Pope Francis Embraces Circular Economy

By Maclain Pinkerton, US BCSD Summer Intern

The circular economy now has the backing of a papal mandate, thanks to Pope Francis’s June 18th encyclical letter (“Laudato Si”) concerning the environment. In only 2 years of papacy, Pope Francis has made headlines for his many progressive (and at times controversial) opinions regarding poverty, homosexuality, and interfaith dialogue. His newest focus is on the environment, decrying wasteful use of materials and endorsing the science behind human-driven climate change.

Stating that “Mother Earth… cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” Pope Francis acknowledges the negative impacts of unsustainable economic practices. His request for ecological reform heavily promotes the transition to a circular economy, demonstrated by his views that “our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources… while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.”

He also stresses the importance of action vs. attitude by saying that “people may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption.” He isn’t speaking just to Catholics, but to everyone, saying “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production, and consumption.”

Pope Francis chose his name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. He reflects this with his groundbreaking opinions on environmental reform, the full text of which can be found here. Perhaps this new Catholic doctrine will give zero-waste initiatives around the world a much-needed dose of divine intervention.

Maclain Pinkerton

James Maclain Pinkerton is a UT Advertising Student and word enthusiast. He is focused on general communications work for the Business Council, and in his spare time is a tree-climber and avid film-watcher.


What new approaches are opening up access to funding for sustainability projects?


This July 16-17 at Yale University, we’ll be asking you for your input on how financing can help scale up our collaborative sustainability projects and initiatives. We’ve assembles a small group of experts from finance and investment institutions, as well as government-funded green banks, to work with you on July 17th and respond to your experiences related to financial opportunities and barriers to scaling sustainability initiatives. We’ll discuss developments in debt, equity and unconventional financing tools.

The agenda for the two day event will also include discussions on a range of other US BCSD, WBCSD and Yale University projects and initiatives – view the full agenda and register at http://usbcsd.org/blog/events.

Collaborating to Achieve Scale: this July 16-17 at Yale University

July 16th and 17th – Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Can business make real progress on global environmental and social issues? Can businesses positively influence environmental and social trends while strengthening their own resilience to issues like climate change and resource scarcity? We think so – but we have to work together to get there.

The WBCSD, US BCSD, and Yale University are walking the talk. We’ve engaged in new organizational collaborations that will help scale up impact by joining forces and leveraging our collective capabilities. For example, the US BCSD and WBCSD have engaged in a new level of collaboration to connect the WBCSD’s thought leadership, breakthrough ideas, and realistic business approaches to the US BCSD’s action-oriented project proving ground and implementation platform.


In this context of organizational collaboration, we invite US BCSD and WBCSD members, other businesses, Yale and Global Network for Advanced Management faculty and staff, and colleagues in our network to join us on July 16th and 17th at Yale University. Together we’ll explore existing and emerging projects that demonstrate how these collaborations work in practice; discuss what’s needed for scale in the context of finance, communications and technology; and create opportunities for peers across sectors to learn and gain from one another.

The agenda for these two days includes:

  • Hands on work sessions to scale existing projects focused on the circular economy, collaborative water strategies, energy efficiency in buildings and others.
  • Work sessions on emerging projects, including climate smart agriculture and coastal resiliency.
  • An exploration of emerging tools and approaches to address the barriers to scaling up impact, including finance, communications and technology.

Add the event to your calendar using the buttons below, and watch our website and twitter account for registration details.

ROC Detroit Wraps Up Second Working Meeting

roc group

The Reuse Opportunity Collaboratory (ROC) Detroit held its second working meeting on April 8th at the General Motors Renaissance Center. The meeting attracted wonderful turnout from Detroit industries, institutions, small and medium sized businesses, and entrepreneurs looking to unlock how to transform waste into new products and new business opportunities. Keep an eye out here, and on rocdetroit.org, for a meeting summary and new project developments.

Scott Nadler joins the US BCSD as Program Director

Nadler SAF 2014The United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) is pleased to announce that Scott Nadler is joining the Council as Program Director. Scott joins US BCSD to provide support in a number of areas including project coordination, membership development, and increased collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The US BCSD is an action oriented and member-led nonprofit business association that harnesses the power of collaborative projects, platforms and partnerships to develop, deploy and scale solutions to ecosystems, energy, materials and water challenges.

Scott brings a broad range of experience, including 20 years in environment and sustainability consulting to business with ERM, a leading global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk and sustainability services. Prior to ERM, Scott spent 15 years in industry and 5 years in state government. He has worked closely with the US BCSD for several years, including serving as a member of US BCSD’s Executive Committee.

“Over more than two decades, the US BCSD has created a unique organization and role in business sustainability”, said US BCSD Executive Director Andrew Mangan. “The Business Council focuses on projects rather than policy. We concentrate on turning great ideas into great actions. Increasingly, business sustainability efforts globally are turning to actions as well. The biggest challenge is to scale up those actions so business can have more meaningful impact on the world’s sustainability challenges. I’m delighted to have Scott join us to work in that effort.”

Scott will work with the US BCSD on a part-time basis. He remains a Partner with ERM.

Industrial Materials Reuse in Tennessee

On March 27th we presented a new initiative to engage Tennessee-based companies of all sizes to create closed-loop systems in which one company’s waste is another company’s raw material. As we ended the presentation, we put out a call to action for Tennessee businesses and organizations interested in the project to get in touch – if this means you, fill out this form!

During this hour long session, representatives from General Motors, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conversation and the US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) presented on:

  • The concept and implementation of business-to-business material reuse and the plethora of business opportunities that can be uncovered.
  • The US BCSD’s Materials Marketplace, a new tool being used in Austin and other regions around the US to help companies easily post materials available or desired, identify reuse opportunities, and exchange underutilized materials.
  • Our next steps and plan to engage with Tennessee automotive businesses and manufacturers to facilitate and launch a materials reuse network in the state.

Waste is just a resource out of place – lets work together to keep these high value resources out of the landfill and put them back into the hands of the Tennessee businesses that can use them best.

Travis County Launches Texas’ Inaugural PACE Program, Unleashes Private Funding for Energy and Water Efficiency

travis CTY

Today marked a milestone for Texas’ clean energy economy. Travis County voted to adopt the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, making it the first county in Texas to do so. This means Austin and the surrounding area will soon reap the economic and environmental benefits from giving energy-intensive, thirsty Texas a reprieve with water efficiency and clean energy.

“The US Business Council for Sustainable Development ignited interest in PACE in 2011 after working on its implementation in Connecticut and California. Two attorneys with the Thompson and Knight law firm, Jim Morriss and Stephen Block, learned of this innovative energy financing concept at a Tucson meeting of the US BCSD and became infected with the idea of making it happen in Texas,” said Andrew Mangan, executive director of the US BCSD.

“Together we created a new organization called Keeping PACE in Texas, hired an executive director, Charlene Heydinger, who prepared the way for legislative action in the 2013 session. And now, after years of hard work, Travis County has stepped up as the first government in Texas to launch a PACE energy efficiency in buildings program,” Mangan said.

What is PACE?

PACE, enacted during the 2013 Texas Legislature with support from both sides of the aisle, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. Specifically, it is an innovative financing program – completely free of government mandates and public funding – that enables commercial, industrial, multi-family, and agricultural property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy-efficiency, and renewable energy projects. Participants will then repay these loans for clean energy projects through their property tax bill.

A PACE loan simultaneously offers building owners cheaper financing options and lenders secure repayment terms. In exchange for funds provided by a private lender to pay for the project, the property owner voluntarily requests that the local government place an assessment secured with a senior lien on the property until the assessment is paid in full. The assessment is owed to the local government, which forwards the payments to the private lender.

State Program, County Project, Local Support

Travis County Commissioners Gerald Daugherty (R) and Brigid Shea (D) united to cosponsor the resolution with tremendous support from a large local coalition of PACE advocates in Travis County, as well as by County Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant.

This means that within the next several weeks, private funding for water and energy efficiency upgrades as well as renewable energy projects in Travis County will be unleashed for local businesses.

Benefits to Businesses

PACE has great potential to directly affect the bottom lines of small and medium sized businesses. To be eligible for PACE financing, a project must show that the savings in utility costs will offset the cost of installing the project. In most instances, this will result in an immediate positive cash flow. This mechanism can be used to equip buildings with the latest in efficiency technology, including lighting, HVAC, and water conservation tools. In addition, PACE can be used for renewable energy additions, such as roof-top solar panels.

Nationally, almost 75 percent of PACE projects were less than $250,000 in size, demonstrating PACE’s popularity as a tool for small and medium-size businesses. Further, these project installations lead to increased property value and lower utility bills, making PACE projects attractive for both property owners and tenants alike.

The Future of PACE in Texas

Texas now has its first PACE program. But it shouldn’t stop here in Travis County. The state of Texas accounts for about 12 percent of the entire country’s energy use, and Texas’ unique PACE framework makes implementation across the state easy and predictable. In the next few months, we’ll be looking to help other counties follow with PACE programs of their own. If you’d like to bring PACE to your county in Texas, please contact Keeping PACE in Texas.

Check our events page for three new upcoming events

Head over to the events page to check out three upcoming events:

  • March 27th – a live, online Google Hangout introducing the concept of business-to-business materials reuse for businesses in and around Tennessee.
  • April 8th – an in-person working meeting for the ROC Detroit project which will be held at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan.
  • July 16-17th – our next US BCSD – WBCSD – Yale Center for Business and Environment conference to be held at Yale University.

Action plan to improve the competitiveness of Houston’s building stock


Houston, Texas, 4 March 2015 – An action plan designed to significantly improve the market competitiveness of Houston’s buildings and attract investments in energy efficiency was released today by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) at a ceremony at Rice University.

The action plan is based on the recommendations of the Houston Energy Efficiency in Buildings Laboratory (EEB Lab) held jointly by the WBCSD and the US BCSD in October 2014.

Download the Report

Research shows that energy savings of 30% from Houston’s commercial sector alone would contribute over half a billion dollars to the Houston economy. This is equivalent to the investment required to build 10 new mid-size power plants. Savings of this magnitude would add to the employment created by the increased activity in energy efficiency retrofits and other energy services, and could translate into nearly 20,000 new jobs over a five-year period.

The action plan is grouped into four themes and actions are targeted primarily at Class B and C building owners, who have less history of making EEB investments. All EEB Lab participants agreed that this market is a priority action area. Implementation will be driven by a team of local public and private sector leaders across the following areas:

  1. Raising awareness of the multiple benefits of Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) – Targeted communications to emphasize the benefits of EEB, with the aim of motivating regional real estate professionals to take action on energy efficiency.
  2. Financing EEB Solutions – The coordination, promotion and development of energy efficiency financing options and tools, in tandem with improving access to these solutions. All financial tools, such as utility on-bill financing, energy service agreements, and Keeping PACE in Texas, will be presented under an energy efficiency financing umbrella.
  3. Building Capacity to deliver EEB Solutions – Identification of industry best practice and allocation of EEB training resources to scale up energy efficiency projects in Houston. Training will address the nature of energy efficiency investments, achieving maximum value and realizing energy savings that can be sustained.
  4. Increasing Houston’s real estate market competitiveness with EEB Solutions – Public policy development to improve the long-term competitiveness of Houston’s buildings. The implementation team will serve as a sounding board for proposed policy and regulatory action.

While much remains to be done, proactive leadership from the City of Houston has helped to significantly improve the energy efficiency of its buildings. Overall, Houston is now ranked fifth in the US for the number of LEED certified projects within the city, and has a total of 369 LEED certified projects. Additionally, Houston mayor Annise Parker made a public commitment at the UN Summit on Climate Change on 23 September 2014, that Houston would cut CO2 emissions by 80% from 2005 levels by 2050.

To oversee the implementation process of the action plan, a new platform entitled Energy Efficiency in Buildings – Houston, has been established. Led by the WBCSD and the US BCSD, and managed locally by the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), a coalition of public and private sector volunteers will build and sustain the momentum. Key leaders from the Gulf Coast Green Building Council, the City Energy Project and Keeping Pace in Texas will convene and coordinate actions between stakeholder groups while providing governance to ensure effective implementation.

The platform will enable members to complement each other’s activities and exchange experiences; collaborate with the public sector on the development of a long-term energy-efficient buildings strategy; and engage in policy consultation through the channels offered by the partner organizations.

Building sector stakeholders are encouraged to study the report and join the platform to coordinate actions towards market transformation.

WBCSD member companies Schneider Electric and United Technologies (co-project leaders), AGC, Lafarge and Siemens have supported the Houston Lab and will help drive implementation.

Roland Hunziker, Director Sustainable Buildings at WBCSD, says “EEB Laboratories foster a shared understanding of the specific barriers a building market is facing. Most importantly, they allow the creation of partnerships that are necessary to drive action to overcome these market barriers.”

More information can be found on the WBCSD and US BCSD websites.

About the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a CEO-led organization of some 200 forward-thinking global companies, is committed to galvanizing the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. Together with its members, the council applies its respected thought leadership and effective advocacy to generate constructive solutions and take shared action. Leveraging its strong relationships with stakeholders as the leading advocate for business, the council helps drive debate and policy change in favor of sustainable development solutions.

The WBCSD provides a forum for its member companies – who represent all business sectors, all continents and a combined revenue of more than $8.5 trillion, 19 million employees – to share best practices on sustainable development issues and to develop innovative tools that change the status quo. The council also benefits from a network of 70 national and regional business councils and partner organizations, a majority of which are based in developing countries. Web: http://wbcsd.org  |  Twitter: @wbcsd

About the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD)
The US BCSD is an action oriented and member-led nonprofit business association that harnesses the power of collaborative projects, platforms and partnerships to develop, deploy and scale solutions to ecosystems, energy, materials and water challenges. Web: http://usbcsd.org  |  Twitter: @usbcsd

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