productivity for construction in a sustainable way,” said co-founder and CEO Slava Solonitsyn. “We have spent four years figuring out what it takes to achieve that. We believe that we have a master plan now that can work.”

Since its launch, the company has produced and installed a number of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Sam Ruben, co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer of Mighty Buildings, said the new funds will also go toward kicking off development of the startup’s multi-story offering. The multi-story efforts will likely initially focus on 2-3 story single family homes and townhouses with an eye towards expanding into low-rise apartment buildings.  The company hopes to have at least a prototype multi-story offering in late 2022 or early 2023, according to Ruben.

“Along with the sustainability improvements already captured by our new formula, this will allow us to develop our next generation material to get us even closer to our goal of being carbon neutral by 2028,” Ruben said. “It will also give us opportunities to implement improvements in our existing design by reducing the impact of our foundations and other, non-printed elements.” 

Specifically, Mighty Buildings plans to speed up its carbon neutrality roadmap by building “high-throughput, sustainable” micro factories, forming strategic supply chain partnerships, accelerating ”blue skies” technology research and developing new composite materials produced from recycled or bio-based feedstock. 

The micro factories, according to the company, will be able to produce 200 to 300 homes per year in locations where housing gaps exist. Mighty Buildings plans to create single family residential developments with its panelized “Mighty Kit System.”

Mighty Buildings has seen quarter over quarter growth in sales, Ruben said, with the company seeing a record of over $7 million in total contracted revenue in the second quarter. 

The company is also excited about its new fiber reinforced printing material, which is currently undergoing testing with certification expected to be completed later this year. Mighty Buildings claims that its new formula shows “over 50% improvement” in embodied carbon from its original material and a strength profile similar to reinforced concrete, with more than 4 times less weight.

The round extension was supported by a few new and existing investors including ArcTern Ventures, Core Innovation Capital, Decacorn Capital, Gaingels, Khosla Ventures, Klaff Realty, MicroVentures, Modern Venture Partners, Polyvalent Capital, Vibrato Capital and others.

#3d-printing, #arctern-ventures, #articles, #construction-tech, #core-innovation-capital, #energy, #environmentalism, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #khosla-ventures, #microventures, #mighty-buildings, #oakland, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #recycling, #renewable-energy, #startup, #startups, #sustainability, #venture-capital

E.U. Set to Unveil First-Ever Carbon Border Tax

The proposed tax places a fee on planet warming emissions embedded in goods produced outside the union

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #policyethics, #sustainability

Soaring Temperatures, Wildfire Threaten California’s Power Grid

Residents were asked to limit energy use as another heat dome baked the region

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #energy, #environment, #sustainability

Cities along the Great Lakes Face Rising Water and Costs

Climate change could cost municipalities $2 billion in damages through 2025

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #environment, #sustainability

Narwhal Tusks Point to Changing Arctic Conditions

Pollutants have increased, and prey has changed, as the water warms, a chemical analysis of tusks shows

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #environment, #sustainability

Western Heat Wave ‘Virtually Impossible’ without Climate Change

Global warming made such an event at least 150 times more likely a new rapid analysis finds

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #sustainability, #weather

Drought Spreads to 93 Percent of West–That’s Never Happened

The extreme dry conditions threaten crops and raise wildfire risks

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #natural-disasters, #sustainability, #weather

Cloverly snags $2.1M seed to continue developing API to measure and offset carbon usage

Cloverly, an Atlanta-based early stage startup, has developed an API that helps companies measure and then offset their carbon emissions. Today the company announced a $2.1 million seed round.

TechSquare Ventures led the round with participation from SoftBank Opportunity Fund and Panoramic Ventures along with Circadian Ventures, Knoll Ventures, and SaaS Ventures
.

While it was at it, the company announced that founder Anthony Oni has stepped back from running the company day-to-day, but will remain on the board as advisor. The company has hired former eBay exec Jason Rubottom as CEO in his place.

“We’re a Sustainability as a Service company that helps other companies measure and reduce their carbon footprint. Our API measures the carbon emissions from various activities or processes within a business and allows that business or its customers to offset those emissions. And then it provides comprehensive reporting on that,” Rubottom explained.

Rudy Krehbiel, who runs operations for the company says that the API is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of each company accessing the services, but once developers create an application, it works automatically to measure emissions and purchase the offsets. “The solution itself is automated. Most of the work happens up front, and once we get integrated it becomes a fully productized and operationalized ongoing measurement and offsetting solution,” he said.

As customers build solutions using the tool, they can then offset their carbon usage by buying carbon offsets from the public markets, and this can be automated based on the usage of a given company. Cloverly monitors the offset market to ensure that the sources are credible and are adding new ones as they develop.

The company is working with over 6000 brands, which have offset over 55 million pounds of carbon to this point. The API was originally conceived by Oni when he was working at the Southern Company and spun out as a startup on Earth Day in 2019.

Oni, who is Black, is moving away from day-to-day operations as he hands the baton to Rubottom, but he recognizes the significance of this funding from a diversity perspective.

“As a Black tech founder of a climate tech company, it’s incredibly validating to have TechSquare Ventures and Softbank’s Opportunity Fund as investors. It will take diverse people and teams to find solutions to create a more sustainable future,” he said.

#apis, #atlanta-startups, #carbon-offsets, #cloverly, #developer, #funding, #greentech, #recent-funding, #seed-funding, #startups, #sustainability

Bill Gates Should Stop Telling Africans What Kind of Agriculture Africans Need

Among other things, we might simply not agree

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#policyethics, #sustainability

The Time May Finally Be Ripe for a National Climate Service

This umbrella service could make it easier for communities to find information on climate risks, from drought to floods

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #sustainability

TravelPerk buys UK-based Click Travel in latest pandemic purchase

Business trip booking platform TravelPerk has bagged another rival — picking up UK-based Click Travel. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed but we’re told it’s the third — and largest — acquisition for TravelPerk to date.

The Barcelona-based startup has been on a bit of a shopping spree since the pandemic crisis hit Europe last year, picking up risk management startup Albatross in summer 2020 to bolster resilience to COVID-19’s impacts, before going on to acquire US-based NexTravel in January to expand its presence in the US market.

The latest acquisition deepens TravelPerk’s UK and European business, adding Click Travel’s 2,000+ SME clients (which includes the likes of Five Guys, Red Bull and Talk Talk) to its customer base — which will total just over 5,000 post-acquisition.

The UK company handles some £300M in business travel for its client base, which will bolster TravelPerk’s revenues going forward. The latter now bills itself as the “leading” travel management platform for the SME market globally and the UK as a whole.

“We are a global travel management platform but our core markets are the US and Europe and we expect both markets to be our primary growth areas this year,” said CEO and co-founder Avi Meir. “At the current moment, the US is our largest market due to the covid restrictions in the EU & UK.”

“Assuming travel restrictions won’t be imposed again, we expect to grow by 200% in 2022 with strong growth in our core markets in the US & EU,” he added.

Click Travel, which is based in Birmingham, was founded all the way back in 1999 — and appears to have raised relatively little venture capital over the years, per Crunchbase. However, in 2018, the veteran player participated in the government-backed Future Fifty scale-up program — and also took in a “multi-million pound” investment from the UK-based Business Growth Fund.

Whether there will be any domestic hang-wringing over a high growth UK business being sold to a European rival remains to be seen.

In a statement on its sale to TravelPerk, CEO James McLean omitted to mention the pandemic’s impact on the travel sector — choosing instead to highlight what he couched as the pair’s shared “mission” to reduce the cost and complexity of business travel.

“Those shared objectives, combined with the natural cultural fit between our two companies, means we are incredibly excited to bring our teams together. Combining TravelPerk’s industry-leading knowledge, technology, experience and first class customer support with our own is a powerful proposition and we can’t wait to get started,” McLean added.

While Click Travel has focused on serving the UK market, TravelPerk has had a global focus from the start.

It has also attracted a large amount of external investment (totalling just under $300M) over its shorter run (founded in 2015).

Back in April, for example, it raised a $160M Series D round. It had also topped up its Series C round in July 2019 before the pandemic hit. So TravelPerk hasn’t been short of funds to ride out the COVID-19 revenue crunch — and as well as shopping for competitors it has also been able to avoid making any layoffs over the travel crisis. 

Per a press release, capital to fund the Click Travel acquisition was provided by Boston-based investment manager, The Baupost Group.

TravelPerk’s Meir remains bullish about the near-term prospects for growth in the business travel sector, despite ongoing concerns in Europe and the US about the more infectious ‘Delta’ variant of the virus which is contributing to surging rates of COVID-19 in some markets (including the UK) — claiming it’s already seeing green shoots of recovery in “key markets”.

“TravelPerk is outgrowing the market pace and is already at above 2019 revenue figures,” Meir told TechCrunch. “When it comes to the rest of the industry, the recovery of travel is well underway but moving at different speeds in different markets. For instance in the US, according to TSA Checkpoint figures, at the current rate of recovery the US travel market is expected to reach pre-pandemic volume at the end of August 2021.

“We anticipate the global market may take a little longer but are optimistic we will see close to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.”

“We’re one of the few players in the travel industry that continued scaling and growing since the beginning of the pandemic with a strategy that didn’t involve any layoffs,” he also told us. “Since March last year, our strategy has been not to sit back but to be aggressive and invest massively in our product offering and in our global reach, so that we are in the best position possible to capitalise when travel makes its full recovery. Today’s news is a major part of that plan.

“We will aim to continue being aggressive in our growth strategy and we are open to more acquisitions if they make strategic sense and are aligned with our vision and culture.”

Per Meir, Click Travel and TravelPerk will initially continue to run as two independent platforms but he confirmed that an “eventual full integration” is planned — with both set to operate under the TravelPerk brand in time.

The startup also says it will retain all Click Travel’s staff — denying it has plans to axe any jobs. It also intends to hold onto the company’s Birmingham base — having the city as another UK hub for its business (in addition to its existing London office).

“The 150 amazing people working for Click Travel were a big reason why we wanted to acquire the company, and were priced into the deal,” said Meir. “We have no plans of redundancies. We rather aim to integrate the entire team into the TravelPerk Group.”

Asked if TravelPerk might consider expanding its focus to also target the enterprise segment, he noted that it’s seen interest from larger businesses — and said he’s “open” to the idea — but for now Meir said TravelPerk remains fully focused on the SME market: “where we think there is the biggest need, and the biggest growth potential”.

“That’s why this acquisition is so exciting for us; it makes us undoubtedly the leading travel management platform for SMEs globally,” he added.

Flexibility and sustainability

Discussing how the pandemic has changed business travel, Meir highlighted two “important trends” he said TravelPerk will continue to invest it: Namely flexibility for bookings; and sustainability so environmental impact can be reduced.

TravelPerk plans to invest more than $100M in two key products in these areas (aka: FlexiPerk and GreenPerk), per Meir.

“We’ve noticed on our platform that travellers are booking closer to their departure date: Before the pandemic, trip searches were usually conducted between 7 and 30 days prior to the selected departure date,” he said, elaborating on the importance of flexibility for the sector. “Now we are seeing most trip searches are for trips less than 6 days away. Flexibility is therefore one of the most in-demand perks in business travel. Travellers will rely on flexible fares to give them the peace of mind that they won’t lose money if they need to change or cancel a trip on short notice.”

On sustainability, Meir said businesses are already looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and general environmental impact, while consumers are also wanting to make conscientious decisions to reduce carbon emission — suggesting that train-based travel is set to gain ground (vs flights) as a result. (That might, ultimately, require some creative retooling of TravelPerk’s logo — which prominently features an airplane icon… )

“We expect to see significant interest in our carbon offsetting product, GreenPerk, as a result but we also expect to see changes in how people are choosing to travel,” he said.

“For instance, rail is undoubtedly the more environmentally-friendly travel option. In fact, taking a train over a domestic flight can reduce an individual’s carbon emissions by about 84%. We have been building out our rail inventory for a number of years now and we expect train travel to be an increasingly popular business travel option for customers this year and next.”

As for the changing mix of business-related travel in a pandemic-reconfigured world of remote work, Meir continues to argue that more businesses providing employees with remote working options will sum to more business travel overall.

“This might be bad news for the daily commute but it will result in more business travel,” he suggested. “Whether they are going fully remote and ‘working from anywhere’, or operating on a hybrid model, distributed teams will need (and want) to come together. We believe there will be a new type of business trip — one where team members will travel from different working hubs to get together for teambuilding and brainstorming sessions, for meetings with clients and colleagues, and even for ‘bleisure’ (business and leisure) trips.”

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