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Earlier this month PepsiCo published its CSR report which touted its gains in human, environmental, and talent sustainability. However, the company has its own bottled water called Aquafina, “the single biggest bottled water brand.” Americans drank about 615 gallons of Aquafina in 2008, according to the social network site, ThePoint.com.
Bottled water can hardly be called sustainable or environmentally-friendly. A 2001 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) stated that about 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle 89 billion liters of water every year.
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Wall Street’s earnings season is once again upon us.
Investors are paying particularly close attention this quarter in reaction to continued economic uncertainty and economic hardship. The smart money knows that this season isn’t bearing any gifts; most companies’ sales have taken recession-sized hits, and that will be reflected in the bottom line.
Concerning the cleantech stocks I watch, Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) was the first to spill the beans. The recent downturn left the company with a $608 million quarterly loss. For perspective, they made $235 million in the previous quarter.
Auto parts sales, as expected, were down a dramatic 32%. But more surprisingly, even the company’s Power Solution segment took a 32% sales hit.
The only bright spot? A nominal 4.8% drop in building efficiency sales.
Despite the horrendous financial performance, though, the stock was hardly affected.
And that’s the big story here.Click to continue reading »
Change is in the Air – The Inauguration Brings Hope, Promise, and Millions to Washington DC – Not to Mention Renewable Energy
The Great American Pilgrimage
I’ve been in the area since late Friday, getting to the Mall for the first time on Saturday afternoon. From the moment I got on the plane in San Francisco I began to feel that I was joining a movement of people, all motivated by the same desire to witness history, to be part of the best of what this country represents.
By the time I hit the streets on Saturday afternoon I knew that being here in Washington DC for the inauguration of Barack Obama is not to witness history, but to be swept up in its tide. The feeling in the air and the word on the street is that what goes down tomorrow will be like no other inauguration in this nation’s history. Not only, I believe, because Obama will be sworn in as the first African-American president – and the long, brutal, essentially American struggle that it represents – but almost in spite of it.
America – indeed the entire world – is fatigued and disillusioned by what is seen by many as missed opportunities, incompetence, and an abandonment of the true promise of America. In this historic election there is the rare upswelling of hope for the ideals of a nation.Click to continue reading »
Nearly one third of GHG emissions come from heating, cooling and lighting our homes and places or work – much more than it could be. Why is this the case? For decades local building codes have required minimal levels of energy efficiency features and these requirements are simply what architects and builders use. The result is a mind-boggling infrastructure of 127 million homes and 4.7 million commercial buildings are for the most part, energy wasters.
Improving the efficiency of these structures and preparing them for rooftop solar power is an excellent and relatively straightforward way for the Obama Administration to respond to both global warming and the problem of joblessness. These goals are achievable in the near-term and on a national scale using technologies from domestic sources and a large labor force. Individual programs have already been developed by groups within the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and are ready to be incorporated into a cohesive Domestic Building Energy Management Plan and implemented nationally. There is agreement among many building scientists and energy professionals that a plan of national magnitude would be the most effective element in the country’s response to climate change. It would also invigorate the building and greentech industries and directly employ hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Six Key Points of a Domestic Building Energy Management Plan:
*A National Energy Building Code for new construction and major retrofits.
*A National Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Production Based Incentives (PBI).
*The deployment of an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) aka, “The Smart Grid.”
*The deployment of Advanced HVAC Controls with the AMI/Smart Grid.
*The creation of a Department of National Energy Projects and the employment of 100,000 Americans.
*Funding to bring Non-toxic Energy Storage Systems into the mainstream.
The solar industry has taken a beating lately. At their low in November, solar stocks were down 70%. Natural gas and oil prices have plunged, reducing the value of renewable energy. Financing is scarce, making the upfront cost of solar energy a challenge.
Perhaps these conditions will encourage innovation. Here are some tactics for solar companies to weather the storm in the short-term:
Multiple Land Use
Wind turbines are typically found on agricultural land. Despite some cropland loss due to access roads and installation, wind turbines and crops have a happy coexistence side-by-side.
Although residential solar systems usually occupy underutilized roof space, solar power plants are another story. Acres of land are dedicated to harvesting only sunshine, while vegetation must be short enough to allow for full solar exposure. Solar panels that are higher off the ground however allow for crops or native crops to be cultivated underneath. This is not the norm.
SolFocus for example manufactures concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) panels that are mounted on a tracking system. This is necessary to capture as much usable sunlight as possible. The increased height allows the land underneath to be utilized. Shade crops can be cultivated below the solar panels, increasing the diversity of crops that can be grown in sunny regions.
We end this week looking expectantly to the start of what is hopefully a new beginning in government, green business, and sustainability. I write this week’s business wrap as I prepare for a trip to Washington DC to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States. I’m a bit giddy. If I can, I’ll post here on TriplePundit my thoughts and observations on the historic event. But for now, let’s wrap!
Apple Puts Green Makeover at Risk with CSR Snub
Say it ain’t so Apple! Apple has been pushing the debut of their new green products, much on display at last week’s Macworld show. But the Green Apple may have some worms in it with the news that the company has urged shareholders to vote against a shareholder resolution by As You Sow, an environmental advocacy group co-sponsored by the New York City Office of the Comptroller and the Green Century Equity Fund. The resolution calls greater CSR transparency, requiring Apple to publish a CSR report by July that details its approach to greenhouse gas emissions, toxins, and recycling. It also would mandate that Apple define their idea of “sustainability”. I’m as much a Mac fan as the next guy (having recently returned home from too many years in the Windows wilderness) and I hope that Apple will do the right thing. With the news of Steve Jobs’ leave of absence over health issues and the consequent plunge in the stock, it’s been a tough week for Apple.
MTA Considering Green Metrocard Program
The New York Metropolitan Authority has green plans. A special MTA environmental committee has put forth a proposal that would let riders make tax-deductible donations toward sustainable transportation programs through a “green MetroCard” option. Customers will have the option of paying the extra charge at MTA vending machines, when purchasing the E-Z Pass, and for commuter rail. With a tough economy and planned fare increases, it remains to be seen whether commuters are willing to fork over some extra cash for the promise of a more sustainable transit system.
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Last Friday, Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, warned that previous financing sources for renewable energy projects “are not going to come back..until we’re in a sustained growth period. It’s going to take some mechanisms to keep markets growing.”
President-elect Barack Obama and congressional leaders are reportedly including up to $25 billion in energy tax credits in the economic stimulus package.
A new “silver-metalized” mirror film invented by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and ReflecTech is a key element in testing an innovative concentrating solar power system that holds the promise of significantly lower costs and significantly higher sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies, making them more attractive to utilities and their customers.
ReflecTech – the name of the highly reflective film as well as the company that co-invented it – has been applied on a precisely manufactured parabolic base of sheet metal, replacing the more costly, heavier and less durable parabolic glass mirrors typically used in concentrating solar power systems. An inner layer of pure silver protected by multiple layers of polymer films makes the mirror film highly reflective while also protecting the silver from the elements and oxidation.
Albuquerque-based SkyFuel and the NREL in Golden, Colorado have incorporated the “glass-free” mirror film into SkyTrough, a new type of parabolic trough that has been mounted on NREL’s Large Payload Solar Tracker.
* Photo credits: Pat Corkery, NREL
Skyrocketing Interest in Careers in Social Entrepreneurship and Start-ups Evidenced by MIT Sloan School “Tech Trek”
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We are currently witnessing a shift in the job market away from the more traditional MBA path, which is crumbling as I type, towards traditionally riskier start-ups, social ventures, and entrepreneurial careers with social and environmental impact goals. Each year, business school students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management embark on a “Tech Trek,” visiting companies of interest in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Boston to make connections, get career ideas and generally explore. This year’s San Francisco and Silicon Valley trek was quite popular, attracting 100 of about 150 Trekkers total with over 40 company visits. Seven of these Trekkers visited us at Social Venture Technology Group (SVT). SVT has been in business since 2001, but this is the first time we have been contacted for this particular visit.
Typical MBA job opportunities have been slashed with the decline of the banking giants, near hiring freezes at the big consulting firms, and job losses at Fortune 500 firms. For example, Google and Yahoo are usually annual stops on the Sloan Tech Trek, however this year they declined to participate. For the Trekkers, this created an opportunity to visit more start-ups and small firms.
The economic downturn “has placed some budget constraints on many of the companies we originally intended to visit, but it has also allowed us to look at a different set of companies,” said Pedro Santos, a Sloan student on the San Francisco and Silicon Valley Trek. “I think that startups will be hiring a significant number of talented individuals who would have been taken by larger corporations, which means that the infusion of energy and talent from MBAs could really lead to a significant amount of value going into the startups.” Another Trekker, Rajiv Bhatia added: “I believe this is one of the best times for the startup company model to thrive. Large corporations typically cut their budgets and go into ‚Äòsurvival mode’ during times of economic crisis.”
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A number of companies have announced plans to go carbon neutral. Even President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign set a goal of “making all new buildings carbon neutral” by 2030. Yahoo announced in April 2007 its goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2008, and Google followed suit in June. Then in November Fiji Water, the maker of bottled water, announced its plans to go “carbon negative.”
Last year Swiss Re announced it has been carbon neutral since October 2003 because it “bought and decommissioned emissions reduction” credits equal to 230,000 tons of carbon emissions.
Good news for home and building owners considering installing solar systems: solar module costs are forecast to decline significantly in 2009 and 2010. Supply shortages and rapidly growing demand from the growing number of solar cell manufacturers induced existing and aspiring producers of solar-grade silicon to invest in new capacity in recent years, much of which is due to come on-line in 2009 and 2010, according to industry analysts. That, along with other changes in conditions and the market environment, has them predicting big drops in solar cell and module prices in the US.
The removal of the $2,000 cap and an eight-year extension of the 30% Federal solar tax credit for homeowners that was included in the Federal government’s $700-billion financial industry bailout and stimulus plan is another big factor expected to drive costs down. The growing number of states introducing renewable power standards and other incentives, as well as utilities introducing some form of feed-in tariff, or credits, for home and building owners that feed surplus power into the grid likewise lowers the ultimate, all-in cost of installing a solar power system. Expected drops in demand from homeowners in countries, such as Germany and Spain, that have been growth engines for rooftop solar systems is another contributing factor, as the government’s of both countries are cutting incentives back sharply.
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What’s the atmospheric density of carbon dioxide 200 miles off the East coast of Greenland? At this point we can’t accurately say, but that may soon change. The Greenhouse Gas Observing Satellite (GOSAT), expected to be launched one week from today by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is planned to orbit the Earth for approximately 5 years while sending monthly reports of carbon dioxide and methane densities from around the globe. The satellite represents a major step towards gathering accurate GHG data in the atmosphere, which can aid the development of carbon-trading by improving accountability.
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As companies and marketers continue to attempt to decode Cause Marketing in determining how best to incorporate it into their efforts, a new conundrum emerges. One that centers around Corporate Social Responsibility and the overall cultural philosophy of a company. For some, it becomes a separation of Church and State issue whereby cause-related activities do not have to be aligned with internal business practices, and are engaged as marketing tactics supporting charitable entities primarily to spur sales. Others believe that the two cannot exist without each other, and that Cause Marketing activities must be tightly integrated with a CSR-driven foundation.
Management consultant and CSR practitioner, Ari√© Moyal sheds some further light on this topic, and attempts to debunk the myths around Cause Marketing and corporate consciousness with an eye on implementing a sustainable strategy that extends beyond marketing, promotions, sales — and even profit.
A fashion shop in Glasgow, Scotland, has taken a rather unique approach to up-cycling. It offers customers the chance to restyle problem vintage garments.
Raw Vintage is located in Southside Glasgow’s Shawlands. It ain’t Glasgow’s highstreet but customers will pass for no less than full blown designer addicts wearing its produce. The shop’s co-owner and creative brain Lisa Carr spent the last three years re-fashioning ill fitting vintage garments to fashionable pieces. This is how come the ‚Äò50s, ’60s, ‚Äò70s and ‚Äò80s items on sale in the store ALL look like a dream instead of the odd item. This is upcycling revolutionary style.
Raw Vintage’s regular stock is an inspiration for customers who can bring in their own problem garments for re-styling. On offer are both modern Scottish designer clothes (including Sweet Jayne, Onnie, Torres, Jennie loof, Gasoline and Electra French) and retro and vintage garments which Lisa already has turned her attention to. The restyled collection dates from the 1920′s to the 1980′s. Everything mixes – the retro styles look modern but their vintage spirit is still intact. The collection includes evening and prom wear and street style clothes.
The upgraded clothes were recently officially critiqued in The Skinny a local entertainment paper which commissioned Ms Carr to upcycle some seemingly hopeless and outdated vintage garments. Photos supplied here are copyright The Skinny.