Greenwashing

Blink:

It has been a little over two weeks since the COP26 conference in Glasgow. The more I read, I am still grappling with what actually transpired. Numerous financial alliances were formed to champion carbon-neutral initiatives. Will the planned net-zero transition come to fruition or are we going to witness greenwashing?

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I am encouraged by one of the positive outcomes of the COP26 conference, the global commitment to a “Race to Zero” movement. Three years ago, only five businesses globally utilized science-based information to clearly outlined their sustainability agenda. At the conclusion of COP26, more than 5000 businesses and 1000 plus municipalities committed to joining the “Race to Zero” for a zero-carbon recovery that prevents climate catastrophes, creates extensive jobs and unlocks wide-ranging, sustainable growth.

Bottomline, human activities are connected to greenhouse emissions. Last month I posted the Advertising Paradox, advocating how people need to be more selective making their lifestyle choices to help mitigate climate change. Fortunately, numerous data points indicate people are concerned about climate change, triggering businesses and policymakers to implement more sustainable, equitable environmental practices. Unfortunately, greenwashing, a form of deceptive marketing spin used to persuade consumers an organization’s products/services, strategic objectives and policies are environmentally friendly (a.k.a. unsubstantiated blah, blah), has materialized.

A classic example of greenwashing was the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. In the wake of the COP26 conference, I am going to question the validity of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) climate change announcement at their year-end finals in Turin, Italy which happened to coincide timing wise with the COP26. They plan to align with the UNSCA (the UN Sports Climate Action), thus set ambitious sustainability targets for men’s professional tennis. How? They published a 16-page document online detailing their plans (e.g., track the tour’s resource consumption, reduce staff travel, implement sustainability initiatives at their tournaments, etc.). Total greenwashing! For the record their tournaments (60+) are played on six continents (30+ countries). In addition to conducting a carbon footprint audit associated with the travel of the players, what about all the fans? Are all their lodgings eco-friendly?What about the carbon footprint of the supply chain for all the tennis merchandise/apparel sold to ATP fans? What about the luxurious lifestyles carbon footprints of the top players – private jets, numerous homes, cars, etc., etc., etc.

The “Race to Zero” movement is a positive climate change initiative. I am confident one byproduct is it will advance global sustainability transparency. Hopefully authentic, relevant content versus greenwashing.

Opinions welcomed!

Wealth Before Health? Part Two

Blink:

In my last post, I interconnected how businesses supplying human activities generate profits while utilizing energy sources emitting greenhouse gases. In the process of advancing the global economy, humanity is destroying more wilderness for agriculture, mining and urban development. Another example of wealth before health negatively impacting Planet Earth’s health.

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Scientists have warned us the destruction of wilderness as I alluded to in my Blink above results in the risk of releasing pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites or prions carriers of infectious diseases). Normally these micro-organisms living in the guts of animal species would remain in these areas. However, as animal species are being eliminated, the pathogens are forced to move elsewhere for survival. Consequently, numerous biological science studies reveal virus spillover from animals to humans has been exponentially growing over the past few decades.

A prime example is the origin of the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 which has been speculated to be zoonotic in nature, most likely from the butchering and handling of bats in wet markets (popular in Wuhan, China) – which potentially infected another animal before spreading to humans. In addition, mass farming, involving animals jam-packed in very small spaces, and the huge overuse of antibiotics, creates environments where pathogens (e.g., swine fever) have the potential to flourish. Reality: The more we damage the ecosystems that support life on the planet to maintain our current human activities, impacting global warming/climate change long-term and recurring virus spillover (a.k.a. pandemics), we are prioritizing wealth before health.

Before I get off my wealth vs. health soapbox, I would like to examine global vaccination inequality. Approximately half the world’s population has received at least one COVID-19 shot. However, vaccines are not being distributed equally: Rich countries comprise approximately twice the population of low-income countries. They have received about 50 times as many Covid-19 vaccine doses, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance. The countries with the lowest incomes, generally have the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates. There are more than fifty countries where less than 25 percent of their populations have been vaccinated, thus putting a strain on their health systems and economies, plus leaving the door open for mutations/variants of COVID-19 as the pandemic rolls on.  One company Moderna, headquartered in Massachusetts, only manufactures a vaccine considered one of the world’s best defenses against COVID-19. To maximize the company’s ROI, it has predominantly sold its product to wealthy countries compared to Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson Wealth before health?

Opinions welcomed!

Wealth Before Health?

Blink:

We all are very concerned about Planet Earth’s poor health right now. Pundits agree there is no quick and easy fix. I advocate we need to adapt before we deplete the finite resources on our planet placing global wealth before health, a topic I plan to explore.

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Accomplishing a net zero world order by 2050 has been the primary topic at two key conferences in the last thirty days. Decarbonization of the world by 2050 where we have removed as much of the carbon emissions we produce, to effectively combat climate change is contingent on many factors. I am still struggling to get a better understanding of what was accomplished at the World Bank & IMF meeting in Washington D.C. and the Glasgow United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26). My interpretation: There is a huge gap between meeting rhetoric (a.k.a. greenwashing) and reality, as well as global collaboration between governments, companies, investors and consumers. The clock is ticking! I am cautiously optimistic we still have a chance to alter the course of heating the planet which threatens human civilization. It will take a combination of investment in green technology and a shift in human behavior. Both meetings underscored the importance of changing climate finance in “making or breaking” the 2050 decarbonization goals. Specifically:

  • Climate change has primarily been driven by richer countries with advanced economies. They will need to help subsidize the emerging markets, poorer countries, with the capital investment they promised for decarbonization. To date most have underdelivered their agreements.
  • Private institutions like pension funds and insurance companies have been wary about investing their stakeholder’s money in poorer nations prone to political instability and credit risks. The good news is a coalition of financial institutions with collective assets of $130 trillion pledged in Glasgow to create a fund to curb emissions and support industries implementing measures to limit climate change.

Candidly, I believe the COP26 conference in Glasgow ended on the whole with the same old tepid tune. Outside of striking a deal to reduce coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gases, 200 countries pledged to return next year with stronger plans to curb emissions this decade to hold global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and for wealthier nations to double their funding to protect nations vulnerable to the climate crisis. I am concerned all the engagement about climate finance is for the most part rhetoric and will not totally filter down towards a net zero world 2050. Why? The burning of coal consumed in the production of steel and concrete, the utilization of natural gas and oil for electricity, transportation and heat are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The demand for these energy sources is driven by human activities – for instance the way we construct our infrastructure, heat our commercial buildings and homes, manufacture our consumer goods, fuel our cars/transportation, produce our food, engage in our leisure activities (e.g., travel, recreation, entertainment, etc.). Overall, the demand for energy is expended by businesses looking to yield profits. True there are innovative companies and municipalities driving sustainable solutions as a way to fix climate change, but to make major strides towards a net zero 2050 world humanity will have to adapt its behavior as it relates to where and how it lives. Otherwise, global wealth versus health will continue to prevail and debilitate Planet Earth’s health.

In my next post, I will explore how coronaviruses are another leading byproduct of wealth versus health.

No Risk, No Fun!

Blink:

Today marks the second year I became an ex-pat and moved to Cannes, France. It has been great, but candidly a challenge. Primarily the language barrier, especially when it comes to all the administrative details for not being a French citizen. Unfortunately, je parle un peu français!

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Why Cannes? Since the late 80’s I had visited the area numerous times and fell in love with the Mediterranean lifestyle – outstanding weather, great food and art. All of which I have experienced since I moved here. New learning: A.) This city is amazingly managed compared to any American city I have lived in (for the record five). The mayor, David Lisnard knows how to put taxes back into the city’s infrastructure which in turn creates jobs – new bike/running paths, wider sidewalks, expanded public exercise areas complete with cardiovascular/strength building equipment, a newly refurbished public football stadium with Astro turf. The city economy relies on tourism, so it invests heavily on security, as well as keeping its parks clean and well-manicured – jobs, jobs, jobs! B.) Living here has been different from when I used to visit. Starting with the language. As a visitor, I knew enough food French to go to market or order in a restaurant. But now I have to deal with rules (e.g., bank accounts, long-stay visa), plus I had the misfortune to experience a major medical situation which now has me in France’s dossier system; paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.

Recently I posted Simplicity vs. Complexity and stressed the benefits of developing a lifestyle philosophy. The simple daily Mediterranean lifestyle I enjoy has outweighed all the speedbumps I have endured these past two years, plus validated words of wisdom I have learned during my adventure:

  • Japanese violinist Daishin Kashimoto, concertmaster (since 2009) with the Berlin Philharmonic often recognized as the world’s finest orchestra:

“Taking risks means, of course, that there are times when we come up short. No risk, no fun!”

“The better you know yourself, the more you will know when you are playing to your strengths and when you are sticking your neck out.  Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.”

I am looking forward to year three.

Advertising Paradox

Blink:

Google Ad: Helping millions of travellers make their stays more sustainable. We’re highlighting hotels that have committed to environmentally sustainable practices. So, making a more sustainable choice is now an easier choice. The incongruity of this ad; what is the offsetting carbon footprint associated with guests’ travel to their lodging.

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Smarter consumer behavior:

  • In the last five years Google has realized nearly five times the volume of searches for sustainable goods.
  • The Edelman Trust Barometer’s annual trust and credibility survey revealed 70 percent of people globally are concerned or fearful about the consequences of the climate crisis.
  • A new survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication had similar results to Edelman – 70 percent of Americans are now “very” or “somewhat” worried about climate change.

Scientists have warned us climate change long-term is more dangerous and permanent than the coronavirus? The numbers above are encouraging, people are seeking more sustainable goods and services. So why has it been so hard for planet earth to adopt a sense of urgency about the climate crisis? Tomorrow the COP26 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) begins in Glasgow to explore how we need to work together to find solutions and review the alliances needed to be implemented between global policymakers, corporations and activists to change course. Hopefully, the conference will also recognize the world’s biodiversity is collapsing and is in tandem with climate change, thus we need change human behavior. How do we change human behavior? For starters people need to start walking the talk. It is great we can Google and find an eco-certified hotel, but maybe we all need to start re-evaluating our travel: wants (e.g., leisure) versus needs (e.g., work) and the associated transportation methods as well as our day-to-day transportation. Bigger picture, hopefully the United Nations Climate Change Conference will initiate all the societal changes, policies and alliances needed to create the context needed to advert an overwhelming global climate catastrophe in the future.

Social Allurement

Blink:

In my last technology post, I briefly mentioned “The Facebook Files” published by the WSJ back in mid-September. One disclosure was the company conducted research about the impact their platform Instagram was having on teenagers. Weeks later pundits are still weighing in about the potential toxicity of social media.                                 

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America runs on social media. By the numbers (primary source: Pew Research Center 2021 survey of U.S. adults):    

  • Seven-in-ten Americans have used social media sites. Note: Share data has remained relatively stable over the past five years.
  • YouTube and Facebook are the dominate platforms with 81% and 69% of respondents reported using these platforms respectively.
  • Younger adults (18-to-29-year-olds) indicated they use Instagram (71%) or Snapchat (65%), while roughly half say the same for TikTok.

The NY Times reported in the wake of “The Facebook Files” Instagram’s annual marketing budget of $390 million increased 500% since 2018. In a financial services survey, 22% of teenage respondents revealed Instagram was their favorite social media platform, less than Snapchat (35%) and Tik Tok (30%). During the pandemic the average amount of time teens spent on Instagram was somewhere between 3 to 4 hours.

I have often questioned whether social media is addictive, thus bad for you. I have researched the topic over the years to learn there is no conclusive study, but three digital technology catchphrases keep surfacing – high tech companies have incorporated dopamine driven feedback loops into the design of their products, FOMO, digital detox. Translation below:

  • Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter (a.k.a. chemical messenger) your body makes. It plays a role in how we feel pleasure. Designing a dopamine-driven feedback loop creates a self-perpetuating neurotransmitter circuit devised to fuel the brain’s reward system. Sound confusing? Visualize someone playing a slot machine at a casino or better yet observe a teenager scrolling through their Instagram account.
  • Digital technologies, such as social networks, online shopping and games are also designed to use a set of seductive, persuasive, motivational techniques to keep users returning to exploit the basic human need to feel a sense of belonging and connection with others. One outcome is the creation of a sensation known as FOMO (“Fear OF Missing Out”).
  • Digital detox: People on digital overload are now taking a retreat/intervention from their digital world for a designated period of time for their well-being and to improve their real-world social relationships. I usually associated the process of detox when someone abstained from or rid their body of toxic or unhealthy substances (e.g., addictive drugs).

Opinions welcomed!                                   

Privacy Update

Blink:

Candidly I am confused. Back in June I posted “Technobabble”, exactly how the hi-tech titans were concerned minimal privacy features would adversely impact advertising revenue one of their driving engines. Now it appears, they are all going to change the digital advertising ecosystem and reconsider their approach.

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I have been a long-time advocate it is time to reel in and regulate high tech.  Thanks to tracking technologies like “cookies” and their stockpile of personal data, hi-tech has fueled a $350 billion digital advertising industry. Now the Big Three – Apple, Google and Facebook are changing the rules where personal information will no longer be the digital marketing currency. They are promoting the future of a privacy conscious web. What prompted their revamping of digital privacy? For starters European regulators in 2018 in response to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytics scandal, followed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2019 levying record fines on Google and Facebook.

Hi-tech’s privacy shift will result in online advertising morphing. When I cut through all the technobabble I have read, my interpretation is as long as consumers use the internet to buy goods, marketers will adapt to the changes in tracking technologies. In addition, there is the potential they will make more money in the process. One example being tested by Google is FLOC, the Federated Learning of Cohorts. People will be grouped together based on their mutual interests. Case in point If you had previously searched the web for wine, travel and pet supplies, you would be placed in a coded group where when you search a website, as it loads, your group’s identification code will determine the type of ads to show your group. Is this less invasive than “cookies” tracking your browser history? Technobabble, especially when marketers begin utilizing AI to better determine buying patterns. Consequently, long-term targeting costs will increase, especially since Apple’s products will provide consumers the option to block online ads. Note: Since Apple introduced its pop-up window on its premium priced iPhones, more than 80 percent of its users worldwide opted out of tracking. Sounds like Apple will have an opportunity to increase their iPhone sales if consumers want more privacy. Facebook is trying new ways to target people without allowing personal data to be shared with third parties. However, the company is currently trying to find its bearings and recover after “The Facebook Files” published by the WSJ exposed their policy flaws forcing them to improve their self-regulation of user engagement.  

How will privacy protection of data impact overall online advertising? Smaller brands will be forced to spend more when choosing other platforms (e.g., Pinterest) to advertise forcing some businesses to raise their prices or charge app subscription fees to offset declines in their sales. Sound confusing? Like I stated above, more privacy technobabble.

Opinions welcomed!

A Village No Longer?

Blink:

Questionable geopolitics have been dominating the news lately. Makes me think about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 children’s book It Takes a Village.

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The premise of Clinton’s book was a story about diverse communities globally coming together to make a difference. People working, living together in harmony to make a better village. Many villages coming together can make a better world and build a better life for one another. Together we can change our world.

Show me the harmony:

  • During the cognition stage of the pandemic, we definitely witnessed how interconnected the world was. Now during the vaccination stage, we are experiencing a global supply chain disconnect. The leading pharmaceutical companies are in control and world leaders have failed to step in, establish policies, thus upper-middle income countries have received an estimated 80 percent of the vaccine doses. Low-income nations have been left out in the cold creating more global inequalities indicating world leaders have not put together a comprehensive plan. Consequently, we incur the risk of not ending the pandemic or preparing for the next coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Indo-pacific alliance is mutating impacting the future of who is aligned to counter China’s aggression. The recent Australian-British-U.S. nuclear submarine deal angered France who claimed they were not kept in the loop. They were already building low-enriched uranium nuclear submarines for Australia compared to the highly enriched propulsion fueled submarines outlined in the new deal. In addition to French President Macron’s fiery response, other members of the European Union questioned the alliance casting doubts about America’s commitment to diplomatic relations with Europe/NATO and long-term nonproliferation.   
  • Natural gas prices in Europe are going through the roof resulting in a rise in in household electric utility bills, as well as disrupting some industries. Some experts are attributing the energy crisis to Russia manipulating supply to pressure Europe to signoff off on a new giant pipeline given Russia is currently its reliable major supplier.   
  • The Iron Dome, the Israeli-American defense system/alliance does not bode well to advance the cause of potentially a peaceful two-state solution and might only further incite Hamas to continue their rocket attacks.
  • Climate change, climate change, climate change!

Above I have outlined a short list of disruptive geopolitics. My hypothesis, A village no longer. Right now, there appears to be no harmony. Why?Geopolitics lacks global leadership like an orchestra without a conductor.

Opinions welcomed!

Simplicity vs. Complexity

Blink:

I have been following the tang ping “lying flat” movement which originated in China, slowly gaining momentum. Chinese millennials and other young professionals globally are dropping out of the hypercompetitive rat race and adhering to a “slower lifesytle”– sleeping, reading, exercising and doing odd jobs.

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Tang ping I learned was instigated by a Chinese Millennial factory worker who drew his curtains one day, crawled into bed and posted his manifesto on Chinese social media about having the right to choose a “slower lifestyle.” He was inspired by a Greek philosopher who criticized the excesses of Athenian aristocrats. The manifesto went viral, popularized by young workers protesting the intense labor demands of China’s work culture. Resting/sleeping is a form of resistance for those who subscribe to tang ping. Now the movement has gone global, critics identifying it as a spiritual malaise protesting capitalism.

“Lying flat” is an extreme philosophy. Years ago, I remember all the buzz encompassing worklife balance, the mantra of workers aspiring to move up the corporate ladder. Work-life balance: the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.

I respect people who take timeout to evaluate their core values and develop a lifestyle philosophy. True, work is a major component, but I believe most people tend to overlook the big picture. Specifically, how they live life simple or complex? I believe one major lifestyle cog are possessions or as the famous comedian George Carlin labeled stuff. Click and laugh. Possessions add complexity – staring with our homes(s), car(s), electronic gizmos, kitchen utensils, shoes, shoes, shoes, etc. Our digital time (a.k.a. TMI), as well managing hundreds of social media connections has added an element of complexity to life. Exercise routines have become more complex (gym time management plus equipment utilized) versus a simple walk, run or swim. Bottomline: We all have to choose the lifestyle formula which works best for us. A good starting point is to take timeout and evaluate your core values and then decide simplicity vs. complexity.

Back to Lou Huazhong the factory worker who posted the viral online “lying flat” manifesto. Is his life truly simple/slower, holed up in his room, curtains drawn, engaging on the Chinese social media platform Baidu, or complex managing his enormous online following?

Opinions welcomed!

Child Hunger

Blink:

“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” – FDR

Before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 10 million children lived in food-insecure households. Feeding America now estimates potentially 13 million children due to the pandemic

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Children facing hunger begin life at a serious disadvantage. They are more likely to face higher risks of health conditions (e.g., anemia, asthma, etc.) in their first few years. In addition, as they grow up hungry and miss regular, balanced meals they are more likely to have problems in school and other social situations. It is documented hungry kids might experience developmental impairments including language and motor skills which might result in falling behind in our educational system. In addition, hungry children tend to have more social (a.k.a. behavioral) issues. Feeding America in its quest to keep every child healthy, offers specialized programs – after school, summer, school food pantries to name a few.

Feeding America’s credo: We have a responsibility to the next generation to give them every opportunity to succeed – which in turn will strengthen our communities and our country. That’s why feeding children facing hunger is a main priority of Feeding America.

Low income is the most common cause of food insecurity. Unfortunately, many people in America struggle to meet their basic needs. Working families across America face countless situations that can result in food insecurity and hunger. Lay-offs at work, unexpected expenses (healthcare, automobile or household) can suddenly force a family to choose between buying food and paying bills. Click on the link to learn more about U.S. Household Food Insecurity and child hunger in America and how you can make a difference.

Opinions welcomed!