TheEconomist’s Corporate Citizenship Conference “Doing Well by Doing Good” wrapped up earlier last week and provided a variety of perspectives on what exactly needs to be done, how and by whom to restore our economy, corporate ethics and public trust. It was no surprise that the bleak economic situation was a recurring theme echoed by the speakers, but I was struck by the dichotomy of opinions, with some speakers expressing optimism, while others took a bleaker outlook on the economy and the role of corporate citizenship. One issue all the speakers did agree on was the need to replace failed policies, practices and attitudes, at societal, corporate and personal levels with a truly sustainable approach.
The Road from Ruin Economist US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief Matt Bishop kicked off the conference by pronouncing that the economic crisis offers the opportunity to reshape capitalism (no small feat). He admitted that he and TheEconomist have moved away from their belief that “The business of business is business,” a la Milton Friedman. Given the magnitude of the problems facing our world, Bishop maintains that it is imperative for organizations the size of today’s global corporations to step up to the plate.
Environmental groups have heatedly lashed out at Virgin Galactic’s plans for space tourism. Criticism has reached a point at which a former senior brand advisor defended billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s brainchild, claiming that the firm’s venture will deliver long-term environmental solutions. But is Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo, as it is currently named, an expensive polluting junket serving only to give some wealthy people a decadent joyride, or will the results provide scientific benefits that ultimately will heal the planet?
The evidence suggests both.
Indeed, space exploration is an expensive, fuel-intensive, and polluting venture. Rockets and spacecraft need liquid hydrogen fuel, which at first appears to be clean-burning.
When Friday rolls around, I sometimes like to write harebrained posts postulating some kind of zany idea. So here’s today’s:
I ate at an airport McDonald’s the other day for the first time in ages. It was at once delicious and disturbing. I looked at the beef. Was it really beef? I mean, seriously, it was definitely some kind of beef-flavored-matter, and the advertisement did say 100% beef. But as I walked off with that greasy post-McDonald’s flavor (that lasts for hours) in the mouth, I got to thinking: that patty was almost no different than the wheat or soy-based stuff used to make vegan food (seitan and so on).
I walked away 100% convinced that McDonald’s could replace all its beef with beef-flavored seitan and NO ONE would notice the difference. McDonald’s would save a fortune, health would be improved, and the carbon and resource footprint of McDonald’s would be massively slashed.
Who doesn’t like pizza? Even the owner of ihatepizza.com can’t work up ire about his favorite least favorite food. I’m a fan, which is one reason Naked Pizza was among the most captivating components of Val Casey’s keynote at SXSW. Casey discussed the importance of meeting people where they are, when it comes to sustainability, and she used Naked Pizza an example of a business that embodies that motive.
Naked Pizza is a start-up out of New Orleans that was founded by a former anthropologist and a real estate developer who wanted to do the impossible and make pizza a health food. This wasn’t just about waistlines- the partners realized that making health food delicious and familiar is one of the keys to solving the obesity crisis. Funded by dotcom winner Mark Cuban and The Kraft Group, team Naked Pizza cites a simple equation as its key to success:
Microfinance is feel-good. It’s win-win-win for investors without demanding return requirements. It’s low risk. It helps the poor and empowers an escape from subsistence living. Microfinance is finance we can live with, far from Wall Street’s psychotic derivatives and Madoff-styled sociopaths. Microfinance is lending and investing that’s so ideal that it’s almost cutesy. However, it’s also small-scale, and its small scale reduces its potential to change the world quickly. United Prosperity is a new organization that includes all of the charm of a typical microfinance outfit, but also incorporates more serious, higher impact financial strategy. Ladies and gentlemen: the power of the guarantor.
Fast food chain, Burgerville, recently announced it is switching to commercially compostable cups and lids as part of its goal to divert 85 percent of the company’s waste stream from landfills. Burgerville is the first fast food chain to use compostable paper cups company-wide.
The compostable “ecotainer” soda cups and lids, developed by International Paper in cooperation with Coca-Cola, are made from fiber from sustainably-managed forests that meet the Sustainable Forestry Institute (SFI) guidelines. A corn-based coating, NatureWorks Ingeo, is used in the cups and lids to create a water-resistant barrier. And ecotainer products require less energy to produce than traditional paper cups.
Burgerville has also teamed with the Portland Roasting Company in an effort to bring Farm Friendly Direct coffee to all its customers. Proceeds from coffee sales help improve the lives of coffee farmers and their communities though the building of community centers, schools and water treatment centers.
No, it’s not an euphemism for a two-year-old cellphone battery. The new ZERO Charger from AT&T, in stores in May, automatically cuts off the electrical circuit when not charging, eliminating wasted electricity, also known as “vampire power.”
The US Department of Energy estimates internal and external adapters burn through about 120 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year of electricity wasted as heat, costing consumers more than $12 billion in electric bills.
A prominent British economist said “arrogance” on the part of the planet’s wealthier nations contributed to the disappointing outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference in December.
In an interview with the BBC, Lord Nicholas Stern said the conference should not be considered a failure, however, despite producing only the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, which has been signed by 73 nations so far.
Lord Stern is perhaps best known as the lead author of the Stern Review, a 2006 study of the economic effects of climate change. The study concluded that the benefits of strong, early action outweigh the costs.
Easy for you to say
Lord Stern, a former Chief Economist at the World Bank, said a failure on the part of the EU nations to really understand the concerns of developing nations like China and India contributed to the weak closing document.
Both China and India are grappling with how to move more than one billion people out of poverty without completely wrecking their, and the planet’s, ecosystem. Developed nations have had a hard time convincing them that the latter takes precedence over the former, especially when those nations, like the EU or US, are already rich.
Fact: Electric utilities contribute 42% of greenhouse gases in the US. Fact: Heat and power contribute 69% of all greenhouse gases in the US. Fact: The efficiency of US electric power plants has not improved since the 1950s.
The average efficiency of power plants in Eisenhower’s day was 33%, same as it is now, despite unbelievable technological advances in every other sector of society.
These are the words of Tom Casten, CEO of Recycled Energy Development, imploring citizens and business leaders to take action. But Casten is not just a cheerleader. He knows how to do it. He knows that the other 67% of the energy that goes into a power plant and doesn’t produce electricity is given off as heat. Waste heat. The same kind of heat that we need to warm our homes and offices, heat our water, and support industrial processes. Yet we throw that heat away and then use lots more fossil fuels, to get more heat. This is where Recycled Energy Development (RED) comes in.
All month long, we’re putting carbon trading under the microscope, looking at who’s doing what, and examining the promises and pitfalls for what lies ahead. Will carbon trading be the answer to our growing climate pains? Or will it be another example of the world shifting the focus from where it really needs to be? As we peer into the rather smoggy carbon trading crystal ball, we’d like to know what you think.
Earlier today, PepsiCo announced that it is launching a new pilot program to reduce the carbon footprint of its Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice.
About a year ago, the company released results of a lifecycle analysis (LCA) it had completed on the juice. That data, compiled in partnership with the Carbon Trust, revealed that each half-gallon of orange juice emits the equivalent of 3.75 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. (Need a point of reference? Consider this: Burning one gallon of gas creates 20 pounds of CO2.)
By completing the LCA, PepisCo also discovered that the largest single source of carbon emissions in the production of the drink came from the growing process. Specifically, about 35 percent of Tropicana Pure Premium’s carbon footprint derives from fertilizer use and application in the orange groves.
So now, Tropicana is going to team up with one of its long-time growers, SMR Farms in Bradenton, Fla., to test two lower-carbon fertilizers. If successful, the company estimates that this change could reduce the total carbon footprint of Tropicana Pure Premium by as much as 15 percent.
Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, is the third busiest busiest airport in the US and sixth busiest in the world. LAX has long faced a bevy of environmental challenges, especially the amount of emissions for which this notoriously congested airport is responsible. In September 2008, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the agency operating LAX and three regional airports, developed ambitious guidelines for sustainable airport planning. Now LAWA is accelerating its efforts by becoming the first organization to implement Enviance’s Greenhouse Gas (GHS) FastTrack program.
Established in 1999, Carlsbad-based Enviance is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software company that uses cloud computing to host and integrate data necessary for GHG management, carbon accounting, regulatory compliance, and sustainability programs. For 10 years, Enviance worked with large utilities including American Electric Power, a huge consumer of coal. Meanwhile, the company worked with the US Army in building a carbon monitoring system, completing the task in 9 weeks. The result: Enviance can provide clients with an Internet-based software package that includes data points for over 120 stationary sources of GHG emissions, 100 for mobile sources, and a library of 300 models and scenarios translated into data points that give any organization the tools and modeling needed for measuring its carbon footprint.
Cap and Trade has been hijacked, the wind taken out of its sails by climate change skeptics. More specifically, the issue of market-based solutions for addressing environmental problems has been utterly distorted. The truth of the matter is that markets have worked to drive efficient, environmental results.
One of the prime examples of this is the acid rain problem. In the US Northeast, it has been remediated in a cost effective way using environmental financial markets since 1995. The urban ozone (smog) problem has been lessened in 22 states due to the use of markets to reduce nitrous oxide (NOX) emissions since 1999. In fact, in the US today, there are 38 environmental financial markets that remediate environmental problems for air quality and water quality and protect endangered species.
What this means is that it’s time for the issue of cap and trade to be reframed. My argument is that environmental trading is only the facilitator to the implementation of cleaner technology and renewable energy. Cap and trade facilitates scaling of cleaner technologies by generating needed capital. And it has proven to be cost effective and adopted by industry with little violation of the law due to financial sanctions.
Earlier this week, Lisa Zelljadt from Point Carbon wrote of her company’s new “Carbon 2010” report, which is a worthy attempt at covering the complex set of variables involved in creating and sustaining markets for carbon allowances. The report quantifies the responses from their proprietary data and marketing survey of approximately 1,500 carbon professionals who are all involved in some way in carbon markets/ resource finance (and who are disproportionately carbon traders).
It looks at the success of market-based carbon initiatives, with particular focus on the EU Emission Trading System, where problems may be used as case studies for the eventual U.S. carbon market (as sixty percent of the respondents still think will happen by 2015).
Thus far, most people involved in the day-to-day of carbon markets come from regulated organizations (output sources) and dealers—aggregators or middlemen between governments distributing allowances and the firms that need them for compliance. Europe is suffering from an EUA (EU Emission Allowance) oversupply, and illustrates some of the problems that can occur with mispriced carbon.
Investment in renewable energy grew in 2009 in wind and biofuels – despite most of the world’s economy being mired in recession, according to a new Clean Energy Trends report from market research firm Clean Edge, Inc.
The third pillar of clean energy, solar power, saw revenues shrink, but only because of a crash in the price of solar panels, which have seen double-digit decreases.
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