Corporate sustainability needs a gender lens

31 03 2023

Outside the Department of Labour in Dhaka last month workers demanded that their shuttered garment factory be reopened Photo: Mamunur Rashid /

The draft EU directive on corporate sustainability remains gender-blind. And what you don’t see you can’t fix. by CAROLINA RUDNICKVIZCARRASYLVIA OBREGON QUIROZ and ANDRIANA LOREDAN from Social Europe: Reposted: March 31, 2023

When industrial agriculture and salmon production came to Chile, they brought new jobs to rural and indigenous women. But the work came with a hefty price tag.

It wiped out ancestral practices and shattered solidarity-based communities. Those working the graveyard shift in salmon-processing plants endured gruelling hours and saw their family bonds deteriorate.

The salaries were low—so low they couldn’t even be considered a living wage. When the pandemic hit and the food industry shuttered, unemployment grew in nearby communities. Going into debt became unavoidable for many, while others hung by a thread.

The situation was doubly difficult for women workers, because of gender norms and intersecting vulnerabilities. Still the main caregivers, their poverty wages and brutal working conditions also affected children and elderly family members dependent on them.

Especially insidious

Gender discrimination and inequality in global value chains have been widely documented but remain largely unaddressed by European companies and regulators. Abuses of women’s rights are especially insidious in the food-serviceselectronics and garment industries, where women make up most of the workforce. 

Women in these export-oriented manufacturing sectors are vulnerable to wage theft, union-busting and other violations of labour rights—especially if they are young, migrant and/or poorly educated. Reckless business activities prey on and exacerbate inequitable gender roles, such that 71 per cent of those trapped in modern slavery are women.

All of this is hidden in plain sight. The long and winding value chains that stretch across the globe reinforce power imbalances and the maldistribution of costs and benefits. For instance, most brands don’t seem to care that it takes just four days for a chief executive from one of the top fashion labels to make what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime.

Similarly, fossil-fuel companies have made record profits from the energy crisis while fuelling climate collapse and pushing millions into starvation. Yet TotalEnergies is rewarding its chief executive with a scandalous bonus of nearly €6 million, despite standing accused of causing massive forced displacements in Uganda and Tanzania. What is often overlooked is how land-grabbing affects women, who comprise only 15 per cent of landholders globally but depend on the land to grow food and secure water. 

Sexual violence is another endemic issue, festering in the deep underbelly of multinationals’ value chains. Recent investigations have uncovered abuses in tea plantations and wind parks. These will only be eradicated if we ensure corporate accountability.

Stumbling at the first hurdle

As the largest trading bloc in the world, the European Union must lead on this front. Civil society and trade unions have hailed the forthcoming corporate-sustainability directive as a huge opportunity to advance women’s rights and gender equality globally, while uprooting abuses of human and environmental rights along companies’ value chains and holding them liable for harm.

Yet despite the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, declaring that ‘gender equality is a core principle of the European Union’, the commission stumbled at the first hurdle in making this a reality for the women making our food, clothes and electronics. The draft directive completely ignored the enhanced risks of business for women, girls and other marginalised groups.

Then in December, the Council of the EU, representing the member states, scrapped the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women from the draft directive’s list of human-rights standards corporations must respect. This is a huge setback in the fight for women’s rights.

Do European citizens know how little their governments care about women? This gender-blind approach will simply fortify toxic gender dynamics and leave women further behind. It certainly will not protect women environmental and human-rights defenders from the misogynistic violence disproportionately used to silence and control them.

Changing course

The European Parliament and the council can still change course. Co-legislators must ensure rules extend across the entire value chain, because it is in the lower tiers where women are over-represented and invisible to corporates in head offices.

For women and those in situations of vulnerability, access to justice must also urgently be improved. Removing legal barriers to bringing transnational court cases against companies is essential. That includes reversing the disproportionate burden of proof borne by claimants, who usually have limited access to evidence such as internal documents.

European lawmakers must also oblige companies to carry out impact assessments that identify how corporate activities affect women specifically—and include provisions on gender equality and the protection of human-rights defenders erased from earlier drafts. To guarantee that women’s exploitation is no longer a source of profit, major brands must map their international value chains and collect gender-disaggregated data, to give women the information they need to alert companies about risks and ways to remedy abuses.

World of difference

For women working in salmon-processing plants in Chile, it would make a world of difference to be heard and taken into account. By carrying out due diligence and consulting women in a meaningful way, European buying companies would learn about the problems women face—how supervisors monitor their bathroom breaks or penalise their medical check-ups and maternity leaves. You cannot fix what you do not see.

With key votes in the European Parliament and the ‘trilogue’ negotiations on the directive approaching among commission, council and parliament, EU leaders need to get their act together to guarantee that the products we use are untainted by abuses.

On International Women’s Day, the commission said it stood ‘united with all women to build momentum for their rights across the globe’. The EU must now present a united stand to protect the millions of women who work in the factories, farms and packing houses supplying our essential needs.

To see the original post, follow this link:


How Sustainability is Driving Consumer Purchases in Food and Grocery

31 03 2023

Image: Waste 360

Consumers are increasingly swapping brands for ones that are more sustainable, according to new research from Glow. The online consumer research platform contacted 33,000 respondents between April and December 2022, gathering insight into their food and grocery purchases. By Stefanie Valentic from Waste 360 – Reposted: March 31, 2023

Consumers are increasingly swapping brands for ones that are more sustainable, according to new research from Glow.

The online consumer research platform contacted 33,000 respondents between April and December 2022, gathering insight into their food and grocery purchases. Glow also leveraged data from NielsonIQ research studies to study the relationship between consumers and sustainability expectations.

Glow founder and CEO Tim Clover commented, “Investors, employees, customers and consumers want to see more progress in sustainability initiatives that support people, the environment and the planet. Brands are increasingly sharing their credentials, communicating their milestones and publishing performance against their ESG and sustainability goals.”

He noted the influx of information around sustainability from both “controlled and uncontrolled sources” as a direct driver of consumer purchasing decisions, with one out of 2 consumers switching brands based on their purpose-driven efforts.

The US Brand Sustainability Benchmark report showed behaviors shift across all sectors of the food and grocery (F&G) industry, with the highest occurrences in Health & Beauty, Meat & Seafood, Household, and Beverage.

Respondents indicated they are willing to pay more for brands with ESG goals that align with their values. Nine out of 10 consumers surveyed expressed the importance of brands demonstrating social and environmental responsibility. Furthermore, 64 percent are willing to pay more for these products.

The findings also showed the following economic issues are most important in purchasing F&G products: reducing emissions and climate change; respecting and protecting natural resources; protecting wildlife and ecosystems; and taking care of supplier welfare. Packaging and plastic reduction in Household products also were important to consumers.

“The largest opportunity gap for brands in the US F&G industry exists in the Environmental drivers,” the study found. “They are the most important but consumers are the least satisfied with the industry’s overall performance across them. More than 3 in 10 consumers are not satisfied with the industry’s performance on any of the four Environmental drivers – with reducing emissions & climate change both the most important AND the lowest scoring driver of satisfaction measured. Environmental drivers represent a significant opportunity for the Food and Grocery industry to raise their game to meet consumer expectations.”

Glow concluded that opportunities exist for F&G brands that align their ESG goals with consumer expectations. The industry ranked ahead of 20 others in the report, just behind supermarkets and convenience.

“The F&G industry is deemed to be one of the industries leading the way to a more sustainable future,” the study noted.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Companies pay up to $500,000 for sustainability ratings and are often dissatisfied with the results

29 03 2023
A picture illustration shows U.S. 100-dollar bank notes
A picture illustration shows U.S. 100-dollar bank notes taken in Tokyo August 2, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/File Photo

Reporting by Virginia Furness; editing by Simon Jessop and Jane Merriman from Reuters • Reposted: March 29, 2023

Companies are spending up to half a million dollars a year on a sustainability rating to meet investor demands for such data, yet are often dissatisfied with the results, new research shows.

Publicly-listed companies spend, on average, between $220,000 and $480,000 on ratings-related costs per year, with their private counterparts being billed for up to $425,000, based on a survey by sustainability consulting firm ERM. Common criticisms related to the accuracy and transparency of the data and ratings, as well as a company’s ability to correct errors, the report said.

Growing demand for environmental, social and governance (ESG) data and a reliance by many smaller investors on external providers to assess companies has driven rapid growth of the unregulated industry, drawing the attention of regulators.

The ERM report said companies’ dissatisfaction with the accuracy of ratings was based largely on their experience of finding errors in raters’ analysis of company supplied data, undermining their trust in the overall rating.

Almost a third of the 104 companies surveyed said they had a “low” to “very low” confidence that the ESG ratings accurately reflected their ESG performance.

But they are driven to secure ratings by investor demand, with 95% of companies saying this was a factor for them engaging with ESG raters.

Investors, too, are spending large amounts on ESG data and ratings, with costs ranging between $175,000 and $360,000, the ERM said, although many reported having only “moderate confidence” in the accuracy and utility of these ratings.

To see the original post, follow this link:

A shortage of native seeds is slowing land restoration across the US, which is crucial for tackling climate change and extinctions

28 03 2023

Planting native plant seeds on sand dunes at Westward Beach in Malibu, Calif., to stabilize the dunes. Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

By Julia Kuzovkina, Professor of Horticulture, University of Connecticut and John Campanelli, PhD Student in Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Connecticut via The Conversation • Reposted: March 28 2023

Spring is planting time for home gardeners, landscapers and public works agencies across the U.S. And there’s rising demand for native plants – species that are genetically adapted to the specific regions where they are used. 

Native plants have evolved with local climates and soil conditions. As a result, they generally require less maintenance, such as watering and fertilizing, after they become established, and they are hardier than non-native species. 

Many federal, state and city agencies rank native plants as a first choice for restoring areas that have been disturbed by natural disasters or human activities like mining and development. Repairing damaged landscapes is a critical strategy for slowing climate change and species loss

But there’s one big problem: There aren’t enough native seeds. This issue is so serious that it was the subject of a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The study found an urgent need to build a native seed supply. 

As plant scientists who have worked on ecological restoration projects, we’re familiar with this challenge. Here’s how we are working to promote the use of native plants for roadside restoration in New England, including by building up a seed supply network.Landscapers and land managers explain the benefits of planting native plants.

The need for native plants

Many stressors can damage and degrade land. They include natural disasters, such as wildfires and flooding, and human actions, such as urbanization, energy production, ranching and development. 

Invasive plants often move into disturbed areas, causing further harm. They may drift there on the wind, be excreted by birds and animals that consume fruit, or be introduced by humans, unintentionally or deliberately.

Ecological restoration aims to bring back degraded lands’ native biological diversity and the ecological functions that these areas provided, such as sheltering wildlife and soaking up floodwater. In 2021, the United Nations launched the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to promote such efforts worldwide.

Native plants have many features that make them an essential part of healthy ecosystems. For example, they provide long-term defense against invasive and noxious weeds; shelter local pollinators and wildlife; and have roots that stabilize soil, which helps reduce erosion.

Restoration projects require vast quantities of native seeds – but commercial supplies fall far short of what’s needed. Developing a batch of seeds for a specific species takes skill and several years of lead time to either collect native seeds in the wild or grow plants to produce them. Suppliers say one of their biggest obstacles is unpredictable demand from large-scale customers, such as government and tribal agencies, that don’t plan far enough ahead for producers to have stocks ready.

Dozens of small potted seedlings sprouting in large trays.
Wyoming Big Sage seedlings growing in a greenhouse. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe are working together to produce native seedlings to restore public lands in Idaho that have been damaged by wildfires. Bureau of Land Management Idaho/FlickrCC BY

Restoring roadsides in New England

Most drivers give little thought to what grows next to highways, but the wrong plants in these areas can cause serious problems. Roadsides that aren’t replanted using ecological restoration methods may erode and be taken over by invasive weeds. Ecological restoration provides effective erosion control and better habitat habitats for wildlife and pollinators. It’s also more attractive. 

For decades, state transportation departments across the U.S. used non-native cool-season turfgrasses, such as fescue and ryegrass, to restore roadsides. The main benefits of using these species, which grow well during the cooler months of spring and fall, were that they grew fast and provided a quick cover.

Then in 2013 the New England Transportation Consortium – a research cooperative funded by state transportation agencies – commissioned our research team to help the states transition to native warm-season grasses instead. These grasses grow well in hot, dry weather and need less moisture than cool-season grasses. One of us, John Campanelli, developed the framework for selecting plant species based on conservation practices and identified methods for establishing native plant communities for the region.

We recommended using warm-season grasses that are native to the region, such as little bluestempurple lovegrassswitchgrass and purpletop. These species required less long-term maintenance and less-frequent mowing than the cool-season species that agencies had previously used. 

To ensure sound conservation practices, we wanted to use seeds produced locally. Seeds sourced from other locations would produce grasses that would interbreed with local ecotypes – grasses adapted to New England – and disrupt the local grasses’ gene complexes. 

At that time, however, there was no reliable seed supply for local ecotypes in New England. Only a few sources offered an incomplete selection of small quantities of local seeds, at prices that were too expensive for large-scale restoration projects. Most organizations carrying out ecological restoration projects purchased their bulk seeds mainly from large wholesale producers in the Midwest, which introduced non-local genetic material to the restoration sites.

Improving native seed supply chains

Many agencies are concerned that lack of a local seed supply could limit restoration efforts in New England. To tackle this problem, our team launched a project in 2022 with funding from the New England Transportation Consortium. Our goals are to increase native plantings and pollinator habitats with seeds from local ecotypes, and to make our previous recommendations for roadside restoration with native grasses more feasible.

As we were analyzing ways to obtain affordable native seeds for these roadside projects, we learned about work by Eve Allen, a master’s degree student in city planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For her thesis, Allen used supply chain management and social network analysis to identify the best methods to strengthen the native seed supply chain network

Her research showed that developing native seed supplies would require cooperative partnerships that included federal, state and local government agencies and the private and nonprofit sectors. Allen reached out to many of these organizations’ stakeholders and established a broad network. This led to the launch of the regional Northeast Seed Network, which will be hosted by the Massachusetts-based Native Plant Trust, a nonprofit that works to conserve New England’s native plants. 

We expect this network will promote all aspects of native seed production in the region, from collecting seeds in the wild to cultivating plants for seed production, developing regional seed markets and carrying out related research. In the meantime, we are developing a road map for new revegetation practices in New England. 

We aim to build greater coordination between these agencies and seed producers to promote expanded selections of affordable native seeds and make demand more predictable. Our ultimate goal is to help native plants, bees and butterflies thrive along roads throughout New England.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Responsible brands contributing to provide clean water for 5 million people

28 03 2023

Image: Water Equity

Among the contributors to the $140 million WaterEquity Global Access Fund IV are Ecolab, Starbucks, Gap, Reckitt and DuPont. The companies have contributed to a $140 million fund run by WaterEquity, whose co-founder is Matt Damon. By Patrick Kennedy from the Star Tribune • Reposted: March 28, 2023

Ecolab is investing $10 million to a new fund that hopes to bring clean drinking water to 5 million people around the world.

Among the other contributors to the $140 million WaterEquity Global Access Fund IV are Starbucks, Gap, Reckitt and DuPont.

The fund is being managed by WaterEquity, an impact investment asset manager whose co-founder is the actor Matt Damon. The announcement came last week as the United Nations Water Conference was set to start.

The companies are all part of the Water Resilience Coalition, a CEO-led initiative to bring attention to and take action against a growing global water crisis. Nearly 2 billion people today live in water stressed areas and, according to the coalition, that number may grow to half the world’s population by 2050.

“As a global water leader who helps customers manage 1.1 trillion gallons around the world, Ecolab believes that water stewardship and sustainable business growth must go hand in hand,” said Emilio Tenuta, Ecolab’s chief sustainability officer.

Starbucks’ contribution is $25 million. The fund also has a $100 million commitment from the U.S. International Development Finance Corp.

Tenuta said Ecolab not only believes the cause is the right thing to do but also boosts “the business case for sustainability by showing a positive return on investment and a positive impact,” he added.

The fund is part of a new investment portfolio by the Water Resilience Coalition. More investment will be needed to fund the nearly $1 billion in collective investment opportunities identified by the portfolio.

The portfolio may eventually include other funding vehicles including private equity investments, microloans and impact bonds.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Gearing Up for ESG Reporting: Insights from Public Company Executives

27 03 2023

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

By Kristen Sullivan from triple • Reposted: March 27, 2023

Committing to meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives and targets is one thing. Acting on them is quite another. What are businesses doing to prepare for high-quality sustainability and ESG reporting, and what challenges are they uncovering along the way? To find out, Deloitte surveyed 300 public company executives to get a pulse on current trends and sentiment. Here are five takeaways from the front lines of real-world change.

Embed ESG in the corporate strategy

Nearly 3 in 5 executives (57 percent) say their company has established a cross-functional working group to drive strategic attention to ESG, an increase of 21 percent since last year. Another 42 percent say they’re in the process of establishing one. 

A typical ESG working group includes executives from finance, accounting, risk, legal, sustainability, operations, supply chain and other functional areas. Increasingly, accountability for ESG performance can be most effective with an integrated governance structure that brings together all business functions. A philosophy of ownership across the business, paired with a strategic approach to governance, can establish ESG as a strategic priority highly aligned to corporate strategy. 

Assign roles and responsibilities

Only 3 percent of executives say their companies are prepared for potential increased ESG regulatory or other disclosure requirements, but many are getting ready. For instance, 81 percent of companies have created new roles or responsibilities, and 89 percent say they’ve enhanced internal goal-setting and accountability mechanisms to promote readiness. 

Who has management responsibility over ESG disclosure? Today, in many cases, it’s the chief financial officer (CFO) or chief sustainability officer (CSO), but many respondents indicate that increasingly there is shared responsibility for ESG reporting across the executive leadership team, human resources, supply chain and other functions. 

Of those executives surveyed, board-level oversight has been predominantly assigned to the nominating and governance committee, but we are seeing a trend of expanded oversight responsibility across all committees, aligned to respective remit, to drive greater integration and oversight of ESG risks and opportunities. 

Increase focus on assurance 

Nearly all (96 percent) surveyed executives plan to seek assurance for the next ESG reporting cycle. To prepare for a reasonable level of assurance, 37 percent of companies are starting to apply the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO)’s internal control guidelines, which can help companies measure, manage and validate ESG information with the same rigor typically applied to financial reporting.  

Respondents shared that they use a range of different frameworks and standards for their disclosures. The most common is the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) (56 percent), closely followed by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) (55 percent). Around half of respondents also use standards from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

For multinational firms, the rapid progress of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) signals optimism for convergence of a number of leading sustainability reporting standards and frameworks and the creation of a global baseline for sustainability reporting to help meet the information needs of the capital markets, as well as serve as the basis upon which other jurisdictions can build. 

Develop a workable solution for data gaps

When it comes to sustainability reporting, access to quality ESG data now appears to be a bigger challenge than data availability. Still, a majority (61 percent) of respondents indicate their companies are prepared to disclose details about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions they directly produce, known as Scope 1. Even more (76 percent) say they’re ready to disclose details of their Scope 2 GHG emissions, or emissions generated by the electricity a company purchases, a substantial increase from the 47 percent who said so the previous year. 

At the same time, Scope 3 emissions — which account for GHGs produced along a company’s entire value chain — appear to remain a challenge. Most respondents (86 percent) indicate they’ve run into challenges measuring them, and only 37 percent are prepared to disclose them in detail. 

To close any gaps, companies may consider focusing on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which currently serves as the leading standard for measuring greenhouse gas emissions and provides for methodologies to promote consistency of measurement with due consideration to the level of measurement uncertainty and data availability. 

Invest in technology for ESG reporting, disclosure and action

New technology is on the horizon for many companies as they embark on their ESG integration and disclosure journeys. Nearly all executives (99 percent) are somewhat likely or very likely to invest in new technology to prepare to meet stakeholder expectations and future regulatory requirements. 

Technology solutions can assist in accelerating preparedness in moving from reporting in accordance with voluntary sustainability standards and frameworks to enhanced disclosure in accordance with authoritative ESG standards and new regulation. 

No matter where a company is in their sustainability journey, strategic attention to ESG integration and disclosure today can help to deliver long term value to  stakeholders into the future. By implementing the insights shared by public company executives, companies can gear up for ESG reporting and work to meet stakeholder expectations while also creating long-term value. 

Kristen B. Sullivan is a partner with Deloitte & Touche LLP and leads Sustainability and ESG Services, working with clients to help address their sustainability and non-financial disclosure strategy needs. 

To see the original post, follow this link:

Companies Face Another Packed Year of Sustainability Shareholder Votes

27 03 2023

Anti-ESG proposals have also jumped, and the first vote this year was for one at Apple that called for reporting on the “risks” of the company’s diversity and inclusion programs. PHOTO: JOHN G MABANGLO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Proposals on social issues have waned slightly but continue to be the most popular while climate action ones are on the rise. By Dieter Holger from The Wall Street Journal • Reposted: March 27, 2023

U.S. companies are facing fewer shareholder proposals on social issues this year but more calls for climate action. Anti-ESG ones are increasing, too.

For annual general meetings taking place in the first six months of the year, shareholders across all U.S. publicly traded companies filed a total of 538 proposals related to environmental, social and sustainability governance issues, according to the Sustainable Investments Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks such votes. Last year, there were 577 filings over the same period.  

Proposals focused on social issues were again the most popular this year, mentioned in 338 of the filings, down more than 9% from 373 last year. Environmental issues were at the heart of 162 proposals, up slightly from 2022’s comparable tally of 155. Included in the grand total were 48 so-called anti-ESG proposals focused on the risk of ESG-promoting policies, up from 27 in the same period last year. 

Historically proposals sought more transparency, better disclosure or asked for companies to set goals, said Peter Reali, managing director and member of the sustainable investments team at fund manager Nuveen LLC. Now, many are calling for a change in behavior or impact, he said.

While the votes on proposals aren’t binding, they can create pressure for companies to change, to take a position on hot-button issues and can also express a lack of investor confidence in board members. However, Heidi Welsh, director of the Sustainable Investments Institute, cautioned that “it’s far too soon to draw any conclusions about support levels since we only have seen about half a dozen votes.” Sustainability ProposalsFilings are trending down this year compared with 2022, but more are expected to surfaceSource: Sustainable Investments InstituteNote: Proposals filed by March 20 for U.S. public companies with annual general meetings in the first six months of the​year.EnvironmentalSocialSustainability Governance2014’15’200100200300400500600

There are 298 proposals for companies to take more action on social issues, slightly down from 332 in 2022. Again this year, around a third of those concerned politics, including requests to set up board oversight or to report on a company’s lobbying, election spending or trade associations. Last year, politically-focused proposals won an average of 32% support, with only five—including at Twitter Inc., Netflix Inc. and insurer Travelers Companies Inc. —achieving majority support. 

There are also 20 pay equity proposals this year, down from 33 in 2022. These typically ask companies to audit or report on gender-and-racial pay differences. Abortion has also emerged as a flashpoint with 22 reproductive health proposals this year, up from four last year.

Environmental action was the second most popular area of shareholder focus. So far, there are 160 pro-environment proposals this year, up from 154 in 2022. Most environmental proposals ask companies to adopt or report on Paris-aligned climate targets, while a smaller number ask investors, insurers and banks to report on, limit or cease their financing of fossil fuels. 

Shareholders voted on a record number of pro-climate proposals last year, but their support was lukewarm for more ambitious goals such as ending fossil-fuel financing. 

Support has waned slightly since 2021 when proposals calling for emission-reduction targets garnered record backing. Investors have also been more hesitant to support proposals that specifically lay out how a company should meet a climate target, said Mr. Reali: “It’s one thing to ask companies to set goals and targets, it’s another thing to tell companies how to achieve those goals and targets.” 

Evidence of the rise of the anti-ESG movement in the U.S. can also be seen. The 48 anti-ESG filings to date mostly ask companies to report on the “risks” of corporate plans for improving diversity and inclusion in and outside the company. Only five concerned the environment.

Ms. Welsh expects more anti-ESG proposals this season. However, last year, most of these types of proposals received less than 5% support, the threshold necessary to refile it again in the coming year. This year’s first anti-ESG vote—asking Apple Inc. to report on the “risks” of its diversity and inclusion programs—received 1.4% support.

The proposal tally will change over the AGM season, running from January to September but with most meetings happening between April and June. Some proxy statements will include new proposals. Companies will avoid votes when shareholders withdraw some current proposals, usually after they reach an agreement with the company on an issue. Last year, 273 proposals were withdrawn before they could be voted on during the AGMs in the first half of 2022. The comparable figure this year is 120, so far. 

To see the original post, follow this link:

The Guardian: First global water conference in 50 years yields hundreds of pledges, zero checks

26 03 2023

Non-binding commitments, paucity of scientific data and poor representation of global south left a lot to be desired at summit. By Nina Lakhani and Oliver Milman from the Guardian • Reposted: March 26, 2023

The first global water conference in almost half a century has concluded with the creation of a new UN envoy for water and hundreds of non-binding pledges that if fulfilled would edge the world towards universal access to clean water and sanitation.

The three-day summit in New York spurred almost 700 commitments from local and national governments, non-profits and some businesses to a new Water Action Agenda, and progress on the hotchpotch of voluntary pledges will be monitored at future UN gatherings. A new scientific panel on water will also be created by the UN.

Overall, organizers said they were happy that governments and representatives from academia, industries, and non-profits had come together to discuss the often neglected topic of water and to commit billions of dollars to improving water security.

But they conceded that more was needed than a set of voluntary commitments such as a formal global agreement, like the 2015 Paris climate accords and the 2022 Montreal biodiversity pact, as well as better data and an international finance mechanism to safeguard water supplies.

“This conference did not give us a mandate for this, but we brought the world together to ensure there is a follow-up,” said Henk Ovink, special envoy for water for the Netherlands, which co-hosted the conference along with Tajikistan. “We have fragmented water governance across the world, fragmented finance and not enough science and data in place.”

“We know our job is still not done and in fact we are falling behind in our task,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s senior minister and co-chair of a summit interactive dialogue. “But we know the job can be done. We must now treat water as a global common good to be protected collectively, in the interests of all nations.”

In closing the historic summit, António Guterres, the secretary general of the UN, urged everyone to turn the pledges into action. “All of humanity’s hopes for the future depend, in some way, on charting a new course to sustainably manage and conserve water … it needs to be at the centre of the political agenda.”

Talks ended with a broad agreement that water should be treated as a global common good, and that the world’s approach to water must be less siloed given its nexus with the climate crisis, and food, energy and national security. But with no internationally binding agreement, experts fear that pledges could slide as it will be hard to hold governments, industry and financial institutions to account.

On Friday morning, more than 100 water experts from research institutions and civil society groups across five continents sent a letter to the UN general secretary slamming the lack of “accountability, rigour and ambition” at the conference, arguing that the paucity of scientific rigour and binding agreements will fail to secure the more just, resilient and sustainable water future urgently needed.

“Trying to solve one of the greatest challenges facing humanity with voluntary commitments and solutions based on half-baked evidence is like taking a knife to a gunfight – it simply isn’t good enough, and represents a betrayal of the world’s poor who bear the brunt of the water crisis,” said Nick Hepworth, executive director of Water Witness.

Charles Iceland, global director for water at the World Resources Institute, said only about a third of these announcements were “gamechangers” that would substantially improve the water crisis. “I think the voluntary commitments are a good start … Each voluntary commitment has a place where you talk about how much money is available, most of them left that blank.”

“We need a Paris agreement for water globally, and national water plans for each country, and regional water plans for each shared basin and aquifer,” Iceland added.

About 90% of climate impacts are related to water – too much, too little, or too dirty – yet only 3% of climate finance is currently dedicated to the world’s water systems. Water related conflicts have risen sharply in recent years as sources dwindle, including many internal disputes between urban and rural dwellers, and pastoralists and farmers, according to research by the Pacific Institute.

Almost 7,000 people attended the conference, but the private sector and global north were far better represented than experts and water insecure communities at the frontline of the water crisis from the global south – many of whom were excluded due to visa and financial barriers. Only a dozen or so world leaders attended the conference, and there were no protests and few activists to call out government and business hypocrisies.

Mana Omar, 28, one of few activists from Fridays for Future Africa to get a visa, said: “As a young person without affiliation to a big organisation there was no opportunity to share experiences of my community,” said Omar, who is from Kenya’s arid Kajiado county where girls and women from pastoral Indigenous communities are facing worsening gender-based violence as drought forces them to travel further to find water.

Australian water scarcity activist Mina Guli, center, after completing her 200th marathon outside UN headquarters on 22 March 2023.
Australian water scarcity activist Mina Guli, center, after completing her 200th marathon outside UN headquarters on 22 March 2023. Photograph: Leonardo Muñoz/AFP/Getty Images

“The water action agenda should include diverse experiences, but too many communities are missing, and there’s nothing legally binding so how can we hold the countries to account?” added Omar.

A UN spokesperson said they were unaware of any access issues.

The conference also failed to address the violence and threats faced by communities trying to protect dwindling water sources from mining, industrial agriculture and other polluting industries. “It is a very bureaucratic event where only large NGOs, governments and private companies could express themselves,” said Juan Gabriel Martinez, 34, a land and water defender from Manizales, Colombia, where the community is under attack by armed militias.

A quarter of the world’s population still does not have access to safe drinking water while half lacks basic sanitation – which is one of the sustainable development goals for 2030. Progress has been slow due to the lack of financial investment from rich countries – which has moved towards loans not grants, insufficient political will and a siloed approach to water. At the current rate, universal access to clean water and sanitation will not be achieved for decades after the 2030 target.

Samuel Godfrey, the UN Development Programme’s principal water resources advisor, said: “What’s come out of this is the need to move toward regional goals after 2030.”

And while the summit may have nudged the world in the right direction, as Musonda Mumba, secretary general for the convention on wetlands, said in her closing statement: “The crisis is everywhere … we have no time.”

To see the original post, follow this link:

Who Pays For Climate Change? Where Countries Falter, Corporations Fund

25 03 2023

Climate refugee Miriam, whose village was destroyed by flooding in 2022, walks to school in her new home in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Image: ©UNICEF Ethiopia/Raphael Pouget via Flickr

By Patrick McCarthy from triple • Reposted: March 25, 2023

At the COP27 climate talks in November, world leaders agreed to establish a loss and damage fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change. But it will be yearsuntil the fund is up and running — leaving many questions unanswered, chief among them: Who pays for the climate crisis?  

While the responses to this question often place the financial onus of climate change on the global superpowers (China, the U.S.) that have contributed the most environmental harm, those powerful nations have consistently failed to accept this charge. Nations in the Global South have, by and large, contributed little to climate change, yet face the most serious consequences — including more frequent and severe natural disasters like drought, intense heat, and extreme storms. As the leading contributors to climate change drag their feet, the window for action continues to shrink, and blameless millions pay the price of the Global North’s pollution.

Climate Neutral, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing this disparity, leverages corporate funding to finance sustainable projects in the world’s least developed countries. In this way, corporations can circumvent the global gridlock preventing true action on climate change. The nonprofit also provides corporations a chance to move beyond empty promises and truly begin to right their own environmental wrongs.

“The pressure that we’re trying to exert is pressure on companies because consumers, at least say, they care about climate change,” said Austin Whitman, CEO of Climate Neutral. “But they have very few ways to engage with companies directly and press companies to do more. So, if we can create the expectation that companies are doing their part to mitigate their emissions, there will be an increase in the flow of capital into projects.”

Climate Neutral challenges corporations to go beyond words and take aggressive action to reduce global emissions by 2030. To earn the nonprofit’s certification, a company must demonstrate that it is taking steps to reduce future emissions, while also paying the full price for current emissions.

Climate Neutral label on tag of Avocado Green Mattress bedding - climate change action from brands
The Climate Neutral Certified label on packaging at partner brand Avocado Green Mattress

Rich nations can “export low-carbon technologies” to decarbonize the developing world 

Rapid industrialization in an under-developed country can create intense environmental harm. But how can a country that already polluted the world through its own industrialization 200 years ago prohibit another nation from doing the same thing today? When it comes to polluting, rich nations are essentially telling poorer nations, “do as I say, not as I do,” and that isn’t very persuasive. 

“There is some transfer of wealth that’s necessary to account for the fact that the economic costs are being borne initially, largely, by countries that have not caused the problem,” Whitman said.

For decades, the Global South has called on the North to pay reparations for the crimes of colonialism, which prevented development and stole the natural resources that would have funded such development. If rich nations don’t want poorer nations to develop in an environmentally harmful way, they ought to invest in sustainable infrastructure and practices in these underdeveloped nations.

“All the major sectors, they can be used just as well in India as they can in the U.S.,”  Whitman said as an example. “I think it’s our job to export low-carbon technologies to really allow them to skip past that phase where the carbon intensity of the economy grows significantly before it starts to level off and then decline. We’ve got a pretty impressive system here in the U.S., and that knowledge can be exported, and is being exported.”

Climate Neutral understands that the urgency of the climate crisis demands action, not bureaucracy. Challenging corporations to pay for pollution and invest in the environment may not completely solve the climate crisis, but it is a fantastic way to get powerful players to put their money where their mouth is.

“This is one of the many, many dynamic aspects of the puzzle. We’re not starting necessarily in the perfect spot,” Whitman said, “but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t start.”

To see the original post, follow this link:

Want People to Use Less Water? Arm Them With Information

24 03 2023

Image credit: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

By Kate Zerrenner from triple • Reposted: March 24, 2023

Every March 22 is World Water Day — an observance designated by the United Nations to bring attention to different issues surrounding water and how it impacts our lives. The 2023 theme is Be the Change, an effort to encourage people to be more active in how they use, consume and manage water. 

This feels like both a straightforward task and a daunting one. Most people are unaware of where their water comes from, let alone the volume they use and how. Having that information is the first step toward more effective water management at the individual level, which can help water boards and utilities better manage the larger systems and watersheds.

Can you guess what accounts for most residential water use?

Most people do not have a clear idea of where they are using water — and so do not know where they are wasting water. Inside the home, toilets, showers and faucets are the biggest water hogs. But if you have a yard, your biggest culprit is probably irrigation and lawn care. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about a third of all residential water use in the U.S. is for landscape irrigation — about 9 billion gallons per day.

In the Western U.S., a region prone to both droughts and awash with lush green lawns, the situation is even more dire as the Colorado River runs dry. On background, a meter reader with Austin Water told TriplePundit that maintaining lawns accounted for 50 percent to 75 percent of many homes’ water usage — and many consumers often don’t believe it until they’re shown the meter reading.

Some utilities are now focusing solely getting customers to better manage their outdoor use, cutting back on indoor incentives. For example, San Antonio Water System, the city’s water utility, now only offers outdoor rebates and incentives. Program staff told TriplePundit that focusing on irrigation and pools would lead to greater water savings in the water-stressed city. The utility has also hired landscape experts to help residents replace turf with more native and drought-resistant plants. 

Smart metering offers more opportunity for water conservation

Another big water waster is leaks. On the utility side, more utilities are getting better at identifying and fixing leaks, but the state of the country’s water infrastructure is going to require significant investment. On the demand side, however, if customers better understand where they’re using the most water — and how to catch leaks when they first happen — they can be more active conservationists.

Much like electric smart meters, water smart meters can help people better understand their usage. The technology is not as widespread as it is in the electricity space due to a number of factors, such as available resources and challenges in measurement that make it harder to pinpoint water usage versus electric usage (i.e., it’s easier to measure electrons than drops). But as climate change continues to put pressure on watersheds, more companies are bringing technologies onto the market.

For example, in 2022, several California water utilities started rolling out water smart meters to customers. While the utilities have a big lift on the supply side, demand needs to be lowered where it can. Much like with electricity — where energy efficiency is the first and best defense — water conservation is the critical component of ensuring water is available when and where it is needed.

Working along the energy-water nexus

And like energy efficiency, water conservation is a climate strategy. Treating, pumping and distributing water uses copious amounts of energy, and generating fossil fuel- and nuclear-powered energy uses a lot of water. So, by reducing water demand, people are also taking action to lower emissions systemwide, while reducing energy use can also help with water conservation. Most people don’t think about the source of electricity when they flip a light switch or the source of water when they turn on their faucets. But the fact remains that both actions are inextricably linked.

World Water Day 2023 calls for people to be more active in their water conservation. It is a good reminder that understanding where your water comes from and how you use it has ripple effects throughout the community and the system. Utilities can help people be the change. But the real change must come from each consumer.

To see the original post, follow this link:

What Does It Mean To Be ‘Water Positive’?

24 03 2023

Submitted photo

By Nicole Loher from Meta • Reposted: March 24, 2023

When it comes to water scarcity, the numbers are global, but the impact is hyperlocal.

Community by community, neighbor by neighbor, the issue of water stress impacts humanity’s health and wellness as well as economic development. And yet, more than 1.7 billion people live in water basins that are being depleted by overuse and a 40% shortfall in freshwater resources is predicted by 2030. New water cannot be created, so we must be efficient with the water we use, and return what we take — particularly in highly stressed water basins. Water stewardship means taking care of the communities and ecosystems that share water resources.

In 2021, Meta announced an ambitious goal to be water positive by 2030 and in 2022, joined the Water Resilience Coalition of the UN CEO Water Mandate, a cross-sector initiative to raise the ambition of corporate water stewardship and foster collective impact in priority basins.

“Meta is honored to be a member of the Water Resilience Coalition alongside leading organizations and businesses committed to taking action on water. We’re committed to becoming water positive by 2030 by sourcing water responsibly, driving water efficiency across our facilities and operations, and investing in local water restoration projects where our facilities are located. Through the Water Resilience Coalition, we can work together to collectively protect this shared and precious resource.”


Striving for Water Positive and Water Stewardship

For Meta, being water positive is about using water efficiently in our operations and returning more water than we consume in water-stressed basins through projects that address local needs and context. We seek to be good water stewards in water basins where we have operations through water efficiency measures and by taking into account the local context and needs of the shared basin.

Water stewardship aims to make sure local access and use of water is culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial. It requires understanding the ecological and geographical context of local water use — along with issues of governance, balance, quality, sanitation and hygiene — and calls for meaningful individual and collective action.

We are listening to that call. Good water stewardship is intrinsically linked to our other sustainability priorities, which affect how we operate, how we create and how we collaborate. As climate change continues to impact water scarcity on a global scale, good water stewardship will remain a critical collective concern, especially for those living in low-income and disadvantaged communities that face increased climatological risks. 

The road to water positive begins, of course, with saving as much water as possible in the first place. From there, Meta prioritizes the basins where we operate that face water stress and collaborates with partners to preserve and restore the health and resilience of local watersheds, based on local need, even as our need for water grows.

Minimizing Water Use in Our Data Centers

Around the world, our 21 data centers power our family of apps and services 24/7. Maybe it’s no surprise then, that they account for most of Meta’s water use as well.

Since 2012, we’ve tracked and reported water usage effectiveness at our data centers as a first step to good water stewardship, but we’re constantly seeking innovative ways to minimize our water use as well — like using direct evaporative cooling, which relies on outside air rather than chilled water and cooling towers, to keep internal temperatures down.

Additionally, we’re proactively choosing plant species, efficient irrigation, alternative water sources, Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified new wood products and smart scheduling technologies that together save more than 80,000 kilogallons of water per year at our data centers.

Restoring Local Watersheds

Our restoration efforts not only play a critical role in advancing our water stewardship goals, but promote biodiversity in neighboring communities too. Working with local organizations and utilities, we are investing in restoration projects in water-stressed regions that support the local water supply and help restore local habitats and wildlife.

Since 2017, we have invested in 25 water restoration projects in seven watersheds where we operate data centers. One of the most impactful has been in the Rio Grande basin in New Mexico, which faces water stress and drought. In partnership with the Middle Rio Grande Flow Restoration Project, the 2020 program leased 450 acre-feet of water from the City of Bernalillo, NM, to support wetland and channel areas in the Isleta Reach of the Rio Grande. The water was commingled with volumes acquired through other leases to help keep 35 river miles flowing to support the wetlands and water channels on which the area’s birds, fish and wildlife depend.

Water restoration will remain a high priority for us going forward. As of August 2021, we have invested in water restoration projects that will replenish more than 850 million gallons of water per year in water-stressed basins. You can read more about our ongoing efforts in our Volumetric Water Benefits report.

Increasing Water Efficiency in our Workplaces

With nearly 72,000 employees in our offices across 80 cities, our facilities teams work hard to track our water withdrawal. Many offices, including our headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, utilize on-site recycled water systems to reclaim water from a variety of sources. And across all facilities, we’ve reduced our water needs by installing efficient plumbing fixtures and planting low-water-use plants.

It’s a lot but we still have a long way to go to meet our goal of water positive by 2030. By combining transparency with collaboration and collective action to address local needs, we aim to be good water stewards for our local communities and our planet, ensuring a sustainable future for all.

Curious about what else we’re doing to be water positive? Check out our 2021 Sustainability Report.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Climate damage is worsening faster than expected, but there’s still reason for optimism – 4 essential reads on the IPCC report

24 03 2023

Wildfires are becoming a greater risk in many countries as the landscape dries. Photo: Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

By Stacy Morford, Environment + Climate Editor, from The Conversation • Reposted: March 24, 2023

Reading the latest international climate report can feel overwhelming. It describes how rising temperatures caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are having rapid, widespread effects on the weather, climate and ecosystems in every region of the planet, and it says the risks are escalating faster than scientists expected.

Global temperatures are now 1.1 degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than at the start of the industrial era. Heat waves, storms, fires and floods are harming humans and ecosystems. Hundreds of species have disappeared from regions as temperatures rise, and climate change is causing irreversible changes to sea ice, oceans and glaciers. In some areas, it’s becoming harder to adapt to the changes, the authors write.

Still, there are reasons for optimism – falling renewable energy costs are starting to transform the power sector, for example, and the use of electric vehicles is expanding. But change aren’t happening fast enough, and the window for a smooth transition is closing fast, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changereport warns. To keep global warming below 1.5 C (2.7 F), it says global greenhouse gas emissions will have to drop 60% by 2035 compared with 2019 levels.

he extent to which current and future generations will experience a hotter world depends on choices made now and in the coming years. The scenarios show expected differences in temperature depending on how high emissions are going forward.IPCC sixth assessment report

In the new report, released March 20, 2023, the IPCC summarizes findings from a series of assessments written over the past eight years and discusses how to stop the damage. In them, hundreds of scientists reviewed the evidence and research.

Here are four essential reads by co-authors of some of those reports, each providing a different snapshot of the changes underway and discussing solutions.

1. More intense storms and flooding

Many of the most shocking natural disasters of the past few years have involved intense rainfall and flooding.

In Europe, a storm in 2021 set off landslides and sent rivers rushing through villages that had stood for centuries. In 2022, about a third of Pakistan was underwater, and several U.S. communities were hit with extreme flash flooding.

The IPCC warns in the sixth assessment report that the water cycle will continue to intensify as the planet warms. That includes extreme monsoon rainfall, but also increasing drought, greater melting of mountain glaciers, decreasing snow cover and earlier snowmelt, wrote UMass-Lowell climate scientist Mathew Barlow, a co-author of the report examining physical changes.

“An intensifying water cycle means that both wet and dry extremes and the general variability of the water cycle will increase, although not uniformly around the globe,” Barlow wrote.

“Understanding this and other changes in the water cycle is important for more than preparing for disasters. Water is an essential resource for all ecosystems and human societies.” 

Read more: The water cycle is intensifying as the climate warms, IPCC report warns – that means more intense storms and flooding

2. The longer the delay, the higher the cost

The IPCC stressed in its reports that human activities are unequivocally warming the planet and causing rapid changes in the world’s atmosphere, oceans and icy regions.

“Countries can either plan their transformations, or they can face the destructive, often chaotic transformations that will be imposed by the changing climate,” wrote Edward Carr, a Clark University scholar and co-author of the IPCC report focused on adaptation.

The longer countries wait to respond, the greater the damage and cost to contain it. One estimate from Columbia University put the cost of adaptation needed just for urban areas at between US$64 billion and $80 billion a year – and the cost of doing nothing at 10 times that level by mid-century.

“The IPCC assessment offers a stark choice,” Carr wrote. “Does humanity accept this disastrous status quo and the uncertain, unpleasant future it is leading toward, or does it grab the reins and choose a better future?”

Read more: Transformational change is coming to how people live on Earth, UN climate adaptation report warns: Which path will humanity choose?

3. Transportation is a good place to start

One crucial sector for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is transportation.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by mid-century, a target considered necessary to keep global warming below 1.5 C, will require “a major, rapid rethinking of how people get around globally,” wrote Alan Jenn, a transportation scholar at the University of California Davis and co-author on the IPCC report on mitigation.

There are positive signs. Battery costs for electric vehicles have fallen, making them increasingly affordable. In the U.S., the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act offers tax incentives that lower the costs for EV buyers and encourage companies to ramp up production. And several states are considering following California’s requirement that all new cars and light trucks be zero-emissions by 2035.

“Behavioral and other systemic changes will also be needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically from this sector,” Jenn wrote.

For example, many countries saw their transportation emissions drop during COVID-19 as more people were allowed to work from home. Bike sharing in urban areas, public transit-friendly cities and avoiding urban sprawl can help cut emissions even further. Aviation and shipping are more challenging to decarbonize, but efforts are underway.

He adds, however, that it’s important to remember that the effectiveness of electrifying transportation ultimately depends on cleaning up the electricity grid.

Read more: Revolutionary changes in transportation, from electric vehicles to ride sharing, could slow global warming – if they’re done right, IPCC says

4. Reasons for optimism

The IPCC reports discuss several other important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including shifting energy from fossil fuels to renewable sources, making buildings more energy efficient and improving food production, as well as ways to adapt to changes that can no longer be avoided.

There are reasons for optimism, wrote Robert Lempert and Elisabeth Gilmore, co-authors on the IPCC’s report focused on mitigation.

“For example, renewable energy is now generally less expensive than fossil fuels, so a shift to clean energy can often save money,” they wrote. Electric vehicle costs are falling. Communities and infrastructure can be redesigned to better manage natural hazards such as wildfires and storms. Corporate climate risk disclosures can help investors better recognize the hazards and push those companies to build resilience and reduce their climate impact.

“The problem is that these solutions aren’t being deployed fast enough,” Lempert and Gilmore wrote. “In addition to pushback from industries, people’s fear of change has helped maintain the status quo.” Meeting the challenge, they said, starts with embracing innovation and change.

To see the original post, follow this link:

How the bottled water industry is masking the global water crisis

23 03 2023

Bottled water corporations exploit surface water and aquifers, buy water at a very low cost and sell it for 150 to 1,000 times more than the same unit of municipal tap water. Photo: Shutterstock

By Zeineb Bouhlel, Research Associate, Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), United Nations University and Vladimir Smakhtin, Former Director of the Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), United Nations University via The conversation • Reposted: March 23, 2023

Bottled water is one of the world’s most popular beverages, and its industry is making the most of it. Since the millennium, the world has advanced significantly towards the goal of safe water for all. In 2020, 74 per cent of humanity had access to safe water. This is 10 per cent more than two decades ago. But that still leaves two billion people without access to safe drinking water

Meanwhile, bottled water corporations exploit surface water and aquifers — typically at very low cost — and sell it for 150 to 1,000 times more than the same unit of municipal tap water. The price is often justified by offering the product as an absolute safe alternative to tap water. But bottled water is not immune to all contamination, considering that it rarely faces the rigorous public health and environmental regulations that public utility tap water does

In our recently published study, which studied 109 countries, it was concluded that the highly profitable and fast-growing bottled water industry is masking the failure of public systems to supply reliable drinking water for all.

The industry can undermine progress of safe-water projects, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, by distracting development efforts and redirecting attention to a less reliable, less affordable option.

Bottled water industry can disrupt SDGs

The fast-growing bottled water industry also impacts the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in many ways. 

A pile of plastic bottle waste.
The rising sales of global bottled water is contributing to plastic pollution on land and in the oceans. Photo: Shutterstock

The latest UN University report revealed that the annual sales of the global bottled water market is expected to double to US$500 billion worldwide this decade. This can increase stress in water-depleted areas while contributing to plastic pollution on land and in the oceans.

Growing faster than any other in the food category worldwide, the bottled water market is biggest in the Global South, with the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin American and Caribbean regions accounting for 60 per cent of all sales.

But no region is on track to achieve universal access to safe water services, which is one of he SDG 2030 targets. In fact, the industry’s greatest impact seems to be its potential to stunt the progress of nations’ goals to provide its residents with equitable access to affordable drinking water.

Impact on vulnerable nations

In the Global North, bottled water is often perceived to be healthier and tastier than tap water. It is, therefore, more a luxury good than a necessity. Meanwhile, in the Global South, it is the lack or absence of reliable public water supply and water management infrastructure that drives bottled water markets. 

Therefore, in many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in the Asia Pacific, rising consumption of bottled water can be seen as a proxy indicator of decades of governments’ failure to deliver on commitments to safe public water systems.

A group of people fill water in their drums from a truck carrying municipal water.
The rising consumption of bottled water in some countries can be seen as a proxy indicator of decades of governments’ failure to deliver on commitments to safe public water systems. Photo: Shutterstock

This further widens the global disparity between the billions of people who lack access to reliable water services and the others that enjoy water as a luxury.

In 2016, the annual financing required to achieve a safe drinking water supply throughout the world was estimated to cost US$114 billion, which amounts to less than half of today’s roughly US$270 billion global annual bottled water sales. 

Regulating the bottled-water industry

Last year, the World Health Organization estimated that the current rate of progress needs to quadruple to meet the SDGs 2030 target. But this is a colossal challenge considering the competing financial priorities and the prevailing business-as-usual attitude in the water sector.

As the bottled water market grows, it is more important than ever to strengthen legislation that regulates the industry and its water quality standards. Such legislation can impact bottled water quality control, groundwater exploitation, land use, plastic waste management, carbon emissions, finance and transparency obligations, to mention a few.

Our report argues that, with global progress toward this target so far off-track, expansion of the bottled water market essentially works against making headway, or at least slows it down, adversely affecting investments and long-term public water infrastructure.

Some high-level initiatives, like an alliance of Global Investors for Sustainable Development, aim to scale up finance for the SDGs, including water-related ones. 

Such initiatives offer the bottled water sector an opportunity to become an active player in this process and help accelerate progress toward reliable water supply, particularly in the Global South.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Workforce Diversity Disclosures Hit An All-Time High

23 03 2023

Image credit: August de Richelieu/Pexels

By Mary Mazzoni from • Reposted: March 23 2023

As companies make bolder commitments to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), stakeholders are looking for more information to back up their claims. Shareholder resolutions related to racial equity more than doubled at U.S. companies last year, many focused specifically on convincing companies to publicly disclose diversity data about their workforces. 

Likewise, the vast majority of the American public — 92 percent, according to 2022 polling from Just Capital — feel it’s important for companies to promote racial equity in the workplace. And they recognize data is an important tool to do it, with 76 percent of respondents to Just Capital’s survey agreeing that disclosing demographic data is an important step toward advancing racial equity.  

While some corporate commitments related to racial equity have failed to fully materialize, the area of diversity disclosures in particular is one where companies are stepping up in a big way, with record levels of best-practice disclosure across the world’s largest public firms. 

The state of corporate diversity disclosures

What’s often missed in conversations about diversity disclosures is that most large companies already track this information because they’re legally obligated to do so. All U.S. public companies with more than 100 employees are required to submit annual reports to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor that detail workforce data, including breakdowns by race and ethnicity, sex, and job categories. 

These reports, known as EEO-1 reports, are kept confidential by government agencies unless companies choose to voluntarily disclose them — and more companies are going just that.

Nearly 75 percent of Russell 1,000 companies disclose some form of workforce diversity data, compared to 55 percent in 2021, according to tracking from Just Capital. Within that group, 34 percent of companies publicly disclosed their EEO-1 reports or similar intersectional data last year — a more than threefold increase from 11 percent a year earlier. 

“Over the past year, companies across the Russell 1,000 have made great strides toward improving disclosure of racial and ethnic workforce demographic data,” Just Capital’s director of research insights, Matthew Nestler, and his team wrote in the report. 

When Just Capital last gathered disclosure data in September 2021, nearly half of all Russell 1,000 companies made no diversity disclosures at all. By September of last year, that number had fallen to 28 percent, as more than 150 companies opted to newly disclose their diversity data.

companies making diversity disclosures about their workforce has increased rapidly since 2021
(Click here to enlarge)

Importantly, many of these companies are skipping over the less granular disclosures, such as data about overall “non-white” or “minority” employees without racial and ethnic categories or job title breakdowns, and going right for publication of their EEO-1 reports.

Given increased stakeholder interest, it’s no surprise that companies taking the lead on diversity disclosures are reaping the benefits: Companies that published their EEO-1 or similar intersectional data outperformed those that didn’t by 7.9 percent over the trailing one-year period ending in 2022, according to a companion analysis from Just Capital. 

“Publicly disclosing demographic data represents a critical initial step for companies looking to build more diverse workforces, as well as stronger returns,” Nestler and his team wrote in the report. “It holds corporate leaders to account on their DEI goals and signals commitment to advancing racial equity.”

The bottom line

This type of rapid change indicates that advocacy from investors and consumers is working: Business leaders are hearing their stakeholders loud at clear, at least within the context of diversity disclosures. And even as anti-woke crusaders erroneously blame DEI “distractions” for everything from the Ohio train derailment to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, companies don’t appear to be backing down

“The story the report tells may not be a perfect one, but disclosure is a crucial first step in holding companies accountable to change,” Nestler and his team concluded. “From there, to ensure lasting progress on DEI, corporate leaders must ultimately go beyond demographic disclosure and measure and disclose the outcomes of their DEI efforts, including whether C-Suite compensation is tied to DEI-related progress, what resources are directed toward DEI efforts, how they drive impact in local communities, and more.” 

Just Capital works to incentivize corporate behavior change on DEI issues through accountability initiatives like the Corporate Racial Equity Tracker and actionable guidance like the CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity. Other resources such as the business-led coalition CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, and its Actions Database of more than 1,900 insights, are also at hand to guide business leaders as they look to advance DEI within their workforces. 

To see the original post, follow this link:

The Social Media Secret Behind Sustainable Consumer Behavior Change

22 03 2023

Image credit: Anna Nekrashevich/Pexels

By Mary Riddle from triple • Reposted: March 22, 2023

A majority of consumers say they’re ready to change their lifestyles to help combat climate change, and more people than ever are seeking out information about sustainability on social media. A new study commissioned by Unilever shows that influencers have the biggest impact on consumers’ sustainability-related choices, ahead of documentaries, news articles and governmental campaigns. In fact, 83 percent of all consumers believe that TikTok and Instagram are helpful places to seek out information about sustainability, and 75 percent are more likely to add sustainable behaviors to their lifestyles after viewing social media content about sustainability.

Unilever also specifically examined the efficacy of different content styles in inspiring consumer behavior change around plastic use and food waste, comparing pragmatic and explanatory content with more optimistic and humorous posts.

While the study found that both styles were effective in spurring consumer behavior change, 69 percent of people who viewed the more pragmatic content went on to make lifestyle changes, versus 61 percent of those who watched the more optimistic, humorous content. Branded content was seen as equally engaging and authentic as unbranded content.

“People are finding it hard to make sustainable choices due to a lack of simple, immediate and trustworthy information. Our ambition is to continue to collaborate with our partners to improve the sustainability content produced by our brands and support the creators we work with” said Conny Braams, Unilever’s chief digital and commercial officer, in a statement. 

Leveraging social media to drive consumer behavior change

Unilever partnered with Behavioral Insights Team and 10 sustainability influencers to develop content that aimed to persuade consumers to use less plastic and waste less food. Unilever then showed the content to 6,000 social media users in the U.K., U.S., and Canada.

Three out of four respondents said the content made them more likely to engage in the suggested sustainable behaviors, specifically reusing plastic, buying refillable products, and freezing and reusing leftover food. Also, 72 percent of participants supported companies selling them more sustainable products and services.

“This study is a world-first of its kind and the largest online, controlled trial to test the effect of different styles of social media content,” David Halpern, chief executive of the Behavioral Insights Team, said in a statement. “The behavior change potential of social media is clear, and the results show that there’s huge opportunity — providing fertile ground for further exploration in this space.” Over 75 percent of respondents said they support content creators encouraging their audiences to behave in more sustainable ways. 

More social change is needed to avert climate catastrophe

Unilever’s study found that social media is an effective tool for sustainable consumer behavior change. However, today’s world of social media is more commonly used to increase spending habits and consumption levels, which are key barriers to fighting climate change.

To effectively use their platforms to drive sustainable behaviors, brands and influencers must encourage individual actions and social change. Unilever is leveraging the results from the new study to bolster its sustainability messaging.

“What we hear from consumers is that living sustainably is a constant, overwhelming effort and many feel ‘my act alone won’t count, anyway,’” Braams noted. However, armed with the results of the new study, Unilever is aiming to support content creators and improve their sustainability content to help drive better individual actions across their consumer base.

“Together, we are learning what is all likes and no action versus content that makes sustainable choices simple and preferred,” she said. Instead of contracting with influencers to encourage their viewers to buy and consume, companies can accelerate rates of individual change by communicating with their audiences simple ways to make better choices for the environment.

To see the original post, follow this link:

PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer: ‘Half of the world’s population will face water scarcity as soon as 2025. It’s time everyone does their part in addressing the global water crisis’

22 03 2023

By Jim Andrew, Executive Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer for PepsiCo via Yahoo Finance • Reposted: March 22, 2023

Water is a fundamental human right. It is indispensable to every community, ecosystem, and economy around the world. Yet water insecurity has become one of the world’s greatest crises–and one that is overlooked, or even worse, ignored entirely.

Globally, more than 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 4 billion people experience severe water scarcity at least one month a year–and many far more frequently than that.

Climate change and other factors are harming water supply and quality, and ecosystems are being degraded as a result. It’s projected that at current rates of consumption, there will be a 56% gap between global water supply and demand by 2030.

And while the private sector and other stakeholders have made progress in addressing the causes of this water stress, the truth is it’s not nearly enough.

We are at an inflection point, which makes the upcoming UN Water Conference–being held for the first time in nearly five decades–a critical moment to drive action. It represents a transformative opportunity to ignite unprecedented collaboration among governments, NGOs, and the private sector to address this growing global crisis.

At PepsiCo, as the second-largest food and beverage company in the world, we know the critical role that water plays in the food system. When it comes to addressing water issues, we use a watershed management approach that encompasses our entire value chain, including on farms, in manufacturing facilities, along our value chain and in local communities. Through PepsiCo Positive–a strategic, end-to-end transformation of our business–we have developed robust goals to support our ambition of being “net water positive” by 2030. The aim is that our presence and action should improve the local water resources where we operate.

For example, we have implemented new technologies and processes in three of our largest food plants in Latin America that have taken us off the water grid, enabling us to make popular snacks like Lay’s, Doritos, and Cheetos without drawing anyfreshwater from local watersheds.

At our Vallejo facility in Mexico City, we source water from our manufacturing processes and other food companies in the area, purify it in house, and reuse the water in our operations. In Funza, Colombia, we treat and reuse our own processed water and capture rainwater for use in our facility. Both sites have operated using zero freshwater, with no burden on local municipalities, for approximately 250 days and counting since 2022, while our plant in Itu, Brazil, has yielded more than 100 days of using zero freshwater through similar approaches.

While operational efficiency is important for our business and water stewardship, it alone does not solve the larger problem. It’s critical that companies like PepsiCo continue to expand efforts beyond the walls of our facilities to protect and restore watersheds, while also ensuring that communities around the world have reliable access to safe, clean water.

In 2021 alone, our projects helped restore 6.1 billion liters of water back into local watersheds through replenishment partnerships with conservation organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. And, over the last 15 years, PepsiCo and the PepsiCo Foundation have helped more than 80 million people access safe water. We’re aiming to reach 100 million people by 2030.

Fortunately, many companies have set ambitious water goals and are taking action. There are thousands of individual projects around the globe working to tackle water stress, but presently there are few opportunities for the private sector, NGOs, and governments to work together and pool the necessary resources to address this crisis at scale. We’re proud to be part of the CEO Water Mandate, for example, but such coalitions are few and far between.

We believe the only way to address the global water crisis is to get all stakeholders engaged and, through collective action, work towards a common goal of dramatically and urgently improving water conservation and governance, while ensuring that all people have access to safe, clean water. We need more open-source sharing of ideas and best practices. We need technological innovations and to rethink how we approach partnerships. We need collaboration among all stakeholders in impacted watersheds, advocating for solutions that drive fairness and address the specific needs of that locality. Only then will we drive the investment and scale that results in the level of change we need.

We are actively participating in the UN Water Conference and related events to share what we’ve learned and to learn from others, and to help inspire bolder collective action.

Half of the global population could face water scarcity challenges by 2025, according to UNICEF. We don’t have the luxury of time.

Jim Andrew is Executive Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer for PepsiCo.

To see the orignal post, follow this link:

‘More precious than gold’

21 03 2023

Photo: Candace Maracle/CBC

Canada’s Haudenosaunee say inconsistent weather is proving to be a sticky situation for maple syrup season. By Candace Maracle from CBC News • Reposted: March 231, 2023

The ideal temperature for maple sap to run is when temperatures fall below 0 C at night and rise above zero during the day.

It’s something Tehahenteh Miller grew up knowing about collecting sap to make maple syrup. Miller, who is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and lives in Six Nations, Ont., has been tapping his trees for over a decade.

“If the sun shines, it increases the volume considerably and it’s usually the sunny side that we tap,” said Miller.

Maple trees tapped on Six Nations. Photo: Candace Maracle/CBC

Miller said he has seen changes in the last four or five years. Warmer winter weather followed by cold snaps impedes the maples’ sap flow.

“You look around and you can see a lot of the tops of the trees are dying,” he said.

Miller said that Haudenosaunee teachings predict that once the maple tree starts dying from the top, any conservation effort may be too late to turn things around. He hasn’t tapped his trees for the past three years “to give his trees a rest” from the stress climate change has put on them. 

A full bucket of maple sap. Photo: Candace Maracle/CBC
Sap is used in Haundenosaunee ceremony to honour the maple trees. Photo: Candace Maracle/CBC
Tim Johnson collects sap from buckets twice a day during the season when sap is running. Photo: Candace Maracle/CBC

Dawn Martin-Hill, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at McMaster University, has researched how climate change is affecting Six Nations. She’s one of the co-authors of a 2021 report in Climate Services on observed and projected trends of climate change in Six Nations.

“What the climate change study showed here was that Six Nations was going to experience drought, flood, cycles of instability and that will impact the ability for the trees to run sap for the length that they used to,” she said.

Martin-Hill said Haudenosaunee have always understood the inter-connectedness of life.

“Our people don’t have to change a single story that we have in order to adjust to what modern science is beginning to find out and understand,” she said.

Sap drips from a newly drilled tap. Photo: Candace Maracle/CBC)

The sap that is collected from the maple tree is used in ceremony to honour the opening of the maple trees – the time of year when sap runs and can be collected to make syrup.

Origin of maple syrup

Miller said, according to Haudenosaunee teachings, after a harsh winter a Haudenosaunee village was on the verge of starvation when a young man went into the forest and sat by a tree, thinking of a solution. He noticed a squirrel climb a maple tree and lick the water droplets from a broken branch.He fashioned a small bowl from bark to collect sap where it was leaking from the broken branch. After being left out in the sun, the sap began to evaporate, making it extra sweet.

The young man drank the water and determining it was safe to consume, he told the others in the village. The maple sap nourished them and got them through winter without starving.After that, it was decided the maple tree would be honoured every year for this gift.

The Mohawk Longhouse in Six Nations held a ceremony to open the maple trees last week.

Family tradition

Maple sap must be boiled for hours to make syrup.

Mel Squire and her husband, Angus Goodleaf, collect sap on their property in Six Nations.

This is her second year tapping trees after learning from her family who have been doing it for generations.

“I think just getting older and reflecting back on my childhood and watching my grandfather do it … inspired me to get into doing it myself,” she said.

Angus Goodleaf boils sap for maple syrup. Photo: Mel Squire

They check their 20 taps daily to see how much sap has accumulated in buckets. The sap can only be stored for a few days before it must be boiled for hours.

“Forty gallons of sap gave us one gallon [of syrup],” said Squire.

“We can’t sell it. I don’t even know what I’d price it at. It’s more precious than gold at this point. So, it’s quite priceless.”

Of the Haudenosaunee tradition of tapping maple trees each spring, Miller said, “We owe [the trees] a responsibility to not just acknowledge them, but to be participatory. We’re actually practising our culture, reinforcing our culture by doing that. That’s part of our culture and it needs to be kept alive.”

The finished product. Photo: Mel Squire

To see the original post, follow this link:

IPCC report: Climate solutions exist, but humanity has to break from the status quo and embrace innovation

21 03 2023

Image: Fotograf Sune Tølløse –

By Robert Lempert, Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School and Elisabeth Gilmore, Associate Professor of Climate Change, Technology and Policy, Carleton University via The Conversation * Reposted: March 21, 2023

It’s easy to feel pessimistic when scientists around the world are warning that climate change has advanced so far, it’s now inevitable that societies will either transform themselves or be transformed. But as two of the authors of a recent international climate report, we also see reason for optimism.

The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the synthesis report released March 20, 2023, discuss changes ahead, but they also describe how existing solutions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help people adjust to impacts of climate change that can’t be avoided.

The problem is that these solutions aren’t being deployed fast enough. In addition to pushback from industries, people’s fear of change has helped maintain the status quo. 

To slow climate change and adapt to the damage already underway, the world will have to shift how it generates and uses energy, transports people and goods, designs buildings and grows food. That starts with embracing innovation and change.

Fear of change can lead to worsening change

From the industrial revolution to the rise of social media, societies have undergone fundamental changes in how people live and understand their place in the world.

Some transformations are widely regarded as bad, including many of those connected to climate change. For example, about half the world’s coral reef ecosystems have died because of increasing heat and acidity in the oceans. Island nations like Kiribati and coastal communities, including in Louisiana and Alaska, are losing land into rising seas.Residents of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati describe the changes they’re experiencing as sea level rises.

Other transformations have had both good and bad effects. The industrial revolution vastly raised standards of living for many people, but it spawned inequality, social disruption and environmental destruction.

People often resist transformation because their fear of losing what they have is more powerful than knowing they might gain something better. Wanting to retain things as they are – known as status quo bias – explains all sorts of individual decisions, from sticking with incumbent politicians to not enrolling in retirement or health plans even when the alternatives may be rationally better. 

This effect may be even more pronounced for larger changes. In the past, delaying inevitable change has led to transformations that are unnecessarily harsh, such as the collapse of some 13th-century civilizations in what is now the U.S. Southwest. As more people experience the harms of climate change firsthand, they may begin to realize that transformation is inevitable and embrace new solutions.

A mix of good and bad

The IPCC reports make clear that the future inevitably involves more and larger climate-related transformations. The question is what the mix of good and bad will be in those transformations.

If countries allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue at a high rate and communities adapt only incrementally to the resulting climate change, the transformations will be mostly forced and mostly bad

For example, a riverside town might raise its levees as spring flooding worsens. At some point, as the scale of flooding increases, such adaptation hits its limits. The levees necessary to hold back the water may become too expensive or so intrusive that they undermine any benefit of living near the river. The community may wither away.

A person in a boat checks the river side of sandbag levee protecting a community during a flood.
Riverside communities often scramble to raise levees during floods, like this one in Louisiana.  Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The riverside community could also take a more deliberate and anticipatory approach to transformation. It might shift to higher ground, turn its riverfront into parkland while developing affordable housing for people who are displaced by the project, and collaborate with upstream communities to expand landscapes that capture floodwaters. Simultaneously, the community can shift to renewable energy and electrified transportation to help slow global warming.

Optimism resides in deliberate action

The IPCC reports include numerous examples that can help steer such positive transformation.

For example, renewable energy is now generally less expensive than fossil fuels, so a shift to clean energy can often save money. Communities can also be redesigned to better survive natural hazards through steps such as maintaining natural wildfire breaks and building homes to be less susceptible to burning.

Charts showing falling costs and rising adoption of clean energy.
Costs are falling for key forms of renewable energy and electric vehicle batteries. IPCC sixth assessment report

Land use and the design of infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, can be based on forward-looking climate information. Insurance pricing and corporate climate risk disclosures can help the public recognize hazards in the products they buy and companies they support as investors.

No one group can enact these changes alone. Everyone must be involved, including governments that can mandate and incentivize changes, businesses that often control decisions about greenhouse gas emissions, and citizens who can turn up the pressure on both.

Transformation is inevitable

Efforts to both adapt to and mitigate climate change have advanced substantially in the last five years, but not fast enough to prevent the transformations already underway.

Doing more to disrupt the status quo with proven solutions can help smooth these transformations and create a better future in the process.

To see the original post, follow this link:

It’s mid-March and the Great Lakes are virtually ice-free. That’s a problem.

19 03 2023

By Caitlin Looby from the Akron Beacon Journal • Reposted: March 19, 2023

It’s the middle of March and the Great Lakes are virtually ice-free. 

Ice has been far below average this year, with only 7% of the lakes covered as of last Monday — and no ice at all on Lake Erie. Lake Erie’s average ice coverage for this time of year is 40%, based on measurements over the past half-century. The lake typically freezes over the quickest and has the most ice cover because it’s the shallowest of the five Great Lakes. 

But communities along Ohio’s north coast, including Cleveland, Sandusky and Port Clinton, have seen considerably less ice forming on Lake Erie in recent years.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Lake Erie’s ice coverage peaked in early February at 40%, a nearly 20% decrease from the historical average.

Seagulls sit on the thin ice along the shore of Lake Erie in Michigan's Monroe County in March 2022.

No ice isn’t a good thing for the lakes’ ecosystem. It can even stir up dangerous waves and lake-effect snowstorms.  So, what happens when the lakes are ice-free? What does it mean for the lakes’ food web? Is climate change to blame?

Little ice cover can be disastrous

This winter has already proved how dangerous lake-effect snow can be. 

At the end of November, more than 6 feet of snow fell on Buffalo, New York, which sits on the shores of Lake Erie. A few weeks later on Dec. 23, more than 4 feet of snow covered the city and surrounding areas once again. The storm resulted in 44 deaths in Erie and Niagara counties, which sit on Lakes Erie and Ontario, respectively. 

Cleveland and Sandusky reside on the shores of Lake Erie as well. The 2022 storm that swept the region on Dec. 23 dropped relatively little snow, only about 2-4 inches, but created dangerous conditions nonetheless.

In some places in Northeast Ohio, temperatures dropped from nearly 40 degrees to zero and below. Wind chills fueled by hurricane-force winds dragged the temperature even lower to minus 30 or even 35 below zero. This storm was the first time in almost a decade that the Cleveland Weather Forecast Office issued a blizzard warning.
A 46-vehicle pileup on the Ohio Turnpike near Sandusky claimed four lives

A 46-vehicle pileup killed four people injured many others on the Ohio Turnpike during a winter storm with whiteout conditions Dec. 23.

During stormy winter months, ice cover tempers waves. When there is low ice cover, waves can be much larger, leading to lakeshore flooding and erosion. That happened in January 2020 along Lake Michigan’s southwestern shoreline. Record high lake levels mixed with winds whipped up 15-foot waves that flooded shorelines, leading Gov. Tony Evers to declare a state of emergency for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. 

And while less ice may seem like a good thing for the lakes’ shipping industry, those waves can create dangerous conditions. 

The Great Lakes are losing ice with climate change 

The Great Lakes have been losing ice for the past five decades, a trend that scientists say will likely continue. 

Of the last 25 years, 64% had below-average ice, said Michael Notaro, the director of the Center on Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The steepest declines have been in the north, including Lake Superior, northern Lake Michigan and Huron, and in nearshore areas. 

But this also comes with a lot of ups and downs, largely because warming is causing the jet stream to “meander,” said Ayumi Fujisaki Manome, a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan who models ice cover and hazardous weather across the lakes. 

There is a lot of year-to-year variability with ice cover spiking in years like 2014, 2015 and 2019 where the lakes were almost completely iced over.    

Ice fishermen stay close to shore off of Bay Shore Park in New Franken, Wisconsin, in January, which saw relatively little ice cover on the Great Lakes.

No ice makes waves in the lakes’ ecosystems

A downturn in ice coverage due to climate change will likely have cascading effects on the lakes’ ecosystems. 

Lake whitefish, a mainstay in the lakes’ fishing industry and an important food source for other fish like walleye, are one of the many Great Lakes fish that will be affected, said Ed Rutherford, a fishery biologist who also works at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. 

Lake whitefish spawn in the fall in nearshore areas, leaving the eggs to incubate over the winter months. When ice isn’t there, strong winds and waves can stir up the sediment, reducing the number of fish that are hatched in the spring, Rutherford said. 

Whitefish haul from the Great Lakes.
A walleye caught during a fishing trip in Lake Erie near Marblehead, Ohio.

Walleye and yellow perch also need extended winters, he said. If they don’t get enough time to overwinter in cold water, their eggs will be a lot smaller, making it harder for them to survive. 

Even so, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife released a report stating that Lake Erie’s 2022 walleye and yellow perch populations in the central and western basins are above average. Yellow perch hatches in the central basin are below average, however.

Declining ice cover on the lakes is also delaying the southward migration of dabbling ducks, a group of ducks that include mallards, out of the Great Lakes in the fall and winter, Notaro said. And if the ducks spend more time in the region it will increase the foraging pressure on inland wetlands. 

Warming lakes and a loss of ice cover over time also will be coupled with more extreme rainfall, likely inciting more harmful algae blooms, said Notaro. These blooms largely form from agricultural runoff, creating thick, green mats on the lake surface that can be toxic to humans and pets. 

In this 2017 photo, a catfish appears on the shoreline in the algae-filled waters of Lake Erie in Toledo.

Lakes Erie and Michigan are plagued with these blooms every summer. And now, blooms cropping up in Lake Superior for the first time are raising alarm. 

“Even deep, cold Lake Superior has been experiencing significant algae blooms since 2018, which is quite atypical,” Notaro said. 

More: Blue-green algae blooms, once unheard of in Lake Superior, are a sign that ‘things are changing’ experts say

There is still a big question mark on the extent of the changes that will happen to the lakes’ ecosystem and food web as ice cover continues to decline. That’s because scientists can’t get out and sample the lakes in the harsh winter months.

“Unless we can keep climate change in check … it will have changes that we anticipate and others that we don’t know about yet,” Rutherford said.

Caitlin Looby is a Report for America corps member who writes about the environment and the Great Lakes. Reach her at or follow her on Twitter @caitlooby. Beacon Journal reporter Derek Kreider contributed to this article.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Disaster survivors need help remaining connected with friends and families – and access to mental health care

19 03 2023

Hatay, Turkey, was hit hard by the February 2023 earthquakes. Ugur Yildirim/dia images via Getty Images

By Daniel P. Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Security and Resilience Program, Northeastern University and Yunus Emre Tapan, Ph.D. Student in Political Science, Northeastern University via The Conversation * Reposted: March 19, 2023

The earthquakes that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria in early February 2023 have killed at least 47,000 people and disrupted everyday life for some 26 million more. 

Survivors of big disasters like these earthquakes – among the worst in the region’s history – certainly need food, water, medications, blankets and other goods. But they also need psychological first aid – that is, immediate mental health counseling along with support that strengthens their connections with their friends, relatives and decision-makers. 

As scholars who study how disaster survivors benefit from preserving connections to people in their networks, we know that these social ties help with the recovery from traumatic events that cause significant upheaval.

But often in the rush to keep survivors fed, warm and housed, we’ve observed that the flow of support that focuses on meeting their psychological needs falls short of what’s needed.

Emergency response underway

The Turkish government agency responsible for disaster management – the AFAD – focuses strongly on the delivery of tents, medical care and physical aid. And the few nongovernmental organizations providing mental health care, such as the Maya Foundation and Turkish Psychological Association, have received less than 10% of the donations channeled through the Turkey Earthquake Relief Fund

Many international aid groups, private companies and NGOs have launched campaigns to support search and rescue operations and response and recovery through disaster diplomacyThe United Nations invited its member states to raise US$1 billion to support aid operations. The U.S. is providing more than $100 million in aid.

All this assistance is funding emergency response efforts and humanitarian aid that largely consists of food, medicine and shelter in the area.

The Turkish government has announced it will begin building 30,000 homes in quake-hit areas in March and will give cash aid to those affected.

Psychological aspects of disasters

Research conducted after a wide variety of catastrophes has shown that mental health problems become more common after these events. Many survivors experience anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of everything they have been through. 

One reason for this is that disasters can cut people off from their routines and sever access to the sources of emotional support they previously relied on. Often moved to emergency shelters, and away from their doctors, neighbors and friends, survivors – especially those without strong networks – regularly experience poor mental health.

Further, when there are many casualties after major disasters of any kind, families may have lost loved ones and still not have a gravesite at which they can mourn. Within seven weeks of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for example, nearly half of the residents of New Orleans surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had PTSD symptoms

An important lesson we’ve drawn from researching what occurs after disasters is that robust social networks can soften some of the blows from these shocks. Even after someone loses a home and a sense of normalcy, staying in close touch with family and friends can minimize some of the sense of loss. 

People who are pushed out of their routines but manage to remain connected to their neighbors – who are often going through the same ordeal – tend to have lower levels of PTSD and anxiety. Their friends and relatives can provide emotional support, help them stay informed, and encourage the use of mental health treatment and outside help when it’s needed.

One of us participated in a research team that surveyed nearly 600 residents of a town located near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant after the nuclear meltdowns in March 2011. More than one-fourth of these survivors of the catastrophe had PTSD symptoms. Those with strong social networks, however, generally had fewer mental health problems than other survivors with weaker connections to their friends and loved ones.

Another study of Japan’s Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that one of us took part in showed that survivors of that disaster with stronger social ties recovered more rapidly and completely following a disaster.

People dressed for winter gather in a semi-outdoor space.
Syrians gather in Aleppo, in a building damaged by the February 2023 earthquake. Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

4 strategies that can help

In our view, relief organizations that operate in Turkey and Syria and government aid agencies need to focus and spend more on mental health priorities. Here are four good ways to accomplish this:

  1. Include psychologists, therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals in the mix of aid workers who arrive immediately after disasters to begin group and individual therapy. 
  2. Ensure that local faith-based organizations and spiritual leaders play key roles in the recovery process
  3. Get as many public spaces, such as cafes, libraries and other gathering spots as possible, up and running again. Even virtual get-togethers using Zoom or similar software can help maintain connections with displaced friends and loved ones – as long as survivors have working cellphone service, at a minimum.
  4. Disaster recovery efforts should make communications technology a high priority. In addition to spending on food, tents, blankets, cots and medical supplies, we recommend that basic disaster aid should include access to free phone calls and Wi-Fi so that people whose lives have been upended can stay in contact with far-flung friends and loved ones. 

Given the likelihood of more large-scale disasters in the future, we believe that it’s essential that relief efforts emphasize work that will strengthen the mental health and social networks of survivors.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Stop the siloes: How a successful sustainability strategy involves the whole business

19 03 2023

For edie’s Business Leadership Month, Peter Bragg, EMEA sustainability & government affairs director at Canon, looks at how sustainability can be taken out of its silo to the benefit of the whole business. From edie’ • Reposted: March 19, 2023

It’s no longer news that sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Consumers and companies alike are prioritising the planet by adopting more sustainable shopping habits and making more commitments to improve credentials, with 87% of business leaders planning to increase sustainability strategy investment over the next two years.  While it’s great to see so many companies prioritising sustainability initiatives within their business model, there still remains a large number of business leaders who are struggling with the implementation of effective, large-scale sustainability strategies.

Many companies are establishing sustainability-focused departments, or specific roles, to help address these issues, however, by creating these silos, businesses are hindering the widespread adoption of sustainable practices that are needed to make a difference. Instead, businesses need to make sure every department, team and individual are taking an active part in delivering sustainability goals. Only then will sustainability strategies deliver the impactful and purposeful results needed.

Adopt a corporate philosophy

‘Sustainability’ in itself is an umbrella term that incorporates many different focus areas and methods for making the world a better place. For businesses setting a sustainability strategy, it can be easy to get lost in the generalisations, however every organisation should have a different idea of what sustainability means, because different businesses impact the planet in different ways.

Whether it’s working towards a greener supply chain or focusing also on social responsibility, it’s important for businesses to identify key areas they can improve to better the planet and establish clear goals to unify under. For Canon, we’ve adopted the corporate philosophy of Kyosei, meaning ‘living and working together for the common good’. This has provided a base from which we can launch specific initiatives aimed at both reducing our environmental impact and growing our social impact, while ensuring we are responsible and compliant with our products.

Expand efforts in-house

For better practices to be adopted by all departments in a business, it is key to both engage and educate the team. Building sustainability into the business model means ensuring all departments and business units are engaged and responsible for initiatives in their particular market. Aligning different people from across the business has been made easier with virtual communication, and setting up channels and regular check-ins is a great way to keep teams on track. It also proves incredibly useful to learn from teams in different markets, to understand what initiatives have worked, or haven’t, and use that feedback to inform strategies.

At Canon, we facilitate this open communication by working with our multidisciplinary steerco, where all functions of the business are connected and engaged. Setting up leadership working groups like this to apply practices and policies to individual departments ensures that everyone is aware of the role they have to play.

Partnerships broaden efforts

Just as many different areas of a business are needed to implement sustainability strategies, partnerships with other organisations can be a way of reaching all areas of the business. This can be by ensuring sustainability along a supply chain by only partnering with other responsible businesses, as well as broadening practices through proactive joint campaigns.

At Canon, we’ve developed a partnership with the UN SDG Action Team, and our Young People Programme (YPP) works with local NGOs including the Red Cross and Plan International to empower the next generation to make their voice heard on sustainability issues important to them. These particular partnerships have elevated our efforts in the social purpose side of sustainability, which works in addition to our focus on reducing our environmental impact.

Align with an existing framework

Thinking about the bigger picture in terms of sustainable goals can create difficulties for organisations wanting to coordinate approaches throughout the business – especially if they operate in different markets. Using existing framework is a good way to align teams and speed up the activation of these strategies.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for coordinating action across a wide range of topics, keeping businesses in line to achieve goals by 2030. If these goals are included in sustainability and business strategies, they can unite different areas of the business and support a culture that recognises the importance of prioritising sustainability. The UN Global Compact published The SDG Compass to assist companies in aligning the Goals with their strategies.


Creating and implementing an effective sustainability strategy for your business, therefore, requires four key aspects: a clear and relevant sustainability goal, effective communication and engagement from across teams, appropriate partnerships to broaden sustainability practises and useful frameworks to align different teams under. The key theme here is collaboration, and by breaking down the silos, we can make sustainability a company-wide mission rather than a challenge reserved for business leaders alone. Only then can we start to make real change happen.

To see the original post, follow this link:

De-Influencing: How social media stars are encouraging responsible consumerism

18 03 2023

Image: Dazed

By Stephanie Bertini from Fox 5 New York • Reposted: March 18, 2023

Influencers on social media have long been known for pushing products and promoting brands for cash or perks.  However, a new trend is emerging on social media, with the hashtag “de-influencing” gaining popularity.

The de-influencing movement is all about discouraging purchases, and it’s gaining traction among social media influencers. In part, the conversation is around a rejection of overconsumption.

“It’s become another part of influencing,” says brand collaborator coach Kahlea Nicole Wade.  She has taken to social media to post about de-influencing to her followers. 

Wade has been vocal about de-influencing on her platform. She believes that telling someone not to buy something is the same as telling them to buy it, as it’s still a form of influencing.

Under this new trend, some influencers are advocating for their followers to swap expensive products for less expensive alternatives. By doing so, they are encouraging a cheaper purchase while still promoting products that align with their values.

According to social media expert Ruby Kristen, there are several factors contributing to the de-influencing trend. Firstly, the economy is a significant factor. With financial uncertainty on the rise, people are being more cautious with their spending. 

Secondly, people are starting to question whether the products they’re buying are worth the money. 

Lastly, transparency is becoming increasingly important to social media users, and they’re demanding more accountability from influencers.

The de-influencing movement is an interesting departure from the traditional influencer model. As influencers continue to encourage their followers to make more conscious and responsible purchases, it will be interesting to see how brands respond and whether this trend will continue to gain momentum.

To see the original post, follow this link:


Why sustainability must play a major role in your boardroom today — and tomorrow

18 03 2023

We need to shape the boardrooms of the future by choice, not by chance. By Helle Bank Jorgensen from Greenbiz.con * Reposted: March 18, 2023

Image via Shutterstock/EtiAmmos

Sometimes, if you are like me, it is hard to look at the news or social media in the morning. The war in Ukraine, climate change, the tridemic, disappearing biodiversity, a worldwide cost of living crisis, famines and, oh, did I mention climate change?

Our world faces an unprecedented and barely credible list of monumental challenges. This is a time when we need courage and leadership to steer us all through these toughest of times and into the sunlit uplands.

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses are trusted more than NGOs, governments and media to provide that steady hand at the economic tiller. So that means current and future board directors and senior corporate executives must provide much of that bravery and direction for the world. But to do that, we need to shape their boardrooms of the future by choice, not by chance.

Sustainability will play an important role in this boardroom transition. It also formed the theme of “Sustainability in the Future Boardroom,” a tremendous panel session that I thoroughly enjoyed being part of at the recent GreenBiz 23 event in Scottsdale, Arizona. Joining me were Michael Levine, vice president and managing counsel, sustainability, Under Armour; and Mary Francia, partner, H.I. Executive Consulting (who is also part of the advisory board at Competent Boards).

The Future Boardroom initiative, which aims to bring business leaders together from around the world to shape a much-needed transformation at company leadership tables, provoked vigorous discussions at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January, and caused the same effect in Scottsdale. Here are 10 key takeaways from our panel session:

  1. It is vitally important that governance is embedded into business and board functions so that sustainability work is not just a project or passing fad that disappears with the arrival of a new CEO. 
  2. There are increasing regulatory and reputational risks and consequences for companies and their boards around sustainability and environmental impact. As a result, board directors and senior business leaders must ensure that they have reasonable systems and controls in place to enable oversight and mitigate risks. 
  3. The board’s oversight of the management team is crucial for how sustainability is integrated and brought to life in companies. Board directors need to understand the concept of sustainability to be able to provide effective oversight. To promote true sustainable change, leaders should avoid a compliance mentality, only doing the minimum necessary to be in good order. Instead, they should look to take their companies above and beyond the regulations. For that to be successful, the education process requires continuous learning, feedback and open, regular communications with stakeholders.
  4. Companies should also be aware of legal developments in different jurisdictions and take immediate steps to mitigate risks. For example, in November, Belgium added ecocide — “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts” — to its penal code. 
  5. Board assessments can help to evaluate the skills and competencies needed in a future boardroom and identify strategic challenges and opportunities. These assessments can also help identify board members who may need to resign or change their skill sets in order to continue providing value to the company. 
  6. Education will play a major role in the transition to a future boardroom. Investors are increasingly zeroing in on directors’ knowledge of sustainability issues and may not vote for those who lack insights and knowledge. Therefore, it is vital to have well-informed board members with sustainability knowledge and skills. Current and future board directors should keep learning by having the courage to take on different roles within the company to gain further experience and knowledge.
  7. Companies must have competent and conscious individuals serving on committees overseeing sustainability, ESG and climate issues. If board members can proactively rather than reactively address ESG factors, that will also be a major asset for companies in terms of outpacing competitors and creating renewed value. 
  8. ESG is not just about climate risks; it also presents opportunities for companies to create value and sustainability over time. It is essential for companies to ask the right questions and have a team that can provide a view of what the company’s portfolio should look like in the future: what needs to be removed, and what needs to be added. 
  9. Boards need to have a better understanding of operations and sustainability to be able to maximize opportunities and minimize risks. Sustainability should not just be a check-mark exercise, but rather should be embedded into different business functions and processes, including supply chains and value chains. 
  10. Being a board director is not just about dealing with short-term financial goals, but also about being a steward of the company’s finances, its employees and its impact on society and the environment. In order to add sustainability expertise to a board, that individual must understand what the board is looking for, be able to think strategically and understand corporate governance.

We also asked the GreenBiz 23 audience a series of poll questions, with really interesting results from almost 300 responses: 

How important is sustainability knowledge as a key consideration in the selection of new board members?
  • Not important = 13 percent
  • Important = 32 percent
  • Very important = 49 percent 
  • Unsure = 7 percent
What drives sustainable change in the boardroom? 
  • Investor demand = 56 percent
  • Customer demand = 17 percent
  • Employee demand = 1 percent
  • Regulations = 26 percent
How does ‘today’s’ boardroom get insight to provide oversight on ESG?
  • Ask the CSO to join meetings = 32 percent
  • Pursue ESG training = 15 percent
  • Appoint BoDs with skill set = 36 percent
  • Unsure = 17 percent
Do you see new competencies (climate, biodiversity, DEI, human rights, cybersecurity, etc.) as necessary for The Future Boardroom?
  • Yes = 90 percent
  • No = 5 percent
  • Maybe = 5 percent
Will proactive addressing of ESG factors by board members be an asset for a company to outpace competition and add value creation?
  • Yes = 86 percent
  • No = 0 percent
  • Maybe = 14 percent

From the results, it is clear that confusion remains over the best sources of sustainability information for board directors, with appointing people with skill sets (36 percent) and asking the CSO to join meetings (32 percent) closely matched. Almost 1 in 5 respondents were unsure, showing that there are many opportunities for better education here. 

On the plus side, the majority of our respondents (81 percent) do see sustainability knowledge as important or very important for future board members. And new competencies to meet the challenges ahead are must-haves.

The discussion around boardroom transitions is only just getting started. Download the Future Boardroom white paper to learn more about why sustainability plays a key role in shaping future boardrooms.

To see the original post, follow this link:

This, Not That: More Consumers Are Switching Brands Based on Sustainability

18 03 2023

Image credit: Gustavo Fring/Pexels


We know shoppers are increasingly interested in more sustainable products, and new research indicates many are ready to leave their standby brands behind. Half of all U.S. consumers, including 70 percent of millennials, have changed food and grocery brands based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, according to new polling. 

For its latest sustainability benchmark report, the research technology company Glow surveyed 33,000 U.S. adults to get their take on the ESG performance of more than 150 food and grocery brands. Across the board, consumers report changing their spending habits to better align with their personal values — and forward-looking brands are reaping the benefits. Almost 90 percent of respondents believe it’s important for businesses to be environmentally and socially responsible, and two-thirds said they’re willing to pay more for products that support vulnerable groups and communities.

“It is vitally important for companies to contribute to supporting society and the planet. And there is a growing body of evidence that doing so is more than the right thing to do, it is good for business,” said Julia Collins, CEO of Planet FWD, a carbon management platform for consumer brands, in a statement. “This report provides further evidence … that those who are leading in consumers’ minds are already reaping the commercial benefits and are best placed for future success.” Indeed, 8 in 10 respondents said they feel more loyalty to purpose-driven brands.

ESG performance is correlated with revenue growth

Glow also found a positive correlation between ESG performance and revenue growth. Even in a troubled economy with a cost-of-living crisis, environmentally- and socially-responsible companies are seeing the economic benefits of standing for their values: 20 percent of consumers rank sustainability in their top three considerations when shopping at the grocery store, and 10 percent of millennials said sustainability is the single most important factor when making a purchase.

Additionally, while 70 percent of consumers are actively switching food and grocery brands to save money, many consider sustainability a key reason not to do so, particularly among younger shoppers. 

“Now more than ever, if brands want to retain and win consumers, they must stand for something,” Mike Johnston, managing director of data products at Glow, said in a statement. “All consumers are looking for ways to save money. They will need a compelling reason why they shouldn’t walk away from your brand for a cheaper alternative. Along with quality, sustainability is a key barrier to change, especially for millennials.” 

It’s worth noting that what consumers view as “sustainable” will vary based on the product. Consumers report that plastic and waste issues are of greater importance in the household goods department, for example, while health and wellbeing is a top concern for consumers when choosing beverages and beauty products. 

Still, across all categories, products with ESG-related claims on their packaging grew an average 1.7 percent faster than those without. Labels and messaging associated with regenerative agriculture, plastic-free products, cruelty-free operations, water footprint, and renewable energy caught consumers’ attention the most.

Consumer expectations are high

U.S. consumers widely perceived the food and grocery industry as a leader in corporate sustainability, Glow’s data revealed, but the industry still faces significant barriers to meeting consumer expectations in a few key areas. For example, almost a third of responding consumers are dissatisfied with the industry’s efforts to reduce emissions, mitigate climate change, protect wildlife and ensure the welfare of suppliers.

While being misaligned with consumer expectations is never ideal for a company or sector, this gap presents an opportunity for brands to re-engage with this growing segment of consumers and stakeholders. By aligning ESG priorities with consumer expectations, companies can take advantage of a growth opportunity, while reducing risk and improving impacts on the environment.

“There’s a role of education here that’s critical for businesses,” Tim Clover, founder and CEO of Glow, told TriplePundit. “Consumers really want to understand the issues in more detail, to understand some of the science and the lengths to which companies are going to solve these problems. Companies that are brave enough to go and take the time to explain the depth of these issues and educate the market, they’re leading. They’re winning.”

To see the original post, follow this link:

New PFAS guidelines – a water quality scientist explains technology and investment needed to get forever chemicals out of US drinking water

17 03 2023


By Joe Charbonnet, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, Iowa State Universityvia The Conversation • Reposted: March 17, 2023

Harmful chemicals known as PFAS can be found in everything from children’s clothes to soil to drinking water, and regulating these chemicals has been a goal of public and environmental health researchers for years. On March 14, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed what would be the first set of federal guidelines regulating levels of PFAS in drinking water. The guidelines will be open to public comment for 60 days before being finalized.

Joe Charbonnet is an environmental engineer at Iowa State University who develops techniques to remove contaminants like PFAS from water. He explains what the proposed guidelines would require, how water utilities could meet these requirements and how much it might cost to get these so-called forever chemicals out of U.S. drinking water.

1. What do the new guidelines say?

PFAS are associated with a variety of health issues and have been a focus of environmental and public health researchers. There are thousands of members of this class of chemicals, and this proposed regulation would set the allowable limits in drinking water for six of them.

Two of the six chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – are no longer produced in large quantities, but they remain common in the environment because they were so widely used and break down extremely slowly. The new guidelines would allow for no more than four parts per trillion of PFOA or PFOS in drinking water.

Four other PFAS – GenX, PFBS, PFNA and PFHxS – would be regulated as well, although with higher limits. These chemicals are common replacements for PFOA and PFOS and are their close chemical cousins. Because of their similarity, they cause harm to human and environmental health in much the same way as legacy PFAS.

A few states have already established their own limits on levels of PFAS in drinking water, but these new guidelines, if enacted, would be the first legally enforceable federal limits and would affect the entire U.S. 

A water droplet sitting on a piece of fabric.
Chemicals used to create water-repellent fabrics and nonstick pans often contain PFAS and leak those chemicals into the environment. Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

2. How many utilities will need to make changes?

PFAS are harmful even at extremely low levels, and the proposed limits reflect that fact. The allowable concentrations would be comparable to a few grains of salt in an Olympic-size swimming pool. Hundreds of utilities all across the U.S. have levels of PFAS above the proposed limits in their water supplies and would need to make changes to meet these standards. 

While many areas have been tested for PFAS in the past, many systems have not, so health officials don’t know precisely how many water systems would be affected. A recent study used existing data to estimate that about 40% of municipal drinking water supplies may exceed the proposed concentration limits.

3. What can utilities do to meet the guidelines?

There are two major technologies that most utilities consider for removing PFAS from drinking water: activated carbon or ion exchange systems

A membrane treatment system.
Water treatment systems can use activated carbon or ion exchange to remove PFAS from drinking water. Paola Giannoni/E+ via Getty Images

Activated carbon is a charcoal-like substance that PFAS stick to quite well and can be used to remove PFAS from water. In 2006, the town of Oakdale, Minnesota, added an activated carbon treatment step to its water system. Not only did this additional water treatment bring PFAS levels down substantially, there were significant improvements in birth weight and the number of full-term pregnancies in that community after the change. 

Ion exchange systems work by flowing water over charged particles that can remove PFAS. Ion exchange systems are typically even better at lowering PFAS concentrations than activated carbon systems, but they are also more expensive.

Another option available to some cities is simply finding alternative water sources that are less contaminated. While this is a wonderful, low-cost means of lowering contamination, it points to a major disparity in environmental justice; more rural and less well-resourced utilities are unlikely to have this option.

4. Is such a major transition feasible?

By law, the EPA must consider not just human health but also the feasibility of treatment and the potential financial cost when setting maximum contaminant levels in drinking water. While the proposed limits are certainly attainable for many water utilities, the costs will be high.

The federal government has made available billions of dollars in funding for treating water. But some estimates put the total cost of meeting the proposed regulations for the entire country at around US$400 billion – much more than the available funding. Some municipalities may seek financial help for treatment from nearby polluters, while others may raise water rates to cover the costs.

5. What happens next?

The EPA has set a 60-day period for public comment on the proposed regulations, after which it can finalize the guidelines. But many experts expect the EPA to face a number of legal challenges. Time will tell what the final version of the regulations may look like. 

This regulation is intended to keep the U.S. in the enviable position of having some of the highest-quality drinking water in the world. As researchers and health officials learn more about new chemical threats, it is important to ensure that every resident has access to clean and affordable tap water.

While these six PFAS certainly pose threats to health that merit regulation, there are thousands of PFAS that likely have very similar impacts on human health. Rather than playing chemical whack-a-mole by regulating one PFAS at a time, there is a growing consensus among researchers and public health officials that PFAS should be regulated as a class of chemicals.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Brands Have Grown Silent on Police Violence: How Can They Do Better?

17 03 2023

Image credit: Clay Banks/Unsplash

By Mary Mazzoni from • Reposted: March 17, 2021

Despite increased attention on the issue — and the rollout of piecemeal reform policies in some cities — data indicates that police violence in the U.S. is actually getting worse.

The Washington Post’s real-time database has recorded more fatal police shootings every year since it launched in 2015, with 2022 being the deadliest to date. Communities of color, particularly Black communities, continue to be disproportionately affected. Already this year, U.S. police have shot and killed 195 people, according to the database. Many, including the killings of Tyre Nichols, Keenan Anderson, Anthony Lowe Jr. and Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, were highly publicized. Yet most of the brands that proclaimed to “stand with” Black communities following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 were largely nowhere to be seen. 

So, why have brands gone silent on the issue of police violence, and how can they do better? TriplePundit connected with leaders in sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to get a better understanding. 

The hard work is just beginning 

Like the Black Lives Matter movement itself, the corporate pledges made after Floyd’s murder were about much more than police violence. Companies committed billions of dollars in funding to tackle systemic inequities across society and the economy. Some succeeded in creating measurable progress — including the push to get more Black-owned brands on store shelves and devote more mainstream advertising spend to Black-owned media companies. 

But by and large, many of these initially outspoken brands have failed to follow through. “It’s easy for everyone to jump on the bandwagon,” Emerald-Jane “EJ” Hunter, founder of the DEI-focused integrated marketing firm myWHY Agency, said of corporate stands in favor of racial equity. “But it’s hard work and often calls for financial investment for companies to actually do the work, and do it well.”

Particularly during uncertain economic times, programming that is viewed as “nice-to-have” or unrelated to the business is always at risk of being cut. And unfortunately too many brands still view their racial equity work this way

“Many brands aren’t willing to part with the investment so take the lazy route by making a statement and claims and hope, just like many things, followers and consumers will forget over time what they said they would do,” Hunter told us. “The commitment simply isn’t there to do what it takes to make the shift and change, and therein lies the problem: Until companies make the investment and give it the time that it takes, we’ll never see change.”

The benefits of going bold: How can leaders convince their bosses it’s worth the risk? 

“The issue of police violence has also become so politically charged, it’s safer for brands to not go ‘too hard’ on this stance for fear of being cancelled,” Hunter said. While brands may be more keen to back off given the “anti-woke” political climate, consumer expectations — particularly among younger demographics — are only growing

“Remaining quiet when police brutality continues to disproportionately impact communities of color is no longer an option,” said Alix Lebec, founder and CEO of Lebec Consulting, which specializes in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and impact investing. “Eighty-two percent of millennial consumers expect corporations to align with their social and environmental values — and to stand up for key societal issues in real time.” 

Although it may seem safer to stay silent, brands that go bold — and back it up — stand to see real benefits. “Ben & Jerry’s is one of the best examples of a company and brand that immediately spoke up after George Floyd’s murder caused by inhumane police brutality in an authentic manner,” Lebec said. “From its voiceconsumer productsdonations and stance on public policy, Ben & Jerry’s took action. This is a brand that leads with empathy and purpose.” 

The brand continues to work with grassroots racial empowerment and civil rights organizations like the Advancement ProjectClose the Workhouse Coalition and the Power U Center for Social Change. “Taking bold positions on political topics has often helped the ice cream brand,” Hunter added, citing a 2020 analysis from YouGov which found customer affinity scores double after Ben & Jerry’s publicly condemned white supremacy and police violence. “The brand’s activism isn’t just the right thing to do. It also can help, in all honesty, your bottom line.”

Still, what’s a leader to do if their company remains hesitant? “One thing a business leader can tell their boss when they receive pushback is to look at the generations to follow and what matters to them. If their company wants to be around for years to come, they’ll soon be challenged by Gen Z and millennials for whom why businesses exist matters more than what they do,” Hunter said. “You won’t exist for much longer without aligning with a cause or issue or a why that goes beyond dollars and cents.”

“It doesn’t have to be specifically police brutality,” she added, “but should that be the cause, then it’s worth knowing that advocacy work equals longevity for a brand. It also takes time to become the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, so start now, be intentional, and practice what you preach internally and externally.”

Ready to take action to curb police violence and promote equity? Here’s how to start

Hunter highly recommends connecting with outside experts or enlisting an agency to help you get better about acting and communicating around issues like police violence and equity more broadly.

“This isn’t the time to risk making mistakes with a DIY approach. You’re in this boat because if you had known better, you would’ve done better,” she told us. “Nothing is worse than getting it wrong. Let the experts guide you so you do it right.” 

For most brands, the first step in “getting it right” will start internally, with building inclusivity in operations, hiring and promotion practices, and supply chains. “It begins at home, so ensure you’re all squared away internally before making external statements that become void of truth once you’re called out on your internal practices,” Hunter advised. 

Lebec agreed. “In addition to speaking up, companies need to truly live the values they espouse,” she said. “This includes engaging in catalytic and trust-based philanthropy, impact investing and public-private partnership, supporting public policies that value equality and sustainability, and showing up for local communities.”

If brand leadership has money to invest, the way they choose to do it also makes a big difference — both in terms of maximizing impact and supporting changemakers of color who are often overlooked. “Donate and invest in local, minority-owned businesses and nonprofitsthat have a strong track record with local communities, are typically underfunded, and have the potential to create more thriving local economies,” Lebec told us.

“Corporations can also leverage their philanthropy in ways that will attract other forms of financing to the table — such as impact investment capital — and financially support organizations that are really making a difference here in the U.S. and across developing and emerging markets,” she said. “Investing directly from corporate balance sheets, for instance, could unlock billions to trillion dollars of capital for economic and social equality.”

Don’t have money? Lend your voice. “Support public policies that are leveling the playing field for underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs and are pro-equality and sustainability,” she advised. 

However they do it, brands would be wise to recognize the urgency of getting started. “In 2023, companies need to be vulnerable, action-oriented, timely, creative and authentic — or risk losing relevancy and loyalty,” Lebec said. 

To see the original post, follow this link:

Few Companies Are Ready for the New SEC Climate Disclosure Rules, But Experts Say It’s Not Too Late

17 03 2023

Image credit: Li-An Lim / Unplash

By Amy Brown from • Reposted: March 17, 2023

In boardrooms and C-suites across the U.S., executives who are paying attention are likely wringing their hands — wondering just how prepared they are to meet the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) upcoming climate disclosure rules. The new rules are expected to force thousands of companies to disclose the full scope of their greenhouse gas emissions. This will be the first time that they have to account for emissions across the entire business cycle — and for many, that includes supply chains.

The SEC is expected to finalize the climate disclosure rules this spring, with the aim of enhancing and standardizing climate-related disclosures for investors. It plans to do so by requesting that companies provide climate transition plans. Companies with revenues over $75 million will have to report not only on their Scope 1 and 2 emissions — which come from their own operations and the electricity they buy — but also Scope 3, which includes emissions from both their supply chains and customers. The SEC fact sheet indicates that companies could be required to do this as early as 2024, using their 2023 numbers.

A new level of rigor required for the SEC’s climate disclosure rules

But are companies prepared for the level of transparency required by the SEC? Not so much, says Alex Saric, chief marketing officer at Ivalua, a procurement technology firm that specializes in supply chain sustainability.

“Overall, I think very few companies are truly prepared for this,” Saric told TriplePundit. 

While a number of companies have been collecting and making public disclosures about their carbon and GHG emissions for some time, they haven’t been consistent about doing so. “It is generally incomplete, and the methodology is perhaps sloppy and not up to the standards the SEC is requiring,” he explained. “Much more rigor and thoroughness will be required given the SEC mandates and the potential fines and other implications of the new rules.”

Companies have a lot to contend with these days — from supply chain resilience to the effects of inflation. Climate disclosure may be one thing leadership has yet to focus on, at least partially because the final rule is not yet in place. 

Betting on “weaker” rules could backfire

In fact, some companies may think they are buying themselves time by not taking action yet. Especially after SEC Chairman Gary Gensler told CNBC the agency was considering “adjustments” to the rules that some observers think could lead to the new requirements being “watered down.”

“It’s anyone’s guess whether or not they will do that,” Saric said. “But it is highly risky for companies to bank on that. Even if they allow more of a grace period to comply, or change some aspect of the Scope 3 emissions requirement, it will most likely still go into effect. And if you start to move now, you are ahead of the game.”

Inaction is a “wasted opportunity”

The biggest risk of inaction is “a wasted opportunity,” Saric continued. “If companies wait until the last minute to get the transparency the SEC is requiring, they may find that it is not as rosy a picture as they had hoped, that the information they will need to disclose is not consistent with statements or pledges they have made in the past. And that’s not ideal at a time when they can be increasingly criticized for greenwashing. And in the worst-case scenario, some companies underestimate how much work is involved and fail to meet the minimum due diligence required by the final deadline and are subject to fines and penalties as a result.”

It’s much better to be prepared to meet the growing expectations for corporate climate disclosure and action. “The biggest opportunity here is to really be positioned as a leader in an area that is increasingly important to investors, to customers and to employees,” Saric said. “By being proactive and taking action up front, [companies] can identify areas they can improve. Even if they can’t address them now, they can start implementing concrete plans by being able to disclose that information. It shows they are a leader in a space that’s very important.”

The challenge of Scope 3 emissions

Saric acknowledges that it is a challenging task — especially for Scope 3 emissions, which account for up to 75 percent of a company’s total footprint, according to the Principles for Responsible Investment, a group of socially conscious investors backed by the United Nations.

“Scope 3 is not just suppliers but the entire depth of the supply chain, from extraction to the transport of materials, all the sub-tiers,” Saric explained. “While many companies may know who their immediate suppliers are, very few have a view into their sub-tiers. Gathering this information is a very complex exercise.”

Message to suppliers: We’re all in this together

Supplier engagement will be key, Saric added. Collaboration — not dictums from above — will be the way to win cooperation from valued suppliers, he advised.

“Companies will have to engage, in some cases, thousands of suppliers — most of which won’t be affected by this requirement,” he told us. “So they have to do it in a way that is both consistent and scalable and also feels mutually beneficial to their suppliers, rather than just issuing a demand for emissions data. If they build the right foundation, and the processes and mechanisms required, companies will be in a much better place once the SEC rules take effect.”

To see the original post, follow this link:

Fines for breaking US pollution laws can vary widely among states – that may violate the Constitution

16 03 2023

The Clean Water Act was meant to keep pollution out of U.S. waters. David McNew/Getty Images

By Jerry Anderson, Dean and Professor of Law, Drake University via The Conversation • Reposted: March 16, 2023

It’s expensive to pollute the water in Colorado. The state’s median fine for companies caught violating the federal Clean Water Act is over US$30,000, and violators can be charged much more. In Montana, however, most violators get barely a slap on the wrist – the median fine there is $300.

Similarly, in Virginia, the typical Clean Water Act violation issued by the state is $9,000, while across the border in North Carolina, the median is around $600.

Even federal penalties vary significantly among regions. In the South (EPA Region 6) the median Clean Water Act penalty issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional office is $10,000, while in EPA Region 9 (including California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii), the median is over six times as high.

We discovered just how startling the differences are in a new study, published in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal. My colleague Amy Vaughan and I reviewed 10 years of EPA data on penalties issued under the Clean Water Act.

The degree of disparity we found in environmental enforcement is disturbing for many reasons. Persistent lenient penalties can lead to lower compliance rates and, therefore, more pollution. At the extreme, a lax enforcement regime can lead to environmental disasters. Disparate enforcement is also unfair, leaving some companies paying far more than others for the same behavior. Without a level playing field, competitive pressure may lead companies to locate in areas with more lenient enforcement.

There is a relatively simple solution, and another good reason to implement it: These disparities may violate the U.S. Constitution.

Why such big differences?

We think the main reason for the differences is that the EPA has not fulfilled its duty to require robust state enforcement.

Many federal environmental statutes – including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and toxic substances laws – enable the EPA to delegate enforcement to state agencies. In fact, state agencies undertake the vast majority of enforcement actions of these federal laws.

However, the EPA is supposed to delegate enforcement only to states that are deemed capable of taking on this responsibility, including having the ability to issue permits and conduct inspections. Importantly, the states must have laws authorizing an agency or the courts to impose sufficient penalties on violators.

Water spills out of a pipe into a river.
Federal laws like the Clean Water Act helped end corporate practices of pouring toxic wastewater into rivers, as this paper plant was doing near International Falls, Minn., in 1937. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Most state delegations occurred long ago, in the 1970s and ‘80s, shortly after Congress passed these major environmental statutes. In 1978, EPA decided that it would require states to have a minimum of $5,000-per-day penalty authority before they would be delegated enforcement power for the Clean Water Act. Forty-five years later, that required minimum is still the same.

In contrast, the Clean Water Act gives the EPA and federal courts much higher penalty authority – it started at $25,000 per day and, because of congressionally mandated annual inflation adjustments, had risen to $56,540 by the end of 2022.

That difference shows up in the fines: We found the average penalty issued by states is about $35,000, while the average penalty issued by the federal EPA is over five times as high at $186,000. The median state penalty is $4,000, while the median federal penalty is almost $30,000. While the EPA tends to be involved in the most serious cases, we believe low state penalties can also be traced to more lenient state penalty provisions.

There is also a wide disparity among state penalty statutes. At one end, Idaho law limits civil penalties to $5,000 per day, while Colorado’s law allows for penalties of up to $54,833 per day.

In some cases, penalty differences might have a legitimate explanation. However, the degree of disparity among statutes and penalties that we found with the Clean Water Act suggests the U.S. doesn’t have uniform federal environmental law. And that can run afoul of the Constitution.

A question of unconstitutional unfairness

The EPA has the power to require states to have more robust penalty provisions, more in line with federal penalties. The EPA also can provide better guidance to the states about how those penalties should be calculated. Without guidance, virtually any penalty could be justified.

As an environmental law expert, I believe the U.S. Constitution requires EPA to take these steps.

A basic tenet of fairness holds that like cases should be treated alike. In federal criminal law, for example, sentencing guidelines help limit the disparity that can result from unlimited judicial discretion.

Unfortunately, environmental law doesn’t have a similar system to provide uniform treatment of pollution violations by government agencies. Extreme penalties, at both the high and low ends, may result.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that disparate fines can reach a degree of randomness that violates the fairness norms embodied in the due process clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

In a case in the 1990s, the Supreme Court determined that a $4 million punitive damage award in a complaint involving only $4,000 in actual damages violated the due process clause. The court held that the amount of punitive damages imposed must bear some relationship to the actual harm caused by the conduct. Moreover, the court noted that punitive damages must be reasonable when compared to penalties imposed on others for comparable misconduct.

I believe the same test should apply to environmental penalties. 

Unless we have some uniform system of calculating penalty amounts, the discretion allowed results in vastly different penalties for similar conduct. Our study focused on the Clean Water Act, but the results should trigger more research to determine whether these issues arise in other environmental areas, such as the Clean Air Act or hazardous waste laws.

The comparatively lenient enforcement we discovered in some states is not only unfair, it’s ultimately bad for the environment.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Forbes: Purpose is the next digital

16 03 2023

The Stakeholder Model of Purpose. Graphic: CONSPIRACY OF LOVE

The Stakeholder Model Of Purpose: How Cause Marketing, CSR, Sustainability, DEI And ESG Can Operate Harmoniously In This New Age Of Purpose. By Afdhel Aziz, Contributor, Co-Founder, Conspiracy Of Love, And Good Is The New Cool via Forbes. Reposted: March 16, 2023

One of the biggest questions in the global movement of business as a force for good is how the different disciplines of CSR, ESG, sustainability, cause marketing, and diversity and inclusion all fit with the idea of Purpose.

I propose this simple model to show how they can all work in harmony.

Purpose is the Next Digital

A good analogy to start with comes from the quote ‘Purpose is the next Digital’ by Max Lenderman. In the same way that businesses had to transform themselves in every aspect (from the supply chains to their marketing) with the arrival of digital technology, the same evolution is happening with the advent of Purpose.

We see the emergence of the term ‘Purpose’ – the overarching umbrella term now increasingly being used to describe the idea of business as a force for good – in much the same way as we see the term ‘Digital.’ Just as ‘Digital’ now covers a myriad of different channels and technologies (from CRM, to supply chain management, to social media), so too does Purpose now encompass a wide range of different disciplines that preceded it (like CSR, ESG, DEI, etc).

Moving from Shareholder to Stakeholder Capitalism

The evolution of business we are seeing has also often been described as a move away from purely Shareholder-driven capitalism (where only the needs of investors were taken into account) towards a more Stakeholder-driven model (where the needs of multiple stakeholders including employees, consumers, investors, communities and the planet are also considered).

As such, mapping different manifestations of Purpose against these stakeholder groups provides a simple way to understand how they can all work in harmony, towards the higher order purpose.

Purpose at the core: The higher order reason for a company’s existence that inspires action to profitably solve the problems of the world. This exists as the core organizing principle of a truly Purpose-driven company, acting as a North Star around which to align all of the following.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) is an Employee-focused manifestation of Purpose, ensuring that there are systems and processes in place in order to ensure a culture of belonging and opportunity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or neurodiversity. Inclusion should be baked into every aspect of the employee experience from recruitment to retention to Governance. If done right, it can not only lead to employee motivation and engagement but also innovation that leads to inclusive growth, through identifying new opportunities that less diverse cultures cannot envision.

Of course, DEI is only one manifestation of Purpose as it pertains to employees: there are so many more avenues (from inspiring personal purpose, to volunteering, giving, innovation and more generally, building it into the talent value proposition (TVP) and activating it at every stage from recruitment to onboarding to retention and career planning.

Cause marketing (or Purpose-driven marketing) is the legacy term for the manifestation of Purpose towards Consumers. This has now blossomed into many forms beyond its original basic models of the past.

This could take the form of initiatives that engage consumers via simply buying the product (eg TOM’s famous 1 for 1 model or Product (Red) which helped raise money for HIV/AIDS prevention.

At retail, this could manifest in a portion of revenue from products going to good causes (for instance, see Chips Ahoy raising money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America).

Or indeed in digital or physical activations (for instance, Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative which invited hosts to donate their homes to refugees and victims of natural disasters).

Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) is the manifestation of Purpose towards the Communities a company serves – whether they be geographically contextual (like helping communities in the cities the company is based in) or issue focused (like The North Face funding non-profits that help make the outdoors more diverse via their Explore Fund grant).

This has always been a form of corporate philanthropy that a company has practiced in a more ‘defensive’ mode to deflect criticism of them not being a good corporate citizen. But in recent years, progressive companies have seen the benefit of treating CSR in a more enlightened way. By representing the voice of community to the company, and building deep relationships with non-profits and other partners, it can become a vital force helping drive authenticity, innovation and growth.

Sustainability is the manifestation of Purpose towards the Planet, pertaining to everything from how a company utilizes resources efficiently (like reducing their carbon footprint, stripping plastic out of their supply chain or managing waste) to how it obtains the resources (eg agricultural or mineral) with an ethical supply chain that is respectful not only to the Earth but the people who help them obtain it (eg farmers)

ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) is the manifestation of all of the above in a codified way towards Investors and Shareholders, in a transparent and measurable way, in a way that allows for comparison between companies. Despite attempts to politicize and demonize it, when done correctly it can become a useful tool to help articulate Commitments the company is making in service of environmental and social goals (people and planet) in an accountable and tangible way.

The key to success in this new world of Purpose is orchestration. When all these disparate disciplines are re-aligned around a powerful and inspiring Purpose, the effect is so much stronger than if they were focused on a myriad of different objectives and issues. They become parts of an orchestra playing a harmonious single theme rather than instruments operating on a discordant solo basis.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Six Capabilities Marketing Organizations Need to Cultivate Now

15 03 2023


How the adoption of new data-driven, omnichannel marketing models can improve CX.  By Duncan Steels & Romain Fontaine from • Reposted: March 15, 2023

After more than two years of pandemic-induced rapid change and uncertainty, the dust seems to be settling and marketers are left with a “new normal” that looks like more uncertainty and change. Duncan Steels, vice president of customer transformation at Capgemini Invent, and Romain Fontaine, manager of customer transformation at frog,  share why marketers need to build a more data-driven and omnichannel strategy to meet CX needs of customers today. 

Consumers who raised their standards for customer experience during the pandemic seem to be raising them even higher now, and many companies are playing catch-up. In 2022, rankings fell for 19% of the brands in Forrester’s CX IndexOpens a new window , and Forrester noted that overall CX quality is “reversing gains made in 2021.” 

The message should be clear: Consumers are moving forward faster than ever. Organizations, therefore, must let go of the marketing operating models that worked before the digital transformation to meet their needs now and in the sure-to-be-different future. Instead, companies need to adopt capabilities for a new data-driven, omnichannel, collaborative, and agile model. What does an organization need to do this?

See More: It’s Time to Re-Imagine Marketing Operations

A Plan For Organizational Transformation

Data-driven and real-time marketing strategies require fresh ways of thinking about customer relationships, new technologies for collecting and analyzing data, updated skills for leveraging those analyses. In addition to that, willingness to break down departmental silos to create a more agile, customer-centric organization. As CMOs are still responsible for brand building, they’re also increasingly accountable for technology to analyze and leverage data and insights and for business strategy aligned with brand purpose. Let’s examine the key elements required to enable this transformation and support CMOs in their expanding role. 

Data And Insights 

In a recent survey of marketing leaders, only 38% said they had customer segment and persona dataOpens a new window  to work with. Because creative decisions, from product development to messaging, now hinge on data insights, data forms the foundation of the new marketing operating strategy. When collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams have the same 360-degree view of their customer, it’s easier for the group to develop a comprehensive, consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. 

Organizations need to collect, standardize, and unify their data for analysis and insights to have the resources they need for effective decision-making. This requires a consistent data collection framework that eliminates silos and makes data available to all stakeholders across the organization. 

Online-offline integration

With data-driven insights, organizations can develop content for online and offline touchpoints to speak to customer needs in those moments and spaces. This creates a more consistent experience across all channels, whether the customer engages with the brand on social media, in a physical store, or on a website. 

An effective data collection framework ensures that data from and about customer engagements at all online and offline touchpoints flows into the organization’s customer data platform. That platform then performs analysis that keeps personas and individual customer profiles current. With a continuous stream of new omnichannel data complementing historical data, the platform’s AI can eventually learn which next steps to suggest at each stage of the customer journey, ensuring the right content appears at the right time for every customer. 

New Communications And Media Strategy

As the number of channels and touchpoints proliferates and the marketing function becomes more customer-centric, marketers need an updated strategy for engagement that leverages data insights and omnichannel capabilities. For example, continuously updated customer profiles allow for quick changes to messaging as customer behavior and sentiment evolve. 

Communication now also requires continuous two-way engagement with customers, up to and including the co-creation of products. Loyal customers and influencers may create brand-related content that businesses are learning to leverage as part of their overall communication strategy. By building communities around the brand, specific products, or consumer tribes (or targeted personas), organizations can amplify or invest in the reach of this user-generated content which further blurs the line between Earned and Paid media. For example, when a customer mentions a company on social media, the marketing team should be ready to engage and build on it. Wendy’s added more than 1 million new Twitter followers after their response to a customer’s question about free food. Ocean Spray seized the opportunity to connect with younger consumers after being included in a viral TikTok that became a popular trend. 

Omnichannel Experience 

Organizations must unify all customer touchpoints under their single, cross-disciplinary marketing team to support customer experience enhancement. For example, a team member responsible for the direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel might bring in D2C customer feedback that can improve CX in the organization’s social commerce and retail channels. At the same time, feedback from in-store shoppers about, say, the fit of a brand’s popular sweater or pair of jeans can help refine the buying experience for social, e-commerce, and D2C shoppers. 

See More: 4 Components You Need In Order to Master Digital Marketing Operations

Change Management And Agile Team Development

To keep up with the accelerated pace of digital transformation, customer expectations, and the skills that employees need, organizations must have an agile culture—including cross-disciplinary agile pods with the collective skills to pivot to high-ROI, CX-enhancing activities as they emerge and evolve. Organizations also need well-designed change management processes and practices to serve them now and over the long term. Ideally, these agility mindset and change management resources will help the organization adapt to changing expectations and technologies as they emerge instead of reacting. 

CMOs also need to ensure their teams have the necessary blend of data, communication, product, and service skills to implement the new marketing operating model—and to work in new ways. The new marketing team must be made up of agile pods of cross-functional talents who can identify high-ROI initiatives and shift priorities quickly, adapt to the ever-changing consumer and competitor landscape, and test and learn to increase speed to market and support continuous improvement of products and activations. A 2021 CMO surveyOpens a new window  found that just 44% of marketing leaders said their organization had the data science or AI skills they needed. Closing that gap and committing to this new way of working might require more proactive recruiting, more internal skills development, or both. 

Like the other capabilities we’ve covered, effective change management for today’s marketing landscape requires collaboration to draw in information from all team members about what’s happening in their channel or area of expertise. And while some team members may be enthusiastic about contributing across channels and departments, it can be harder for others to adapt to a less linear, hierarchical way of working. Change management must include a strong, visible commitment from leadership, speak to the entire organization, and welcome feedback on changes to be effective. 

Putting It All Together: New Functions For The CMO

The CMO is responsible for implementing these capabilities, making a data-driven mindset, agile philosophy, and customer-centric attitude key skills for CMOs to cultivate. So is the ability to listen effectively to questions and feedback from leadership, team members, and customers. 

Adding or enhancing the marketing operating capabilities we’ve covered here may seem daunting. However, there’s real value in making those improvements from a marketing KPI standpoint and an agile mindset/change management perspective. By taking these steps now, marketing leaders can build the capacity to keep up with the pace of change and meet customers’ needs as they keep evolving. 

Do you think adoption of new marketing models can improve CX? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedIn Opens a new window . We’d love to hear from you! 

To see the original post, follow this link:

5 key facets of a strong sustainability strategy

15 03 2023

Image via Shutterstock/NeoLeo

Sustainability strategy can be complicated. Here are five key elements to creating a successful one. By Mike Hower from • March 14, 2023

Strategy is a term thrown around without much thought or rigor. And this sometimes seems doubly true in the world of corporate sustainability. As more companies embark on their sustainability journey, everybody seems to be talking about the importance of creating a sustainability and ESG strategy — yet what this means exactly remains nebulous. 

At its core, strategy is about choices. In a world of limited time and resources, it’s about deciding what to do and what not to do because you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. 

To create some clarity on this important topic, I gathered several sustainability and ESG leaders from across industries for a panel at GreenBiz 23 called “The Non-Negotiables: 5 Key Facets of a Strong ESG and Sustainability Strategy.” The session included Gail Grimmett, senior vice president of sustainability and corporate iInnovation at Delta Air Lines; Annabelle Stamm, director of sustainability strategy at Edison Energy; Blake McGowan, solutions executive at VelocityEHS; and Nancy Mahon, senior vice president of global corporate citizenship and sustainability at The Esteé Lauder Companies.

The breakout room was packed (standing room only, like many of the GreenBiz 23 sessions), with hundreds of attendees curious to learn more from and help contribute to our conversation. After much debate and discussion, the panelists and I — with heavy input from the audience — discussed five key facets of a strong sustainability strategy. Here they are: 

1. Be agile, and integrate sustainability into your corporate strategy 

The best sustainability strategy is a business strategy that advances sustainability. That’s to say, in a perfect world, a company’s business strategy is focused on creating long-term social, environmental and financial value — making a separate sustainability strategy redundant. 

“We always say that we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job,” Mahon said. “But I don’t think we’ll ultimately be able to do that.” 

At The Esteé Lauder Companies, the organization integrates sustainability into its business strategy by assigning senior executives to committees covering the environmental, social and governance pillars. The head of supply chain is involved with environment, human resources with social and the CFO with governance. While the committees are led by people at the highest levels, they are made up of practitioners.

We’re all in this together, and in a role that requires some sort of disruptive thinking.

Delta also used a committee system to better align its sustainability strategy with business strategy, Grimmett said. “We’re all in this together, and in a role that requires some sort of disruptive thinking.”

While a company might have a solid sustainability strategy, the world is changing so fast that flexibility must be baked in. All of the panelists agreed that agility and adaptation is critical to sustainability strategy success. 

2. Set targets, and know how you’ll measure progress

The next non-negotiable practice is establishing clear targets and a plan for getting there. While setting targets is easy, establishing the right ones isn’t always so simple. 

Setting fuel efficiency targets, for example, can be tricky, according to Grimmett, because the airline can’t always directly control every factor impacting fuel efficiency. That’s why Delta has several different councils that encourage integration of all the players responsible for improving fuel efficiency. This could include everyone from airport operations control, which might cause an airplane to burn more fuel when requesting it fly a holding pattern, to technical operations teams that might make technical adjustments to planes to improve efficiency, 

“In some ways, we have control over nothing and influence over everything,” said Grimmett. 

While many companies set 2030 or 2050 targets, they must also remain focused on the immediate needs of running a business. Setting shorter-term milestones can help companies stay on track and also encourage disruptive technology, Grimmett said. Often, the technology doesn’t yet exist for companies to meet their ambitious sustainability targets, and creating milestones can help unlock entrepreneurial innovation to meet the moment, Grimmett said. 

3. Data quality over quantity

We live in an era where sustainability data is plentiful, but its quality is questionable. Rather than focusing on collecting as much information as possible, sustainability teams should focus on finding the right data, the panelists said. 

“Good data is fundamental to a successful sustainability strategy,” Stamm said. “Data that drives decarbonization is key.”

We don’t have decades to collect and analyze data, the panelists agreed. We need metrics that can be acted on immediately, so we can implement measures that drive decarbonization and advance sustainability goals. 

4. Bring your stakeholders along for the ride

Sustainability teams tend to be small with limited immediate spheres of influence — to be successful, they must rely on stakeholders throughout the organization. One of the best ways to do this is by engaging these folks during strategy creation. 

With the language of sustainability being wonky, sustainability leads need to translate things into a language that people understand and link it to a strong value proposition, Stamm said. It’s also important to take cultural differences into account. When it comes to sustainability action, the United States is very carrot-driven while Europe tends to be more about the stick, she added. 

The key is to identify those key people who are going to be the influencers … and who is going to be your biggest champion.

“The key is to identify those key people who are going to be the influencers … and who is going to be your biggest champion,” McGowan said. These internal champions will help ensure that your sustainability strategy is effectively implemented, he said. 

Another key point is that often when an internal stakeholder says “no” to something, it really means they need more information, McGowan added. 

5. Ensure philosophical consistency throughout the organization

Toward the end of the panel, a member of the audience suggested a fifth non-negotiable: achieving a philosophical consensus throughout your organization: To be successful, the same sustainability ethos must be maintained across departments and teams.

If, for example, a company has a strong corporate sustainability strategy yet has a government relations strategy that doesn’t match, this weakens the organization’s overall effectiveness for achieving its sustainability ambitions. 

At these words, the audience erupted into applause and the panelists nodded in agreement. Show comments for this story. 

To see the original post, follow this link:

Climate is changing too quickly for the Sierra Nevada’s ‘zombie forests’

14 03 2023
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 19: Smoke rises above young giant sequoia trees during prescribed pile burning on February 19, 2023 in Sequoia National Forest, California. According to the Forest Service, wildfires have destroyed nearly 20 percent of all giant sequoias in the past three years amid hazardous fuel (vegetation) buildup. The Forest Service began emergency action last year to reduce the fuels in 12 giant sequoia groves in the Sequoia National Forest, including prescribed pile burning to reduce wildfire risk. The massive trees can live for over 3,000 years and average between 180 to 250 feet in height. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Joe Hernandez from NPR • Posted: March 13, 2023

Some of the tall, stately trees that have grown up in California’s Sierra Nevada are no longer compatible with the climate they live in, new research has shown.

Hotter, drier conditions driven by climate change in the mountain range have made certain regions once hospitable to conifers — such as sequoia, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir — an environmental mismatch for the cone-bearing trees.

“They were exactly where we expected them to be, kind of along the lower-elevation, warmer and drier edges of the conifer forests in the Sierras,” Avery Hill, who worked on the study as a graduate student at Stanford University, told NPR.

Although there are conifers in those areas now, Hill and other researchers suggested that as the trees die out, they’ll be replaced with other types of vegetation better suited to the environmental conditions.

The team estimated that about 20% of all Sierra Nevada conifer trees in California are no longer compatible with the climate around them and are in

The team scrutinized vegetation data dating back to the 1930s, when all Sierra Nevada conifers were growing in appropriate climate conditions. Now, four out of five do.

That change is largely due to higher temperatures and less rainfall in these lower-elevation areas, as well as human activities, such as logging, and an uptick in wildfires.

The Sierra Nevada conifers aren’t standing still. The average elevation of the trees has increased over the past 90 years, moving 112 feet upslope. According to Hill, that’s because lower-elevation conifers have died while conifers at higher elevations where the air is cooler have been able to grow.

But the conifers’ uphill trek hasn’t been able to keep pace with the dramatic increase in temperatures.

The researchers said the number of Sierra Nevada conifers incompatible with their environments could double in the next 77 years.

The new maps can inform forest conservation and management plans

But Hill, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, hopes that the maps he and his colleagues developed showing the state’s “zombie forests” will help shape people’s understanding of the effects of climate change.

“Conservationists know, scientists know, so many people know that ecosystems are changing and expect them to change more, and people are grappling with this,” he said.

“These maps are unique, in that you can put your finger on a point and say, ‘This area right here is expected to transition due to climate change in the near future,’ and this forces some really difficult questions about what we want this land managed for and do we try to resist these impending changes,” Hill added.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

To see the original post, follow this link:

The value of sustainability in students’ university choice

14 03 2023

By Pete Moss from University World News • Reposted: March 14, 2023

The year 2023 saw the launch of a new league table for higher education institutions based on sustainability.

The QS Sustainability Rankings 2023 set out to measure a university’s ability to tackle the world’s greatest environmental, social and governance challenges. Likewise, the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which were introduced four years ago, aim to assess universities against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

But do students really think about an institution’s approach to climate action when deciding where to apply? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

According to Times Higher Education research, prospective international students are more likely to choose a university based on its commitment to sustainability than for its location. Considering that a global survey in The Lancet revealed that almost half (45%) of 16- to 25-year-olds are suffering from climate anxiety, it’s understandable that they want to study at an institution which shares their vision for a sustainable future.

Demonstrating climate commitment

If sustainability is now a key factor in attracting and retaining students, institutions need to demonstrate that they are taking genuine, targeted climate action.

The institution that holds the top spot in the QS Sustainability Rankings is the University of California, Berkeley. The university has drawn up a sustainability plan with an ambitious and wide-ranging statement of goals covering aspects such as travel, buildings, health, research and energy.

Second and third place in the rankings go to Canadian institutions, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia, both of which are building sustainability right through their operations, from their academic course content to their student accommodation.

Prospective students are looking at factors like these and weighing them up when they make their application decisions.

Strategies for net zero

The higher education sector certainly has a key role to play in responding to the climate emergency. Ground-breaking research is taking place in universities across the world to find alternative energy sources and reduce harmful waste. Academic faculties are educating a whole new generation of experts who will go on to drive innovation and explore new ways to tackle climate change.

However, could institutions be doing more to make their operations sustainable? In the United Kingdom, the Royal Anniversary Trust launched its Platinum Jubilee Challenge which proposes a series of strategies to accelerate the tertiary education sector towards net zero. The initiative has identified three action pathways for universities to address in reducing emissions.

These pathways encompass the built environment, travel and transport, and supply chains – which together make up 80% of the UK higher education sector’s overall carbon footprint.

Perhaps surprisingly, supply chains are by far the biggest contributor to an institution’s carbon emissions, causing 36% of emissions compared with travel at 24% and buildings at 19%. Taking into account the sheer complexity of a university’s supply chain, ranging from research equipment, teaching materials, data storage, catering and business services, perhaps its impact isn’t all that surprising after all.

Sustainable procurement

Fortunately, there are many ways universities can build more sustainability into their supply chains.

Institutions could explore circular economy principles to bring down costs and reduce waste by monitoring the purchase of new equipment.

As part of its environmental strategy, the University of British Columbia in Canada is updating its zero-waste action plan to prioritise emission reductions. The university is also identifying ways to embrace the circular economy on its campuses by promoting sustainable procurement and re-use.

There are opportunities for universities to refresh their procurement policies by adopting sustainable criteria for tenders to support responsible purchasing in all areas of their operations, from laboratory equipment to food and beverages.

One area which offers scope to reduce emissions is IT and data storage. When universities move their systems to the cloud, the shift away from large servers and onsite data centres can significantly reduce carbon emissions. In fact, moving to a cloud solution has the potential to reduce an institution’s IT-related carbon emissions by 90% over a five-year period.

Institutions could also look into offsetting their carbon emissions. Offsetting has attracted criticism in the past, but there has been considerable progress in the sector, led by the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, to provide a vetted higher education-friendly scheme.

Some vendors are including carbon offsetting as a core part of their commercial offers to the sector, enabling institutions to work towards their carbon reduction goals while supporting climate action.

By putting sustainability at the heart of their operations as well as their research, institutions will address the challenges of the climate crisis and attract students who share their goals.

Pete Moss is a former manager at Staffordshire University, United Kingdom, and is now a director at Ellucian.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Otrium Is The Sustainable Discount Designer Retailer You Didn’t Know You Needed

13 03 2023

By Kristen Philipkoski, Contributor from • Reposted: March 13, 2023

Eco-conscious fashion is on the rise, but one of the most environmentally damaging industry practices—overproduction—is still common.

Fashion brands routinely produce up to 40% more clothing than they think they’ll ever sell, according to several reports. Clothing companies hope overzealous consumers will surprise them and buy more than forecasts predict. But, as frenzied as shoppers can get, they never buy all the goods manufactured.

As a result, many designers destroy extra merchandise to prevent it from winding up on the racks of off-price retailers and potentially devaluing the brand. Burberry was outed for burning $37.8 million in clothing in 2018. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Coach have also been caught in the act.

A new online marketplace called Otrium is providing a safe space for designers to sell their extra, previous-season merchandise at up to 70% off without diluting brand identity. With more than 400 brands already signed on, it’s the responsible shopper’s best kept secret—but it may not be that way for long.

“Every person I tell about this is like ‘how have I not heard of this before?’ This is the year we plan to make that no longer the case,” Otrium’s president and COO Zuhairah Scott Washington said during a recent press call.

Otrium was founded in 2015 by Milan Daniels and Max Klijnstra in Amsterdam and launched it’s American presence in 2021. Business in the states is quickly ramping up, with new brands consistently signing on—Closed and Rosie Assoulinebeing two of their most recent additions. In 2022, Otrium featured more than 5 million products, grew revenue by 1,000% year over year, and grew new members by 500%.

Its growth is thanks to its coveted designers and great prices, certainly, but also because of the unique business to business solutions it offers brands. The company prides itself on giving its partners access to tools that allow them to control their merchandizing, creating less of a warehouse feel and more of a luxury experience.

Brands can also track customer behavior and sales in real time.

“Partners are floored by the level of detail and data that they get about their businesses on our platform,” Washington said. “We really want them to see Otrium as their outlet and another channel for them… to help make better decisions about replenishing on our platform or even reproductions from their own core line of clothing.”

Otrium hosts both mass brands like Diane von Furstenburg and Tommy Hilfiger alongside higher-end (in the Designer Edit section) and cultish ones: Farm Rio is viral on Instagram, Reiss and Belstaff products are hard to find in the states, and Daily Paper is an edgy, inclusive favorite of the avant-fashion set, just to name a few examples.

This is not an entirely new concept—brands like Bluefly, Gilt, and RueLaLa pioneered the concept of selling past-season designer goods at lower prices—and all of those brands struggled to become profitable, eventually pursuing acquisitions in the early 2000s.

But Otrium hopes to differentiate its business by focusing on the sustainability angle and becoming a go-to for both brands and consumers who want to make more conscious consumption decisions.

Otrium also facilitates discovery across brands and hopes to guide customers to current-season, full-price products.

“We connect our consumers to a curated selection of brands they either already know and love, or brands they can discover with a great incentive to try them at a discount,” Mariah Celestine, Otrium’s U.S. General Manager said in an emailed comment. “This ease of discovery may also lead customers to pay full price for a brand’s regular collections, thereby preventing additional fashion waste and furthering our purpose.”

Celestine added that 60% of Otrium customers have tried a brand they’ve never heard of just because it’s on sale.

Fast Company recently named Otrium one of the most innovative companies of 2023 in the fashion and apparel category, “For convincing luxury brands to sell, rather than burn, last season’s merchandise.”

Industry experts say innovation is key to solving fashion’s pollution problem.

“Fashion has always been a hotbed for innovation, as well as a catalyst for social change; it’s time to leverage the industry’s creative energy to design better business models—ones that operate within the means of the planet rather than a take-make-waste approach,” wrote Angela Adams, a senior sustainability consultant at Quantis in 2021. “These could include rental, resale and repair schemes; pre-order models of production, print on demand and a departure from the traditional seasonal cycle; and a greater emphasis on product quality and durability, which is often compromised to fuel the industry’s unsustainable business model.”

Otrium’s tagline states that it wants to ensure “every piece of clothing that’s made is worn.” It’s a lofty goal, considering the literal mountains of unwanted clothing clogging African beaches, and considering Otrium does not partner with the fast fashion brands responsible for much of that detritus.

Otrium’s “code of conduct” requires partners commit to several environmental, social and government factors including fur-free garments, prohibiting human trafficking, child labor, slavery, discrimination in all forms as well as abiding by laws and regulations.

“Our aim is two-fold: to empower brands to improve their environmental impact and connect them to a base of conscious shoppers, and to help consumers build a timeless wardrobe of quality pieces that can be worn again and again, thus reducing the reliance on a ‘trend-driven’ consumption cycle,” Washington said. “This is not what fast fashion companies are known for.”

Shunning fast fashion just might be the way to go. A “total abandonment of the fast-fashion model, linked to a decline in overproduction and overconsumption, and a corresponding decrease in material,” is essential for reducing environmental damage, according to a 2020 paper published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

Other experts say even small changes can make a big difference when it comes to the enormous problem or overproduction.

Reducing overproduction by just 10% could reduce emissions by about 158 million metric tons by 2030, according to a 202o study from McKinsey and Company and the Global Fashion Agenda.

Washington hopes that by helping consumers see fashion as a creative expression instead of a cycle of trend-driven consumption, they can be a catalyst for real change in the fashion industry.

“Fashion is the largest art form in the world,” she said. “And we’re really excited about providing an opportunity that allows individuals to determine their own style—not just take what people say is the hottest today but really giving them a sustainable alternative to find items that speak to them and their own personal style.”

To see the original post, follow this link:

New “Climate Forward?” Report Advocates for the Use of Climate Projection Data by Architecture and Engineering Professionals

13 03 2023

From The University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership and national design firm HGA • Reposted: March 13, 2023

The University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership and national design firm HGA present the current practice, barriers, and opportunities for use of climate projection data and climate change resilience client services. 

Climate change impacts are growing every year, threatening lives, business continuity, and infrastructure—costing an average of $152.9 billion dollars per year in the U.S. alone (NOAA, 2022). Yet the Architecture and Engineering (A&E) industry still relies on historical weather data as a primary resource for performance analysis, system sizing, and other design decisions, as climate projection data are not available in the formats used by A&E codes, process guidelines, and software.  

The new report “Climate Forward? How Climate Projections Are(n’t) Used to Inform Design” from the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) and national interdisciplinary design firm HGA, reveals the alarming gap between the current state of A&E practice and climate science.

Currently, energy modelers most often use the Typical Meteorological Year (TMY3) dataset produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)— based on past median weather conditions for a given location that is sometimes more than three decades old. Our changing climate makes ‘climate normals’ less useful for designers, poorly reflecting the range, frequency, and intensity of potential future weather conditions that a building will need to withstand during its lifespan. Key systems and infrastructure globally will continue to be vulnerable unless design standards change to account for changing climate.  

Risks of Using Historic Weather Data

“We know climate change is here and the past is no longer the best predictor of the future. As we seek to make our buildings more energy efficient and ‘climate-friendly’, we must also use climate projection data to ensure our built environment is resilient to the climate of the future.” say Dr. Heidi Roop, MCAP’s Director and a report author. “This report highlights that there is work to do by the climate science community and A&E professionals to ensure we are designing for climate resilience. Clients and professional societies also play a key role in driving a holistic, forward-looking approach to design of the buildings and infrastructure we all rely on.”

The research makes a decisive case for the development and promotion of industry standards, mandates (including building codes), guidance and training for using climate projections in A&E applications. It also articulates the critical role for boundary organizations and climate data developers to build partnerships and capacities to bridge this gap alongside A&E professionals.

“Climate Forward?” also addresses the missed opportunity to extend the life of our buildings. Today’s sustainable design efforts focus primarily on climate change mitigation—that of reducing carbon emissions. In contrast, MCAP and HGA’s research shows how the industry should also shift to design for climate change adaptation—which are a broader set of design measures that factor in the projected climate over the lifespan of the building and systems. 

Lead author of the report, Ariane Laxo, HGA’s Director of Sustainability said, “There is tremendous potential in climate resilience services—professional services related to climate change resilience and/or adaptation using climate projection data.” She continued, “identifying the right data formats and timescales to factor in the projected climate over the lifespan of the building, landscape, and systems, will dramatically change the way we design to create a more resilient future. Industry associations need to create standards for how to integrate these data into practice, so we are using consistent methodologies.”

The climate is changing rapidly. Action must be taken now, and must involve substantive collaboration with climate data developers, boundary organizations, A&E associations and professionals, policy makers, building code & standards bodies, higher education institutions, and any organization that hires A&E professionals. The report concludes with recommended actions that could close the gap between climate science and the A&E professionals who are designing buildings and infrastructure that must withstand climate change.

Read the full report, “Climate Forward? How architects and engineers are(n’t) using climate projections to inform design.” 

Report authors: Ariane Laxo, HGA, Brenda Hoppe, University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership, Heidi Roop, University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership, Patrick Cipriano, HGA and University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership

About MCAP

The University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) is a partnership among university, public, non-profit, and private sector groups organized to support Minnesota’s ability to adapt to a changing climate. MCAP conducts cutting-edge climate and adaptation research, champions climate leadership, develops the next generation of adaptation professionals, and advances implementation of effective, equitable adaptation actions across sectors, communities, and levels of government. Learn more about MCAP at or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

About HGA 
HGA is a national interdisciplinary design firm committed to making a positive, lasting impact for our clients and communities through research-based, holistic solutions. We believe that great design requires a sense of curiosity—forming deep insight into our clients, their contexts, and the human condition. We are a collective of over 1,000 architects, engineers, interior designers, planners, researchers, and strategists. Our practice spans multiple markets, including healthcare, corporate, cultural, education, local and federal government, and science and technology. Visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and  Instagram

To see the original post, follow this link:

Sustainability ‘not the enemy of profit’, says Capgemini

12 03 2023

By Sean Ashcroft from • Reposted: March 12, 2023

Capgemini Global Retail Lead Lindsey Mazza says retailers need not sacrifice affordability or profitability to meet their sustainability goals. “Our own research shows 41% of consumers globally are willing to pay more for a product they believe to be sustainable,” she says. Submitted photo

Capgemini Global Retail Lead Lindsey Mazza on how a systems engineering background is helping her service the supply chain needs of value chain customers

Your professional background?

I started my career in systems engineering and, over the years, have expanded my solutions to include everything from supplier to consumer. 

I currently work with leading retailers to reimagine how they fulfil consumer promises. An exciting part of my role is leveraging AI, analytics, and emerging technology to reinvent operations and meet consumer expectations. 

What are the challenges of your Capgemini role?

I help retailers navigate today’s many challenges and transform their businesses. I rely on my systems engineering background to research and learn where opportunities exist, then collaborate with our immensely talented teams to deliver solutions that drive business outcomes. 

That might be creating intelligent, adaptive supply chain ecosystems, fulfilment options, unlocking channel growth, underpinned with technology and analytics that deliver personalised and engaging consumer experiences. 

How can retailers counter rising operational costs?

Automation, AI, and other leading technologies can make all the difference, and I am seeing the benefits with our clients. Data and analytics, AI, and automation in product and supply chain planning processes – not to mention that last-mile consumer fulfilment can support optimised costs – maximise use of labour, and further sustainability objectives. 

For example, analytics can be used to reduce inventory, identify underperforming areas, and recommend solutions to increase efficiency. Using real-time data and intelligent integrated planning, consumer products companies and retailers can customise the right assortment mix, and have the right inventory for each store or channel.

And autonomous vehicle delivery – although early in development – could transform the last-mile delivery cost model. 

How can firms best develop sustainable products? 

Sustainability can be embedded throughout the entire product lifecycle, starting from the design process and selection of materials to end-of-life management. 

To address Scope 3 emissions, businesses need to consider the system as a whole. It’s also important to conduct a life-cycle assessment to evaluate the environmental impact of a product – from raw material extraction to disposal – to identify areas where the environmental impact can be reduced.

Can retail be sustainable and affordable in today’s world?

Definitely, and it must be. Retailers need not sacrifice affordability or profitability to meet their sustainability goals. Our own research shows 41% of consumers globally are willing to pay more for a product they believe to be sustainable. 

So, while consumers are keen to buy sustainable products, they are not willing to pay more. Brands and retailers must respond to consumer concerns by keeping prices fair – providing affordable sustainability will therefore be key. Consumers are also conscious about reducing waste and mindful about consumption practices. Retailers embracing circular economy will create a brand ethos that matches the ethics of the consumer.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’ve had tremendous leaders and mentors throughout my career. There are two lessons I’m so grateful to have learned from them:

  • Always, always, always take the more challenging role, because you’ll learn more. I’ve built a view across the supply ecosystem by taking unexpected roles where I was able to learn. 
  • Create your next job. We can all see areas where our companies can improve. Design that role, develop a benefits case for why that role will create value, advocate for it to be in next year’s budget, and get that role.

To see the original post, follow this link:

What is ‘green hushing’? The new negative sustainability trend, explained

12 03 2023

Photo: Getty

Greenwashing has become part of our modern-day lexicon. Now there’s a new term, ‘green hushing,’ for when a company is too quiet about its accomplishments. By Talib Visram from Fast Company • Reposted: March 12, 21023

Greenwashing—the term referring to businesses exaggerating their commitment to sustainability—is now firmly rooted in our modern-day lexicon. Baseless green claims draw public scrutiny and sometimes outrage, not to mention lawsuits, such as ones filed against companies including Dasani, Kroger, and Whole Foods.

Faced with the threats of tarnished reputations and legal trouble, some companies are instead choosing not to communicate their climate goals at all, leaving them unpublicized and meaning other companies can’t emulate their success. A new term has sprouted to signify the practice: green hushing.


Green hushing refers to companies purposely keeping quiet about their sustainability goals, even if they are well-intentioned or plausible, for fear of being labeled greenwashers.

Xavier Font, professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey in the U.K., defines it as: “the deliberate downplaying of your sustainability practices for fear that it will make your company look less competent, or have a negative consequence for you.”


Since at least 2017. Font had seen the term only once before studying the practice more closely that year. And for something many of us may not have heard of, the practice is pretty prevalent. “Greenwashing is very visible,” Font says. “Green hushing, by definition, is not. [But] I think green hushing happens a lot more than we realize.”

It gained more widespread coverage after October 2022, when Swiss carbon finance consultancy South Pole highlighted the trend of green hushing in a report. It noted that nearly a quarter of 1,200 companies with a sustainability head are not publicizing achievements “beyond the bare minimum.” (Belgium had the highest rate, with 41% of its companies with science-based climate targets not publicizing them.) The report called the trend “concerning,” because publishing green actions has the power to inspire others, shift mindsets, and encourage collaborative approaches.


In his study, Font, who focuses on the tourism industry, found that companies were not communicating environmental successes to consumers, especially odd in an industry where there are many chances to do so, such as at hotels or on websites.

The study concentrated on 31 small rural tourism businesses in England’s Peak District National Park. Font found that companies communicated only 30% of their sustainability actions. He noted that companies feared that by broadcasting their sustainability practices, customers would believe their vacation experiences would be worse.

One issue, he says, is that many companies aren’t sure when to announce achievements. A hotel he worked with that procured sustainable seafood sourcing didn’t know whether to announce it when launching, or when half of its hotels used it, or when all of them did. “If 50% of my supply chain is doing something,” he was asked, “is that a message that is credible for me to communicate to the world?”

Similarly, Font mentions pushback over supermarkets labeling bananas as fair trade, because customers then asked why more goods weren’t fair trade. “Many companies are choosing to not talk about it, simply for fear that the customers will see the glass as being half empty, not half full,” he says.

For larger companies, there are legal motivations to not report extensively. In recent years, lawsuits have been filed against Dasani for claiming its water bottles were 100% recyclable, and Kroger for claiming its sunscreen was “reef-friendly.” Cracking down on these false claims—like the ubiquitous “locally sourced wherever possible”—is a good thing, Font says. “That’s a bit like me saying, ‘I’m a good husband whenever possible,’” he says. “It has no value.”


Like in Europe, American companies are receiving pressure from environmental groups to stop greenwashing. But in the U.S., companies have to worry about the other political side, too, as there is an increased politicization of the climate crisis and environmental and social governance (ESG).

Several states, most notably Florida, are divesting billions of dollars from BlackRock because it has developed strong ESG portfolios. “We see attacks being more irrational and so fierce,” says Peter Seele, a professor of corporate social responsibility and business ethics at Università della Svizzera Italiana in Switzerland. This has created another reason for companies to stay silent, or else also be on the receiving end of “anti-woke” tirades.

That polarization is troubling, Font says, and seeps into customers’ beliefs, which requires businesses to be culturally sensitive in the markets they operate in. “If I was a company in the U.S., serving the full range of customers, I would downplay the ‘S word,’” he says, referring to sustainability. They may want to spin a sustainable practice as one that is beneficial to customers in some other way. 

“In the U.S., we’re just more litigious,” says Anant Sundaram, professor of business and climate change at Dartmouth University. “You say something in your 10K, or you put out some document, [and] immediately it becomes the basis for a lawsuit.” So American companies “tend to prefer to stay under the radar, and are a little gun-shy.”


Climate reporting is now prevalent across developed nations. And the disclosures on climate risks, mitigation, and sustainable strategies that companies submit to government agencies are publicly accessible. But mostly, they are voluntary—allowing businesses to green hush.

Companies are keeping relatively quiet about most of their climate data. In the U.S., a report found that while 71% of S&P 500 companies report their greenhouse gas emissions, only 28% of smaller companies do so. And only 15% of S&P 500 companies disclose information on biodiversity and deforestation, and 12% on water risks. 

But public reporting is changing soon. In the EU, climate disclosures will become mandatory in 2025, and for a wider swath of companies than previously. In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission aims to roll out stricter regulations for 2024 (which will initially be for larger, publicly traded companies, with market caps of at least $700 million). This stricter enforcement may give businesses less of a choice to practice green hushing.


It’s not ideal. As the Swiss report noted, companies discussing their climate actions can have positive knock-on effects and create change. But not if they’re silent.

Greenwashing crackdowns are valuable, but not if they are indiscriminate. Seele says there is a trend of attacking companies no matter how good their actions or intentions—which has brought about another phrase in the German media: “greenwashing truther,” for people who launch those kinds of accusations.

And in France, new greenwashing laws will place fines on companies for making misleading claims like being carbon neutral. While well-intended, such laws may serve to reduce greenwashing but heighten green hushing.

To see the original post, follow this link:

Know what ESG investing is . . . and isn’t

11 03 2023

Visitors to the financial district walked past the New York Stock Exchange. There are many ways to match your values and your investing. ESG is one of them, but it is a complex and evolving one. Image: MARY ALTAFFER, ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Ross Levin via Star Tribune • Reposted: March 11, 2023

It is a personal choice whether you are interested in simply having your money make money or if you want to be sure it is directed toward responsible corporate policies. But that choice is not nearly as simple as it would seem. Finance does a great job of confusing by using terms that serve as short-cuts for what you think you are getting. The current finance buzzword for corporate sustainability is ESG investing.

ESG stands for environment, social and governance and is a (sort of) objective way of looking at companies that meet standards regarding their impact on the environment, how they show up in society, and how the companies are managed. While an ESG score is supposed to be objective, there are various rating platforms and standards can vary between them. It’s important to know what ESG is, but maybe more important to know what it isn’t.

ESG is not socially responsible investing (SRI). SRI has been around for a long-time and is generally about excluding business categories that you don’t want to own. Depending on your religion or your values, you may choose to exclude anything from tobacco, fossil fuels, pharmaceutical companies, or even debt. ESG, though, may also include companies that meet its criteria in industries that you would prefer to exclude. For example, the IShares MSGI USA ESG fund has energy companies, companies that are being sued for allegedly faulty products, and companies that may simply annoy you because of how they conduct their business (think your cable company). If an extraction-based energy company is now creating a plan to move away from fossil fuels into alternative energy, is it a good company or a bad one? ESG in this example is the Schrodinger’s cat of investing.

ESG is not impact investing. Impact investing tries to make measurable differences in areas like climate while also generating a financial return, with the financial return a secondary consideration to the impact. Impact investing is often done through private investments rather than public ones with which you may be most familiar. The private markets may relieve some of the natural tension of publicly traded stocks that attempt to increase short-term shareholder value. Impact is long-term, sustainable investments that make money while serving a larger purpose. Investors have different holding periods for the stocks they own; private markets tend to allow for more patient investing.

ESG investing is not without a give-up. In theory, companies that do well should also perform well, but studies are not completely clear about this. ESG is not about exclusion. It is about choosing companies in each sector that score well on the ESG criteria. The best investment results would likely come from pairing ESG along with other technical factors.

ESG is not greenwashing. ESG investments and investing are evolving. There will inevitably be stops and starts along the way. A high profile environmentally friendly company like Tesla was recently booted from the ESG index because of poor governance and social scores. Exxon is a large holding in the S&P 500 ESG Index because it rates well compared with other energy companies. ESG is a framework for company governance and an investment framework.

ESG investing is not necessarily better than earning more and giving away more. Your values are expressed in a variety of ways, far beyond investing. How you spend your money is an obvious expression. How you give money away is also an expression. Some of our clients are charitably inclined and want their investments to grow as much as possible as a way to give more money away.

ESG investing is not insignificant. Whether you are a believer in ESG or not, there is more pressure being applied on companies to be good citizens as well as high-performing businesses. There is some evidence that the two are complementary but there is more evidence that they are not mutually exclusive. There are arguments that those who are investing on behalf of others – in vehicles such as pension funds or retirement plan options – would not be meeting their fiduciary duty by investing solely through the ESG lens. This will continue to be a layered issue.

There are many ways to match your values and your investing. ESG is one of them, but it is a complex and evolving one.

Ross Levin is founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina. He can be reached at

To see the original post, follow this link:

Unilever: Influencers have greatest impact on consumer sustainability choices

11 03 2023

By Chris Kelly from marketing • Reposted: March 11, 2023

Influencers have the single largest impact on consumers’ sustainability choices, ahead of TV documentaries, news articles and government campaigns, according to a study shared with Marketing Dive conducted by Unilever with the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT).

Three-quarters of consumers surveyed said that social media content made them more likely to adopt sustainable behaviors, with 83% of consumers, and 86% of those 18-34, saying that TikTok and Instagram are helpful places to seek out advice on how to be greener at home.

The study, commissioned by Unilever brands Dove and Hellman’s alongside experts from across the business, demonstrates how brands can utilize social media and influencers to create content in line with larger sustainability efforts.

The results of the study conducted by Unilever and UK-based organization the Behavioural Insights Team — unofficially known as the “nudge unit” for how it attempts to influence action — demonstrates some of the strategies and tactics that brands use as part of sustainability efforts that seek to encourage consumers to change their behaviors, like using less plastic and wasting less food.

“People are finding it hard to make sustainable choices due to a lack of simple, immediate and trustworthy information,” said Conny Braams, Unilever’s chief digital and commercial officer, in a statement. “Our ambition is to continue to collaborate with our partners to improve the sustainability content produced by our brands and support the creators we work with.”

Influencers were rated as impactful by 78% of consumers, ahead of TV documentaries (48%), news articles (37%) and government campaigns (20%), reinforcing the power of influencers at a time when consumerdistrust of media and government institutions is increasing. The high marks for Instagram and TikTok as places consumers turn for information underscores the continued importance of the social media platforms. 

The study measured the impact on 6,000 participants in the UK, US and Canada that were shown various pieces and styles of content on a simulated social platform crafted by the BIT. The content was either pragmatic, with a focus on the scale of environmental problems and a heavy use of data and statistics, or optimistic, with an emphasis on practical demonstrations of how to live sustainably, often with a humorous tone. Both types of content encouraged consumers to try to change their behaviors, with pragmatic (69%) slightly outperforming optimistic (61%).

The study focused on sustainability efforts from two Unilever brands, with 76% of consumers encouraged to act after watching Dove’s plastic reuse content and 82% encouraged after watching Hellmann’s content on food waste reduction — the focus of the latter brand’s recent Super Bowl ads. 

Consumers largely support influencers’ focus on sustainability, with eight in 10 supporting creators encouraging their audience to act sustainably and seven in 10 supporting influencers selling products or services focused on sustainability.

To see the original post, follow this link:

In the War on Climate Change, Many Companies are Picking the Wrong Battles

10 03 2023

By Austin Simms, Dayrize from • Reposted; March 9, 2023

Concerns over climate change continue to mount, and there is an increasing demand for companies to decrease their environmental impact through whatever means possible. Take CO2 emissions for example. In 2020, 140 of the largest companies stated their intentions to completely eliminate emissions within the next few decades. Since then, many of their initiatives have focused on transportation. It makes the most sense on the surface, as cars and trucks are responsible for almost 20% of emissions in the U.S. alone. CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brands that have chosen to focus on the optimization of supply chains or reducing emissions within the “last-mile” of delivery may seem like the most logical, efficient step — but is it?

Many environmental champions also see sustainable packaging as a concrete measure to reduce CO2 or tackle environmental concerns, such as water depletion, due to the large consumption of water by various industries. Brands will often highlight their transition toward more eco-friendly packaging as one of their major initiatives to become more green, with hundreds of major corporations joining the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Unfortunately, there is reliable evidence that these are not the right targets.

Surprisingly — and according to aggregate, anonymized data derived from over 10,000 products from a number of CPG brands and companies tracked via Dayrize’s environmental impact assessment technology — transportation and packaging are responsible for a relatively negligible amount of CO2 emissions by makers of CPGs and apparel. In fact, creating more sustainable methods for consumer products to be packaged and transported addresses a mere 2% of CO2 emissions. Another surprise revealed by the same data: when it comes to apparel, packaging is far less of a factor in water depletion than the actual product inside the packaging.

Dayrize environmental impact assessment technology makes these calculations by combining the latest technology with the most recent developments in sustainability science. At the core of the software solution are  31 databases — including 14 that are proprietary — that provide rapid, accurate and actionable impact results. The technology was created by a team of 80+ industrial ecologists and sustainability experts over a period of two years to provide the fastest and most accurate impact results available.

The results are generated using five key factors that produce a simple-to-understand Dayrize Score, which is out of 100. The factors include:

  • Circularity: How well an individual product minimizes waste by reusing and recycling resources to create a closed loop system;
  • Climate Impact: How greenhouse gas-intensive the production of the product is;
  • Ecosystem Impact: What the impact of the product is on biodiversity and water depletion;
  • Livelihoods and Well-being: How each product impacts the health and well-being of the people involved in creating it;
  • Purpose: How meaningful a product’s purpose is by looking at the value that it provides, and the potential it has to be an accelerator for good.

The environmental impact score helps companies and consumers gain insights into the environmental impact of virtually all products, including consumer packaged goods and apparel. 

The necessity for environmental impact research is demonstrated in part by our look at the sources of CO2 emissions from consumer products and water depletion in the apparel industry. Even incredibly popular and “common knowledge” solutions about how to address environmental harm meaningfully can often be incorrect in very significant — and possibly damaging — ways.

When it comes to CPGs, it’s crucial that companies keep the following facts in mind:

  • On average, only 1% of emitted carbon is due to packaging, while 1% comes from transportation and 2% can be traced to manufacturing for a typical consumer product.
  • The lion’s share of CO2 emissions come from the materials that are used in products. Up to 96% of the emissions that CPGs are responsible for are from a product’s materials.

CPG companies that want to be truly eco-friendly need to ensure their products are eco-friendly. To reduce carbon emissions, CPGs need to reassess the design of their products and the materials they’re using.

Packaging has a more consequential impact on water depletion when it comes to apparel, but nowhere near the impact of the apparel itself. For every 3.2 gallons of water that packaging depletes, the average garment depletes ten times that: 32 gallons. More eco-conscious packaging can increase an apparel company’s sustainability, but shifting attention to producing more sustainable garments can help reduce the 90% of water that is being used to create the garment.

There is an enormous opportunity to make garments more sustainable. After scoring tens of thousands of pieces of clothing, we found that only 1% of garments utilize materials that are reused. Additionally, only 5% of garments use recycled materials. This is paltry compared to the number of clothes disposed of each year: “The EPA reports that Americans generate 16M tons of textile waste a year, equaling just over 6% of total municipal waste…2.5M tons of clothing are recycled. But over three million tons are incinerated, and a staggering 10M tons get sent to landfills.”

Clearly, there are more than enough materials to re-integrate into apparel, which would help companies mitigate water depletion and other harmful environmental effects of their products.

Many companies may have good intentions, but they need to research how to achieve their goals of creating sustainable products. There are myriad ways to make it seem to the public that sustainability is a priority, but making it a reality requires both the willingness to make some tough choices and a clear understanding of what steps will truly make a difference.

Austin Simms co-founded Dayrize in 2019 and serves as its CEO. After 20+ years spent working in senior commercial positions at major corporations around the world, Simms had a desire to use his skills to address climate change. With a strong commercial background, he believed that empowering corporations was key to make real change. He recognized that the first thing that companies needed to change was access to information to make better decisions, which is why he developed the Dayrize Score tool. Simms believes commerce and sustainability are linked, and business needs to be a major catalyst for addressing climate change.

To see the original post, follow this link: