It’s easy to see the impact of the three-year-long California drought in residential areas anywhere in the state. Just look for brown lawns or green lawns with patches of brown. Or drive through parts of the San Joaquin Valley and see idled farmland. It’s harder to see with the naked eye the effects of the drought on the dairy industry in general and the organic dairy industry specifically. But report after report by various media outlets reveals that organic dairy farmers are being hit very hard in the Golden State.
California is the state with the most organic dairy cows, and it gained that spot in just a few years. California had less than 100 organic dairy farms in 2008, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. By 2011, the state had 57,809 certified organic dairy cows, making it the state with the highest amount of them. California is clearly an important state for organic dairy production. And the lack of rainfall in the state means it’s hard for organic dairy farmers to keep grasses green.
Procter & Gamble, commonly known as P&G, expanded its sustainability goals to include water conservation and sustainable packaging. P&G expects its manufacturing facilities to reduce water use by an added 20 percent per unit of production, with a focus on water conservation initiatives at facilities in water-stressed areas. P&G has four locations in California, a state experiencing its third straight year of drought. The drought is one of the worst on record.
Additionally, the company is on track to meet its goal to reduce packaging by 20 percent per unit of production by 2020. P&G has reduced its packaging by 4.5 percent percent per consumer use since 2010, according to its 2013 Sustainability Report. This progress has spurred the company to add more packaging goals. One of those goals is doubling the use of recycled resin in plastic packaging. The other is ensuring that 90 percent of its product packaging is recyclable or programs are in place to create the ability to recycle it.
Lego recently announced that it will not renew its contract with Shell when it ends in 2016. “We want to clarify that as things currently stand we will not renew the co-promotion contract with Shell when the present contract ends,” the company said in a statement released last week. The announcement comes after a three-month-long campaign by the environmental group, Greenpeace. The group set its sights on Lego, demanding that the toy company drop its partnership with Shell.
The company made it clear that it did not like the campaign by Greenpeace. Instead of a campaign targeting the company, Greenpeace should have had “direct conversation with Shell,” Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, president and CEO of the Lego Group, said in a statement by the company. Knudstorp added that Lego does not “want to be part of Greenpeace’s campaign, and we will not comment any further on the campaign.”
NRG is a company with a clever name and marketing strategy. The company provides sustainable energy choices, including solar power, for consumers. It is also a company that has sustainable energy solutions installed at six stadiums that are home to professional teams. Those energy solutions provide a way for the company to let attendees of the games held at the stadiums know that solar energy and alternative technologies, such as LED lights, are choices. Information about solar and those other technologies is available at the six different stadiums.
The LED lights and electric vehicle charging stations installed at the six stadiums, plus solar power, serves as “real life examples of alternative energy solutions,” as Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant, said to me. The company installs them in “hopes of educating the people who’ve visited those stadiums that solar is something they can consider for their homes and businesses, as well as some of the other alternative technologies whether that’s electric vehicle (EV) charging or the LED lights.” In other words, the company can spread the word about sustainable energy solutions while putting their name in the minds of potential consumers. It’s a brilliant strategy.
Mars, Inc. launched a new palm oil policy six months ago and recently released an update on its progress. The food manufacturer best known for its chocolate committed to developing a palm oil supply chain that is both sustainable and traceable by the end of this year. The company requires palm oil to be traced back to known mills and for its suppliers to confirm they will comply with its sourcing charter by the end of 2015. It is currently on track to meet its commitment to achieve 100 percent traceability of its palm oil supplies by the end of this year.
Mars is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) . By the end of 2013, it purchased all of its palm oil from RSPO-certified sources through the “mass balance” program. Mass balance requires processors to purchase palm oil from certified sources, but allows them to mix it with conventional palm oil. As a result, some of the palm oil in its supply chain is from non-certified sources. Tracing palm oil back to known mills allows the company to assess the environmental and social practices of the plantations and farms the mills source from and see that improvements are made.
The company achieved a 12.6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2013, surpassing its goal of a 10 percent reduction. Caesars surpassed other goals including its goal for water reduction. The hotel chain reduced water use by 18 percent per air conditioned 1,000 square feet in 2013. The goal was to reduce water use by 10 percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2020.
Environmental stewardship is a long-term strategy Caesars developed about six years ago, Gwen Migita, vice president of corporate citizenship and sustainability, told me. The company is currently in the next stage of its five-year strategy. “Environmental stewardship was a long-term strategy we really developed about six years ago,” Migita said. “From the top down, our CEO has made a commitment to sponsor and support our sustainability strategy.”
Heads of government, business leaders and activists met in New York, this week for the one-day U.N. Climate Summit. One thing is for certain: If we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally, we have to stop deforestation, which is the second leading contributor of carbon emissions after burning fossil fuels.
On the same day delegates gathered at the summit, Liberia and Norway announced a partnership to protect forests in the African country. Norway will support Liberia’s efforts with up to $150 million until 2020. Announced at a joint press conference, the partnership means Liberia will become the first African nation to stop deforestation in exchange for aid from a developed country. In the first years, Norway will devote up to $70 million to implement policy measures and the necessary institution building.
Earlier this month, Hershey announced the expansion of its cocoa farmer training and community initiatives in the Ivory Coast. The company will partner with Cargill to expand the initiative, called ‘Learn to Grow Ivory Coast,’ to include seven farmer cooperatives and investments in education and teacher housing. Through the initiatives, 10,000 cocoa farmers will be trained in agricultural and social practices that are certified with the UTZ Certified standard. The farmers will receive higher premiums for the cocoa as a result.
The Learn to Grow Ivory Coast program will accelerate Hershey’s purchase of sustainably-sourced cocoa. Hershey has committed to sourcing 100 percent certified cocoa for all of its products globally by 2020. It is committed to sourcing cocoa certified through UTZ, Fairtrade USA and Rainforest Alliance, three of the most recognized cocoa certification programs.
In 2013, Hershey sourced 18 percent of its cocoa from certified sources. By 2016, the company hopes to increase that percentage to between 40 and 50 percent.
Although 29 percent of the world’s oceans are overfished, 10 percent of global wild caught seafood comes from fisheries involved in the Marine Stewardship Council’s program. Since 1999, more than 220 fisheries have undergone independent assessments of their environmental sustainability, and those who have achieved MSC certification have made hundreds of improvements to their fishing practices. MSC-certified fisheries committed to making 600 additional improvements by 2020.
Two recently released MSC reports, the Global Impacts Report 2014 and the Annual Report 2013-14, show that there are more MSC-labeled products than ever before. Over the past five years the amount of MSC-labeled products have more than doubled. More than 23,000 products from MSC-certified fisheries were available in over 100 countries — a tenfold increased since 2009. The amount of fisheries participating in the MSC program with habitat and ecosystem impacts at or above best practice has increased from 71 percent in 2009 to 82 percent in 2013. The amount of fisheries in the MSC program with stocks mained at or above maximum sustainable levels has also jumped from 80 percent in 2009 to 94 percent in 2013.
The purpose of the initiative is to protect Fiji’s Great Sea Reef and tropical farmland. The Great Sea Reef is one of the largest reef systems in the world, supplying up to 80 percent of the domestic fish market.
The changes in farming that are part of the initiative include terracing and carefully distancing rows of sugarcane, which help control nutrient and seed runoff into the waterways that lead to the reef. WWF developed the model farms in Fiji.
The initiative helps protects both Fiji’s environment and its economy. Back in 2007, Bacardi started getting involved in sugarcane initiatives. “We saw sugarcane was in one of the important sectors for environmental, economic and social factors…sugarcane is important for rum development,” Dave Howson, global sustainability director for Bacardi, told me.
Dunkin’ Brands Group, the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, announced its commitment to source only 100 percent sustainable palm oil for its U.S. locations by 2016. Less than a day after Dunkin’s announcement, Krispy Kreme also committed to source 100 percent responsibly produced palm oil.
Dunkin’ Brands will work with its suppliers and its franchisee-owned purchasing cooperatives to source palm oil that’s 100 percent fully traceable to the mill by the end of 2015, and to the plantation by the end of 2016 for its Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. restaurants. By March 1, 2015, Dunkin’ Brands will develop and publish a phased implementation plan.
Dunkin’ Brands will require suppliers to adhere to certain standards, including:
- No development of high-carbon stock forest and high-conservation areas
- No burning in preparation of land or in development
- Progressive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on existing plantations from all sources
- No development on peat areas
- No exploitation of people and communities
Last week, Google invested $145 million in an 82 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Kern County, California. The solar power plant, called the Regulus project, is being developed by SunEdison on top of an old oil and gas field about 11 miles southeast of Bakersfield, California. It will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes. The 743-acre site went from 30 oil wells to five as it exhausted its fossil fuel reserves.
The solar project is creating 650 jobs in Kern County, and will help meet California’s renewables portfolio standard of 33 percent of the total electricity load coming from renewable energy by 2020. The project, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, is expected to generate $6.1 million in property tax revenue and $25.4 million in sales and use tax revenue for the county over its 20-year contracted life. The power company, Southern California Edison (SCE), is under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with SunEdison to contract the power produced.
It’s not a small thing for a company with almost 500 employees, eight offices, over 20 beers and ciders in its portfolio, and almost $4 billion in direct economic impact on the country to strive for sustainability. The company in question is Heineken USA, and its New York City office reduced water use by 20 percent and electricity use per square foot to 25 percent below what is required by local codes. Its parent company Heineken has reduced water use by its breweries around the world per unit of finished product by 5 percent in 2013. Heineken has also reduced carbon emissions by 26 percent.
Heineken’s global sustainability program, Brewing a Better Future, has four key areas of focus: advocating responsible consumption, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, conserving water resources and sourcing sustainably. To encourage responsible consumption among its employees, Heineken began a pilot program in 2013 that provided a few of its employees with Alcohoot, which connects to a smartphone and tells users how much alcohol they have consumed. It also links to the GPS in smartphones and can link to taxi apps so employees can find a safe way home. The device is now given to all of the company’s employees. In 2013, Heineken USA increased the amount of free rides offered to employees through its Safe Ride programs by 122 percent.
The entire state of California is in a drought. A big part of the state, including the fertile Central Valley, is experiencing the worst category of drought, exceptional. California supplies much of the fruits, vegetables and nuts the nation eats. In inland areas such as the Central Valley, as well as the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, agriculture truly rules.
While people in Southern California and the Bay Area are largely insulated from the effects of the drought, people in the Central Valley are being hit hard. Some wells in the town of Easton, the small farming community in Fresno County where I was raised, are going dry; and two businesses have closed as a result. Meanwhile, farmers are resorting to over-pumping groundwater. They have no choice. They want to survive. America wants to eat.
Agriculture takes up 80 percent of the state’s water supply. Some crops need more water than others. Tree crops, for example, need more water than vineyards. Almonds are one tree crop that is experiencing great growth, fueled in part by studies that show the health benefits of eating almonds and past drops in the price of raisins. As a result, almonds are California’s largest export; state farmers grow 80 percent of the world’s supply, and 99 percent of all almonds grown in the U.S. hail from California. However, the drought is certain to affect the almond industry. As an opinion piece by Market Watch points out, “This unprecedented drought threatens to slam the brakes on one of the state’s fastest-growing crops and biggest moneymakers.” When the 2014-2015 crop goes to market next year, consumers will certainly be hit with higher almond prices.
Kimberly-Clark produces mainly paper-based personal care products, including popular brands such as Cottonelle, so it’s only fitting that the global company focuses on sustainable forestry.
Its latest corporate social responsibility report lists short- and long-term goals to make its products more sustainably produced. One of the short-term goals is to source 100 percent of its wood fiber from suppliers who have achieved third-party certification by 2015. It has already achieved this goal. Two of K-C’s long term-goals also involve sustainable forestry, including obtaining 90 percent of the fiber in its tissue products from environmentally-preferred sources by 2025. At the end of 2013, K-C was at 71.1 percent. Second, the company planned to transition to at least 50 percent of wood fiber sourced from natural forests to alternative fiber sources by 2025. At the end of 2013, K-C achieved 24 percent reduction of fiber sourced from natural forest.
K-C states it will not knowingly use conflict wood, illegal fiber or fiber procured from special forest areas, including endangered forests. All K-C tissue mills in North America and about 50 percent of mills in other regions are chain-of-custody certified. The goal is to achieve 100 percent chain-of-custody certification for all of its mills by 2016.