SEC Issues Guidance On Climate Change Risk Disclosure

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 28th, 2010 | 3 Comments

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted yesterday to issue interpretative guidance on what public companies must disclose to investors concerning climate change risks. A press release issued by the SEC states that the interpretative guidance is meant to clarify “certain existing disclosure rules that may require a company to disclose the impact that business or legal developments related to climate change may have on its business.”

SEC Chairperson Mary Schapiro said in a speech before the vote that an interpretative release “does not create new legal requirements or modify existing ones — it is merely intended to provide clarity and enhance consistency.” Schapiro added that the SEC “is not making any kind of statement regarding the facts as they relate to the topic of climate change or global warming.”  

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Audi’s Green Police Ads. Hilarious, But What About Audi?

| Thursday January 28th, 2010 | 13 Comments

I have to hand it to Audi. Their upcoming “green police” advertisements (destined for the super bowl) are absolutely hilarious. This could be the first big environmental meme of 2010 – the perfect mix of “Reno 911″ style comedy and enough subtle cynicism to actually get people to think. If you haven’t seen them yet, just watch. I can’t stop laughing at this one:

The only problem, what does this have to do with Audi?

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Asian Carp Part I: Can Plundering for Profit Save Precious Waterways?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday January 28th, 2010 | 11 Comments

Is there anything sustainable about a business model focused on exploiting a resource until that resource is gone?

When considering, say, the mining of natural resources, of course you would say no. But what about using this approach to curtail the introduction of an invasive species that threatens not only one of the world’s most important ecosystems, but also major industries?

The invader in question here is the Asian carp. The ecosystem is the Great Lakes.

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How Can Trash Help Us to See More Sustainably?

RP Siegel | Thursday January 28th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A former Artists in Residence sculpture

I think we all know that in order to make the transition to a truly sustainable society, we need to learn to look at things differently. But how—or where —can we get that new perspective?

Recology, San Francisco’s recently rebranded waste and recycling management service (formerly NorCal Waste Systems), is providing a lens for seeing things differently through its Artist In Residence Program. In this program, artists work to show us the inherent beauty in objects that had previously been deemed worthless—and in the process inspire us to recycle more and conserve natural resources, thereby reducing the amount of waste we generate.

“I am visually narrating a beautiful dream battled by an undercurrent of destruction,” says Erik Otto, a current Artist in Residence. “My work critiques not only the detritus produced by the media industry, but the consumers of these products as well,” says David Hevel, a former one. The program provides local artists with access to materials, a work space, and other resources. It originated in 1990 with a mission of turning “trash to treasure,” creating art from what would have been sent with the rest of San Francisco’s trash to landfills across the Bay or recycling plants across the nation.

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Clean-Tech Investor Summit: Industry Luminaries Share Their Vision for Success

3p Contributor | Thursday January 28th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Lee Barken
With southern California in the midst of thunderstorms and flash-flooding, attendees at the 6th Annual Clean-tech Investor Summit listened intently – among occasionally flickering lights – to conference chairman Ira Ehrenpreis remind the audience that “we choose Palm Springs as the conference location for the past 6 years because of the wonderful weather here.”  Despite the cancellation of 3 speakers due to weather related travel problems, the January 19-21 summit convened over 400 industry professionals to reflect on 2009, opine on 2010 and network with piers.

Networking, as it turns out, was a major attraction for attendees.  As one Private Equity managing partner said to me: “I’m here to meet up with colleagues and see old friends.”  Another popular theme, as shared by one clean tech company exec I met: “We’re here to look for funding.”

Flipping through the conference attendee list (provided to all participants) reveals an eclectic mix with concentrations in two communities: Capital Providers (Venture Capital, Private Equity) and Entrepreneurs.  The other notable presence: attorneys.  Lots of attorneys.  Now, imagine adding cocktails, a few hors d’oeuvres and then swirling them all together in one big room.  It’s party time.

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USEPA Is Back. Will New Regulations Be Cost Burden or Strategic Advantage?

John Laumer | Thursday January 28th, 2010 | 2 Comments

MACT air emissions regulatory compliance tools

Image credit:Processing Magazine

Operators of energy-intensive US industrial facilities, having benefited from years of USEPA ‘enforcement light,’ now face an old-fashioned onslaught of environmental reporting requirements. USEPA is poised for action – gathering what information it needs before revised or new regulations are published. Even though new industry rules by EPA – reporting previous year’s carbon emissions for operating sites, or estimating prospective site clean-up costs, for two examples – seem reasonable, meeting the Agency’s deadlines may be a serious challenge for many operating sites and for overseeing corporate staffs. Why?

No one left to delegate to

Over the last 8 to 10 years, corporate-level Environmental, Health, & Safety (EHS) staffs have been thinned past the bare bones stage. I’m not talking about the happy talk “Sustainability VP,” a slot usually disconnected from regulatory compliance. (That will change.) I’m talking about the loss of seasoned regulatory professionals who’d spent their careers learning how to measure emissions, apply for and receive operating permits, testify at public hearings, and answer questions from plant neighbors. This stuff is definitely not taught in college.

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UPS Adds 245 CNG Trucks to Its Green Fleet

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Last week, UPS announced it has deployed 245 new delivery trucks powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to cities in Colorado and California.

The vehicles are part of UPS’s continued effort to:

• reduce its emissions from the use of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and diesel,

• lower its carbon footprint, and

• offer an immediate competitive advantage to small- and medium-sized businesses looking to green their supply chains.

In fact, UPS now operates one of the largest private fleets of alternative fuel vehicles in its industry–more than 1,900 in total with these additions.  This heterogeneous “green fleet” utilizes multiple alternative fuel technologies, including CNG, hydraulic hybrid, hybrid-electric, electric, liquid natural gas, liquid petroleum gas and propane.

“At UPS, we employ a ‘rolling laboratory approach’ to test the benefits of multiple technologies rather than committing to one,” explains Steve Leffin, Corporate Sustainability Manager at UPS. “This is ultimately what allows UPS to invest smartly and investigate ways to be as efficient as possible, so that our customers benefit from that efficiency–in time, cost and footprint.”

So, why is the company specifically adding CNG trucks now?

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Solar-Powered Plane One Step Closer to Around-the-World Flight

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 0 Comments

What began as a dream years ago is now becoming reality for two very talented Swiss pilots. Dr. Bertrand Piccard, a 51-year-old psychiatrist and aeronaut, along with former fighter pilot and project CEO Andre Borschberg, are getting ready to fly around the world in a solar-powered aircraft.  Imagine flying from here-to-there without the need for fuel.

In December, test pilot Markus Scherdel took their prototype solar aircraft, the  Solar Impulse HB-SIA , on a successful first test flight near Zurich. After the flight was completed, the craft was dismantled and moved to another location for further testing.

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Next Week’s State of Green Business Forum: Pushing the Green Economy Forward

Scott Cooney | Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 0 Comments

GreenBiz.com’s State of Green Business Forum next week (February 4th) in San Francisco comes at a time when modest leadership at the federal level and mixed reviews from Copenhagen have raised the stakes for the success of the green economy as the ultimate go-between of business, advocacy, policy, and progress.  Among the many reasons I am very excited to be going, Van Jones will be speaking, and is reemerging as a leader after a politically charged witchhunt funded by Big Oil forced him from Washington as President Obama’s Environmental Adviser and Green Jobs Czar.

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Ocean Carriers Propose Emissions Reduction System

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Rather than dealing with a potpourri of environmental emissions regulations and fees, a group comprising the world’s largest international liner shipping companies is proposing a new global vessel efficiency system (VES) intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The 29-member World Shipping Council’s proposal asks the UN’s International Maritime Organization to take the lead in applying vessel efficiency design standards for new and existing vessels in the world fleet that will improve their carbon and fuel efficiency.

Under the VES proposal, newly built vessels would be subject to mandatory efficiency standards requiring them to be built with features and technologies that further improve their energy efficiency to reach defined levels, according to a WSC statement. “These standards would be similar in nature to the fuel efficiency standards required of cars and trucks in many countries around the world today. The standards would also be tiered with higher standards required over time as technology developments allow further improvements.”

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Did H&M Knowingly Pass Off GMO Cotton as Organic?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Some of the certified-organic cotton clothing sold by leading European brands and retailers contains genetically modified (GMO) cotton from India, according to the German edition of the Financial Times as reported by Ecouterre.com. Roughly 30 percent of the samples tested by Impetus, an independent German lab, contained GMO cotton. The European retailers exposed by Financial Times include H&M, C&A and Tchibo.

India is one of the largest producers of organic cotton. Sanjay Dave, the head of the Indian agricultural authority, Apeda, told the Financial Times that fraud was occurring on a “gigantic scale” and fines were issued to third-party certification agencies like EcoCert and Peterson Control Union last April.

“The fashion chains were not vigilant enough,” Monika Buening of Germany’s Federal Consumer Affairs Agency, told the German newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau.

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Is the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Incentive Stifling Innovation?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Department of Energy (DOE) program, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing incentive (ATVMI) is meant to stimulate the development of cleaner vehicles (EVs). The Security Act of 2007’s Section 136 created an incentive program of grants and loans to support developing advanced technology vehicles and the parts needed for them. A total of $25 was appropriated for the ATVMI.

However, the ATVMI may actually be stifling innovation. As a December post on Wired.com points out, the ATVMI has a “downside.” The DOE approved loans to Nissan, Ford, Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive totaling $8 billion. Start up companies are conspicuously absent from the list. In the words of the Wired article, “…this massive government intervention in private capital markets may have the unintended consequence of stifling innovation by reducing the flow of private capital into ventures that are not anointed by the DOE.”

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And The Top Ten Most “Sustainable” CEOs Are…

| Tuesday January 26th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Thanks to everyone who voted and nominated during our Top Ten Sustainable CEOs Survey. The results are in and posted below. (You can see the entire list at the bottom of the original post, as well as the great conversations the nomination process produced).

Before we get too excited about the ranking, I want to emphasize that there was nothing scientific about this process and its real purpose was as much to provoke conversation as it was to give recognition to some of our most enlightened business leaders.

It was also about challenging readers and leaders alike to ask themselves what the definition of “sustainable leadership” really is. In some cases these leaders have helped create products and services with positive environmental or social impact, in others they have helped build a corporate culture that rewards and nourishes employees and stakeholders in new ways. Some are well known, others more humble. As you think about the “winners” keep in mind the very loose and changing definition of the word “sustainable” and leave some comments as to what it means to you.

Finally – we plan to do a lot of following up as much as possible in our upcoming leadership series including interviewing as many of these folks as we can. Please contact us if you, or your company, is interested in being profiled in the upcoming series.

Without further ado, the folks with the most votes were as follows:

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Editorial: How Will the Citizens United Decision Affect Sustainable Business?

Steve Puma | Tuesday January 26th, 2010 | 4 Comments
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From Building Unions by Peter Kellman, POCLAD

“The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.” – Minority Opinion by Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.

News outlets and the blogosphere are abuzz with reactions to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision that will allow corporations to fund political campaigns. The ruling, which overturns decades of legal precedent and legislation limiting the ability of corporations to influence the outcome of elections, may have broad implications for the political process in the U.S. News of the decision has drawn criticism from both the right and the left, many voicing the opinion that dramatically increased rights for corporations will significantly diminish the ability for individual citizens to have their voices heard.

In his weekly address, President Obama said, “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest,” he said. “The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.” Congressman Alan Grayson (FL) has already introduced legislation to combat the policy change. His “Save Our Democracy” Reform Package contains several strong measures, including a 500% excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees, and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.

Although some claim that this most recent ruling will have only a limited effect on the political process, the decision certainly re-confirms the doctrine of granting constitutional rights, originally reserved for flesh-and-blood U.S. citizens, to corporate entities, which have held the dubious status of “legal persons” with rights since 1886, when another Supreme Court decision accorded it to them. This unexpected action by the Court re-opens the debate about about the wisdom of affording corporations such rights, and what effects this all has for sustainable business.

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Permaculture Ecotourism–An Exploration of Rancho Margot in El Castillo, Costa Rica

Scott Cooney | Tuesday January 26th, 2010 | 3 Comments

When the area around Lake Arenal, Costa Rica, was deforested to make room for “McCattle”, little planning was done for the sustainable use of the land.  It’s the same old story, and one that has played itself out for decades in central America–demand for cheap beef in the United States has driven the destruction of much of the isthmus’ rainforests, and with typically thin soils, steep topography, and slow growing forests, the land does not recover after a few years of cattle grazing, but rather more resembles desert grasslands that are bereft of the area’s historic biological diversity.

Thanks to ecotourism and perhaps to carbon credits and offsets purchased elsewhere, many efforts are underway to reforest much of this land lost to cattle ranching. Costa Rica’s Institute of Tourism (ICT–Instituto Costaricense de Torismo) provides guidelines for a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism. One of the facets of this certification is that a company or organization wishing to participate can earn points toward their certification by reforesting their land and surrounding hillsides.

6 years ago, the Sostheim family  saw a piece of land, roughly 400 acres, that sat on the bank of Lake Arenal near El Castillo, and thought they could make some terrific things happen. Rancho Margot was born: a self-sufficient ranch, organic farm, and ecotourism destination. It is completely off-grid, both in terms of water and electricity, and produces about 85 percent of the food that is eaten by the workers, family, and customers served in the farm’s restaurant.  It’s as close to completely self-sufficient as anything I’d heard of, so I recently paid a visit to Rancho Margot to see firsthand the nexus of ecotourism and permaculture. 

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