Sustainability Accounting Standards Matter Now: Reflections from ISSP ’14

3p Conferences
| Monday November 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment

SASB logoBy Devon Bertram

Last week’s International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) annual conference, held in Denver, Colorado, was an opportunity for more than 200 sustainability professionals to come together. They not only shared their stories and insights from their experiences, but also learned from leaders in their fields about trends in the industry, updates on existing tools and frameworks, new resources, lessons learned, and thoughts of the future.

As a first-time ISSP conference attendee, I was struck both by the intimate nature of the conference and the opportunity to connect with the range of attendees, as well as the valuable content of the sessions and varied format that enabled an engaging and dynamic experience. While there was a wide offering of session topics, a few themes took hold:

  • We are in a time of both urgency and opportunity: While we can still be hopeful (and, in my opinion, must be to move forward with grace and support), action needs to happen now in both small incremental steps and even more so, broad and grand changes.
  • Sustainability reporting is being embraced by more and more companies and organizations as a means of sharing metrics and their story: Each are finding ways to make it relevant and valuable to their work, and their customers.
  • Collaboration and partnerships are essential to navigate the challenges that businesses and industries are and will be facing: Expertise gathered from various sectors can support a systems thinking approach and present more informed and appropriate solutions.

Supporting these themes comes the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). While SASB did not hold a focused panel or workshop, its integration and mention throughout a handful of sessions demonstrates its budding presence and relevance in the sustainability field, both today and in the future.

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Fetzer Vineyards Diverts Almost All Its Waste

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday November 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

FetzerVineyards factor prominently in my life, having grown up surrounded by them. When I read that Fetzer Vineyards, located in California’s Mendocino County, diverted 97.7 percent of its waste, I felt like shouting. An image of farm workers burning waste came to mind. It is a common practice for vineyard waste to be burned, a practice which is obviously bad for local air quality.

There is more good news concerning Fetzer Vineyards. The wine maker announced this week that it received platinum level Zero Waste certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC). Platinum certification is the highest level USZWBC offers. The goal of zero waste is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment and achieve a minimum of 90 percent diversion.

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Talking Turkey and Family Values

| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments

8069135368_cc593c4a19_zWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

In my quest for a more sustainable Thanksgiving meal this year, I decided take a values-based investing approach. Why not apply the same ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles that I write about in sustainability reports to this marquis meal?

Conscious-driven consumption

Since I believe that my purchases can change society in a way that politicians and legislation cannot, I’ve been steadily shifting more family food dollars toward locally sourced, organic foods. (Given the price of organic food, our grocery bills now often rival investment payments.) As the most extravagant meal of the year, Thanksgiving dinner presented the perfect opportunity to apply this sourcing approach.

So, I began by screening the traditional Thanksgiving menu, focusing on the most material issues, which I identified as the environmental footprint of the largest single component — the turkey. Then I looked for a more responsible alternative.

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Global Internship Program Combats Youth Unemployment

Eric Justian
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment
Ramzan Nasar, Phoebe Williams and Simon Howell from NGO partner The Pump, touring Alcoa, through the Alcoa Foundation Global Youth Internship Program

Ramzan Nasar, Phoebe Williams and Simon Howell from NGO partner The Pump, touring Alcoa, through the Alcoa Foundation Global Youth Internship Program

The Alcoa Foundation, in partnership with the Institute of International Education, is contributing $1.25 million to a paid youth-internship program in order to combat youth unemployment around the world. This particular international challenge is serious and daunting, and the Alcoa Foundation is taking a unique step to address it.

But first let’s go back a bit to explore the problem on a smaller scale. In 2011, even with the state of Michigan still reeling from years of double-digit unemployment, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. cited 77,000 jobs that Michigan employers struggled to fill — despite the desperately high unemployment in the state. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder even went so far as to suggest importing talent from other nations to fill these positions. The issue persists.

The problem, it seems, is a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the skills employers need.

It’s not just a challenge in Michigan. It’s happening worldwide. More worrying is that it manifests acutely among the world’s youth, the next wave of the workforce. The International Labor Organization estimates that 73 million young people are unemployed globally, despite unfilled positions and a demand for skilled workers.

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Video: Kathy Hopinkah Hannan of KPMG Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Kathy Hannan Bio_Short 250 “I don’t think you can have a discussion about sustainability without talking about talent,” Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, national managing partner of diversity and corporate responsibility for KPMG, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference. “And given the shifting demographics we have to be looking at diversity in talent.”

“When we bring together diverse perspectives, we will get the best innovation and best solutions for our customers.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Hannan goes on to describe why the business community should care about diversity and the reasons it’s important to KPMG in this two-minute clip.

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America is Aging: What More Do We Need to Know?

3p Conferences
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 5 Comments
Genworth invited Social Innovation Summit participants to try on their R70 Age Simulation Suit and to start thinking long term about aging.

Genworth invited Social Innovation Summit participants to try on their R70 Age Simulation Suit and to start thinking long-term about aging.

By Maura Dilley

“Aging is the adults version of the birds and the bees, we need to talk about it.” — Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe, a seemly ageless Hollywood actor, was a keynote speaker at this year’s Social Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley. He was speaking (and sparkling) as a brand ambassador for Genworth, a leading provider of long-term care insurance, attempting to bring the subject of an aging America out of taboo and into the limelight. Rob wants you, me and Ann Perkins to get our house in order for retirement while we’re young and healthy. Good message, but what more needs to be said about aging, social innovation and the business of our near, gray future?

I caught up with Janice Luvera, global brand leader for Genworth, and Dr. Edward Schneider, dean emeritus and [rofessor at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, to dig deeper.

Aging by the numbers

  • 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2030 – nearly seven every minute.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services projects that the U.S. population older than 85 will more than double by 2040.
  • Americans older than 40 are more likely to plan for their death than plan for their long-term care needs. While two-thirds have discussed funeral arrangements with loved ones, fewer than half have talked about their preferences for the care they might need as they age.
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How Firestone Buoyed the Rise of Convicted War Criminal Charles Taylor

Michael Kourabas
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment

14425740567_dacf8fff52_zOn Nov. 18, PBS aired “Firestone and the Warlord,” the result of a joint Frontline-ProPublica investigation into the relationship between the Firestone tire company and Liberia’s former president and convicted war criminal, Charles Taylor.  ProPublica also published a lengthy companion piece under the same title, drawing upon hundreds of interviews and scores of never-before-seen documents.  The result is an exhaustively researched and fresh look at the vital role played by a major international corporation in supporting one of Africa’s most brutal dictators.

Firestone’s history in Liberia

Firestone first came to Liberia in the 1920s, seeking to exploit the country’s vast rubber resources.  In 1926, it opened the rubber plantation that, 66 years later, would serve as Charles Taylor’s base for directing his brutal assault on Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.

Firestone’s Liberian rubber plantation was considered to be the world’s largest and was a key asset for a company that, after being swallowed up by Bridgestone in 1988, began to experience cash-flow problems.  So, despite generating just $16 million in revenue in 1989 (the year before the start of Liberia’s civil war), the plantation’s 15 percent profit margin represented a much-needed “bright spot on a corporate ledger drowning in red ink.”  The plantation provided roughly 40 percent of the latex in America at the time.

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Video: Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

nina “… Where creativity and innovation really happens is by bringing together different people, different backgrounds and different approaches on how they think to come up with great ideas,” Jose Corona, CEO Inner-City Advisors, said at the 2014 Net Impact Conference.

Based in Oakland, California, Corona’s organization serves inner-city communities throughout the Bay Area. By and large, these are very diverse communities as far as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language and background, he said. But local companies have been “called out,” as he put it, for lack of diversity — particularly in Silicon Valley.

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Corona goes on to describe why diversity matters to Inner City Advisors, as well as why it should matter for the greater Bay Area, in this two-minute clip.

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Does a Company’s LGBT Policies Apply to Its Workers Abroad?

Alexis Petru
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

LGBT rainbow flagMost leading U.S. corporations now have LGBT nondiscrimination policies in place for their American gay and lesbian employees, according to Shelley Alpern, director of social research and shareholder advocacy at socially responsible investment firm, Clean Yield Asset Management. But it’s unclear if these policies extend to the companies’ employees in countries outside the U.S. – an issue that becomes particularly important in parts of the world that are culturally and legally hostile to LGBT individuals.

To open up a dialogue on this subject, Clean Yield and a group of other socially-minded investment firms sent letters last week to some of the country’s largest publicly-traded corporations, like Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Target, encouraging the businesses to make sure their LGBT employee protection policies apply abroad.

The investor group, which collectively owns or manages $210 billion in assets, wrote to approximately 70 companies in the S&P 100 that were identified by the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index as having strong nondiscrimination and equal benefits policies for their U.S. employees.

There is currently no federal law that shields gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from employment discrimination, including not being hired, fired or otherwise singled out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 29 states lack regulations explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 32 states have no such legislation regarding gender identity.

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Watch Fishing Vessels and Stamp Out Illegal Fishing

| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

gfw_logo_with_text_72pxSkyTruth, Oceana and Google unveiled an easy-to-use online platform that will give citizens in countries the world over the ability “to visualize, track and share information about fishing activity worldwide.” Dubbed Global Fishing Watch, the three development partners introduced the online platform Nov. 14 at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

Making use of satellite data and big-data analytics, Global Fishing Watch will give stakeholders and the public at-large unprecedented views of the location and activities of fishing vessels globally. This comes at a time when public interest in and support for sustainable seafood and fishing practices is strong and rising.

“So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean,” SkyTruth founder and president, John Amos, was quoted in a press release. “But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before.”

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A Black Friday 2014 Call to Action: Durability Over Discounts?

Leon Kaye | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Black Friday, sustainable fashion 2014, Osmium, fair trade, Walmart, Amazon, Etsy, Fair Tuesday, Mata Traders, Leon Kaye

Black Friday: Think beyond the big box.

Do a search for “Black Friday 2014” in your favorite search engine, and chances are you will come up with similar results to what I found. First, of course, a site called, which serves as a clearing house on advertisements and hours. Not surprisingly, WalMart and Amazon, the largest brick-and-mortar and online retailers in the U.S., rank highly in the search results. Depending on your stance on Black Friday, the thought of this day either brings angst over massive conspicuous consumption or excitement over cheap laptops, toys and clothing.

Not surprisingly, Black Friday is starting earlier every year. WalMart has already announced that it has started to spread Black Friday cheer with discounts on thousands of items as of Nov. 1. Perhaps the Black Friday label is already outdated. Kmart, for example, has announced it will open its stores on Thanksgiving morning at 6:00 a.m., which I suppose makes sense if you want to shop and then cook and nosh on your turkey dinner afterwards.

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Our Moonshot: NRG’s Path To a Clean Energy Future

3p Contributor | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 3 Comments
NRG Energy is greening their business from the inside out with bold CO2 reduction goals

NRG Energy announces bold CO2 reduction goals to set a path for a clean energy future.

By Leah Seligmann

Today, NRG announced a goal to reduce our carbon footprint 50 percent by 2030*, on a path to a 90 percent absolute reduction by 2050 while continuing to significantly grow our business.

This goal might not seem revolutionary at first glance — just one more metric in a sea of corporate sustainability targets. But this is an important inflection point in the fight against climate change — not just for NRG, but for the entire energy industry and beyond.

Today marks the first time that a major electricity generator (we’re the second largest in the U.S.) and by extension one of the largest emitters of CO2, has voluntarily put dates around the transition to a low-carbon economy. To put this in perspective, our goals will avoid approximately 3 billion tons of CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to avoiding the deforestation of 18,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest (roughly the land mass of Vermont and New Hampshire combined).

These are big numbers, but in reality they are a small part of the larger picture. Climate change is a global issue, and its solution will require global action. NRG’s projected 2014 emissions of 125 million metric tons of CO2** represent less than 1 percent of the global total. NRG cannot solve climate change alone, but as a company with investments across the industry, we can begin to chart a path to the clean energy future.

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State Mandates for Clean Energy Improving But Not Fast Enough

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Alaska_clean_energy_AndreaPIn June of this year, the Obama administration announced new carbon standards for power plants. With the comment period for the proposed rules expected to close on December 1*, we thought we would take a look at how states are doing.

The innovative aspect of this plan is that it is tailored to the carbon emissions of each state through a progressive transition to renewable energy. So Illinois, for example, has a recommended goal of a 9 percent transition to renewable energy sources by 2030 (established by the Environmental Protection Agency). The state, however, has set its own goal of 25 percent renewables by 2026. Pennsylvania has set its goals above those of the EPA at 18 percent and 16 percent respectively, but the state is still struggling to cut its dependence on coal (39 percent of its power generation). California is aiming for a 33 percent benchmark by 2020; the EPA, however, set the bar at 21 percent by 2030.

Needless to say, not all states are making inroads as aggressively as California, which has its own clean energy initiatives already in the works. It trumps most states in its accomplishments right now, not only because of its proactive stance on renewable energy, but also because it has the resources at hand. Although a whopping 60 percent of its energy comes from gas, at least 14 percent comes from hydroelectric power and 4.9 percent from wind. Its solar is still fairly small (only 0.70 percent) but is liable to grow in coming years.

Then, there are those states that to date have not set goals.

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On Climate Change, Who’s Hoaxing Who?

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 40 Comments

inhofebookcoverWith Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) at the controls of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the next two years, climate change will enter into an even more annoying, frightening and bizarrely hilarious era.

For the uninitiated, here are some quotations from the most aggressive climate change denier in the Senate:

  • “Climate change isn’t real because the Bible says it ain’t.”
  • “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
  • He claimed that global warming might help humanity. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
  • On the International Panel on Climate Change‘s Synthesis Report released last week, he said:
    “The idea that our advanced industrialized economy would ever have zero carbon emissions is beyond extreme and further proof that the IPCC is nothing more than a front for the environmental left. It comes as no surprise that the IPCC is again advocating for the implementation of extreme climate change regulations that will cripple the global economy and send energy prices skyrocketing. The United States is in the midst of an energy renaissance that has the potential to bring about American energy independence, which would strengthen our national security and energy reliability for generations into the future. At a time of economic instability and increased threats to American interests, the IPCC’s report is little more than high hopes from the environmental left.”
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Video: Muneer Panjwani of Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

“When you have differing opinions, it just makes everybody’s work better,” Muneer Panjwani of said at the 2014 Net Impact conference this month. “One thing that happens in a homogenous environment is you sort of start to agree with everything that’s going on, because you all come from the same experience.”

“By having other perspectives in the business, it allows you to broaden your perspective and the product and service you’re providing as a company.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Panjwani goes on to explain how diversity impacts, an organization that aims to reach young people of all backgrounds, and how it can drive innovation in any company.

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