3p Contributor: William Donovan

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Recent Articles

What a Waste! PepsiCo Cuts Trash-to-Landfill by 88 Percent

| Monday January 24th, 2011 | 3 Comments

Snack food giant PepsiCo has its share of critics for what they see as its role mankind’s obesity issues, particularly in kids. But as yet Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist and Cracker Jack popcorn haven’t risen to the level of tobacco products. So let’s raise a glass of something natural and toast the news that PepsiCo has cut its landfill waste by 88 percent since 2008.

Recently the Purchase, N.Y-based company published an update on its “Path to Zero” program, an ambitious sustainability effort it launched two years ago and the results are encouraging. PepsiCo has reduced total energy consumption by 7.3 per cent and water use by 14.6 per cent, in addition to the dramatic drop in what it sends to the dump.

For folks who think green, as in the environment, that’s great news. For business executives who think green in terms of business, the improvements were made as revenues grew by more than 15 percent – proving that international corporations can improve their environmental impact and chew gum at the same time. Overall, PepsiCo’s carbon footprint shrunk by 3.7 per cent during the past two years.

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Burt’s Bees’ Multimedia CSR Report

| Thursday December 2nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Like a Ken Burns film on baseball or the Civil War, Burt’s Bees has decided to present its 2010 corporate social responsibility report by allowing people in the company to tell the story, rather than through a solitary voice.

The North Carolina-based maker of natural personal care products is eschewing the printed page in this year’s report for a multimedia presentation on its web site, featuring interviews with a host of company personnel, info graphics, links to additional information and video clips of activities inside and outside the Durham headquarters.

It largely works. The first job of a corporate social responsibility report is to effectively communicate with the reader/viewer. That might seem obvious, but too often so much emphasis is placed on category results and percentage changes you can hear the reader’s eyelids crashing to their cheeks.

An online report that is more than a digital version of a hard-copy report, obviously offers a number of ways to be more engaging than paper. With the Burt’s Bees report, there are numerous clips showing workers in labs, warehouses, offices, as well as off site such as at Raleigh’s Earth Day celebration.

But the biggest advantage video provides for a company is to have its people personally express their commitment to social responsibility and for stakeholders to determine if they’re doing it with a straight face. Promises can be made on paper and explanations can be convincing in black and white. When someone is on camera are they believable?

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New Opportunities and Conflicts for Sustainable Investors

| Tuesday November 9th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Boston investment firm Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management has produced a new paper called “Capital and Climate Change” arguing that climate change is creating new investment opportunities in such areas as water management, sustainable agriculture and energy.

It’s a thought-provoking paper for socially responsible investors, also called sustainable investors, who are looking for new ways to earn a return on their money while maintaining their social principles. The trend towards greater corporate social responsibility is helping their cause. As the Reynders, McVeigh paper points out, major banks such as Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley have signed on to climate change industry standards, related to carbon risks in financing electric power projects. No doubt they have bottom line concerns, such as the financial liability connected to mountain top blasting. But their changing posture also means greater environmental awareness by companies who borrow money from them and that’s of interest to social investors.

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Starbucks: Trying To Be The No Impact Company

| Tuesday November 2nd, 2010 | 5 Comments

In the book No Impact Man, author Colin Beavan tries to live a year in New York City without having an impact on the environment. In the first stage of his project he saves all of his trash for a week and realizes that not only is much of it packaging for take-out meals, but the amount of time he actually uses that packaging is mere minutes before it gets tossed. Meanwhile landfills everywhere are filling up with that cardboard and paper.

Starbucks is wrestling with the same problem. Specifically, the coffee giant can’t figure out what to do about its disposable paper cups. As cool as it might seem to sit in a Starbucks café and sip a latte from a porcelain mug, in fact 80 percent of drinks customers buy go out the door in molded paper. About 3 billion of the nation’s 200 billion-plus paper cups thrown into dumps each year are Starbucks’ cups.

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Pension Funds Buy In To Sustainable Investing

| Tuesday October 19th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Any time a new evangelist for sustainable investing emerges it is good news for investors, the environment and proponents of corporate social responsibility. It means that investors are receiving more guidance about socially responsible investing.  It means that more investment dollars are directed towards companies and mutual funds that support a green economy. And it makes stakeholders such as investors, consumers, employees and activists more aware of what companies are doing to lessen their environmental footprint.

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom is heralding the news that Roger Urwin, the head of global investment content at the investment consulting firm Towers Watson, has become a believer in sustainable investing, the practice of incorporating environmental and social concerns into investment decisions. In particular, Urwin has been writing and speaking publicly of late about why Towers Watson’s pension fund clients should adopt the sustainable investing approach.

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Wind Data Collection Becomes More Affordable for Smaller Developers

| Friday October 8th, 2010 | 0 Comments

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You’ve heard of solar leasing programs for energy-conscious, yet budget-constrained, consumers. Now comes a leasing program to give wind-power developers the financing flexibility they need to acquire wind-energy technology regardless of the size of their project.

Second Wind, a maker of wind measurement systems for the wind power industry, has introduced a leasing program for its Triton Sonic Wind Profiler remote sensing system. It is the first manufacturer-supported third-party leasing program for remote sensing.

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Second Life: Used Electric Car Batteries Might Go to the Grid

| Monday October 4th, 2010 | 1 Comment

In math, multiplying two negatives equals a positive. Sometimes the same can be said for sustainability. For all of the benefits electric cars provide to the environment, disposing of their lithium-ion batteries is one of the drawbacks. Separately, it’s also no secret that the nation’s power grids are inefficient and in need of emergency power sources at times of maximum demand.

Now General Motors, maker of the Chevrolet Volt and Zurich-based ABB Group, an international provider of electrical power grid systems, are collaborating to find “creative and cost-effective methods to improve the efficiency of the country’s electrical grid” by using those LI batteries.

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Is “Global Climate Disruption” More Pressing than “Global Warming?”

| Monday September 27th, 2010 | 8 Comments

Does the term “global climate disruption” sound like a call to action? Does it carry any more urgency than the benign “global warming?” To many conservative-leaning media outlets “global climate disruption” represents a new approach by the White House to spin the climate crisis after the climate-energy bill stalled in the Senate earlier this year.

Earlier this month John P. Holdren, a top White House science adviser, gave a speech in Oslo in which he said the term global warming was a “dangerous misnomer” because it suggested that effects of greenhouse gases would be uniform around the world and “quite possibly benign.” Instead he said a better term would be “global climate disruption.”

Fox News, the Drudge Report and other conservative bloggers, jumped on the speech as a sign that the White House, which backed the energy legislation, was changing its tactics.

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Pepsi, Coke Report on Water Conservation

| Tuesday September 21st, 2010 | 3 Comments

Once again Pepsi and Coke are going head-to-head only this time the outcome will be something more valuable than a better tasting soda – more efficient use of the billions of gallons of water critical to their products. The two soft-drink corporations published water stewardship reports this month detailing measures they’ve taken to conserve water, results they’ve achieved and goals they’ve set for the future.

Not only is water the essential ingredient of their soft drinks, it’s also used in abundance in their manufacturing processes such as rinsing, cleaning, heating and cooling. Coke, for example, says that in 2008 it used 2.43 liters of water to produce one liter of beverage. In other words, the other 1.43 liters are outside of a bottle of Coke Zero and not in it.

Yet based on their reports, both corporations not only recognize their massive water usage, they’re aware of the shortage of clean water in many parts of the world.

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Solo Carpoolers: Do HOV Lanes Discriminate?

| Friday September 10th, 2010 | 0 Comments

As much as it might sound like an oxymoron, “solo carpoolers” are allowed to use the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on California freeways if they drive hybrid and electric cars. But now a new law that would extend that privilege to up to 40,000 more individual motorists has prompted a debate over the value and even the fairness of the well-intentioned and seemingly innocuous “carpool” lanes.

The new law would grant permits to solitary drivers beginning in 2012, to use the diamond lane if they are riding in new models of environmentally-friendly cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt, which is due out later this year.

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Will Money Talk? Banks Shy from “Dirty” Projects

| Thursday September 2nd, 2010 | 1 Comment

One of the biggest breakthroughs in the area of corporate social responsibility came when major corporations looked at their social and environmental impact beyond their own doorstep and thought about their supply chains. Major brands with global networks such as Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Walmart made positive changes in where their goods were made or their resources harvested or how their finished products were packaged and delivered.

A New York Times article recently focused on changes occurring in another part of the supply chain for companies that practice mountaintop removal mining – their supply of money. Many major banks that have funded projects for companies in “the dirtiest industries,” as the Times’ describes them, are reconsidering their investments and having something to say about how those companies go about their business.

The article references a study published in May by the Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club that concluded that nine banks were the primary lenders for companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia and that since 2008 they had provided nearly $4 billion in loans and bond underwriting to the primary mining companies such as Massey Energy, Patriot Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

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Do Energy Consumers Understand How and Why to Save?

| Tuesday August 31st, 2010 | 0 Comments

If you looked at your house on a cloudy day and noticed the shingles on the roof were worn, you might make a mental note to replace them at some point. But if you looked up and saw a big gaping hole, you’d move much faster to cover it up before those ominous black clouds flooded your living room. That’s just human nature. The greater the threat, the more quickly we respond.

A new survey of Americans on the most effective ways to save energy indicates that the climate crisis is not seen as a problem severe enough to warrant aggressive action. The survey also raises the question of how well people who understand the problem are communicating its seriousness.

The survey of people in 34 states, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that Americans overestimate the amount of energy they can save with small changes that actually do little and underestimate the benefits of switching to efficient, currently available technologies that could have a larger impact.

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