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Zach Ware

Founder & CEO
Project 100

Zach Ware lives and works in Downtown Las Vegas where he is part of a passionate group of people building the most connected large city in the world. As founder and CEO of Project 100, co-founder of Work In Progress and a general partner at VegasTechFund. Ware also works with Downtown Project and developed the Downtown Las Vegas Campus for

Money Talks

The nuts and bolts of sustainable investment strategies
By Robert Kropp

Confused about how to build a sustainable investment portfolio? A new book from CPA J. Patrick Costello aims to demystify the process.

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4 ways to make solar financing less weird
By Dan Seif and James Mandel

It's time for utility-scale solar finance to become more boring and enter the mainstream.

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5 finance models bringing clean power to the people
By Chris Nelder

From no-money-down storage to crowdfunded solar, financial innovation is making renewable energy more accessible than ever.

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The deeper meaning of sustainable investment
By Mitchell Thomashow

By defining wealth beyond just finances, colleges and universities broaden their value.

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Accelerating Clean Energy

5 eLab Accelerator programs drive change in clean energy
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From Boulder to Hawaii, renewable energy pioneers are discovering real solutions to complicated problems.

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Distributed renewable energy resources are coming to communities across the nation as part of a new initiative....Read More

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FORTUNE Brainstorm GREEN: Sustainable Solutions May 19-21, 2014

Brainstorm GREEN is a community of leaders in sustainability—CEOs, investors, policy makers, NGOs, thought leaders and VCs—who explore emerging trends, debate, work collaboratively on actionable solutions, and build enduring relationships. Join us and transform your company. Register Here.

White Papers

  • Creating Healthier Furniture and Building Materials by Minimizing Chemical Emissions
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    Gerry Cauley

    President & CEO
    North American Electric Reliability Corporation

    Gerry Cauley is responsible for overseeing NERC’s mission to ensure the reliability of the North American bulk power system. As President and CEO, Cauley leads key programs affecting over 1,900 bulk power system owners, operators, and users, including standards and training, critical infrastructure, risk analysis, compliance monitoring, enforcement, situation awareness, reliability assessment, and government relations. Cauley also oversees the operation of eight Regional Entities engaged in implementation of delegated responsibilities.

    Cassidy Randall

    Director of Outreach and Engagement
    Women’s Voices for the Earth
    Cassidy Randall is the Director of Outreach and Engagement at Women's Voices for the Earth, a national organization that amplifies women's voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. She oversees WVE's market-based campaigns and coordinates efforts to mobilize and engage women in WVE's work.

    New LEED, WELL partnership supports better health in green design

    Published April 03, 2014
    New LEED, WELL partnership supports better health in green design

    Today, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and the Well Building Institute (IWBI) announced a new partnership that strives to make health and wellness a more fundamental building block of green building design.

    Laying the groundwork for progress, GBCI — which administers the LEED building standard — will provide third-party certification for IWBI's WELL Building Standard, which assesses how the built environment impacts health and wellness. In addition to the new certification process, the collaboration aims to streamline how LEED and WELL work together, while helping both organizations further the smart building movement.

    "We always say green buildings are healthier for their inhabitants, but until now, we didn't have an aggressive system that looked at wellness and the human condition from a completely separate lens," said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of GBCI and president, CEO and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "IWBI and the WELL rating system will bring a better understanding of what it means to be healthy — and the ability to achieve wellness through technology and design — to the front burner."

    Wellness in the spotlight

    This collaboration taps into a broader movement to embrace better health and wellness. Paul Scialla, founder of the International WELL Building Institute and Delos, notes that an annual $2 trillion is spent globally in this category, with 15 percent growth per year.

    "At the end of the day, people care about their own health and well-being, and we're seeing more and more awareness," he said. "Regardless of demographic, everyone seems to be more in tune with precautionary and preventative steps to [foster wellness]." 

    The WELL Building Standard, developed by Delos in partnership with scientists, architects and thought leaders, looks at many ways in which building design can aid in these steps, with a focus on air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Beyond more obvious initiatives such as onsite spa or fitness facilities, subtle elements include prominent staircases that encourage people to walk more, or accessible water-hydrating stations.

    Far from existing in a vacuum, these initiatives often dovetail with sustainability efforts. Air quality and lighting, for example, are both green and wellness issues. In fact, according to Fedrizzi, about 10 to 20 percent of WELL and LEED standards already were overlapping as a result of this natural connection.

    Partnership goals

    A critical component of the collaboration is GBCI's third-party certification for the WELL standard, an effort that seeks to enhance the program's credibility. "There are green building ratings that don't require third-party certification," Fedrizzi notes. "Here this startup standard on wellness comes into the marketplace, and one of the first things they want to do is get certification. It sends all the right signals to the market that this is a very strong program that will change the way we see our offices and buildings from now on." 

    While both organizations are figuring out how exactly this process will work, the idea is that it will echo the way LEED functions, with a design team and consultants submitting documentation to GBCI for verification. GBCI also will be involved in an onsite performance audit to assess elements such as water and air quality.

    Down the line, it may be possible to transfer relevant credentials from one standard to the other — a possibility Fedrizzi says clients are particularly excited about. IWBI also hopes to introduce more of an educational element to the program, certifying professionals in a way similar to how GBCI credentials LEED AP professionals.

    Projects in the pipeline

    Already, clients have expressed interest in pursuing both LEED and WELL. The William Jefferson Clinton Children's Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for instance, will be LEED Platinum and WELL certified. And CBRE's new Global Corporate Headquarters in downtown L.A. is the world's first commercial office building to be both LEED Gold and WELL certified.  

    "We're growing our pipeline by the day, and we continue to run into projects pursuing LEED and interested in implementing WELL," Scialla said. He adds that the organizations are looking at upwards of 25 collaborative projects, ranging from hospitals to schools to office buildings.

    As more people get savvy to the importance of wellness, and the ways in which health and sustainability can work together, this list of projects likely will continue to expand. "To have this connection with the IWBI shows the world that true sustainability is not just about the brick and mortar," Fedrizzi said. "It's about the human beings inside the brick and mortar."

    Photo of LEED Gold and WELL certified CBRE Global Corporate Headquarters in L.A. via CBRE

    5 finance models bringing clean power to the people

    Published April 03, 2014
    5 finance models bringing clean power to the people

    In the earlier days of the transition to renewable energy, the most significant stumbling block was cash: If you wanted to install solar on your building, or have your own electrical backup or storage capacity, you had to plunk down a hefty amount of money. But thanks to financial innovation, those days are fading.

    Most people are aware that you don't need to pay out of pocket to put solar on your building anymore. A slew of companies, including SolarCity, Sungevity, SunRun and Vivint, will install a system for no money down, then lease it back to you over a period of several years. The system pays for itself over time, and you get lower bills with a locked-in price for electricity.

    This financial model isn't the only one transforming the industry; here are five more to watch.

    1. Solar bonds

    While the third-party leasing model has helped foster growth in distributed solar capacity, it depends heavily on having a few major financial backers, with a need for tax credits to put up the initial capital — a limiting factor. So in late 2013, SolarCity made another innovative leap by announcing it would securitize a pool of solar systems, leases and power purchase agreements. Those assets, which generate cash flow, are used as collateral for asset-backed securities (bonds).

    After the success of its initial offering of $54 million in bonds carrying a 4.8 percent coupon and maturing in December 2026, SolarCity launched several more financing facilities. The latest is a $250 million loan facility provided by a group of lenders and headed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. As that facility is converted into power-producing solar assets, those also will be securitized. In total, SolarCity says it has raised enough capital to finance more than $4 billion in solar projects.

    Other big players in solar were quick to follow SolarCity's lead. In March, solar-panel manufacturer SunPower announced that it would launch its first tranche of solar-backed bonds in the second half of the year. Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar also have said they are considering similar moves.

    2. No-money-down storage

    This model aims to complement burgeoning renewable energy capacity on the grid while accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels. Companies such as Stem and Green Charge Networks, both based in California, are installing leased storage systems for business customers who then pay for the systems via long-term contracts. By reverting to their on-site storage systems when grid power prices are highest, then recharging the systems when prices are lowest, customers can reduce their electricity costs and in time, the systems should pay for themselves. Additionally, these storage units reduce the need for utilities to build peak-load generators that go unused most of the time, reducing the overall costs for all grid power customers.

    3. "Yieldcos"

    SunEdison, which pioneered the third-party solar leasing model, has announced its intention to seek capital in yet another way. It will spin off some of its operating solar assets into what's known as a "yieldco" — a company designed to produce yield (dividends) rather than growth — that then will go public. This approach would open up access to cheaper sources of capital, and could increase the value of the solar assets. Canadian Solar, First Solar, JinkoSolar and SunPower are exploring similar moves.

    4. Crowdfunded solar 

    Oakland, Calif.-based Mosaic has taken a slightly different approach to solar asset-backed securities, by using them to fund specific solar projects. The yield of each note — a share in a solar project that entitles the investor to a dividend — varies, and is paid by the cash flow of the loan obligation on each installation. This gives investors a sense of personal attachment to the projects, which are often in their own communities. The program is very accessible, allowing investors to buy shares for as little as $25. This personal, direct approach appeals to many individual investors whose trust in financial markets was damaged in the crash of 2008. The company boasts 100 percent on-time payments with zero defaults, as well as over 1,000 investors from nearly every state in the country. It is now exploring an IRA product, which CEO Billy Parish says would open up access to a $17 trillion pool of capital.

    5. Climate bonds

    An even larger, global pool of capital has been opened up with the advent of "green bonds" (aka "climate bonds") which are used to back a wide range of projects that can help in the fight against climate change, such as renewable energy, waste management, sustainable forestry and land use, biodiversity projects, clean transportation projects (including rail), water and energy efficiency. The London-based Climate Bonds Initiative has partnered with some of the world's largest banks to define eligibility standards, certification, insurance and other typical assurances to ensure the bonds are investment-grade. The global green bond market is already $72 billion in size, and total issuance is growing at a rate of 25 percent per year.

    With capital pouring in to climate change solutions, the rapid growth of renewable energy pushing coal power plants off the grid, and new storage markets emerging in places such as California and Germany, it's time to reconsider the dire forecasts for fossil fuels. The transition to clean power could happen faster than anyone expected.

    Image by Quang Ho via Shutterstock

    The deeper meaning of sustainable investment

    Published April 03, 2014
    The deeper meaning of sustainable investment

    Two crucial obstacles limit sustainability initiatives on college and university campuses. The first is financing and capital investment. The second is organizational process.

    I experienced these issues firsthand as president of Unity College from 2006 to 2011. Since then, in my capacity as the director of the Presidential Fellows Program at Second Nature, I have visited several dozen campuses and spoken with several hundred senior leaders on other campuses. I am convinced that these challenges are ubiquitous.

    Almost every campus I visit is legitimately concerned about its finances. If more campuses broadened how they conceive of wealth, however, they might find that their resources are not as limited as they think.

    Let's reconsider the meaning of sustainable investment. From a strictly financial perspective, it suggests that the campus endowment will be more oriented toward ecologically and socially responsible equities. Or that campus budgeting will give priority to energy efficiency and conservation. Campus leadership will investigate and implement financial incentives to stimulate comprehensive, ecologically sound approaches to energy, materials and food infrastructure. The campus will work with the regional community to develop sustainability markets, serving as a dynamic economic multiplier for sustainable businesses. More broadly, campus sustainable investment implies ways of reconsidering all of the institution's capital assets.

    We often conceive of investment as a financial term implying the exchange of current income for future assets. However, in common parlance, "investment" has a broader meaning. We use it to convey the amount of time we are willing to spend doing something in the hope of a future reward. As individuals, we think about the resources we are willing to commit to a project or process. These resources might include time, money, knowledge, talent and effort — a range of abstracted or tangible qualities that coordinate our personal assets. Surely the cost-benefit analysis of an investment goes way beyond a simple financial assessment.

    The concept of investment similarly can be expanded for institutions, especially colleges and universities. The endowment is the repository of the system's financial capital, reduced to an investment portfolio. The assets (time, money, knowledge, talent and effort) of a system transcend this financial reduction, although a financial equivalence is always presumed. When institutions engage in planning and thereby balance present needs with anticipation of the future, they have comprehensive discussions about the deeper meaning of investment. On which projects should we spend time? In what ways will our present efforts be rewarded tomorrow? How do our knowledge contributions manifest themselves in future outcomes? How should we spend our money?

    But there are other ways to assess an institution's capital assets if we broaden the meaning of capital. For example, several prominent ecological economists use the term natural capital to signify "the goods and services from nature which are essential to human life."

    "Natural capital is the extension of the economic notion of capital (manufactured means of production) to environmental goods and services," according to Robert Costanza. "A functional definition of capital in general is 'a stock that yields a flow of valuable goods or services into the future.'"

    Similarly, we can distinguish social capital as an important campus asset. Lew Feldstein and Robert Putnam describe social capital as "the collective value of all 'social networks' (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other." Campuses also have significant intellectual capital in the form of the collective knowledge of their students, staff and faculty.  

    How might a campus assess, organize, project and even measure sustainable investment by considering wealth and capital in these terms? When you consider this broadened approach to capital (natural, social, intellectual and financial), you realize that college and university campuses have an extraordinary variety of assets. If you measure a campus's capital assets in exclusively financial terms, you overlook other forms of wealth that are additional prospects for sustainable investment.

    Financial capital is the standard measure of a campus's financial health. A package of comprehensive ratios serves as the foundation of best practices financial assessment — viability ratio, primary reserve ratio and net income ratio as calculated through expendable net assets, plant debt, total revenues, total operating expenses, total non-operating expenses and change in total net assets. These ratios reflect an assumption that wealth is best measured through its representation as money.

    What happens when we assess a campus's wealth by considering the other forms of capital? Although there have been several attempts to measure intellectual capital as a campus's asset, these mainly focus on standard academic productivity criteria — publications, collaborations, research grants, credits, courses and other ways of verifying knowledge production. A similar approach could be used to organize, catalog and understand campus sustainability initiatives — sustainability as knowledge production. The most conventional way to do this would be to use the proposed knowledge production as a base layer of measurement, and then apply knowledge production to all academic projects oriented around sustainability research, teaching and service. This is an asset in the sense that it adds value to the institution's prestige and research, leveraging its potential to develop conceptual breakthroughs in the sustainability field.

    Colleges and universities rely heavily on promoting social capital as a means to enrich campus life, stature, influence and effectiveness. Campus life is typically rich with affiliations, clubs, networks and associations. The desire to increase one's social capital is a primary reason for attending a college. Sustainability advocates often promote social capital by emphasizing community partnerships. Most sustainability initiatives on a campus, including food growing, recycling, energy efficiency, collaborative research efforts and service projects, typically involve people working together to improve campus life. Pick up just about any college's catalog (or peruse just about any college's website) and you are likely to see photos of happy and engaged people working together on sustainability projects or in sustainability programs. The social capital accrued through campus sustainability adds to a campus's wealth.

    All campuses have natural capital assets. Natural capital is typically interpreted as the visual appeal of a campus's landscape ("Please visit our beautiful campus") or as a campus's exceptional location ("Our campus has easy access to the diverse cultural resources of our city"). Campuses are built environments in natural places. They may be "endowed" with energy assets (solar gain, wind, geothermal), ecological assets (habitat, farmland, wetlands, watercourses), wildlife and all of the intrinsic values and services of the ecosystem. Ecological economists refer to these assets and functions as ecosystem services. These include services related to provisioning (food, water, minerals, energy), regulating (carbon sequestration, waste decomposition, air and water purification, crop pollination), supporting (nutrient dispersal and cycling, seed dispersal, primary production), and culture (inspiration, recreation, scientific discovery).    

    What I wish to convey here and what I often suggest to campus leaders is that sustainable investment entails an understanding that wealth, assets and capital come in many forms. There are diverse ways for a campus to invest in a sustainable future and it can do so more effectively by broadening its understanding of value. By doing so, it more comprehensively coordinates its approach to wealth, helps the entire campus understand how it contributes to that wealth and builds a renewed sense of optimism in the value of sustainability, one that goes beyond mere finances alone.  

    This column was adapted from "The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus" (The MIT Press, 2014). Magnifying glass image by cosma via Shutterstock.

    Why sustainability and proper governance go hand in hand

    Published April 03, 2014
    Why sustainability and proper governance go hand in hand

    This article originally appeared at IW Financial.

    There is compelling evidence that the market rewards companies that make incremental progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or meeting other environmental goals. More comprehensive strategies that integrate sustainability into the core of a company's business model, however, may have greater potential to generate long-term value for shareholders by enabling breakthrough innovations in products and processes.

    In a recent report, IW Financial compared the results of several studies to evaluate the importance of scope in determining the outcome of sustainability strategies. We found that investors face the dilemma of quantifying companies' extra-financial factors, such as corporate reputation and resiliency in the face of climate change. These factors make up an astonishing proportion of companies' value. Conventional assets, such as cash, securities, equipment and real estate, now make up less than 20 percent of a company's value on average, with these "intangible factors" accounting for the rest, according to the International Integrated Reporting Committee.

    The challenging nature of quantifying extra-financial factors makes it difficult to determine which type of results are likely to stem from a company's sustainability initiatives. After all, any company can pronounce a commitment to environmental responsibility and release green marketing materials. But to separate the PR spin from the serious sustainability strategies, stakeholders need to ask themselves a key question:

    How do sustainability initiatives fit into the corporate governance structure?

    If a company's sustainability initiatives are driven solely by the personal interests of current executives and their relationships with other decision makers, the program always will be at risk of disintegrating in response to turnover or changing priorities. Even if the company is able to make meaningful progress on environmental goals in the short term, establishing a true sustainability strategy requires an institutional commitment. This commitment requires a formal governance structure that will sustain and strengthen corporate environmental policies and programs over the long term.

    Using its proprietary ESG research, IW Financial examined the growth of corporate sustainability governance structures among companies in the S&P 500 and Russell 3000 during the last five years. Our findings indicate that a growing number of companies are taking an enterprise-level approach to sustainability and establishing dedicated governance structures to guide relevant initiatives, with boards of directors and senior executives being assigned responsibility for oversight and implementation in greater numbers. Organizations are also increasing their commitment to auditing sustainability initiatives to ensure accountability.

    It is worth noting that corporations' commitment to sustainability seemed to waver in the aftermath of the recession, with only modest growth of sustainability governance structures. However, as the economic recovery has gained traction, companies have started to expand these structures at a more rapid pace.

    Oversight and auditing on the rise for corporate environmental policies

    In 2009, almost 50 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 and 14 percent of those in the Russell 3000 had enterprise-level environmental policies in place. However, governance structures were lacking, with only about 5 percent of the S&P 500 and 1 percent of the Russell 3000 specifically giving the board of directors responsibility for overseeing the policy. Senior executives were designated as being responsible for implementation at 10 percent of S&P 500 companies and about 2 percent of the Russell 3000, while a commitment to auditing was held by 8 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

    In 2011, companies in the S&P 500 showed modest progress, with 58 percent holding enterprise environmental policies. In the Russell 3000, that figure dropped to about 10 percent. However, governance improved across both indexes, with board and senior executive involvement rising to almost 8 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in the S&P 500. Both figures approached 3 percent in the Russell 3000. Auditing levels essentially were unchanged.

    By 2014, companies have started making much more substantial commitments to sustainability, with 84 percent of the S&P 500 and more than 31 percent of the Russell 3000 holding an enterprise-level environmental policy. Board and senior executive involvement both increased substantially in the S&P 500, rising above 15 percent. Growth has remained more subdued in the Russell 3000, with both figures rising to about 4 percent. However, auditing commitments tripled in both indexes, reaching almost 30 percent in the S&P 500 and 10 percent of the Russell 3000.

    Climate change policies lag behind, but are gaining traction

    Corporations have been more restrained in their commitments to taking specific action on climate change. Slightly more than 10 percent of the S&P 500 and only about 2 percent of the Russell 3000 maintained enterprise-level policies on the subject in 2009, with board responsibility below 1 percent for both indexes.

    By 2011, enterprise policies were in place at 23 percent of S&P 500 companies and slightly less than 4 percent of the Russell 3000. However, the growth of governance structures lagged, with board responsibility increasing to 5 percent of the S&P 500 and 1 percent of the Russell 3000. Senior executives — previously involved at 1 percent of firms in the S&P 500 and a negligible fraction of the Russell 3000 — had taken on responsibility for implementation of climate change policies at about 4 percent and 1 percent of companies, respectively.

    The needle finally had begun to move on climate change in a substantive way by the beginning of 2014, with 41 percent of the S&P 500 and 11 percent of the Russell 3000 establishing enterprise-level policies to address the issue. Governance also has started to improve significantly, with 26 percent of the S&P 500 and 5 percent of the Russell 3000 specifically giving oversight responsibilities to their boards. Senior executives are taking responsibility for implementation across more than 26 percent of the S&P 500 and more than 5 percent of the Russell 3000.

    ESG benchmarking can guide sustainable investing

    These factors were chosen because they are viewed as key indicators of the depth of companies' commitment to sustainability. Without an enterprise-level approach and support from top decision makers, sustainability initiatives are unlikely to achieve the reach across an organization's core functions needed to have a substantial impact on its long-term performance.

    Many other factors can affect the success of corporate sustainability initiatives. For instance, a previous report from IW Financial explored the idea that engaging employees in sustainability programs can have game-changing effects on not only a company's ESG performance, but also its profitability and share value.

    With intangible assets such as corporate reputation and sustainability accounting for an increasingly large share of companies' overall market value, the importance of a well governed sustainability strategy will continue to rise. In this environment, stakeholders can benefit from being able to compare specific companies' performance on different ESG metrics with relevant benchmarks.

    Boardroom image by hxdbzxy via Shutterstock. Charging bull image by Stuart Monk via Shutterstock.

    Institute for Market Transformation (IMT)

    The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting energy efficiency, green building, and environmental protection in the United States and abroad. Much of IMT’s work addresses market failures that inhibit investment in energy efficiency. For more information, visit

    Adam Sledd

    Program Director, Commercial Real Estate Engagement
    Institute for Market Transformation
    Adam Sledd leads the Institute for Market Transformation's efforts engaging the commercial real estate industry in energy-efficiency strategies. He helps individual companies, trade associations and government agencies save energy and money by incorporating sustainability into the landlord-tenant relationship. He speaks frequently on the topic of energy efficiency to a variety of audiences including green building professionals, Chamber of Commerce executives and commercial real estate brokers.
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