A Comprehensive Standard For the Aluminum Industry

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

root beer canThere are many uses for aluminum: It is used in consumers goods, for transportation and even for door knobs. Given the popularity of aluminum, it makes sense to have a comprehensive standard. That is exactly what the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) created. The goal of the ASI Performance Standard is to improve the industry’s performance through its value chain, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It took a year to develop the standards, which will be implemented through a third-party certification system. It focuses on 11 key issues: business integrity, policy and management, transparency, material stewardship, greenhouse gas emissions, emissions, effluents and waste, water, biodiversity, human rights, labor rights, and occupational health and safety. Certain end-users of aluminum, such as  Audi, BMW Group, Jaguar Land Rover and Nestlé Nespresso SA, said they would purchase certified aluminum.

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5 Innovators That Transformed the Climate Change Battle in 2014

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday December 24th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Mid-water coral nursery-Eilat2_smallThis was the year for transformative thinking when it came to climate change.

Sure, there has been plenty of hot-button debate over whether global warming truly exists (the comments sections for some of our articles speak loudly enough) and how to address a dilemma that is largely still in the making. But there have also been some remarkably forward-thinking innovators who haven’t shied away from the challenge. From multi-national companies that have inspired global changes in sustainable palm oil sourcing, to a newly-minted nonprofits that created a new way to stop poaching in some of the world’s densest and most remote rain forests, this year’s accomplishments have been worth more than a footnote.

The following are just a handful of the many advancements that were undertaken by companies and nonprofits that saw the opportunity — and need — for change.

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Could 3-D Printing Bring the World Closer to the Circular Economy?

Bard College MBA | Wednesday December 24th, 2014 | 4 Comments

3d-printingBy Simon Fischweicher

The movie “Wall-E” portrays a dystopian future in which humanity has abandoned an Earth covered in skyscrapers of waste.

Sci-Fi cartoon? Yes. A plausible vision of the future? Maybe.

Society’s waste puts our planet’s ecosystems and natural cycles at risk. Plastic waste is especially bad as it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Less than 10 percent is recycled. Creating new, raw plastic is fossil fuel intensive and environmentally taxing. Is the only answer to abandon the planet to Wall-E?

Maybe not. 3-D printing could offer a dual solution, allowing transformation of plastic waste into new plastic products.

3-D printing can revolutionize where products are produced and how they look. It could lead to more local production and greater efficiency of design. Designers can scan a person’s jaw or use computer software to design a chair using the biological structure of a leaf. They hit go and their item is “printed” into existence. 3-D printers generate less waste since they use additive manufacturing rather than injection-molding — or milling, where products are cut away from larger pieces.

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Leon Kaye: What I Learned 1,000 Articles Later on TriplePundit

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 24th, 2014 | 3 Comments
Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit, clean energy, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, transparency, architecture, sustainability

Leon Kaye with Ed Begley, Jr. at a sustainability event, early 2012.

A lot has happened in the world of sustainability since I wrote my first article here almost five years ago about a bicycle courier service in Paris (which no longer exists). It is hard to believe this is my 1000th article on TriplePundit, which says a lot about my own OCD, loyalty to this fine group who have built one of the best sustainable business news sites on the planet — or a little bit of both. I have to say the best perk from being a writer is what I’ve learned from all the business leaders, activists and government officials I have met in person and spoken with over the phone since I started here in early 2010.

I have written a lot about corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, clean energy, and architecture and design here — so while I would like to think I have gained a vast body of knowledge miles long, it’s really only a half an inch or so thick. A lot has changed in this space in five years — much of it encouraging, some of it exasperating. So, what has stuck in my brain 1,000 posts later? Here is a sampling:

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New Study Shows Record-Setting Wealth Gap

Eric Justian
| Wednesday December 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment

casholaThe Holidays! Food! Fun! Festivities! Gifts! Oh man … oh so many gifts for the little ones and the family, cookies for neighbors, charity just a bit, traditional foods. Oof. For many Americans, mixed in with the fun is maybe just a twinge of another reminder of how broke we are despite a rising economy. A Pew Research Center survey of consumer finances shows a story of stagnating wealth for most Americans, while only high-income Americans are seeing gains.

With the Great Recession of 2007-2009 falling in the rear view mirror, American families have yet to recover the wealth they had just 10 years ago. Everybody across the board lost wealth from that crap storm. During the recession, lower-income families lost 41 percent of their wealth, middle-income families lost about 39 percent of their wealth, and upper-income families lost 17 percent of their wealth.

Since then almost nobody regained their lost wealth. In fact, post recession, most American families are in about the same place they were over 20 years ago wealth-wise, the study found. The lowest income families have actually lost ground from the early 1990s.

The one exception to this, of course, are the higher-income families who have begun to recover their lost wealth. Unlike everybody else, they’ve seen their wealth double from $318,100 in 1983 to $639,400 in 2013.

With higher-income families gaining wealth, and everybody else staying static since the recession, we’ve hit a record high in wealth disparity between the upper-income families and all other families in the United States. 2013, the latest year on record since the Federal Reserve started tracking consumer finance data, shows that the wealth of upper-income families ($639,400) is nearly seven times the wealth of middle-income families ($96,500). It’s the highest gap recorded.

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Dutch Bankers Now Asked to Take an Oath of Ethics

RP Siegel | Wednesday December 24th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Bank safeSo, now after some 10,000 years or so of human civilization, what have we actually learned? One thing that seems clear is that greed has been an effective motivating force to get people to use their imaginations to improve their lot in life, often by improving the lots of others with useful products and services. This led to what we call progress — all the wonderful conveniences that make the many aspects of our lives easier and safer, while providing the means to accomplish far more than any individual could have dreamed of in years past.

At the same time, it has produced a society with a high degree of social and economic inequality, a society that does not seem to have progressed very far at all in this regard since feudal times. There are still the haves and the have-nots with a vast chasm of entitlement and privilege dividing the two.

The question of how to bring these two opposing facets of our chosen course into some kind of balance has bred a couple of different approaches that seem to be in contention.

One, government oversight, has been used quite effectively at times, though it also goes in and out of vogue depending on the prevailing political philosophy. Today, in the post-Citizens United era, it seems likely that weakened oversight and regulation will remain the norm — as long as those business interests with money to contribute to political candidates now get to erase those pesky regulations that dampen profits with the swipe of a credit card. Just this week, Dodd-Frank was further weakened in the latest budget bill, another thank-you gift to Wall Street campaign contributors from both sides of the aisle.

The other approach seems to be the installation of conscience into companies, via the move towards increased transparency, sustainability and the growing corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. Mission-driven companies and companies that truly care are no longer merely hypothetical. This development seems to be consistent with the flourishing vision that is becoming popular, fueled largely by a sense of personal commitment on the part of individual employees.

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Canada’s Humanitarian Sector Gears up to Adapt and Innovate

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

CHC-DEC 4_Plenary DiscussionBy Ruchika Arora

Adaptation. Innovation. These two words are usually associated with the private sector. It’s a well-practiced mantra that business, management and employees must adapt and innovate in order to thrive in the frenetic global marketplace. Now there are signs that the humanitarian sector is cautiously following suit.

Made up of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that deliver aid and assistance during human-made and natural disasters, the sector is vast. Ironically, it’s also at a crisis point: It not only faces more demands on its resources, but more complex problems related to climate change, conflict and extremism that simply have no easy solutions. To weather these changes, the Canadian humanitarian sector is coming together to learn how adaptation and innovation can improve its ability to respond effectively to the record number of people in need of assistance.

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Photo Gallery: Levi’s Turns Donated Denim into Field of Jeans

Alexis Petru
| Tuesday December 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Field of JeansIf you build it, they will come. In this case, the “it” was a series of bright red drop-off bins installed at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Nov. 2 – set up by the iconic jeans maker and Goodwill to collect enough old denim to cover the stadium’s field and build a “Field of Jeans” to bring attention to the enormity of the country’s textile waste.

And, true to the famous movie quote, they did come. Fans who gathered to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the St. Louis Rams brought old pairs of jeans and other unwanted pieces of clothing to donate, as did Bay Area residents who dropped off their used apparel at Goodwill stores as part of the two-week campaign. In exchange for their donation, participants were rewarded with a special Levi’s discount coupon.

Altogether, the used clothing drive collected more than 18,850 pairs of jeans – 12 tons of denim that otherwise might have ended up in the landfill. The unwanted jeans saved from the dump also prevented 171,000 pounds of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere – the equivalent of the pollution emitted from driving a car from San Francisco to New York for 36 round trips, Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) said.

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eBay’s Christmas Gift to ALEC: No Renewal

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday December 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

eBay_ALEC_Just in time for the holidays, e-commerce giant eBay announced that it’s pulling the plug on its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). With a centennial list of major corporations that have now nixed their membership, eBay’s announcement really isn’t a surprise.

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JetBlue Seeks Sustainability Data to Clean Up the World’s Oceans

Leon Kaye | Tuesday December 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
JetBlue, The Ocean Foundation, water quality, garbage, trash, Caribbean, travel, travel industry, airline industry, Leon Kaye, mangroves

Trashed beaches could mean lower airline revenues.

JetBlue has been in the news a lot lately for its announcement that generous leg room and free checked bags will be a thing of the past, but at least this popular airline could make progress on another front. Last week the company, partnering with the Ocean Foundation, released a report that links ecosystem sustainability and revenue.

Much of JetBlue’s business relies on vacation travelers who venture to the Caribbean. Arguably, locals benefit from the influx of tourists as well, though whether local economies can really stay resilient is open to debate. What is not open to debate is that along with American and Canadian dollars, euros and pounds comes heaps of trash. According to The Ocean Foundation, that is 100 million pounds of garbage annually, which often ends up in local water streams, dumps and of course, the sea. With tourism only increasing—especially with the lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba—there is a risk that increased environmental degradation could cause an economic drag on the region as well.

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Finally, A Health Insurance Company That Rewards Healthy Choices

Leon Kaye | Tuesday December 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment
Oscar Insurance, New York, Affordable Care Act, Misfit, 10,000 steps a day, Leon Kaye, insurers, health insurance, Misfit flash fitness tracker

Get the wristband and Oscar Insurance will pay you for walking

Insurance companies for years have done a nice job penalizing customers who make bad health choices, as in excessive eating, drinking and especially smoking. That has changed slightly under the new insurance plans sold here in the U.S. due to the new health care laws, but for years the penalty was higher premiums if a customer had pre-existing conditions tied to bad health habits.

From a business perspective, this made perfect sense. Fundamentally, insurers are really not that different from other businesses—it is always easier, and maybe the logical financial choice in the short term, to penalize rather than reward. But for those of us who eat right, avoid tobacco, spend some of our free time exercising, and make other positive health choices, it often does feel as if we are subsidizing others for their poorly thought out life choices. Oscar Insurance, a New York-based start-up, is trying to change to transform the health insurance industry by encouraging healthy decisions. And if their business model pans out, they could become quite profitable.

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The Secret Side of Business Sustainability

3p Contributor | Tuesday December 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

business-energyBy Hannah Corbett

When it comes to making your business sustainable, there are a few different definitions. It could refer to long-term financial sustainability, or even cultural and social sustainability. But here, we refer to a business’s sustainability as its ability to operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

The key to sustainability, of any kind, is being mindful of ill effects in the future while still achieving what is required in the present. In environmental terms, this means a business being able to grow, profit and thrive as it should, while minimizing its footprint and the negative effect it has on the environment.

Now the concept of ‘greening’ a business is not a new one – there are plenty of environmentally friendly companies out there that engage in green practices every day, and have sustainability at the core of their business and work ethics. And it’s not difficult to come across all the usual advice for areas you can address to green your own business: energy saving technology, waste management and recycling, supporting sustainable technologies – the list goes on.

But, there are certain elements of virtually every business that can have a negative impact on the company’s sustainability, which many business owners often overlook. If you’re looking to improve your business’s sustainability, and reduce the effect it has on the environment, then you may want to consider investigating the following areas:

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EPA’s Historic Coal Ash Disposal Rule Not Enough, Watchdogs Say

| Monday December 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

19_BeyondCoal_StickersThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday afternoon, Dec. 19, for the first time in U.S. history issued a federal rule governing the disposal of coal ash nationwide. With some 140 million tons left over from combustion of coal to generate electrical power, coal ash is the second largest industrial waste stream in the U.S. Up until today, it has been left up to state governments to regulate storage and disposal. In effect, public health and environmental groups point out, there has been less regulation and monitoring of coal ash than household waste in the U.S.

While welcoming the EPA’s action, environmental groups say its initial rule won’t do nearly enough to safeguard human and environmental health and safety. “While EPA and the Obama administration have taken a modest first step by introducing some protections on the disposal of coal ash, they do not go far enough to protect families from this toxic pollution,” Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, was quoted in a statement. “We welcome federal efforts on this issue, but Sierra Club has significant concerns about what has been omitted from these protections and how they will be enforced in states that have historically had poor track records on coal ash disposal.”

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NHL Takes on Climate Change, Beyond the Rinks

| Monday December 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

NHL sustainability and climate changeLast week the National Hockey League announced that it is stepping up its sustainability actions through a new partnership with the energy services company Constellation. The new deal makes Constellation the official preferred energy provider for the NHL with a focus on improving energy efficiency at ice rinks and other facilities throughout the organization. The agreement also calls for Constellation to provide enough carbon offsets to equal the entire carbon footprint of the NHL for the upcoming 2014-2015 season, estimated at a whopping 550,000 metric tons.

That’s all well and good as far as the NHL’s near-term operations go, but if you take a closer look at the league’s concerns, you can see how the long-term outlook for climate change demands a stepped-up response from the business community.

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Education for Success in the Sustainability Industry

Sustainability4SMEs
| Monday December 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments

143186839_5c9fad13cd_zBy Martha Young

Education investment: Almost everyone does it through continuing education conferences, online courses or pursuing an advanced degree.  Expanding skill sets is instrumental in career advancement and career transitioning. How does skill-building play specific to the sustainability industry? Whether you’re a millennial trying to break into the industry or a seasoned professional seeking a career change, there are clear education choices that are better than others.

Independent analyst firm Verdantix released its Global Sustainability Survey 2014 report in mid-November. The annual report aims to benchmark brand perception, awareness and engagement across sustainability business consulting and service firms. In a nutshell, the report shows the Big Four audit firms as the top resource known and used by companies pursuing a sustainable business strategy.

The education implication of the Verdantix results is finance. Auditing firms provide the financial business case to clients for pursuing or setting aside a given green initiative. Auditing firms possess skills in identifying measurable metrics, establishing baselines and determining returns on investment. A financial background is clearly the way to go if one is seeking to pursue a career in sustainability through an audit company.

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