The North Face Launches Collaborative Standard for Responsible Down

| Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

urlDay-to-day, a rotating list of companies announce their latest efforts to set new sustainability industry standards, from game-changing initiatives such as Walmart’s Sustainability Index and Puma’s triple bottom line accounting system to a spectrum of brands broadcasting new metrics, programs or platforms that advance their corporate sustainability goals. Setting the pace for industry-leading change has become an industry standard. While this type of leadership is commendable (and necessary), it does not always guarantee systemic change. This is one important distinction between two standards recently launched by two outdoor apparel giants: Patagonia’s Traceable Down Standard and The North Face’s Responsible Down Standard.

Patagonia, which launched its new standard last November and announced that from fall 2014 forward all its down-insulated products will contain only 100 percent “traceable down,” is certainly an exemplar of all-things-good for the outdoor and apparel industry. As Patagonia has done in the past with its commitment to organic cotton and recycled polyester, the company hopes its new down traceability standard will “inspire other companies to look closely at their own down supply chains and utilize the model.”

This is all well and good. Models are important – though when are models not enough, especially when complex global supply chains are involved? Perhaps the question we can ask instead is: how can sustainable business leaders go beyond setting the pace for the race, and instead ensure that everyone running makes it to the finish line?

That’s exactly what The North Face has set out to do with the launch of version 1.0 of the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), which not only assures that the down in their products does not come from animals that have been subject to any unnecessary harm (such as force-feeding and live-plucking), but also serves as a holistic tool designed for any organization seeking to source down from ethically treated geese. Even more, The North Face has “gifted” its standard – which will be updated to reflect additional stakeholder input – to a partner organization to encourage widespread industry use.

Collaborative Design

Because of the extreme complexity – and limited transparency and traceability – of the global down supply chain, The North Face sought input from experts in animal welfare, standards development, and materials traceability and collaborated with two respected organizations to develop a standard that would address the diverse challenges of the global down supply and be a resource for the entire industry. Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expert knowledge of farm systems, and Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry, worked with The North Face to develop the standard.

Instead of focusing only on The North Face’s supply chain, the company wanted to turn the standard into something that the industry could adapt and companies could use to fit their own complex supply chain realities. That is why upon launching an initial version of the standard earlier this year, The North Face “gifted” ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, granting the organization full rights to distribute and update the RDS as it sees fit.

“We are giving the Responsible Down Standard to the public in order to provide a holistic tool for any organization seeking to source down more responsibly. Our hope is that the collective use of the RDS will effectively promote positive animal welfare conditions and traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than we could accomplish alone,” said Adam Mott, Director of Sustainability at The North Face.

Open Source-Like Iteration

Similar to the open source nature of previous tools shared to advance sustainability in the apparel industry – such as the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Index and Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index, which were adapted by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to develop the first version of the Higg Index – the RDS hopes to reach broad consensus and take an entire industry’s ethical sourcing of down to the next level.

Under its ownership of the RDS, Textile Exchange will conduct a rapid-review process where it will gather real-use feedback and field data from a range of users, industry partners and stakeholders, with the goal to release the next version of the RDS in 2015.

“We look forward to building on [this] foundation…to continue to drive sustainable change in the outdoor and textiles industry,” said Anne Gillespie, Director of Industry Integrity at Textile Exchange.

Beyond Apparel

Through its partnership with the Textile Exchange, The North Face hopes the new standard will influence brands beyond the outdoor and apparel industry, such as furniture, bedding and other manufacturers that consume about 99 percent of the world’s down feathers. According to a report released by the European Outdoor Group (EOG), outdoor brands account for less than one percent of global down use.

Time will tell if this “gift” becomes a catalyst for system-wide industry collaboration, innovation, and progress. Here’s hoping it does, and that other sustainable brands are inspired to do the same and move beyond simply setting standards to convening thought leadership and facilitationg action that drives industry level change.

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Photo Essay: How Workplaces Reflect Company Goals

3p Contributor | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Todd Burns

new report from the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and Jones Lang LaSalle, titled Health, wellbeing and productivity in offices: The next chapter for green building unearths the connection between green workplaces and employee productivity, provides “overwhelming evidence” that indoor air quality, thermal comfort, access to natural light and other elements of green office design make employees not only feel better, but also more productive.

Following are a series of projects completed by JLL for businesses across the U.S. These images illustrate how each company’s unique workplace reflects its sustainability and employee productivity goals. Click the first image after the jump to open the gallery.

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Vermont Prison Becomes a Recycling and Composting Trailblazer

Leon Kaye | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Prison, recycling, Vermont, composting, Leon Kaye, waste diversion, Northwest State Corrections Facility, sustainability

This Vermont prison is now a recycling leader

We spend so much time here at Triple Pundit talking about how companies and universities are becoming more sustainable, it is easy to forget the sustainability agenda is going on everywhere, and yes, that includes government. To that end, more prisons are making moves to become more environmentally responsible. The latest is the Northwest State Corrections Facility in Swanton, Vermont. Recently the women’s prison, which incarcerates over 200 prisoners, announced it had become compliant with the state’s 2012 solid waste and recycling law.

Considering the depressing statistic that almost one in 100 American adults is behind bars, there is plenty of work to do on this front. From deliveries to food to water consumption, these facilities, operating 24/7 just as a small town does, provide plenty of opportunities to reduce waste and save money. Washington State, for example, partners with one of its state universities to implement recycling and sustainability programs within its correctional facilities. So what exactly is going on in this corner of New England?

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How to Motivate Your Team Towards B Corp Certification

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is the eleventh in a weekly series of excerpts from the new book The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 13, 2014). Click here to read the rest of the series.

BLabBy Ryan Honeyman

Welcome to week two of the six-week, turbocharged Quick Start Guide to becoming a Certified B Corporation.

As a quick refresher, last week was focused on using the B Impact Assessment to establish a baseline of your company’s overall social and environmental performance and to create momentum before engaging others in the process. This week is focused on starting to engage others and motivating your team.

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Why Don’t More Businesses Donate Excess Food?

3p Contributor | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This summer, Tamanna Mohapatra, a master’s student in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management Program, took a ride with City Harvest and got an up-close look at food waste and hunger in New York City. This is the second post in a two-part feature detailing her experience. In case you missed it, you can read the first post here. 

Volunteers from Barclays repack squash into pantry bags at City Harvest's Food Rescue Facility in Long Island City.

Volunteers from Barclays repack squash into pantry bags at City Harvest’s Food Rescue Facility in Long Island City.

By Tamanna Mohapatra

A sales lady at La Bergamote, a French bakery located in Midtown Manhattan at 52nd Street and 10th Avenue, was very reluctant to talk about their food waste. The lady, who preferred anonymity, mentioned they take leftovers home.

Anna Sloane, a young sales girl in her twenties from Brooklyn, New York, was closing shop at one of the many stores of the famous Le Pain Quotidien café when quizzed about the remaining pastries in the café’s display window. She said she felt bad about the food that had to be thrown out every evening. “I try to take it with me and distribute it in my neighborhood or on the way home on the train” she said.

Josh Ramos, the night manager at the famous vegan restaurant Blossom in the heart of Chelsea at 20th Street and 9th Avenue, said of their food waste, “We typically don’t have a lot of food leftover as we try and plan all our meals in advance. Also vegan cooking uses a lot of oil, so we can’t even compost our food scraps.”

Though the reasons vary for restaurants and stores choosing not to donate their leftovers, the main cause is a “misunderstanding of how food liability works.” This is still the No. 1 reason quoted by everyone working with food waste.

Racine Rodriguez, the manager for food sourcing at City Harvest said, “The biggest concern donors have is being held liable for their donations. When adding on new donors, City Harvest will visit and train donors on what it is we can and cannot accept to ensure donors understand they will not be held liable for the donations. We assume liability through the Good Samaritan Law, a federal law.”

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Report: The Chief Sustainability Officer Role is Evolving

Leon Kaye | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Weinreb Group, chief sustainability officer, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, Leon Kaye, innovation, strategy

Business is understanding sustainability is important

It was not long ago that the chief sustainability officer—or whatever title that person or committee tucked into their email signature—was often someone on the outside looking in. For many companies, appointing a CSO was done to assuage some stakeholders with corporate social responsibility projects. That officer was also charged with giving a public face to the company’s efforts related to their sustainability agenda. But recent trends show that oft-heard complaint is less and less true. We see more companies, from the logistics sector to snack manufacturers, appointing a CSO, and one who has a role with teeth to get things done. They are increasing involved in day-to-day decision making within the C-suite, and their numbers are increasing annually. Now a report from the Weinreb Group shows the role of the CSO has matured even more the past few years.

And what is the biggest shift underway? These CSOs are no longer simply internal program managers—they, in the report’s words, are “strategic lynchpins” who are integral to a company’s overall strategy, often identify new opportunities for innovation and lead impactful strategic initiatives from within and outside the company.

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Natural Gas Detrimental to Low-Carbon Economy, Study Says

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

climate changeCompared to dirty coal, natural gas looks like a clean fuel. As fracking becomes more widespread, natural gas is becoming more abundant. It is often touted as a bridge fuel, serving our energy needs until technology advances in renewable energy and carbon capture and sequestration are achieved. Unfortunately, this thinking is flawed, and natural gas may in fact be a culprit holding back clean energy development and use, according to a new study that uses integrated assessment models.

“We didn’t really know how our first experiment would turn out, but we were surprised how little difference abundant gas made to total greenhouse gas emissions even though it was dramatically changing the global energy system,” said James “Jae” Edmonds, chief scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). “When we saw all five modeling teams reporting little difference in climate change, we knew we were onto something.”

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Tom’s Of Maine: Growing Your Brand While Living Your Values

| Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.


I asked Tom how it’s possible to grow your business through your values.  He responded with three requirements:  Documenting your beliefs as a brand, creating a model for decision making, and creating some kind of symbol that demonstrates your values.  Secondly I asked Tom whether the company’s recent acquisition by Colgate posed a challenge to his values and how Tom’s is striving to maintain them as part of a larger organization.

All the details are in the video below…

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Chris Librie Talks about HP’s Living Progress

| Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

HP LogoLiving Progress is HP’s vision of creating a better future for everyone through innovation and technology. Chris Librie, senior director of strategy and communications for HP, talked to me about the basics of Living Progress.  We talked about how technology can play a roll in solving the world’s problems – but in particular the fact that no single company can possibly have all the solutions.

The Living Progress exchange, which TriplePundit participated in via twitter, is designed to create a collaborative opportunity for companies large and small to discuss their own approaches to sustainability.

Chris shared this and more in the video below…

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FEMA: Plan for Climate Change or Risk Emergency Funding

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 8 Comments

climate_change_FEMA_usdaWith winter just around the corner and El Niño still a probable forecast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has news for state governments: Prepare for climate change now or risk losing access to funding.

The agency has just released a draft of its forthcoming State Mitigation Plan Review Guide, which includes new guidelines in assessing and planning for climate change. Entitled a ‘Draft for Public Comment,’ the document highlights some key changes in FEMA’s regulations for those states receiving federal emergency funding – including the need to prepare for, and assess, climate change risk.

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General Motors Expands Zero-Waste Agenda Worldwide

Leon Kaye | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
General motors, GM, recycling, zero waste, waste diversion, Leon Kaye, John Bradburn, sustainability

Boxes of grinding wheels ready to be recycled in Grand Rapids, MI

General Motors (GM) continues to expand its global zero-waste program, inching closer to its goal of having 125 total facilities landfill-free by 2020. Eleven new facilities are now officially zero waste, and they range from assembly plants to regional headquarters. Following its own mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle and compost,” GM has expanded this program to 122 facilities — over half of them outside of North America.

According to GM, the conversion of these factories and offices to landfill-free status helps the automaker prevent more than 600,000 tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere annually. At last count, the company estimates that 97 percent of all waste at its landfill-free plants is recycled or reused; the remainder is converted into energy within the plants.

The amount of waste GM recycles hardly is small change: The company in the past has estimated that it generates about US$1 billion in revenues from raw materials that do not end up going into cars. Three years running, GM’s zero-waste plan is a solid example of a company rolling out sustainability goals — and actually meeting them.

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Ford Edges Closer to ‘Growing’ Its Own Car Parts

Mary Mazzoni
| Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Is that popcorn? Nope, it's a batch of freshly made soy-based foam. Ford now uses this bio-based material in every vehicle sold in North America.

Is that popcorn? Nope, it’s a batch of freshly made soy-based foam. Ford now uses this bio-based material in every vehicle sold in North America.

Researchers at Ford Motor Co. have been working to replace petroleum-based plastic with renewable alternatives for nearly 15 years. Back in 2000, Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader for sustainable materials at Ford Research, and her team devised a chemical formula to replace petroleum-based automotive foam with foam made from soybean oil.

It wasn’t always easy. As Mielewski explained to a group of journalists in the research lab last week, the first soy-based foam the team tested was “the most miserable, stinky, terrible foam ever. It smelled like burnt popcorn.”

But, she continued, the team had plenty of time to perfect the formula. Why? To put it bluntly: because the rest of the company wasn’t expecting much anyway.

“Way back in 2000, people said: ‘Why the heck do you want to do this? Petroleum is cheap; we’ve been doing it for 50 years with the petroleum-based chemicals. Why would we want to change it?'” Mielewski recalled that she and her colleague Ellen Lee were “thrown out of every conference room in the whole company.”

As the researchers continued their work, it often seemed as if the department wouldn’t live to see the results. But, in the innovative spirit of his great-grandfather, Executive Chairman Bill Ford wouldn’t hear of it. “Every time the project was about to be shut down due to resource constraints, we would hear from behind the scenes that Bill Ford met with somebody and that we were going to keep going,” Mielewski said.

Finally, after years in the laboratory, the team’s hard work paid off. In 2007, Mielewski, Lee and their colleagues completed a soy-based foam that met every specification Ford had in place for its automotive foam. “That’s when the magic sort of happened for us: Oil went from $40 a barrel to over $160 a barrel,” Mielewski continued with a smile. “The phones started ringing off the hook, and they said, ‘You know that really crappy idea? That’s a good idea.'”

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NOW Accepts $1 Million From Chevron, Defends Them in Pollution Case

Eric Justian
| Monday October 20th, 2014 | 3 Comments

10614976465_2b7e449a21_zSo, this seems kind of weird at first glance. Coincidentally, just months after Chevron donated a million bucks to the National Organization of Women, the legal arm of NOW filed a legal brief in favor of the oil company in its legal plight in Ecuador.

This isn’t as out of left field as it might seem. But the mountain of cash to NOW sure raises eyebrows, particularly among Ecuadorian women whose children and their own bodies became cancer victims because of hundreds of toxic waste pools left in the Ecuador rain forest, draining into the water supply and soil.

Money really complicates something that should seem simple and raises questions of corruption. NOW may have had good intentions, but that million bucks sure makes it seem like quid pro quo. Ironically, that sort of corruption is one of NOW’s reasons for siding with Chevron, as the organization cites the integrity of RICO injunctions as their reason for getting involved at all — RICO being the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and “corruption” traditionally defined as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.”

So, NOW taking a million bucks to uphold the integrity of the RICO Act sure would be … I guess … kind of funny. And definitely ironic.

Let’s back up a bit with a little history:

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American Petroleum Institute Accused of Sabotage, Trademark Infringement

Leon Kaye | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Confusion over and has led trademark litigation

Last week the American Petroleum Institute (API) was sued for trademark infringement by Choose Energy, Inc. For 10 years, San Francisco-based Choose Energy has been operating an online marketplace that allows consumers to compare home and business power options from natural gas to solar. In a lawsuit filed last week in a California federal court, Choose Energy, which operates the website, accuses the API’s launch of of confusing consumers and harming the company’s goodwill, or in layman’s terms, the company’s reputation and therefore its customers’ confidence.

The suit claims API’s site has confused Choose Energy’s potential customers, especially those who contact the firm through its chat interface, call center and via social media interaction on the Choose Energy’s Twitter account. The bulk of Choose Energy’s business is from working as a broker offering various energy options in the 10 states and the District of Columbia that have deregulated energy markets. So, API’s launch, the company insists, is having an adverse impact on its business. Considering API’s past use of fake Twitter accounts and litigation over renewable energy regulations in the past, this may not be too big a surprise to observers.

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Solving Food Waste and Hunger Through Food Rescue

3p Contributor | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This summer, Tamanna Mohapatra, a master’s student in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management Program, took a ride with City Harvest and got an up-close look at food waste and hunger in New York City. This is the first post in a two-part feature detailing her experience.

10653858_10152643938156181_8329167458577434949_nBy Tamanna Mohapatra

Lincoln Hernandez, originally from the Dominican Republic, now calls Queens, New York his home. He drives a truck on the east side of Manhattan for City Harvest, a New York City-based food rescue program, every weekday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On a Tuesday in August, he arrived at 8:30 in the morning to pick me up from Trader Joe’s grocery store on Broadway and 14th Street, so I could observe him in his rounds of food collection. Mr. Hernandez has been with City Harvest for close to four years now.

“You can remember my name because I am the 16th president of the United States,” he joked. Kidding aside, when asked about how he liked working at City Harvest, he said, “I feel more good working here than when going to church. I feel so great collecting and distributing food.”

We are both immigrants, he from the Caribbean and I from India. Food waste as a concept was relatively alien to us before arriving in the United States, especially the astronomical proportions found here.

That Tuesday morning, we both did our part in trying to make a dent in this very noticeable yet unchallenged social, economic and environmental issue by hauling bag after bag of fresh and one-day-old food, and lots of bread, into the mid-sized refrigerated City Harvest truck. Our stash at the end of just one trip was 2,600 pounds of edible, wholesome food! This is food that would have been thrown away if not for City Harvest’s food rescue program.

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