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.
Another reason for the business community to get serious about food waste: climate change. According to the latest available figures, food waste accounts for up to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply, which worked out to about 133 billion pounds in 2010 alone. That makes food waste the single largest category of waste in this country, much of it going to landfills where it decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
With that in mind, last week the Department of Agriculture teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency to launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. The new initiative will address the food waste issue all along the supply chain and it already has a pair of rather interesting corporate leaders lined up to spearhead the effort, General Mills and Unilever.
A new public relations strategy has been taking shape as the fossil fuel industry attempts to push back against criticism for its role in climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. That strategy can be seen in the 2012 ExxonMobil Corporate Citizenship Report, combined with remarks that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson made during the annual shareholders’ meeting last week.
The new argument is that fossil fuels are the most effective pathway for improving the quality of life for emerging economies around the globe, or, as Tillerson is reported to have said at the meeting, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”
As for why a new strategy is necessary, consider that the conventional argument of jobs vs. the environment has been used with great success to sway public opinion in the U.S. in favor of controversial domestic energy projects for a long time now, but that argument is beginning to lose its edge as the renewable energy sector emerges as a rival job-creating powerhouse with fewer public health drawbacks.
For the fourth year in a row, a group of shareholders has organized to pressure oil and gas companies to disclose and address the risks of a drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The fracking risk disclosure movement has been gathering steam as the impacts of fracking are becoming evident in more communities, contributing to increased public awareness and greater demand for corporate reports that acknowledge and quantify risk factors including water contamination, local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The diverse group consists of the CSR nonprofit As You Sow, leading sustainable investment company Calvert Investments, investment advisory firm Green Century Capital Management, and the advocacy organization Investor Environmental Health Network along with socially responsible investors The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.
The U.S. Army has just issued its latest policy for Operational Energy, and it provides the clearest demonstration yet that the Department of Defense is serious about transitioning the colossal machinery of the American military into a more flexible, efficient and sustainable future.
The new Army energy policy could be instructive for the civilian sector, too, because it treats fuel as more than a matter of supply chain logistics and bottom line concerns. Rather, the policy outlines how 21st century energy technologies can combine with a culture of energy awareness to become intimately entwined with operational efficiency, creating new opportunities that would be difficult if not impossible to achieve with 20th century fuels.
Here’s something that could turn the retail shopping world on its head: a free new smartphone app called Buycott, which lets you scan bar codes and nail the identity of a product’s corporate parent. Say, for example, that you wanted to boycott paper products that trace their lineage to Koch Industries, the app will flag Quilted Northern, Angel Soft, Mardi Gras and Soft ‘n’ Gentle toilet paper as well as Vanity Fair plates and napkins, Brawny towels and Dixie cups.
Buycott also works in the other direction, enabling you to identify products associated with socially responsible companies. You can join campaigns and create your own campaigns through Buycott, too, although from what we’ve seen so far, that might be opening up a case of too much of a good thing.
Goats were big news last week when Chicago’s Department of Aviation announced that O’Hare International Airport is getting its own herd of goats to help manage vegetation, so even though the pilot project hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet it’s already a whopping success. That’s because, although the airport does expect to realize some concrete bottom line benefits from goat-powered landscaping, one goal of the project was to raise public awareness about environmental stewardship.
That might seem to be a curious message for a massive, sprawling, energy-sucking facility like an airport to promote, but take a look at O’Hare’s other activities and you can see how just about any business can seize the initiative and transition its operations to a more sustainable future.
Barely one month after it launched its first advocacy campaign, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new Fwd.us political action committee (PAC) has already shed two key, high profile members over a controversy involving the Keystone XL pipeline. The two now-former members are none other than Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and David Sacks, founder of Yammer.
While that might seem to be an odd pairing, take a closer look at the background of Musk and Sacks and the pieces fall into place. It could also provide grounds for predicting who might be the next member to jump ship (hint: Google, much?).
A brief primer on Fwd.us
Fwd.us is a new 501(c)(4) organization, a tax-exempt category that is typically used by civic leagues, social welfare organizations, and local employee associations to lobby for causes and candidates for office. This organizational structure is also used by corporations to funnel large amounts of money into political campaigns in secret. But all PACs do not have nefarious intentions. The founder of Fwd.us Joe Green, who also founded Causes and NationBuilder.
Zuckerberg announced the new group in April 10 in a Washington Post editorial, declaring that its main purpose would be to advance the cause of bipartisan immigration reform and noting that current policy is depriving the U.S. tech industry of access to global brainpower.
In answer to a tidal wave of consumer demand for hummus, more U.S. farmers are beginning to grow chickpeas, and that trend comes with an interesting twist. As reported by David Kesmode of The Wall Street Journal, currently the Pacific Northwest leads the U.S. in chickpea cultivation, but the East Coast’s tobacco country could be the next hotspot in the hummus supply chain.
If that does happen, much of the credit could go to PepsiCo. The iconic beverage company has been practically pickled in chickpeas for the past couple of years, and its interest in U.S. chickpea production demonstrates how CSR goals can go beyond performing the role of add-on, to play a vital role in a forward-looking business model.
Just yesterday, we noted that auto manufacturers are beginning to shed their century-old love affair with petroleum, and now it seems that the agriculture sector is ready to move on, too.
On Tuesday, a coalition of more than 100 major agriculture associations, advocacy groups, government agencies and research institutions issued an open letter calling for increased federal funding for alternative energy and energy efficiency projects in the 2013 farm bill. The letter was organized by the Agriculture Energy Coalition along with the clean energy group 25 x 25 Alliance, the Midwest advocacy organization, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the National Farmers Union.