The new UPS sustainability report has come out and so has the company’s latest financial report. That coincidence provides an opportunity to take a closer look at the strategies that mature companies can enlist to maintain profitability while juggling two colossal new challenges to their business model: the demands of an increasingly carbon-constrained economy and the emergence of significant new market forces enabled by online technology.
The financial report makes it clear that UPS has recognized that new online shopping trends demand new investments. The shipping giant was overwhelmed by a rush of online orders last holiday season, and it is determined to step up its game this year with a $175 million stake in new sorting infrastructure and software improvements.
That investment resulted in a short-term hit on profitability, but UPS is confident that it will pay off in the long run. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the company’s new ‘Committed to More’ sustainability report.
If you’re not familiar with Tenn-Tom now, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot more about it in the future. Tenn-Tom is the Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway, a huge public infrastructure project with a history that dates back to the earliest explorations of the North American continent in the 1500s. After literally centuries of dreaming, Tenn-Tom finally became a reality in 1984.
Built and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the 30-year-old Tenn-Tom is now due for an upgrade. USACE is using the opportunity to showcase a new, energy efficient approach to infrastructure improvements. If your business is contemplating an infrastructure upgrade, this is a good one to watch for best practices insights.
As part of Triple Pundit’s sponsored series with International Paper, last week we had a chance to pick the brains of Jeff Shumaker, the company’s Manager of Regulatory Affairs, and now we get to share some of his insights into waste management with you. IP has set a medium-term waste management goal, with the aim of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills by 30 percent by 2020.
Modern papermaking faces a particular set of waste stream challenges, but given the waste management progress documented by other manufacturers the goal of 30 percent seems reasonable. However, Shumaker also articulated a pathway for his company — and perhaps yours — to achieve a much more ambitious goal of achieving zero manufacturing waste.
Fuel cells have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to beating out lithium-ion batteries for domination of the emerging electric vehicle market. “A lot” is an understatement. When you ask auto industry followers about the potential for fuel cell electric vehicles, you are likely to be met with rolled eyes and a repetition of the same old joke: “They say fuel cells are the next big thing, and they’ve been saying that for 30 years.”
However, if you take a look at what’s been going on in at least one specialty niche of the EV market, you can catch a glimpse of the possibility for fuel cells to win out, at least for some applications. That potential is illustrated by Plug Power and Ace Hardware, which have paired up to bring entire fleets of fuel cell electric vehicles into shipping and handling operations.
The growth in wind and solar energy over the past several years has been impressive, but the pace of change has been achingly slow for companies that want more renewable energy than the market can provide. With that in mind, 12 leading U.S. companies have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute to make one thing perfectly clear: There is a huge, unmet renewable energy demand by businesses, and a change in energy markets will be required in order to meet that need.
The linchpin of the collaboration is a set of strategic guidelines called the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. Most of the 12 companies that have signed on are familiar names at Triple Pundit for their proactive approach to renewable energy or other sustainability issues, including Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart.
8.4 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy demand
According to WWF, the 12 companies signing on to the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles have calculated that their renewable energy demand adds up to 8.4 million megawatt-hours per year through 2020.
That’s just those 12 major companies, so 8.4 million is just for starters.
Greenpeace is an expert at raising awareness about critical environmental issues but the organization is not infallible, and it may have picked a losing battle with its latest target: the Lego Group. Last week, Greenpeace accused Lego of “keeping bad company” by renewing its longstanding brand co-promotion of “Royal Dutch Shell Lego” playsets.
Triple Pundit, for one, has published dozens of articles critical of Shell, so we get Greenpeace’s “bad company” reference. However, the Shell tie-in forms a miniscule part of the Lego Group’s profile, and it is difficult to imagine another toy that is so widely and universally loved as Lego’s building blocks and playsets. That surely puts the Greenpeace effort in danger of experiencing an across-the-board backlash, and the end result could be simply to foster a run on Lego’s Shell-branded products.
We can practically smell the tubes smoking with online orders now, but that’s not the only thing that Greenpeace may have miscalculated.
The LEED certification program has its roots back in 1993, when David Gottfried and Mike Italiano founded the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The aim was to promote sustainability throughout the building and construction industry, which naturally involves standard-setting, and so just a few years later, in 2000, about 60 private and nonprofit sector stakeholders gathered to launch LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Since then, USGBC has grown to 76 chapters with 13,000 member companies and other stakeholders, along with a roster of more than 181,000 credentialed LEED professionals. According to USGBC, currently more than 4.5 billion square feet of construction space have gone through the LEED system.
Just by the numbers, LEED has clearly gone mainstream. Acceptance by leading global companies like Mariott is another mainstream marker. Even the U.S. Department of Defense has adopted LEED standards to help fulfill longstanding energy conservation mandates, despite opposition from the usual suspects (yes, Sen. Inhofe, we mean you).
This poses an interesting problem. If LEED certification is the new normal, how can it make your business stand out from the crowd?
The diversified energy company NRG Energy, Inc. is becoming a familiar name in the solar power market, so it’s not too surprising to see the NRG moniker attached to an unusual community solar power project in California. The new twist is that NRG has teamed up for the project with Boeing, a company better known for aerospace and defense experience.
This is the first joint project between Boeing and NRG, and the two companies are already teaming up on a much larger project. The next one up is a 25.6 megawatt solar power plant for Guam, which will be the island’s first utility-scale solar facility. Considering how quickly the two companies are building on their initial partnership, this could just be the beginning of a string of future projects.
The Bell series of solar lamps was initially designed for the off-grid market, but after you use one of these a few times you’re pretty much hooked, no matter how connected you are. The Norwegian company behind it, BRIGHT Products, sent us a couple of samples to try out last week, and within a few minutes we came up with a laundry list of household uses for the desk lamp/phone charger model that could translate to businesses as well as consumers.
For small or standalone retail businesses, in particular, the Bell series offers an opportunity to add an attention-getting green touch for a relatively modest investment.
Last fall, eight states on the East and West coasts joined to form the Multi-State ZEV (zero emission vehicles) action plan, to kickstart the market for “the cleanest cars in the nation.” While that’s only eight out of 50 states, together they account for a whopping one-fourth of the new car sales in the entire country. However, if you look at a map of the U.S. you will see an interesting gap in the lineup.
The two West Coast partners are the contiguous states of Oregon and California, which makes sense when you take California’s long history of clean car leadership into consideration, combined with the West Coast’s mobilization for EVs (electric vehicles) over the past couple of years.
The gap occurs on the East Coast. Working downwards from Vermont, you have continuity through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, but then you have to leap over non-participants New Jersey and Delaware to get down to the southernmost East Coast partner in the ZEV Action Plan, Maryland. Delaware we kind of get, but wait, what happened to car-happy New Jersey?
When the topic turns to feeding the global population boom, the main theme is how to grow more food within limited resources. However, a recent conversation with the president and CEO of Bell Aquaculture, Norman McCowan, reminded us that food is at the heart of community and ethnic traditions. Feeding the world is more than a matter of producing more calories and nutrients while consuming less resources, it is also a matter of sustaining identity.
With that in mind, when you take a close look at Bell Aquaculture’s operations you can see that sustainable seafood is more than simply a matter of food supply.
One of the advantages of belonging to the clean tech field is that your facilities can double as a showcase for your products. So when it came to renovating its outdated headquarters in Seoul, the diversified global corporation Hanwha took the ball and ran with it. Among other energy-saving elements, the 1980s-era office tower will sport a new facade that features solar panels.
For those of you familiar with Hanwha’s roots in the commercial explosives, chemicals, defense-related manufacturing, retail, leisure and insurance sectors, the solar panel angle might seem to be a bit of a mismatch. However, the company’s most recent ventures have included a foray into the solar market in the form of Hanwha Solar,and the newly redesigned headquarters will cement that identity throughout the entire corporation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just issued proposed new rules for refinery emissions that will affect a total of 149 facilities and millions of residents who live nearby. According to the EPA’s demographic analysis, of the individuals most at risk from refinery emissions, about half are currently classified in minority groups. According to the EPA, that’s about twice the percentage of the general population.
We’re waiting to hear ExxonMobil’s take on the environmental justice angle — after all, none other than CEO and chairman Rex Tillerson recently joined a lawsuit seeking to block a relatively modest fossil fuel-related project in his neighborhood — but in the meantime the American Petroleum Institute had this to say about the proposed new rules:
… EPA has already concluded the risks associated with refinery emissions are low and the public is protected with an ample margin of safety.
General Electric (GE) has partnered with oil giant Saudi Aramco to launch a global search for low cost, high efficiency innovations in the field of water desalination — with the ultimate goal of tapping the seven seas to supplement the world’s increasingly stressed freshwater resources. Along the way, the two corporate behemoths just might end up tipping the global energy balance more steeply, and more quickly, in favor of renewable energy sources.
The global desalination innovation challenge involves a soup-to-nuts approach in which all aspects of desalination are open to improvement, including carbon emissions related to the vast amount of energy required by typical desalination processes.
California has just joined the Obama administration’s new public-private partnership H2 USA, and that should go a long way towards helping fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) secure a place in the electric vehicle market of the future.
H2 USA was created last year in order to kickstart the FCEV market, which right now faces a classic chicken-and-egg problem. FCEVs promise greater range and flexibility than their lithium-ion battery cousins, but very few public FCEV refueling opportunities exist right now (that’s the chicken), and the private sector is reluctant to start building them until more FCEVs are on the road (that’s the egg).
Given California’s history of leveraging its huge auto market in support of new clean technology, it looks like the logjam is about to break.