Policy Points: Three Signs of Hope from 2014

American Sustainable Business Council
| Friday December 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

11178388835_b7d56ea6c9_zBy Zach Bernstein

As 2014 reaches its final days, it’s worth looking back at what this year brought us. Not all of it was good – indeed, major priorities for sustainable business leaders stalled in Congress.

But when it came to the states, action on a pair of issues gained even more momentum. And a third which failed in Congress – and suffered a setback from the Supreme Court – still offers hope that a solution can be found. For a year that didn’t exactly inspire confidence in policy-making generally, it was actually a better year for sustainable policy than one might think.

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Tar Sand Companies’ Future CO2 Emissions Could Increase Five-Fold

Leon Kaye | Friday December 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Tar sands, FFI, keystone pipeline, Fossil Fuel Indexes, Canada, Alberta, ExxonMobil, Shell, Leon Kaye, ethical investing, Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural, Imperial Oil

Aerial view of Alberta’s tar sands

Supporters of the Keystone Pipeline and Canada’s tar sands development like to call their product “ethical oil,” but plenty of their opponents question whether digging up massive amounts of the earth’s surface is really “ethical.” Those who question whether churning tar sands into fuel, the most energy-intensive fossil fuel to refine, is a wise long-term policy will have more ammunition due to a report Fossil Free Indexes recently released. It could give potential investors in tar sands companies second thoughts about buying their equities.

According to this New York-based research group, which provides data to support ethical investing, the top 20 companies that have invested in the Canadian tar sands have increased their potential carbon dioxide emissions by more than five times the past 10 years. The FFI came up with this list based on its most recent Carbon Underground Tar Sands 20, which is comprised of the largest of the 200 public coal, oil and gas companies based on their reported reserves.

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Report Reveals Startling Differences in GDP and Inclusive Wealth

| Friday December 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

lWR 2014 TitleEconomic theory supports the allocation of capital and investments throughout the U.S. $17-trillion — and global $75-trillion — economy. Conventional economic theory is rife with assumptions that not only paint a narrow, inaccurate and vastly oversimplified view of the future prospects and actual overall impacts of investment decisions, but also justify investments that, over the long-term, can drive societies over the proverbial cliff.

Efforts to move beyond narrowly defined conventional economic theory — and measures such as GDP — stretch back decades. On Dec. 10, a globe-spanning initiative on the part of United Nations agencies, universities and research institutes released the 2014 Inclusive Wealth Report.

Measuring human and natural as well as produced capital, the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) offers a broader, more comprehensive — and hence more useful more perspective than GDP — regarding the economic performance of 140 nations. Moreover, comparisons of national economic performance from 1990 to 2010 as measured by Inclusive Wealth contrast starkly with those based on GDP.

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Why Uber is Not Part of the Sharing Economy

Raz Godelnik
| Friday December 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Uber Last week Uber raised $1.2 billion in its latest round of funding, bringing the company’s value to about $40 billion. The headline on TheStreet was: “Uber’s $40 Billion Valuation Nears Facebook Territory as Sharing Economy Continues to Soar.”

I find this headline quite accurate except for one thing – Uber is not part of the sharing economy.

I know that it might sound a bit strange, as Uber is one of the more common examples of the sharing economy. But bear with me for a minute while I try to make the case as to why Uber, despite being a business success story, still shouldn’t be considered as part of the sharing economy.

Looking at definitions of the sharing economy, one might actually think there’s no problem with addressing Uber as part of it. For example, in a 2013 report prepared for the European Commission, The Sharing Economy Accessibility Based Business Models for Peer-to-Peer Markets, the authors define the sharing economy as a space including “companies that deploy accessibility-based business models for peer-to-peer markets and its user communities.” Another definition comes from Adam Werbach, co-founder of Yerdle: “With sharing economy there are activities that take underutilized resources bringing them to use through the application of technology and community.”

Both of these definitions could fit Uber, especially with regards to its UberX service, in which ‘regular’ drivers use their own cars to provide customers with rides.

However, I believe that there’s more to the sharing economy than just creating peer-to-peer marketplaces and making a better use of underutilized resources. Take for example the framework Rachel Botsman, the co-author of “What Mine is Yours,” offers. She describes the core values of the sharing economy (or the collaborative economy as she refers to this space) as empowerment, collaboration, openness and humanness. “In terms of the underlying philosophy, it’s about putting these values above the end goal of profit maximization,” she writes.

Now, this might sounds like a narrative taken from a hippie lexicon, but to me it puts the finger right on the spot. The economic viability of the sharing economy is important, but so are the human values it promotes. After all, the hope (at least mine) is that the sharing economy will provide us with the much-needed vision of how a more sustainable future or a more humanized way of living would look.

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Are Cities the New Cigarettes?

3p Contributor | Friday December 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

beijingBy Jona Jone

We are living in a crucial time in Earth’s history — a time in which over half of the world’s population is now living in cities. This number is continuously rising, and with it comes the rise of pollution. Reports indicate that half of the world’s biggest cities are severely polluted, and the forthcoming setting for each of these places is looking grim.

Pollution comes in many forms, all of which capable of causing serious damages to our health. However, there is one form of pollution that harms us the most, simply because it is in the air we breathe. Humans are constantly breathing, and it is only logical that the more polluted the air we breathe, the more damage it causes our lungs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for more than 6 million deaths per year. In fact, air pollution is even causing more deaths than AIDS and malaria combined.

A study released by the United Nations in 2011 examined outdoor air pollution in almost 1,600 cities in 91 countries. The study, which used fine particulate matter as a measure of the severity of air pollution, notes that half of the world’s urban population are living in cities that have 2.5 times more of the recommended levels of fine particulate matter indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines.

It is said that the current cities of the world are slowly killing us. Recent studies reveal exactly why.

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Republican Congressman to Introduce Climate Change Bill

RP Siegel | Friday December 12th, 2014 | 17 Comments

Repub windmillEventually the truth, like cream, rises to the top, though it sometimes takes a long time. Perhaps it’s because we live in a world with so much technological capability that allows us to merely think of something and it becomes true — which has led us to believe whatever we wish to be true is true. In other words, some of us appear to have lost the distinction between fact and fantasy.

Sadly, there are a number of things out there that, no matter how hard we might wish it otherwise, are facts. Death and taxes are two (though if you have enough money you might be able to avoid the second one). The fact that the massive amount of combustion products we’ve emitted over time has substantially altered our planetary climatic system is a third. It seems that the facts are on one side, while the money is on the other, which might explain the standoff we’ve been seeing in Washington.

There is a young man in Congress, a Republican named Chris Gibson, who has announced his intention to put forth a resolution that will help others “recognize the reality” of the situation. Gibson, who represents the 19th district in New York (Hudson Valley), is basing the move on what he has observed:

“My district has been hit with three 500-year floods in the last several years, so either you believe that we had a 1 in over 100 million probability that occurred, or you believe as I do that there’s a new normal; and we have changing weather patterns, and we have climate change. This is the science.”

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Largest School District In the U.S. Will Serve Antibiotic-Free Chicken

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday December 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

school foodChildren attending schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the largest school district in the nation, will soon be eating better meat. The LAUSD’s Board of Education recently approved the 2014 Good Food Procurement Resolution which calls for food procurement guidelines to include antibiotic- and hormone-free standards. The LAUSD is the largest food purchaser in Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the U.S., serving 650,000 meals a day.

The Resolution is part of the Good Food Purchasing Pledge. Developed by the LA Food Policy Council (LAFPC), it has been described as being Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) type standards for food. In October 2012, the City of Los Angeles signed the Good Food Purchasing Pledge, and few weeks later the LAUSD signed it. It consists of five key values: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare and nutrition. It includes a tiered, points-based scoring system. It also features a baseline commitment: To be a Good Food Purchaser, a baseline for each value is required to be met.

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SABMiller Makes the Case for Confronting Water Scarcity at Lima Climate Conference

Leon Kaye | Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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SABMiller facilities in Lima, Peru.

Latin America is relatively water rich compared to other regions in the world. But there are still plenty of areas in Central and South America feeling the effects of climate change, generally because the precipitation is occurring where there is low population density. For example, Lima, the host of this week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference and home to 8.5 million people, only receives about 6.4 millimeters (0.30 inches) of rain annually.

Ironically for beverage companies, they are often expanding their businesses into areas that are already struggling with water scarcity. To that end, one large global brewer, SABMiller, says businesses need to make the business case for addressing water stress and climate change throughout Latin America.

As with the case of many beverage companies and brewers, Latin America is a growth market as more citizens enter the middle class and can now easily afford a beer or two. The problem, however, is that new breweries are often opening in municipalities that are already coping with water stress. To address the issue, SABMiller, which has concentrated its business in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Peru, has partnered with other organizations on water conservation and treatment programs for several years. One of them, the Water Futures Partnership, works with the World Wildlife Fund and the German development organization GIZ on recharging aquifers while reducing dependence on groundwater. According to SABMiller, such programs not only address water stress, but can also benefit businesses that invest in water security within Latin America in the long run.

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Move Over Lithium-Ion: Vanadium-Flow Batteries Gain Commercial Traction

| Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 4 Comments
Imergy's ESP30

Imergy’s ESP30 vanadium-flow battery systems offer distinct advantages as compared to their Li-ion counterparts, company President Tim Hennessy told 3p.

Early this year, California became the first state in the U.S. to start making use of advanced, distributed energy storage systems. The list of  factors motivating the passage of California’s energy storage mandate – AB2514 – is substantial. It encompasses integrating the fast-growing amount of renewable energy generation capacity coming online, enhancing grid reliability and resiliency, neutralizing the high and volatile costs of fossil fuels, and addressing the growing costs of climate change adaptation and degradation of ecosystems and natural resources.

Making billion-dollar investments in solar photovoltaic (PV) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery manufacturing, Elon Musk-led SolarCity and Tesla are gambling on their ability to dramatically lower the costs of solar PV and Li-ion battery storage technologies to cover all these bases. On Nov. 5, Southern California Edison (SCE) made its own foray into advanced energy storage, making U.S. power industry history when it awarded local capacity procurement contracts for over 260 megawatts of storage capacity across its Western Los Angeles Basin service territory.

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Data Center Renewables Starting to Have a Ripple Effect

Hannah Miller | Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments
onsite_map-640x407

Apple’s Maiden, North Carolina facility, with renewables plan.

Last year, in its ongoing campaign to get Amazon to commit to renewable energy, Greenpeace gave out mugs one Tuesday at lunchtime outside the company’s headquarters in Seattle. The cups said “Amazon Web service is green” until staffers got back inside and filled them with coffee, at which point the heat changed the message to: “Why isn’t Amazon Web service green yet? Google is.” It wasn’t just mugs.

But Greenpeace’s campaign to get Amazon to go renewable for its massive data center operation won out last month, with a quiet announcement posted online that Amazon has “a long-term commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint.” That footprint includes the multibillion-dollar cloud that is Amazon Web Services, which hosts the files for Netflix, Pinterest, AirBnB and many other massive companies.

Greenpeace’s renewable data center campaign has been remarkably successful, especially when you look at the size of these companies and the amount of energy the data centers consume. The organization estimates that the cloud consumes as much electricity as a country – and in fact, it would be the sixth-largest country in the world, according to two Greenpeace reports rating 20 companies on their fossil fuel use.

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Wear What You Stand For: Uniting Humanity Through Fashion

3p Contributor | Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Little Pickle Press.

Dhana Ecokids

Shamini Dhana, founder and CEO of Dhana, Inc., argues that the clothes we wear should align with our values. Here, two ‘Ecokids’ model the Dhana Ecokids brand’s fair trade ‘Hope’ scarf.

By Shamini Dhana

There are many universal mediums today that allow us to cross boundaries in shorter periods of time and without censorship. We’re talking about Twitter, Facebook, Google and the networks of the future. But have you thought about the non-virtual world as an instrument of change? It has the ability to transform our consciousness, providing knowledge of the world through the wisdom of cultures. Welcome to the world of fashion and the daily ritual of wearing a piece of apparel every day that has the potential to “define” you.

We’re familiar with the stories and research that indicate that an unconscious judgment call is made, a perception created at some level, within the first 40 seconds of physically meeting someone new. Interestingly, what you wear plays as an important part in the casting of that vote, as does the way you wear your hair or makeup, your voice and your posture. Such is the power of fashion — the ability to define one from the outside.

Now we look at the power of fashion to define and transform the individual from the inside, too. Ponder for a moment the ability to connect with people and planet through our clothes — what would you say to this? In reality, this concept is absent in our daily conversation because brands and companies that produce, market and sell clothing today have kept this information from us; they have denied it as a priority and denounced the impact that this information can have on the overall shopping and purchasing decision we as consumers make on a daily basis.

The reality is that our clothes are just as important to our overall well-being as the food we eat. If food fuels the body, provides energy and ability to perform our work, and is a medium to celebrate seasons and festivities, then the clothes we wear have the same ability to transform ourselves both inside and out. In fact, I would say that if we are what we eat, then we wear what we stand for.

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Where Do Companies Source Their Materiality Data?

3p Contributor | Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

50 Materiality Matrices EbookBy Marion Dupont & Laia Puig

When it comes to materiality, companies are faced with an increasing pool of documents, webinars, blog posts, articles or best practices shared in numerous sustainability or corporate responsibility websites. Most of these highlight the importance of conducting a materiality assessment process including both internal and external stakeholders, while a few others tend to debate over a common definition of materiality that should be common across different reporting frameworks, such as SASB, GRI or IIRC. However, few of them concretely nailed in the different sources a company should look at when conducting its materiality processes, just like the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard does.

Do all companies conduct interviews on employees? Analyze their reputation on social media? Meet external stakeholders in person? Can we observe differences among different industry sectors?

To answer these questions, we conducted a materiality benchmarking analysis on 50 companies from five different industry sectors: Financial, Energy & Energy Utilities, Food & Beverage, Mining and Telecommunications. We’ve analyzed their reports to identify the different sources they used and the internal and external processes they put in place to conduct their materiality assessments.

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Amazon Enters the Diaper Business With Promises of Transparency

Leon Kaye | Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Amazon Elements has launched, starting with diapers and wipes.

Amazon has certainly taken plenty of heat over the past several years. The giant online mall has long been criticized for dragging its feet on disclosing its carbon footprint (but never mind, you can of course buy a book about how to reduce your own CO2 impact). Its treatment of workers has also come under scrutiny. Nevertheless the company has tried to tout its “green” credentials, though most observers would only agree its greatest progress has been on frustration-free packaging.

Now the Seattle-based company is promoting Amazon Elements, a line of high-quality “everyday essentials” that supposedly are tested on Amazon employees’ families. Curiously, the launch of this Elements line is, for now, limited to disposable diapers and baby wipes. For now these products are only available to Prime customers, but anyone can subscribe to Amazon’s newsletters to see what future offerings are in store.

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Video: John Hardy of Best Buy Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

best-buy-storeAs part of our Talking Diversity video series, we spoke to thought leaders at the 2014 Net Impact conference. about what diversity means to them. We received all sorts of responses, from tips on diversity and inclusion management to personal stories and the business case for diversity.

For major multinationals like Best Buy, which operates more than 1,400 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, maintaining diversity and inclusion throughout an enormous staff presents both challenges and opportunities. For the electronics giant, taking diversity seriously means creating a welcoming environment for more than 140,000 employees, said John Hardy, field diversity and inclusion manager for Best Buy.

“We want to make sure that we create an environment that really allows people to bring their 100 percent selves to work,” Hardy said at the conference. “It’s really important that we have employees in our stores that understand our customers, from a personal level and from a professional level.”

Hardy, who manages Best Buy’s retail diversity and inclusion efforts, goes on to explain why diversity is important to the company — all the way down to the staff at its retail locations — this 60-second clip.

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Are Trucking Companies Going Green?

3p Contributor | Thursday December 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

sustainability for truckingBy Chandler Magann

According to the United Nation’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013, a good portion of corporations took the initiative to improve sustainability in 20 management practices. These include:

  • Management systems: 66 percent
  • Consumption and responsible use: 65 percent
  • Cleaner and safer production: 62 percent
  • Employee training and awareness: 62 percent
  • Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle): 59 percent
  • Impact assessment: 51 percent
  • Supply-chain arrangements: 31 percent
  • Eco-design: 25 percent

And 15 percent of supply chains are rewarding these efforts with good sustainability performance. However, not all the news is good. Some big-name corporations don’t consider trucking as a long-term, sustainable form of transportation. Two examples are Kraft Foods and Unilever. Kraft Foods wanted to reduce the amount of miles from its global transportation network, and it did so. From 2005 to 2010, they successfully eliminated 60 million miles of transportation, and they hope to cut an additional 50 million miles by the 2015. Unilever also wants to reduce the impact of carbon emissions from its truck fleets. It hopes that by 2020 the CO2 emissions from its global logistics network will be at or below 2010 levels despite significantly higher volumes. This will represent a 40 percent improvement in CO2 efficiency. Unilever plans to reach this milestone by reducing truck usage and using lower-emission vehicles, such as rail and ships.

Trucking is becoming more sustainable

Despite the initial urge to eliminate trucks altogether, a growing number of businesses are taking an environmentaly responsible approach to trucking and making it part of their sustainable logistics plans. More than 100 companies now have hybrid trucks in their fleets. These companies include Pepsi, Coke, AT&T, UPS, Kraft and several more. Kraft Foods began using diesel-electric hybrid delivery trucks in 2009. The company projects the vehicles will use 30 percent less fuel compared to their traditional diesel-powered counterparts.

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