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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: Longreads for the New Year

By Mary Mazzoni

With 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.

As we prepare to turn our calendars from one year to another, there's likely much about 2016 we'd prefer to leave behind. But some of the biggest issues that shaped the public discourse this year will be with us long into the future.

If you care for a catch-up, we've got you covered. Make the most of that holiday downtime with some of TriplePundit's best original reporting on topics that are sure to stick around in 2017 and beyond.

The Flint water crisis: A look back on how we got into this mess

Reporting from 3p's Andrea Newell

In March 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, changed its water source to save money. While awaiting the construction of a new water pipeline, officials tapped the Flint River as a water source for the city of 100,000. By now, most of us know what happened next.

Water from the Flint River is far more corrosive than the prior water source, and no anticorrosive agent was used. This allowed lead from aging pipes to enter drinking water, and residents complained of ailments like rashes and hair loss. The city and state initially downplayed these concerns. It wasn't until over a year later, when a local pediatrician noticed elevated levels of lead in her young patients, that the state admitted the water was unsafe.

Michigan resident and 3p contributor Andrea Newell took a particular interest in the story. And she applied her knowledge of Michigan law to analyze how the state and city could have bungled the situation so badly.

We're now a year further down the road, and many Flint residents still do not have safe water flowing through their taps. Felony charges continue to roll in for state officials. And adding insult to injury, Flint residents say the state has failed to make good on its promises to provide bottled water.

As we continue to watch this story develop in 2017, Andrea's in-depth coverage is worth a read. You can find it here. 

CSR in Silicon Valley

Reporting from the 3p editorial staff

Thanks to the influx of large tech companies, the San Francisco Bay Area has ballooned in both wealth and population over the past two decades. But the picture isn’t always as pretty as those postcards of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As companies continue to pressure Bay Area communities to build new office parks, they often fail to lobby for housing and transportation options to go along with them, placing a strain on local infrastructure. And more highly-paid residents means more shops, restaurants and trendy coffee bars — all staffed by employees who are quickly being priced out of the area.

This perfect storm creates a heap of problems for Bay Area residents — as well as significant opportunities for government and the private sector to collaborate on solutions. After running a successful crowdfunding campaign last year, TriplePundit launched a series on the topic that was something of a passion project for our staffers.

We looked at living, working and commuting in the Bay Area, how tech companies impact residents, and what these firms can do to ensure the long-term sustainability of the region. With 66 percent of the global population expected to live in cities by 2050, the issues we discovered will soon go far beyond Silicon Valley.

To learn more about how rapid urbanization shapes a city and solutions for a sustainable future, check out our series here. 

The rise of the hydrogen economy

Reporting from 3p's Tina Casey

Hydrogen first began to attract attention as a renewable fuel over a decade ago, with R&D programs established under the George W. Bush administration and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dreams of a “hydrogen highway.” But after being pushed aside due to cost issues and lack of adequate technology, the so-called hydrogen economy is on the rise in the U.S. once again.

The U.S. Department of Energy is reviving a number of programs to spur hydrogen development in the private sector. And both companies and academic researchers are responding in kind.

When burned, hydrogen is a zero-emissions fuel. But the No. 1 source for hydrogen is still natural gas — a fossil fuel with a significant environmental impact related to extraction. But the latest in hydrogen economy development is out to change that with renewable hydrogen solutions for a sustainable fuel future.

TriplePundit's Tina Casey is tracking the development of the 21st-century hydrogen economy. You can read her coverage here. 

The corporate approach to racial justice

Reporting from the 3p editorial staff

In 2016, racial tension in America reached a level not seen in decades. The high-profile killings of unarmed black men by American police officers sparked outrage across the country and organized movements such as Black Lives Matter. At the same time, calls for equality harkened from the highest ranks, and spanned economic class, race, gender and sexual orientation.

People, of course, react emotionally to news headlines about discrimination and racially-motivated violence. And expecting American workers to leave those emotions at the door is unreasonable and can easily impact company morale. How then can companies address equity and equality -- conversations that can often become uncomfortable -- both internally and externally? How can executives -- beyond the human resources department -- not only assemble a diverse workforce, but also ensure those diverse workers know their employer is there to support them?

In partnership with Symantec, TriplePundit sought to answer these questions and provide some guidance about how companies can approach these crucial issues. We strived to showcase leaders in the space, but found that even companies that send press releases touting their diversity were uncomfortable being interviewed about it. It's a shame, but it proves we must continue to converse around these issues as companies look to improve.

As your company seeks to improve diversity and employee engagement in 2017, our series on equity and CSR is worth another look

The Volkswagen emissions scandal and what it says about CSR

Reporting from 3p's Jan Lee and Leon Kaye 

In September 2015, the EPA and the California Air and Resources Board (CARB) accused Volkswagen of rigging its vehicles with software intended to “cheat” U.S. emissions testing. The software was eventually found to be present in millions of vehicles in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The resulting fallout left the German auto manufacturer in court for over a year, with state and federal agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Costs associated with the scandal numbered in the tens of billions -- now $17.5 billion in the U.S. alone, taking into account Volkswagen's latest settlement with 83,000 vehicle owners. And its troubles -- legal, reputational and otherwise -- are not over yet.

TriplePundit staffers analyzed the story as it unfolded, with a particular focus on how the case reflects the state of corporate social responsibility (CSR). You'll likely continue to see the topic in the news throughout 2017. And if you're looking to brush up on the backstory, their coverage is a must-read.

Read TriplePundit's coverage of CSR and the VW emissions scandal here. 

COP22 and the road ahead

Reporting by 3p's Thomas Schueneman and the 3p editorial staff

At COP21 in Paris last year, world leaders inked the first global agreement aimed a curbing climate change. The agreement entered into force in October -- months ahead of schedule and weeks before world leaders were set to meet again at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

At COP22, the conversation moved from negotiations on the language to heady debates on implementation of the plan. TriplePundit climate reporter Thomas Schueneman and the 3p editorial staff analyzed the happenings at COP22, and implications for the future of the agreement.

As we look to the next phase of the Paris agreement, you can catch up on the COP22 dispatch here

Image credits: 1) Pixabay; 2) Used with permission by Michigan photographer Petra Daher; 3) Flickr/Jimmy Baikovicius; 4) via U.S. Department of Energy; 5) @chriskendigphotography, courtesy of Net Impact (press use only); 6) Flickr/Nico Nic; 7) James Nerhebii, courtesy Flickr; UNFCCC

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni