3p Weekend: Women in Corporate Leadership Twitter Chat

| Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments

tweet-jam-pwc-northern-trustMary is taking a break this week so in lieu of our usual 3p-Weekender here’s a special announcement about a new twitter chat we’re putting on with PwC & Northern Trust next Friday, March 6th.

Longtime TriplePundit readers have repeatedly asked us to do more with our Women in CSR series which has been one of our longest running and most popular columns. With that in mind, we’re excited to announce, in honor of International Women’s Day, a one hour conversation with Shannon Schuyler, Pwc’s Principal CR leader, and Connie L. Lindsey, Executive VP and Head of CSR for Northern Trust.

Over the course of an hour, we’ll invite you to explore ways to foster female leadership and overcome gender inequality in the workplace. The conversation will cover topics such as obstacles to advancement today, how companies can proactively approach gender diversity on boards, and specific things we can do to foster confidence and leadership skills among girls in school today so that they may become the women leaders of tomorrow. We’ll also discuss the role men can play in the workplace to empower their female colleagues. And we’ll address your questions!

Learn more here, or click here to RSVP for the chat!

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TJ Maxx Follows Walmart’s Lead, Promises to Boost Wages

Leon Kaye | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments
TJ Maxx, Retail Sector, TJX Companies, wages, minimum wage, Walmart, Minnesota, Leon Kaye, Costco

TJ Maxx’s parent company has promised to boost wages

Is retail finally starting to become more humane in the United States? It is not anywhere close to becoming a job that can lead to a decent middle class — or even a lower-middle class — lifestyle, but wages are starting to inch up.

Walmart started the ball rolling with its announcement last week that it will increase wages to $9 an hour. Now TJX Companies, the operators of TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, is the latest nationwide retailer to announce it will also give many of its workers a raise.

In a press release discussing its recent financial performance, the company announced it will raise the minimum wage for its employees to $9 an hour starting in June. That is a slight uptick from current wages, which now range from $8.25 to $8.50 an hour. By 2016, all employees who have six months’ tenure with the company will make a wage of at least $10 an hour.

So, why is the stubborn retail sector slowly changing its ways?

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Shell Backs Out of Alberta Oil Sands Project

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Shell_oil_sands_HowlArtsCollective

Royal Dutch Shell‘s recent announcement may speak volumes for the future of the Alberta tar sands — at least for now. On Monday, the oil company announced that it was pulling the plug on its massive 200,000-barrel Pierre River mine project, which also happens to be the largest of its kind in the Alberta oil sands.

Pierre River isn’t the only oil sands project the company operates, however. It also runs the Muskeg River mine and the Jackpine mine, which together account for 17 percent of Canada’s oil production. The Athabasca oil sands project, which contains these mines, is a joint development between Shell, Chevron and Marathon Oil.

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Jordan’s 6,000 Mosques to Be Powered by Solar Energy

Leon Kaye | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Jordan, Middle East, solar, solar energy, renewables, clean energy, mosques, Leon Kaye, Masdar, Abu Dhabi, Tafila, Arab Gas Pipeline, Amman, zakat

The massive King Abdullah I Mosque in Amman will be one of 6,000 mosques soon powered by solar.

The Middle East may be mineral-rich, but that does not mean oil and gas are distributed evenly across the Gulf and Levant. Jordan, for example, has to import more than 95 percent of its energy needs. The result is an economy that spends as much as 16 percent on energy, or more than 40 percent of the nation’s budget.

The capital, Amman, has a budding entrepreneurial spirit, and the nation is culturally and geographically rich from Petra to the Dead Sea. But tourism is hardly enough to sustain an economy for 6.5 million people — a number on the rise because of the Syrian refugee crisis and continued chaos in nations from Egypt to Iraq. Jordan has numerous other challenges, but it is rich in one resource: sunshine. Now the kingdom is accelerating the adoption of solar, starting with the country’s 6,000 mosques.

According to Amman’s English daily, the Jordan Times, government agencies are working together to install solar panels at mosques, financed by a combination of grants and contributions through zakat (one of the five pillars of Islam that requires charitable donations). The projects will start with tenders to retrofit 120 mosques with solar and then the program will expand across the nation.

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Dietary Guidelines Consider Planet’s Health

Alexis Petru
| Friday February 27th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Vegetables“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These seven words are author and sustainable food advocate Michael Pollan’s sage advice on how to eat a diet that is healthy for both people and the planet. And now it appears the U.S. government is poised to adopt similar nutritional recommendations.

Last week, the nation’s top nutrition panel, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, released its latest report — which argued for a “sustainable diet” high in plant-based foods and lower in calories and animal-based foods. The findings, which serve to provide the scientific basis for the next version of the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines (think the old food pyramid and now, MyPlate), urge Americans to consider the environmental impacts of their diets, saying that food that is more environmentally responsible is usually healthier for people.

This is the first time the advisory committee has incorporated the environmental impact of food production and consumption in its report, which is published every five years.

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KFC and Seattle’s Best Present the Edible Coffee Cup

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments

KFC_seattles_best_TerryWhaleboneWhat do you think about when you dig into a bucket of fried chicken? Potatoes and gravy? A fresh salad? A tall soft drink?

Well, in the U.K., apparently it’s fresh-cut grass and the aroma of coconut sun screen — oh, and fresh brewed coffee.

This interesting factoid is the basis for a new edible coffee cup that KFC and Seattle’s Best Coffee have pioneered and are due to release at KFC outlets. The Scoff-ee cup, which is made of cookie and lined with chocolate, is designed to be eaten. The new concept is due to be released soon when KFC starts offering the Seattle’s Best brand.

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Water Reflections: A Traveler Stumbles Upon Dry Land

Virginia Tech CLiGS
Virginia Tech CLiGS | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Jeremy Orr - WaterBy Jeremy Orr

As a native Michigander, I grew up around one of the largest freshwater systems in the world, the Great Lakes — not to mention the countless inland lakes, ponds, rivers and streams that were carved into Michigan’s landscape by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago. Surrounded by so much fresh water, the words “drought,” “water famine” and “water scarcity” didn’t seem too imminent a threat to me, as I usually applied them to arid landscapes in the western United States or deserts elsewhere in the world. In fact, they were so foreign to me, they may as well have been alien species from a distant planet.

It wasn’t until I started traveling for work that I realized how scarce water could be. When I first worked overseas, I spent a great amount of time in the Middle East, staying for brief periods in various places in the Persian Gulf. It didn’t take long to notice a common denominator in all the places I visited in the region: a lack of fresh water. It’s not that I wasn’t aware that these countries weren’t giant freshwater swimming pools like states in the Upper Midwest; I was just ill-prepared for such a dearth of water, period.

The region’s parched landscape had me thinking of both water scarcity and access to potable water worldwide. Aside from the obvious, what were the implications of a lack of fresh water in the region, and elsewhere? Does a shortage of potable water in a region as large as the Middle East affect the world’s water supply, and if so, how? What role does climate change play in all of this? Of course, these questions, among others, were not easy to answer.

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How Driverless Cars Will Impact the Environment

3p Contributor | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Image credit: GmanViz, Flickr By Scott Huntington

When hybrid cars first came onto the scene and were promoted as a potential solution to climate change, the world took notice. It seemed developed nations were finally going to be able to curb their carbon emissions and enter a new paradigm of eco-friendly road technology.

Despite the hype surrounding hybrid vehicles and what they represented — something that attracted a wide variety of comments from both sides of the fence and a great many debates — the real-world application of these vehicles required humans to adopt the design and function of the vehicles in question.

Hybrid cars were not something everybody wanted, and now in 2015, there is a new contender in a service that people have praised in recent times. We’re of course talking about “driverless cars.”

Are driverless cars going to provide solutions?

Across the U.K. and the U.S. in particular, driverless cars have surged in popularity due to companies such as Google and Uber entering the ring in attempts to corner the market. But what does this really mean for the environment? And are automated cars actually going to have any impact at all in the medium- to long-term?

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How the Mobile ‘Kill Switch’ Will Help Businesses and the Planet

3p Contributor | Friday February 27th, 2015 | 1 Comment

8637598848_5d39b2b581_zBy Jessica Oaks

Americans spend $2.6 billion each year to replace stolen smartphones, not including the cost of handset insurance. The consequences of losing these high-value devices are dreaded and very much unwanted. In response to mobile-device theft, kill-switch technology is gaining momentum as a viable solution. A ‘kill switch’ allows smart device owners to lock and/or wipe their phones remotely once taken from possession. Aside from consumers, mobile kill switches also impact businesses positively, and, moreover, the planet as a whole is better off with this technological implementation.

Businesses, especially large corporations, often utilize the latest technology around. This means providing employees with smartphones to enable increased work production and mobility via emails, office apps, shared documents and Internet connectivity. Often times, syncing data happens automatically across any company-owned device with network connection intact. Synced technology has been a game-changer in terms of optimizing operational efficiencies. However, it does make connected devices susceptible to abuse should a non-authorized party get ahold of said gadgets. If even one employee loses their phone to an “Apple picker,” aka a smart phone robber, aside from the monetary loss, private company information is now in the hands of someone who could potentially leverage it to destroy the business and, in the bigger picture, impact potential economic flow and overall safe well-being around the world.

An extreme but extremely possible situation that could take place is, for example, a smartphone thief who has hacking capabilities uses their sticky fingers to gain access into an establishment’s private stock information and bank accounts: It could pose a detrimental trickle-down effect, and it’s something not outside the realm of affecting the rest of the world, as many businesses are connected to other businesses and industries. Leveraging insider intelligence and spreading it in a viral manner to powerful parties is all it takes to take down a massive amount of people.

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Detroit Water Shutoff Crisis: Public Water Brigade Grows

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Detroit_water_brigade_protestLast September, as Detroit residents were still in the midst of 80-degree summer weather, the city’s water department went to court. Its issue was the 27,000-some customers who were getting Detroit water but weren’t paying their bills.

As of March 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) was missing about $175 million in water payments, almost $100,000 of that from residential customers who had lost their jobs or couldn’t afford the hefty water bill last summer. Residents were already paying an average of $64 per month water access. With an 8.7 percent increase in June, many unemployed residents and individuals on Social Security Income checks couldn’t afford water for cooking, washing and basic needs.

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Portable Distillation Unit Cleans Sea Water on a Sunny Day

RP Siegel | Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 4 Comments

DesolenatorA number of solutions have been put forward to address the daunting problem facing roughly a billion people on this planet: a lack of clean, safe drinking water. Climate change is only making the problem worse. Some experts say that 50 percent of the global population will experience some form of water stress by 2030.

A large percentage of these people live near an ocean. Since 97 percent of the world’s water is found in the ocean, it makes sense to use sea water, if possible, as a source that can be purified or desalinated for drinking and cooking purposes. Although desalination tends to be energy-intensive and costly, it has inspired a number of recent improvements.

Among the solutions aimed at this sizable opportunity is a large-scale solar desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, a joint effort between IBM and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. This approach uses concentrating solar power (CSP) to drive a nano-membrane reverse osmosis system.

Another project in France uses wave power to generate mechanical pumping action that forces seawater through a set of reverse osmosis filters. A smaller, portable solution has been developed by a team at MIT.  This system, which is primarily intended for disaster relief, features a set of solar panels, a water storage tank, a desalination pump and a filtration system.

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More Signs of Solar Energy’s Upside in India

3p Contributor | Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared on the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis blog.

5077410064_38d8e109df_zBy Tim Buckley

A sea change is gathering in India as the country contemplates embracing the promise of solar-powered electricity.

You can see it at the ballot box, through the prism of international diplomacy and in the capital markets.

India, keep in mind, is among the top 10 economies in the world, is already the third largest electricity market globally and is second in population only to China. Its clean-energy growth potential is gigantic.

Grassroots support for energy reform is substantial, seen most recently — and in stunning fashion — earlier this month in the Aam Aadmi Party’s win in the Delhi state elections. It wasn’t just an unexpected setback for the ruling party but a jarring reminder that the masses of India have enormous clout. A central issue in the election was making electricity both more sustainable and more affordable for the poor. One way to do that: solar.

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Italian Yacht Designer Christian Grande Proposes Posh Floating Village

Leon Kaye | Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Christian Grande, floating villages, climate change, green building, Seasteader Institute, Leon Kaye, floating city, AbiFloat

Christian Grande’s AbiFloat combines sleek design with next-gen sustainable living.

Perhaps fretting over climate change and rising ocean levels is a waste of time. After all, with over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, there is plenty of room for floating communities to house the world’s population. It could eliminate the need for massive seawalls, skyrocketing insurance rates and a boost in hiring for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ideas for floating villages keep popping up, and why not? The automakers always tease us with concept cars, so why not have concept floating villages?

The latest idea is from famed yacht designer Christian Grande of Italy with his recently presented AbiFloat, which combines modular building and luxury. (Based on the size of his yachts, Grande already has designed a floating village.)

Combining the best ideas we’ve seen in the magazine Dwell and HGTV, Abifloat allows for “living in nature without borders,” and its homes’ designs would integrate into the local landscape, Grande said. The homes would be built out of lightweight and sustainable materials including aluminum, recycled plastic, straw and cork. Measuring 21 feet by 11 feet (6.5 by 3.25 meters), the structures could function as “modular reference points” and could be snapped together to make even bigger “superstructures.”

The photos are certainly fantastic, and the project is an enjoyable one to read about. So, is this the next wave of green building?

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Michigan Municipal Leaders Protest Rate Increase for LED Lights

| Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 4 Comments

LED streetlightEarlier this month, DTE Energy announced a rate hike for LED lights. The decision sparked anger in Michigan city officials involved in municipal streetlight conversions, who would see their financial incentives for energy conservation diminish. At the same time, DTE plans to lower its rates on sodium lighting, which can use up to three times more electricity than LED.

In 2014 Ypsilanti, best known as the home of Eastern Michigan University, converted all 1,100 of its streetlights to LED — making it the first Michigan municipality to do so. City leaders worked with DTE Energy on the project and expected to see substantial annual energy savings. In the first year, the municipality’s DTE energy bill was 29 percent lower, saving $176,000. Now, with DTE’s proposed rate increase, Ypsilanti’s city leaders are seeing their expected savings disappear.

To pay for the streetlight conversion, Ypsilanti required all homeowners to contribute $114 per parcel, a fee that was hard for residents to swallow, but the city was sure would result in future savings. Now, city leaders feel misled by DTE, saying the company never mentioned the rate increase during the conversion project.

“We worked with DTE Energy for more than a year on the switch to LED streetlights and at no point in the discussion did they warn us that LED lights would cost more than old high-pressure sodium lights. If this rate hike happens, we’ll really feel like this was a bait and switch,” Ypsilanti City Council Member Brian Robb told MLive.

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Adidas Group Exceeds Sustainable Cotton Target

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday February 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment

cottonThe Adidas Group made a big announcement this week: In 2014, the company sourced more than 30 percent of its cotton as Better Cotton, exceeding its original 25 percent target. That is the most sustainable cotton used in the company’s history.

The majority of the Better Cotton sourced by Adidas came from India, Pakistan and Brazil. The company will provide more information about its progress in its 2014 Sustainability Report, scheduled for release in April.

Adidas has set a goal to purchase 100 percent of the cotton it uses from sustainable sources by 2018. It aims to use 40 percent Better Cotton by 2015. The athletic wear brand’s goals on cotton are part of its overarching sustainability strategy, which includes a low-waste initiative.

Why is Adidas’ announcement so important? The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) serves as a way for companies to work with the cotton sector to create a more sustainable system. BCI’s Better Cotton Standard System includes a traceability system, and farmers in 19 countries are using it to produce Better Cotton.

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