This is the sixth post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.
By Carolina Fojo
A “City Girl” in Sustainable Ag…?
Driving through Illinois with my friend, I excitedly point out the window and ask, “What’s that?” A combine, he responds. A few minutes later: “Oooh, look—is that another combine?” No, that’s a tractor. He laughs and tells me I’m a city girl. I stare wide-eyed out the window as if I’ve never seen a field of corn in my life, and I feel like a kid learning her colors for the first time.
As the East Coast Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company, I am currently working hard to combat problems of social justice and promote sustainability in the food system, with a special emphasis on agriculture.
Uh, excuse me—you might politely interject—but… why exactly are you working in agriculture when you only recently laid your eyes on your first combine?
…A fair question, to be sure. The answer, however, is quite simple: I’m in food and ag because of labor issues and worker rights.
The second Corporate Water Footprinting Conference splashes down in San Francisco this December 2-3 and I’ll be there to report on how companies such as Patagonia, Pepsi, BC Hydro, Raisio, and Intel are addressing water risks and opportunities in their operations and to their brands. The other two primary H2O stakeholder groups; government agencies and NGO’s, will also be active participants. I am eager to see how transparency, innovative technologies, and creative partnerships are contributing to triple bottom line solutions including environmental stewardship, economic value, social responsibility, and cultural vitality.
As you may have noticed, water is becoming an increasingly important concern within both the private and the public sector. Type “water crisis” in your favorite search engine (Google turned up 35,700,000 entries) and you’ll see why. Briefly, here’s the water picture:
Globally, less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use. Human population is forecast to increase from 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion by 2050. This population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water in all sectors. Depending on the country, roughly 70% of total water consumption is agricultural, 20% industrial, 10% domestic, and 4% evaporation from storage. According to a 2008 UNICEF/WHO report, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies (approximately one in eight people) and 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease. Global climate change symptoms like reduced snow pack, increased glacial melt, and extreme weather patterns are forecast to throw additional fuel on the proverbial fire that is the water crisis.
Prior to the crash of the housing bubble and the collapse of financial markets, many different types of companies we involved in creating new and interesting ways to separate Americans (“consumers”) from their hard-earned money, especially those companies involved in consumer finance. From cell phone carriers to banks, high interest rates and hidden fees were the name of the game, leaving customers too confused to sort it all out, with many simply giving up and paying whatever they were charged.
The worst offenders, credit card companies and banks, have recently found themselves on the wrong end of legislation, the CARD Act of 2009, is intended to put a stop to some of the worst practices, such as excessive interest rate increases and unfair fee traps. True to form, this has not stopped the credit card companies from attempting to extract as much money from their customers as possible. According to Consumers for Competitive Choice, “…rather than react responsibly, the credit card industry has flouted the will of Congress and the Administration by moving quickly to raise rates, increase fees, and reduce available credit before the law takes effect next year.” In a completely new tactic, the credit card companies have decided to shift their focus to credit card transaction fees, an area that Congress has not yet addressed, and something that Consumers for Competitive Choice representatives feel we should all be very concerned about.
Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Consumers for Competitive Choice, (C4CC) is a national alliance of consumer advocacy groups and private citizens who are committed to promoting maximum choice for consumers in communications, energy, health care and financial services. The organization has spun off a new project, called the Credit Card Con, to bring attention to the issue of credit card interchange fees. Last week, the company held a teleconference to bring attention to the recently released report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) on the matter.
They’re at it again – the creative team who brought you the wildly popular Story of Stuff are following up with “The Story of Cap and Trade: Why You Can’t Solve a Problem With the Thinking That Created It.”
Many prominent scientists, politicians and business interests have been on opposing ends of the cap and trade discussion for a long time. Leonard acknowledges that some very smart people (some of them her friends) support cap and trade, but she isn’t convinced. (Watch the video above)
Expecting a full-blown global carbon trading market to emerge without the influence, intervention – or perhaps interference – of world governments is probably not possible and Shell’s new CEO is acknowledging this.
Peter Voser told The Guardian and its Environment Network, BusinessGreen, that regional markets alone cannot set the price of pollution and that action should be taken at the governmental level to make costly green projects, such as carbon capture and storage, economically viable.
The idea of a carbon tax is gaining some support from politicians in the UK and France as the Copenhagen summit on climate change begins Monday.
Just in time for the opening of the United National Climate Change conference in Copenhagen next week, the London-based medical journal The Lancet has published the findings of a number of studies that examine the links between climate change and public health.
There are six separate reports in the series. They explore the public health benefits linked to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in a number of areas, including sources of energy within residences, urban land transport, low-carbon power generation, and food and agriculture.
As a whole, the studies make a case for health professionals to become advocates for mitigating climate change and for “aligning climate change and public health policies.”
In my circles, there’s an old Jewish joke that defines the beginning of life as the point in time when the dog dies and the kids go off to school. I’d like to add my own personal twist: when you step down as chairman of the board of an environmental advocacy group, which for me happens this week.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed my time with the Georgia Conservancy, an old-time organization, forty-plus years old, that has served the state well over the decades. But managing this organization makes running a business seem like child’s play.
Bring to the table disparate stakeholders from various big businesses and you bring down the ire of other environmental groups all claiming you’ve sold out. Cobble together a coalition of environmental groups advocating on behalf of alternative energy or water-conservation efforts and big business interests vilify you as being too strident and unable to work with. Collaborate with various state agencies and you have both the environmental and business communities jumping down your throat. I used to believe that if an environmental group is doing its principled best, it’s got everyone a bit pissed-off with it. But surely there’s a more effective model.
After a lengthy hiatus from its early 1980’s guideline on green product declarations and advertising, the US Federal Trade Commission [now] Proposes CFL Labels For Light Output, Color, Mercury, & More. The FTC’s draft proposed rule, should it become final close to its present form (see above example for one of the possible label layouts), is likely to set a precedent affecting other consumer product sectors and, eventually, make third party verifications of environmental claims a standard procedure. Business significance: U2/C5
At the 2009 Net Impact Conference, Adam Werbach called Fiji Water a “Dead Man Walking,” stating that the company has greenwashed its brand and that it was only a matter of time before its actions caught up with the company (read a NY times article on Fiji here). While Werbach was referring to the way that Fiji Water was portraying its brand, he also broadly implied that the business of shipping water around the world is simply unsustainable. This brought up a lot of questions about the “health” of the bottled water industry in general.
The environmental arguments against bottled water are gaining more traction, and people are starting to question whether bottled water is really worth it, financially and environmentally. Recent sales reflect a drop in consumer demand for bottled water — Nestlé SA, the world’s largest food and beverage group, reported a three percent drop in its first-half profit last August, according to MarketWatch. In past years, Nestlé was growing in the double digits, as were most bottled water companies.
Overall, the bottled water industry in the United States has expanded at a phenomenal rate, though the market dipped slightly last year. According to data from Beverage Marketing, a U.S.-based data and consulting firm, retail sales of single-serving plastic bottles increased from 1.4 billion gallons in 2000 to 5.2 billion gallons last year, lifting their share of total bottled water volume from 29 percent to more than 60 percent. And, over the past decade, per-capita consumption of bottled water in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 200 bottles per year, per person, according to MarketWatch.
This is the third article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first, second, and third parts can be viewed here.
Meteorological towers provide a large quantity of raw data, which needs to be analyzed to assess the wind resources of a site. Desired information is frequently extrapolated from a data set, often with help from software including Windagrapher, WindFarmer, WindPRO, or Excel. This information then provides vital information for determining the financial viability of a potential wind farm.
“Towers over 60 meters in height require a special permit from the Federal Aviation Administration, so wind energy is normally assessed between 50 and 60 meters,” says Diane Reinebach, Senior Energy Specialist for RMT, Inc. “That data is then extrapolated up to 80 meters, which is the hub height of a wind turbine.”
“The idea of building a business selling sustainability without having a clearly articulated price competitiveness strategy is a recipe for failure.” That sentence from The Secret Green Sauce is “best practices #1” being used by companies that are making money going green. And it is issue number one for the solar industry.
The good news is that today solar panels for rooftop systems cost half as much than a couple of years ago and are now averaging $2.50 per watt. These costs are projected to decline as the industry continues to reduce manufacturing costs. First Solar claims below $1 per watt manufacturing costs and several manufacturers claim near-term paths toward 60 cents per watt. A California roof top solar system costing $1 per watt panels with 20% panel efficiency and a $2 per watt balance of plant costs according to my estimates will generate approximately 13 cents per kWh electricity in California or about 1/3 the price charged by utilities through their newly installed smart meters during the pricey summer hours of the year. In addition the utility scale solar thermal developers claim the potential to be at grid price parity plus the ability to dispatch their energy to track demand. So solar appears to have a path toward price competitiveness without subsidies.
The Cleantech Group, the guys who literally invented the word “cleantech” (and own the trademark — so watch out) today released “Ten Predictions for 2010: Trends to Watch For in Global Cleantech in the Year Ahead,” the investment information hub’s annual list of predictions for the future of clean technology.
I’ll go first: reindeer, vodka, snow, Nokia, and … saunas.
Pretty sad, right? For a bunch of world travelers we should know better. Luckily there is a group who is setting out to change all that. Finnfacts, the country’s PR agency, has invited Triple Pundit and friends from:
We head off on Monday. In preparation for the trip, I’ve been doing my research. Yes, some of this time was spent doing experiential research in the sauna with a Finlandia on ice, but I also did some good old fashioned reading. Did you know:
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviets, unsuccessfully allied with the Germans to regain lost territory, then eventually joined the allied forces against Germany as a condition of peace, meaning they fought in 3 separate wars all told.
Finlandization is the art of bowing to the east without mooning the west. (Hee! what an image.)
With little more than a week to go before the start of the COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen, the “Road to Copenhagen” starts to sound a little tired, even as participants prepare for actually heading to Copenhagen.
With the roller-coaster-like ride of pre-COP15 news, reeling from despair to faint glimmers of hope* that something positive and substantial will emerge from Copenhagen in mid-December, the question for many concerned about climate change, or who are considering going to COP15, is:
If Copenhagen is just another step in the long process from Kyoto to Bali to Copenhagen to… why bother?
Greenwich: Oct 23 – Oct 26 Social Venture Network 2014 Connect with like-minded business leaders at an SVN conference, Social Venture Institute or workshop. Get recharged, supported and inspired! Register here.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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