Hartford Business Journal

November 2, 2020

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www.HartfordBusiness.com • November 2, 2020 • Hartford Business Journal 11 Andrew Winston, a Yale alum, author and sustainability advisor for large companies like Kimberly-Clark Corp., Hewlett-Packard, Unilever and PwC. "Every large company has a sustain- ability report and sustainability goals, almost all of them have some kind of carbon or energy-reduction goal, so on some level, we've won, we got it on the agenda," Winston said dur- ing a keynote address at the recent Connecticut Climate Action Business Summit. "But we're still going at a far slower pace than what we need, according to the science." He said government and businesses alike will be crucial to any successful effort to slow global rising tempera- tures this century and mitigate the worst potential impacts on the envi- ronment, economy and public health. "Part of the answer is that busi- ness needs to embrace really deep and very broad collaboration and partnerships in ways that we really haven't very much before, and work- ing very aggressively but in a much more connected way with govern- ments as well," he said. "Not lobbying, not walking in and saying how do we get my taxes lower, … but sitting down with them, with NGOs, with civil society, with peers and working together on 'what are the right poli- cies, what can businesses do?' " Systemic change could take years, if it's successful at all, Winston added, but he said if businesses are willing to use their access to capital and political power for good, "not just for lobbying," the effort will have a better shot at success. Winston perceives several simi- larities between climate change and the COVID-19 virus that spread around the world this year. "I think the pandemic has really demonstrated, … we quite literally share one big immune system and we're seeing that we're connected by the same illness," he said. COVID-19 could be seen in some ways as a fast-moving version of cli- mate change, with impacts felt within days rather than years, he said. "These things move in a nonlin- ear and exponential way," he said. "Emissions were moving exponen- tially for years and we didn't re- spond. Early on in COVID, it moved exponentially too." Both public health threats have also created pushback against sci- entific consensus. There are those in denial that man-made climate change is real, or that there is any- thing that can or should be done to address it, just as there are those who believe the pandemic is a gov- ernment ploy, or not serious enough to merit measures like wearing masks or restricting gatherings. "This is a particularly American problem," Winston said of those deniers. "We don't see it as much around the world." Those standby power sources, which can cost a store several hun- dred thousand dollars depending on their size, came in handy during August's Tropical Storm Isaias, as power outages hit nearly 1 million utility customers in the state. However, most generators run on fossil fuels like diesel or gas, meaning they emit pollution and contribute to climate change. Battery storage tech- nology offers a cleaner backup power source, but it's also more expensive than (already costly) polluting gen- erators. Now, grocers are hoping for new state-level incentives to en- tice operators to invest in battery backup power. AmeriZone, a consulting firm run by former Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, collaborated with the food association on a recent pro- posal to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, calling for up-front rebates and low-interest financing for essential commercial and industrial companies that invest in a battery storage backup system in order to be prepared for future multi-day power outages. "The technological options for bat- tery storage have been accelerating in recent years from promising theory, to proven applications, to market-ready, to scaled, affordable options," Ameri- Zone's July 31 pitch to PURA reads. Eversource, Avangrid, the Con- necticut Green Bank and several oth- ers also submitted their own battery storage incentive program proposals, which are part of an expansive, mul- tipart "grid modernization" review underway at PURA since last year. AmeriZone's envisioned rebate aims to cover the cost differential between a similarly sized diesel generator and a battery alternative. The incentive would increase for those who are replacing an existing fossil fuel generator. The rebates would ultimate- ly be funded by utility ratepay- ers, while battery financing would come from a revolving fund, per- haps overseen by the Green Bank. AmeriZone wants the state to seed that fund with a portion of the $55 million it received from a legal settlement with Volkswagen several years ago following an emissions- test cheating scandal. necticut companies and professionals to share best practices and support common causes of environmental stewardship and social responsibility. At the time, there were some big names that joined as corporate members, including UBS and Uber. Those companies have stuck with it, and in recent years the council has also added the likes of Tesla, and expanded its reach into Greater Hartford, where Hartford's Blue Earth Compost, Plainville's Loureiro Engineering and Meriden-based aquaponics farming company Tri- fecta Ecosystems have come aboard, bringing its current membership count to about 20. "We're hoping to double or triple that in the coming year," said Heather Burns, CTSBC's founding CEO. "Even businesses that formerly may have considered themselves competitors, there's much more talk about 'how do we actually work together to address this issue?' " Burns is a Fairfield County resi- dent who has worked in corporate responsibility and sustainability roles for more than a decade. She said the organization's board of directors decided last year to place a greater focus on climate change. The move was inspired by several events, both negative and positive. The first was extreme bushfires in Australia, exacerbated by drought and high temperatures, which ulti- mately burned hundreds of thou- sands of square miles. The second was Connecticut's commitment to invest in 2,000 megawatts of off- shore wind power by 2030, the most significant ramp-up in renewables in state history. "We'd been much more broad in terms of sustainability, stakeholder engagement, social responsibility — all those other outlying pieces that are certainly related, but we really felt that strategically we needed to focus now on climate and energy," Burns said. As large companies scrutinize the environmental emissions produced by their supply chains, there's more pressure on small and midsize busi- nesses to ensure their own opera- tions are up to snuff, and to publicly report their progress. That can be complicated work, and Burns said the council is pursu- ing funding to help smaller firms pursue sustainability as a key part of their business plans. The council also recently partnered with the Connecticut chapter of Con- scious Capitalism — a group that promotes business practices that consider benefits to society and the environment, rather than just share- holders — to organize a three-day virtual conference focused on climate change and how businesses might play a positive role in slowing it. The Connecticut Climate Action Business Summit, which featured academics, policy experts, lawmak- ers, authors and others, drew a few hundred attendees, and the organiz- ers hope to do it again next year and grow that number. Over the three days, panelists grappled with how the COVID-19 crisis could make it tougher to sell lawmakers and the public on big investments to address climate change, no matter how badly cli- mate scientists say they are needed. Some also drew direct compari- sons between the two crises, each of which has fueled anti-scientific sentiment in the U.S. For the environmentally minded, one irony of COVID-19 is that its emergence led to steep and immediate reductions in climate-changing car- bon dioxide emissions, as many people stayed home and didn't commute to work early on in the pandemic. "Reducing CO2 has been a huge benefit of COVID already, and it's kind of showed us that there is a positive way forward, particularly when there were so many unwilling partners," said Glenn McDermott, executive director of the Conscious Capitalism state chapter. FOCUS: ENERGY Grocery stores were bombarded with panic-buying at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are often packed ahead of major storms. >> CT Grocers continued PHOTO | CNN

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