E m p o w e r i n g T r a n s f o r m a t i o n
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S P A N D A N E W S
SPANDA CONSULTATIVE STATUS WITH UN ECOSOC
At its 2012 resumed session, held from 21-30 May in New York, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations recommended Spanda for special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN.
The recommendation must be accepted at a full meeting of ECOSOC in July before coming into effect, although this is expected to be a formality.
This recognition is something that Spanda has been working towards for the last years and it is a truly significant step forward for the foundation. Apart from enhancing Spanda’s profile within the international community, having ECOSOC consultative status opens the way for participation in a broader range of UN activities as well as enabling Spanda to accredit its own personnel to attend the UN.
Special consultative status is granted to NGOs that have a special competence in, and are concerned specifically with the fields of activity covered by the ECOSOC. This status will give Spanda access to nearly all intergovernmental processes at the UN dealing with economic and social development, gender issues, sustainable development, and human rights.
SPANDA JOURNAL FORTHCOMING ISSUE
Consciousness & Development 2.0. An Operating Manual
(S. Momo ed.), 14, III (1), (The Hague: Spanda, 2012).
In the forthcoming July issue of the Spanda Journal
: 33 narrations to disclose the state of art in consciousness studies. From spiritual transformation to dimensional shift; from heart intelligence and emotional evolution to collective intelligence and the environment; from finance to non-sensory perception; from inner creativity to self-realization; from global health to development; from coherence, governance and martial arts to love, grief, culture, peace and poverty; holosentience, eroticism and evolution; adaptation, knowledge and consciousness; the creator of the universe; the noosphere and the mesoteric leap are some of the visions unveiled.
The issue hosts contributions by Mike Austin, Christopher M. Bache, Walter Baets, Julie Beischel, Angela Browne-Miller, Alisa Clarke,Andrew Cohen, Allan Combs, Matthjis Cornelissen, Anne Creter, Christian De Quency, Jeffry Eisen, Riane Eisler, Geoff Fitch, Marc Gafni, Ashok K. Gangadean, Amit Goswami, Stanislav Grof, Dennis Heaton, Gail Hochachka, Christopher Hughton Budd, Erwin Laszlo, Robert A. Maters, Rollin McCraty ~ Annette Deyhle, Sahlan Momo, Roger Nelson, Terri O’Fallon, Terry Patten, Venita Ramirez, John Renesh, Toru Sato, Marilyn Schlitz, Dana Tomasino, Paul von Ward and Fred Alan Wolf.
Save the date!
C O M M E N T A R Y
Global climate change poses significant challenges requiring a global response. The nature of the environmental crisis calls for timely action in all sectors and particularly in the building sectors that account for the majority of energy and non-renewable resource usage. The design and planning of the totality of the built environment is therefore essential in tackling climate change and related social problems.
If we go back several years, to the 1940s,architect-engineer Buckminster Fuller had already envisioned the creation of a more ecologically balanced world. Fuller’s geodesic domes, which he hoped would one day house all humanity, in certain ways may well be considered amongst the first examples of energy efficient and sustainable building for many reasons. Being spherical, not only did they enclose the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area, thus making it possible to save on materials and costs and to decrease the exposure to cold in the winter and heat in the summer, but their concave interior created a natural airflow allowing the hot or cool air to flow evenly throughout the dome, with the help of return air ducts.
Since Fuller's domes, intelligent green building has produced great advances in resource and energy efficiency. Let’s think of the Four Times Square; the USD 500 million office tower built in 1998 in the heart of the most famous commercial district of New York City. It stands 48 stories high and comprises of 1.6 million total square feet. It is the first skyscraper in Manhattan to embrace standards for energy efficiency, indoor air quality and sustainable material use, as well as responsible construction, operations, and maintenance procedures. Let’s also take a look at the ACROS Fukuoka in Japan. It was created and designed to preserve the green space as much as possible, while still fitting in a large office building. It has a green roof to reduce the energy consumption of the building, capture rainwater runoff, and support the life of insects and birds. Other examples of leading contemporary green buildings in Europe include the Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hannover, the Beaufort Court Zero-Emissions building, the Merck Serono headquarters in Geneva, the new Lufthansa headquarters in Frankfurt.
There is no doubt that all of these masterpieces of green architecture conserve and produce renewable energy, in addition to helping to reduce reliance on costly fossil fuels and inefficient distribution systems. However, single sustainable buildings are no longer sufficient to save the environment from wasted energies. Thus, it is time to create more sustainable neighbourhoods. Action-oriented tools are necessary for addressing the urgent need for change in planning, designing, and building of entire communities.
Truly sustainable designs should be rooted in, and evolve from adaptations to local climate, light, flora, fauna, materials, and human culture as manifested in indigenous urban, architectural and landscape patterns. Entire neighbourhoods, towns, and regions should maximize social interaction, economic and cultural activity, spiritual development, energy, creativity, and time. This leads to a higher quality of life and sustainability. Buildings of all types, sizes, and utility will eventually have to be designed or re-designed to promote for self-sufficiency and social sustainability. This will lead to reduced overall energy usage and to an enhanced quality of life for people of all ages, cultures, incomes, and needs. Ultimately, it will lead to a more ecologically and socially balanced entire community.
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT BONDS
Last week the Center for Global Development (CGD), a US non-profit global think tank focusing on international development, and Social Finance, a UK organisation that works to develop the social investment market, have launched a new high-level working group to consider the issue of Development Impact Bonds (DIB), a new mechanism to enable private investment in development outcomes.
The group of experts working on the DIB will explore the possibility of improving international development by adapting and using the Social Impact Bond model, piloted in the UK back in 2010. At the time, Social Impact Bonds (SIB)were designed to increase funding for preventative services that would improve social achievements; a sort of a contract with the public sector in which the public sector commits to pay for successful social results. On the back of the contract, external socially-motivated usually for-profit investors, finance the social project and receive a return only in the case the outcomes are achieved. In practice, the returns on the investment depend upon the degree to which outcomes improve. If they do not improve, then investors do not recover their investment.
The first SIB called the One* SIB raised £5m from Big Lottery Fund and a number of private charitable trusts. It is being piloted with the St Giles Trust on preventative work with offenders. The contract is with the UK Ministry of Justice. The pilot sees St Giles Trust providing intensive support to 3,000 prison leavers from Peterborough Prison in the UK over a six year period to help them settle back into the community and reduce re-offending. If the pilot reduces reoffending by 7.5%or more, payments from the public sector will provide investors with a return on their initial investment.
The road from SIB to DIB may be shorter than one would expect. In fact, within the context of international development, a DIB has the potential to improve the effectiveness of traditional donor-funded projects by shifting the focus onto implementation quality and delivery of successful results, and by introducing private sector actors who may be better-positioned than the public sector to take on the risks associated with innovation.
However, DIB are complicated, since they are dependent on performance – like stocks – but pay out on a fixed timescale like traditional bonds. The first part means that the idea of ‘revenue’ is not lost from the system, and this is, unfortunately, the weakness of the development world. Because no matter how much we know about the costs, unless there is a good measure of the revenue, i.e. of the social, health, or development aims reached, then it is difficult to calculate ‘profit’.
Despite informed methods of measuring constantly developing impacts, assessing impacts can require levels of buy-in from the implementers of interventions that may be untenable. As the entire DIB system is based on this, the rate of return on these bonds would have to be very high to satisfy the market.
The question then is, why would an investor invest in DIB instead of simply lending directly to the government of the interested country? This would only happen if the rates were competitive. In turn, this means that the governments, just as in lending transactions, take on the cost of the additional risk after-all. This is only one of several crucial issues on which the DIB working group will have to focus if they want DIB to become an important and innovative instrument of the social investment markets. To them, all our support!
There is no doubt that the current models of corporate management and ownership create companies having anonymous and absent owners and shareholders. There is also no doubt that companies exist to make profit. However, considering honestly earned money, i.e.: money made out of real business and not out of nothing, profit can also mean long term strategy, sustainability, transparency and corporate governance.
Sustainability is as central to the mission of a company as good accounting. In fact, sustainability is among the key elements to securing long term profits and success.
It is true that many companies have become popular brands thanks to their strong values and ethics, where their business strategy integrates economy, ecology and social issues. Interface, the largest flooring company in the world, is an example of such a company, as is The Body Shop, bought by L’Oreal, and Pret à Manger, acquired by McDonalds. The new buyers have kept the original mission and values intact, as they see that these are the sources of the brands’ success.
Another model of ownership with values is the “COOPmodel,” in which the owners believe in the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Many of them are successful, such as the health COOPs in Japan, worldwide credit unions with 184 million members, John Lewis Partnership, an employee COOP in the UK with more than twenty department stores, also known for its solid environmental and social strategy involving supply chain and customers and 112 Waitrose supermarkets.
The corporate world is indeed beginning to realize that sustainability means long-term success, lower operational costs, and profitability.
Will this be the start of a new decade of sustainable capitalism? The most enlightened corporate owners indeed hope so, as they desire an equitable, sustainable capitalism. Companies can no longer ignore this issue, and would do well to reflect upon the fact that bad publicity can harm a brand. Apple, for instance, has been found guilty of ignoring the inhumane conditions of workers making their products, as well as of being involved in the purchase of conflict minerals from Congo. Apple’s example is not an isolated case. News stories of how corporations cause unnecessary human suffering and environmental destruction are, unfortunately, still quite frequently circulated.
States should put the discussion of business ethics and values on their agenda for their industry privatization programmes. According to a recent study by the UN Global Compact and Accenture done in 2010, out of 766 CEOs interviewed, 93 percent believed that sustainability will be “important” or “very important” for the future success of their companies.
Editor Simona Sapienza
Issued 19 June 2011
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