If a company pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2020, is that good? Better yet, is that enough? Climate Counts and the Center for Sustainable Organizations just released what they call the “world’s first” science-based company rankings, aiming to answer questions like these.
The study assessed the emissions performance of 100 companies from 2005 to 2012 within the context of climate science to identify the number of companies on a sustainable emissions path. By looking at factors such as emissions output and contribution to GDP, researchers assigned a company-level carbon budget to evaluate self-reported emissions data.
Nearly half of the 100 companies analyzed rated sustainably in the study, meaning they are on track with science-based targets that seek to limit climate change to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Autodesk, Unilever and Eli Lilly came away with the top three spots in the rating, but the list gets a bit more surprising as you move on.
High-performance electric vehicle manufacturer Venturi Automobiles is joining forces with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio to enter a racing team in the the new FIA Formula E Championship – the world’s first fully-electric race series. Beginning in September 2014, Formula E drivers will compete on city street circuits in a series the FIA hopes will appeal to a new generation of motorsports fans while accelerating the EV market.
Ten two-driver teams will go head-to-head in eight major cities around the world, including Beijing, Los Angeles, London and Buenos Aires, using electric single-seater race cars capable of speeds in excess of 140 miles per hour.
“The future of our planet depends on our ability to embrace fuel-efficient, clean-energy vehicles,” DiCaprio said in a prepared statement. “Venturi Grand Prix has shown tremendous foresight in their decision to create an environmentally friendly racing team, and I am happy to be a part of this effort.”
Last month, TriplePundit founder Nick Aster spoke with Mike Bellamente, executive director of Climate Counts, Mark McElroy, founder and executive director of the Center for Sustainable Organizations, and sustainability architect Bill Baue in one of our weekly online chats. The trio has been working on a new approach to measuring sustainability performance and just released what they call the “world’s first” science-based company rankings.
Released today, the rankings seek to put companies’ self-reported emissions data in the context of GHG reductions called for by climate scientists – scaling this assessment based on market share. Researchers looked at factors such as emissions output and contribution to GDP to assign a company-level carbon budget and determine whether reported emissions are on track with science-based thresholds.
Nearly half of the 100 companies analyzed rated sustainably in the study, with Autodesk, Unilever and Eli Lilly earning the top three spots in the rating. Of the 49 companies that scored sustainably, 25 of those exhibited revenue growth even as their emissions declined, indicating that the decoupling of growth and emissions is possible. Conversely, 51 percent of companies reviewed were found to be emitting unsustainable levels of CO2, researchers said.
Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index indicates that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world. More than two-thirds of the 177 countries in the 2013 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).
Corruption in the public sector remains one of the world’s biggest challenges, particularly in areas such as political parties, police and justice systems, the organization said, but these activities remain difficult to investigate and prosecute.
“The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 demonstrates that all countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations,” said Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International.
Projects designed to bolster private investment in effective climate solutions in six African countries have received $330 million in funding from the African Development Bank Group, the bank announced late last month. Projects in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mali and Mozambique were the winners of a global competition run by Climate Investment Funds, a pair of funds established by the AfDB to help developing countries pilot innovations in clean technology, sustainable forestry, renewable energy and climate-resilient development.
Private investment in renewable energy can be risky, particularly in developing countries, the bank said. The upfront capital costs are high, and return on investment is often slower than better-known investments, such as fossil fuels. Mitigating these factors, along with the need to address the lack of understanding of the value of climate investment were the underlying reasons the CIF decided to set aside the special funds, according to AfDB.
As consumers hit the stores this holiday season, REI is reminding them to vote with their dollars. Pointing to its own recent success in packaging waste reduction, the company argues that choosing an environmentally friendly product in a sustainable package sends a strong message to manufacturers in the final weeks of the year.
The outdoor apparel brand made headlines last month for cutting energy use at its data center by 93 percent, but it’s also making strides in sustainable package design. TriplePundit pinpointed REI as a packaging trailblazer back in 2011, and key innovations have since helped the brand reduce consumer packaging by 36 percent – designing out more than 1.4 million pounds of waste, the company said.
Amazon‘s battle against “wrap rage” – the frustration of trying to open a seemingly impenetrable package to get to the product inside – is rolling ahead at full force. Last week, the online retail giant announced that its Frustration-Free Packaging initiative, a five-year effort to liberate products from hermetically sealed clamshell cases and plastic-coated steel-wire ties, now offers more than 200,000 items. To date, Amazon has shipped over 75 million of these items to 175 countries, the company said.
Starting with just 19 Frustration-Free Packaging certified products from such companies as Mattel and Microsoft, Amazon’s packaging program now includes more than 2,000 manufacturers, including top names like Fisher-Price, Unilever and Logitech. Amazon works with these manufacturers to deliver products inside smaller, easy-to-open, recyclable cardboard boxes that reduce the overall amount of packaging used while still protecting what’s inside. The company even offers engineers to help brands improve their packaging design, the company told Bloomberg Businessweek.
After making it big as a founding partner in one of the world’s most awarded advertising agencies, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Alex Bogusky changed course to pursue a new way of doing business. In 2011, Adweek’s Creative Director of the Decade partnered with his wife Ana Bogusky and friends Rob Schuham and John Bielenberg to launch COMMON, a network for prototyping social ventures under one unified label – what founders call “the world’s first collaborative brand.”
Now, the COMMON team is preparing to launch an online retail marketplace to support and celebrate people, companies, products and services that redefine the way the business of everyday life is conducted. Set to go live on Jan. 31, the marketplace will feature 100 companies at launch – each with its own mission of sustainability and social good.
To be accepted into the marketplace, companies must meet a set of design, sustainability and collaborative criteria set by COMMON. Rather than simply advocate for socially conscious brands, company founders say they hope to use standard free market principles to bolster social entrepreneurship and inspire consumers to choose cause-driven products.
New York is one of only two states that automatically arrests and prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults. Young people who are considered adults criminally may leave the system with open felony records as opposed to juvenile adjudications – presenting significant barriers to employment and education after their release.
A public awareness campaign called Raise the Age New York seeks to increase the age of adult criminal responsibility in the state to 18 years old, the standard used by nearly every other state in nation. In the meantime, startup food truck business Drive Change is using social enterprise to provide job opportunities to formerly incarcerated youth and lower recidivism rates.
The startup is currently building a fleet of food trucks that serve fresh and tasty fare while employing young people with criminal records. In addition to providing hands-on work experience and transferrable skills, Drive Change works to place its employees in permanent positions – lowering recidivism rates for young people who are treated as adults in the criminal justice system from 70 percent to 20 percent for program participants, according to the startup. All sales from Drive Change food trucks recycle back into the organization to subsidize re-entry programs.
Unilever and the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) announced the seven finalists for the inaugural Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards this week. The international awards program is designed to inspire young people around the world to tackle environmental, social and health issues.
Unilever received 510 entries from entrants 30 years and under, who hailed from an impressive 90 countries. The chosen finalists submitted scalable and sustainable solutions that enable changes in practices or behaviors in sanitation and hygiene; water scarcity; greenhouse gases; waste; sustainable agriculture; and helping smallholder farmers, according to Unilever.
“We are delighted to have had such a great number of entries, and of such high calibre from all corners of world. The entries provide proof – if it were needed – of a young generation of leaders eager to develop their fledgling businesses into ones that could genuinely make a big difference,” Unilever CEO Paul Polman said in a press release. “Using our energy, innovation and resourcefulness to support them will, I believe, accelerate the development, multiply the difference and help create a brighter future for all.”
To toast its 40th anniversary, Patagonia is teaming up with craft brewer New Belgium Brewing to create a limited-edition lager. Appropriately dubbed California Route, the brew was made in the “California Common” tradition – tawny in color, medium bodied, with a malty character and earthy hops – paying homage to the outdoor apparel brand’s Ventura, Calif. roots. The beer is also brewed with certified organic ingredients – staying true to Patagonia’s longstanding commitment to organic cotton.
A sustainable apparel brand and a craft brewery may seem like strange bedfellows, but the two labels have more in common than you might think. The nation’s first brewery to incorporate wind power for electricity, New Belgium was also the first brewery to join 1% For The Planet, an organization co-founded by Patagonia that connects businesses, consumers and nonprofits through environmental philanthropy. It also participated in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s push to defend the Clean Water Act earlier this year and has reduced its waste-to-landfill to a mere 5.6 percent.
Enterprise Carshare, a service offered through the Enterprise Rent-A-Car local network, launched in Salt Lake City this month – bringing its car sharing service to more than 35 U.S. states, as well as regions in Canada and the U.K. In Salt Lake City, the service will provide vehicles at nearly 30 locations throughout the downtown area and on local university campuses, according to the company.
Salt Lake City is the seventh major retail market to offer Enterprise CarShare in the past two years, and the service is now offered on more than 75 university campuses and on 40 government and business campuses nationwide.
Enterprise Holdings, which also includes rental brands like Alamo and National, made headlines earlier this year by acquiring Zimride, the largest ride-matching program in the United States with more than 350,000 users, expanding its reach in the car sharing sphere. The company was also a key sponsor of the Shared-Use Mobility Summit at the University of California, Berkeley last month – further indicating that the company may be ready to go all-in on car sharing.
Most shoppers know TOMS as the brand that matches every pair of shoes and glasses purchased by giving new footwear and eyewear to a child in need. Now, the One for One brand is launching TOMS Marketplace, an online retail destination hosted on TOMS.com that features a curated collection of socially conscious products from third-party companies, in the hopes of using its trusted name to bolster social entrepreneurship.
The marketplace featured 200 products from 30 different companies at launch. Each company’s listing includes a meaningful story, spanning a wide range of causes and geographic areas of impact. Featured products range from block-printed textiles, handbags and accessories made by artisans in the Himalayas to paper jewelry made by women in Northern Uganda.
“The TOMS Marketplace represents something that is bigger than us,” Blake Mycoskie, founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS, said in a press release. ”We believe social entrepreneurship is a movement that is here to stay, and the TOMS Marketplace is our way of bringing awareness to so many amazing companies, causes and products.”
Technology continues to be scarce among rural communities in Colombia. In an effort to help change this reality, SAP announced last week that it has joined forces with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and the Manuel Mejía Foundation to improve the quality of life for Colombian farmers by providing them with the technology and training they need to develop more sustainable business practices.
As part of the collaboration, FNC gave tablets to 5,000 rural farmers across Colombia, while SAP created a “coffee portal” that gives them access to relevant data such as daily prices, coffee market news, geographical farm information, coffee purchasing conditions, incentives and support programs. Through the portal, coffee farmers can access personalized sites containing price information and data specific to their farm and region.
Despite the vast collection of data compiled in the portal, FNC quickly realized most coffee farmers weren’t using it and pinpointed a lack of basic IT skills as the likely cause. To remedy this, SAP donated technical training to more than 500 coffee growers – teaching them how to effectively use mobile tablets and computers.
Four years ago, SAP and PlaNet Finance joined forces on a multilateral partnership to improve Ghana’s shea butter supply chain. The result was the StarShea Network, a non-profit collective that provided a combination of mobile technology, education and microfinance to rural shea nut farmers and butter producers in Northern Ghana. Now the network has transitioned to an incorporated, stand-alone business, SAP announced yesterday.
Founded in 2009 to help 1,500 women manage and grow their shea nut business, the newly named StarShea Ltd. has grown to a network of more than 10,000 women, and emerged as one of the worldwide market leaders of organically produced and fairly traded shea butter.
Harvesting and processing shea nuts is arduous, but women shea nut farmers and butter producers in Ghana often get a low rate of return on their product. A lack of information on commodity markets, limited financing options and poor supply chain traceability means producers are subject to market instability and limited ability to negotiate on price.