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IMG-20130611-00199Like many players in the New York impact investing space, Mission Markets spends a lot of time flying from JFK to SFO for major events. The SOCAP event series, the de-facto gold standard for such events since its launch way back in the late noughties, is the best – but far from only – example of social capital happenings happening on the “other” coast.

The party line is that the success of these events is what matters, which makes whining about their locale seem petty… and while I toe the party line, as someone who not just works in New York but was born here, it irks me that NYC isn’t a bigger hub (pun intended) for the wheels that keep social capital spinning.

Which is why I’m so glad that I – along with MM colleague Rebecca Orlowitz – attended Able Made’s  AMP IT UP! event at the Red Rooster in Harlem, NYC on Tuesday, June 11: it restored my faith in NYC as a bona fide center of the social capital solar system.

For starters, the attendees – from the organizers to the featured entrepreneurs to the venue staff – were all great examples of what success looks like when focusing on both social and financial bottom lines.

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What We’re Reading – A Roundup of the Latest Impact Investing News

Impact Investment News

G8 Leaders Embrace Impact Investing With New Funds – Businessweek

Can Impact Investing Move From Niche To Mainstream? – FA Mag

Investors Want to Package Efficiency Securities Like Mortgages – Greentech Media

What Makes Solar Energy a Good Investment? – TriplePundit

Over $2 Billion in Green Bonds, A Good Start – Sustainable Business

 Sustainability News

European demand for voluntary offsets surges in private sector – GreenBiz

Sustainability Needs to Find Its ‘Reality Distortion Field’ – Bloomberg

Sustainability: An Investment Perspective – CFA Institute

Crowdfunding News

Universities explore crowdfunding, social media to raise money – USA Today

Small Businesses the Next Big Borrower in Peer to Peer Lending – P2P Lending News

New Tool Lets Intermediaries Become P2B Lenders – Bridging Distributor

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Sustainability Management: A Long Term Strategy

Steven Cohen, Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, talks about the importance of sustainability management.

This post is the third in a three part series by Steven Cohen. 

Managing the planet is beyond our current technical, organizational, financial and political capacity. We are not yet able to sustainably produce the food, energy, water, air and biological necessities required to sustain both human life and our planet. The goal of the field of sustainability management is to develop these capacities. To do this we need to invest resources in:

  • Earth observation- Earth, atmospheric, ocean and ecosystem science. We need a better understanding of the impact of our productive technologies on the planet.
  • Technology- We need to learn how to make and use renewable energy, food, air and water.
  • Organizational capacity- We need people with the skills to understand and overcome the obstacles to sustainability. This will require enhanced scientific literacy and rules of the game which reward and do not punish long-term thinking.
  • Public policy- Government must develop a regulatory structure that promotes sustainability technology and rules of the game that punish organizations that plunder the planet.

I am optimistic that these things can be accomplished not simply because of the urgency of the issue, but because of the cost factors that have begun to drive sustainability in many organizations. Companies like Wal-Mart started to require that their suppliers demonstrate adherence to sustainability principles as a way to control price without sacrificing quality. The green these companies are focused on is the one on our currency, not in the natural world. While we have not yet figured out how to manage our organizations, cities and planet sustainably — we have begun to try.

Steven Cohen is Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and professor in the practice of public affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He is also Director of the Master’s Program in Sustainability Management at Columbia’s School of Continuing Education.

Click here for information on purchasing the book.

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Sustainability Management and Corporate Responsibility

This is the second post as part of a series by Steve Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, about the importance of sustainability management.

In the first two decades of this century, we will see the creation of Chief Sustainability Officer in our best-run organizations. The needs of organizational management have added another dimension: a physical one. In the old days, water, energy and waste were minor factors in an organization’s cost equation. Those days are gone. In an increasingly crowded planet, the scale of production of everything has grown and with it we see an increased draw on the earth’s finite resources. The costs of water, raw materials and energy are an increasingly important part of the cost calculus for the modern organization. Waste disposal is no longer cheap or free and the organization that figures out a way to reduce and re-use waste has a significant cost advantage over organizations that do not.

A well-managed organization by definition will be one that ensures that physical constraints, resource costs and environmental impacts are inputs to routine decision-making. If pollution is conceptualized as a form of waste, then the best managed operation would be one that produces the least amount of waste, not one that “treats” and decontaminates the most waste. If the product is built with as few raw materials as possible, and those materials are not scarce or finite, the product is likely to be less expensive to make. This will not be true in every instance, but it will be true on average.

Sustainability management provides a means for fostering long-term economic growth while ensuring the Earth remains a productive and viable planet for current and future generations. It is economic production and consumption that minimizes environmental impact and maximizes resource conservation and reuse. The sustainability perspective is that without a healthy and productive ecosystem, wealth is impossible; environmental protection is a prerequisite to wealth. Sustainability management requires that organizations learn how to think about the long-term instead of focusing on weekly, quarterly or daily reports. In a world of global 24-7 electronic media, never ending financial exchange, and low cost information and communication, the pressure for immediate information, accomplishment and gratification is overwhelming. Election cycles have become endless in politics and corporations are no longer managed to the quarter or year, but to the minute. If we are to achieve a sustainable economy and learn how to consume without destroying this planet’s productive capacity, we must figure out a way to slow down the merry-go-round.

Steven Cohen is the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and professor in the practice of public affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He is also Director of the Master’s Program in Sustainability Management at Columbia’s School of Continuing Education. He is the author of Sustainability Management.