The electric vehicle (EV) world has been abuzz with the news that GM plans to drop the price of its 2014 Chevy Volt by $5,000, which will bring the starting price below $28,000 once tax rebates are factored in. That sounds practically irresistible if you’re in a household with a solid income and you’re looking to get your hands on a pioneering piece of all-American automotive technology that wins rave reviews from auto experts and ordinary owners alike. However, if you’re one of the growing legion of underemployed, underpaid, temporary and/or part time workers, buying a new car of any kind is becoming a pipe dream.
That’s a formidable obstacle to overcome, but the key characteristic of the Chevy Volt — its gasoline tank backup — puts GM in a good position to grow the business market for clean fleet vehicles, and that could eventually have a ripple effect on individual consumers.
When a railway accident touched off an oil-fueled disaster in a small Canadian town earlier this month, advocates for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline were quick to tout the safety of pipeline transport for petroleum compared to rail. That comparison is problematic, to say the least. One of the problems is the potential for long-term environmental degradation that could be attributed to the pipeline infrastructure and facilities related to spill cleanup, over and above the direct impact of episodic oil spills and breaks.
Those concerns were brought into sharp focus last week by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East (SLFPA-E), when the agency filed a lawsuit against approximately 100 oil, gas and pipeline companies in the state’s district court in Orleans Parish. The lawsuit alleges that the network of canals and pipelines built by oil, gas, and pipeline companies through Louisiana’s coastal lands resulted in significant damage to the protective buffer zone, leaving residents vulnerable to storm-related flooding.
George Clooney has become a familiar face in the world of coffee thanks to his association with the upscale coffee company Nespresso, and now it appears that the actor is poised to help Nespresso address a daunting set of sustainability issues. The problem is that Nespresso has been trying to establish itself as a green brand, but its whole business platform rests on the latest symbol of wasteful packaging: the disposable single-serving coffee pod.
Nespresso is, of course, encouraging its customers to recycle the pods, and while that would appear to be a logical message for Clooney to help pitch, the company has set its sights on a more comprehensive message. Clooney, who has a history of environmental activism under his belt, is no longer mere window dressing for Nespresso’s ad campaigns, he is now a member of the company’s newly formed Sustainability Advisory Board, which will help steer the company’s “AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program.”
After months of delay, former EPA air pollution chief Gina McCarthy was finally confirmed to lead the entire agency by the U.S. Senate last week, and it seems clear that her administration will focus like a laser beam on reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s aging fleet of coal-fired power plants. That mission was also reinforced last week by Secretary of State John Kerry, who guest-blogged for our friends over at Think Progress about the development of a partnership with China designed to help reduce dependence on coal.
Aside from being an important global warming management strategy, the transition out of coal should help take the pressure off U.S. communities that are dealing with the impacts of coal harvesting and transportation, particularly for the export market. Unfortunately, when you put Kerry together with McCarthy, the picture looks far less clear when it comes to natural gas and oil.
Recently, some of the top business journalists in the U.S. went on record asserting that climate change denial is a form of political posturing that is not worthy of discussion in serious reporting on economic issues. If that doesn’t lay the whole climate change denial thing to rest, then hopefully this will: The Weather Company has just endorsed the BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) Climate Declaration, which acknowledges the scientific consensus on climate change.
As the owner of The Weather Channel and related weather media platforms, The Weather Company already reaches a broad audience with reality-based information, so it’s in a good position to help bridge the political divide…or is it?
Dozens of people are still missing in the aftermath of last weekend’s oil tank rail car disaster in Canada, but advocates of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline have already jumped on the tragic loss of life to advance their case for pipeline vs railway transportation.
In terms of corporate social responsibility and crisis response, we’re thinking that kind of utilitarian reaction to a horrible tragedy will do more harm than good to the oil industry overall, though.
There are two kinds of pitfalls here. First, in drawing more attention to fuel transportation statistics, Keystone advocates are also drawing more attention to the the fact that the global fossil fuel market is intensifying. That is putting increasing pressure on transportation routes, which necessarily results in at least some degree of increased risk to communities along those routes.
Second, Keystone advocates are in danger of raising more doubts about pipeline safety than they alleviate. Regardless of what picture the pipeline vs. railway statistics paint, pipelines are still part of an ongoing “crumbling infrastructure” conversation that will only intensify as the nation’s network of pipelines gets older.
With that in mind, let’s see exactly what points the Keystone advocates are trying to make…
Some of the nation’s most widely read and experienced business journalists have gone on record affirming that climate change is settled science, and that climate change is already having a significant impact on the businesses they cover. As far as these journalists are concerned, “teaching the controversy” over climate science has no place in serious business reporting today, because of the simple fact that there is no meaningful controversy to teach about.
The consensus emerged in a Media Matters article last week, and it indicates that as a group, established journalists have positioned themselves above the climate change denial fray. However, the fray still exists, and it still exerts a powerful influence on public policy. If established business journalists really want to get serious about covering climate change issues in the business sector, they need to take it to the next level. That means moving beyond reporting about the effects of climate change on businesses, and beginning to shed some light on the businesses interests that have been aggressively thwarting climate action.
When it comes to corporate social responsibility, it’s hard to beat the wide variety of community programs and national initiatives that have been undertaken by professional sports in the U.S. It’s a tradition that goes back through many decades, and one that has included many different stakeholders, including the federal government. For that reason, it was quite surprising to learn that two leading Senators felt compelled to send a stern letter to the nation’s six top professional sports leagues last week, warning them not to lend their CSR experience to help publicize an important national health care initiative that has already affected millions of Americans.
That would be the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, more familiarly known as Obamacare.
The letter was sent by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) to the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Professional Golf Association (why not the U.S. Golf Association we wonder?) and NASCAR.
It warns that the new law is the “most divisive and polarizing political issue of our day.” It further warns that “given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of the health care [law], it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion.”
Readers, if any of you can recall an instance in which members of Congress have warned a professional sports league, or any other major U.S. corporation for that matter, that their CSR profile could be headed in a brand-damaging direction, please drop us a note in the comment thread. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of those other divisive and polarizing political issues out there, and see how our professional sports leaders have handled them.
Barely six months ago, Triple Pundit identified food waste as one of the most pressing problems facing the world today, and it is a big one. Here in the U.S., for example, the Department of Agriculture estimates that fully one-third of the food meant for human consumption never makes it to the table, with the main sources of waste being restaurants and other food service businesses as well as individual households.
Some of the solutions under discussion, such as improved food storage technology and more efficient ordering strategies, will tackle the incoming part of the problem. However, that still leaves a huge pile of outgoing waste from households and retail establishments in the form of peelings, rinds, stems, seeds (think avocado), spent tea leaves, coffee grounds and other unused or unusable scraps, most of which is landfilled or incinerated with a consequent impact on the environment and the bottom line.
The good news is that just within the last couple of weeks, three major developments have occurred that show how quickly the food waste situation could turn from a liability to an asset, by providing forward-thinking businesses with new opportunities to build a green brand and establish themselves as community leaders.
Swedish retailer IKEA has already established itself as a solar power leader in the U.S., and now it seems intent on leading the charge into the electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure of the future. The company has just announced plans to install 24 Blink EV charging stations at eight U.S. locations, which will almost double its tally of nine locations two years ago. When the project is completed by the end of this summer, IKEA will have a total of 55 charging stations at 17 locations, including 16 retail stores and its U.S. corporate headquarters in Conshohocken, PA.
The numbers tell only part of the story, though. IKEA’s EV charging station project belongs to a national public-private initiative supported by the Energy Department. Called The EV Project, it has enlisted corporate sustainability leaders like IKEA to accelerate the development of a widespread, convenient and easily accessible EV charging infrastructure throughout the U.S.
The nonprofit organization WindMade has just launched its new WindMade Product Label for consumers, and it provides a clear illustration of how forward-thinking companies are partnering with the alternative energy sector to give themselves an edge in the competitive global market. WindMade was founded under the leadership of the major wind turbine manufacturer Vestas and a select group of partners in order to help companies and consumers support wind power through their economic choices, with the Danish toy company LEGO standing out as the only manufacturing company in the group.
The new label is designed to help consumers easily identify products of all types that are made with wind energy, and to provide greater transparency about corporate investment in wind and other forms of alternative energy. LEGO has certainly given itself a running start on the competition. Last year LEGO’s parent company KIRKBI A/S announced plans to invest in a 77-turbine wind farm off the coast of Germany, which is due for completion in 2015.
President Obama will present a major address on climate change at Georgetown University at 1:35 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday, June 25, and in a major show of support, last week U.S. food giant Mars, Inc. joined with 360 small businesses to sign onto the BICEP climate declaration organized by the sustainable business group, Ceres.
We don’t anticipate any big surprises in the speech, given the flurry of climate-related initiatives under the Obama Administration that TriplePundit has chronicled since he took office in 2008. However, with major issues like natural gas fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline looming, it’s worth noting that major players in the U.S. business community — outside of the fossil fuel industry, that is — have come to recognize that aggressive support for federal climate action is critical to their long-term survival.
PlanetSolar, the multiple record-setting electric catamaran powered exclusively by the sun, created a media sensation when it became the first 100 percent solar powered vessel to circumnavigate the globe in 2010. That certainly helped to raise the profile of its main investors, entrepreneur Immo Ströher of the German energy management firm Immo Solar, along with the Swiss watchmaker Candino Watch. However, this ship is no mere corporate vanity project.
Thanks to a key decision made early in the planning stages, PlanetSolar has been able to transition from a flashy showcase for solar power to play a unique role in climate research with high stakes partners in academia and government. Along the way, it provides a clear demonstration that entrepreneurs with similar projects in mind could do well by adopting a broad view of the value of renewable energy.
Visionary business leaders Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz have joined together to launch a new global not-for-profit organization called The B Team. The idea is to put some real hard-core corporate muscle behind the “people, planet, profit” mission that nonprofits have been striving to push forward, while unifying like-minded companies around a common global agenda.
As for that agenda, The B Team mission pivots around a ten-point plan they’re calling Plan B. The choice of name is an interesting coincidence here in the U.S. given the media attention surrounding the over-the-counter emergency contraceptive Plan B, which has been the subject of a fierce court battle as the Obama Administration sought to limit younger teens from obtaining it without a prescription. The coincidence is more than just superficial, though, as the two Plan B’s share a strong message of personal empowerment and the right to direct and improve one’s life.
Renewable energy is becoming part of the economic development toolkit that local governments use to attract new businesses and keep old ones, and a new survey from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrates how voluntary green power programs can contribute to that effort. The survey rates the top ten utilities for green power programs, making the point that these programs enable utilities to provide more renewable energy than called for by state-mandated portfolios.
As a publicity measure, the NREL survey provides green-identified businesses located in these service areas with an extra boost of sustainability cred. It also suggests that businesses striving for a green identity can help themselves along by encouraging their local customers and vendors to participate in their utility company’s green power program.