Elk River Pollution Indictments Announced in West Virginia

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Toxic_water_pollution_citizens_WVNationalGuardLast month, the U.S. Attorney General’s office indicted four owners and operators of a chemical company that was accused last January of polluting the drinking water of 30,000 residents in Charleston, West Virginia.

Freedom Industries CEO Gary Southern was charged with 13 counts of violation of the Clean Water Act and intent to defraud and give false oath, while three other executives, Dennis P. Farrell, William E. Tis and Charles E. Herzing, each were charged with three counts of violating U.S. environmental laws. All four were indicted for failing to ensure that the facility was operated in a “reasonable and environmentally sound manner when they knew or should have known of the facts and circumstances constituting Freedom’s negligence.”

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Top 10 Social Innovation Trends of 2015

3p Contributor | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Sources of InnovationBy Joi M. Sears

We get it, your inboxes are jam-packed with must-read trend predictions for 2015, and no doubt some of them are right on the money. We can all feel the shift: This year will be a game-changer, especially in the field of social innovation. If we want to be ahead of the curve, we have to be creative, forward-thinking and incredibly innovative when it comes to designing new products, services and brands.

This list is all about taking the top 10 innovation trends of 2015 and transforming them into actionable opportunities that you can run with and profit from in the year to come.

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Talk to the Hand: Engagement With Fossil Fuel Companies Offers Little Promise

3p Contributor | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Clean Yield Asset Management blog.

4657599708_1a2bb29174_zBy Shelley Alpern

As more and more institutions face pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies, some are looking to shareholder engagement as an alternative. Decades of such engagement, however, have produced strikingly little result.

As a long-time shareholder activist, I’ve spent more time than I can calculate filing shareholder proposals and engaging in conversation with fossil fuel companies, often in collaboration with major pension funds with large positions in such companies. I’ve engaged with ConocoPhillips, BP, Anadarko, Apache, Royal Dutch Shell, Energen and ExxonMobil on topics including carbon emissions, hydrofracking, biodiversity and human rights.

My takeaway from these efforts, along with a lingering concussion from too much cranial contact with brick walls, is that the time for polite conversation is over.

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EICC and Electronics Industry Promise to Fight Forced Labor in Malaysia

Leon Kaye | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Malaysia, electronics industry, forced labor, human rights, Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, EICC, supply chain, Leon Kaye, electronics, migrant workers

This is not the Kuala Lumpur most electronics workers in Malaysia see.

The electrical and electronics sector is the top manufacturing industry in Malaysia, providing almost one-third of the country’s exports and employing 27 percent of its workforce. The Malaysian electronics industry, which relies heavily on migrant workers, is also rife with abuse. One study suggests that 28 percent of workers were trapped into forced labor, and another 46 percent were on the “threshold” of finding themselves in a forced labor situation.

To that end, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), an NGO focused on supply chain sustainability within the electronics sector, announced it will conduct audits and work with Malaysian government agencies to halt what has become a massive human rights tragedy.

Founded in 2004, the EICC was launched by a small group of electronics manufacturers that have a goal to adopt industry-wide standards covering environmental, social and ethical issues within the industry’s entire supply chain. The organization was completely run by volunteers until 2013, when a full-time staff was hired to manage the EICC’s next growth phase. Malaysia will test this organization’s success.

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SFI Releases New Sustainable Forestry Standards, NGO Says Not So Fast

Leon Kaye | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, SFI, forestry, transparency, Forest Ethics, Leon Kaye, auditing, Canada, forests, biodiversity

Who is more accountable — FSC or SFI?

Last week the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) released a new set of standards that will guide the organization’s certification practices through 2019. SFI claims that its standards include policies and guidelines that will help protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife, endangered species and old-growth forests in the United States and Canada.

The new rules also promise everything from managing the “visual impact” of forests, respect for indigenous peoples’ rights, investment in forestry research and technology, and transparency. According to Lawrence Selzer, chair of the SFI’s board of directors, “The revised SFI standards will continue to serve as a proof point for responsible forestry in North America  … These standards are shaped by the people and communities who put them into practice every day.”

This could be a new beginning for SFI, which has been dogged by allegations of deceptive marketing while working as a front for private companies. In recent years companies have shunned SFI while the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) continues to gain more traction in the industry. So, with these new directives, is SFI to be believed?

Not so fast, says one NGO.

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Naomi Klein and Capitalism vs. Climate Change

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 16 Comments

This Changes Everything_Green Energy FuturesIt’s increasingly obvious that the global economic system, and particularly the current brand of U.S. capitalism, are not really compatible with the actions needed to combat climate change.

Naomi Klein makes this point clear in “This Changes Everything,” which is both a passionate and controversial polemic and a reasoned discussion of the issues and forces stalling, and indeed preventing, a comprehensive response to climate change.

The problem is not the political and ideological divisions or scientific “debate,” which are hard enough to deal with — it’s mainly about money, according to Klein. The book’s subtitle is compelling: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Simply put: “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”

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Majority of Smithfield Sows in More Humane Group Housing

Sarah Lozanova | Monday January 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments

corporate animal welfareThe largest U.S. pork producer, Smithfield Foods, is showing considerable progress in realizing its commitment to shift breeding pigs out of gestation crates, which immobilize them, to group housing. The move is widely considered more humane, greatly boosting the animals’ living conditions by giving pigs the opportunity to move around and express some natural behaviors.

Smithfield’s hog-producing subsidiary, Murphy-Brown, is reporting that over 70 percent of pregnant sows are in group housing, a 20 percent increase from last year. This is no small feat considering it has 853,000 hogs in the U.S. alone.

“We made a business decision in 2007, based on input from our customers, to convert to group housing for our pregnant sows on all of our U.S. farms, and I’m proud of the fact that our employees are working very hard to make good on our commitment and complete this challenging task by 2017,” says C. Larry Pope, Smithfield’s president and CEO. “I am very pleased that our employees report that group housing works equally well from both an animal care and a production standpoint.” 

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3p Weekend: 10 CSR Trends to Watch Out for (And 9 to Ditch) in 2015

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Campbells_PWC_TwitterWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

To kick 2015 off right, this week TriplePundit hosted a Twitter chat to project the top sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) trends of 2015.

Joining us were Rebecca Caplan, director of the PwC Charitable Foundation (tweeting from @PwCFoundation), Shannon Schuyler, principal corporate responsibility leader at PwC and president of the PwC Foundation (@ShannonSchuyler) and Dave Stangis, chief sustainability officer for Campbell’s Soup Co. (@DaveStangis).

Each of these thought leaders shared ideas that gained so much attention they made Tuesday’s chat one of our most popular ever. In case you missed it, check out the top 10 trends our panelists and audience predicted for 2015. As an added bonus, scroll down to the bottom for nine irksome trends we can’t wait to kiss goodbye this year.

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Denmark Sets New Wind Power World Record

Leon Kaye | Friday January 9th, 2015 | 4 Comments
Denmark, wind power, clean energy, renewables, renewable energy, Vestas, Dong Energy, Leon Kaye, offshore wind

Denmark set a world record with wind power in 2014.

Denmark has long been one of the world’s leaders in wind power. The country of 5.6 million has set a goal of generating 50 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2020 and aims to be entirely fossil fuel-free by 2050. Those goals, especially the one for 2020, are well achievable: Denmark has announced it scored 39.1 percent of its energy from wind in 2014.

That statistic is quite a jump from 2013, when Denmark generated 33.2 percent of its electricity from wind, and it has more than doubled its wind power capacity from a decade ago (18.8 percent). The result is a country that has understandably dubbed itself the world’s “Wind Power Hub.” Considering the Danish wind industry’s claim that it has built over 90 percent of the world’s offshore wind turbines, Denmark’s continued surge in wind power development, while stunning, has its origins in long-term planning.

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Renewable Energy Rising Across All Spheres of U.S. Society

| Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments

100GreenPowerUsersOrganizations across the U.S. are coming to grips with our fossil-fuel addiction and the escalating, often hidden, true costs of fossil-fuel production, distribution and combustion.

Registering another record-setting year in 2014, the U.S. solar energy industry is looking forward to another banner year in 2015, while the recent extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit is expected to boost growth across the wind sector.

A mix of supportive government policies and R&D investments, along with energy market reforms, ongoing technological advances and new financing vehicles, is proving to be a potent and self-reinforcing combination for allocating public- and private-sector resources for public good. As a result, the costs of renewable energy generation and energy efficiency upgrades are expected to continue on their downward trend — and installations continue to grow — despite the recent sharp drop in oil prices.

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Beef Industry Having a Cow over Potential USDA Recommendations

Leon Kaye | Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Beef industry, beef, USDA, National Cattlemens Beef Association, my plate, food pyramid, big government, Leon Kaye, lobbying

The USDA may soon recommend eating less red meat in a roundabout way

Americans’ consumption of beef has been declining at a steady rate since the 1970s, but the beef industry is still a powerful lobbying force in this country. So watch for an onslaught of propaganda if a U.S. Department of Agriculture panel makes new recommendations for dietary guidelines in the near future. In a move that will bring screams of nanny state-ism, socialism and “Blame Obama,” the Associated Press has reported this advisory panel is close to recommending a diet that is both higher in plant foods and reduces its overall environmental impact.

Clearly that suggestion is a shot at the beef industry, which at a global scale has a massive effect on land use and carbon emissions. True, the industry is making a nudge towards becoming more sustainable, but big beef’s impact on water, land and air is hard to ignore. Plus considering Americans’ generation-long struggle with obesity, a diet heavy on produce, whole grains, nuts and other plant-based products is not a bad idea. So that “My Plate” icon, which replaced that disastrous “food pyramid” suggesting we heap on the carbohydrates at meal times, could soon have less room for meat.

Naturally, the beef industry is not having it.

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White Castle Bets on Veggie Sliders

Eric Justian
| Friday January 9th, 2015 | 1 Comment

79257821_a51251a593_zNews has been spreading of White Castle’s new veggie sliders. Why should we care? Because we care about broader acknowledgement of health and sustainability. Not that a company particularly cares about either, but it acknowledges that customers want those things … even if the actual product isn’t healthier.

White Castle is diving into a market other fast food chains have tried out but with limited customer buy-in. When McDonald’s gave it a go back in 2000, they reportedly sold about four veggie burgers a day. Burger King sells them, but I’ve yet to hear or read a great review. And yet, White Castle is forging ahead.

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Cultivating the Next Generation of Leaders Through Social Entrepreneurship

3p Contributor | Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Professor Christine Mahoney in the classroom.

Professor Christine Mahoney in the classroom.

By Bruce A. Vlk

Within public policy schools, social entrepreneurship is a relatively new addition to curriculum. Traditionally, society has considered solving social problems the domain of governments and philanthropy. The emerging field of social entrepreneurship has introduced business tools and unlocked global capital markets to solve major social problems, with the promise of building enterprises that are both financially sustainable and solve the great social challenges of our time.

“It seems difficult in the short or medium term to see major changes through public policy alone. Our students look at government and they see it’s broken,” says Christine Mahoney, associate professor at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and faculty director of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative at the University of Virginia.

Professor Mahoney further states, “The problems are massive, and even government and philanthropy together is not going to be able to meet the demand. These massive institutions cannot be changed easily. And so if they cannot be changed, you either give up or, in an entrepreneurial spirit, you go around it and come up with a different solution.”

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Venture Capitalists Inject $27 Million Into Stem’s Distributed Energy Storage Tech

| Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 0 Comments

stem.batteryx519 Fueled by power market reform and technological advances, investor enthusiasm regarding the commercial prospects of advanced energy storage technology is on the rise. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy determined annual savings of $50 billion could be realized by deploying energy storage systems across the U.S. power grid.

Savings of this magnitude, along with market researchers predicting rapid growth in revenues, is stoking investors’ appetite for pioneering young companies that have proven their advanced energy storage solutions commercially. Among this small but growing set is Millbrae, California-based Stem, whose technology is capable of managing fleets of distributed energy storage systems so as to meet or exceed grid operators’ needs and yield attractive financial returns and environmental benefits.

On Jan. 7 Stem announced it had closed a $27 million equity financing round. Constellation Technology Ventures and Total Energy Ventures joined earlier investors, including GE Ventures, that see energy storage playing a growing role in the U.S. power grid, both in front of and behind the meter, and Stem’s technology helping drive that growth.

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Larry Summers Calls For a Carbon Tax Now

RP Siegel | Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Shell Gas PumpIn a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence “Larry” Summers makes the point that, with gasoline taxes at levels not seen in years, this would be an excellent time to implement a carbon tax.

It’s not likely that a 25-cent-per-gallon surcharge to help offset the impacts of resulting carbon emissions will draw outrage at a time when gas prices have fallen by over a dollar. Yet, this is the amount that a proposed $25-per-ton carbon tax would cost. The $1 trillion collected from this could be used to fund aggressive development of cleaner technology and to help prepare cities and towns for the many changes that have been predicted.

Summers points out that,  “The core of the case for a carbon tax is the recognition that those who use carbon fuels or products do not bear all the costs of their actions.”

Indeed, the only realistic possibility for a successful market-based approach to combating climate change is some mechanism that reflects the full impact of each transaction. “Free” market forces that pro-business advocates often cite are not sufficient because the impact of today’s actions may not show up until years from now and in some locale thousands of miles away. Indeed, buying and burning carbon fuels like gasoline, diesel and natural gas today is a bit like driving without a speedometer — in that we have no feedback on how quickly we are adding carbon into the atmosphere.

Filling up your SUV today could contribute to coastal flooding in Florida 10 years from now, but neither you nor the people who sold you the gas have any connection to this outcome without a mechanism in place to effect this.

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