Kohl’s Solar Power Portfolio Moves Forward with Solar Tree Chargers

Leon Kaye | Monday August 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Envision Solar, Kohls, solar, clean energy, renewables, solar trees, solar power, Leon Kaye, sustainability report, Desmond Wheatley

Solar trees at a Kohl’s offices in Dallas

Kohl’s has long been one of the most innovative and successful department store chains in the United States. Its rapid growth is matched with the company’s increased focus on sustainability, particularly when it comes to solar power. As part of the company’s plan to ramp up investment in renewables, Kohl’s solar power portfolio now includes “solar tree” structures at one of its offices in Dallas to provide both shaded parking and electric vehicle charging.

The solar trees are a product built by Envision Solar, a San Diego-based solar design company. The first deployment occurred late last week at the company’s offices in Dallas, Texas, and Kohl’s has plans to install more at various locations across the company. I had a telephone conversation with Envision Solar’s CEO, Desmond Wheatley, to learn more about the company and how they fit in with Kohl’s clean energy strategy.

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Wells Fargo, Grameen Foundation Partner to Expand International Volunteer Program

| Monday August 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Wells FargoOn August 5, Wells Fargo announced that it is partnering with the Grameen Foundation to expand its international volunteer Global Fellows program, formed in 2008. Through the Grameen Foundation’s Bankers Without Borders, Wells Fargo employees will have more opportunities to volunteer their time and skills on projects for microfinance and poverty-focused nonprofits around the world as the organization matches Wells Fargo employees with the nonprofits in their network.

This expanded Global Fellows program is starting on a pilot basis, featuring 12 spots, six volunteers each for two yet-to-be-identified nonprofits in Colombia and India. Four volunteers will work on-site, while eight volunteers will support the project virtually. The on-site volunteers will be in place for up to six weeks, while the virtual volunteers will donate up to 60 hours each. “We’re going to look to see how well it does and see if there is room for expansion moving forward. There are only 12 spots this time, but there is opportunity for growth in the future,” said Dasha Ross, vice president of corporate social responsibility communications for Wells Fargo.

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Lyft, Uber Edge Closer to True Ridesharing With Carpooling Services

Mike Hower
| Monday August 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 3.37.07 PMLyft and Uber have announced new features that could bring them closer to true ridesharing than ever before. Last week, Lyft launched its new “Lyft Line,” which allows users to share rides with strangers going along similar routes. Not to be outdone, Uber preemptively announced that it would be launching a similar feature — UberPool — on August 15.

There has been a lot of controversy over the use of the term “ridesharing” to describe the services provided by companies such as Uber and Lyft, with many claiming it to be a misnomer. Just a few months ago, for example, one reader commented on an article I wrote about Lyft’s new insurance coalition:

“Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are NOT ridesharing! Ridesharing is when the driver of the car is going some place for their own reasons, and gives other people who want to go on the same route, a lift.”

Well, technically the reader was not wrong. If we break up the term ridesharing into its two parts, “ride” and “share,” this implies that two or more people are agreeing to share a ride that they would have otherwise taken separately. In reality, Lyft and Uber are more like taxi services, where a driver is paid to pick up a passenger and deposit them wherever it is they want to go. But Lyft and Uber also aren’t quite taxi services.

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Corporations, Nonprofit Collaborate to Send Aid For the Ebola Outbreak

| Monday August 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Direct-Relief-medical shipment

Direct Relief shipment for the Ebola outbreak.

The West African Ebola crisis continues to gather pace. With the devastating illness proving fatal in around 55 percent of cases — compared with up to 90 percent in previous infections  —  it has already taken the lives of around 1,000 people in the current outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) just declared the current Ebola crisis in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea a public health emergency and recognizes this as the most serious outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first identified in 1976.

In the nearly four decades since the virus emerged, there is no known cure, and no vaccine has been discovered to inoculate individuals against it. Furthermore, because the illness afflicts the poorest segments of the population in developing countries, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, there’s no business model for developing pharmaceutical solutions for the virus. Those companies pioneering the few experimental drugs have found funding elusive in order to fully develop them, failing accordingly to bring any treatments to market in the notoriously expensive drug discovery process.

Consequently, the only approach in terms of care-giving, for now at least, is containment. Humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief, collaborating with 16 corporations, is directing its efforts towards getting essential supplies to locally-run entities to stem the spread of the disease. Last week, we spoke to Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief, to learn how the organization is making a difference on the ground in what appears to be one of the few hopeful stories regarding the Ebola crisis.

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EPA’s List of 100 Percent Green Power Users Keeps Growing

| Monday August 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

EPAGreenPower_Banner The list of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership (GPP) partners meeting 100 percent of their electricity needs from clean, renewable sources continues to rise. More than 650 U.S. organizations now rely wholly on “green” power resources – such as solar, wind and geothermal – to meet their electricity needs, according to the GPP program’s latest quarterly report, which was released July 28.

Collectively, green energy use among GPP’S “100 Percent Green Power Users” amounted to nearly 12 billion kilowatt-hours, which the EPA highlights “is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electricity use of more than 1.1 million average American households each year.”

The wide variety of U.S. organizations sourcing 100 percent of their electricity from renewable power generation reflects the increasing viability of relying on green power across the U.S. economy and society. They range from the largest public- and private-sector organizations – such as Intel, Kohl’s Department Stores, the World Bank Group and the EPA itself – through medium- and small-scale organizations, such as the National Hockey League (NHL), Santa Cruz Organic and around 100 U.S. schools, from high schools and colleges to the largest universities.

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A Millennial’s Letter to Financial Services Industry

3p Contributor | Monday August 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in “The Millennials Perspective” issue of Green Money Journal.Click here to view more posts in this series.

Liesel Pritzker Simmons__PicBy Liesel Pritzker Simmons

As a millennial, I have recently noticed a flurry of studies, articles, and reports about my generation, authored by a diverse range of interested parties. Quite a bit of the pure sociological data suggests that the 80 million of us born between 1980 and 2000 are narcissistic, lazy, and optimistic to the point of being delusional – it’s enough to make me want to delete that selfie!

Interestingly, the selfish characteristics so rampant in the sociological studies seem to dissipate when researchers start looking at how we millennials spend our time and money. We want our work to have meaning for ourselves and the world, and we place a higher value on consumer goods that have some sort of beneficial social or environmental impact. Climate change is not a debate for us, and we probably still nag our parents about separating the trash from the recycling. Although we are generally more conservative in our investment decisions than previous generations (can you blame us?), we are willing to take on more financial risk if it increases exposure to ESG impact. Impact Assets recently authored this excellent Issue Brief outlining many of the attitudes of millennial investors.

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Keeping the Pulse of the Planet: Using Big Data to Monitor Our Environment

3p Contributor | Monday August 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

4418890829_c11bc2319e_zBy Neno Duplan

Big data has become a major buzzword in tech these days; the ability to gather, store and aggregate information about individuals has exploded in the last few years. Businesses are harnessing that data to understand consumer behavior at unprecedented levels. Meanwhile, consumer advocates worry about big data’s power to aggregate our information, and that the access to our information, movements, purchases, availability, even your Wednesday-night route home from work, can be tracked, stored very cheaply and sold to other companies. Yet with all of this tracking and gathering of data about our activities, and the subsequent concerns over privacy, most of us do little to resist the tide of monitoring.

Modern humans have become major data junkies. We are complicit in this cycle with our online activity and mobile use and have been for years. We create meticulously cultivated personal radio stations in music apps; we enter our food intake and exercise in weight-loss apps; and we record late-night feedings of infants in breastfeeding apps. We wear monitoring devices — voluntarily — to gather data about ourselves even when we sleep. We even have them for our dogs!

These activity trackers or digital monitors typically combine a wearable device with a website or smartphone app to view data collected about your movements and habits. The goal is to measure not only your steps from the parking lot to your desk, but also your sedentary downtime at work or in front of a television, bursts of intense exercise and even your sleep habits — all to create a complete picture of your most and least healthful behaviors. Some models also offer tips and set goals based on your data. The devices send all the data about your movements back to a Web-based tracking program, which displays your every move and calories burned on the sort of precise charts and graphs that economists use to monitor recessions. The idea behind having this complete picture of your activity is to spur you into action to change unhealthy habits and make better choices for your body.

How fit is the planet?

There is an opportunity for us to use this same insatiable desire to collect data for another good: environmental monitoring. Similar devices, equipped with environmental monitoring sensors such as temperature, carbon, or chemicals in the air or water can give us unprecedented information about a location’s, region’s or the planet’s overall health. In the event of an environmental disaster like a major spill, nuclear accident or volcanic eruption, we could have an instant characterization of short- and long-term impacts of that disaster on its surroundings.

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Kimberly-Clark Releases Sustainability Report

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday August 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments

ScottKimberly-Clark is a big company with well-known brands like Scott, Depends and Huggies. It has also made some real strides in sustainability, as its latest annual sustainability report shows.

The company achieved a 26.4 percent reduction in water use in manufacturing in 2013, beating its 2015 goal of 25 percent. The report attributes the reduction to a more efficient manufacturing footprint, water conservation programs, and upgraded water and wastewater systems.

All totaled, Kimberly-Clark completed six major water reduction projects last year. For example, it made upgrades to the wastewater system at its Northfleet Mill that allows more than half of the wastewater to be recycled and reused.

When it comes to sourcing, Kimberly-Clark has also set lofty goals. The target is to source 100 percent of its wood fiber from suppliers who have achieved third-party certification of their forestry activities by 2015. Clearly, the company can meet those lofty goals as it met its target in 2012. A 2016 target is to achieve 100 percent chain of custody certification. All of the Kimberly-Clark tissue mills in North America and Europe are already chain of custody certified, along with about 50 percent of its mills in other regions. By 2025, the company plans to source 90 percent of the fiber in its tissue products from environmentally-preferred sources, including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood fiber, recycled fiber and sustainable alternative fibers. It has already sourced 71.7 percent from environmentally preferred sources.

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3p Weekend: 10 Companies That Stand for LGBT Equality

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday August 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment

8301983320_c566b44e3f_z With 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.

As marriage equality legislation makes its way through courtrooms across the country, it’s clear that equality will soon be the norm rather than the exception. While some companies still hang on walls of shame across the blogosphere for their persistent opposition to LGBT equality, an ever-growing list of forward-thinking firms are turning up the volume in their support for diversity.

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S&P Acknowledges Role of Income Inequality in Downturn

RP Siegel | Friday August 8th, 2014 | 3 Comments

BalanceThere has been a well-documented trend over the past 50 years to tweak the rules of the economic game to favor those at the top. The movement has been called “trickle-down economics,” among other things. Though it was mostly perpetuated by greed, it was consistently justified as being good medicine for the economy, even if it tasted bitter to those at the bottom, or even to those in the middle who found themselves drifting in that direction.

Now, a new report, issued by mainstream economic authority Standard & Poor’s (S&P), acknowledges, perhaps for the first time, that the extreme level of income inequality in this country is actually hurting the economy. In fact, the revered oracle has actually cut its forecast for economic growth (from 2.8 percent to 2.5 percent) based on these conditions.

The rationale behind this is simple. Consumer spending is responsible for 70 percent of GDP. Poor people don’t have much to spend, but they tend to spend every bit of it. Wealthy people tend to spend a smaller proportion of their incomes. So, as more and more wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very rich, less of it is circulated through the economy. That’s exactly what has been happening. Between 2009-2010, for example, income growth of the top 1 percent was 15 times higher than everyone else. Setting policy that gives those at the bottom more, by adjusting tax rates or increasing wages, will provide more direct benefit to the overall economy than piling ever more into the bulging bank accounts of those at the top.

This has been the subject of some controversy, with those in the investment community claiming that investment, not consumer spending, is the major driver. That idea is now being debunked by S&P, which acknowledges that “changes in federal tax policy over the years has exacerbated inequality, as tax rates for top earners have fallen faster than rates for average Americans.”

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Tax-Advantaged U.S. Oil and Gas Companies Reap Huge Gains

| Friday August 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments

OilPump Akin to health care, U.S. tax policy is one of those perennial, politically divisive issues that everyone seems to agree needs reform, but change is never forthcoming. President Barack Obama’s efforts to get U.S. corporations to repatriate the huge sums of money they hold in offshore banks and tax havens by invoking economic patriotism has been met by the by-now traditional blowback from self-professed “free market” neoconservatives and “pro-business” interests.

Avoiding U.S. taxes, American multinationals have stashed some $1.95 trillion in offshore banks, a year-over-year increase of 11.8 percent from 2013, according to a Bloomberg News study. Despite claims to the contrary, data from the U.S. Federal Reserve show that the effective U.S. corporate tax rate has been declining almost continuously since the early 1950s. Furthermore, while the share of federal revenue paid in by individual U.S. citizens in taxes is now approaching 50 percent, that for U.S. corporations has dropped to around 12 percent.

U.S. corporate tax policy, moreover, is at odds with broadly beneficial goals being pursued by the Obama administration, state governments, businesses, communities and individuals across the U.S., such as the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster the transition to cleaner, sustainable energy resources. Besides continuing to be heavily subsidized, the U.S. oil and gas industry reaps huge gains from tax advantages unavailable to other types of businesses, according to a study from Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS).

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Beijing to Phase Out Coal

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday August 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005Local authorities in Beijing announced that the city will ban coal sales and use by 2020 to reduce air pollution, Xinhua News Agency reports.

Six Beijing districts will stop using coal and will close coal-fired power plants by 2020. Coal use is expected to drop to less than 10 percent by 2017. Other fossil fuels, including fuel oil, will also be banned.

Coal burning accounts for 22.4 percent of Beijing’s PM 2.5, small airborne particles that contribute to smog. Coal use also accounted for 25.4 percent of Beijing’s energy use in 2012.

The main driver for coal reduction is air pollution, which is notoriously bad in Beijing. Back in February the Guardian reported that Beijing spent a week “blanketed in a dense pea-soup smog.” Beijing’s concentration of PM 2.5 particles rose to 505 micrograms, far above the 25 micrograms the World Health Organization recommends as a safe level.

In 2013, 92 percent of Chinese cities didn’t meet national ambient air quality standards, and coal burning is responsible for almost half of China’s overall PM 2.5 pollution.

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Coca-Cola to Invest $5B in Sustainable Development Across Africa

Leon Kaye | Friday August 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Coca-Cola, Africa, sustainable development, beverage companies, Leon Kaye, safe water, supply chain, Replenish Africa Initiative

Coca-Cola promises more programs in Africa, from women’s empowerment to safe water access

Africa is the last frontier for global investment, and beverage companies in particular are moving in quickly. One of them is Coca-Cola, which has long used its distribution network to help deliver medical supplies in countries such as Ghana and Tanzania. Now the company promises to invest an additional US$5 billion in sustainable development projects through the end of this decade.

By several estimates Africa has six or seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economics, so Coca-Cola’s focus on the continent should not be surprising. Its largest competitor, PepsiCo, has also ramped up investment in Africa, and brewing companies also have their sights on Africa due to its growing middle class and untapped marketing potential. Before these purveyors of fizzy drinks and beer can entrench themselves in these markets, however, much work needs to be done.

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REC Tracking Systems: A Cost-Effective Means of Clean Power Plan Compliance

| Friday August 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments

The Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan gives states broad leeway in meeting a national target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from existing coal-fired power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. One pathway is to bring more renewable energy generation capacity online.

Businesses instinctively deride stricter environmental regulations, claiming that the additional costs of regulatory compliance will constrain economic growth, raise prices for consumers and reduce their competitiveness. As numerous studies have shown, that’s the case only if businesses limit the scope of the analysis by excluding the costs to human health and ecosystems as encapsulated in broader economic sustainability metrics such as natural capital accounting, as well as by ignoring economic and job growth in other sectors that can capitalize on the new regulations.

Moreover, as highlighted in a report from the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) and the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), a tracking and reporting mechanism that’s already in wide use can provide a cost-effective means for U.S. states to help assure compliance with the Clean Power Plan: the information systems used to track and report on renewable and solar renewable energy certificates (RECs and SRECs).

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Why Buying Local and Organic Won’t Always Affect Our Environmental Footprint

3p Contributor | Friday August 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment

1570987795_4dc284e867_zBy Natalie Hase

Whether we like it or not, most of us are strongly bound to the agricultural sector, and we feel the responsibility to make the right choice from an environmental perspective. Nevertheless, it can be confusing standing in the supermarket in front of a sea of products, and consumers immediately go for the “greener choice,” that being local or organic.

We’ve gotten better at knowing where our food comes from – but can we claim the same for the environmental impact of our food choices?

According to Elin Röös, researcher at the Swedish University of Agriculture and co-author of the report “Organic production and climate change,” greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change mainly derive during the agricultural production phase, rather than by transportation of the products.

Natural processes are the main drivers to the sources of these emissions. Therefore, choosing organic and local over conventional products will have little effect on decreasing the main greenhouse gas emissions coming from the food that we eat.

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