Health Care Savings Will More Than Cover the Cost of Reducing Emissions

RP Siegel | Monday September 1st, 2014 | 2 Comments

asthmaPeople, primarily skeptics, often want to know what is the business case for taking action on climate change. Typically, all they can see is the prospect of energy prices going up since, they imagine, energy companies will be forced to make expensive modifications or pay taxes or credits that will raise the price of everything else while providing nothing additional in return. My favorite answer to the question is this one: What is the business case for not taking action? But recently I discovered another set of numbers that justify taking action, which leads me to believe there are probably even more waiting to be discovered.

Consider this: A cost-benefit study conducted by a team of MIT researchers and published in the journal Nature Climate Change looked at three different climate intervention scenarios, taking into account the health care cost savings. What they saw was that in one scenario, the health care cost savings achieved were actually ten times greater than the cost of implementing the scenario. In fact, in two of the three scenarios, the savings achieved by reducing the need for health care, avoided hospital visits, and decreased incidence of pollution-related illnesses more than covered the cost of the program.

The three scenarios selected were a clean energy standard, a policy aimed specifically at emissions from transportation, and a cap and trade program. What the researchers found was the following:

ScenarioCostHealth Care Savings
Clean Energy Standard$208 billion$247 billion
Transportation Emissions~$1000 billion$260 billion
Cap and Trade$14 billion$147 billion
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Survey: Furniture Companies Dropping Flame Retardants

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday September 1st, 2014 | 3 Comments

California_flame_retardants_Jeremy_KeithBig changes are afoot in the California furniture market. A survey conducted by the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health and design firm HDR Architecture shows that many furniture manufacturers have dropped, or are in the process of removing chemical flame retardants from their ingredients lists. Their manufacturing changes CEH says, are in response to the state’s recent updates to laws that govern how flammability standards are measured, and whether manufacturers can opt out of including chemical flame retardants in their products.

According to CEH, of 56 office furniture producers surveyed in a recent poll, 12 say they have already removed chemical flame retardants (CFR) from their furniture. This includes Arcadia and Global, which are largely known for their office and home retail products, and David Edward, which produces office and healthcare furniture. Three other companies, Haworth, Martin Battrud and Herman Miller, say they expect to be CFR-free by 2015. Eight others said they are planning to eliminate the chemicals but needed more time to respond to the survey.

In January Technical Bulletin 117-2013 went into effect, removing the requirements for manufacturing companies to include CFRs in their products. In turn, changes were made to the way that furniture is tested for flammability. A mandatory smolder test now determines whether the product is fire-safe, rather than whether it contains specified flame retardants. The smolder test also encourages manufacturers to seek out outer materials that tend to be more flame resistant, like wool, hemp or plastics, and to move away from those materials that aren’t as flame resistant. Materials with denser weaves and more impermeable surfaces tend to reduce the smolder capability, and reduce the risk of fire.

In an interview earlier this year, CEH Pollution Prevention Co-Director Judy Levin said the regulatory update made sense, since the real question is whether the furniture is liable to catch fire on the outside, not whether the foam inside the furniture will burn.

“The smolder test actually addresses the major cause of fires, which is smoldering sources like cigarettes on fabrics,” said Levin.

The willingness of furniture companies to drop chemical flame retardants from their product ingredients means companies recognize the value of the new standards, says CEH Executive Director Michael Green.

“It’s clear that the market for safer products made without these toxic chemicals is here. Smart companies know that by eliminating these harmful chemicals they can offer safer products that parents and businesses want for our homes and workplaces,” says Green.

Last week the California Senate passed a bill that would require manufacturers to advise consumers when CFRs are included in furniture. SB 1019, which is expected to become mandatory in January 2015 (when TB 117-2013 also becomes mandatory), requires manufactures to clearly label products when the furniture contains specific toxic substances.

Although TB 117 and SB 1019 only apply to furniture sold in California, they are likely to have some impact outside of the state, since many national brands that market in California may decide to simply label their products universally in order to save production costs.

CEH has announced that until TD 117 and SB 1019 are in mandatory effect, consumers that want to find out which companies are manufacturing furniture without chemical flame retardants can find updates on CEH’s website.

Earlier this year, California healthcare NGO Kaiser Permanente announced that it would be transitioning to furniture that does not contain chemical flame retardants, signaling a further willingness by companies to endorse the state’s new methods for meeting flammability standards. Kaiser’s Sustainability Officer Kathy Gerwig said Kaiser was pleased with the legislative changes and has been working with its suppliers to drop chemical flame retardants from its furniture.

“We have terrific suppliers and they have been well aware of our desire to move to safer products for a very long time,” said Gerwig, who said she expected increased support of the new standards would eventually encourage others in healthcare and other marketplaces to do the same.

However, many chemical producers aren’t happy with California’s bold legislative changes. In January of this year, the chemical company Chemtura filed suit against the state saying that the new regulations didn’t conform to the state’s Home Furnishings Act. On Friday Sacramento County’s Superior Court responded with a tentative ruling that rejected the plaintiff’s court challenge. Chemtura’s approach, the courts said, “certainly produce absurd and untenable results” for state regulators.

The case was scheduled to be heard on Friday, and the court’s final ruling will no doubt be of great interest to both California businesses and those across the nation.

Image: credit: Jeremy Keith

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3p Weekend: 6 Ways Eco-Labels Can Help Us Stay Sustainable

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday August 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments

stamp-or-approval_iStock_000019072199Large-300x199With 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.

Eco-labels may not sound like the most exciting topic at first. But when you look a bit more closely, it’s easy to see that labels and certifications are the backbone of any sustainability claim, whether it’s a product or practice. Of course, navigating the wide world of eco-labels can be confusing at times. To clear things up, this week we rounded up six ways eco-labels can help consumers and businesses stay sustainable — no matter what their interests are.

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Sustainable Palm Oil Sales Surge as Demand Meets Supply

Leon Kaye | Friday August 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments
RSPO, sustainable palm oil, palm oil, sustainable palm oil sales, Leon Kaye, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, supply chain, greenpalm certificates

Demand for RSPO-certified palm oil now meets supply.

For 10 years the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been on a mission to convert 100 percent of the world’s palm oil into a more sustainable and responsible commodity. It has been a long road, in part because of the world’s rapidly-growing demand for food and businesses’ reluctance to add what they perceive to be additional costs to their supply chains. But RSPO is now making real and measurable progress. Last week the Zurich, Switzerland-based organization announced that the demand for sustainable palm oil is outpacing supply for the first time.

According to RSPO, sales of sustainable oil, based on what the organization traces through supply chains, spiked almost 65 percent during the first two quarters of 2014 compared to last year. That is a total of over 1.1 million metric tons so far this year. Meanwhile sales of RSPO’s certified GreenPalm certificates, which companies can purchase to offset their use of conventionally sourced palm oil, grew by almost 38 percent.

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Founder of Lonely Planet on Heritage Preservation

| Friday August 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment
The entrance to Ciudad Perdida itself can only be reached via a climb of over 1,000 stone steps.

The entrance to Ciudad Perdida itself can only be reached via a climb of over 1,000 stone steps.

In far-flung places around the globe, there are endangered cultural sites in need of preservation, which spurs tourism and economic enrichment in nearby communities. Heritage conservation not only preserves historical record, but it can also open up a previously difficult-to-visit location to travelers and give them a whole new view of the region and its culture.

Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet and board member of Global Heritage Fund, has been to many “dangerous” sites on the planet, whether they are located in regions where there was a history of civil unrest or environmental hazards. But his aim, along with Vince Michael, executive director of Global Heritage Fund, is to encourage travelers (intrepid and armchair) to expand their horizons and explore these areas, many of which are heritage development sites that ultimately benefit local communities with tourism income.

Global tourism is responsible for 8.7 percent of the world’s employment, making it one of the biggest global job creators, according to the 2012 report, The Comparative Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism, by the World Travel & Tourism Council. “At 9.1 percent of global GDP, Travel & Tourism generates more economic output than automotive manufacturing (7.9 percent), mining (8.0 percent) and chemicals manufacturing (9.0 percent).”

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Climate Denial Smokescreen Now Extends to South Asian Food Challenges

RP Siegel | Friday August 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments

BangladeshThe Heritage Foundation-backed National Center for Policy Analysis pumps out a steady stream of misinformation about climate change, continuously reinforcing the smokescreen behind which billions of dollars in fossil fuel profits continue to be made. Generally speaking, it’s best to ignore them, figuring that giving them attention only helps them do their job. But this latest item is so egregious, that someone needs to call them out on it.

Numerous international aid agencies, as well as ratings services like Standard & Poors, have stated that the areas of South Asia and Southeast Asia are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.

Yet this article, entitled “Calming Fears of Climate Change in South and Southeast Asia,” assures its readers that not only is there nothing to worry about, but things are going to get far better, since the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing a boom in food production.

Their source is none other than Craig Idso, a former executive of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company. Idso reports that South Asian food productivity has increased 7.5-fold in the past years, and attributes that, without evidence, to the increased presence of carbon dioxide in the air.

The increase in agricultural productivity is real enough. It is sometimes referred to as the Green Revolution. Most scholars attribute the Asian increase to four things: fertilizers, technology, labor and livestock. Irrigation has also played a major role in other regions. Indeed, just as in the period from 1980 to 2007, the utilization of fertilizers and tractors increased more than three-fold in places like Vietnam and Thailand recently, which is in line with the increase in productivity. None of them attribute it to the presence of increased CO2 in the air. Attempting to make this connection sounds a lot like what Idso has previously written about climate science, saying, “A weak short-term correlation between CO2 and temperature proves nothing about causation.” So where is the cause-and-effect linkage here?

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How Information Technology Can Help Bridge Gaps in Education

3p Contributor | Friday August 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Fernando_Botelho By Nathan Edwards

Information and communication technology (ICT) first made an impact on the life of Fernando Botelho when he was in his late teens.  Then, Botelho was a recent high school graduate suffering from increasingly impaired vision.  Now, he is the founder of F123, a non-government organization developing low-cost open-source assistive technology for the blind.

“In high school I was ranked 11th in a class of 43,” Botelho recalls.  When he entered college he was given access to assistive technology and it instantly impacted his success, “instead of 11th I was fourth, and instead of a class of 43 it was a freshman class of 904.”  The qualitative impact that the right technology can have on someone’s education and life left a lasting impression on Botehlo, “same person, same brain, same level of education, but suddenly you are in the top percent”.

Although Botelho was granted the assistance of ICT’s in education, he does not represent the majority of disabled people. Eighty percent of people with disabilities around the world live in developing countries and even in wealthy economies such as the U.S., many  cannot afford the software.

While working for the United Nations Agency in Switzerland, Botelho realized he wanted to take what had created opportunities in his life and make it more financially accessible to others.  He addressed the issue of cost by developing an open-source version of this technology.

His organization, F123, has created a software that can be customized to any computer.  “We identify free and open-source technologies that are effective and we adapt them for use by the blind in the context of school and work,” explained Botelho.  The system includes common software applications, an electronic reader and screen magnifier, educational materials for teachers, and training instructions all costing 2 to 5 percent of the price of a standard e-reader.

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Nestle’s New Animal Welfare Commitments

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday August 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Little_PiggiesNestle, the global food giant known for its Nestle Crunch Bars, announced its new animal welfare program that will eliminate some common but cruel practices from its global food supply chain. Those cruel practices include confining sows in gestation crates, calves in veal crates and egg-laying chickens in cages. Nestle’s new guidelines also require that veterinary practices be implemented for farm animals that reduce pain or avoid practices that cause pain. Dehorning cows is one example. (Cow horns are removed so they can’t injure other cows.)

The announcement came after Nestle signed a partnership agreement with World Animal Protection International, making it the first major food company to form an international partnership with an animal welfare organization. World Animal Protection has been working with Nestle to improve its Responsible Sourcing Guideline, which all suppliers must follow as part of the company’s supplier code.

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Beat the Job-Hunting Blues with an Updated Search Strategy

3p Contributor | Friday August 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments


If you are on the market for a new job, you will no doubt have noticed the recruitment revolution taking place online. The act of taking a red marker to ads in the classifieds section has long been replaced with scrolling, clicking, uploading, copying and pasting to the ubiquitous recruitment websites and jobs boards. The only thing that’s stayed the same is the crossed fingers and anticipation with which each application is sent. But for the savvy sustainability jobseeker, even that is beginning to change.

These days, everyone from the largest multinationals to the smallest businesses can access an international talent pool without even posting an opening externally. This has turned the tables completely. Modern jobseekers are the ones doing the advertising, while hiring managers are the ones doing the seeking.

All this has made the process of finding and securing a job a much more targeted, strategic activity. If you want to stay ahead of the game and find the best roles, you need to know what recruiters are thinking, what they’re looking for, and where. And you need to identify and communicate your niche.

A new global survey from Deloitte has found that 60 percent of companies have updated or are currently updating their talent-sourcing strategies and another 27 percent are considering changes. “Companies are looking for new ways to access and engage people,” it says, “including through joint ventures, contracting, freelancers, and open source talent.” And with good reason: many companies self-report underperformance in human resources and talent program capabilities.

With this in mind, don’t you think it’s time you updated your job seeking strategy too? Here are the top three new hiring trends and my tips on how to hack them for a dream job in sustainability.

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Six Tips for Improving Your Rank as a Green School

| Friday August 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Green Impact blog.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Sierra Club’s Annual Cool Schools rankings are out.  And the winner is … the University of California, Irvine. Congratulations, Anteaters!

After assessing the methodology and rankings of the top winners, compared to the others, I offer the following six tips for increasing your ranking as a green school:

  1. Participate in STARS;
  2. Tackle waste reduction, energy use, and water use;
  3. Create a sustainability hub;
  4. Craft and promote success stories;
  5. Tackle sustainable food; and
  6. Don’t shy away from SRI.

1. Participate in STARS

UCI, and the other top winners, are a participant in Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. American University, ranked No. 2, is STARS Gold rated.  The Sierra Club rankings are based on a survey, officially called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector.  Schools did not need to be members of AASHE’s STARS program to use the collector, however, I am sure reporting of the data is much easier for campuses that have already gathered the appropriate data into the STARS system.  Click here to learn more about how the ratings were scored.

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Small Business Survival: The Real Risks with Viral Success

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

small_business_2013_Breach_ Impact_2_Symantec

Viral success is the dream of just about every small business these days. Whether the business model is a website where users can upload videos for free, or a special app that gives people the ability to share the cost of a rental car, the idea of overnight success is just plain intoxicating.

And the advent of the sharing economy hasn’t helped. The successes of “collaborative consumption” companies have been staggering. Seven-year-old Uber, which these days is leading a popular movement to block more California regulation of car-sharing services, has been valued at $17 billion.  Six-year-old accommodations facilitator Airbnb last April successfully closed talks with TPG for additional capital that raised its value to $10 billion, reportedly exceeding the value of Hyatt Hotels. Smaller startups like FlightCar, MonkeyParking and a variety of crowdsharing models, while not as spectacular in their commercial success have also seen the glory of overnight stardom that comes from offering something truly disruptive and unexpectedly cool.

And then there are those startups that have also experienced the challenges that come with overnight growth; challenges that in some cases have pitted them against local bylaws and attracted the attention of government regulators. In some cases, customer data became subject to court subpoenas. In more than one case, the very legality of the company’s right to operate became a contentious issue that put the privacy of its users at potential risk.

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Towards a Greener Beer: Craft Brewer Rolls Out the Evercan

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Evercan-1st-ed-front-186x300As any regular reader of this site knows, sustainability and beer are two things the TriplePundit community takes very seriously.  This is, after all, the place that brought you 2012’s Green Brewhaha, an exhaustive series on the sustainability movement in the brewing industry.  So, it goes without saying that when a craft brewer begins packaging its beer in a can made of almost-entirely recycled aluminum, it is big news here; it should also be big news to the rest of the beverage industry.

The Red Hare partnership

In April, Georgia-based craft beer manufacturer, Red Hare Brewing Co., announced that it was partnering with the multinational aluminum producer Novelis, to package its beer in an “almost-entirely recycled” aluminum can.  Developed by Novelis in 2013, the “evercan” is the only aluminum can sheet containing at least 90 percent recycled content — nearly double the amount of recycled material in a standard aluminum can.  And this is just the beta version.  According to Novelis’ chief sustainability officer, the company aims to be at 100 percent recycled content within a few years.  Last week, Red Hare began rolling out the new packaging.

When Novelis was searching for evercan buyers, Red Hare seemed a natural partner.  For one, Red Hare is small enough for a test run.  (Illustrative of the company’s size, despite being a dedicated craft beer drinker I had never before heard of Red Hare and, according to the beer locating website Beer Menus, the nearest Red Hare purveyor is some 400 miles away.  So a plea to Red Hare: ship the evercan to New Orleans distributors!  We’re a drinking — and caring — city!)  For another, Red Hare has been can-only since the company’s inception in 2011.  As Novelis described it, Red Hare is a “small company with big ideas.”  (Of course, both companies also happen to be headquartered in the Atlanta, Georgia area.)

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EV Drive: Behind the Wheel of the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments

exterior silverOn Monday, I headed out to scenic Middleburg, Virginia for the 2015 Volkswagen Full-Line Drive.

As the name implies, the event showcased Volkswagen‘s full vehicle portfolio, from the sporty Passat to the classic Jetta, but one thing in particular got me excited: Our group of journalists and bloggers was the first in the world to hop behind the wheel of the 2015 e-Golf, Volkswagen’s first fully-electric vehicle for the U.S. market.

As the morning sun basked across the Virginia countryside, I couldn’t wait to hit the road. Read on for an up-close look at the e-Golf, which is set to hit the market in November.

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On the EDGE: Gender Equality Certification

Leon Kaye | Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments
EDGE, Gender Equality, Gender Equality certification, diversity, Leon Kaye, ethical certifications

EDGE is a new gender equality certification standard

Due to more consumers’ demands for transparency about the products they buy — and the fact social media can expose the difference between what companies say publicly and what goes on from the shop floors to the boardrooms — shopping and sourcing ethically is easier (or more confusing) than ever before. We at Triple Pundit have long traced the journey of ethical certifications such as fair trade, B Corporations and the controversial labeling of GMO and non-GMO products. Now consumers concerned about how women are treated in the workplace, as well as the global disparity between men’s and women’s wages, among other disparities, can consider gender equality when making purchasing decisions.

Switzerland-based EDGE (the Global Business Certification Standard for Business Equality) is banking its gender equality certification will resonate with businesses and consumers. Its mission is simple: to engage corporations all over the world in creating equal opportunities for both men and women within the workplace. Currently the organization is working with 60 companies in 14 various sectors on all continents.

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Coconuts and Sustainable Development: Adding Value to a Wasted Resource

| Thursday August 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment

amazing_fun_weird_cool_three-wheeler-coconut-husk_20090725130154108 Imitating nature’s way of letting nothing to go to waste, materials researchers-turned-entrepreneurs are using the humble coconut husk to manufacture an expanding variety of useful, environmentally friendly products.

While husks are often discarded, they can be put to a variety of uses, such as binder-less particle board, sustainable packing material, automotive trunk liners and electric car battery pack covers. Additional applications include farm erosion netting, activated charcoal filters, potting materials and wall planters.

Also known as coir, the history of using coconut husks to manufacture a variety of natural bio-products goes back thousands of years. Today, it’s progressing hand-in-hand with an inclusive model of international development centered on sustainable local market and business development, job creation and the opening up of new opportunities that could raise the living standards of millions of families living in the tropics.

Young research-driven companies in Texas, such as Essentium Materials in College Station, embody social-enterprise and triple-bottom-line values in which ethics and justice underpin environmentally, socially and economically sustainable product and business development.

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