Tragedy of the Commons: Once Upon a … Water

3p Contributor | Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments

7325576614_2f9faba3c7_zBy Meghna Tare

Not a day goes by without coming across an article or blog on water scarcity. We have reached a tipping point where we need to monetize and assign a dollar value to a natural resource like water — without which we cannot survive. We live on the water planet: 75 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water. Yet fresh water is scarce. Aristotle and other philosophers were right on the mark when they said, “What is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it!”

Laws of physics dictate that water cannot simply vanish from the earth. But the water scarcity problem is global and serious. Without introducing the impact of climate change on the water resource, the water scarcity problem influenced by the increasing population and fears of food security is dominating the policy- and decision-maker’s agenda. Even after investing some $400 billion in water supply over the past century, the United States, with so much innovation and technology at its feet, faces a shortage that has no easy remedy. The Golden state and Lone Star states are forced to acknowledge this issue in the face of the existing drought.

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Safeway to Eliminate 1 Billion Single-Use Bags By 2015

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 7 Comments

SafewaySafeway, the second-largest supermarket chain in North America, is making progress toward its environmental goals, according to its sixth annual sustainability report released last week.

One of the chain’s most notable targets is to eliminate 1 billion paper and plastic bags in its stores by 2015 — and it has already eliminated more than 300 million plastic and paper bags. Safeway is also halfway toward the goal of sourcing of all of its fresh and frozen seafood from either sustainable sources or sources making credible improvements by 2015.

Additionally, Safeway has a goal of producing zero waste across all of its operations. (To qualify as zero waste, a facility has to recycle or divert at least 90 percent of materials that would have been sent to landfills.) A total of nine of its 13 distribution centers and nine of its 20 U.S. manufacturing and food processing plants have already achieved zero waste.

Taking things a step further, two of the grocer’s California distribution centers, Santa Fe Springs and El Monte, haven’t had a trash pickup since. The two facilities combined are almost 2 million square feet and serve over 270 stores.

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Sustainable Packaging: The New Product Differentiator?

Leon Kaye | Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Sustainable Packaging

Launched in 2008, the How2Recycle label aims to increase recycling rates by informing consumers about proper disposal. (Click to enlarge)

Sustainable packaging has come a long way over a generation. Long ago companies such as Walmart (with Hillary Clinton was on its board) started to tackle wasteful packaging — as in the cardboard boxes that encased deodorant sticks that were … already encased in plastic. What was once dismissed a “green” gimmick started to make business sense as companies realized excess packaging meant heavier shipments, more wasted fuel and of course, less profit.

So while companies are getting smarter about packaging, waste is still an issue. I saw it myself over the past year, living in a city with almost no recycling. I would stash boxes and plastic under the kitchen sink, hoping it would somehow recycle on its own as I couldn’t stand the thought of pitching what could have otherwise been recycled into the rubbish bin. And now more consumers are becoming aware of the waste they generate and are putting pressure on companies to be more proactive about their waste.

To that end, an article by Bharath Satya Y in Packaging Digest suggests companies cannot ignore the problems of wasteful packaging anymore, as consumers either want better materials used or insist on having more disclosure about the materials used to wrap and store their products.

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Fortune: Female-Led Businesses Beat the Stock Market, But Their Numbers Remain Low

| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox. Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women

Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO, Xerox.

According to a recent Fortune study, the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 is at its highest total yet at 24 (51 in the Fortune 1,000).

Despite this overall low number, Fortune illustrated some interesting trends, including data that shows that women-led businesses posted better returns than the stock market and generated more than their share of Fortune 1,000 revenue. However, the number of women CEOs has risen extremely slowly in the past decade, and the number of women on boards has stagnated despite an abundance of evidence that women-led companies fare better and that women make good leaders.

Fortune reports:

  • Only 5 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies have female CEOs, but they are responsible for 7 percent of the total Fortune 1,000 revenue. The biggest woman-led company is General Motors (Mary Barra) coming in at No. 7 on the 2014 Fortune 500 List ($155 billion in 2013 revenue).
  • Fortune 1,000 companies led by women outperformed the S&P 500 Index during their respective tenures. The average return was 69.5 percent, whereas female CEOs posted an average return of 103.4 percent. Home Shopping Network’s Mindy Grossman and TJX’s Carol Meyrowitz are two of the CEOs who reported the highest returns during their time as chief.
  • Fewer than half of female CEOs have a graduate business degree; the most common degree is engineering (another solid reason to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers).
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‘Give Back Box’ Turns Old Shipping Boxes Into Charitable Donations

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Cardboard boxesMonika Wiela was walking to work on Michigan Avenue in Chicago when she passed a homeless man holding a sign that read, “I need shoes.” Wiela desperately wanted to help him. As the founder of online shoe store, she had a warehouse full of platform heels and stiletto boots – but no men’s shoes.

Wiela did, however, have a ton of cardboard shipping boxes, and after ruminating over the man’s dilemma all night, she came up with a solution: What if you could take your old shipping boxes from online retailers and – instead of tossing them into the recycling or garbage – pack them with clothes and household goods you no longer need, and send them to charities?

That’s the idea behind Give Back Box, a startup Wiela launched last year after running a year-long test with clientele. Before shipping a pair of new shoes to customers, the Polish-born entrepreneur placed a prepaid mailing label addressed to a secondhand charity in the cardboard box, along with donation instructions. The result? Thirteen percent of shoppers boxed up their unwanted goods and mailed them off to nonprofit organizations.

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Clean Tech Leadership Index Ranks States and Cities

RP Siegel | Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2014_US-Clean-Tech_Leadership_Index_Logo_0As we push towards a radical overhaul of the world economy, with the goal of establishing a sustainable human presence on the planet, it is important to manage our progress. As quality expert Edward Deming once said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It’s a good thing, then, that we have organizations like Clean Edge to provide extensive benchmarking services in the clean technology and sustainability area.

This week the organization released its 2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index. The report tracks clean technology progress in all 50 states, as well as the top 50 metropolitan areas in the U.S.

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New Trend: Climate Optimists Say Climate Change Won’t Be So Bad

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 167 Comments
Don’t worry, big guy; climate optimists say you’ll be fine on a warming planet .

Don’t worry, big guy; climate optimists say you’ll be fine on a warming planet.

We all have that crazy uncle who shows up at family reunions, trying to convince us that climate change isn’t real and Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But maybe you also have a relative who tells you he welcomes climate change because he’s looking forward to the warmer weather in his chilly hometown.

Accepting that climate change is happening but putting a positive spin on the consequences is a growing view in the climate skeptic camp, Slate reports. And this new “climate optimism” was on full display at the last week’s ninth International Conference on Climate Change, billed as an “International Gathering of Scientists Skeptical of Man-Caused Global Warming.” Held ironically enough in drought-stricken Las Vegas, the event was organized by the Heartland Institute, which proudly proclaims that the Economist has called it “the world’s most prominent think tank supporting skepticism of man-made climate change.”

“I don’t think anybody in this room denies climate change,” James M. Taylor, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, said in a speech at the conference, Slate reported. “We recognize it, but we’re looking more at the causes, and more importantly, the consequences.”

That’s right – the climate change debate is moving beyond denial and even a “discussion” of its sources to focus on its effects – and frankly, these climate skeptics say, it won’t be so bad.

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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 | 1,185 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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