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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: the bar was raised for responsible business, plus more

Posted 16th September 2022 • Written by •

Clothing company Patagonia made the earth its ‘only shareholder’, the WHO said the pandemic's end is in sight, and a pine marten popped up in London, plus more positive news

This reluctant billionaire set a new gold standard in climate philanthropy

In the ultimate mic drop gesture of corporate responsibility, the owner of multi-billion dollar clothing firm Patagonia has given the company away to help fight climate change.

Mountaineering and responsible business legend Yvon Chouinard announced this week that he and his family have donated their shares to two new entities: Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective. The charitable trust, which holds 2 per cent of the company and all of its voting rights, will guard the organisation’s mission. The Holdfast Collective meanwhile, which will hold the remaining 98 per cent of the stock, is a not-for-profit that is dedicated to preserving nature and battling the environmental crisis.

Every dollar of profit that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to these new entities and then used to protect nature and biodiversity, the company says. It expects to pay out roughly $100m (£87m) annually.

“Earth is now our only shareholder,” announced Chouinard, who began the $3bn company by selling hand-made climbing gear while living out of his car.

Chouinard told the New York Times he was moved to act, in part, by his listing in Forbes as a billionaire. “I never wanted to be a businessman,” he said.

“Instead of going public, you could say we’re going purpose. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”

Patagonia, which is a certified B Corp, has for decades given away 1% of sales to grassroots environmental activists.

…and crypto served up another planet-saving formula

From the great outdoors to the virtual world with the news that a makeover of one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrencies has slashed energy use in the sector.

Crypto has faced criticism over its poor sustainability, with notoriously greedy servers proving a massive drain on energy resources.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is responsible for an estimated 70m tonnes of CO2 a year.

Runner-up Ethereum has an annual power consumption equivalent to Bangladesh  but henceforth it should be treading so lightly that its carbon footprint will be barely visible.

Coding changes to the platform finalised this week mean that vast computing power is no longer needed to complete transactions, slashing energy use by as much as 99.95%. Experts have hailed the move, dubbed ‘The Merge’, as one of the most significant moments in crypto history.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin took to Twitter to proclaim: “Happy merge all. This is a big moment for the Ethereum ecosystem. Everyone who helped make the merge happen should feel very proud today.”

The fight against Covid-19 is nearing the finish line

The World Health Organisation (WHO) delivered its most optimistic outlook to date on the Covid-19 pandemic by declaring the “end is in sight” after global weekly deaths fell to their lowest rate for two-and-a-half years.

The health body’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cautioned that Covid-19, which has killed more than 6m people, still represents an “acute global emergency”. He set out key actions that governments must take to win the fight, including combating misinformation and maintaining vaccination programmes.

“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view; she runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we,” he told a virtual press conference.

The WHO estimates that 20m deaths were averted by Covid-19 vaccinations last year, with 12bn doses administered worldwide.

A pine marten was spotted in London for the first time in 100 years

A hedgehog conservation initiative got an unexpected surprise when its trail camera captured candid snaps of a critically endangered pine marten.

The HogWatch project monitors and protects hedgehogs in the capital, and is well used to badgers and foxes setting off its hidden camera traps. But one camera at woodland Kingston-upon-Thames caught images of a pine marten  a rarity in southern England not seen in the capital for a century.

The iconic species is now generally confined to northern and central Scotland, with small numbers in northern England, and the nearest known population to London is over 70 miles away in the New Forest.

It’s not yet clear whether the sighting marks a natural return for the iconic woodland mammal, or a clandestine reintroduction effort.

Senior research fellow at The Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology, Dr Chris Carbone said: We’ll continue to use the HogWatch cameras to see if there are any more individuals in the area and monitor their activity.”

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