Cotton is a major world commodity, accounting for almost half of textile production. Traditional cotton farming is hard on the environment, however, as pesticide and artificial fertilizer use is heavy.
The crop accounts for 10 percent of global pesticide use and is grown in about 80 countries around the world. Cotton also needs much water: An average of 10,000 liters of water is used to grow 1 kilogram of cotton, but it can require three times as much if farming practices are poor. However, through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) farmers are reducing their pesticide, artificial fertilizer and water use.
In 2005, Ikea and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) started joint cotton projects, and both are founding members of the BCI. The purpose of the initiative is to develop more sustainable cotton production methods.
BCI started with just 500 farmers and a goal to develop more sustainable cotton production methods. Now, through BCI and its partners, 43,000 farmers in India and Pakistan alone are using more sustainable cotton farming techniques, as the latest BCI report shows. Project farmers in Pakistan were the first in the world to produce licensed Better Cotton.
The British supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s announced that one of its stores will be powered by its food waste. All of the electricity used by the store in Cannock, England will come from what’s called anaerobic digestion, which turns food waste into bio-methane gas that is used to generate electricity. Sainsbury’s partners with Biffa which has anaerobic digestion facilities. Through its use of bio-methane gas, the store is able to come off the national grid for its electricity use. Biffa is one of the leading waste management companies in the UK. The company operates a number of food waste treatment facilities in the UK which recycle or reuse 100,000 tons of food waste a year.
The food waste that powers the stores comes from Sainsbury’s stores across the UK. Any food waste that is not fit for charitable donations or animal feed is sent to the anaerobic digestion facility in Staffordshire and is converted into energy. The electricity for the Cannock store is sent directly through a new 1.5 km long electricity cable from the Staffordshire facility, which opened in 2011. The Staffordshire facility is the largest one in the U.K. that uses food waste, and is licensed to process 120,000 tons of food waste a year.
The Kroger Co. has reduced energy use in its stores by 34.6 percent since 2000, saving more than 2.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). That’s enough electricity to power every home in Charlotte, North Carolina for a year — or the equivalent of taking 362,000 cars off the road for a year. The largest supermarket chain in the U.S. and fifth-largest retailer in the world, Kroger recently published its eighth annual sustainability report, which includes its energy usage reduction efforts.
Kroger’s manufacturing plants also continue to reduce their use of electricity and gas. As of this year’s report, they have saved enough energy to power 8,411 American homes for a year, and cut enough gas to power 442,446 American homes for a year.
Its manufacturing plants are also reducing water use: In 2013, Kroger manufacturing plants reduced water use by 61 million gallons of water. That is equivalent to the annual water use of 1,455 American homes. Additionally, water use at stores in four of its western divisions was reduced by 7.6 percent last year. These figures crushed an initial 5 percent company-wide reduction target for 2014.
One of the chain’s most notable targets is to eliminate 1 billion paper and plastic bags in its stores by 2015 — and it has already eliminated more than 300 million plastic and paper bags. Safeway is also halfway toward the goal of sourcing of all of its fresh and frozen seafood from either sustainable sources or sources making credible improvements by 2015.
Additionally, Safeway has a goal of producing zero waste across all of its operations. (To qualify as zero waste, a facility has to recycle or divert at least 90 percent of materials that would have been sent to landfills.) A total of nine of its 13 distribution centers and nine of its 20 U.S. manufacturing and food processing plants have already achieved zero waste.
Taking things a step further, two of the grocer’s California distribution centers, Santa Fe Springs and El Monte, haven’t had a trash pickup since. The two facilities combined are almost 2 million square feet and serve over 270 stores.
The British supermarket chain Asda is the first retailer to publish a sustainable seafood report.
The report, titled Wild Fisheries Annual Review, lists all of the fisheries used by the supermarket chain between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2013. The report contains management and sustainability information for all of the fisheries that supply the supermarket chain with wild fish. Seafood from aquaculture (fish farming) is not listed, but Asda hopes to include this information in next year’s report. (As the name implies, it will be published every year.)
The report names each fishery, and information is provided on the location and catch methods, plus sustainability assessments that include environmental impacts.
The report is part of Asda’s commitment to ensure its wild seafood is responsibly sourced. That said, the company knows that some fisheries it obtains seafood from need work and is working to address the issues. One example is Asda’s pledge that all ambient canned and pouched tuna will be line-caught or caught using fish aggregation device (FAD)-free methods by the end of 2014.
Next time you reach for a MillerCoors brew, you can rest assured that the company is doing its part to be environmentally sustainable.
The company has greatly reduced its water and energy usage, according to its latest sustainability report. From 2012 to 2013, MillerCoors reduced the barrels of water it takes to brew one barrel of beer by 9.1 percent. The second largest brewer in the U.S., the company also slashed energy use by 15.6 percent from 2012, saving 1.6 billion mega joules of energy last year. MillerCoors has eight major breweries, and all of them reduced energy use.
Water is a big part of brewing beer, so reducing its usage is not an easy feat for any brewery. From 2011 to 2013, MillerCoors saved over 1.1 billion gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill 1,783 Olympic-size swimming pools or meet the needs of more than 11,500 average American households for a year. One of the ways it achieved the water savings is by converting its Fort Worth Brewery from steam heating to a pasteurizer reclaim system, which uses recirculated water instead of fresh, incoming water to cool beer after pasteurization. It also installed water reclamation systems in six of its eight major breweries, which saves tens of millions of gallons of water a year.
Plastic is used in everything from electronic devices, including computers and smartphones, to food packaging. However, plastic also has a big impact on the environment.
There is a mass of garbage in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast twice the size of Texas, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It outnumbers marine life by 6 to 1. That plastic swirling around in the Pacific makes its way into the food chain as marine life eat small pieces of plastic.
The material is also energy-intensive and requires petroleum to be manufactured. Another key issue with plastics manufacturing is the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs): More than 30 percent of the natural capital costs from GHG emissions released upstream in the supply chain come from extracting raw materials and manufacturing plastic feedstock, according to a report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). Marine pollution has an additional natural capital cost of at least $13 billion.
The total natural capital cost of plastic used in the consumer goods industry is more than $75 billion a year, the report finds. Food companies are the biggest part of that figure, responsible for 23 percent of the total natural capital cost. That figure is especially startling when you consider the brief lifespan of the plastics food companies use for packaging: After food is eaten, their packages are tossed in the garbage can, which is not exactly efficient use of plastic. The toy sector has the highest intensity, at 3.9 percent of revenue, meaning that a higher proportion of their revenue is at risk.
Water is a precious commodity, and reducing water use is a goal every business should set.
A Sheffield, England-based company called Xeros has developed an innovative laundry system that makes it easy for companies to reduce water use by up to 80 percent. The system uses polymer bead technology that attracts dirt and absorbs it into the beads, which can then be reused for hundreds more washes before being recycled. Xeros launched its laundry system at the International Motel and Restaurant Show in November 2013, and received the Editor’s Choice Award for Best New Product for Hotel Operations.
The British company has since expanded in North America. Xeros recently announced that its plans to roll-out out the system to the hospitality industry is on track, and most of its laundry systems have been sold to the top five hotel groups in North America. Since hotels in the U.S. use about 2.3 billion gallons of water a month to wash linens, that is a good fit. A life cycle assessment (LCA) carried out by Sustain Ltd found that the Xeros system also reduces carbon footprint by 44 percent. The life cycle savings in carbon footprint and water use are equal to the emissions produced by watching a 32-inch LED TV for 32,000 hours or 10 years’ worth of direct water use by an average U.K. household.
I read at least two or three CSR reports a month. When you read as many as I do, one that devotes a lengthy section to climate change stands out. In most reports, climate change is a sub-section tucked within the section on environment. It may get a few paragraphs, or maybe even a whole page. But Ford devoted an entire section to “Climate Change and the Environment.” Clearly, Ford takes climate change seriously.
Ford’s position on climate change is that reducing emissions “calls for an integrated approach — a partnership of all stakeholders, including the automotive industry, the fuel industry, government and consumers.” The company states that reducing emissions can “only be achieved by significantly and continuously reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over a period of decades in all sectors of the economy.” For the transportation sector, that requires improving vehicle economy, developing lower carbon fuels, and working with the government on measures to encourage consumers to buy more fuel efficient vehicles and lower carbon fuels, according to the report.
Iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson Motor Co. is launching its first electric motorcycle. Calling it Project LiveWire, the company gave the public the first glimpse of the motorcycle at an invitation-only event on Monday in New York, the Associated Press reports. Select customers will then be able to ride the motorcycle and provide feedback. The bike is not yet for sale.
Harley-Davidson will kick off a 2014 U.S. tour of the bike with a trip down Route 66, visiting more than 30 dealerships along the way through the end of the year. Next year, the Project LiveWire Experience will continue in the U.S. and will be expanded into Canada and Europe.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a serious condition that affects about 1 in 100 children, and is caused by alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. Alaska is taking an innovative approach to reducing FAS: A $400,000 University of Alaska project will put free pregnancy tests in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants across the state, starting in December. For more than 12 months, at least 50,000 tests will be distributed, the University Herald reports. Alaska has the highest rate of FAS among all states.
Nationwide, half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and 59 percent of women in the U.S. between the ages of 18 to 44 report drinking alcohol. Binge drinkers have a much higher rate of unplanned pregnancies and binge drinking is more prevalent in cold climates.
The researchers will place the pregnancy tests in three cities and rural hubs with messages about preventing FAS on both the dispensers and tests. Other cities in Alaska will display framed messages on the walls of bar restrooms but will not have free pregnancy tests. First proposed by Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Alaska) in March, the project will help to determine if posters warning pregnant women not to drink or pregnancy test dispensers are more effective. Bar customers and staff will be interviewed by researchers.
Looking at the Plan A and Annual reports of the British department store chain Marks & Spencer (M&S), two things become clear: The company is a sustainable retailer and sustainability increases its bottom line.
M&S became the first retailer to achieve triple certification to the Carbon Trust’s Carbon, Waste and Water Standards, as the Plan A report shows. M&S achieved this while sales increased in the U.K. by 2.3 percent and 6.2 percent internationally.
The Plan A report details progress toward the company’s Plan A goals. In 2007, M&S launched Plan A as a “technical initiative,” as Mike Barry, director of Plan A stated in the report. During the first phase of Plan A, M&S made 100 commitments to reduce its social and environmental footprint. In the next phase, the company integrated Plan A into its management processes.
Now, M&S is focusing on engaging with its customers and employees to make Plan A part of how it does business. So far, M&S has achieved nine Plan A 2020 commitments. Eleven are not started, one is behind plan, and the rest are on plan. One of the nine commitments achieved is reducing business flights by 43 percent per full-time equivalent employee, exceeding its goal by 23 percent by increasing use of video conferencing and rail travel.
Clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters is expanding its partnership with I:Collect (I:CO), a closed loop textile recycling company. AE added a clothing and shoes recycling program in all of its 823 stores in the U.S. and Canada, beginning June 14.
The program allows customers to drop off unwanted clothes, shoes and textiles from any brand into boxes marked I:CO at any North America store. The customers will then be rewarded with a text code for $5 off a pair of AE jeans to be used in the store that day. The proceeds from the program will be donated to the Student Conservation Association. The expanded program builds on a pilot program with I:CO in AE’s corporate offices, in six stores and in San Francisco, and it is I:CO’s largest North American partnership.
More than 100 companies and investors sent a letter of support to the Obama administration for this week’s release of a new EPA standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. A total of 128 companies and 49 investors, managing $800 billion in assets, signed the letters. Ceres coordinated the letter, which was signed by well known companies including the Adidas Group, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi Strauss & Co., Mars, Nike, Starbucks and Unilever.
“As businesses concerned about the immediate and long-term implications of climate change, we, the undersigned strongly support the principles behind the draft Carbon Pollution Standard for existing power plants released today,” the letter stated. “The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for existing power plants represents a critical step in moving our country towards a clean energy economy.”
We are at a proverbial crossroads when it comes to climate change and avoiding its worst impacts. Total annual global greenhouse gas emissions need to drop to a net of 41 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) in order to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Total annual global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in 2012 were 52 GtCO2e.
Although the situation may seem dire, there is something that can help sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, and it is called regenerative organic agriculture for soil-carbon sequestration. More than 100 percent of current annual carbon emissions could be sequestered by switching to regenerative organic agriculture, according to a new report from the organic farming nonprofit Rodale Institute.
Regenerative organic agriculture is a term coined by Robert Rodale, son of American organic pioneer and Rodale Institute founder J.I. Rodale. It is an organic farming system that does not use synthetic pesticides, which can do damage to the soil, or nitrogen fertilizer, which causes nitrous oxide, a GHG 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide accounts for about 40 percent of all GHG emissions globally. Regenerative organic agriculture uses conservation tillage, cover crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation and can “easily” keep annual emissions within the desirable range of 41 to 47 GtCO2e by 2020, according to the report.
The most common agricultural practices today are doing the opposite of sequestering emissions: GHG emissions from the agriculture sector accounted for 9 percent of total GHG emissions, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. GHG emissions from agriculture have increased by 19 percent since 1990.