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Ending poverty with blockchain, the business school that rejects sustainability, and solar software start-ups

April 24, 2018

As the Director of Sustainability at the Smeal College of Business, it is my responsibility to keep my mind constantly steeping in a solution of:  1 part business, 1 part technology, and 1 part each of environmental and social impact, including emerging science, news and events. (Stir together and steep for years until it reaches desired level of understanding).  

 

In "That's News to Me" I share what I am reading with the growing Triple Bottom Lion community. The current books I am reading FEARLESS FACILITATION by Cyndi Maxey and Kevin O'Connor and LET THERE BE WATER by Seth Siegel.

How Blockchain Can End Poverty (Wall Street Journal)

Recently a board member shared privately an observation that improved technology most serves to make the rich richer. Blockchain is new and people claim it will solve everything from climate change to the common cold. The devil waits in the details and in the results. However, there is some interesting work being done to understand how the open ledger-technology might improve economic equality.

 

"For a long time, Western economists failed to appreciate the relationship between private property rights and economic development...[We now know] the road to economic development runs through the county clerks office at the local court house. 

 

If blockchain technology can empower public and private efforts to register property rights on a single computer platform, we can share the blessings of private-property registration with the whole world." 

 

If you are not a paid subscriber to WSJ, go here for an article that covers similar points on blockchain and poverty reduction.

 

School Of Business Avoids Promoting Sustainability: the interesting case of Wake Forest (Old Gold & Black)

 Image credit: parents.wfu.edu

 

I have set up a Google Alerts to track sustainability news in business schools.  This headline grabbed my attention.  The Wake Forest experience is not necessary unique, but it provides a poignant case study.  Business is at a crossroads and clearly will continue to be governed by neo-classical economics while being stretched to include longer-term consequences, costs and risks.  Of course there will be resistance. Some resistance is warranted. Some attempts to integrate sustainability can be ill-conceived, non-strategic pet projects.  In the end, we face not opinion or ideology but the veracity of chemistry, physics and biology; that is, the simple limits and laws of nature on a planet with finite resources and billions of mouths to feed. 

 

"Wake Forest prides itself on its Pro Humanitate motto and its commitment to leaving the world better than we found it.  Departments across the university — from biology to dance — embrace the integration of sustainable education in the classroom. But, one division on campus, the School of Business, has largely opted out. 

 

'We don’t think long-term,' said Wake Forest Professor of Marketing Michelle Steward, explaining that arming students with business professional skills is the more immediate focus. 'We’re thinking breaking news. [The environment] is your grandchildren’s problem.'"

The 11 Best Business Schools for Sustainability (BusinessBecause.com)

Rankings in any industry can be nauseating.  The metrics used are often "vanity metrics" and serve mainly to measure inputs and outputs, not outcomes and actual impact. Despite their failings, I find them helpful for our own benchmarking purposes. As the saying goes: "You should find out all you can do. Even though you won't be able to do all you find out." Benchmarking and using rankings is a good way to find out all we can do.

 

 "Sustainability has become one of the hottest topics in business.

Business world interest in issues such as climate change and renewable energy has soared, which has dramatically increased the importance of sustainability in every MBA curriculum.

 

Younger generations are especially eager to learn how to flex their business skills in ways that won’t harm, or may even help, the earth and its inhabitants.

 

Some of these criteria are expected, such as curriculum, reputation, and faculty, but it's also essential that prospective b-schoolers apply a critical lens to the ways in which schools engage with their local communities. Not to mention other 'hands-on' opportunities that the programs provide in the realm of sustainability.

 

Here's 11 of the best US business schools for sustainability."

5 Software Startups Solving the Biggest Challenges in Solar (Greentech Media)

Exciting to see the creativity continuing to poor into the renewable energy industry.  For years we have known enough energy hits the earth in one hour to power humanity for a year....but how to capture and use it well, at the right price, and with the right business model has been the question. 

 

Raptor Maps. Inspections of installations takes time and money. Raptor Maps uses machine learning to automate the analysis of PV system drone imagery.

 

Pick My Solar. Recognizing the frustrating purchasing experience of many customers, Pick My Solar built the industry's first residential solar and storage industry's first managed marketplace. 

 

Energetic Insurance.  Some solar projects fail not because of technological feasibility but the financing falls apart. This year, Energetic Insurance, will launch it's initial offering: a credit wrap insurance policy called EneRate.  EneRate permits unrated offtakers to transfer credit risk to the insurer. 

 

 

And more...