In its annual review, S&P Dow Jones Indices deleted 46 companies from the 2014 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, and the largest deletions — by free-float market capitalization — included Bank of America, General Electric and Schlumberger. Other large companies cut from list were McDonald’s, Starbucks and Nike.
The three largest companies added (among 32 total) to the list were: Amgen Inc., Commonwealth Bank of Australia and GlaxoSmithKline PLC.
Yes, now you can grab an ice cold Popsicle on a hot sunny day while strolling through New York City’s Central Park — from a vendor using a solar-powered ice cream freezer.
The freezers being tested in Central Park operate free of electricity — vendors can even charge their own mobile devices by plugging them into outlets attached to the freezer units.
It seems fitting that Unilever, the world’s largest producer of ice cream, is rolling out the world’s first solar freezers in Central Park to keep those Popsicles, Good Humor or Magnum-brand bars cold while at the same time putting no strain on the environment.
Brandchannel reported the freezers are part of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which features a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration. “It’s a strategic move for Unilever that already relies on more than two million POS freezers to reach consumers and may become the first commercially-viable solar freezer in the category,” contributor Sheila Shayon wrote.
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.
Climate change is not going away, so cities large and small must adopt resilient and collaborative strategies not only to cope with the mounting risks they face, but also to survive. It’s no longer a matter of picking and choosing what piece of crumbling infrastructure to repair with scarce funds this year or next — the entire urban organism has to deal with rising waters, super storms, health and food security, air and surface pollution, and increasing numbers of residents.
The stakes are even higher as populations worldwide increasingly cluster around urban areas. “The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history,” says the United Nations Population Fund. In 2008, for the first time, more than half of the world’s population lived in towns and cities.
Cities are on the front line of the changing climate
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in its findings on the implications of climate change for cities: “Urban centers account for more than half of the world’s population, most of its economic activity and the majority of energy-related emissions. The role of cities in reducing emissions and protecting their inhabitants is therefore central to effective climate policies,” IPCC concluded.
Many emerging climate change risks are concentrated in urban areas, and climate change impacts on cities are increasing, IPCC continued. Key issues include rising temperatures, heat stress, water security and pollution, sea-level rise and storm surges, extreme weather events, heavy rainfall and strong winds, inland flooding, food security, and ocean acidification.
Due to the growth in urban populations, the number of people exposed to climate change risk is increasing: “Rapid urbanization in low- and middle income countries has already increased the number of highly vulnerable urban communities living in informal settlements, many of which are at high risk from extreme weather events.”
On the flip side, rapidly developing cities in industrializing countries may also have the “greatest potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.” The problem is that many rapidly developing cities “lack the financial, technological, institutional and governance capacity required for effective mitigation,” IPCC said. That’s where the notion of resilience comes in big time, because “steps that build resilience and enable sustainable development in urban areas can accelerate successful climate change adaptation globally.” Resilient cities may be the solution.
No matter how one mines or washes it, there’s no such thing as clean coal, despite what politicians and the coal industry say. So, it’s refreshing to see the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority bar Peabody Energy from making that misleading claim in its “Advanced Energy for Life” ad campaign.
The ASA ruled, in a case brought by the World Wildlife Fund, that Peabody Energy should not use the term “clean coal” to imply that coal is emission-free or “the solution for better, longer and healthier lives.” The ad says “energy poverty” is the “world’s No. 1 human and environmental crisis,” and Peabody Energy “is working to build awareness and support to end energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions using today’s advanced clean coal technologies.”
ASA said, “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Peabody Energy, Inc. to ensure that future ads did not state or imply that their technologies were emission-free or similar unless they could demonstrate that this was the case.”
And then were two. Oregon’s Department of State Lands on Monday denied an Ambre Energy proposal to transport coal by rail to a Port of Morrow, Oregon terminal for eventual export to China and other Asian markets.
This is the latest in a series of wins for opponents of coal company plans to move coal through the Pacific Northwest on the way to Asian markets. But two major plans in Washington state, out of six original proposals, are still pending. The two proposals that remain on the table are the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, and the Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview on the Columbia River.
It might seem like a strange partnership between a nonprofit and a huge nation, but it might work. TNC’s Conservation Blueprint project identified 32 regions that the organization and the Chinese government believe are most vital to the country’s environmental future. Currently the U.S.-based conservation group is analyzing how ecosystem-based adaptation strategies “can help those regions thrive.”
How does one counter the libertarian idea that unfettered markets coupled with minimum government can actually work?
The Libertarian Party’s slogan, “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom,” sounds attractive, but only in a specious and simplistic way. As I see it, the Libertarian world view is basically stuck in the fantasy-science fiction world of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”
Rand, along with Nathaniel Branden, also wrote “The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism,” a 1964 collection of essays and papers that has virtually nothing useful to offer regarding today’s climate of rising economic inequality and environmental danger — except that the one-percent has taken the virtue of selfishness to heart.
The Nobel laureate, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently offered a counterpoint to a long New York Times Magazine article by Robert Draper that profiled young Libertarians — basically, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.”
Krugman’s answer? “Probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders.”
Then he asks a different and more important question, especially for fans of Sen. Rand Paul: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?
Sustainability reporting should be comprehensive, transparent, non-biased and standardized, and the best way to improve the quality of reporting, according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), is to get those sustainability reports externally assured, i.e. reviewed by a third party.
GRI pioneered the use of a comprehensive “Sustainability Reporting Framework,” comprising reporting guidelines and sector disclosures, to help enable organizations to identify and better manage risks and opportunities.
In a new report, Trends in External Assurance of Sustainability Report, GRI reports that over the past 12 years it has witnessed “a tremendous and rapid uptake of sustainability reporting, and an increasingly growing trend towards external assurance by organizations worldwide.” The report, released last month, notes that 45 percent of GRI-based sustainability reports published by organizations worldwide last year were externally assured, compared to 38 percent in 2011.
In the U.S., the number of companies publishing externally assured, GRI-based sustainability reports rose from 10 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2013. “This growth is both expected and welcome,” the reports says.
Leave 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.”
The “new reality” facing electricity consumers and their utility companies is that renewable energy is meeting an increasingly larger share of U.S. energy needs, according to a report released this month from Ceres and Clean Edge.
That translates into more and better choices and a clean energy future.
“Renewables — including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, waste heat and small-scale hydroelectric — accounted for a whopping 49 percent of new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2012, with new wind development outpacing even natural gas,” writes Jon Wellinghoff, partner at Stoel Rives LLP and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the report.
ExxonMobil said last week that it will comply with the protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees required of federal contractors. But it’s unclear whether the oil major will formalize that by changing the language of its equal opportunity corporate policy.
A recent Associated Press story noted that President Barack Obama’s signing of an executive order on July 21 expanded protections for federal workers and contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Labor Department has 90 days to issue regulations for how employers must comply.
“Exxon, which according to government records won more than $480 million in federal contracts in 2013 and more than $8 billion since 2006, has long resisted pressure from civil rights groups and shareholders to enumerate such protections in its formal policy,” according to the AP account.
Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza building collapse and the deaths of more than 1,100 workers in April 2013 triggered calls for better conditions in the garment industry. From that singular event, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety was created to drive improvements, but a year later and despite some real progress, there is still much more to do.
Reversing decades of sweatshop conditions suddenly exposed by the building collapse will take time and a lot of money. Work to bring Bangladeshi factories used by North American retailers up to acceptable fire and building safety standards will cost more than $100 million and take at least 18 months to complete, according to the alliance’s first annual report released this week.
You bought that spiffy new all-electric Tesla Model S, so why not build the charging stations to go along with it?
This is what Chinese businessman Yi Zong decided to do after he purchased his Tesla earlier this year. He realized that charging his vehicle would be a problem in China because, well, there are few stations in that country. Zong installed recharging facilities on his own dime, or yuan as the case may be, in 16 cities between Beijing and his home in Guangzhou — a 3,573-mile corridor.
Zong, one of the first Chinese owners of the Model S, calls his project the country’s “first electric-charging road,” according to a report at Caixin Online, a Beijing-based media group.
The day when technology rules the road gets closer all the time. SAP AG, Toyota InfoTechnology Center and VeriFone have developed a prototype system that features a one-touch screen that directs drivers to the nearest gas station and authorizes payment electronically.
And the driver can even receive personalized coupons! Promotions! Loyalty points!
It’s called connected fueling in the connected vehicle — a brave new world for the fossil-fuel consumer. The companies announced the prototype at the 14th SAP Automotive Forum, early this month in Leipzig, Germany.
Risk assessment is risky and often murky business, and it’s generally acknowledged that the globe’s climate is at risk — so how companies assess the financial impact of climate change in their risk portfolios should be an important consideration, both for shareholders and bottom lines, right?
Maybe not so much, it seems. Ceres, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on corporate sustainability, contends that not many companies believe climate change will have a material impact on their business. “Roughly half of the 3,000 biggest publicly traded companies in the U.S. say mum’s the word, reporting zilch in their annual filings to U.S. regulators,” it says.