Most leading U.S. corporations now have LGBT nondiscrimination policies in place for their American gay and lesbian employees, according to Shelley Alpern, director of social research and shareholder advocacy at socially responsible investment firm, Clean Yield Asset Management. But it’s unclear if these policies extend to the companies’ employees in countries outside the U.S. – an issue that becomes particularly important in parts of the world that are culturally and legally hostile to LGBT individuals.
To open up a dialogue on this subject, Clean Yield and a group of other socially-minded investment firms sent letters last week to some of the country’s largest publicly-traded corporations, like Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Target, encouraging the businesses to make sure their LGBT employee protection policies apply abroad.
The investor group, which collectively owns or manages $210 billion in assets, wrote to approximately 70 companies in the S&P 100 that were identified by the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index as having strong nondiscrimination and equal benefits policies for their U.S. employees.
There is currently no federal law that shields gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from employment discrimination, including not being hired, fired or otherwise singled out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 29 states lack regulations explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 32 states have no such legislation regarding gender identity.
Just in time for last week’s America Recycles Day, the city of Philadelphia announced an impressive achievement in waste reduction: The City of Brotherly Love has increased the amount of materials it recycles by 155 percent over the past six years.
The city collected a record amount of recyclables – 128,000 tons – through its residential curbside recycling program, as well as from city buildings and public spaces during the latest fiscal year, according to the city’s recycling office and mayor’s office of sustainability. That means Philly kept 21 percent of its residential discards from ending up in the dump in the 2014 fiscal year – a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s diversion numbers.
Philadelphia’s recycling efforts had additional environmental benefits beyond the ones most commonly associated with recycling, such as keeping materials out of the landfill and saving resources by reprocessing goods already in the system. The city’s recycling program also cuts its carbon footprint by nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the city said in a statement.
This past weekend, thousands of fans crowded Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the St. Louis Rams. Many of these attendees showed up to the game with old jeans and other unwanted articles of clothing, donating them in exchange for a special Levi’s discount coupon, as part of a used clothing drive sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co) and Goodwill.
Since Levi Strauss announced the collection event in late October, the iconic jeans maker has received 15,500 unwanted pairs of jeans – 10 tons of denim – dropped off at Goodwill stores for this campaign and at this weekend’s game. Goodwill will sell those jeans and other donations to fund its job training program.
Later this month, LS&Co will cover the field of its stadium with the donated denim, creating a “Field of Jeans” to visually express the enormity of the country’s textile waste – 26 billion pounds sent to the landfill every year, according to the denim giant – as well as to demonstrate an example of how we can find a new use for that material. LS&Co’s partner Goodwill will be responsible for sorting and reselling all jeans and clothes collected through the “Field of Jeans” event.
But what happens to used clothing that can’t be resold – not just from this “Field of Jeans” clothes drive, but from other nonprofit charities, for-profit thrift stores and collection events?
California made headlines this fall when it became the first U.S. state to place a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. But how did we get here: from just a few grocery stores offering customers plastic bags in the late ‘70s to today, with Americans using 100 billion plastic bags each year? Just how did the plastic bag become both so popular in our society and so problematic to the environment?
In 1965, Swedish company Celloplast came up with the design on which all modern plastic shopping bags are based: a tube of plastic sealed at the bottom to allow for the packaging of goods, an open top to insert such items into the bag and handles for convenient carrying. This model bag, which later became known as the “T-shirt plastic bag,” was made from high-density polyethylene, or No. 2-type plastic – the same used to produce plastic bottles and plastic lumber.
ExxonMobile was responsible for introducing the plastic shopping bag to the U.S., and the bag debuted in American grocery store checkout lines by the late 1970s. But the T-shirt plastic bag didn’t really start encroaching on the paper grocery bag’s territory until 1982, when two of country’s largest supermarket chains, Safeway and Kroger, made the switch from paper to plastic.
Last year, 100 physicians in 26 countries performed nearly 100 vasectomies on Oct. 18. The occasion? The first-ever World Vasectomy Day, an idea dreamed up by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack and urologist Doug Stein to bring more attention to – and to dispel myths around – this permanent form of birth control.
And this year, Stack and Stein are at it again, aiming for 250 doctors in 30 countries to carry out 1,500 vasectomies on Nov. 7 for the second World Vasectomy Day. This year’s World Vasectomy Day will be headquartered at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s new health center in Kissimmee, Fla., where Stein will be performing and live-streaming free vasectomies for 25 men. In addition to broadcasting Stein’s “vasectomy-athon,” the live webcast will feature feeds from other participating doctors and interviews with family-planning leaders.
Stack and Stein came up with the idea of World Vasectomy Day when the Emmy Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker was shooting a documentary about global population and met and traveled with Stein, the world’s leading provider of vasectomies. The pair realized that a film could only do so much to highlight vasectomies, so they hatched a plan for a global day dedicated to the important family-planning procedure.
Are government officials doing enough to prepare their communities for natural disasters and extreme weather events – that are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change? Not surprisingly, the answer is no, says a new report from nonprofit environmental organizations National Wildlife Federation and Earth Economics and insurance group Allied World Assurance Company Holdings.
Released Monday, “Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather” details the growing threat of climate-related calamities and calls on elected officials and policy makers to make their communities more resilient to climate change’s impacts.
But government agencies shouldn’t necessarily rush to strengthen seawalls, install levees or build new “gray” infrastructure, as part of their emergency preparedness efforts, according to the report’s authors. Instead, communities can achieve resiliency by protecting and restoring natural infrastructure, including wetlands, riparian zones and barrier islands, as well as by designing infrastructure that mimics natural systems such as engineered oyster reefs or dunes.
Back in March, eco-friendly cleaning supply company Method broke ground on its first U.S. manufacturing plant, set to be built on Chicago’s South Side. Now the San Francisco-based company has revealed more details about the green roof planned for the factory: Through a partnership with urban farming company Gotham Greens, the facility will boast the largest rooftop farm in the world, producing up to 1 million pounds of produce each year.
Gotham Greens will design, build and operate the 75,000-square-foot greenhouse, the Brooklyn-based company announced in a joint press release with Method in early October. The pesticide-free produce harvested from the urban rooftop farm will be distributed through local Chicago retailers, restaurants, farmer’s markets and community groups – bringing fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables to the food desert that is the Windy City’s South Side. The greenhouse can also provide full-time green collar jobs for residents in the community, Gotham Greens’ Marketing and Partnerships Manager Nicole Baum told Method in an interview on its blog.
The Honest Company, a line of eco-friendly baby, personal care and cleaning products dreamed up by Jessica Alba, has become wildly popular among parents looking for an alternative to Pampers and Johnson & Johnson. But, in a marketplace overcrowded with questionable celebrity products – from Suzanne Somer’s ThighMaster to Jessica Simpson’s line of edible cosmetics – is it any wonder a conscious consumer would approach a company created by a Hollywood actress with a heavy dose of skepticism?
To find out if the Honest Company is serious about sustainability, a good place to start is its origin story. Alba said the idea to create her own baby product line came to her when she was pregnant with her first child: Alba’s mother recommended a laundry detergent specially formulated for babies that she had used during Alba’s own childhood, Alba said in an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation. But when the “Sin City” actress used the detergent, she broke out into a rash – which motivated her to investigate the health effects of chemicals in everyday consumer products.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a short series on creating resilient cities, sponsored by Siemens. Please join us for a live Google Hangout with Siemens and Arup on October 1, where we’ll talk about this issue live! RSVP here.
When Superstorm Sandy swept through New York City on Oct. 29, 2012, the storm completely upended one of the busiest transportation networks in the country — flooding and cutting off power to streets, tunnels, subway stations and airports. Even after the flood waters receded, it took city workers up to two weeks after the storm hit to get almost all of the Big Apple’s transit network up and running again – although some services, including portions of the subway system, are still out of commission to this day.
According to the city’s estimates, Superstorm Sandy resulted in a whopping $8 million of physical damage to the region’s transportation infrastructure and affected nearly 8.5 million public transit riders, 4.2 million drivers and 1 million air travelers.
But nearly two years after Sandy, New York City has not only worked to repair and restore its transportation infrastructure from the storm’s damage, but is also taking steps to improve the resiliency of its transit network. The city outlined its plan to better prepare for future natural disasters – including the effects of climate change – in its report, A Stronger, More Resilient New York, released in June 2013.
Carbon offsets used to be maligned as a way for individuals to assuage their eco-guilt or for companies to falsely promote a green image without changing their behavior – a system no better than the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences during the Middle Ages. But the market for carbon offsets has come a long way in recent years, and now, with more regulation and oversight, carbon offsets are a valid way to reduce your individual or company’s carbon footprint, as long as they’re accompanied, of course, with measures to green your personal lifestyle or business operations.
As TriplePundit launches its new series this week – a business buyer’s guide to carbon offsets – we thought we’d start with the basics, reviewing what exactly a carbon offset is, how the market works and how companies can go about purchasing offsets.
Wind energy has famously pitted environmentalists against each other – renewable energy and climate action advocates vs. wildlife conservationists concerned about wind turbines injuring or killing birds. But a new study, funded by the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), reveals that bird fatalities resulting from collisions with wind turbines are extremely low; in fact, cell towers and cats kill a far greater number of birds than wind turbines do, the peer-reviewed report found.
Wind turbines are responsible for an estimated 214,000 to 368,000 bird deaths each year, according to A Comprehensive Analysis of Small-passerine Fatalities from Collision with Wind Turbines at Wind Energy Facilities. This is a small fraction of bird fatalities compared with the 6.8 million annual deaths caused by collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 to 3.7 billion fatalities from cats, say the report’s authors, environmental consulting firm West, Douglas Johnson from the U.S. Geological Survey and Joelle Gehring of the Federal Communications Commission.
The report, which focuses on passerines (small birds such as songbirds), is the most comprehensive study of the impacts of wind turbines on small bird populations, said Taber Allison, AWWI director of research and evaluation, in a statement.
How can a manufacturer reformulate a cleaning product to contain fewer harmful chemicals, and how can a retailer stock its shelves with more eco-friendly merchandise? UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a product safety testing and certification company, thinks it may have a solution: a set of data tools that helps businesses search and choose ingredients and products based on their environmental and social responsibility profiles.
Managed by UL’s recently launched Information & Insights division, the collection of tools build upon several databases with information on product ingredients and the consumer product index GoodGuide – all of which UL acquired – to allow manufacturers and retailers to essentially track products and materials across the supply chain.
UL’s search engine Prospector allows engineers and designers to look up materials they might want to use to create new products or reformulate existing ones – like developing a shampoo that rinses faster or a toothpaste that also whitens teeth. But, in addition to searching for ingredients that change the abilities or characteristics of a product, engineers can also identify materials that are more sustainable – ingredients that are free of certain chemicals, have received an environmental certification or comply with environmental regulations.
“Our grand vision [with Prospector] is to help people make healthier, safer products,” said Mathieu Guerville, director of strategy and business development at UL Information & Insights.
The Prospector database is especially suited for chemical-containing products at this time, he said, including personal care products, household and industrial cleaners, lubricants, and sealing and binding agents. But in the future, Guerville said that the company will be adding a platform for conflict materials and a search engine for materials used to make electronics and appliances.
Earlier this month, hundreds of community activists gathered near the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., to mark the two-year anniversary of the facility’s explosion that sent more than 15,000 individuals from the surrounding community to the hospital. These campaigners – which included residents of this racially diverse, low-income city to the east of San Francisco – were passionate about the issue of climate change, announcing they had also come together to brainstorm local solutions to the climate crisis.
Despite this rally in Richmond and the long-standing environmental justice movement, the misconception that people of color don’t care about environmental issues remains. But a new poll commissioned by the nonprofit Green For All reveals what we should have known all along: Communities of color are not only concerned about the environment, but also view climate change as an imminent threat.
According to the survey, 68 percent of African American, Latino and Asian likely voters think climate change is an issue that Americans need to be worried about right now – not a problem we can put off in the future. And a whopping 75 percent reported that they are following new information on climate change more closely than in the past.
California’s historic drought is no laughing matter. But the state of California and the Natural Resources Defense Council are trying to inject some humor into their efforts to encourage Californians to conserve water, teaming up with Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter on a series of public service announcement (PSA) videos that feature water-saving tips.
Part of California’s “Save Our Water” drought awareness campaign, the new PSAs cover topics from car washing (you can save 60 gallons of water by taking your car to a carwash rather than washing it by hand – and you can bathe your kids there, too, Richter points out) to pool covers (swimming pools evaporate up to 40,000 gallons of water a year; even if you don’t have a pool, you can buy a pool cover to impress people and make them think you have one, the funnymen say).
The comedians even poke fun at the idea that saving water takes too much work; there are many “lazy” ways to conserve water, they say: running dishes through a dishwasher instead of washing them yourself, using a carwash rather than hand-washing your car and their more tongue-in-cheek suggestion of skipping showers.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Star program is one of the most recognizable and trusted environmental labels in the marketplace – but it wasn’t always that way.
Launched in 1992 to help consumers find the most energy-efficient products, the program initially allowed companies to sign up to use the Energy Star logo by self-reporting their products’ energy savings; the EPA and DOE would perform only occasional spot-checks on items carrying the eco-label. But a federal audit in 2010 revealed that some Energy Star products did not live up to their energy-savings claims. Worse, the program even accepted several fictitious products created by the Government Accountability Office to investigate Energy Star’s certification process like a gasoline-powered alarm clock the size of an electric generator.
Since the scandal, the EPA and DOE changed the way the energy-efficiency initiative approves new products, now requiring companies to have their products – and energy-savings claims – tested at independent laboratories.
The case of Energy Star illustrates the dilemma consumers face when they come across a product with a label boasting environmental responsibility: Can consumers trust that the claims these eco-labels make are true?