3p Weekend: 7 Companies Investing in Sustainable Packaging

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Can you guess what this Dell packaging is made from?

Can you guess what this Dell packaging is made from?

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

As waste continues to pile up in our landfills, a growing number of companies are taking a second look at product packaging and devising creative ways to cut back. From mushrooms and potatoes to the quest for a recyclable toothpaste tube, this week we’re tipping our hats to seven companies that are leading the charge in sustainable packaging design.

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Sponging Up Solar Energy

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

steam spongeLeave it to those smarties at MIT to come up with something that sounds more like science fiction than reality: a new “material structure” that generates steam by soaking up the sun’s rays.

As reported last week by Science Daily, this sponge-like structure is a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam, which all works to create a “porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.”

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Cargill Adopts a More Sustainable Palm Oil Policy

Leon Kaye | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment
Cargill, sustainable palm oil, palm oil, transparency, human rights, Leon Kaye, RSPO, land rights,

Palm oil fruit cultivated in Ghana

The calls for companies to become more ethical when it comes to the sourcing of palm oil have grown even louder in recent months. With hydrogenated fats largely disappearing over health concerns, in addition to the surging demand worldwide for packaged foods and personal care products, the thirst for palm oil continues to grow rapidly. Companies who remain silent on responsible palm find themselves on the outside looking in, and will face more criticism from environmentalists and human rights activists. Cargill was one of those firms.

That has changed. The $137 billion company recently issued a new sustainable palm oil policy, a significant victory considering Cargill is a privately-held firm and not necessarily subjected to shareholder and stakeholder pressure to the degree a public company would face. NGOs such as the Rainforest Action Network have long complained about Cargill’s operations even though the company joined RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) in 2004. Additional watchdogs including the Union of Concerned Scientists have kept the pressure on consumer packaged goods and food processing companies to disclose their performance on palm oil sourcing — a difficult task when it comes to keeping private companies such as Cargill accountable because they often disclose far less information on how they conduct their business.

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New World Bank Policies Potentially Devestating to Poor, Indigenous People

Michael Kourabas
| Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

10336635_887297174629373_3240410610220556304_nIt looks like the World Bank is succumbing to budgetary pressures and choosing to neglect its human rights responsibilities as the world’s largest and most influential development bank.

Proposed revisions to the World Bank’s Safeguard Policies and Environment and Social Framework — which are meant to protect people and the environment in the investment projects that the World Bank finances  – leaked last week and were immediately and uniformly criticized as potentially devastating to indigenous people, the poor and the environment.

On July 28, 99 non-governmental organizations and civil society networks across Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe sent a letter to the World Bank’s board, urging it not to adopt the draft.  Yet, despite the viscerally negative reaction of rights groups around the world, the draft was cleared by the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness on July 30, and it will now be subject to a period of broad public consultations.

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Live Twitter Chat on August 5: Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace

Marissa Rosen
| Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

kcc-twitter

Five years ago, Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace established a framework for collaboration to work positively toward long-term solutions to conserve and protect forest resources worldwide. Appropriately marking the traditional “wood” anniversary, K-C and Greenpeace will host a first-of-its-kind Twitter chat to discuss progress and future goals.

The chat will cover topics such as how K-C and Greenpeace resolved their differences five years ago, what they’ve achieved since, how their relationship thrives, and where the two are moving next.

Twitter chat guests will include:

  • Peggy Ward (@PeggyatKC), Kimberly-Clark’s sustainability strategy leader for North America consumer tissue
  • Richard Brooks (@RBGreenpeace), forest campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada
  • Rolf Skar (@RolfSkarGP), forest campaign director for Greenpeace USA

Facilitators are Journalist and Social Media Strategist, Aman Singh (@AmanSinghCSR), and TriplePundit Founder and Publisher, Nick Aster (@NickAster).

Join the conversation at #ForestSolutions on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 1 p.m. EDT / 10 a.m. PDT.

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Patagonia Giving Away Plant-Based Wetsuit Technology

Leon Kaye | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Patagonia, fashion, plant based wetsuit, wetsuits, neoprene, biomaterials, guayale, surf industry, Leon Kaye, best weed in town

The plant-based Patagonia wetsuit by Yulex

Unless your skin is about a foot thick, swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean for hours at a time requires a wetsuit to stay warm and comfortable. That comfort, however, comes at a price as the vast majority of wetsuits are made from petroleum-based neoprene. The material is durable and does the job, but its manufacture is a carbon-intensive and toxic process. Now Patagonia is aggressively promoting its plant-based wetsuit technology with the goal to have it become a game-changer in the surf industry.

The quest for more sustainable materials within its wetsuit product line started almost 10 years ago. In 2005 Patagonia decided to make a move into the wetsuit business, and after researching the process by which neoprene is made, rolled out a line of wetsuits made from feedstock based on limestone. That was a step in the right direction, since the world’s quarries are not going to be depleted from making wetsuits for surfer dudes. But the company understood that environmentally, limestone was only a more responsible step up from petroleum.

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Need to Boost Employee Productivity? Add Some Plants

Sarah Lozanova | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

indoor plants officeWill the office of the future contain numerous houseplants throughout? Several studies show that workplace plants are more than just aesthetically pleasing and can actually increase employee productivity. It is known that plants add oxygen to the air and remove numerous toxins, including formaldehyde (in particleboard, paper and carpets), benzene (in glue, paint and auto fumes) and trichloroethylene (in paint stripper and spot remover). But the benefits may go even further than reducing toxic exposure, making them an important addition to the workplace.

One recent workplace study found that people have an increased ability to concentrate when working in an office with indoor foliage. The study measured improvement performance on concentration tasks for workers using a reading span test. Half the people had four plants and flowers on their desks and the others had none. The study found that indoor plants and flowers have benefits for improved concentration and reduced fatigue, even when there are outside views of nature.

Another study from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, found that indoor plants reduce anger by 44 percent, anxiety by 37 percent, depression by 58 percent and fatigue by 38 percent. Just one plant can actually make a difference.

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The Role of Touch in Business

Pinchot University
Pinchot University | Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

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This post of part of a series sponsored by Pinchot. Read more here

Business-Hug-Kathleen-600x450By Gerod Rody

The handshake is a fixture in the business world, whether establishing new contacts or closing a deal.

Likewise, the pat on the shoulder has been a gesture of professional affirmation for years, though more recently it’s gone out-of-vogue as patronizing. These and other forms of touch are a valuable part of non-verbal business communication, but we at Pinchot believe that there are even deeper ways to engage. Enter the hug.

Scientists agree that touch is an essential human need (especially for the workplace), and while the handshake is nice and all, it doesn’t function in quite the same way as a mutually respectful embrace. According to one researcher, “Hugs have positive impacts on self-esteem, relationships and upon the body’s ability to cope with stress.”

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What Does Corporate Responsibility Mean When It Comes To the NSA?

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment

10562036794_747f93b1dd_zDetails about the National Security Agency’s “Prism” surveillance program have entered the news in dribs and drabs since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked revealing documents about the program to the Guardian and the Washington Post in June of last year. The unsettling insights revealed by Snowden generated quite a stir in the press, and large tech and telecom companies faced a wave of consumer backlash in the wake of the ongoing story.

Last September, while Snowden was living under guard at a secret location in Russia, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer seemed caught off-guard when a reporter raised questions about NSA surveillance at the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

When asked what would happen if Yahoo ignored the order or shared it with the press, Mayer uncomfortably replied: “Releasing classified information is treason. It generally lands you incarcerated.”

Companies are often left with few options once the U.S. government starts putting the screws to them. So, how do NSA data requests fit in with overall corporate responsibility? What is a company to do when faced with a request that seems to counteract its responsibility to consumers? We spoke with three key experts in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to find out the answers.

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Reports Predict Disaster If Enbridge Pipeline Ruptures in Great Lakes

| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 4 Comments
View of the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinac Island.

View of the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinac Island.

A recent report by the University of Michigan illustrates the devastation that could occur if a 60-year-old pipeline carrying 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluids every day were to rupture in the Great Lakes, one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world.

Enbridge, the same company still cleaning up the Kalamazoo River four years after the biggest inland spill in U.S. history, has two 20-inch pipelines running from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, directly through the Straits of Mackinac between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. In July 2013, the company completed $100 million in upgrades in order to increase flow from 490,000 barrels per day to 540,000, but did not replace any of the aging pipeline.

The main problem with an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac is that the currents shift from east to west and back again every few days, and peak flow can be up to 10 times as fast as the Niagra River. The U of M report and animation shows how an oil spill would reach tourist destination Mackinac Island within 12 hours, and after 20 days, it would reach as far as Beaver Island in Lake Michigan and Rogers City in Lake Huron.

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NLRB: McDonald’s Can No Longer Duck Responsibility for Bad Labor Practices

Eric Justian
| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

McDonald's SignOn Tuesday the U.S. National Labor Relations Board found that McDonald’s is a joint employer with its franchisees and can be held accountable for the franchisee’s poor labor practices. The NLRB sided with workers who filed cases against McDonald’s claiming that the corporation is the one really calling the shots because it exerts tight controls on nearly every aspect of a given store’s operation, including employment practices.

This has broad implications for many other companies with closely-controlled franchise requirements, and may even pave a trail for the fast food unionization movement.

In April I wrote about a Hart Research Poll which showed a shocking 89 percent of fast food employees faced some form of wage theft. Such wage theft comes in many forms from requiring work before clocking in and after clocking out, to making all sorts of unjustified automatic deductions from employee paychecks, including meals that were never eaten or items that went missing from the restaurant. For one of the most egregious forms of wage theft, employers exploit the corporation’s own time management software to doctor employee paychecks, shortening time or making it seem like employees had gotten a break when they hadn’t.

And yet, when these rampant problems come to the fore, major fast food corporations have traditionally been able to say, “It wasn’t us, it was the franchisee.”  While the corporate entity may hold tight control over business practices all the way down to the color of the drapes, they have classically held that they aren’t accountable for poor labor practices because they don’t control that part. This week’s decision will make it a lot more difficult for McDonald’s to make that claim and distance itself from the bad labor practices of its franchisees.

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Vodafone Grows Revenues by Connecting Women

Elaine Cohen
Elaine Cohen | Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: A version of this post was recently featured on the CSR Reporting Blog.

voda connected womenI am often asked, by clients or people I meet in the course of my work: What is the difference between embedding corporate social responsibility (CSR) into business decisions and doing business that improves sales and profits, provided its ethical?

When you talk about embedding CSR into business decisions, it’s hard to know where business stops and CSR sets in. After all, both should lead to better business results. How can you know when a business decision has integrated CSR principles, or if it was based solely on goals of delivering income and profit growth? Doing “good” business, beyond philanthropy and community investment, is just doing good business. Or is it?

I often answer this question rather simply, in a way that more or less aligns with the direction described in the Big Idea of Porter and Kramer, who explain:

“The solution lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center.”

My answer, then, is about the considerations involved in developing new business initiatives or products. If it’s about selling more to create economic growth (which is, in general, a good thing if business is done ethically), then this is hardly embedded CSR. Economic growth alone, as we have seen, does not always produce equitable social benefit and even risks perpetuating many of the global divides — poverty, malnutrition, access to medicine, etc. — that society faces today. Embedded CSR means approaching business development in a different way, that includes an assessment of the social and environmental impacts of potential decisions, and the social and environmental imperatives in the markets where a company operates. In making such decisions, then, economic considerations as well as social and environmental considerations share valuable weight in the decision-making process. The outcomes are measurable benefits to business, to the economy and also equitable social advancement.

So far, I suspect, there’s not much new here for the rather enlightened readers of this blog. Most of you already will already be familiar with shared value and integrating CSR type concepts. So let’s get to the point. It’s this. Vodafone. Mobile Technology. Economic Empowerment. Measurable Outcomes. Connected Women.

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Mars, Inc. Plans to Eliminate Fossil Fuel Use in Direct Operations by 2040

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

M&MsMars, Inc. has big sustainability goals. Its 2040 target is to eliminate all fossil fuel energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from its direct operations.

One way it is working towards that goal is by investing in renewable energy. It announced in April that it will invest in and build a new wind farm in Texas, which will help it meet its 2015 goal of 25 percent reduction of fossil fuel energy use and GHG emissions. Its fourth annual Principles in Action Summary contains other sustainability targets and initiatives.

Making its supply chain more sustainable is also important to Mars. As a large and global food company, it uses vast quantities of things like palm oil and cocoa. In March, it launched a new Deforestation Policy and committed to a fully traceable palm oil supply chain by the end of 2015. Mars is also the largest purchaser of cocoa from certified sources, and has increased its purchase of certified cocoa to 30 percent. The goal is 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020.

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How a New Jersey Company Brought Wind Power to Operations in Nebraska

3p Contributor | Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments
From left to right: Steve Sichak, SVP, Integrated Supply Chain at BD; Glenn Barbi, VP, Office of Global Sustainability; Greg Butler, Director of Global Supply Chain Stewardship.

From left to right: Steve Sichak, SVP, Integrated Supply Chain at BD; Glenn Barbi, VP, Office of Global Sustainability; Greg Butler, Director of Global Supply Chain Stewardship.

By Glenn Barbi

Given the specter of climate change and other environmental concerns, the global need for additional renewable energy has become a topic of increasing relevance and urgency.  While over the medium- to long-term, renewable sources such as solar and wind offer encouraging economic and environmental benefits, the initial capital cost can be a substantial obstacle when compared with the lower cost of continued operation of existing fossil fuel plants. This challenge can be exacerbated in areas served by publicly-owned utilities, wherein maintaining low pricing for customers is critical.

Despite these obstacles, Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BD), a New Jersey-based medical devices and supply company, established a unique partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) to develop an option for renewable energy generation and usage in Nebraska, focusing on the needs of industrial and commercial businesses. Through an unprecedented agreement with NPPD focused on purchasing the green-attributes of renewable wind energy, BD ensured that the renewable energy it purchased was “additional” (i.e. newly created for this specific purpose), reached an important milestone in its own worldwide sustainability program, and established a model for other industries interested in purchasing renewable energy within the state.

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Bell Aquaculture’s Feedmill Opening: A Who’s Who in Land Based Aquaculture

| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

One of the most interesting companies we’ve gotten to know since launching our sustainable seafood series is Bell Aquaculture.  This Indiana startup is producing not only trout, salmon and perch on a highly productive plot of land in rural Indiana, but also producing two types of fertilizer from waste products as well as fish food to sell to other farms.  It’s this fantastic story of vertical integration that we told in our 5 part video series we ran earlier this summer (click here to watch all 5 parts).

A month ago, I had the pleasure of re-visiting Bell on the opening day of their new feedmill operation. A feedmill, for those who aren’t schooled in the nuances of farming is a machine that grinds grain and other ingredients to produce animal food.  In the case of Bell, it means producing a wide variety of food, primarily soybean based, for fish.  It’s also highly customizable for any given fish depending on the age, species and other factors.

The event turned out to be a veritable who’s who in midwest aquaculture featuring Bell’s own experts, politicians, and representatives of industry associations.  All of them had some great insights to share and I captured as much as I could on video, with the help of Bell’s CEO Norman McCowan.  

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