DOE Looks Beyond Lithium with ‘EV Everywhere’ Grand Challenge

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

EVEverywhereRptCvrAiming to advance development of efficient-vehicle technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy last week announced it will provide $55 million in funding for 31 projects “to accelerate research and development (R&D) of critical vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs.”

Much of the funding is being devoted to projects that, in one way or another, will help realize the goals set out in President Barack Obama’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. Announced in March 2012, the challenge aims to reduce the costs and improve the performance of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) to the point where they “are as affordable and convenient as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.”

DOE has invested $225 million in EV Everywhere projects to date in order to lower PEV costs, increase range and develop a PEV charging infrastructure. Among other achievements, EV Everywhere R&D projects have cut the cost of PEV batteries nearly in half, to $325/kilowatt-hour (kWh), since 2010.

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U.S. Second in Installed Wind Power But Growth Uncertain

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2013 Wind Technologies Market Report Cover_1 The U.S. continues to be a world leader when it comes to installed wind power capacity, ranking second worldwide, despite modest growth in 2013. U.S. installed wind power capacity met nearly 4.5 percent of total national electricity demand last year, and U.S. renewable energy electricity generation is poised to double again by 2020, according to two reports released August 18 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Persistence of key policy incentives is pivotal to ongoing growth in wind and renewable energy capacity, however, the DOE noted. With lobbying from Koch Industries’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas recently came out in favor of phasing out the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which expired Dec. 31. Pushing for renewal of the wind energy PTC, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently ran TV and YouTube ads thanking members of Congress in Colorado and Iowa, for their strong, bi-partisan support of wind energy and the PTC renewal.

“As a readily expandable, domestic source of clean, renewable energy, wind power is paving the way to a low-carbon future that protects our air and water while providing affordable, renewable electricity to American families and businesses,” DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz was quoted in a news release. “However, the continued success of the U.S. wind industry highlights the importance of policies like the Production Tax Credit that provide a solid framework for America to lead the world in clean energy innovation while also keeping wind manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.”

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Salmonella Trial Illustrates Glaring Holes in Food Safety Control

Lauren Zanolli
| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

5613656967_969e5b7d4b_mAs the first federal criminal trial related to food-borne illnesses enters its third week, witnesses reveal a lack of regulatory oversight and unpalatable details of production at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the company responsible for causing a 2008-2009 outbreak of Salmonella that killed nine and sickened over 700.

Samuel Lightsey, former plant manager at PCA, returned to the stand on Monday for his seventh day of testimony on the case, which alleges that the company knowingly shipped contaminated products to its customers and lied to federal authorities. According to Lightsey, the company prioritized sales over food safety concerns and had a system for deceiving its customers that included using fake lab results for untested or tainted products.

In his testimony on August 8, Lightsey explained that PCA regularly shipped its peanut butter to Kellogg’s, which had requested Salmonella testing, with false test results. Lightsey said that Mike Parnell, food broker and brother of CEO Stewart Parnell, had told him: “I can handle Kellogg’s. We’ve been shipping to them with false COA’s (certificates of analysis) since before you got here.”

Prosecutors showed company emails that documented Parnell filling out COAs — official lab results — himself. Other emails documented CEO Parnell’s insistence that products known to be contaminated with rat feces be shipped anyway.

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A Look at the History of the B Corp Movement

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments

This is the second in a weekly series of excerpts from the upcoming book “The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good.” (Click here to read the rest of the series.)

By Ryan HoneymanAND1

I first discovered the AND 1 mixtapes in the late 1990s.

The mixtapes were a series of basketball “streetballing” videos, created by the popular basketball shoe and apparel company AND 1, that featured lightning-quick ball handling, acrobatic slam dunks and jaw-dropping displays of individual talent.

I was a huge fan of the AND 1 mixtapes because the players used flashy, show-off moves that were very different from the more traditional style of basketball played in college or the NBA at the time.

Many years later, I was quite surprised to find out that two of AND 1′s cofounders, Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan, along with Andrew Kassoy, their longtime friend and former Wall Street private equity investor, were the people who created the Certified B Corporation (also referred to as just B Corporation, or B Corp).

I learned that Gilbert’s and Houlahan’s experiences at AND 1, and Kassoy’s on Wall Street, were central to their decision to get together to start B Lab, the nonprofit behind the B Corp movement.

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SAK House: Making Green Home Kits Affordable

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

energy efficient houseWhen green building consultant Ricky Cappe set out to build his own green home on a modest budget, he wondered how it was possible. He found it very time-consuming to research the endless options, many of which weren’t sustainable, and he found working with architects both expensive and time-consuming.

“You can pay anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000 to have your home designed by an architect,” says Cappe. “Why do we need to reinvent the wheel every time we build?”

This quandary inspired him to start a company called SAK House, which sells sustainable, affordable house kits. These green home packages cost between $5,900 and $9,500 and include a set of building plans, green supplier contact information, material recommendations, a building timeline and technical support from Cappe. The homebuilder merely selects one of  five customizable models, hires the contractor and selects the finishes.

Cappe says this can save thousands in architectural fees and many hours of research. The finished product is a customizable home, for a fraction of the cost, in a shorter time frame.

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Adapt to Crowd-Sourcing or Risk Losing Relevancy

3p Contributor | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

shutterstock_171265247By Jennifer Tuohy

The advent of the Web brought about the greatest shift in business since the Industrial Revolution. Companies had to adapt or die, and many have suffered in the face of online competition (Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, etc.).

However, as with all great revolutions, the Internet revolution generated an unintended consequence: crowd-sourcing. The collaborative power of the people is growing, and it is perfectly poised to bite big business once again.

Collectively described as the “collaborative economy,” the various Internet-powered methods people are using to get what they need from each other (instead of from traditional businesses) include crowd-funding, the sharing economy, the maker  movement and peer-to-peer lending. From using someone’s bedroom instead of staying in a hotel, to asking thousands of people you’ve never met to fund your idea for the ultimate cooler instead of going cap-in-hand to the bank, the collaborative economy is leaving big business out in the cold.

“The 20th century economy was powered by big corporations that standardized everything because they never really knew their customers,” explains Brian Chesky, the 32-year-old founder of sharing economy darling AirBnB. “The 21st century economy will be powered by people.”

Once again, it’s time to adapt or die.

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3 Tips for Transforming Hospital Food Into Something More Sustainable

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Sustainable Food DFThe University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is world renowned for its cutting-edge research and medical care. It is also a leader in sustainability, modeling healthy, sustainable food choices for patients, staff and visitors. In the recent 2014 townhall (see minute 21.20), an attendee asked University of California Office of the President (UCOP) President Janet Napolitano about UCOP’s sustainable food initiative, advocating for a move away from an animal-based diet. She responded that while UC is not moving toward a total vegetation approach, campuses are adjusting their procurement process to buy food from smaller, organic growers. Napolitano commended UCSF for its sustainable food efforts, notably efforts to eliminate antibiotics from the meat it serves at UCSF Medical Center.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Henroid, the medical center’s director of nutrition and food services, to reflect on UCSF’s successes and challenges as it moves the needle on sustainable food. Based on our discussion, I offer the following three tips for other hospitals and institutions seeking to improve the sustainability of the food they serve:

  1. Reduce conventional meat consumption in order to purchase more sustainable meat;
  2. Collaborate to promote sustainable food practices; and
  3. Get your local team on board.
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Ford to Launch Largest Solar Array in Michigan

Leon Kaye | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Ford, Ford Motor, renewables, clean energy, solar, solar carport, Leon Kaye, Detroit, Clean Technology, DTE Energy

The solar array at Ford’s HQ will shade 360 cars.

Ford Motor Co. has been one of the more interesting automakers to watch as it has increased its focus on sustainability in recent years. Now the company is ramping up its solar portfolio to match its efforts on recycling and using more “greener” materials within its cars.

Last week the Dearborn, Michigan-based company announced it will work with DTE Energy, a Michigan electric utility and energy services firm, to build what the companies say will be the largest solar array in Michigan. Scheduled to start construction next month with a finish date targeted for early 2015, the carport at Ford’s global headquarters will be the second-largest solar carport in the Midwest. After completion, DTE will continue to operate and maintain the installation for 20 years.

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EPA Launches Criminal Investigation Against Tyson Foods

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Tyson_Monett_wastewater_3_MoDNRPoultry producer Tyson Foods has announced that the Environmental Protection Agency is launching a criminal investigation into last May’s wastewater discharge at Tyson’s Monett, Missouri plant.

The information was revealed in Tyson’s Aug. 7 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, in which Tyson acknowledged that it is also being sued by the state of Missouri for the company’s part in allegedly causing a massive fish-kill in Clear Creek in May of this year.

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4 Lessons from Burger King’s Decision to Stop Serving Low-Calorie Fries

Raz Godelnik
| Monday August 18th, 2014 | 6 Comments

Satisfries Last week Burger King had some news for us: The fast food chain announced it will stop serving Satisfries, its lower-calorie french fries, at most restaurants.

The reason?  Apparently, most customers didn’t like this low-calorie option. “More than 100 million customers had tried the fries, but that sales were too weak to continue offering the item throughout its United States stores,” the company told the New York Times.

But this wasn’t the only fry news Burger King had last week – one day before it waved goodbye to Satisfries, the company announced on the return of “the great-tasting Chicken Fries”!

The reason? Again, it was all about the customers. “Sparked by an overwhelming number of enthusiastic tweets, Change.org petitions, dedicated Tumblr and Facebook pages, and phone calls from devoted fans, these voices are the reason this cult favorite menu item is back.,” the company reported.

So, in most of Burger King restaurants, customers will keep enjoying the same number of options after these changes, only instead of one with 270 calories, 11 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium (aka Satisfries), they will have one with 290 calories, 17 grams of fat and 780 milligrams of sodium (aka Chicken Fries).

However, there’s more to this story than just calorie, fat and sodium accounting.  Here are four lessons we can learn from last week’s news:

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Pushed by New York, ConAgra Shifts to Sustainable Palm Oil

Leon Kaye | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments
ConAgra Foods, Con Agra, Palm Oil, Sustainable Palm Oil, New York State Retirement Fund, Green Century Capital Management, transparency, Leon Kaye

ConAgra joins the sustainable palm oil bandwagon.

ConAgra Foods is now the latest large food company to adopt a more sustainable palm oil policy. The $13 billion giant, whose packaged food brands include Healthy Choice, Slim Jim, Marie Callendar’s and Libby’s, has agreed to use only sustainably-sourced palm oil in its products.

Soon after the company announced its new policy late last week, the US$177 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund announced it would withdraw a sustainable palm oil shareholder proposal it had filed with Green Century Capital Management.

While ConAgra previously stated it was committed to the development of sustainable palm oil, and is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, its stance did not go far enough to satisfy a wide range of environmental activist groups. Critics accused the company of focusing more on purchasing “GreenPalm Credits” instead of working harder to prevent purchasing palm oil from suppliers that were responsible for deforestation, most of which is occurring in southeast Asia.

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The Quick & Dirty: Activists and Money Don’t Mix

Henk Campher
| Monday August 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Do activists really care about money? Some companies think so, but 3p contributor Henk Campher offers another perspective.

Do activists really care about money? Some companies think so, but 3p contributor Henk Campher offers another perspective.

Last time around I got a few people upset when I wrote that activists saying they want to engage was little more than “sound washing.” Two weeks in beautiful Kauai, Hawaii doing extreme marathon hammocking with a Mai Tai (or two) didn’t make me change my mind, but it did make me ponder the typical response by companies.

I’ve worked with many companies on stakeholder engagement and help many of them understand activists and activist campaigning — and they are as guilty of getting it wrong as the activists themselves. No, I take that back. They get it wrong more often than activists. There are a few common myths that almost every single client gets wrong, and it’s fun calling them out before I even start working with a client. I won’t list them all — hey, I need to keep some secrets to earn a living — but let me share one that every company consistently gets wrong.

“Activists do it for the money.”

No, they don’t … Activists should not be confused with other nonprofits and foundations. They make next to nothing compared to not only the business and government sector but also compared to most of the nonprofits and foundations. Just peruse some of the sites advertising activist jobs, such as Idealist or OneWorld or the individual sites of activist organizations such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, etc.

A very senior Greenpeace International executive recently came under fire from within the organization for, amongst others, the “extravagant” monthly salary of around $8,000 per month. Yes, that is a lot of money when compared to the average income of a supporter or to the average income in any country but let’s be very clear here — it is nothing when compared to similar positions at a government, corporate, large nonprofit or foundation level. The position of this person was similar to a senior executive at most global companies or senior government level. Does that sound like a salary earned by the average corporate or government senior executive? Not even close.

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Green Flag for Green Power at Michigan International Speedway

| Monday August 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Michigan International Speedway goes green

If you’ve been following the sustainability initiatives of racing tracks affiliated with NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), the idea of a green auto racing industry is beginning to make sense. Last Sunday, the Michigan International Speedway chipped in with its own addition to the effort.

The Speedway made a high-profile pitch for renewable energy in partnership with the utility Consumers Energy, using its Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup event as the springboard for announcing a raft of new green energy programs.

As part of the historically petroleum-dependent NASCAR circuit, the Speedway’s contribution to sustainability offers some dependable guideposts for businesses seeking to transition into a more sustainable energy model, so let’s take a closer look and see what they’re up to.

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Collecting Discarded Plastic (and Data) For That T-Shirt

3p Contributor | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

[Image Credit: Jovan Julien, www.JovanJulien.com]

Thread fabric at a collection center in Haiti.
Image Credit: Jovan Julien, www.JovanJulien.com

By Gina Faiola

Sure, that shirt you’re wearing may be designed from 100 percent post-consumer plastic, and perhaps you know that it took about 10 or 15 soda bottles to make its fabric, but do you know what country those bottles came from? Do you know how they got recycled or who picked them up? Are you curious about the impact your T-shirt purchase has on supporting the livelihood of the person who collected those bottles? Thread, a Pittsburgh-based B-Corp, is betting that you want to know, and is poised to provide that information when you purchase a product made from its recycled polyester fabric.

Founded in a lightbulb moment following a trip to Haiti — where founder Ian Rosenberger saw widespread underemployment, unsafe living conditions and discarded plastic bottles strewn across streets and beaches –Thread was conceived to take that plastic from “ground to good.” Fast forward three years, and the company is in partnership with Ramase Lajan – an Executives Without Borders NGO program, the name of which translates to “picking up money” in Haitian Creole. Currently, Thread operates in Honduras and Haiti, supporting 225 full-time jobs and 3,000 income-generating opportunities within the collection centers and recycling facilities where the bottles are washed, processed and turned into “flake,” the preliminary plastic material necessary for recycled polyester fabric production.

Each recycling center operates as a nonprofit private entrepreneurship model, and according to Kelsey Halling, Thread’s director of community development, collection center owners who received start-up capital were chosen as well-respected pillars of the community. This helped in overcoming initial community stigma for the dirty work of discarded plastic collection. “There is much less shame now, and plastic isn’t on the streets as much anymore. There’s other waste that gets built up, but plastic doesn’t lie around anymore because people know it’s valuable,” Halling said. 

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Where’s the Community Accountability in Impact Investing?

3p Contributor | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

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

Morgan Stanley By Morgan Simon

The concept of impact investment — which has the explicit purpose of supporting economic and community development — is receiving a growing amount of attention from an increasingly diverse set of financial players. This emerging trend is one of the most exciting, and potentially problematic, trends I’ve seen over the last decade. As with any new field, impact investing raises consequential questions and issues with the answers and intended results remaining up for grabs.

Let’s consider the following questions to start:

  1. How is impact being defined, and by whom?
  2. How are strategic opportunities being identified and defined, and by whom? How will impact capital be deployed, with what objectives, and toward what ends?
  3. Under what conditions shall profits be made from impact investment? Who should govern the agreements about use and distribution of the profits?
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