Thursday, 25 June 2009
In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough argues that we're not dealing with the real problem: industry. I wonder...
What is the problem, is it industrials creating needs and supplying cheap goods or is it the general public's lack of understanding about the implications of purchasing all these goods?
I personally prefer the second option. Realistically, I don't see how you can change industry. Companies trying to do the right thing can't compete with the ones that don't because their costs for trying to do the right thing are almost always going to be higher. People flog to the cheapest. Everyone has a limited income, needs to fulfill and it just makes more sense to buy cheap than to buy dear. In that respect, economists got it right: individuals are utility maximizers and they seek to maximize the utility of the dosh they have.
But what gives me hope is that people also have brains, they have the ability to think about what they do and they're not just impulsive creatures. With each purchase comes a choice and people's lack of awareness of that choice is a problem. Consumption is a minldess process but it doesn't need to be. Eco consumption is thoughtful process. If we can get enough of the general public to shift their purchasing decisions from mindless to mindful then we don't need to persuade industry to change. They'll just have to because industry's only there to serve the marketplace. Where people go to buy, industry will have to follow to sell.
So I'm not sure I agree with McDonough about the real waste problem being industry. Yes the waste is created upstream by them by a factor of 70 to 1 or 32 to 1 depending on who you listen to but it's downstream that the real potential lies with the people who call the shots on what they decide to buy and what they refuse to buy.
People can vote... with their wallets.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God... and where can you go from there? The Devil, The Devil’s Advocate, 1997There is one word that is associated to the investment banker right now and that is disgrace.
But investment bankers weren't always the scorn of society and in fact the future for investment banking could be very bright.
The future is shaping up in America through "energy efficiency" capital pools and is being trialled in New York. As everyone knows, investment banks have been very efficient at creating junk bond capital pools and securing them with insurance products certified by the ratings agencies. So efficient were the banks at doing this that prior to the onset of the credit crunch, the junk bond market was insured for eight times the amount of junk debt that had been pooled into high yielding bond products.
The next generation of securitisation deals not with pooling junk debt but with pooling energy efficiency investments. When you speak to people about greening up their lifestyle about 50% of them will tell you that they think that involves taking large chunks of money out of their pockets to finance investments the savings of which they don't understand and may be too small to justify the capital expenditure. Not so, is the answer being given by modern American urban planners.
One way to get high quality retrofits is to get the upfront costs paid by investors and then invoiced by the utility company. The utility bill shows the savings achieved through the retrofit and a portion of the savings is billed back to the homeowners. Energy bills go down, property values go up, jobs are created, investors get a return on their investment, pension funds are less volatile and investment bankers play a valuable role. So what could get securitised? Loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, windows, PV, solar thermal, boiler replacement, energy efficient cars etc... As much as £30,000 per household could be securitised.
Any forward-looking senior investment banker would do well to be setting up appointments with government officials to set up a top down approach policy to getting the City out of the pickle its' in otherwise Wall Street will become the platform of choice for energy efficiency investment securitisation.
For more information on what the American competition is doing view the video in the link below from the 24th to the 38th minute: