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Organization awards sustainability prize

| Friday, September 25, 2015

One project developed a plant for processing cassava on-the-go. The other created a scorecard for assessing resilience to climate disasters.

Both are recipients of the 2015 Corporate Adaptation Prize, an annual award presented by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN). ND-GAIN is best known for an index that ranks countries in order of their vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change.

“Our mission is really to increase the world’s awareness about the need to adapt in order to inform investments in both the private and development sector to improve livelihood in the face of climate change,” Joyce Coffee, managing director of ND-GAIN, said.

The prize, which ND-GAIN awarded to two recipients at an event in New York City on Wednesday, focuses on corporations making a difference in the world of “climate adaptation,” according to Coffee.

“The reason why we have the award in the first place is that frankly, not until very recently was it possible to walk into a room and say the words ‘climate adaptation’ and have anyone know what you meant,” Coffee said. “We’re really celebrating climate adaptation as a method for corporations to serve their triple bottom line: the value of their corporation to their shareholders, the value of their corporation to the world and the value of their corporation to the environment.”

The Dutch Agricultural Development and Trading Company (DADTCO), a Netherlands-based corporation, received the prize for developing a mobile plant that allows them to process cassava close to local farmers, according to a DADTCO press release.

“The technology we have is mobile so we can go close to the farmers, and we can make sure that the same day, the cassava roots are processed,” Renske Franken, a member of the enterprise development team at DADTCO, said.

Franken said this mobility is key, as cassava’s high perishability makes it difficult to ship long distances. While reducing transportation costs and emissions, the mobile plant also makes way for cassava — an important climate adaptation crop because of its ability to survive in poor weather conditions — to play a bigger part in local markets.

“We say we want to start the cassava revolution,” Franken said. “It shouldn’t be neglected any more as it has been.”

“It’s helping to build an economy, and whenever you build an economy, you definitely see an increased resistance to any kind of shock, including climate shock,” Coffee said.

Coffee said the cassava mobile plants will be implemented in other industries as well.

“The starch from cassava is used for a variety of things, including for beer,” Coffee said. “So this is our first craft beer adaptation project we can think of.”

The second innovation recognized grew out of a partnership between engineering firm AECOM and technology leader IBM. The two companies worked together, for free, to develop a disaster resilience scorecard for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). The scorecard, which Coffee says looks to identify the “biggest risks” for a city, focuses on 85 different resilience criteria that cover aspects such as infrastructure, environment and recovery.

“It’s not just that you create a scorecard; the scorecard helps you prioritize your investments, so that in an era of limited resources, you have a scorecard that tells you where you’re going to be able to optimize your infrastructure investment or your human investment,” Coffee said.

Award submissions must be based in a country that ranks below 60 (out of 180) on the Global Adaptation Index, Coffee said. Additionally, the project must have some kind of corporate background.

“We need to see a corporate lead because we are trying to prove that corporations gain benefits from being climate adaptation leaders,” Coffee said.

Once submitted, a panel of judges — including members of ND-GAIN and judges from outside institutions like PepsiCo and the Catholic Relief Services — reviewed the projects before reaching a final decision.

Ultimately, Coffee said, the Corporate Adaptation Prize fits into the University’s larger mission of social justice.

“There’s a new risk that cuts across all sectors and all communities,” she said. “It’s disproportionately felt by the poor, and we need to be sure that leaders of every sector are aware of the risks and the opportunities presented to this new global era.”

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