Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch7-4

November 19th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 4 of Chapter 7. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Seven – Part 4
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Do you know when General Electric, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft started? You might not have guessed, in the middle of a severe economic downturn or depressions. Even when economic times reflect the gloom and doom, there is opportunity. Crisis gives us reason to fight back. Today, new types of businesses are focusing on sustainability. They’re using their power to solve social and environmental problems. That’s a big deal.

Corporate law makes it difficult for businesses to take employee, community, and environmental interests into consideration when making decisions. But new business models allow corporations to make decisions that are good for society, not just for shareholders. The building industry is catching on. A 2012 study by McGraw-Hill Construction found that more than half of construction companies expect 60% of their construction projects to be certified as “green” in 2015, up from just 28% in 2012 and 13% in 2009. That’s not incremental progress. That’s a revolution. The companies are doing this not because they wish to be socially responsible, although they do, but because it makes economic sense. Their customers want it, and the life-cycle cost of their buildings is less.

International financial institutions have adopted sustainable measures too through the Equator Principles. This allows them to invest under socially responsible investment (SRI) principles. Trillions of dollars in assets are managed globally in a way that benefits society and the Environment.

Without a doubt, challenging times serve as catalysts for creativity, innovation and accomplishment. Things have to change. Get ready for a new global economy based on open collaboration. Get ready for the new economic paradigm that will shake the world. Some may disagree. There are those who resist change, who dismiss change. That’s understandable. The development of a new economic paradigm will not be that simple. But there is power in people working together for noble causes. U-2′s lead singer Bono was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his global activism on behalf of the poor of Africa. Making money isn’t the problem. Bono makes lots of money. The problem is that growth needs balance. Capitalism needs balance. That’s where you and the butterfly effect come in. A butterfly flapping it’s wings in one area of the world may or may not cause a tornado somewhere in the world. But if you drop a pebble into the water little circles will flow outward to affect the rest of the pond. Doing good things makes more good things happen. Guaranteed.

Some people do good by asking for a closer connection between their money and their values. In spite of technology and regulation, banks are beginning to move toward greater transparency and sustainability. It may be a ripple in the pond but one day it might extend to taking steps to protect the environment. One day, banks might refuse to lend money to businesses who harm the environment. They will do that because acting sustainably actually improves overall risk management and business performance. In financial terms, acting responsibly results in better and more comprehensive risk management, a higher degree of employee pride, a greater attraction of talented people and new business opportunities.

Bostons’ Wainwright Bank has a socially responsible lending strategy and is one of the few banks in the country with a department solely committed to socially responsible community development lending. Half of the bank’s commercial loan portfolio is committed to these types of loans without a single default so far. In Europe, banks like Triodos and Co-operative push the transparency barrier too. Calling themselves ‘ethical banks’, they even formed the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

TD Bank brands itself “America’s Most Convenient Bank”. The TD Bank store in Ft. Lauderdale has targeted the highest level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, LEED Platinum. The bank opened a branch that generates as much energy as it uses. It goes beyond LEED to become the first zero-net energy bank building in the U.S. by installing solar panels on its roof, on the canopy over the drive-in window and on adjacent land next door. This net zero approach is the next way to deal with the climate crisis. Here’s another way: GoodBank, in the San Francisco Bay Area, calls itself the ‘High Transparency Bank’. This bank rewards customers like you who shop according to sustainable values, who live sustainably.

Where will you make your start? Where will you take the world? There is much to be done on all fronts. But in many ways the world is better now than it has been for a long, long time. As fragile and imperfect as life is don’t ever give up trying – knowing this – you’re not alone.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]