There is No Planet B! We are truly in this together – Alison Wise, Strategic Advisor- Lead, Climate & Sustainability Practise at Concinnity, Philadelphia.


Ramdas Shenoyy getting Wise Strategies from Ms. Alison Wise on Climate and Cleantech.

How serious are major world economies about climate change and clean technologies?

Using an analogy of an illness and its treatment, climate issues represent the seriousness of cancer.  Treatment might be drastic, uncomfortable- chemotherapy and surgery- but ultimately that pain and discomfort is necessary to the body to eradicate cancer which is killing it.  For the climate cancer that is killing the ecosystems that support all life, including humans, the “pain” we will have to suffer is not physical but the discomfort of change in economic systems.  Fossil fuels will need to be phased out, and the energy needed to fuel global economies will have to come from renewable sources.  There will be disruption.  Jobs will be lost.  Economic growth for its own sake will have to be replaced with regenerative growth for the sake of future generations.  It will not be easy.  So the question of “how serious are world economies” about these issues would have to measure the current “treatment” with what really needs to be prescribed.  Think of chemotherapy as global carbon fees or tariffs.  Think of surgery as drastic infusions of capital towards 100% renewable energy infrastructure and transportation.  Right now, global economies are treating climate cancer with massage therapy (massaging egos of politicians and CEOs) and self-help books.  The question was, how serious are major world economies?  There is a recognition that the tumor exists and is spreading, but they have yet to introduce any real steps towards addressing the disease.  In Ayurvedic medicine, the body is a metaphor for “energy” systems and balance.  We need to think of economies as bodies that need to rid themselves of this climate cancer and return to balance.

Is it too little with regards to the efforts by developing nations on adopting cleantech? Is it economically viable?

Emerging economies have a huge opportunity to “leap-frog” over the mistakes that extractive, imbalanced economies have weighted the global infrastructure of human economic support with.  “Frontier markets” are those on the very front-lines of wealth creation that can and should be based on renewable energy sources, distributed services, and monetization of the value of innovation and human dignity.  Cleantech, as developed in these, arenas, including solar, wind, hydro, and other technologies ancillary to quality of life-compostable toilets, smart-phones for health & banking services- are economically viable when there is a systemic approach to technology deployment.  This requires transparent, working relationships between the public and private sectors..  So in other words, it is economically viable as long as there are good systems of governance in place.  Corruption will hinder the viability of these desperately needed systemic solutions.  We have a choice in these markets as to whether we embrace technologies through support for their growth with programs and policies that enable their commercialization and deployment, or whether we line the pockets of public officials for one-off projects that fail to realize a systemic value proposition.

What will be your advice to emerging economies like India to help mitigate risks around climate issues and focus on people, planet, and profits?

Not a popular observation, and one that really applies more to developed economies as we have a MUCH bigger ecological footprint per capita, but the focus on people is paramount:  There is no Planet B.  We don’t have the ecological support we need to enable the current population growth rate to sustain any sort of quality of life.  The first thing on any climate crisis list would be education of women so that they can be empowered to plan their own family growth and their own respect within their communities and their households.  And then, give women the power (no pun intended) to build businesses that provide renewable power and human services to those communities.  More women should be empowered in the public sphere, with roles that help to address the needs of communities that synergize new, clean technologies with other forms of environmental and social justice.  Not that men are to blame for the climate cancer we are facing.  We all use fossil fuels, but women have by and large not been controlling the decision-making process there, especially in emerging economies.  This shift in both stakeholders and technology could be significant.

How do you see yourself as a cleantech strategic expert?

I started my career decades ago as an MBA who only went for that degree to understand how corporations were structured so I could see how they rationalized destroying the planet.  I then worked with public policy as a lobbyist and did business development in socially responsible investments, so better to put capital toward ecologically regenerative efforts. I started the first trade association of businesses working for sustainability called Sea Change 15 years ago.  I was a strategist for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, after being recruited from a clean tech think-tank where I led research on new technologies in the climate solutions landscape.  I headed the clean-tech arm of the economic development agency for the city of Seattle, and was an executive for several start-ups in the clean-tech space (including a stalled start-up of my own that was attempting to bundle portable solar with other banking and health services for emerging economies).  Most recently I was at Samsung for a couple years learning about IoT so I could see how it would fit in a connected, balanced energy ecosystem.  And now I’m leading the Climate & Sustainability practice for a consultancy called Concinnity. 

What is your mantra for driving a sustainability strategy?

Moving the needle for your company towards sustainability means moving the stakeholders, both internal and external.  There are three steps: Gather the right people, gather the right data, and gather the right metrics.  People: Who are the best points of leverage, whether board members, C-level leadership, supply chain management, or external stakeholders like investors.  You need the people first because you have to have their buy-in to define the problem that you are seeking to address through data and metrics.  Once you have the people, measure to manage.  Where are you making the most negative impact in your operations, and where can you monetize opportunities to participate in a regenerative ecosystem? Finally, define your metrics based on the data you have assembled.  Ask the right question to get the right answer.  What do you need to be hyper-aware of in your operations or opportunities and how are you bench-marking those?  Is it based on internal expectations? Comparison to external competitors?  The icing on the cake is once you have done the heavy lifting, you can broadcast your success…

What are the world’s toughest challenges?

Assuming this is referring to human society (the earth will be fine whether or not we choose to solve our current crises)-

  • Population growth
  • Human ennui and passivity
  • Fiscal inequality
  • Fossil feedstock reliance
  • Water Scarcity
  • Incompetent political leadership
  • Short-sighted corporate domination

What is your advice to be a global professional?

Be curious, be self-aware, be grateful, be patient, be polite.  And share your knowledge.  We are all truly in this together.

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