As a longstanding labor dispute between unionized employees and Hyatt Hotels Corporation reached a successful conclusion earlier this month, the 55-year-old hospitality giant was busy launching a global philanthropy program, Ready to Thrive, which will allot a portion of Hyatt’s substantial corporate coffers to improve literacy and career development around the world.
“Ready to Thrive will lend critical support to the company’s corporate responsibility platform, Hyatt Thrive, which strives to make local communities places where Hyatt associates are proud to work, where guests want to visit, where neighbors want to live and where hotel owners want to invest,” the company said in a statement earlier this month.
To kick off the program, Hyatt made a two-year, $750,000 investment in career training and development programs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the company plans to open a Grand Hyatt in 2015. Working with AlfaSol and Associação Projeto Roda Viva, two well-known organizations, the company’s programs will focus on low-income youth who live in the community where the hotel will be located.
As wastewater treatment facilities are increasingly installing technology to convert food waste to biogas, garbage disposals could play a big part in creating renewable energy.
Even the most well-informed of green-tech junkies likely overlooked a pair of reports published in early 2011 that could have major implications for the way humanity disposes of its food waste.
Taken together, the two reports, one from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the other from sustainability consultancy PE Americas, draw a vivid conclusion: Garbage disposals – the ones that sit in sink drains churning up food waste before sending it to municipal wastewater treatment facilities – could help slow climate change.
Why? Because wastewater treatment facilities are increasingly adopting a technology called anaerobic digestion that can convert all those discarded banana peels, coffee grounds, and egg shells into biogas, a methane-rich byproduct that can be used for energy generation.
An independent project aims to remove the veil of secrecy that has cloaked the proposed route of Keystone XL, the pipeline that, if built, would transport heavy crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.
The Keystone Mapping Project painstakingly tracks the 1,700-mile route that winds like a snake across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Through the tireless efforts of Thomas Bachand, the site’s creator, the Keystone Mapping Project has become the most comprehensive, publicly-available mapping resource for the pipeline.
In a recent interview with TriplePundit, Bachand explained how he has collected the route data, what it reveals, and why the U.S. Department of State doesn’t want you to see it.
TriplePundit: Has the State Department refused to supply route data?
Thomas Bachand: In April of 2012, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the pipeline milepost and other GIS [geographic information systems] data. I was told that 8 to 12 months was a typical turn-around time. Keep in mind that many FOIA requests to the Department of State require extensive searches through diplomatic cables. My request deals with a single project handled by a single department. It should also be noted that according to both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, pipeline routing data is public information. For certain, the public will know where the pipeline is located once it is built – we’re simply being kept in the dark prior to construction.
Dozens of Hyatt hotel workers gathered outside the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Chicago last week to protest what they call “longstanding labor abuses” by the 55-year old hospitality group.
The protesters were members of UNITE HERE, a labor union that has been in unresolved contract negotiations with Hyatt in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, leaving thousands of Hyatt workers without contracts for up to four years.
While the two sides reached agreement on wages and benefits years ago, UNITE HERE remains unsatisfied with Hyatt’s intransigence on two particular issues: subcontracting and workplace safety.
“The best wages and benefits in the world…”
UNITE HERE objects to Hyatt’s policy regarding hiring subcontracted workers. Hyatt has been severely criticized for laying off housekeepers with decades of experience and replacing them with subcontracted temporary housekeepers earning half the wages of the experienced workers.
The most egregious and oft-cited example of this practice occurred in mid-2009 at three separate Hyatt hotels in the Boston area. On the same day, 98 Hyatt housekeepers, women who for decades had cleaned up after Hyatt’s guests, were handed trash bags, told to collect their things, and were unceremoniously replaced with workers from an outsourcing firm called Hospitality Staffing Solutions.
UNITE HERE spokesperson Annemarie Strassel tells TriplePundit that some of the women had just won an award for outstanding service and were expecting to be recognized by their managers. Instead, they were fired and replaced with the very workers who they had been training as “vacation substitutes.”
The aviation industry has announced what it claims is “a historic agreement” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but industry experts and environmentalists say the agreement is vague and lacks the enforcement mechanisms necessary to give it teeth.
At a meeting last week of the International Air Transport Association (I.A.T.A.), an industry group of more than 200 airlines representing 84 percent of the world’s air travel, the assembled airlines agreed on a plan to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent annually until 2020, cap their net carbon dioxide emissions after 2020, and cut emissions in half by 2050 compared with a 2005 baseline.
Environmental campaigners derided the agreement, arguing that it will permit the aviation industry, which accounts for between two and three percent of global carbon emissions, to sustain its massive environmental footprint.
“Major airlines have come up with yet another way of imposing delays upon the world,” wrote Grist’s John Upton. “The plan lacks details, aims low, and would sit on the tarmac until 2020 or later.”
Bill Hemmings, aviation manager for Transport & Environment, a nongovernmental organization that promotes green transportation, said the I.A.T.A. agreement “represents a welcome departure from their historical position that better air traffic control, better planes and biofuels alone can solve the problem.”
At a conference in Orlando last week (full disclosure: Marriott covered travel costs to Orlando), Marriott International executives had a message for some three thousand general managers of the company’s hotels. From now on, said the executives, Marriott would be tailoring its hotels – and its marketing efforts – toward Millennials, the generational cohort that represents the future of the hotel industry’s customer base.
“These Millennial travelers will be our dominant customer segment for the next 20 years,” said Janis Milham, global brand manager for Courtyard, Marriott’s 30-year-old brand for business travelers.
Hotel rooms have been reworked to appeal to the design sensibilities of younger travelers. Lobbies, often treated as little more than a conduit for ferrying guests from the front desk to their rooms, have been made more welcoming and communal, with Starbucks cafes, free WiFi and bistros that serve small plates and plenty of booze.
Marriott even announced this week that it was importing AC Hotels – the chic, design-focused, ultra-European hotel brand – to North America to snatch a larger slice of the multi-billion dollar market of trendy travelers born after 1980.
And Marriott knows that Millennials care about more than sleek design; they care about sustainability, too.
Massachusetts has emerged as an alternative energy leader by offering residents and businesses financial incentives to go solar.
When Mass. Governor Deval Patrick said in spring 2011 that his state would install 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017, the plan was considered ambitious at best and ridiculous at worst.
Undeterred, Patrick created Solarize Massachusetts, an incentive program to encourage the adoption of small-scale solar and empowered the Mass. Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to implement the program.
Early this month, the governor celebrated reaching the 250 megawatt mark – four years early – and laid down the even more ambitious target of installing 1,600 megawatts of solar power by 2020.
Nestlé announced last week that CRUNCH bars, the company’s 75-year-old flagship brand, will be made entirely from ethically-certified cocoa beans by year’s end. The beans will be certified by UTZ Certified, one of the world’s largest and most respected independent labeling organizations.
The announcement represents an acceleration of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, the company’s $120 million global initiative to improve the lives of cocoa farmers while also assuring a first-rate, sustainable cocoa supply for years to come.
“Recent surveys have shown that a growing number of consumers are seeking foods made with responsibly-sourced ingredients,” said Robert Kilmer, president of confections and snacks at Nestlé USA.
“Actions taken under the Nestlé Cocoa Plan help socially-aware consumers feel good about benefitting people and communities in other parts of the world,” he added.
Corporations across America have loosened their purse strings to aid victims of the recent tornado that left a path of destruction across central Oklahoma.
In an effort to begin repairing the damage that President Barack Obama characterized as “hard to comprehend,” around 75 companies have pledged more than $24 million to relief efforts. Twelve companies, including Chesapeake Energy, Love’s Travel Stops, and NBA franchise the Oklahoma City Thunder, have pledged $1 million or more in cash and resources.
“The business community is committed to doing what it can to help in relief efforts,” said Gerald McSwiggan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Business Civic Leadership Center, the nonprofit that is tracking corporate donations to the relief efforts.
“Many businesses have already offered support, and we anticipate that they, along with others, will continue to provide aid to various nonprofits throughout the disaster’s relief and recovery phases,” added McSwiggan.
The three-mile-wide tornado that struck Moore, Newcastle, and southern Oklahoma City on May 20 reached wind speeds of over 200 miles per hour, tearing through 17 miles of homes, schools, and businesses. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office has reported that 24 people were killed, including 10 children.
A resolution at the McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting today will seek to prevent the fast food giant from marketing unhealthy food to children.
The resolution demands that McDonald’s “stop substituting PR for genuine change – namely ending its marketing to kids – when it comes to its staggering impact on public health,” according to Corporate Accountability International (CAI), the advocacy group spearheading the campaign.
“The resolution requires McDonald’s to examine and report on how its efforts to address its public health impacts are keeping pace with increasing public pressure and efforts to limit the fast food environment,” Sara Deon, director of CAI’s “Value [the] Meal” campaign, tells TriplePundit in an email.
“What McDonald’s is attempting to pass off as nutritional initiatives, slick nutri-washing campaigns, and ineffectual voluntary initiatives, are nowhere near enough to address the public health impacts of its business operations nor is it enough to protect shareholders from increasing financial risk,” says Deon.
Patagonia has launched a fund to invest in environmentally responsible startup companies. The fund, aptly dubbed “$20 Million & Change,” will start with $20 million to invest and can grow in the future as needed.
In a letter published on the company’s blog, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said $20 Million and Change will “help like-minded, responsible startup companies bring about positive benefit to the environment.”
Patagonia has not revealed the number of companies that will receive funding or when the first round of investments will be announced, but Patagonia spokesperson Jess Clayton says the company has “already had many companies and startups apply for funding.” Most investments will be between $500,000 and $5 million.
Clayton, tells TriplePundit that $20 Million & Change will fund apparel companies “that compliment Patagonia” as long as they are not “in direct competition.” Patagonia “will be looking to fund technologies and innovation that help make the apparel industry cleaner and more environmental.”
“Those technologies can and will be used by our competition,” says Clayton, “which is a good thing in our opinion.”
Intel Corporation has released its 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report, summarizing the chipmaker’s performance across a range of sustainability activities. The report – the company’s 12th – also provides updates on Intel’s progress toward its 2020 environmental goals.
“Intel’s annual Corporate Responsibility Report allows us to transparently track our progress and aggressively work toward new goals in areas ranging from supply chain responsibility to K-12 education,” said Michael Jacobson, director of corporate responsibility at Intel.
The report documents the company’s corporate responsibility efforts along several fronts, including employee engagement, renewable power, green building design, supply chain responsibility, and education.
Trader Joe’s most recent update to its sustainable seafood policy has left environmental groups largely skeptical of the grocery chain’s commitment to preserve the planet’s ocean wildlife.
In a statement posted on the company’s website, Trader Joe’s said it has ceased buying swordfish caught in Southeast Asia and is “evaluating sources from U.S. Pacific waters,” which the company acknowledged may result in “gaps in supply before being able to offer swordfish fitting our goal.”
The company also said it will buy its canned tuna from sources with more ethical catching methods and will no longer offer genetically engineered salmon or shrimp from dubious farms.
Its reputation for responsibility notwithstanding, Trader Joe’s has long been the black sheep of the grocery industry for its failure to adopt sustainable sourcing policies for its seafood. In 2009, Greenpeace launched the bruising “Traitor Joe’s” campaign to pressure the company into halting the sale of endangered species and seafood caught with environmentally destructive methods.
In the wake of the Rana Plaza factory fire in Bangladesh last month that killed over 1,100 workers in the deadliest industrial accident in nearly three decades, dozens of multinational apparel companies have joined a commitment to improve health and safety measures in the country’s garment factories.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh asks companies that source goods from Bangladeshi factories to agree to establish a fire and building safety program for a period of five years. Signatories have also agreed to allow the International Labour Organization help implement and enforce the new safety standards.
At least 24 garment and retail brands sourcing from Bangladesh, including H&M, Inditex, PVH, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Helly Hansen, Next, Loblaws, and Sainsbury’s have agreed to sign the accord.
For the first time in human history, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide could rise above 400 parts per million throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as May 2013.
The latest CO2 measurement was taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii and reported by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a research center at the University of San Diego that tracks increases in atmospheric CO2 levels.
Climatologists including former NASA scientist James Hansen have previously stated that 350 parts per million (ppm) was the “magic number,” the level beyond which long term climatic changes will be unleashed with catastrophic consequences for human civilization.