Urban planning

Conscious Commerce Predictions: Accelerating Transition to a Circular Economy

Our turbulent political climate, world disasters and unprecedented events is fueling businesses, individuals to collaborate on tackling key challenges facing the planet and threats to humanity.  


By 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on the planet, half of them will be in water-stressed regions, requiring 50 percent more energy. 

While progress has been made in support of the Sustainability Development (SDG’s) goals, gaps ensue mitigating climate change’s disruptions on peoples lives and economies, the circular economy, a $4.5 trillion opportunity, according to Accenture, is the new driver for innovation across industries, product lifecycles and global supply chains.

While attention on plastic waste, including bans on plastic bags and straws, is advocating sustainability, more effective programs are needed to address resource scarcity and climate threats, respond to societal pressure to preserve our planet for future generations. 

This transition requires companies, retailers, and consumers to adopt a systemic approach to developing new models that use less natural resources, tackle climate change, generate more economic growth and influence buying patterns. 

With escalating concerns about pollution, habitat loss and exploitation of natural resources, businesses are under pressure from investors, civil society and consumers to tackle these challenges.

A recap of the top realities we face:

Oceans: Nearly half of the ocean’s marine populations have declined over the last 45 years. About 13 million tones of plastic leak into our oceans every year, harming biodiversity, economies and health.  By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish if we keep producing (and failing to properly dispose of) plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Forum. 

Wildlife Species:  In just 20 years African elephants could be gone.  Despite the ivory ban in 1989, elephants continue to be slaughtered with only half the number of elephants left. Approximately 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory leaving only 430,000 remaining. Elephants are a critical species as they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and for other plant and animal species to also survive.

Waste: Businesses are the largest producers of hardware waste and recyclables, with a study finding that £40 billion worth of hardware materials are in the bin. Consumers are discarding usable devices to get the latest new gadget or technology. The amount of annual waste is expected to increase globally to 51 million tons a year due to the digital economy. 

Forests: Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are driving forests northward, to higher elevation. Changing forest health and range has implications far beyond what types of trees will succeed. Trees are a major backbone of ecosystems that birds and other wildlife rely on for survival. If there is such an abrupt change in the natural landscape, the wildlife, the human systems, and the economies that rely on those systems will be challenged to keep pace with the rate of change.

Global Warming:  Global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking. The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health, through air pollution, heat waves and risks to food security. 

Reputation Dynamics Predictions:

What will be key to success for a circular economy for the long-term will be ‘inclusiveness’ towards devising holistic approaches to embrace key social and environmental trends:  

Growth of Consumer Power and Activism:  Recent research by consultancy firm Deloitte revealed over 80 percent of Millennials across Australia, Canada, China, India, the UK and the US find it important for companies to behave ethically and take steps to diminish their environmental impact. Consumers aged 25-35 are projected to spend 150 billion US dollars on sustainable goods by 2021.

Disaster Relief and Recovery: With the increasing number of natural disasters, corporations, emergence of mission-critical foundations and nonprofits are re-thinking approaches to disaster relief and recovery efforts. While many organizations will continue to provide immediate relief to victims of natural disasters through cash grants and product donations, companies are taking a more pro-active approach to restoring and building resilient communities for the long-term, such as affordable housing, trees and parks, mass transport and urban infrastructure; and resilience for the urban poor.

Growth of Sustainability Incentives: As corporations determine metrics, suppliers are incentivized to be more sustainable. For example Project Gigaton is a Walmart initiative to avoid one billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. Suppliers can take their sustainability efforts to the next level through goal setting and receive credits. 

Urbanization: Nearly 70 percent of the world’s population (6.7 billion), are projected to live in urban areas. This calls for new innovative designs for cities and living spaces to include water resource protection, renewable energy, food is grown locally, supporting diverse cultures, population migration patterns and carbon-neutral infrastructures. 

Plant a Tree: Urban forests are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to people and wildlife. Urban forests help to filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, and provide shade. By reducing noise and providing places to recreate, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities. American Forests, the oldest conservation organization in the US, is dedicated to protecting and restoring healthy forest ecosystems with a goal to plant a further 3 million trees.

Conclusion: A strong business case is a priority for companies looking to adopt effective circular economy practices. With financial incentives for businesses to shift to 100% renewable energy, adopting the circular model represents environmental conservation as an economic opportunity while restoring and building resilient communities for the long-term. 

It will transform our relationships as consumers, our buying habits, selection of clothes, food, utilities and choice of materials. 

However, what is fundamental to success is to treat our materials as precious resources, convene more alliances, work across multiple industry sectors, break down silos, and enforce action on a united front.   

It’s that Simple. Plant a Tree Today: www.americanforests.org

By: Samantha Taylor - Founder of Reputation Dynamics 

Since 2005, Reputation Dynamics (RD) has been committed to addressing social, environmental and human justice issues. RD mobilizes corporations, NGOs/civil society and academia to devise share-valued approaches and develop inclusive partnerships.

I look forward to connecting with peers who are making the world a better place, advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Please contact me at:  


Narrowing the Divide between the Rich and Poor: Field Trip Report with TCU in Panama


Upon arrival into Panama City, one is struck by the new skyscrapers, architectural wonders and causeways in celebration of the prosperous trade traffic navigating the Canal, reporting fiscal revenues of $2.61 billion in 2015.

Panama is booming, with an average economic growth of 9 percent in the past five years, the highest in Latin America. Financial services and projects like the subway and multibillion-dollar expansion of the canal have contributed to this growth with the canal accounting for 10% of the country’s GDP.

However, Panama illustrates the starkest disparities of wealth in Latin America.  Poverty in Panama, according to the World Bank, is a rural and indigenous territories phenomenon, as can be seen in the once vibrant town of Colon, an hour’s drive from Panama City.

Despite the nation’s great wealth, we are reminded of the divide between the rich and poor, inequality that keeps almost 40 percent of its population in poverty – threatening to turn ‘The Boom to Bust’.  Furthermore, half of the country’s children are poor with nearly a fifth suffering from malnutrition.

I invite you to read more about my visit to Colon, Panama with staff/faculty members from TCU’s Discovering Global Citizenship Program and reflections about poverty. 

We took a very scenic train ride to Colon via the Panama railway fringing the edge of the canal and diverse, lush biodiversity with the occasional crocodile popping its head around passing ships.   The city of Colon sits by the Caribbean, wedged between a port and a cruise ship terminal. 

Our day began with breakfast at Hotel Washington, once a popular venue with its marble lobby and majestic pillars, commanding a view of the water and an abandoned ship.  The crumbling and neglected hotel with wires sticking out of walls in precarious places, is in desperate need of repair.

Today, Colon is where potable water, electricity, structurally sound buildings, and employment are all in short supply for the city’s 220,000 residents.

Yet in the early 1900s, during and after the construction of the canal, Colon blossomed with theaters, clubs, restaurants and finely manicured boulevards, hailing distinguished visitors like Albert Einstein.

The Lost Colon:

'The 98 cent tour’ with Sister Barbara who runs MUCEC, a non-profit charity supporting distressed women in Colon, provided a whole other perspective on poverty in a span of a mere 4/5 blocks.  We were told to leave our bags and not have any cameras exposed. Following closely on Sister Barbara’s earnest heels of conviction through the mess and stench of unsanitary conditions, she takes the hands of the children to ask if they had any food or water that day.  Sister Barbara, originally from Brooklyn, has committed her life to this community to help these families see hope of a future.

The visuals entailed rotting buildings with weeds sprouting from the cracks, a steady stream of sewage in the alleyways, jury-rigged water services, abandoned yellow taxis resting on deflated tires, while malnutritioned locals hang out in the streets.

As Panama City grew and modernized in the post-World War II era, Colon’s vibrance wore off. The ultimate closing of American military bases with the canal’s transfer to Panama in 1999 accelerated Colon’s deterioration. Crime and poverty grew, and the middle-class relocated to the suburbs, Panama City or out of the country.

Colon is the city that Panama forgot, in spite of vigorous development meant to court Caribbean cruise ships. Prior to 1869, the railroad connecting Panama City and Colon was the main transit across the continental Western Hemisphere. A last whiff of prosperity was seen during the construction of the Panama Canal.

Meanwhile, just around the corner from Colon is a $5 billion canal upgrade, a so you would think hub for economic development, skills development, creation of jobs and opportunity to improve livelihoods, including the 27,000 people that continue to live in condemned housing.

Colon’s duty-free trade zone, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, has done little to improve the town’s fortunes. Recent developments, including a hotel, an airport upgrade, a cruise ship dock enabling visitors to shop without entering the city’s squalor, have benefited mostly the businesses in the zone, a source of friction. Home to the zone’s 30,000 employees, Colon got lost in the middle of the free zone, and has become a challenge for the government, residents, businesses to revive what was once a thriving town.  Yet, it has been argued that projects like a new highway connecting Panama and Colon, the expansion of the canal, construction of a new hospital and other public works have reduced unemployment and poverty, yet these families continue to live in this squalor with no immediate way out.

Plans are now in place for the revitalization of Colon but with a lot of skeptism about how to realistically save and restore some of the crumbling buildings and historical assets, recently attracting preservation experts to write a plan with the help of organizations like the World Monuments Fund.  This will entail moving families out and securing the provision of basic human needs.  But how and to where?

In 2015 UN-Habitat reported signing two cooperation agreements with the cities of Colon and Panama to promote urban renewal and revitalization. These agreements, directly related to the issue of urban land use, planning and revitalization, seek to encourage public and private investment.

To be sure, such disparities are growing starker in rising economies like Peru, Brazil and Ecuador where communities are excluded in urban development and renovation plans, keeping the divide firmly intact between the rich and the poor. Fundamental to any progress will be addressing the racial discrimination that has stagnated Colon, getting people out of poverty, creating jobs and improving livelihoods.

This cannot be solved by government alone and will require other leaders from civil society, academia and international development partners to step in.  This is an opportunity to develop new models and approaches for mitigating poverty in the midst of social, cultural and political circumstances – scale and replication for ‘Boom to Bust’ scenarios such as Colon.

In conclusion, I share Sister Barbara’s powerful perspective, hope for Colon and communities trapped in poverty around the world:  Change does, however, occur. We have witnessed repeatedly violated, humiliated and oppressed women find shreds of human dignity from which to build new lives and to grow. We have seen the malnourished children of these women learn to read or just to say “thank you”. Once launched, the empowering search for self-respect and human dignity is not easily lost.  Hence, after years of slow, painful struggle, and almost constant evaluation, our prospects are stronger than ever, and our motto remains “Si podemos” – “Yes we can”.

By Sam Taylor, Founder of Reputation Dynamics.


Sam Taylor is Senior Advisor to TCU’s Discovering Global Citizenship Program and accompanied Dr. Jane Kucko and John Singleton to learn more about the Universities work and community development partners.  TCU’s mission is to “educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.”  The University transforms life and learning by infusing international perspectives and skills throughout the teaching, research and service missions with a focus on developing markets.


About MUCEC: MUCEC began in 1985 with efforts to help some of the poorest of Colon’s impoverished inhabitants -- the abused women and their children with little or no income.  Unlike other programs, MUCEC seeks a permanent solution rather than a temporary fix of the problem via a handout. For more information: http://mucec.org/english/nosotros.html