With so many demands on a sustainability professional’s time, some may question the value of preparing applications for awards programs. Preparing an application for an award certainly takes a back seat to your boss’s latest call, but the process of applying for a sustainability award can be an important stimulus to a program and the time is well spent.
The just released 2013 BSR/Globescan State of Sustainable Business Survey found that integration of sustainability into the core business is still a formidable challenge. More to the point, the survey also found that sustainability professionals are still struggling to engage with many key functions within their companies, such as finance and strategy. While an award is no substitute for consistent, deep engagement with colleagues, it brings visibility to a program and helps generate momentum.
Look for Portland State University students climbing on the Walmart roof, the green roof, that is. Under a two-year research partnership between the Oregon school and the retail giant, PSU is building a green roof research site on Walmart’s new North Portland store.
Designing green roofs is not just about slapping huge solar panels on large rooftops. It’s also about using the space to filter storm water, enable energy efficiency, mitigate heat islands and provide habitat. The partnership will enable the collection of in-depth, real-time data on the largest green installation in Portland.
PSU’s Green Building Research Laboratory will deploy scores of sensors and a weather station on Walmart’s new Hayden Meadows store. It will feature 40,000 square feet of vegetative roof installed in three separate sections—each devoted to testing different aspects of green roof design, such as materials and soil depth. The remaining 52,000 square feet of white membrane rooftop will also be monitored by sensors, providing an opportunity to deliver side-by-side comparisons on factors including surface temperature, water flow and building operations.
The news seems dire: In seven years the world may be out of chocolate.
For most North Americans, doomsayers couldn’t paint a worse picture: first wine, and now chocolate may be out of reach by the average worker within a few years’ time. The cost for a simple chocolate bar is projected to become too expensive for the average person to afford in the near future.
Cocoa yields have been dropping across the world for years. In Ghana, crop harvests are down 5 percent from 2012, and more than 17 percent from 2011. In August, crop harvests in the Ivory Coast, which account for at least 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, were expected to drop during the fall harvest as well (cocoa is harvested twice a year in some areas).
Some experts are blaming the decreased production on pest infestation and not enough spraying of pesticides to ward off insects. Others have attributed it to increasing temperatures due to climate change that indirectly affect the delicate ecological balance that’s needed for cacao plantations. Cacao only grows in areas close to the equator in optimum conditions.
There’s only one problem, of course: in the U.S., biking for transportation isn’t very popular yet. But the tectonics are shifting.
Inspired by thriving Northern European cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, which in the last 40 years dramatically increased the share of trips taken by bike to more than 35 percent, many U.S. cities are embracing one of the main tricks in the European bag: bike lanes that are physically protected from auto traffic, just as a sidewalk is.
Pioneered in this country by New York City in 2008, bike lanes protected by curbs, parked cars and plastic posts are now going in everywhere from Atlanta to Long Beach to Lincoln, Neb.
People around the world shared more than 1,400 images of themselves from more than 40 countries and 30 U.S. states.
By Jalal, A+ CSR Indonesia, and Andrew Hoffman and Terry Nelidov, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan
In our previous post, we argued that without a global equity test,sustainability is reduced to simply a means of maintaining the status quo of excessive consumption and production. In this post, we advance our argument by presenting a series of steps that can help move both business and business education in a “mid-course correction” that aims towards a more sustainable economy.
The first step is to recognize that the context in which the economy operates has now changed. We have entered the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch in which human activity is a significant part of the Earth’s ecosystems. We, as a species, have grown to such numbers, and our technology has grown to such power, that we are altering the ecosystem on a planetary scale. This shift forces a change in societal views of not only the ecosystem and the human place within it but, most importantly, of our need to collaborate on a global problem.
Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Jennifer Silberman: As Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Hilton Worldwide, I am responsible for overseeing the development, integration and communication of Hilton Worldwide’s corporate responsibility strategy around the world. I joined the company in 2010, after eight years at APCO Worldwide, where I was Vice President in the corporate responsibility practice, counseling Fortune 500 companies and global foundations on strategy and program design, business integration, stakeholder engagement and results-oriented philanthropy. I have more than 20 years of experience working in the U.S., Latin America, and Africa in the areas of economic development, sustainability, human rights, women’s empowerment and youth opportunity.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
JS: Sustainability has deep roots at Hilton Worldwide. Our namesake and founder, Conrad Hilton, always believed that one “should assume your fair share of responsibility for the world in which you live.” In 2009, we formalized this conviction with the creation of five-year sustainability goals to reduce our energy use and our carbon, waste, and water outputs across the full range of our hotel operations. We created tools to manage and assess our performance against these goals, officially launching LightStay™ – our proprietary sustainability measurement tool – in 2010. Then gradually, we began to integrate sustainability into our entire business by making it a brand standard across our global portfolio of hotels.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Mabee of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage
Our Sunday mornings lately have begun with kale, cauliflower, and heaps of carrots. Once a week, our neighbors gather to harvest veggies from our local community supported agriculture (CSA) farm. It is a worker-share arrangement, so each member contributes a couple hours of time each week or pays in a larger sum to receive a share of the farm bounty. There is an element of surprise each week as we discover what we are harvesting and thus bringing home. By design, this unique business promotes resiliency, teamwork, and a deeper relationship with our food.
Little River Community Farm was founded by three members of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage (BC&E), a multigenerational community in Midcoast Maine on 42-acres that will contain 36 units when complete next year. The arrangement between the two organizations is a symbiotic relationship, allowing community members to have fresh produce grown just beyond their doorstep and the community helps provide the infrastructure and support to the young business.
When my family made the move from Wisconsin to Maine, we arrived in August with no established garden. The CSA was just beginning to harvest the fall share and we had instant access to high-quality and extremely local veggies.
When announcing his plan to kickstart the U.S. economy in the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt famously declared that the country had “nothing to fear but fear itself.” In just 100 days, through a flurry of legislation and investment, his government dragged the country up off its knees – a towering political achievement.
Today, this kind of bold political leadership seems in short supply, particularly when it comes to dealing with environmental challenges. Many politicians seem unable or unwilling to look beyond short-term electoral concerns to the long-term well-being of the planet – something that becomes acutely clear whenever world leaders gather at climate change summits. Even the immediate impacts of a warming climate on food and water security are treated as isolated crises, rather than prompting action to tackle the root causes.
By contrast, it’s not hard to find examples of ambitious local leadership on climate change. In the U.S., for instance, state government has been “much more proactive in taking action on climate change than the federal government,” observes Dr Hu Tao, Senior Associate at the World Resources Institute. He points to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a cooperative effort by several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. states to cap CO2 emissions from the energy sector – as well Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to improve New York City’s environmental sustainability by 2030.
The timing is significant. Just a few days after the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, President Obama issued an Executive Order designed to encourage Americans to incorporate climate change awareness into their activities and plans.
In that order, he writes, unambiguously, “The impacts of climate change — including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise — are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the nation.”
In response, he calls on local governments, businesses, and individuals to, “improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency operations, services, and programs.”
The Executive Order lays out the following actions:
Several government agencies including, Defense, NOAA, and EPA, are to forge a plan to protect resources and watersheds
All agencies are to make an inventory of climate change risk and actions they recommend to address them
Resources such as open data frameworks to enhance cooperation between local governments, NGOs and the private sector will be established
Our friends over at Fuel Fix have chipped in with another warning that the fracking bubble is about to burst, but that won’t necessarily mean relief is in sight for communities beset by the negative impacts of fracking. A rapid decline in productivity from shale formations is leading to a rapid increase in the number of new wells as companies attempt to make up for the dropoff in revenue. Fuel Fix calls this the Red Queen effect, after the frenetic character in Alice in Wonderland, and it could lead to tens of thousands of new wells in South Texas alone over the next few years.
The full Red Queen Effect article, by Jennifer Hiller, is well worth a read. It focuses on the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas, but its lessons can also be applied to the Marcellus Shale region in Appalachia and other shale formations throughout the U.S.
The Red Queen Effect
For those of you new to the issue, fracking is short for hydrofracturing, an unconventional method of natural gas (and oil) drilling that involves pumping massive amounts of chemical-laden brine into shale formations.
Aside from the obvious environmental hazards, one bottom-line risk is the fact that the typical shale formation depletes far more rapidly than sites for conventional drilling.
There has been increased visibility as of late for the great strides professional sports teams and leagues are making toward reducing the overall environmental impact associated with event operations. The greening of sport spans baseball teams, football stadiums and even NASCAR. One hundred and ninety-five professional and collegiate teams are now members of the Green Sports Alliance—up from 11 members just two years ago.
Yet the greening of sports, consistent with business operations and strategy, is not all there is to an assessment of the potential and actual sustainability impact of professional sports. Diversity initiatives intended to leverage sport as a platform for greater inclusion are gaining momentum, as sports organizations are uniquely positioned to promote tolerance and human rights.
The 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, have sparked a fresh dialogue around LGBT discrimination due to the anti-gay legislation passed in that country earlier this year. The controversy fueled efforts already underway to leverage sport as a platform for greater Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) inclusion. Creating a more inclusive environment reflects a tradition of sport as a means of influencing cultural norms from gender, to race, and increasingly, homophobia—a tradition that stretches back to the days of Jackie Robinson.
A food earthquake just hit south of the border. Mexico has successfully passed legislation placing an 8 percent sales tax on sugary soft drinks in response to their obesity epidemic. This is a significant public policy threat to the revenues of industrial beverage companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It also raises public policy questions for the U.S. as it struggles with its own national epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
Heightened obesity levels increase human suffering. Obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and arthritis. Today, 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes. 27 million have chronic heart disease. 68 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis.
Heightened obesity levels also place a heavy cost burden upon our national economy and family budgets. In the U.S., the cost of treating obesity-related diseases is $48 billion. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that the added costs of lost work days, increased medical insurance rates and lost wages results in a $190 billion cost impact upon our national economy.
Myriad-leaf (myriophyllum verticillatum) is an aquatic plant that grows in stagnant or low-flowing water, and shows great promise as a pollution-cleaner, or water “phytocleaner.” Phytoremediation – pollution cleanup with plants – has the advantage of being natural and relatively low-cost. However, the possibilities of phytoremediation are just beginning to be understood.
Myriad-leaf is common throughout central Russia, and is effective in addressing river sewage and phosphate pollutants responsible for rapid algae blooms. In areas where industrial effluent is poorly treated, heavy-metal ions build up in living organisms and are transferred throughout the food chain. In Russia and other countries with industrial water pollution, it is a challenge to remove ions from water in a cost-effective and ecologically sensitive manner.
San Rafael, CA-based PulpWorks, Inc. is taking on the ubiquitous blister packaging as a viable, scalable and sustainable alternative. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported in 2012 that 30 percent of landfill waste is made up of plastic packaging – which equals about 700 million pounds of PVC packaging per year in the United States alone. Five to 10 percent of this can be attributed to blister packs. Not only is the amount of plastic waste a problem, it is compounded as the plastics break down in landfills — releasing toxic methane into the atmosphere.
Co-founder and CEO Paul Tasner has a 35-year history in the consumer packaged goods industry and supply chain management. He and Elena Olivari, co-founder and vice president of R&D, have “embraced the challenge of turning the traditional packaging industry upside down.” The pair are working to “mold a better world” with the PW-Pack, their patent-pending alternative to plastic blister packs.
Tasner says the idea for the PW-Pack came when his wife bought a cutting tool designed to open blister packs, which are notoriously hard to open (and dangerous — when cut, the hard plastic causes thousands of lacerations per year, Tasner says). Ironically, the tool itself was packaged in a blister pack and Tasner realized a replacement for toxic PVC blister packaging was overdue. He and Olivari had already planned to start a new venture together and their backgrounds made creating PulpWorks the obvious next step. In 2011, Tasner, a scientist with a PhD in Mathematics, and Olivari, who has a history in green architecture and design and corporate social responsibility, created an environmentally friendly alternative to the toxic PVC blister pack, all while staying price-competitive.
Atlanta: Jan 22 – Jan 24 RLSC’s Reverse Logistics Conference What are the most critical issues facing reverse logistics executives today? Speakers include experts from retail, manufacturing, academia, and service sectors. This is the largest reverse logistics event of 2014. Register here.
San Francisco: Jan 22 – Jan 23 Sustainable Foods Summit The 4th American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit, taking place January 22-23 in San Francisco, will focus on ecology and look at ways of promoting it by ethical sourcing & biodiversity and the use of sustainable ingredients. Register here.
TriplePundit.com is published under a creative commons license. You are free to republish only headlines and excerpts of 3p articles except where explicitly permitted by agreement with 3p. We reserve the right to ask any publication to cease syndication. Please Contact Us for details.