Spending $10 Billion: Carbon-Capture Toilets, Social Investment Banks & More...

by Aman Singh Das | March 01, 2010

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The Wall Street Journal asked top philanthropists if and how they would spend $10 billion differently to alleviate some of the world's problems from Bill Gates, who announced at the World Economic Forum earlier this year, that he would invest in developing vaccines and their distribution to children worldwide.

Interestingly, out of the seven executives/social entrepreneurs, three picked efforts related to sustainability, climate change and social responsibility. Here briefly are their ideas:

Develop carbon-capture toilets--yup, you're reading this right!

Green Toilet

--By Nic Frances, founder of Sydney-based Cool nrg, a developer of emission-reduction projects: His almost-too-revolutionary idea relates to building toilets in Africa, which can multi-task by capturing methane and transforming it into cooking gas. In his own words, courtesy WSJ, "I am convinced that charity alone cannot provide the solution to mankind's biggest problems...properly tackle poverty and environmental sustainability. Sanitation is one of the most pressing issues in Africa. The technology exists to build toilets that capture methane and use the gas as a cooking fuel. Theoretically, these toilets could earn carbon credits twice over—once for capturing the methane and once for providing a sustainable fuel. At the point at which installing these toilets becomes cheaper than the carbon credits they earn there will be companies running around Africa begging villages to allow them to build toilets in exchange for the carbon credits. A problem that the world has been unable to solve in 60 years of good charitable intentions will be solved more or less overnight."

Create social investment banks

--By Sir Ronald Cohen, founder of private-equity firm Apax Partners: His idea is a lot more popular than the carbon-capture toilets and stems from the argument that social investing is a prerequisite to get organizations to have clear social outcomes from their investment and business model strategies. Not only does it directly address the need for CSR in the corporate sector, social investment banks would make immersing corporate and social responsibility principles in long term business strategy much easier, and to some extent, measurable. As he puts it, "A clear lesson from the current crisis is that market forces do not deal with their social consequences...This realization has prompted increasing numbers of entrepreneurs and businesses to devote their time and resources to building organizations primarily focused on achieving social goals...If international consensus supports the creation of social-investment banks, they can drive development of a more powerful social sector, effectively financed through social-investment markets, and capable of resolving social issues by working alongside government and the private sector."

Tackle climate change.

--By Dame Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam GB: Her cause doesn't need much elaboration. The many advantages of a focused strategy on tackling climate change have been discussed to a saturation point and as she puts it, "Financing, technology and ingenuity are crucial if the world's poorest are to adapt their habitats. Combine this $10 billion with generous climate finance from governments and private-sector investment, and we can ensure a safe future for us all." And might I add, the many thousands of jobs these investments would create globally?

Read the complete article in WSJ's Special Reports section.

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Filed Under: CSR

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