Governor Christie Pulls New Jersey Out of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

RP Siegel | Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Chris_Christie_at_townhall So this is what American politics have come to in 2014. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears on NBC’s Meet the Press, then quietly jets out to Vail, Colorado to appear at an exclusive and secretive Koch Brothers strategy meeting. Not a word of this was spoken to his constituents back home. He spoke to an audience of some of the wealthiest people in the country, who have become considerably wealthier over the past decade, about how “America is careening into an economic crisis.” He boasted to the ultra-conservative crowd that “the governorship in New Jersey is the most powerful constitutional governorship in America.” I take that to mean he has extraordinary executive powers to do his and their political bidding.

One step that he has just recently taken is to withdraw New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), something he has been threatening to do for several years.

RGGI is a voluntary alliance between nine mid-Atlantic and New England States, which have agreed to work cooperatively to reduce carbon emissions through the use of emission credits that could be traded within the cooperative. RGGI states have reduced their emissions at a higher rate than their non-RGGI counterparts. The price of carbon credits has climbed to $4/ton, another sign that the program is working. If there is a problem with the system, it is that it hasn’t been aggressive enough in locking in reductions. Christie claimed, wrongly, that participation would make the state less competitive. Numerous studies and analyses have shown that sustainable enterprises do better, by reducing costs, avoiding penalties and attracting the best talent.

The governor was praised for his move by David Koch, who described it as a “commitment to the free enterprise system.” This commitment to free enterprise apparently lapsed when Christie banned EV maker Tesla from selling its cars in the Garden State. Tesla’s direct-to-consumer marketing poses a threat to the politically-connected car dealer networks, long known for their campaign support, which hold a monopoly in the state. Such contradictions are nothing new for the governor, who said back in 2011, that “the future for New Jersey is in green energy.” Of course that was before he became involved with the Koch brothers and their extensive oil and gas interests. Since 2011, he has scaled back renewable energy goals and rebates for residential solar, as well as vetoing a bill that would have banned the disposal of fracking waste.

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Eden Foods Endures Customer Backlash for Birth Control Stance

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 1,183 Comments

Eden_Foods_Seth_AndersonUntil June 30 of this year, Hobby Lobby was best known for its arts and craft supplies and do-it-yourself home decor options. But on July 1, that all changed.

As a result of a Supreme Court decision that its owners – and those of other “closely held” companies – did not have to provide insurance coverage for birth control, Hobby Lobby was catapulted into the partisan spotlight. A name that was once synonymous with candle-making supplies is now the poster child for businesses that object to Affordable Care Act regulations on what a company must provide for its workers.

But it isn’t the only business fighting this battle. Hobby Lobby’s unexpected court win gained the most attention, but the ACA was actually being challenged by approximately 100 small, privately-owned businesses. These companies, largely because of religious views, took exception to the idea that the insurance they provide might make it easier for women to access birth control.

And what many have been surprised to hear is that one of the largest proponents of this view (and a litigant in a battle against ACA) is the owner of an organic foods label. He’s well known for his sustainability outlooks and wholesome focus on principles that are often assumed go with, well, more liberal values.

But Michael Potter, owner of Eden Foods, makes no apology for the dichotomy between his objection to being required to pay for his workers’ birth control and his progressive stance on back-to-basics farm food.

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GM Twitter Chat Recap: Transforming Transportation – #GMCSR

| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

twitter-GMOn Wednesday, July 16th, TriplePundit and Aman Singh hosted a live Twitter Chat with General Motors at the hashtag #GMCSR. 

We were excited to take our popular Twitter Chats to the automotive sector for the first time! During this chat, we had a conversation on “transforming transportation” with General Motors’ director of sustainability, David Tulauskas (follow him here).

The conversation covered GM’s efforts described in its latest sustainability report.  From smaller and cleaner high-performing engines, to mass reduction and improved aerodynamics, we got into the details of how far GM has come in recent years.

Facing an automotive industry that is unsustainable in its current form, General Motors is restructuring its global vehicle portfolio, rethinking manufacturing and collaborating with unlikely partners to advance the industry.

Nick Aster, Founder and Publisher of TriplePundit, and Aman Singh, CSR expert, moderated the conversation with a thorough sampling of General Motor’s sustainability accomplishments – followed by an open Q&A!

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The Real Power of Shareholder Advocacy

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Edmond Meany passionately addressing Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition stockholders and president, Seattle, Washington, September 19, 1908: Frank H. Nowell, 1864-1950/PD

Last January, while protesters gathered outside of a shareholders meeting at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters, another smaller, less vocal but just as impassioned discussion was taking place inside.

As protesters chanted slogans and rallied for attention in the parking lot of one of the world’s largest biotech companies, stockholders were quietly adding their own form of input regarding GMO technology: shareholder resolutions.

Investors had asked the company to file a report answering key questions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They also asked the company to stop opposing the labeling of GMO foods.

Although neither resolution was adopted, the shareholders’ message was clear and their effect immediate. Within hours, news media around the world was reporting that Monsanto investors were calling for accountability. They weren’t just listening to the company’s financial report; they were signaling to the board – and to the world – that some of Monsanto’s smallest investors were speaking up.

And the board got it.

“There is a recognition that we need to do more,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant after the meeting.

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Despite Doubts, Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Are Breaking Into the EV Market

| Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 13 Comments

Plug Power fuel cell EVs.

Fuel cells have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to beating out lithium-ion batteries for domination of the emerging electric vehicle market. “A lot” is an understatement. When you ask auto industry followers about the potential for fuel cell electric vehicles, you are likely to be met with rolled eyes and a repetition of the same old joke: “They say fuel cells are the next big thing, and they’ve been saying that for 30 years.”

However, if you take a look at what’s been going on in at least one specialty niche of the EV market, you can catch a glimpse of the possibility for fuel cells to win out, at least for some applications. That potential is illustrated by Plug Power and Ace Hardware, which have paired up to bring entire fleets of fuel cell electric vehicles into shipping and handling operations.

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Puerto Rican McDonalds Franchisees Claim HQ Hung Them Out to Dry

Michael Kourabas
| Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 21 Comments

13988001407_483efe4574_zA group of McDonald’s franchise operators in Puerto Rico is alleging that the fast food giant violated federal law and a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule that regulates the behavior of franchisors.

According to the Puerto Rican franchisees (the Plaintiffs), McDonald’s first violated the Franchise Rule when it sold its Latin American franchises — and, consequently, McDonald’s franchise rights in the Puerto Rican market — to the Latin American company, Arcos Dorados, in 2007.  Subsequent actions by Arcos Dorados in Puerto Rico have caused additional harm to the Plaintiffs, in further violation of federal law.

Plaintiffs allege the various harms and violations have occurred.  Specifically, they claim that McDonald’s “cut off all ties with Puerto Rico operators” after the sale to AD, after which the new owners (Arcos Dorados) began downgrading services to the franchise owners, absent disclosure to the FTC and in violation of FTC Act 5 Section 5 (unfair competition) and the Franchise Rule.  Plaintiffs further allege that AD is neglecting to conduct sufficient sales analyses before opening new McDonald’s locations, leading to areas with a glut of McDonald’s restaurants and the resultant supply-and-demand problems for Plaintiffs’ businesses.

More than McDonald’s, though, the real villain in this story is Arcos Dorados (AD), a McDonald’s franchising behemoth.

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A Look at Local Food and Urban Farming in Two American Cities

3p Contributor | Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Erb Perspective blog, a publication of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute at the University of Michigan.

A garden flourishes in Detroit.

A community garden flourishes in Detroit.

By Erica Morrell

Local food initiatives have taken off across the country in recent years. Registered farmers markets, for example, expanded nationally from around 3,000 in 2000 to over 8,000 in 2012, and urban farming has exploded across neighborhoods, at schools and in healthcare facilities — with more than 1,200 community gardens across Detroit alone.

The rise in activities around local food presents a host of novel opportunities and challenges for municipal governments. Urban farming, for instance, may help address inadequate food access by expanding fresh produce options in the inner city, but at the same time it often occurs in violation of standing zoning ordinances and places new pressure on water and sanitation services.

In an attempt to promote its benefits and mitigate its drawbacks, cities across the country have created new arenas of governance concerned solely with local food. These arenas frequently include legislation around issues such as the production and sale of local produce and cottage foods, the creation of grants and other aid to facilitate local food efforts, and the establishment of food policy councils (over 200 such councils now exist across the U.S.), among many other features.

While different cities’ local food policies and programs might seem similar on the surface, they often embody quite different guiding values. Take Detroit and Cleveland, for example.

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Eileen Fisher Leverages Employee Values to Chart Path Toward Long-Term Sustainability

Sherrell Dorsey
| Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

 Eileen fisher, green Eileen, fashion sustainability, sustainable fashion, leadership, fashion transparency, blue sign technologies, shona Quinn, textiles, textile landfills, fashion environment, sustainable clothing, clothing recycling, textile recycling In fashion designer Eileen Fisher’s world, 1,000 people are capable of making a difference. And when she says people, she means her employees — a team committed to social consciousness that has served as a sounding board for many of the leading brand’s sustainability initiatives in recent years.

Armed with a commitment to gather consensus from employees and inspire leadership practices, Eileen Fisher has curated a culture that allows employees to be leaders of change both internally and within the brand’s work in society at large.

Hiring policies hold significant weight as the brand continues to pursue activities that incorporate stronger sustainability practices and charitable partnership programming. In 2012 upon receiving an Apparel Sustainability All-Star Award, Shona Quinn, Eileen Fisher’s sustainability leader, mentioned that the company has an effective sustainability program as a result of employees with strong social values who are predisposed to consider the environment.

The range of employee contributions to the company’s sustainability strategy is voluminous. Prime example: An employee request to eliminate the use of plastic resulted in an 80 percent reduction of plastic hangers used in stores.

The casual-wear brand has led the charge toward transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry for years.  The company has used natural fibers and eco-friendly fabrics for over a decade, and the materials are a hit with its 33- to 50-year-old female target consumers. Bucking sweatshop labor practices and other common fashion industry snafus, Fisher’s legacy is rooted in her commitment to ethical and responsible business practices that treat employees as owners and the planet as a shareholder.

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U.K. Grocer Becomes the First Retailer to Issue a Sustainable Seafood Report

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

smoked troutThe British supermarket chain Asda is the first retailer to publish a sustainable seafood report.

The report, titled Wild Fisheries Annual Review, lists all of the fisheries used by the supermarket chain between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2013. The report contains management and sustainability information for all of the fisheries that supply the supermarket chain with wild fish. Seafood from aquaculture (fish farming) is not listed, but Asda hopes to include this information in next year’s report. (As the name implies, it will be published every year.)

The report names each fishery, and information is provided on the location and catch methods, plus sustainability assessments that include environmental impacts.

The report is part of Asda’s commitment to ensure its wild seafood is responsibly sourced. That said, the company knows that some fisheries it obtains seafood from need work and is working to address the issues. One example is Asda’s pledge that all ambient canned and pouched tuna will be line-caught or caught using fish aggregation device (FAD)-free methods by the end of 2014.

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Alternative Building Method: Aerated Concrete

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 4 Comments

4003684255_4228ea6cf6_zWhen I think of concrete buildings, I think of dense, heavy concrete with a high environmental impact: Cement manufacturing accounts for 5 percent of global CO2 emissions from human activity, a staggering total for one building material. But utilizing more environmentally-friendly alternatives, such as autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) blocks, does offer many benefits.

Chemical reactions with gases make autoclaved aerated concrete a lighter, more insulated and fire-resistant alternative to concrete. AAC blocks and panels can also be molded and cut into dimensional units. Generally, they’re more popular in post-war Europe than in the U.S. — and they have been widely used in the U.K. and Germany.

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Fortune 500 Companies, NGOs Unite to Address Renewable Energy Demand

| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments

renewable energy buyers principlesThe growth in wind and solar energy over the past several years has been impressive, but the pace of change has been achingly slow for companies that want more renewable energy than the market can provide. With that in mind, 12 leading U.S. companies have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute to make one thing perfectly clear: There is a huge, unmet renewable energy demand by businesses, and a change in energy markets will be required in order to meet that need.

The linchpin of the collaboration is a set of strategic guidelines called the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. Most of the 12 companies that have signed on are familiar names at Triple Pundit for their proactive approach to renewable energy or other sustainability issues, including Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart.

8.4 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy demand

According to WWF, the 12 companies signing on to the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles have calculated that their renewable energy demand adds up to 8.4 million megawatt-hours per year through 2020.

That’s just those 12 major companies, so 8.4 million is just for starters.

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Is Uber Exploitative? And What Does It Say About the Sharing Economy?

Raz Godelnik
| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 13 Comments

UberSometimes it looks like Uber has become the world’s favorite punching bag, from taxi drivers across Europe complaining that Uber is “not playing by the rules” to American customers annoyed with the company’s surge pricing tactics.

One of the latest punches came from Andrew Leonard, a staff writer at Salon, who compared Uber to John D. Rockefeller.

Why? Leonard didn’t like the fact that Uber significantly reduced the prices of UberX rides in New York and other cities, making them cheaper now than taxi rides. He suggested that Uber’s deep pockets (it just raised $1.2 billion) could enable the company to lose money on every ride, claiming this is an “anti-competitive market behavior.”

And the connection to Rockefeller? “The founder of Standard Oil built his monopoly by exploiting size to leverage discounted access to railroad transport. Such economies supported price cuts his competitors couldn’t match,” Leonard writes. He’s afraid that we’re about to witness a somewhat similar scenario in the taxi industry, where Uber will use its funds to drive taxis out of business, and then will increase prices, making its investors rich at the expense of the public.

Leonard, as well as others sharing similar concerns, questions the legitimacy or fairness of Uber’s business tactics, especially given the fact that it operates in many places within a “grey area” of the law. Yet, behind these arguments lie even more fundamental questions: Is Uber still considered part of the sharing economy? Is it exploitative? And if you answer ‘yes’ to both questions, what does it say about the sharing economy?

Let’s try to look at these questions one by one.

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How Cities and Businesses Are Working Together to Address Climate Change

RP Siegel | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

City lightsThis is a little ironic; no, it’s more than a little ironic. Congress won’t act on climate change for fear of adversely impacting businesses. So, cities and states are picking up the slack, taking aggressive action, in order to protect their… wait for it…businesses.

A new report entitled Protecting Our Capital, released by the CDP, claims most cities recognize that climate change poses a considerable risk to their local businesses and therefore their economy and well-being. Of course, it’s only a small fraction of businesses that are actively lobbying against climate action — mostly those in the fossil fuel industries who have the most to lose. Most of them now acknowledge the problem and, even as they hope to slow government action, are moving to address the challenges.

The report, which is based on responses from 207 cities, documents the recognition of the interdependence between cities and businesses. Of those surveyed, 76 percent of cities said that climate change could impact business, while businesses said that 75 percent of their biggest climate-related risks could also be seen as threats to their respective cities.

What kinds of risks are they talking about? These could include rising insurance costs, loss of tourism, supply chain issues and a lack of raw materials. Drivers of these costs will stem from storms and flooding, sea level rise,  temperature increases, drought, and other weather-related disruptions and destructions.

A total of 757 carbon reduction drivers were reported.

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Apple’s Environmental Report Reveals Major Accomplishments, More Work To Be Done

Alexis Petru
| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

iPhone5cApple’s carbon footprint shrank 3 percent from 2012 to 2013. It’s a modest decline, but this is the first time the tech giant has seen a year-over-year decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since it started tracking them in 2009.

Despite this and other accomplishments detailed in Apple’s 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report released this week, the company acknowledged it has a long way to go to reduce its environmental impact, including tackling emissions from its manufacturing partners and addressing its recent increase in water consumption.

The greenhouse gas emissions from Apple’s energy consumption fell by almost a third over the last three years, the report found, even though the tech giant’s overall energy use jumped 42 percent during the same time. These avoided emissions are equivalent to taking 75,100 cars off the road or powering 49,100 homes for one year, according to the report.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said its investments in clean energy were responsible for the impressive drop in its energy-related carbon footprint: All of Apple’s data centers – which run services like Siri, the iTunes and App stores, and Maps – run on 100-percent renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and geothermal power.

“So every time a song is downloaded from iTunes, an app is installed from the Mac App Store or a book is downloaded from iBooks, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature,” the reports authors wrote.

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Foster Farms Recalls Chicken, Sues Insurer for Rejecting Claim

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 17 Comments

Foster_Farms_chickenFoster Farms has a problem, a big problem.

No, it isn’t its long-standing battle with Salmonella Heidelberg infections in the chicken in its processing centers, or the ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose enforcement arm announced a recall of Foster Farm chicken the day before the Fourth of July holiday.

Its looming problem is with its insurance carrier, which is refusing to accept a claim for the $14.2 million that the manufacturer says it has lost from tainted chicken.

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