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: https://theconversation.com/ipcc-report-climate-solutions-exist-but-humanity-has-to-break-from-the-status-quo-and-embrace-innovation-202134


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 triplepundit.com • 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: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/companies-prepare-sec-climate-disclosure-rules/768391

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: https://www.forbes.com/sites/afdhelaziz/2023/03/14/the-stakeholder-model-of-purpose-how-cause-marketing-csr-sustainability-dei-and-esg-can-operate-harmoniously-in-this-new-age-of-purpose/?sh=27616a3af777

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: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20230308144203119

Consumer Product Brands Embrace Responsible Forestry

7 03 2023

Image: Sustainable Brands

From the Forest Stewardship Council • Reposted: March 7, 2023

When it comes to forest products, Bio Pappel, HP, Melissa & Doug, REI and Amazon are all leaders in responsible sourcing. What does this commitment look like in practice?

More and more consumers are demanding sustainable attributes in the products they buy — encouraging retailers and consumer packaged goods companies to reap the benefits of this opportunity by providing products with tangible, credible environmental and social benefits.

When it comes to forest products, Bio PappelHP, Melissa & Doug, REI and Amazon are all leaders in responsible sourcing — a fact that earned them Forest Stewardship Council Leadership Awards for their deep commitment to responsible forestry and for making thousands of FSC-certified products available to businesses and consumers. What does this commitment look like in practice?

Bio Pappel is one of the largest recycled-paper manufacturers in North and South America, and the first Mexican company that is FSC certified for use of 100 percent recycled raw material in paper production. While Bio Pappel may not be a household name, it supplies some of the biggest brands — including Amazon and Titan packaging, Samsungpackaging, Xerox paper, Scribe and pen+Gear notebooks, LALA Yomi milk and yogurt packaging, and Kirkland Signature food items. Its products can be found in WalmartCostco and other major retailers.

“At Bio Pappel, we like to say that we are generating shared value,” says Israel Martinez, auditor at Bio Pappel. “In this sense, FSC certification gives us the guarantee of sustainable management of raw material coming from forests or recycled material used to produce paper — which consequently encourages more responsible consumption and allows end consumers to be more aware of their footprint on the planet.”


The SB Socio-Cultural Trends Research, conducted in partnership with Ipsos, tracks the changing drivers and behaviors of consumers around the intersection of brands and sustainable living. Our latest report explores how brands can maximize the impact of their sustainability efforts by approaching carbon-label strategies through the lens of consumer perceptions — learn more in SB’s Q4 Pulse highlights report.

Take me there!

For more than a decade, HP and World Wildlife Fund have worked together to achieve HP’s responsible sourcing goals— including zero deforestation for its HP-brand paper and paper-based packaging. This collaboration has included the development of HP’s industry-leading responsible fiber-sourcing policy; By 2020, HP met this commitment with FSC-certified or recycled fiber sourced for over 95 percent of HP brand paper and paper-based packaging.

HP continues to expand on its commitment to responsible sourcing with additional efforts rooted in protecting, restoring and improving the management of forests. One example is HP and WWF’s work to increase the area of FSC-certified forest in China to 219,830 acres by 2025. As of July 2022, over 33,000 hectares (81,000 acres) of forest have been FSC certified in China.

Over the next decade, HP and WWF’s efforts will include collaborating with local communities and forest managers to increase FSC-certified forest areas in key landscapes, as well as identifying and addressing obstacles to obtaining FSC certification and improving forest-management practices. Ultimately, HP has committed $80 million to restoring, protecting and improving the management of nearly a million acres of forest — an area approximately five times the size of New York City.

As the #1 preschool brand for wooden toys, Melissa & Doug has a longstanding commitment to “making timeless, sustainable toys for a thriving and inclusive world.” The brand formalized its commitments with an initiative called “Project Restore,” to more deeply integrate sustainability culture and practices across the organization.

After obtaining FSC Chain of Custody certification in 2020, the purpose-driven toy manufacturer became the first major US toy brand to earn FSC certification for its new stationery line, which was independently certified by SCS Global Services. Melissa & Doug is on track to achieve its commitment to ensure 100 percent of paper products and more than half of its wood products sold are FSC certified by 2025.

Healthy forests are essential for people to enjoy the outdoors; they’re also essential to REI’s business. REI uses fiber and the resulting paper products throughout its operations — in the form of flyers, cardboard, shopping bags, hangtags and more. As a co-op that inspires its members to spend more time outside, sustainable forestry is a natural focus.

REI prioritizes paper-based packaging for its own products that are FSC certified or made from certified post-consumer waste, and prioritizes paper products with the same attributes. With the assistance of the Outdoor Industry Association and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, REI published sustainable packaging guidelines to encourage and educate its vendors, including FSC as a preferred attribute. These guidelines support not only REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles, but also the brands they sell within their stores and the greater outdoor and cycling industries.

REI’s Product Impact Standards are designed to help its partner brands create more sustainable and inclusive products. Its paper and paper products purchasing policy is designed to positively influence paper supply chains well beyond the company’s immediate sphere and to support sustainable forestry.

FSC is one of many third-party certifications in Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly (CPF) program — which currently encompasses over 350,000 products, 20,000+ brands and counting. CPF was created to help customers discover and choose more sustainable products on Amazon.

At SB’22 San DiegoZac Ludington — CPF’s Principal Program Manager — shared data from surveys on consumer trends and trust in sustainability certifications, noting:

  • 75 percent of consumers surveyed consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor. (McKinseyEU)
  • 53 percent of Millennials say they are willing to forgo a brand in order to buy products that are environmentally friendly. (NielsenGlobal)
  • 49 percent of respondents are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly options. (MintelUS)
  • 26 percent of consumers surveyed said they have started, or stopped, purchasing a product due to its environmental impact. (Shelton GroupUS)

To see the original post, follow this link. https://sustainablebrands.com/read/supply-chain/consumer-product-brands-embrace-responsible-forestry

Regulating ‘forever chemicals’: 3 essential reads on PFAS

7 03 2023

Medical assistant Jennifer Martinez draws blood from Joshua Smith in Newburgh, N.Y., Nov. 3, 2016, to test for PFOS levels. PFOS had been used for years in firefighting foam at the nearby military air base, and was found in the city’s drinking water reservoir at levels exceeding federal guidelines. AP Photo/Mike Groll

By Jennifer Weeks, Senior Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation • Reposed: March 7, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release a draft regulation limiting two fluorinated chemicals, known by the abbreviations PFOAand PFOS, in drinking water. These chemicals are two types of PFAS, a broad class of substances often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are very persistent in the environment. 

PFAS are widely used in hundreds of products, from nonstick cookware coatings to food packaging, stain- and water-resistant clothing and firefighting foams. Studies show that high levels of PFAS exposure may lead to health effects that include reduced immune system function, increased cholesterol levels and elevated risk of kidney or testicular cancer

Population-based screenings over the past 20 years show that most Americans have been exposed to PFAS and have detectable levels in their blood. The new regulation is designed to protect public health by setting an enforceable maximum standard limiting how much of the two target chemicals can be present in drinking water – one of the main human exposure pathways. 

These three articles from The Conversation’s archives explain growing concerns about the health effects of exposure to PFAS and why many experts support national regulation of these chemicals.

1. Ubiquitous and persistent

PFAS are useful in many types of products because they provide resistance to water, grease and stains, and protect against fire. Studies have found that most products labeled stain- or water-resistant contained PFAS – even if those products are labeled as “nontoxic” or “green.”

“Once people are exposed to PFAS, the chemicals remain in their bodies for a long time – months to years, depending on the specific compound – and they can accumulate over time,” wrote Middlebury College environmental health scholar Kathryn Crawford. A 2021 review of PFAS toxicity studies in humans “concluded with a high degree of certainty that PFAS contribute to thyroid disease, elevated cholesterol, liver damage and kidney and testicular cancer.”

The review also found strong evidence that in utero PFAS exposure increases the chances that babies will be born at low birth weights and have reduced immune responses to vaccines. Other possible effects yet to be confirmed include “inflammatory bowel disease, reduced fertility, breast cancer and an increased likelihood of miscarriage and developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia during pregnancy.”

“Collectively, this is a formidable list of diseases and disorders,” Crawford observed.

2. Why national regulations are needed

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to set enforceable national regulations for drinking water contaminants. It also can require state, local and tribal governments, which manage drinking water supplies, to monitor public water systems for the presence of contaminants.

Until now, however, the agency has not set binding standards limiting PFAS exposure, although it has issued nonbinding advisory guidelines. In 2009 the agency established a health advisory level for PFOA in drinking water of 400 parts per trillion. In 2016, it lowered this recommendation to 70 parts per trillion, and in 2022 it reduced this threshold to near-zero

But many scientists have found fault with this approach. EPA’s one-at-a-time approach to assessing potentially harmful chemicals “isn’t working for PFAS, given the sheer number of them and the fact that manufacturers commonly replace toxic substances with ‘regrettable substitutes – similar, lesser-known chemicals that also threaten human health and the environment,” wrote North Carolina State University biologist Carol Kwiatkowski

In 2020 Kwiatkowski and other scientists urged the EPA to manage the entire class of PFAS chemicals as a group, instead of one by one. “We also support an ‘essential uses’ approach that would restrict their production and use only to products that are critical for health and proper functioning of society, such as medical devices and safety equipment. And we have recommended developing safer non-PFAS alternatives,” she wrote.

3. Breaking down PFAS

PFAS chemicals are widely present in water, air, soil and fish around the world. Unlike with some other types of pollutants, there is no natural process that breaks down PFAS once they get into water or soil. Many scientists are working to develop ways of capturing these chemicals from the environment and breaking them down into harmless components.

There are ways to filter PFAS out of water, but that’s just the start. “Once PFAS is captured, then you have to dispose of PFAS-loaded activated carbons, and PFAS still moves around. If you bury contaminated materials in a landfill or elsewhere, PFAS will eventually leach out. That’s why finding ways to destroy it are essential,” wrote Michigan State University chemists A. Daniel Jones and Hui Li

Incineration is the most common technique, they explained, but that typically requires heating the materials to around 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,730 degrees Fahrenheit), which is expensive and requires special incinerators. Various chemical processes offer alternatives, but the approaches that have been developed so far are hard to scale up. And converting PFAS into toxic byproducts is a significant concern.

“If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that we need to think through the full life cycle of products. How long do we really need chemicals to last?” Jones and Li wrote.To

To see the original article, follow this link: https://theconversation.com/regulating-forever-chemicals-3-essential-reads-on-pfas-201263

Curbing Plastic Consumption Will Require Drastic Measures — and Business Should Lead the Charge

7 03 2023

Image credit: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

By Riya Anne Polcastro from triplepndit.com • Reposted: March 7, 2023

By 2050, plastic consumption in the world’s top economies could be almost twice what it was in 2019. And it’s not even on track to peak this century. That’s according to a new report from Back to Blue, a multi-year joint initiative from the Economist Impact and the Nippon Foundation. Researchers from the initiative say it’s possible to avoid an extreme plastic waste crisis through “bold and sweeping reforms” — and they’re urging U.N. countries to enact multiple stringent and binding policy changes.

But while pushback is expected from certain industries, “Peak Plastics: Bending the Consumption Curve” demonstrates that — when it comes to curbing the tide of plastic pollution that is barreling down the pipeline — there is no room for half-measures. Rather, businesses must choose long-term purpose over profit and lead a cultural change away from single-use plastics.

No single policy can do it alone

Back to Blue researchers used modeling to determine the effectiveness of three different policies that are being considered for inclusion in the U.N. Treaty on Plastic Pollution, compared to the business-as-usual scenario that would lead to 451 million metric tons of new plastic consumption per year by 2050. The forthcoming U.N. treaty is the culmination of agreements made in March 2022 that will bind 175 countries to its stipulations. Negotiations are in progress, and policies should be implemented by the end of next year. 

Researchers chose the three policies deemed to have the most potential to affect total plastic consumption for modeling: taxes on the production of new plastics, measures for extended producer responsibility, known as “polluter pays,” and a ban on single-use plastics. They found that no single policy would be capable of substantially curtailing the problem by itself.

Multiple measures needed to curb avalanche of plastic consumption

Banning single-use plastics proved to be the most beneficial of the three policies. Under that scenario, plastic consumption in 2050 would be roughly 1.5 times what it was in 2019 ⸺ as opposed to the 1.73 times that can be expected if nothing is done. Likewise, if a tax on new plastics were the only strategy implemented, it would still lead to 1.57 times more plastic produced each year by 2050. A “polluter pays” policy would also do little on its own, with consumption increasing 1.66 times.

Put together, implementing all three strategies would lower the increase to 1.25 times 2019 levels. However, the study’s authors doubt that the U.N. treaty will ultimately have the teeth needed to force the trajectory of plastic consumption downward.

“This report confirms that an urgent, global effort is needed to stop the flood of plastic pollution at its source,” David Azoulay, director of environmental health at the Center for International Environmental Law, said in a statement announcing the report. “The entire lifecycle of plastics, from feedstock extraction and production of plastic precursors to disposal, must be addressed by the future, legally binding U.N. treaty to end plastic pollution. The policy levers examined in this report will not be sufficient: bolder action is needed, including globally coordinated tax mechanisms coupled with ambitious caps on virgin plastic production.”

Negotiators must maintain ‘the highest levels of ambition’

Of course, neither the petrochemical industry nor producers of consumer goods will take such changes lying down. Like all regulations that threaten profits, they will likely fight tooth and nail against any limits that affect their bottom lines.

“Negotiators of the U.N. plastics treaty must maintain the highest levels of ambition possible when entering the next round of negotiations, and industry needs to play a constructive, not obstructive, role in reaching a deal,” Charles Goddard, editorial director of Economist Impact, said in a statement. “So far, commitments by industry, retailers and brands to reduce plastic waste are short on detail and have failed to materialize. We have to slow the soaring production of single-use plastic. Only a bold suite of legally-binding policies will result in plastic consumption peaking by mid-century.”

Making room for purpose and creative solutions

The transition away from plastic consumption will be painful at first, but it also presents an opportunity for leadership. Businesses that value purpose and choose to make the most out of coming policy changes could see elevated brand loyalty — especially among Gen Z consumers — as well as increased competitiveness when it comes to securing talent and even potentially higher profits in the long run.

The policy changes that are being considered for the U.N. treaty could also increase the market share of certain industries and products as consumers adjust to a world without plastic take-out containers and bottled water. In fact, while an entire cultural overhaul will be necessary, businesses with a strong sense of purpose can help lead the charge by offering innovative products and strategies to help the planet recover from our plastic addiction. Regardless of how business reacts, the U.N. must move forward with drastic new regulations.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/curb-plastic-consumption-regulations/767626

Gartner: Corporate Sustainability Suffers From Tragedy of the Commons

6 03 2023

Image: Shutterstock

By Emma Chervek | Reporter from SDxCentral • Reposted: March 6, 2023

Sustainability is one of the first areas enterprises will reduce spending in response to inflated economic environments, according to new research from Gartner. Senior Director Analyst Brendan Williams told SDxCentral that despite executive recognition of sustainability as an important objective, this is “a classic example of the tragedy of the commons at work.”

The analyst firm’s “2022 Inflation Response Survey” found 39% of respondents expect sustainability will be one of the first two areas where their company limits investment. And just 15% believe this area will be one of the final areas impacted by reduced spending.

A major driver of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives has been the cost savings of efficiency improvements tied to sustainability efforts. But many corporate leadership teams seem hung up on the fact that it still costs money to implement those types of measures. “The question with environmental sustainability is whether executives see these initiatives simply as costs, or whether they view them as having a positive impact on cost and efficiency,” Williams explained.

While Gartner research shows that business executives directly involved with sustainability-related decisions are four-times more likely to view ESG as supportive of cost reduction rather than as another cost itself, “there is still work that needs to be done to convince certain stakeholders,” he admitted. It’s pretty self-explanatory that improving energy efficiency, for example, will have a positive environmental and economic impact, but that relationship can be less obvious with long-term projects or programs.

When it comes to cutting spending, the challenge lies in prioritization and the difference between urgent and important. Most executives understand sustainability is important, and “a difficult macroeconomic background isn’t going to change their minds, but it could cause them to prioritize issues that are viewed as more urgent, over issues that are important but seen as less urgent,” Williams said.

He argued a case needs to be made that environmental sustainability is both of those things: important and urgent. To that point, the next few years will determine just how resilient companies’ sustainability efforts are, considering it’ll be “the first time that we experience a cyclical economic downturn” since sustainability fell into mainstream corporate focus.

Sustainable Tragedy

Environmental sustainability exists chiefly to mitigate and respond to climate change’s near- and long-term impacts. Williams noted sustainability’s ties to the corporate world are ultimately driven by scientific evidence, but the reality of climate change alone isn’t enough to land sustainability in both the urgent and important categories of enterprise activities.

Williams highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic for its acceleration of corporate sustainability and ESG efforts, “and if you look at what has changed over that period, I don’t think it was anything particularly new in the underlying scientific knowledge, but rather that there has been a change in how society as a whole thinks about the importance and urgency of environmental sustainability,” he said.

For many corporate leaders, the impact of climate science has been less direct and has surfaced through customer, employee, shareholder, and regulator pressures. While there are certainly enterprise execs leading these changes, many are “simply responding to a change emanating from society at large,” he noted.

This scenario represents a clear example of the tragedy of the commons, Williams argued. Certain sustainability initiatives carry obvious positive business results like revenue increases, cost reductions, and risk limitations, but companies would likely implement those initiatives regardless of the environmental benefits. That’s why profit tends to be a weak motivator for positive environmental behavior.

“Unfortunately, [environmental sustainability] is not always that neat or convenient, and the individual profit motive is poorly suited to incentivize for many of the changes we as a society need to enact to achieve our environmental goals,” Williams said.

At the end of the day, corporations can’t be left to their own devices and be expected to meaningfully respond to climate change, he argued, citing economists’ term for environmental challenges: negative externalities. “This is one of the reasons why governments and other institutions have such an important role to play in incentivizing behavior (amongst individuals as well as businesses) that serves the common good,” Williams said.

Without well-designed industry regulations, an enterprise that does want to take responsibility for its role in climate change “may be worried that doing the right thing will put them at a competitive disadvantage,” he explained.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/interview/gartner-sustainability-suffers-tragedy-of-the-commons/2023/03/

The 8 Responsibilities of Chief Sustainability Officers

6 03 2023

Image: Anton Vierietin/Getty Images

By Elisa Farri, Paolo Cervini, and Gabriele Rosani from Harvard Business Review • Reposted: March 6, 2023

The word “sustainability” has never been more popular in the corporate world. The number of companies appointing a chief sustainability officer (CSO) is rising rapidly: In 2021 more CSOs were hired than in the previous five years combined.

But despite good intentions — and widespread acceptance of the importance of sustainability — there is still a lack of clarity about a CSO’s tasks and accountabilities. For example, at one large European consumer goods firm we consulted with, there are numerous job titles in a variety of units that include the word “sustainability.” The result is fragmented ownership, internal competition for visibility and resources, and inefficiency with a great deal of overlap and duplication.

The confusion is not surprising. While other functions and roles, such as the CFO or CMO, are well established, the CSO role was virtually unheard of until recently. History and benchmarks are limited. This partly explains the inconsistent job descriptions, the different mandates and accountabilities, as well as the variety of reporting lines. Despite their increasing profile, only a minority (35%) of CSOs report directly to the CEO. In most cases, the person responsible for sustainability is constrained by a limited and different remit — reporting to the COO when emphasizing an efficiency role; to the CFO when the focus is on investor relations; to the chief communications officer when PR is important; or to the general counsel when attention is on compliance. In other cases, the role is distributed over two or three different departments. ESG separation is not uncommon: the “E” of environmental under the COO, the “S” of social under the CHRO, and the “G” of governance under corporate legal.

We’ve been here before. Fragmentation and a lack of clarity is common when new roles are introduced; think for example of the rise of the chief digital officer or the chief innovation officer in C-suites over the last decade or so. In the beginning their tasks and responsibilities were not well codified, creating confusion about accountabilities, fragmentations, and even tensions with other overlapping functions.

To clear the fog and help C-suites define the position and responsibilities of the CSO, we created a simple visual framework.

Eight Critical Tasks for CSOs

We originally designed our “8-task spider graph” for the role of chief innovation officer. As the tool proved powerful, we revised it for the newly created position of the CSO. It breaks the CSO role into eight distinct tasks:

  1. Ensuring regulatory compliance. Anticipate regulatory trends and their implications. Establish adherence to the sustainability laws and regulations that apply to each industry, process, and type of business. Assess risk management. Enact internal policies.
  2. ESG monitoring and reporting. Collect data and metrics following the reporting standards. Benchmark with industry peers. Prepare the completion and communications of company ESG report.
  3. Overseeing the portfolio of sustainability projects. Act as a project management office: planning, coordinating, reviewing progress, and tracking results to coordinate various operational efforts.
  4. Managing stakeholders’ relationships. Promote ongoing dialogue with internal and external stakeholders in order to develop constructive, transparent relationships.
  5. Building organizational capabilities. Identify gaps and adopt appropriate educational initiatives for upskilling and/or sourcing the missing capabilities. Identify innovative ways to scale the new capabilities. Share and disseminate knowledge and best practices.
  6. Fostering cultural change. Help define and communicate purpose to drive the transformation. Champion cultural change across the entire organization also through education. Promote mindset shifts based on concrete behaviors. Establish routines to reinforce the change, for a credible “walk the talk” from leaders.
  7. Scouting and experimenting. Promote openness toward the external innovation ecosystem. Explore emerging sustainability technologies, solutions, and practices. Test the applicability and learn from experiments. Scale up adoption in the broader organization.
  8. Embedding sustainability into processes and decision making. Revise key processes and related criteria/metrics/tools for decisions. Coach decision makers to manage complex trade-offs.

Visualizing the Eight Tasks

Spider graphs (also known as radar graphs) are often used to display data across several unique dimensions. Plotting the CSO’s eight tasks — and the amount of effort spent on each — on a spider graph can help executives figure out the actual coverage of responsibilities, where the current focus is, where there may be a need to increase efforts, and where gaps are. Visual clarity fosters strategic discussions and attention on what really counts rather than on details.

Start by positioning each of the eight tasks on the outside points of seven concentric octagons, starting at the top and working clockwise. Then have a group discussion to determine how much effort is currently being used on each task and assign them a number using the following scale:

  • 1–2: Low effort
  • 3–5: Medium effort
  • 6–7: High effort

Then for each task, position a dot on the octagon that corresponds with its level of effort. For example, if you rate task two as a four on the effort scale, position its dot on the fourth octagon from the middle.

When we worked with a German manufacturer, the executive team posed many questions about organizational details and specific procedures, but it soon became evident that they lacked focus and strategic thinking on the “what” and the “why” of the CSO role. We encouraged them to clear up the ambiguity by creating an 8-task spider graph in an executive workshop setting, before jumping into the dynamics of organizational design.

Completing the 8-task spider graph revealed that the CSO role left many areas uncovered. A spider graph, also known as a radar graph. There are seven concentric octagons, and each of the eight tasks is positioned on the outer octagon’s points, starting with task 1 at the top and going clockwise. The tasks are: 1) Ensuring regulatory compliance, 2) ESG monitoring and reporting, 3) Overseeing the portfolio of sustainability projects, 4) Managing stakeholders’ relationships, 5) Building organizational capabilities, 6) Fostering cultural change, 7) Scouting and experimenting, and 8) Embedding sustainability into processes and decision making. The level of effort spent on each task is plotted on its corresponding octagon, from 1 and 2, or low effort, at the center, to 3 through 5, or medium effort, midway between center and outer ring, to 6 and 7, or high effort, on the outermost octagon. For example, task 6, fostering cultural change, was assigned a 1, so its dot is plotted on the innermost octagon. In this example, the graph indicates that the German manufacturer is concentrating on tasks one through three but not on tasks four through eight.

See more HBR charts in Data & Visuals 

In fact, visualizing the current positioning of the role on the spider graph was an awakening exercise. The company realized that several tasks were not sufficiently covered. The CSO role appeared skewed mainly on operational and regulatory aspects. In addition, in discussing each task, they found an almost exclusive emphasis on climate change.

Once the team agreed on the actual positioning, the discussion moved on to the evolution of the CSO role and how to ensure a better balance by investing in underserved dimensions. The executive team updated the graph accordingly.

The updated 8-task spider graph shows a more balanced CSO role. Returning to the eight tasks described in the previous spider graph, the updated graph shows the desired effort to be spent on each. For example, task 6, fostering cultural change, was previously assigned level 1, or low effort, and is now assigned level 6, or high effort. In this example, the graph indicates that the German manufacturer is almost equally focused on all eight tasks.

See more HBR charts in Data & Visuals 

Putting the Graph into Practice

Here are four tips that can help executives make good use of the eight-task spider graph:

Take ownership of all eight tasks.

To lead the sustainability transformation of their companies, CSOs should be accountable for all eight items. We’ve come across a lot of organizations that are too focused on the regulatory and legal elements or external communications but overlook cultural elements or capability building.

Think beyond “E.”

Each task should be articulated not only around environmental scope (as it often happens), but should also take into consideration the other dimensions of sustainability.

Consider “Scouting & Experimenting,” (task seven on the spider graph): When determining this task’s sub-activities, companies should move beyond only looking at new technologies for CO2 reduction. For example, the CSO could test new approaches for social inclusion of the company’s target communities or new models for more transparent and fair employee compensation.

Define the phases of the evolution. 

While it’s key to have a target positioning for the mid-to-long term, it’s often not realistic to invest in all underserved tasks simultaneously. The shift does not happen overnight. Define which gaps to close first and which ones to address later, depending on the context of the company (e.g., type of culture, level of skills, organizational setup) and its sector (e.g., types of external stakeholders and regulations).

For example, a newly appointed CSO we interviewed recognized the need to cover all eight tasks to achieve a more pervasive transformation. However, pressing regulatory issues prompted her to place more emphasis on tasks one and two of the spider graph. This allowed her to concentrate organizational efforts to rapidly close the most critical gaps (skills, systems, and data) and consequently comply with the new directives without incurring significant fines.

Leverage the graph for alignment. Do not put the spider graph in a drawer. Use its visual power to communicate the evolving positioning with the executive team and other units. Transparency and simplicity will reinforce alignment and clarity within the broader organization.

. . .

In the end, CSOs and executive teams need to think very carefully about what to do — and what can be done differently — to successfully execute their company’s sustainability agenda. Taking the time to visualize the CSO’s eight tasks will help ensure that the role is balanced, covering the different dimensions of sustainability.


Readers Also Viewed These Items

Read more on Business and society or related topicsEnvironmental sustainability,Social and global issues and Society and business relations

To see the original post, follow this link: https://hbr.org/2023/03/the-8-responsibilities-of-chief-sustainability-officers

How To Measure the Impact of Corporate Volunteering

6 03 2023

By Laura Steele from Submittable • Reposted: March 6, 2023

Too often, in an effort to track something, corporate social responsibility and ESG leaders focus on metrics that don’t hold much meaning. When it comes to employee volunteering specifically, there’s a pervasive “check-the-box” mentality that values inputs over outputs and processes over people.

For instance, the number of volunteer hours your team logs (input) doesn’t mean much if most of the time was spent sitting around waiting for instructions instead of doing work that actually improves peoples’ lives (outcome).

In contrast, impact measurement seeks to understand the relationship between your efforts and real, meaningful outcomes. You want to know: are you moving the needle?

Impact measurement requires you to be more intentional about how you define and identify “impact.” This effort will not only help your team understand your program’s ROI today, it will help you evolve your initiatives to be more meaningful for your business, your employees, and the community in the long term.

Track the true impact of corporate volunteering

Impact measurement is a guide, not a grade. You’re not trying to slap a passing or failing grade on your program. Rather, you’re earnestly asking tough questions about how your efforts make change.

Does your employee volunteer program:

These questions are large and unwieldy. There’s rarely a simple answer, and it can be difficult to tie specific inputs to clear and quantifiable outcomes.

To measure the impact of corporate volunteering, you have to embrace the complexity. Here’s how.

Prioritize outcomes over activities

The activities you do matter much less than what effect you make. Think about it this way: if you’re trying to put out a fire, you wouldn’t measure your success by how many gallons of water you pour on the flames. What matters is if you put the fire out.

It’s easy to get distracted by measuring inputs (like the amount of water you use), but be sure to tie the inputs you track to the outcomes you want (flames extinguished). Pumping a lot of water may feel important, but if you don’t aim that water at the fire, you’re not having the impact you want.

Focus on meaningful contribution 

As you set goals around specific outcomes, keep in mind that even an incredibly successful volunteer program isn’t going to single-handedly reverse negative trends or solve big issues. Set goals that are not only attainable, but also recognize the role your program plays within the larger context of your company, community, and society as a whole.

For instance, your program might play a role in increasing employee retention at your company, but that’s not the only factor determining whether people stick around. Other internal initiatives and policies matter along with external market forces. Measuring the impact of corporate volunteering is not about taking full credit for progress, it’s about making a meaningful contribution.

Consider how metrics are in conversation with one another

As you choose metrics to track, you’ll likely find some overlap. That’s natural. What’s good for employees is often good for the community, which is good for the brand. Be less concerned about drawing hard borders or categories and make space to think about how outcomes might influence one another.

Now, let’s get into what metrics you might choose to track for your volunteering program.

Which corporate volunteering metrics should I track?

To measure the impact of corporate volunteering, think about your impact across four categories: participants, corporate, the nonprofit, and the community.


The people who take part in volunteering stand to benefit from the experience of giving back.

  • Personal fulfillment: Volunteering can be personally rewarding. A Harvard report found that “higher levels of volunteer work were associated with higher levels of overall life satisfaction.”
  • Skills development: As a venue to try on new roles and take risks, volunteering can help support employees’ professional development. One study found that “40–45% of the employee volunteers claimed some level of improvement in skills pertaining to leadership, mentorship, motivating others, project management, and public speaking and presenting.”
  • Exposure to new people and perspectives: Stepping into a volunteer role can enable participants to meet people from different backgrounds and encourage them to be more open to perspectives that differ from their own.

What metrics to track:

  • % of employees who participate in volunteering
  • % of participants who would recommend volunteering to others
  • % of volunteers who report improved skills
  • % of volunteers who continue to volunteer
  • Level of engagement in dialogue at the volunteer event
  • Qualitative feedback from volunteers


The business itself can benefit from the impact of corporate volunteering.

  • Brand reputation: 77% of consumers support brands who share their values. Using your resources to give back shows that you’re willing to put your values into action.
  • Recruitment and retention: CSR efforts can help you stand out from other companies as you vie for top talent. Plus, employees who volunteer are 32% less likely to churn.
  • Improved company culture: Volunteering is an exercise in empathy and collaboration, two important building blocks of a healthy team culture.

What metrics to track:

  • Customer loyalty metrics like customer satisfaction score
  • Employee retention
  • Employee satisfaction metrics like employee net promoter score
  • % of employees who would recommend the company to a friend

Nonprofit organization

By building partnerships, you can leverage the power of your brand and resources to strengthen community nonprofits.

  • Increased capacity and reach: More volunteers means more capacity to reach new people and launch new programs. That’s no small thing. A projection from United Way estimated that if each company with the largest revenue headquartered in (or with a major office in) each state implemented one day of volunteer time off, it would add 75 million volunteer hours—that’s 9 million days—to the nonprofit capacity.
  • Improved strategic planning and innovation: With volunteer support, nonprofit staff have more time to dedicate to the deeper strategic planning and innovation that’s necessary for long-term success.
  • Name recognition and credibility: By partnering with a nonprofit, you can help increase their brand awareness in the community, helping them secure even more support.

What metrics to track:

  • Volunteer hours contributed
  • Increase in nonprofit outputs
  • Number of beneficiaries reached
  • Number of new donations secured
  • New partnerships formed
  • New programs launched by the nonprofit


An effective volunteer program not only benefits the institutions and participants, but it makes a meaningful difference in the lives of community members.

  • Increased access to services: Meeting people’s basic needs can have a profound impact on their ability to thrive. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that food insecurity, for example, was “associated with poorer mental health and specific psychosocial stressors.”
  • Improved quality of life: No matter what causes your volunteers are dedicated to, they have the potential to improve the quality of life for the whole community, whether that’s through direct service work with people or projects that improve communal spaces and resources.
  • Deeper awareness of community needs: A volunteer program is also a natural way to draw attention to a cause. As volunteers learn more about community needs, they become advocates, spreading awareness and building support for new initiatives and policies.

What metrics to track:

  • Number of people served
  • Qualitative feedback from community members
  • Quality of life metrics like unemployment, mortality, or graduation rate

Build the right framework for your volunteer program

Do not try to track all the metrics listed above. If you’re just starting to measure the impact of corporate volunteering, choose one or two meaningful targets and build from there. You don’t want to get so bogged down with reporting that you lose sight of the mission at hand.

As you build structure around your program, keep in mind that you can rely on systems that are already in place. Rather than starting from scratch, you could use existing:

  • Employee surveys
  • Sales and revenue tracking
  • Retention metrics
  • Nonprofit impact reports
  • Community statistics and indicators

Identify what levers you think will support change. If employee engagement is one of your goals, you might want to ask yourself what mechanisms are in place to ensure that volunteer events align with employee values. If you can’t point to anything specific, that’s a red flag. You might consider democratizing the process to allow employees a voice in building nonprofit partnerships and planning events.

Don’t view impact measurement (or your program) as static. You’ll need to stay open to iteration as your team and the community evolves. The right technology can help you manage this dynamic process.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/767666-how-measure-impact-corporate-volunteering

Boreal wildfires in 2021 released more carbon emissions than any other fire this century

3 03 2023

Photo: Pierre Longnus/Getty Images

The earth’s northernmost regions have entered a vicious cycle of warming and wildfire. By Zoya Teirstein from Grist • Reposted: March 3, 2023

Two years ago, enormous fires ripped through some 46 million acres of forest in Russia, the country’s worst fire season on record. The scale of tree cover loss in the massive boreal, or northern, forests that blanket Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Russia that year was staggering — but so was the scale of destruction produced by the Indonesian peatland fires in 2015, the Australian bushfires in 2019, and the wildfires in the western United States in 2020. 

Now, researchers have a clearer sense of just how significant the 2021 boreal forest fires were in terms of emissions. The fires produced more planet-heating carbon dioxide than any other extreme fire event that has occurred since the turn of the 21st century, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. 

Boreal forests, characterized by conifers like spruce and pine, grow in the planet’s high latitudes where it is very cold — below freezing for at least half the year. The trees that live in this type of forest grow slowly and sequester carbon in their trunks and roots for hundreds of years, collectively comprising a massive trove of trapped emissions that researchers call a carbon sink. But the northernmost parts of the planet are warming faster than anywhere else on earth due to human-fueled climate change. Rising temperatures and related drought in these historically cool regions have led to an uptick in extreme wildfire activity and threaten to unleash the carbon stored in the trees that grow there, transforming a carbon sink into a carbon source. 

In all, fires in boreal forests, considered to be the world’s largest land biome and a massive carbon sponge, produced nearly half a billion metric tons of carbon in 2021. That’s more carbon than the entire continent of Australia produced the same year, though some of the emissions produced by the fires will be sucked back up as forests regrow. 

The study showed that for the past decade or so, boreal forests, especially forests in the uppermost reaches of Alaska, Canada, and Russia, have steadily become drier and hotter as heat waves and drought parched the environment. Fires in boreal forests are a normal part of the life cycle of trees that grow there. But climate change is throwing that cycle out of whack. Just in the past handful of years, forests in northern latitudes reached a tipping point and started to produce far more emissions than usual. 

“You get drought, drought, drought, but then you hit a threshold, and all of a sudden, your emissions start to double or triple,” Josep G. Canadell, executive director of a climate research initiative called the Global Carbon Project and coauthor of the study, told Grist.  

The researchers obtained the data for their study by tracking concentrations of emissions in the atmosphere using satellites, and then they plugged that information into a computer model to determine where, geographically, those emissions came from. They found that boreal forests, which typically produce about 10 percent of the globe’s annual wildfire emissions, accounted for 23 percent of the world’s wildfire emissions in 2021 — more than twice as much as normal. 

James MacCarthy, a research associate at the World Resources Institute who studies wildfires and climate change and was not involved in the new study, told Grist that, while previous analyses have pointed to 2021 as a particularly destructive year for boreal forests, the study is a valuable contribution to the field because it “offers meaningful insights about where fire emissions increased the most within boreal regions and provides potential explanations for why those emissions are increasing.” 

Canadell is most concerned about the study’s main takeaway: Boreal forests have served an important and underappreciated role in sequestering carbon emissions, but climate change threatens to unleash that stored carbon. “We need to be very careful with these systems in terms of their future evolution,” he said.

To see the orignal post, follow this link: https://grist.org/wildfires/boreal-wildfires-in-2021-released-more-carbon-emissions-than-any-other-fire-this-century/

The Sustainable Brand Is the Successful Brand

3 03 2023

Stephen Ardern, managing director at Continuous on the need for brands to incorporate sustainability to improve operations. Reposted: March 3, 2023

In today’s boardrooms, sustainability is increasingly becoming a vital aspect of an organisation’s brand strategy. Consumers are becoming more conscious of the environmental and social impacts of the products they buy, and they are looking for brands that align with their values. Investors are also increasing pressure on organisations to consider sustainability in their operations. As a result, successful brands are increasingly becoming those brands that are truly sustainable.

Boston Consulting Group highlighted that companies that prioritise sustainability outperform their peers financially, with a median total return to shareholders of 16% per year compared to non-sustainably focused companies’ median of 3%.

At its core, sustainability is about creating value for all stakeholders in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations to create long-term value for everyone involved. In the context of branding, sustainability means creating a brand that is resilient, responsible, and responsive to the changing needs of consumers, employees, and the environment. And the payoff is increasing the value of your brand. 

Accenture found that companies that prioritise sustainability and have a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) reputation have a higher brand value and customer loyalty.

Sustainability is becoming a key differentiator in the marketplace. As more and more brands make environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments, it becomes harder for brands that are not sustainable to compete. Consumers are becoming savvier, and they are increasingly choosing to buy from brands that they perceive as responsible and environmentally friendly. Brands that don’t take sustainability seriously risk losing market share to those that do.

A clear commitment to sustainability also helps create a strong sense of purpose, identity, and values that are clear to customers. This creates a sense of authenticity and trust that is hard to replicate. Additionally, by investing in sustainable solutions, brands can tap into growing consumer demand for products that align with their values.

Sustainability can also help brands to improve their operations, which in turn can help to improve their bottom line. Brands committed to more sustainable working practices often take a more holistic view of their operations, and they can identify areas that can improve efficiency and reduce costs. By committing to sustainability, brands can often create new revenue streams by selling sustainable products or services.

A study by the Carbon Trust found that companies that implement sustainable practices have a lower risk of operational disruptions and supply chain issues

A report by McKinsey & Company found that companies that prioritise sustainability in their operations and supply chain have a more resilient and efficient business, with cost savings of up to 20%.

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership found that companies prioritising sustainability are more likely to be innovative, with a higher likelihood of introducing new products and services.

Sustainability can help to improve employee engagement and retention. Brands committed to sustainability often create a sense of purpose and meaning among employees, which can lead to improved employee satisfaction and retention. By making clear commitments that resonate with employees, brands can create a positive reputation, which can help to attract top talent.

A report by Deloitte found that companies with strong sustainability practices have lower employee turnover rates and higher levels of employee engagement.

This isn’t only true of the B2C space. Sustainability is equally important to B2B. More scrutiny than ever before is being placed on the supply chain. And improved employee engagement, enhanced brand reputation, and stronger customer loyalty are vital regardless of whether an organisation is B2C or B2B.

Those brands leading the charge in this area are increasingly recognised for their progress. This, in turn, is helping differentiate from competitors, creating a strong sense of purpose and identity, improving employee engagement and retention, and operational efficiency that improves the bottom line. With more demand from customers and within the supply chain, it’s clear that the brands unable to adapt to these demands will fall behind and will eventually face extinction.

The most important consideration is communication. Stakeholders must understand the priorities around sustainability and any progress made. Communication needs to be clear and make sense. All too often, corporate messaging is lost in highfalutin or oblique messages that are ambiguous or simply lost. Here are five considerations for improving communication in this area: 

1. Be transparent: Be open about the practices and policies that make your brand sustainable.

2. Use clear language: Use specific, measurable terms and avoid buzzwords and vague claims.

3. Show your impact: Use data and storytelling to demonstrate the impact your brand is making, but make it clear for everyone to understand. 

4. Engage your customers: Encourage customer involvement in your sustainability initiatives by offering ways to get involved.

5. Continuously improve: Continuously evaluate and improve your sustainability practices. Set new goals, experiment with new technologies, and communicate your progress to your customers. 

We work with a growing number of clients that have the ambition to be more sustainable. They realise there’s lots of work to do. They plan for the long term and adapt to changes in the short term. They communicate clearly and regularly. They have the ambition to be better. And they will be more successful for it.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.lbbonline.com/news/the-sustainable-brand-is-the-successful-brand

How to Structure Your Corporate Giving Program

24 02 2023

By Laura Steele from submittable.com * Reposted: February 24, 2023

In the world of philanthropy, businesses and corporations are uniquely positioned to make a positive impact. They often have practice in uniting a team around a mission, using existing resources to increase capacity, and spreading the word about their work. For companies looking to leverage their strengths to better the community, corporate giving is a great tool to make change.

A corporate giving program is an initiative that allows businesses to invest in social good. There are a variety of options when it comes to program design, and each offers its own advantages. For inspiration, check out what other companies are doing.

No matter what kind of corporate philanthropy programs you choose, the time, money, and effort you invest will benefit not only the community at large, but will strengthen your organization.

The benefits of a corporate giving program giving

Become a trusted brand

These days consumers want to support businesses and corporations that invest in causes they care about. In fact, over 75% of consumers polled said they are more likely to buy from a company that supports environmental, social, or governance causes.

Kristin Kenney, Senior Associate at Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, explains, “Consumers are much more savvy today. They’re asking, how are employees treated? Where are products coming from? Who are products made by? And they’re really good at research.”

Corporate giving builds positivity around your brand and allows you to align your outreach with your community’s values. This provides your customers new, meaningful ways to engage with your business. It’ll also help you build a reputation as a company that does more than talk the talk. You show up.

Though in the past corporate giving has been viewed as an optional program, today it’s imperative that organizations get engaged with this work.

“If the social, health, and environmental crises of this past year are not enough to compel business leaders, then leaders need to hear this: You need a social impact strategy not just to do some good, but to remain relevant and competitive.” – Mark Horoszowski, CEO at MovingWorlds

Engage employees

A corporate giving initiative can also inspire your employees. Everyone wants to engage with a company that incorporates doing good into its mission—whether that means buying their products or being part of the team.

Giving back allows you to connect with your employees on a deeper level, helps them feel more fulfilled, and empowers them to make a difference. Plus it’s a great tool for recruiting. According to a recent survey, more than two-thirds of respondents said they’re more likely to apply for and accept a job with a socially responsible company.

Boost revenue 

Using donations to create a loyal customer base and a strong company culture can help you boost revenue in the long run.

Corporate giving provides a great story for your marketing and recruitment team. It allows you to get your name out into the community in a new way and gives you the opportunity to build partnerships with other organizations. These connections can translate into more sales and they create a strong foundation for future growth.

Support sustainability 

Beyond your bottom line, this form of corporate philanthropy supports long-term sustainability. Your business doesn’t exist on an island. It is part of a complex system that relies on the health and wellbeing of the planet, the people, and the social structures that connect them.

Investing in nonprofits that sustain the community and protect resources means you’re ensuring sustainability for your business and the world at large.

6 types of corporate giving programs

1. Community Grants

Awarding grants to nonprofits doing work in the community is a great way to leverage your resources and their expertise. Rather than picking a charity, you can set aside a designated amount of money to fund grants and invite organizations to apply.

If your team has a specific cause or population in mind, you can create targeted grant programs around an issue. Only organizations engaged in that specific work will be eligible to apply. For instance, you could create a grant dedicated to helping disadvantaged communities address climate change. In your grant application, you could ask applicants to explain how they are engaged in this work and what a grant will allow them to do.

Community grants allow your business to support the organizations already doing good work in the community. Forming relationships with these nonprofits helps you build trust with community members and shows that you’re willing to be humble in your approach to giving.

This model also fosters internal and external collaboration. By uniting around a common purpose, you can work together with the organizations you fund to make change. You can determine the program focus and help guide outcomes. Plus these connections can become long-term partnerships.

Meet community members where they are

As you build your grant program, be sure to center the people you’re aiming to support. Start by involving them in the conversations early. Get their input about what problems the community faces and what kind of solutions might do the most good. Remember: the people closest to a problem usually have the best insight about how to solve it.

Structure your grant application so that it is easy to access and complete. Nonprofits are busy. They don’t have time for a complicated application process. Choose a grant management software that streamlines the application experience and makes it easy on your internal team to review applications and communicate with grantees.

2. Charitable donations

A charitable donation allows your organization to give money or resources directly to a nonprofit. Structuring your giving this way allows your business to have an immediate impact.

This approach to corporate giving lets you minimize the time and effort your team puts into structuring and executing the program. All you have to do is choose a cause, identify charities that align with your values, and make a donation.

You can choose to write a check or you can make an in-kind donation. Giving goods or services is great if you have the means and capacity and the community has a need for what you can offer.

Consider the timing of your gift. Do you want to align with a global giving event such as Giving Tuesday? Or perhaps you want the gift to coincide with an event you’re planning or a product launch you’re preparing. Adding a charitable component to business programs can be a great way to drum up more interest in both initiatives.

Root your giving in trust

When you make a charitable donation, you can choose to designate your gift for specific programs or you can make the funding unrestricted. Unrestricted funding allows the nonprofit to decide how best to use the resources they receive. It offers more flexibility for the charities as they seek to cover the costs of running programs.

Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott has become known for making unrestricted donations to nonprofits. She explains the decision: “Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose. Many reported that this trust significantly increased the impact of the gift.”

3. Matching gifts

Matching employee contributions to nonprofits gets the whole team engaged in giving. A matching program allows employees to choose the causes they want to support. An employee donates to a nonprofit and the companies will match or double the donation to create a bigger impact.

This method gets employees involved by letting them determine how the company’s charitable funds will be distributed. They can choose the causes they care about most or those they have a personal connection to. By putting the decision in the employees’ hands, you ensure that company donations align with employee values.

For example, Related Group, an urban developer based in South Florida, has created a matching gifts program for their employees. This helps them get folks involved and boosts the assistance provided to nonprofit organizations.

Make giving quick and easy

These days, most employees expect companies to have some form of corporate giving and matching. According to the latest report from Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose, 85% of companies surveyed offer year-round matching gifts programs.

Despite matching gift programs being incredibly popular, participation can be a struggle. It turns out, one of the main reasons employees don’t participate in corporate giving programs is because the process is too complex. This is where technology comes in. One study found that nearly half of employees said an easy-to-use, online technology platform was a top motivating factor to donate. Choose a corporate giving platform that makes it easy for employees to get excited about giving and helps them track their impact.

4. Volunteering

When it comes to corporate giving, it’s easy to overlook one of your greatest resources: people. Your company has taken time to assemble a great team. The talent and enthusiasm each employee brings to the table is unique. Channeling these skills to help local nonprofits pursue their missions is a great way to leverage your resources and get employees engaged.

As part of a volunteer program, your employees donate hours to a local nonprofit. This can entail simple, non-specialized work that the charity determines. For example, your company could donate volunteer hours to a local food bank. Employees would go during their normal working hours to help the food bank with tasks such as packing boxes or sorting food. You can also find opportunities that encourage employees to use their professional skills in their volunteer efforts.

No matter how you structure your volunteering, this kind of program helps keep employees invested. It provides opportunities for folks to connect with team members they don’t often get to work with directly, enhancing cohesion and connection across the company.

Other forms of corporate giving can help employees feel a sense of purpose, but volunteering allows them to get their hands dirty and to truly get engaged in the work. This has countless benefits for morale and engagement. Plus it can actually improve employee mental and physical health.

Let employees lead the way 

Volunteering is most impactful when employees get to choose the causes they give their time to. Rather than making your volunteer program feel like a top-down initiative, put employees in the driver’s seat. Seek out employee feedback to help you organize volunteer opportunities. And empower employees to create volunteer events and invite their coworkers.

Taking this approach lets you build on the relationships that already exist within your company. It’s much more powerful to get an invite from someone on your team who’s excited about a cause rather than a company-wide email from HR.

5. Scholarships

Channeling your corporate giving into a scholarship program means you will be helping students further their education by providing money for tuition, books, or other living expenses.

For example A+ Federal Credit Union has a scholarship program for high school and college students in Central Texas. In 2021, they awarded a total of $100,000 to 50 students chosen based on academic achievements and community involvement. The scholarship money goes towards college tuition.

Funding scholarships is a valuable investment in the future. You’re helping students access education and easing the financial burden on them and their families. Of course, this can have an immediate impact on when and where they attend college, but it also has long-term effects on their job prospects, earning power, and financial stability.

Investing in education connects you with the up-and-coming generation. Showing up for them will help your brand stay relevant. These are your future customers and employees.

Recruit top talent

Some companies focus their scholarship programs on disciplines related to their businesses. This approach can create relationships with a strong pool of candidates for the future. It also gives you the ability to reach out and support a wide range of students and, in turn, help diversify the pool of talent you can draw from.

For example, Acxiom is a customer data management firm. Each year, they offer $5,000 scholarships to students from diverse backgrounds who are enrolled in a full-time post-secondary degree program such as computer science or computer information systems. Through this program, the company is supporting diversity across the sector and connecting with potential applicants.

6. Sponsorships

In a sponsorship, a business helps financially support a community group, event, or activity. Often in exchange for the support, the company is featured in promotional materials. By affiliating with a beloved event or group, a business can build goodwill in the community. This form of outreach gives you a chance to subtly market your brand while spotlighting important community activities.

For example the Alaska Humanities Forum sponsors events that bring Alaskans together and encourage civil discussion. They support events such as the Blueberry Arts Festival and in return their logo is featured on the event website.

Sponsorships often entail funding, but you can also provide support through in-kind donations. Perhaps the goods or services you offer would be useful to organizers.

Align sponsorships with your mission

As you look for an event to sponsor, try to find one that aligns with your business mission. Think about your target customers and what kind of interests they might have. Not only will this give you a natural point of connection with the folks you most want to reach, but it will also make it easier for you to show up in an authentic way.

A great way to approach your search is by starting with the events and causes that your employees are already involved in. Perhaps you can include their input as you create your giving plans.

Create your corporate giving program today

Creating an effective corporate giving program is not so different from launching other business initiatives. You want to ensure success by building from strategy, setting clear objectives, and prioritizing transparency.

As Alnoor Ebrahim, author of Measuring Social Change: Performance and Accountability in a Complex World explains, “In the social sector, we tend to think a lot about impact but don’t necessarily give enough attention to strategy—and the two are completely intertwined.”

As a corporate social responsibility platform, Submittable can help you create a program that works for your whole team. Whether you’re managing grant applications, accepting sponsorship requests, or promoting a scholarship, Submittable makes it easy to launch, manage, and measure your program.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/766916-how-structure-your-corporate-giving-program

The Many Hats of a Sustainable Marketer

24 02 2023

By Emma Samson from Sustainablebrands.con • Reposted: February 24, 2023

Marketing is becoming inextricable from sustainability. Marketers must collaborate with other departments closely, gather accurate knowledge and work out how to share brand attributes in a humble and credible way.

You might think of the marketing department as advertisers. Or salespeople, capturing the attention of customers with branding and snazzy videos. Or maybe as analysts, monitoring data and adjusting their content to appeal to their target market. But the role of marketers is expanding fast. Selling stuff to customers is no longer the sole focus. Consumers, retailers and employees are all looking for brands that conduct themselves with a higher sense of social and environmental responsibility; so, today’s sustainable marketer must don many hats to satisfy internal and external stakeholders — turning their storytelling superpowers to influence behaviour and drive positive change.

Marketer as Corporate Sustainability Officer

The gap between sustainability and marketing is closing as brands rush to position themselves as ‘green’ – driven by customers increasingly aware of environmental risk. ‘Green’ sells, but the sustainable marketer needs to steer clear of accidental greenwashing as authorities clamp down on ambiguous communication and targets. At COP26, governments agreed to create a new UN greenwashing watchdog to name and shame companies that swerve their sustainability promises. And in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authorityrecently issued stricter guidelines regarding unqualified claims such as ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘plastic-free.’ Marketing buzzwords will no longer be tolerated without substantiation, and ignoring these guidelines could cost a brand both reputation and profit — up to €100,000 in France, where brands are fined for using misleading terminology such as ‘carbon neutral’ without reporting corroborating GHG emissions. Sustainable marketers need to understand the technical truths behind their products so they can communicate authentically and build trust.

Marketer as behavioural psychologist

The average customer spends only 6 seconds deciding what to buy at the shelf. By this point, however, the skilled marketer has directed them through the sales funnel, so the decision is already partially made. Only a last-minute discount or free gift might trigger a change of heart. All sustainability initiatives will require a significant element of behavioural change, and the marketer can use their understanding of motivation to shape that circular journey. For example, Willemijn Peeters of circular plastics consultancy Searious Business thinks the marketer will be crucial to the uptake and success of reusable packaging.

“We see from our clients that the main barriers to reuse are cost-effectiveness and behavioural change. No scheme will succeed without high uptake and return rates. We need to sift through the complex messaging behind reuse and distil it into simple prompts that customers can absorb — marketers know how to do this.”

Marketer as packaging designer

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation states that a circular economy begins with thoughtful design. Products and their packaging need to be designed with the impact of their entire lifecycle in mind. Packaging designers are under tremendous pressure to eliminate waste, choose low-impact materials and increase recyclability while still prioritising functionality. These measures often leave little room for shelf appeal — the final battleground for the marketer. Most marketers are incentivised to sell by volume; they need their packaging to catch the eye, imply quality and add value to the product within. What happens to it after use is often a secondary consideration, and their influence can make or break a sustainable innovation before its leaves the drawing board. According to recent IBM’s research, 41 percent of consumers would shop more sustainably if they understood more about the environmental and social impact. Product packaging is the last opportunity to speak to your customer and leave a positive impression of your brand. Make sure your final words are transparent and honest. Make sure they are ones that attract and continue to engage sustainability-focused consumers.

Image credit: IBM

Marketer as brand leader

As sustainability becomes an inherent part of our global economy, marketers must take on a leadership role in creating and communicating their brands’ purposeful identity — building trust with their customers, suppliers, investors and employees. According to a survey by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, 81 percent of consumers now want businesses to take a stand on important social and environmental issues. However, the customer is not the only stakeholder looking for this commitment; both retailers and suppliers are getting choosier over what brands they stock or sell to. They want to be associated with brands that share their principles and help them meet their environmental and social goals. A recentstudy from digital studio PLAY found that two-thirds of Gen Z employees felt it was important for the company they work for to be committed to acting sustainably. In a pressurised job market, attracting and retaining employees is critical — meaning, brand image is as essential to HR as it is to sales.

Marketing in the future will become inextricable from sustainability. Marketers must collaborate with other departments closely, gather accurate knowledge and work out how to share this in a humble and credible way. The number of hats on the marketer’s hat rack is increasing, but the most important is still the thinking cap.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://sustainablebrands.com/read/marketing-and-comms/the-many-hats-of-a-sustainable-marketer

United Airlines launches $100 million sustainable fuel investment fund

23 02 2023

A United Airlines Boeing 777-200ER plane is towed as an American Airlines Boeing 737 plane departs from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Nov. 30, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

By Rajesh Kumar Singh from reuters.com • Reposted: February 23, 2023

United Airlines (UAL.O) launched on Tuesday a more than $100 million investment fund to support start-ups focused on the research and production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The Chicago-based carrier along with inaugural partners such as Air Canada (AC.TO), Boeing (BA.N), General Electric (GE.N) JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) and Honeywell (HON.O) have invested in the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund, it said.

United said the fund was open to investment by companies across industries and would prioritize investment in new technology and “proven” producers.

The global aviation industry is under pressure to reduce carbon emissions and find ways to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2021.

The industry, which contributes about 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, faces formidable challenges in reaching that goal as technologies such as electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft are still unproven.

Global airlines and aerospace manufacturers are betting on SAF, which is made in tiny quantities from feedstocks such as cooking oils and animal waste, and can cost two to five times more than conventional jet fuels.

United’s Chief Sustainability Officer Lauren Riley said the investment fund was aimed at scaling up the supply of SAF. The company would contribute up to 49% of the fund’s value, she said.

To see related stories and the original post, follow this link: https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/united-airlines-launches-100-mln-sustainable-fuel-investment-fund-2023-02-21/

U.S. grocery chains flunk sustainability, human rights tests for tuna sourcing

23 02 2023

Frozen albacore tuna on a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean. Tuna is stacked and weighed before being shipped for processing into canned tuna. Image © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace.

By Monica Evans from Mongabay,com • Reposted: February 21, 2023

Canned tuna is trending in the U.S. again: after a tail-off in its consumption in the three decades through 2016, the cheap and shelf-stable protein’s popularity surgedduring the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, last year, it got a major boost from young foodie influencers on TikTok: apparently, tuna-based date nights have become a thing, with the hashtag #tinnedfish gaining more than 26.5 million views on the social media app so far.

Part of this resurgence has to do with the product’s supposed sustainability street cred: it’s often seen as an eco-friendly alternative to other animal proteins. But a new report by environmental NGO Greenpeace says that despite considerable progress, U.S. grocery chains still have a long way to go on addressing serious environmental and human rights concerns in their sourcing of tuna products.

The U.S. is the world’s second-largest tuna importer and its retailers wield significant clout within the $42 billion global tuna sector, according to the report. Greenpeace has been ranking U.S. seafood retailers on sustainability criteria since 2008. This is the second such report to incorporate human rights considerations.

The report’s authors compiled a scorecard for the 16 largest U.S. grocery retailers on their tuna sourcing practices. To do so, they sent out a survey, which 11 of the retailers completed and returned, and used publicly available information for the remaining five. They scored the retailers with percentage grades based on 39 questions across six categories: procurement policy; traceability; advocacy and initiatives; human rights and labor protections; current sourcing; and customer education and labeling.

Tuna cans.
The U.S. is the world’s second-largest tuna importer and its retailers wield significant clout. Image by David Mulder via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

‘Top of the class’ still a low bar

On human rights, none of the retailers received a passing (60%) grade. “This is a testament to the glacial pace of progress in the tuna retailer industry when it comes to taking decisive action to address human rights and labor issues in their supply chain,” Mallika Talwar, a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace and a co-author of the report, told Mongabay by email.

German grocery giant ALDI came closest to a passing human rights grade, at 56%, and the report praised its “comprehensive, publicly available seafood and human rights policies” and explicit advocacy “for a living wage for workers in its supply chain.” Its score was reduced by the limited scope of its grievance mechanisms and the fact that its corporate responsibility supplier evaluation program is still in development.

Scoring worst on human rights was Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket, and Winn-Dixie. Its corporate social responsibility report “did not include even one mention of human rights,” said the report, “and the company continues to have no discernible policy on at-sea-transshipment, human rights due diligence, migrant workers, or grievance mechanisms.”

Transshipment is a practice whereby fishing vessels offload their catch onto other boats that deliver it to shore. It is often associated with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and because it enables fishing vessels to remain at sea for long periods, it also contributes to the risk of human and labor rights abuses in supply chains.

On sustainability, Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market, the largest U.S. chain specializing in “natural” and organic foods, scored highest, at 75%. ALDI came in second at 70%, bringing up its combined overall score to 62%, the first and only overall passing grade since the addition of human rights factors to the rankings last year. The authors praised Whole Foods’ strong traceability and sourcing requirements, including its commitment to selling only pole-and-line and hand-line-caught canned tuna. These methods ensure less bycatch and overfishing than other methods, and have human rights benefits as vessels are smaller and tend to work coastally rather than in the open ocean, leading to shorter periods at sea and more localized employment.

At the other end of the scale, Michigan-based chain Meijer scored last on sustainability with a grade of 20%, earning it the lowest overall grade of 16%. Reasons for this included its continued sourcing of at-risk species like bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus, T. ), and of fish caught using damaging catch methods (such as longlines and purse seine nets assisted by fish-aggregating devices) and in already-overfished areas, among other factors. Costco came second-to-last with a sustainability score of 32%. Critiques centered on its “vague” sourcing and seafood sustainability policies and its lack of a policy on transshipment.

Mongabay reached out to eight of the 16 grocers the report ranked for comment: ALDI, Ahold Delhaize, Whole Foods, Meijer, Wegmans, Albertsons, Costco, and Kroger. None responded.

A crewmember handles frozen yellowfin tuna.
A crewmember handles frozen yellowfin tuna on the deck of a longline fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean. Image © Mark Smith / Greenpeace.

Remote workplaces

Environmental and social safeguards are particularly critical in tuna sourcing given the nature of the industry. Most of its fishing takes place in “probably the most isolated workplace on the planet,” according to Greenpeace’s press release announcing the report, so “human rights and environmental standards have always been easy to skirt.”

The NGO’s research suggests that this often results in tuna products of dubious environmental and social pedigree being made available on supermarket shelves in the U.S., despite grocery chains’ reassurances to the contrary. In 2020, Greenpeace linkedtuna caught by vessels that supply the ubiquitous canned-tuna brand Bumble Bee to forced labor, human trafficking, and IUU fishing practices — and then traced the tuna to a Kroger-owned Harris Teeter in Arlington, Virginia, according to the press release.

The report demands enhanced traceability and transparency in tuna supply chains. It asks that retailers follow the lead of employee-owned supermarket chain Hy-Vee (which ranked fourth overall in the report) and publicly release a full list of their supplying vessels. It also seeks the phaseout of transshipment.

Crew on an illegal fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean.
Crew on an illegal fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean. Most tuna fishing takes place far out at sea, in “probably the most isolated workplace on the planet,” according to Greenpeace’s press release, so “human rights and environmental standards have always been easy to skirt.” Image © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace.

Leadership gap

According to the report, awareness of the need for sustainable sourcing policies in the tuna industry is becoming widespread, with measures such as fisheries improvement projects (FIPs), bans on transshipment at sea, and reducing bycatch now included in many retailers’ seafood sourcing policies.

“When we first began publishing these reports, hardly any retailers were aware of or had given any thought to their seafood sourcing practices,” Talwar said. “Ten years and ten editions later, while many environmental issues persist in global seafood supply chains, seafood sustainability principles have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Almost all retailers have some sort of sustainability policy in place, and most of them have stopped stocking highly problematic species such as orange roughy [Hoplostethus atlanticus].”

On human rights, however, both awareness and action are decidedly lagging. The International Labour Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention of 2007 lays out clear guidelines for working conditions on fishing vessels, but only ALDI has explicitly committed to that policy, and the report found that none of the retailers had comprehensive human rights due diligence frameworks: “[i]n fact, the worst performers seemed to have barely considered the issue at all,” it read.

While its emphasis was firmly on the distance still to travel, the report’s outlook was ultimately optimistic, and highlighted several elements of progress, such as some retailers developing promising sustainability policies that as yet lack important details and clarity, and some improving their scores from previous years. The authors caution, however, that further change will require consistent pressure on retailers.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://news.mongabay.com/2023/02/u-s-grocery-chains-flunk-sustainability-human-rights-tests-for-tuna-sourcing/

ISSB to launch first two sustainability standards by June

22 02 2023

Photo: ISSB.

The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) has confirmed that it will issue its first two finalised frameworks by the end of June, with an expectation that the first corporate reports aligned with these frameworks will be issued in 2025. From edie.net • Reposted: February 22, 2023

Members of the ISSB gathered in Montreal, Canada, last week, to agree on the technical content of its initial standards following consultations in 2022. The Board is focusing on climate-related reporting in the first instance but its first two standards – IFRS S1 and S2 – will also cover other sustainability-related risks and opportunities.

IFRS S1 is designed to apply globally, to corporates in all sectors. It has been described as the “core baseline” of sustainability reporting, attempting to better unify disclosures on factors such as waste and emissions. It also sets out how companies can integrate reporting, linking sustainability-related and financial information.

IFRS S1 also sets out plans for companies to disclose all material sustainability-related risks and opportunities.

IFRS S2, meanwhile, is more detaied in regard to specific topics – particularly climate mitigation and climate adaptation. It is designed to build on existing disclosure frameworks in this field, chiefly the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).  

While the EU is proposing mandatory “double materiality” impact reporting for big businesses – imploring them to report on their impacts on people and the environment, plus the risks and opportunities that external changes could bring – the ISSB is taking a different approach. Its chief focus at present is enterprise value, which entails getting a deeper understanding of the link between sustainability and company valuation.

“We responded to capital market and G20 demand for a common language of investor-focussed, sustainability-related disclosure, working diligently to deliver standards that fulfil the global baseline,” said ISSB chair Emmanuel Faber.

The ISSB is expected to issue IFRS S1 and S1 by the end of the second quarter, making June the likely issuance date. It is intending to make the standards effective from January 2024, meaning that we will likely see the first corporate reports aligned with the standards in 2025.

Voluntary adoption will be likely in the first case, and some nations and regions may opt for mandatory disclosures in time.

“Given [that] sustainability disclosure is new for many companies globally, the ISSB will introduce programmes that support those applying its Standards as market infrastructure and capacity is built,” the Board said in a statement. But it acknowledged that, in some markets like the EU, disclosure is less new – so there is a need to align with and streamline existing standards.

Commenting on the news, KPMG’s global head of audit Larry Bradley said: “The proposed effective date of 1 January 2024 is ambitious, but – importantly – it’s aligned with the EU timetable, so some companies may adopt on this date regardless of local requirements. It still remains for jurisdictions to decide whether to enforce this date. But the transition provisions, such as not requiring Scope 3 GHG emissions reporting in the first year of adoption, should smooth the path for companies.

“The good news is that companies are going to be explicitly allowed (but not required) to use metrics from GRI and ESRSs where they are useful to investors and there is no equivalent IFRS sustainability standard. This demonstrates a level of pragmatism and a keen awareness of the need to balance cost and benefit for as many companies as possible. However, companies already reporting under GRI won’t be able to simply cut and paste swathes of disclosures, because they will need to apply the ISSB’s investor-focused materiality lens. For companies reporting under multiple frameworks, this will make reporting less challenging.”

The ISSB was first proposed by the not-for-profit International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS Foundation) in early 2021, and launched later that year. Its aim is to unify disclosures from corporates, helping investors and other stakeholders to properly compare their sustainability performance and related risks. One year on from its formal launch, in November 2022, CDP confirmed that it will incorporate IFRS S2 into its platform.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.edie.net/issb-to-launch-first-two-sustainability-standards-by-june/

New Environmental Sustainability Index Shows Businesses Are Still Optimistic On Climate Goals

21 02 2023

Solar park Goettelborn, Saarland, Germany, photo: GETTY IMAGES

By Daniel Newman, Contribtor, Forbes.com – Reposted: Febraury 21, 2023

Sustainability initiatives are still as important as ever — at least that’s what the data is telling us. Our team at Futurum Research — in collaboration with Honeywell — have released the second edition of the Honeywell Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI). The report is a global, double-blind survey of more than 750 business, tech, and sustainability pros who are directly involved with environmental initiatives in their companies. The report is a continuation of the first edition, that was first published in December 2022. The goal is to provide transparency into corporate sustainability, both here in the United States and around the world. And according to the ESI, businesses are feeling pretty good about the work they’re doing to help save the environment.

Q1 2023 Environmental Sustainability Index: New quarter, new outlook

You wouldn’t think much would change in just a few short months, but it’s clear that the world is in a new — better — place. According to the ESI, the global pandemic has finally dropped to second place in terms of potential barriers to sustainability goals. Instead, the world seems to be moving back to business as usual. Unsurprisingly, economic and geopolitical issues is now the top concern for most companies. And while those are major concerns, it’s not slowing organizations down. Businesses globally continued to rank sustainability goals as their top business priority in the near-term (next six months). Better yet? More organizations are ranking sustainability as the top priority compared to last quarter (71% vs 65%). This is also consistently reflected across geographies as you can see in the table below.

Sustainability Leaders Weigh in on Critical Focus Areas for Business over the Next 6 Months. FUTURUM RESEARCH

Overall, organizations continue to believe they’re at least somewhat or extremely successful in meeting their environmental sustainability goals. In fact, 90 percent or more of businesses felt they were somewhat or extremely successful in reaching their goals in the past 12 months in each of the following areas: energy evolution and efficiency, emissions reduction, pollution prevention, and circularity recycling. Optimism about meeting goals for the next year, as well as goals for 2030, were also up to 72 and 77 percent, versus 61 and 69 percent last quarter. Perhaps it’s new technologies that have hit the market, reallocating budget spend (I’ll get to that in a second), or better education in the organization, but it’s promising to see success and optimism continue to trend in the right direction.

To read more of the original article, follow this link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2023/02/17/new-environmental-sustainability-index-shows-businesses-are-still-optimistic-on-climate-goals/?sh=5ff66483d0cd

U.S. SEC Climate Disclosure Rules: What Are They, and How Can You Prepare?

17 02 2023

Image credit: RF._.studio/Pexels

By Andrew Kaminsky from Triple Pundit • February 17, 2023

It’s almost time for the grand reveal. While the final product is still a bit of a mystery, but the anticipation has the business world anxiously awaiting the news.  

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to make a big announcement in April, and if we’re lucky, it will be the full release of its climate disclosure rules. Either way, publicly-traded companies in the U.S. should be preparing to report on the climate metrics that are soon to become mandatory.

What are the incoming climate disclosure rules?

We are in the midst of a climate crisis, and the rules that dictate how businesses and governments operate are changing. The EU already has a climate disclosure system in place for its largest companies — which is being upgraded next year to include more companies and more thorough reporting. The U.S. is following the EU’s lead with the new SEC climate disclosure rules.

The mandatory disclosures are expected to include a company’s carbon emissions, low-carbon transition plans and climate risks. Climate risk is separated into physical and transition risks: Physical risks are climate hazards like drought, flood and extreme heat, whereas transition risks cover the policy changes with which organizations must comply.

While businesses have yet to be shown the final climate disclosure rules from the SEC, there are measures they can take to hit the ground running when the rules are revealed. 

What can companies do to prepare?

“It’s really about being prepared for Scope 3 [GHG emissions] and ensuring that all of the data you are disclosing is traceable and auditable,” says William Theisen, CEO of EcoAct North America.

Scope 3 GHG emissions cover the emissions produced across an organization’s entire value chain, both upstream and downstream. Depending on the size of the business, this can include hundreds or thousands of different companies, from raw material suppliers to distribution partners. It’s an overwhelming task, but it’s much more manageable if taken one step at a time.

“The first step is to do a materiality assessment and get at least an idea of where you should focus first,” Theisen says. “Look at the products and services within your supply chain, and then transform them using an emission factor to equate it to a tonnage of carbon. It won’t be completely accurate, but it will at least give you an idea of areas to dive into and get more granular data.”

Organizations that want to have some idea of what the SEC reporting may look like can explore the current CDP global disclosure system. “As a supplier or publicly- traded company looking to get your bearings on what requirements are probably going to be important, CDP is a good place to start,” Theisen suggests.

Part of the SEC disclosure requirements will include climate risk. While it can be difficult to evaluate how vulnerable business assets are to climate risk — with much of it open to interpretation — honesty and transparency is the best policy, Theisen advises. Trying to downplay climate risk is how a business can get burned.

“It’s the quality of their disclosure. If they understand what the climate risks are and they’re addressing them, that can actually play in a company’s favor,” he explains. “It’s when a company is not disclosing any climate risk that the assumption then is that maybe they don’t know what’s happening — maybe they’re not putting in mitigation measures.”

“Investors and external stakeholders really just want to understand that this is being appropriately managed, that there is a roadmap, and that the roadmap can evolve,” Theisen says. “We’re all adapting to climate change year after year.”

Enlisting climate consultants can help businesses develop strategies for their climate disclosures. This demonstrates to investors that leadership understands the risks associated with climate change and are engaging in methods to mitigate their exposure. 

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/prepare-sec-climate-disclosure-rules/766336

How We Design Our Way Out of Our Plastic Problem

17 02 2023

Image: CGF

By Ignacio Gavilan Director, Sustainability, The Consumer Goods Forum – From the Consumer Goods Forum • Posted: February 18, 2023

Our relationship with plastic needs to change, and fast. The urgency around the plastics issue has been felt even more keenly since negotiations for a legally binding global plastic treaty began last month. There is no doubt that plastic can have an important role in getting people certain food, drinks and other products in a safe and reliable way. But it is critical that we use less plastic and, wherever possible, better plastic to protect the natural environment while meeting the needs of our growing global population. Ultimately, we need a better system that supports a circular economy for plastics, where it is used again and again in many forms, instead of becoming waste or pollution.

For the consumer goods sector, this means dramatically stepping up our game when it comes to redesigning plastic packaging upstream while increasing collection, sortation and recycling downstream. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of plastic packaging that is designed poorly. For example, a lot of plastic packaging still contains problematic materials like PVC, meaning that most plastic packaging still isn’t recycled and ends up in landfill or incineration.

This is why the 40 retailers, consumer brands and convertors in The Consumer Goods Forum’s (CGF) Plastic Waste Coalition of Action worked with industry experts, recyclers and plastics associations from over 25 countries to develop the Golden Design Rules for plastic packaging. Thirty-three leading multi-national companies have now signed up to implement one or more of these rules across their plastic packaging portfolios by 2025. These rules are a set of voluntary, independent and time-bound commitments that aim to minimise waste, streamline designs and simplify the plastic recycling process – ultimately increasing recycling.

The rules are building momentum to deliver the further design changes necessary to meet the targets laid out in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Set up by the United Nations and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Commitment is a global initiative to create an entirely circular plastics economy.

There are nine Golden Design Rules. The first is of particular significance. It focuses on increasing the value of PET recycling. PET is polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common plastic materials. Typically, it’s used in food containers, drink bottles and the synthetic textiles in our clothing. In fact, PET bottles represent 13% of all plastic packaging on the market. Consequently, improving PET recycling is essential to achieving a circular economy for plastics.

plastic soda bottles

One of the key issues with PET recycling is the use of pigments and dyes in plastic bottles, which can make it difficult and expensive to sort bottles into different colour streams for recycling. However, recycling lots of different coloured PET bottles together means you end up with a murky, low quality recycled plastic that isn’t suitable for use in consumer packaging. Unfortunately, this means that many plastic bottles still aren’t recycled back into plastic bottles.

Golden Design Rule 1 aims to address this. It outlines that all bottles should be clear or translucent blue or green as these are the easiest to sort and have the highest material value once recycled.

There are other factors besides the bottle’s colour that can impact on its recyclability. Therefore, Golden Design Rule 1 also lays out specifications for the size of labels on PET bottles, the materials that can be use and the glue used to attach them, so that these aren’t problematic when it comes to recycling.

The rest of the rules cover topics like removing problematic elements from plastic packaging (e.g. PVC, PS, EPS); eliminating excess headspace in flexible packaging; eliminating unnecessary plastic overwraps; improving the recycling value of PET thermoformed trays; and reducing the use of virgin plastic.

Some of our members have already made fantastic progress when it comes to better plastic packaging design. For example, to celebrate Earth Day this year, soft drinks and food giant PepsiCo launched label-free PET bottles in China on e-commerce channels, following an initial launch in South Korea in October 2021. By removing both the plastic label of a traditional PET bottle and the ink printing on the closure, Pepsi was able to reduce the product’s carbon footprint throughout its life cycle and make these bottles easier to recycle. Additionally, to increase plastic circularity, Pepsi also included 24% recycled PE in the secondary shrink film.

Chemical and consumer goods multinational Henkel is working to transition many of the PET bottles in its portfolio to clear PET. In Italy, for example, Henkel’s brand Nelsen’s, a hand dishwashing soap, is using now transparent PET bottles rather than white. Also, 50% of Henkel’s global shower gel portfolio of its main brands including Fa, Dial and Bernangen are packed in clear PET.

Henkel also champions floatable sleeves on bottles instead of traditional labels, as they can easily be separated during the recycling process. To date, the company has introduced them across its fabric softener portfolio, including the Vernel brand. It will soon roll out floatable sleeves across all its sleeved bottles.

Global packaging company Amcor developed a 100% PCR and label-less PET bottle in Argentina. This launch was in partnership with Danone, global food and beverage company, and Argentinean moulded plastic Moldintec, for the water brand Villavicencio.

This innovation is groundbreaking for two reasons. First, it eliminates unnecessary plastic by removing the plastic label. Secondly, it makes the bottles more recyclable, because there’s less risk that labels or adhesives contaminate the recycling process. It also removes the need for sorting and separating labels and bottles, making it more cost-efficient.

What’s more, the new label-less bottle is made from 100% post-consumer recycled content and has a reduced carbon footprint of 21% compared to its previous incarnation.

These are just a few leading examples of companies implementing the Golden Design Rules and putting good intentions into action. This kind of innovation represents the way forward for designing plastic packaging in the consumer goods sector. Of course, there’s still much work still to be done, not least scaling these trailblazing initiatives across the whole industry. Indeed, the adoption of such practices should be an immediate priority.

The CGF Golden Design Rules provide a playbook for implementing the vital design changes that we know are needed, so that, for the sake of the planet, we can tackle the increasingly urgent problem of plastic waste and accelerate the transition to a circular plastics economy.

If you want to find out more about the Golden Design Rules, or think they could be relevant to your organization, please contact us using this link and we will be able to provide more detail and answer any questions you may have.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/766531-how-we-design-our-way-out-our-plastic-problem

3 ways sustainable brands could help conscious consumerism make a comeback

10 02 2023

Graphic: Chief Learning Officer

A new survey asked shoppers why they aren’t buying from socially responsible brands anymore. The biggest problems: They can’t name any and think they’re too expensive. By Heath Shacklford from Fast Company • Reposted: February 9, 2023

The number of Americans who believe it is important to support socially responsible brands has risen in the past decade. The percentage of consumers who plan to increase their spending with such brands in the year ahead has never been higher. Yet, when push comes to shove, fewer and fewer consumers report purchasing products and services from socially responsible companies. 

These are some of the key takeaways from the 10th annual Conscious Consumer Spending Index, a benchmarking study my agency runs that gauges momentum for conscious consumerism, charitable giving and earth-friendly practices. The Index score is calculated by evaluating the importance consumers place on purchasing from socially responsible companies, actions taken to support such products and services, and future intent to increase the amount they spend with responsible organizations. 

With inflation lingering near 40-year highs and one quarter of Americans reporting a decrease in their household income in the past year, more individuals are finding it challenging to support socially responsible brands, which typically cost more than traditional products and services. In fact, almost half of respondents (46%) said the cost of socially responsible goods and services prevented them from buying more from conscious companies. 

This decrease in purchasing power resulted in only 57% of respondents reporting they purchased goods for socially responsible brands in 2022, down from 64% in 2021 and 62% from the inaugural index results in 2013. 

While the current economic situation is making it harder for consumers to support socially responsible brands, there are also more systemic challenges to the “do good” movement. Specifically, here are three opportunities for improvement as we consider the path forward for conscious consumerism. 


Way back in 2015, TOMS was in the media spotlight as an icon for what do good business was all about. It was a hero brand, a poster child for the movement. As part of the Index that year, we began asking consumers to name one company or organization that is socially responsible. Based on unaided recall, TOMS topped the list of responses, and repeated that performance the following year. 

Fast forward to 2022. For the fourth year in a row, Amazon is the most cited brand when consumers are asked this question. Meanwhile, TOMS no longer makes the list at all. It’s a classic case of out of sight, out of mind. There are only so many experiences the average consumer can have with TOMS as a brand, even if they are rabid fans. Meanwhile, they engage with companies like Amazon and Walmart, number two on this year’s list, on a daily or weekly basis. 

The TOMS one-for-one business model is no longer a novelty and no longer the focus of frequent media attention. As a result, we have lost our hero brand for socially-responsible business. We have many strong brands who are well-known for doing good: Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s are among the examples. But no brand has captured our collective attention and imagination like TOMS did during its peak as a media darling. 

Ultimately, this movement needs a hero. A brand that emerges as a leader and carries the torch for socially-responsible business practices. A brand that is large enough to demand consistent attention from the news media and the average consumer. A brand who can serve as an example and as a powerful advocate for business as a force for good.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.fastcompany.com/90847231/sustainable-brands-conscious-consumerism-come-back

McKinsey & Co.: Consumers care about sustainability—and back it up with their wallets

9 02 2023

A joint study from McKinsey and NielsenIQ examines sales growth for products that claim to be environmentally and socially responsible. From McKinsey • Reposted: February 9, 2023

Total US consumer spending accounts for over $14 trillion annually and two-thirds of the US GDP. An important subset of this spending goes toward everyday consumer packaged goods (CPG), ranging from foods and beverages to cosmetics and cleaning products. The sheer size of the CPG sector—with millions of employees and trillions of dollars in annual sales—makes it a critical component in efforts to build a more sustainable, inclusive economy.

CPG companies increasingly allocate time, attention, and resources to instill environmental and social responsibility into their business practices. They are also making claims about environmental and social responsibility on their product labels. The results have been evident: walk down the aisle of any grocery or drugstore these days and you’re bound to see products labeled “environmentally sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “fair trade,” or other designations related to aspects of environmental and social responsibility. Most important is what lies behind these product claims—the actual contribution of such business practices to achieving goals such as reducing carbon emissions across value chains, offering fair wages and working practices to employees, and supporting diversity and inclusion. But understanding how customers respond to social and environmental claims is also important and has not been clear in the past.

When consumers are asked if they care about buying environmentally and ethically sustainable products, they overwhelmingly answer yes: in a 2020 McKinsey US consumer sentiment survey, more than 60 percent of respondents said they’d pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. A recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78 percent of US consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Yet many CPG executives report that one challenge to their companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives is the inability to generate sufficient consumer demand for these products. There are many stories of companies launching new products incorporating ESG-related claims only to find that sales fell short of expectations.

How can both of these things be true? Do consumers really care whether products incorporate ESG-related claims? Do shoppers follow through and buy these products while standing in front of store shelves or browsing online? Do their real-life buying decisions diverge from their stated preferences? The potential costs—particularly in an inflationary context—of manufacturing and certifying products that make good on ESG-related claims are high. Accurately assessing demand for products that make these claims is vital as companies think about where to make ESG-related investments across their businesses. Companies should therefore be eager to better understand whether and how these types of claims influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. Is a shopper more likely to purchase a product if there’s an ESG-related claim printed on its package? What about multiple claims? Are some kinds of claims more resonant than others? Does a claim matter more if it’s appended to a pricier product? Is it less meaningful if it comes from a big, established brand?

Over the past several months, McKinsey and NielsenIQ undertook an extensive study seeking to answer these and other questions. We looked beyond the self-reported intentions of US consumers and examined their actual spending behavior—tracking dollars instead of sentiment. The result, for CPG companies, is a fact-based case for bringing environmentally and socially responsible products to market as part of overall ESG strategies and commitments. Creating such products turns out to be not just a moral imperative but also a solid business decision.

Products making ESG-related claims averaged 28 percent cumulative growth over the past five-year period, versus 20 percent for products that made no such claims.

To be clear, this is only a first step in understanding the complex question of how consumers value brands and products that incorporate ESG-related claims. This work has significant limitations that merit mention at the outset.

First, although this study examines how the sales growth of products that feature ESG-related claims fared relative to similar products without such claims,1 it does not demonstrate a causal relationship that definitively indicates whether consumers bought these brands because of the ESG-related claims or for other reasons. For instance, the study does not control for factors such as marketing investments, distribution, and promotional activity. It primarily explores the correlation between ESG-related claims and sales performance.

Second, McKinsey and NielsenIQ did not attempt to independently assess the veracity of ESG-related claims for these products. It is of course paramount for the development of a sustainable and inclusive economy that companies back any ESG-related claims they make with genuine actions. “Greenwashing”—empty or misleading claims about the environmental or social merits of a product or service—poses reputational risks to businesses by eroding the trust of consumers. It also compromises their ability to make more environmentally and socially responsible choices, and potentially undermines the role of regulators. This research is limited to assessing how ESG-related claims correlate with purchasing behavior.

Our approach: Getting granular with ESG in store aisles

In collaboration with NielsenIQ, McKinsey analyzed five years of US sales data, from 2017 to June 2022. The data covered 600,000 individual product SKUs representing $400 billion in annual retail revenues. These products came from 44,000 brands across 32 food, beverage, personal-care, and household categories.

Six types of ESG claims

NielsenIQ’s measurement capabilities enabled us to identify 93 different ESG-related claims—embodied in terms such as “cage free,” “vegan,” “eco-friendly,” and “biodegradable”—printed on those products’ packages. The claims were divided into six classifications: animal welfare, environmental sustainability, organic-farming methods, plant-based ingredients, social responsibility, and sustainable packaging (see sidebar, “Six types of ESG claims”). The research also drew on consumer insights from NielsenIQ’s household panel, which tracks the purchasing behavior of people in more than 100,000 US households.

At the most fundamental level, the analysis examined the rate of sales growth for individual products by category over the five-year period from 2017 to 2022. We compared the different growth rates for products with and without ESG-related claims, while controlling for other factors (such as brand size, price tier, and whether the product was a new or established one). The results provide insights into whether, and by how much, products with ESG-related claims outperform their peers on growth and how different types of products and claims perform relative to each other.

Not every brand that made a claim saw a positive effect on sales, and the data indicate a plethora of nuance at the product level. But this study did broadly reveal, in many categories, a clear and material link between ESG-related claims and consumer spending. The following four overarching insights are important for consumer companies and retailers that build portfolios of environmentally and socially responsible products as part of their overall ESG strategies and impact commitments.

1. Consumers are shifting their spending toward products with ESG-related claims

The first goal of the study was to determine whether, over this five-year period, products that made one or more ESG-related claims on their packaging outperformed products that made none. To compare, we looked at each product’s initial share of sales in its category and then tracked its five-year growth rate relative to that share.2 We learned that consumers are indeed backing their stated ESG preferences with their purchasing behavior.

This study did broadly reveal, in many categories, a clear and material link between ESG-related claims and consumer spending.

Over the past five years, products making ESG-related claims accounted for 56 percent of all growth—about 18 percent more than would have been expected given their standing at the beginning of the five-year period: products making these claims averaged 28 percent cumulative growth over the five-year period, versus 20 percent for products that made no such claims. As for the CAGR, products with ESG-related claims boasted a 1.7 percentage-point advantage—a significant amount in the context of a mature and modestly growing industry—over products without them (Exhibit 1). Products making ESG-related claims therefore now account for nearly half of all retail sales in the categories examined.

Exhibit 1

Products that make environmental, social, and governance-related claims have achieved disproportionate growth.

We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

Growth was not uniform across categories (Exhibit 2). For instance, products making ESG-related claims generated outsize growth in 11 out of 15 food categories and in three out of four personal-care categories—but only two out of nine beverage categories. Shopping data alone can’t explain the reasons for such variances. In the children’s formula and nutritional-beverage category, for example, it’s possible that buying decisions reflect advice from doctors and that consumers probably won’t let ESG-related claims outweigh clinical recommendations.

Exhibit 2

Prevalence and performance of environmental, social, and governance-related claims vary by product category.

We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

The overall trend, however, was clear: in two-thirds of categories, products that made ESG-related claims grew faster than those that didn’t. Evidence from NielsenIQ’s household panel showed that some demographic groups—such as higher-income households, urban and suburban residents, and households with children—were more likely to buy products that made one or more ESG-related claims. Still, the research shows that a wide range of consumers across incomes, life stages, ages, races, and geographies are buying products bearing ESG-related labels—with an average of plus or minus 15 percent deviation across demographic groups for environmentally and socially conscious buyers compared with the total population. This suggests that the appeal of environmentally and socially responsible products isn’t limited to niche audiences and is making genuine headway with broad swaths of America.

2. Brands of different sizes making ESG-related claims achieved differentiated growth

Large and small brands alike saw growth in products making ESG-related claims. In 59 percent of all categories studied, the smallest brands that made such claims achieved disproportionate growth. But in 50 percent of categories, so did the largest brands that made these claims (Exhibit 3). Some examples of category variance: in sports drinks and hair care, smaller brands grew more quickly, while in fruit juice and sweet snacks, the larger brands did. (The data can’t explain the underperformance of medium-size brands, but it’s possible that they lack the marketing and distribution scale of large brands and the aura of credibility that may benefit smaller brands.)

Exhibit 3

Environmental, social, and governance-related claims can help boost growth for a variety of brand types.

We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

What about newer versus established products? Newer ones making claims outperformed their newer, nonclaiming counterparts in only 32 percent of categories.3 In 68 percent of categories, established products making ESG-related claims outperformed established products without them. Again, the data don’t explain these discrepancies. One hypothesis is that shoppers may expect newer products to make ESG-friendly claims but are pleasantly surprised when older products make them. (Notably, established products that made ESG-related claims also tended to experience slower sales declines than established products that didn’t.)

Similar performance rates were seen across all price tiers for products that made ESG-related claims. Success in the less-expensive price tiers might, in part, reflect the high prevalence of private-label products making such claims. In 88 percent of categories, private-label products that made them seized more than their expected share of growth.

This finding suggests that consumers choosing private-label brands may not merely be searching for the cheapest items available—they might also be eager to support affordable ESG-related products. During an inflationary moment, when affordability is probably becoming more important to consumers, CPG manufacturers and retailers might consider interpreting these data as incentives to offer their value-seeking shoppers more ESG-friendly choices at these lower price points.

3. No one ESG-related product claim outperformed all others—but less-common claims tended to be associated with larger effects

Consumers don’t seem to consistently reward any specific claims across all categories: we found no evidence that a particular claim was consistently associated with outsize growth. However, we did find that less-common claims were associated with higher growth than more prevalent claims. This might show that claims can be a means of differentiation, especially if they also have a disproportionate impact on a company’s ESG goals and impact commitments.

Products that made the least prevalent claims (such as “vegan” or “carbon zero”) grew 8.5 percent more than peers that didn’t make them. Products making medium-prevalence claims (such as “sustainable packaging” or “plant-based”) had a 4.7 percent growth differential over their peers. The most prevalent claims (such as “environmentally sustainable”) corresponded with the smallest growth differential. Yet even products making these widespread claims still enjoyed roughly 2 percent higher growth than products that didn’t make them, suggesting that commonplace claims can be differentiating.

An analysis of NielsenIQ’s household panel data also reveals a positive association between the depth of a brand’s ESG-related claims and the loyalty it engenders from consumers (Exhibit 4).

Exhibit 4

Brands with more sales from products making environmental, social, and governance-related claims enjoy greater loyalty.

We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

Brands that garner more than half of their sales from products making ESG-related claims enjoy 32 to 34 percent repeat rates (meaning that buyers purchase products from the brand three or more times annually). By contrast, brands that receive less than 50 percent of their sales from products that make ESG-related claims achieve repeat rates of under 30 percent. This difference does not prove that consumers reward brands because of ESG-related claims, but it does suggest that a deeper engagement with ESG-related issues across a brand’s portfolio might enhance consumer loyalty toward the brand as a whole.

4. Combining claims may convey more authenticity

This study also analyzed the effects on growth when a product package displayed multiple types of ESG-related claims. On average, products with multiple claims across our six ESG classification themes grew more quickly than other products: in nearly 80 percent of the categories, the data showed a positive correlation between the growth rate and the number of distinct types of ESG-related claims a product made. Products making multiple types of claims grew about twice as fast as products that made only one (Exhibit 5).Exhibit 5

Making multiple environmental, social, and governance-related claims across claim types is associated with higher product growth.

We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

We are not suggesting that companies can simply print more claims and certifications on their products and expect to be rewarded. These claims must of course be backed by genuine actions that have a meaningful ESG impact, and companies should heed the serious warning about greenwashing we presented in our introduction. Nonetheless, this finding does suggest that consumers may be more likely to perceive that a multiplicity of claims (rather than only one) made by a product correlates with authentic ESG-related behavior on the part of the brand. It also indicates that brands might be wise to reflect on their commitment to ESG practices and to ensure that they are thinking holistically across the interconnected social and environmental factors that underpin their products.

What does this mean for consumer companies and retailers?

Over the past century, global consumer consumption has been a central driver of economic prosperity and growth. This success, however, also comes with social and planetary impacts that result from producing, transporting, and discarding these consumer products. It should thus carry a moral imperative, for consumers and companies alike, to understand and address these impacts to society and the planet as part of buying decisions and ESG-related actions. Product label claims—if they represent true and meaningful environmental and social action—can be an important part of fulfilling this moral imperative.

For companies at the forefront of manufacturing and selling consumer packaged goods, there is no one formula for investing in environmentally and socially responsible product features and claims. Opportunities exist on multiple fronts. It’s important for consumer companies and retailers, first, to prioritize and invest in ESG-related actions that deliver the greatest advancement of their overall ESG commitments and, second, to inform customers of those actions, including information conveyed through product label claims. Our research points to a few insights that companies might consider as they attempt to advance their ESG commitments while also trying to achieve differentiated growth.

  • Ensure that ESG product claims support an overall ESG strategy with a meaningful environmental and social impact across the portfolio. This study shows that ESG-related growth can be possible across a broad range of brands—large or small, national or private label, in price tiers both high and low. Companies should define the actions, throughout the enterprise, that have the greatest ESG impact and then publicize those actions, where appropriate, with claims across their product portfolios. Rather than making a single large bet in a particular product or category, companies will probably have a greater ESG impact and a better chance of achieving outsize growth if they incorporate high-impact ESG-related benefits across multiple categories and products.
  • Develop a product design process that embraces ESG-related claims alongside cost engineering. Investments in product design aim to achieve a growth upside but must also—especially during an inflationary period—consider its cost. To ensure that investments in ESG-related claims have the greatest possible impact, companies can consider building strong product design capabilities that take a holistic look across costs, quality, and ESG-related impact. Using a disciplined design-for-sustainability approach, product designers can maximize the visibility, efficacy, and cost-efficiency of ESG-related product features that will resonate with consumers. Meanwhile, ingredients, materials, and processes that don’t contribute to this goal should be eliminated.
  • Invest in ESG through both existing brands and innovative new products. A healthy portfolio generally has a balanced mix of new and established products. ESG-related claims can play an important role in both. This study suggests that a flagship, established product fighting for share in a highly competitive environment could potentially create an edge by offering relevant and differentiating ESG-related claims. Given the outsize role of new products in boosting category growth, it’s critical to ensure that environmentally and socially responsible products account for a significant share of a company’s innovation pipeline—both to meet customer demand for such products and to ensure that they help advance the company’s overall ESG strategy.
  • Understand the ESG-related dynamics specific to each category and brand. Categories differ in significant ways, so it is critically important to study category-specific patterns to learn what has worked best in which contexts. Understanding which high-impact ESG claims are associated with consistently better performance in a given category can help companies focus on the claims that matter most to consumers in those categories. Companies can also benefit from being thoughtful about how specific ESG-related claims might align with the core positioning of each brand or differentiate it from those of competitors.
  • Embrace the holistic, interconnected nature of ESG by creating products addressing multiple concerns. This study shows that consumers seemingly don’t respond to specific ESG-related claims consistently across all categories. But they do tend to reward products that make multiple ESG-related claims, which may do more to help a product achieve a company’s overall ESG goals while also conveying greater authenticity and commitment to consumers. The incremental growth potential from introducing a second or third ESG-related benefit for a product may be equal to the growth impact of introducing the first one. To achieve stronger growth while delivering enhanced ESG-related benefits, companies could find it helpful to consider undertaking a category- and brand-specific assessment to determine whether and how to implement multifaceted claims.

Companies will probably have a greater ESG impact and a better chance of achieving outsize growth if they incorporate high-impact ESG-related claims across multiple categories and products.

This study does not answer all questions about the impact of investments by consumer companies in environmentally and socially responsible products. It does not assess the veracity of ESG-related claims, the relative environmental or social benefits of different claims, or the incremental cost of producing products that authentically deliver on those claims. It does, however, provide an important fact base revealing consumers’ spending habits with regard to these products, and this may help companies accelerate their ESG journeys. There is strong evidence that consumers’ expressed sentiments about ESG-related product claims translate, on average, into actual spending behavior. And this suggests that companies don’t need to choose between ESG and growth. They can achieve both simultaneously by employing a thoughtful, fact-based, consumer-centric ESG strategy. The overarching result might be not just healthier financial performance but also a healthier planet.


Jordan Bar Am is a partner in McKinsey’s New Jersey office, Vinit Doshi is a senior expert in the Stamford office, Anandi Malik is a consultant in the New York office, and Steve Noble is a senior partner in the Minneapolis office. Sherry Frey is vice president of total wellness at NielsenIQ.

The authors wish to thank Oskar Bracho, Nina Engels, Gurvinder Kaur, Akshay Khurana, and Caroline Ling for their contributions to this article. They also thank NielsenIQ for its contributions to the collaborative research conducted for this study.

This report draws on joint research carried out between McKinsey & Company and NielsenIQ. The work reflects the views of the authors and has not been influenced by any business, government, or other institution.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/consumers-care-about-sustainability-and-back-it-up-with-their-wallets

GM, Ford Seek to Scale Up Virtual Power Plants

7 02 2023

Image credit: hasan/Adobe Stock

By Tina Casey from triple pundit.com • Reposted: February 7, 2023

Crusaders against socially responsible investing have been holding forth about the evils of “woke capitalism” in recent years. For all the red-hot rhetoric, though, leading U.S. businesses continue to promote clean power. The latest effort involves GM, Ford, and other leading stakeholders in an effort to grow the market for virtual power plants.

What is a virtual power plant?

Although the idea may seem somewhat exotic, a virtual power plant is simply a networked grid system that enables individual electricity producers to interact with each other and with individual users. The overall aim is to avoid the cost of building new centralized power plants — and especially to avoid building new fossil power plants — while improving reliability and resiliency.

This network-based approach to grid planning is made possible by new smart grid and smart metering technology, along with the proliferation of rooftop solar and other small-scale renewable energy systems. It is a sharp contrast with the traditional strategy of building additional centralized power plants to get communities through periods of peak demand.

In addition, virtual power plants provide electricity users with new opportunities to save or even make money, depending on the incentives offered by their grid operator.

In a blog post last May, the U.S. Department of Energy described how virtual plants have come to include not only individual meters, but also individual appliances that are designed to interact with the grid, as well as electric vehicle charging stations and energy storage facilities.

“Operators gain the flexibility to better reduce peak demand and, as a result, defer investment in additional capacity and infrastructure to serve a peak load that is expected to increase as we electrify the nation’s economy,” explained Jigar Shah, director of the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office.

Why don’t we all have virtual power plants?

For all their potential benefits, virtual power plants are a relatively new phenomenon, and they still account for a vanishingly small percentage of grid activity in the U.S.

In a followup blog post last October, Shah noted that the market for virtual power plants has only been open since 2020, through an order of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “Nearly two years later, VPPs are just beginning to compete in organized capacity, energy, and ancillary services markets at a meaningful scale at the regional level,” Shah wrote.

In particular, Shah focused on the need for virtual power plants to secure revenue contracts. “To unleash the capital that makes ratepayer and wholesale power cost reductions possible, incumbent financiers need to see lower customer acquisition costs and consistent revenues for the critical services provided,” Shah noted.

Heeding the VPP call

GM and Ford have heeded the call for virtual power plants under the banner of the VP3, the new Virtual Power Plant Partnership hosted by the clean energy organization Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Other VP3 founding stakeholders include Google Nest, OhmConnect, Olivine, SPAN, SunPower, Sunrun, SwitchDin and Virtual Peaker.  

GM and Google Nest served as seed funders of VP3. RMI also hopes to build on the success of its Renewable Energy Buyers Association partnership, of which GM is also a founding member.

“VP3 is an initiative based at RMI that works to catalyze industry and transform policy to support scaling VPPs in ways that help advance affordable, reliable electric sector decarbonization by overcoming barriers to VPP market growth,” according to a press announcement from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“Our analysis shows that VPPs can reduce peak power demand and improve grid resilience in a world of increasingly extreme climate events,” added RMI CEO Hon Creyts, in a statement. “A growing VPP market also means revenue opportunities for hardware, software, and energy-service companies in the buildings and automotive industries.”

As a collaborative effort, VP3 will work to raise awareness about the benefits of virtual power plants, develop best practices and standards across the industry, and promote supportive policies.

The electric vehicle connection

Electric vehicles are in a perfect position to contribute to and benefit from virtual power plants, due to their mobility, flexibility and large energy storage capacity. That explains why Ford and GM jumped at the opportunity to get involved with VP3 as founding members.

Mark Bole, GM’s head of V2X and battery solutions division, noted that the V3 collaboration “underscores GM’s commitment to creating a more resilient grid, with EVs and virtual power plants playing a key role in helping to advance our all-electric future.”

In a separate announcement, Bill Crider, head of global charging and energy services at Ford, explained that electric vehicles are “introducing entirely new opportunities for consumers and businesses alike, creating a greater need for sustainable energy solutions to responsibly power our connected lifestyles.”

“Supporting grid stability through the introduction of technologies like Intelligent Backup Power is central to Ford’s strategy, and collaborating to advance virtual power plants will be another important step to ensure a smooth transition to an EV lifestyle,” Crider added.

Who’s next on the virtual power plant bandwagon?

Among the Big Three legacy U.S. automakers, Stellantis has yet to engage with VP3. That could change as the company that now owns Dodge and Chrysler ramps up its interest in virtual power plants.

In 2020, Stellantis began work on a large-scale virtual power plant in Italy based on electric vehicle-to-grid technology. The company, which also counts Fiat and Peugeot among its subsidiaries, may be waiting on the results of that project before committing itself to a policymaking endeavor in the U.S.

Interest in virtual power plants is also growing at Volkswagen and other overseas automakers that have an eye on the U.S. market. In addition, Tesla has embarked on virtual power plant ventures in California and Texas, deploying both its vehicle batteries and its Powerwall home batteries.

It remains to be seen if Tesla will collaborate with VP3 on industry standards, though. Tesla CEO Elon Musk established a well-known reputation for not collaborating in the early days of electric vehicle commercialization. He held out Tesla’s charging system as unique to Tesla, even as other automakers worked to create the standard CCS charging technology for Europe and North America.

Since its introduction in 2011, CCS has been supported by almost all other auto manufacturers in those two markets. Even Tesla itself leans on CCS to some degree, since it provides Tesla owners with an adapter to use at CCS charging stations. (Note: Japan and China continue to use their own charging systems.)

More recently, Musk further cultivated his outsider status in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown when he criticized the U.S. government’s public safety guidelines and upstaged an inter-industry collaboration to restart U.S. factories. He also spread confusion and misinformation about the virus and the COVID-19 vaccine on social media.

When U.S. President Joe Biden convened a major media event for auto manufacturers in August of 2021, it was no surprise to see Tesla left out in the cold. Last year, the S&P 500 also took Tesla to task for not keeping pace with its peers in the auto industry on corporate ESG (environment, social, governance) issues.

Musks’s use of social media also makes Tesla an outlier among CEOs in the auto industry and elsewhere, in regards to his willingness to amplify and normalize white nationalist rhetoric.

With or without Tesla, though, VP3 is yet another instance in which industry leaders are swatting away the anti-ESG agitators like flies to take advantage of new opportunities to grow their businesses and attract new customers.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/gm-ford-virtual-power-plants/765201

A New Year and New Approach to DEI at Agencies

7 02 2023

By Ashish Prashar from Triplepundit.com • Reposted: February 7, 2023

We in the advertising industry talk a lot about equity and inclusion. We design a lovely showroom that celebrates our apparent commitment to diversity in all its forms. Sadly, this is all superficial. Peel back the curtain and we see … nothing. We continue to ignore blatant racism and injustice and fail to take even the most basic steps that can drive real change.

For all the pledges we saw from agencies in 2020 to finally address systemic racism, over two years later we’ve seen little real action. Even while they complain of a “war for talent,” agencies aren’t doing enough to change how they recruit and promote talent and are struggling to make a meaningful cultural impact.

Racism and exclusion persist in the workplace, with higher turnover rates and lower promotion rates among people of color. For years, we’ve known there’s a clear business case for prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion at work beyond lip service. A McKinsey study found that the most diverse companies were 36 percent more profitable in 2019 than their least diverse counterparts.

While companies may sometimes have good intentions in coming forward with commitments after a big cultural moment, the impact falls short every time. After George Floyd’s death in 2020, company after company promised to recruit and retain more diverse talent and pledged to put cash toward DEI. But there was little accountability. Companies often don’t report their demographics, and it’s even more rare that they disclose information about spending.

A number of agencies are recruiting more diverse talent, and some are willing to share their data, with varying degrees of detail and frequency, but there is a lot more work to be done — particularly when it comes to instigating change at the top. This is where agencies can move beyond anti-bias and anti-racism training to provide things like committed executive sponsorship and mentorship of young diverse talent.

It can be difficult to hold organizations accountable when it comes to all aspects of DEI, particularly when looking beyond financial commitments and assessing what data is important when considering DEI progress.

We need to think bigger If we’re going to make meaningful change. The best DEI strategies target all parts of companies, and that starts by going beyond recruiting. Recruiting a diverse workforce is one part of DEI, but it should be viewed as a first step, not a comprehensive solution. It takes holding leaders accountable for change, something agencies haven’t seemed willing to take on. This may include difficult decisions around current leadership and has to encompass taking the impact on talent and agency culture into account when filling new leadership roles. Managers who create or enable a workplace environment that makes people of color uncomfortable should never be shoo-ins for new leadership roles.

It also means asking questions about who we work with, the kind of work we want to create, and the stories we want to share with the world. Companies often make the biggest difference when they change something within their spheres of influence. In this industry, our sphere of influence is narrative.

The creative industry has served as an arbiter of ideas and a reflection of a society’s failing or burgeoning health. Creatives have had a powerful hand in building either massive propaganda machines or culture-changing art and movements. The question about which side we’ll fall in this dichotomy can be answered by choosing to be conscious of our resources and of our responsibilities.

It is our responsibility in the creative industry to question what ideas and values we are disseminating, what stereotypes or biases we are introducing, and to whom we are giving platforms through our work. But it’s not enough just to avoid making the mistakes of the past. This industry has a responsibility to create new narratives that help tear down the biases and stereotypes it has previously helped perpetuate.

If agencies really want to make a difference in connecting with people of color, they can start by working on the issues and causes that impact and shape our lives. There is no shortage of partners in need of help addressing issues like justice reform, education and healthcare equity. Find out who you can work with to make an impact, and get to work. Talent (and prospective talent) will notice.

Make 2023 the year that your agency was truly an ally in the fight for diversity.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/dei-agencies/765591

A Check-In on the Hotel Sector’s ESG Initiatives

6 02 2023

Photo: CBRE

Hotel companies begin to set ESG goals. From CBRE Group • Reposted: February 6, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the urgency for companies and individuals to act to protect the wellbeing of the planet, their communities, their employees, and in the case of hotels, their guests. As such, environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives have accelerated.

The hotel industry’s commitment to ESG initiatives, while somewhat nascent, is increasing. Rising energy costs, which have increased electricity costs by 10% since May 2021, are likely to accelerate the industry’s focus on sustainability, particularly given the shift in traveler preferences toward more sustainable tourism and green accommodations and the growing demand for disclosure around climate risk. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has exacerbated energy price hikes, might motivate hotel operators to invest in long-term environmental upgrades, higher interest rates and sharply declining equity prices may offset this positive momentum, at least in the near term.

Info graphic Figure 1: Hotel Company Environmental Disclosures and Targets. Comparing hotels both C-Corps and REITs


According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), to keep pace with the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement, the global hotel industry needs to reduce carbon emissions per room per year by 66% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 (SHA, 2017).

Companies like Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Host Hotels have aligned themselves with science-based target initiatives (SBTi), which manage emissions reductions and net-zero commitments. Many hotel companies have made commitments to reduce their impact on the environment by setting climate-based targets. In many cases, they have adopted near-term targets on the path to achieving net zero. For example, Hilton pledged to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions by 61% by 2030. Marriott is committed to setting SBTi targets under the 1.5-degree scenario and targets a 30% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030.

Investors are interested in understanding exposure to these climate risks. In the hotel industry, corporations have started to recognize the importance of reporting and disclosing standards and the need to set targets to mitigate climate risks early. Benchmarking has historically been difficult because of the lack of transparency. Ten years ago, IHG created its own system, called Green Engage, for measuring the environmental friendliness of its hotels. However, the industry has moved to standardized measurement systems such as Energy Star and LEED certification for U.S. buildings including hotels. As regulations, disclosure requirements and policies in the U.S. come into focus, companies that take steps to implement and invest in disclosure and goal setting will be ahead of the game.

A person checking in at a hotel desk, a staircase to the right.
Info graphic "Figure 2: Black Representation as a Percentage of Hospitality Company Leadership by Level (US & Canada)" and a breakdown by title/position from 2019-2021


Developing a workforce, franchisee base and supplier network representing diverse populations and assuring equity and inclusion of all stakeholders has become a priority for many hotel companies. Social concerns also encompass issues related to guest and employee wellness and labor practices, as well as training programs that prevent human trafficking and human rights violations.

Companies create and support training programs to help at-risk youth and underserved populations by developing hospitality skills and a career path in the hospitality industry. In addition, companies look for ways to give back through monetary donations and volunteer hours.

Organizations like the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA)/Castell Project, National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH), She Has A Deal (SHAD), and Latino Hotel Association (LHA) advocate and support growth in women- and minority-owned, developed and operated hotels within the industry. According to AAHOA, Asian Americans represent more than 20,000 hoteliers owning 60% of hotels in the U.S. Black ownership remains below 2%, but this figure is growing, according to NABHOOD.

Info graphic "Figure 3: Women Representation as a Percentage of Hospitality Company Leadership by Level (US & Canada)" and breakdown by position/title from 2019-2021

Operator hiring practices are focused on ensuring diversity among staff and upper management. While the industry has made some progress in increasing the representation of women and Black employees in executive roles, trends among C-suite executives have held steady. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA)/Castell Project, 6% of hotel company CEOs are women, while less than 1% are Black. The hotel industry slightly lags the market where 8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and 1% of CEOs are Black. Marriott and Hilton have gender parity targets, and Wyndham aims for 100% gender pay equity by 2025. Host Hotels aims to include at least two women and two people of color in the candidate pool for all externally sourced executive positions.

While representation in high-level management has stayed roughly the same over the past several years, there has been an increase at the senior vice president, vice president and director levels, hopefully leading to a more diverse pool of potential candidates for higher-level positions in the future.

Many companies make supplier choices based on alignment with ESG priorities. For example, one of Hilton’s inclusivity-related goals is to double the spending on sourcing from local, small and medium-sized businesses and minority-owned suppliers. Choice Hotels’ supplier diversity program develops opportunities for diverse suppliers, educates associates and fosters an inclusionary procurement process among suppliers. Several hotel companies, including Choice, Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham, are members of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, whose mission is to serve as a growth engine for minority-owned business enterprises (MBE).

Operators are focused on making hotels a more integral part of the larger community with efforts to increase charitable giving and volunteering. Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham have set goals for employee volunteer hours and targets for annual corporate giving.

Two people standing and talking with a third in a wheelchair outside a glass-walled building.


Governance issues include board diversity, company ethics, transparent reporting on the environmental and social goals, and clear executive compensation guidelines.

Proxy advisory firms create policy guidelines each year to help institutional investors assess how to vote on various proxy items that might arise during the year. The most recent Glass Lewis policy updates for 2022 included voting provisions on board diversity and composition, oversight for ESG risks, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs), Say on Climate, and Say on Pay proposals. The last two topics allow shareholders to comment on a company’s climate and compensation strategies.

Best governance practices include having independent directors, separating the role of CEO and Chairman, staggering board terms, and eliminating poison pill provisions. Many public hotel companies and REITs follow some of these best practices already. Most hotel companies allow employees to anonymously report financial and ethical misconduct to promote ethical company culture. Hotel companies have also released statements regarding policies on human rights and condemning human trafficking.

Info graphic "Figure 4: Google Searches for Environmentally Friendly Hotels vs. Change Since 2019"

Why is ESG important?

Increasingly, travelers are expressing an interest in patronizing eco-friendly and socially responsible companies. The need to reduce carbon emissions from transportation could necessitate changes in business and leisure travel, a risk that could arise for hotel owners.

According to Google Insights, more than 50% of travelers surveyed say that environmental and sustainable considerations are essential when planning travel. As reported in the New York Times, according to a Booking.com survey, 71% of guests planned to travel “greener” and more than half indicated that they are determined to make more environmentally conscious travel choices in the next year.

Guests can quickly assess the environmental friendliness of a hotel by using rating systems like Tripadvisor’s GreenLeaders, Green Key Global, Green Seal, Green Tourism Active, Audubon Green Lodging Program, Travelife, or Earth Check, and LEED or Energy Star Certification provide information about the sustainability of a property. Since February 2021, the amount of searches on terms such as environmental hotel, green hotel and eco-hotel have remained above 2019.

The search for environmentally friendly accommodations is most common among luxury hotels guests who often seek vacations at resorts in environmentally sensitive areas like beaches and mountains. According to Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies, in April 2021, 82% of travelers said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future. Half said it was important to choose a company that had a strong sustainability policy. While there is some evidence that guests are willing to pay a premium for environmentally sustainable accommodations, because of inflation and uncertainty in the market, the premium they are willing to pay remains unclear.

Info graphic "Figure 5: Utility Costs per Available Room and as a Percentage of Revenue"

What is the hotel industry focusing on so far?

Hotel operators focus their environmental efforts on four key areas: water conservation, energy efficiency, carbon emissions and waste reduction. Unlike other real estate sectors, hotel buildings operate 24/7 so investment in technology to help manage the systems within the buildings provides savings over more hours of the day.


Water scarcity is a global problem. Many popular tourist destinations are in water-stressed areas. Hotels use eight times the amount of water the local community uses (SHA, 2017). As a result, how hotels manage water usage and consumption will substantially impact water-stressed communities. Water conservation efforts can include minimizing water use in bathrooms, laundry, landscaping and pools and installing water management systems. Offsite projects aimed at protecting and preserving local watersheds can also be created.


Waste reduction efforts focus on cutting food waste and upcycling materials. 18% of food purchased by hospitality and food services goes to waste (SHA, 2017). Many hotel companies have set targets to reduce the amount of food waste generated by their operations by 2030. Further, many have started implementing procedures to reuse and repurpose non-food waste. Several companies have eliminated straws and single-use plastics. Others participate in programs that recycle discarded soaps and amenities.


Most hotel companies are installing energy-efficient lighting and solar panels, sourcing clean electricity and purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Many are using predictive monitoring systems to optimize and manage energy use. New properties are often planned and built with energy efficiency in mind. With margins under pressure because of rising costs, investments in energy efficiency could pay off in the long run. In 2021, utility costs decreased to slightly more than 4% as a percentage of revenue and rose to slightly less than $2,000 per available room, which is still below the high of $2,087 in 2009. However, given increasing occupancies and higher utility costs in the wake of the pandemic and the steep pullback in hotel occupancies but not room rates, we expect utility costs to reach a record $3,214 per available room in 2022, up 67% year-over-year.


1% of global carbon emissions come from the hotel industry (SHA, 2017). Many hotel companies measure and report the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their owned and headquarter properties. In 2021, Hilton achieved a 50% reduction in carbon emission intensity in managed hotels and a 43% reduction for all hotels across their portfolio as measured against a 2008 baseline. Like Hyatt and Wyndham, many have set targets to reduce the GHG emissions generated from activities at these locations. A company’s value chain emits GHG through, for example, the actions of suppliers, business travelers and franchisees. Since most hotel c-corporations do not directly own most of their hotel properties, creating a carbon minimization strategy for their entire portfolio of owned, managed and franchised hotels may be more complicated.

Meeting planners and corporate and government travelers may request environmental impact information before making travel plans. Measurement and tracking are becoming a necessity. Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI) and other organizations are preparing to adopt standards and guidelines to help operators track waste, energy and water to make it easier to report on the environmental impacts of operations.

Info graphic "Figure 6: LEED or Energy Star Hotels as a Percentage of Owned or Managed Hotels in the U.S."

What Guests Can Expect

Guests should expect hotels to focus on wellness and placemaking including meals that include sustainably and locally-sourced food. Farm-to-table and farm-to-spa concepts are on the rise.

Companies support employee and guest wellness with added fitness facilities like a Peleton room, additional outdoor space, improved air quality systems and healthier locally inspired food options. In addition, guests may start to see décor that reflects local artisans and relies on upcycled materials. Improved hygiene and safety standards reflect expectations from the pandemic and are likely to remain as the pandemic recedes. Eco-friendly bedding and optional room cleaning for more than one-night stays are available in most hotels. The pandemic led to reduced housekeeping, and labor shortages and cost concerns have pushed chains to offer housekeeping upon request. However, union campaigns to bring back daily housekeeping to preserve jobs could jeopardize these efforts.

Financing Transactions and Development

As interest in environmental sustainability increases, companies turn to green bonds or sustainability bonds to finance many environmental projects.

The global green bond market hit $1 trillion in 2021. In the U.S., sustainable fund assets surpassed $300 billion. In 2020, Park Hotel Group in Singapore issued $176 million in green bonds to refinance the Grand Park City Hotel. In 2021, Host Hotels issued $450 million in green bonds to finance green projects, including increasing the number of LEED-certified buildings in the portfolio. Accor issued €700 million in sustainability bonds in November 2021 to refinance debt. These bonds are tied to the company’s sustainable development goals.

According to the LEED certification website database, there are more than 1,000 hotels associated with the LEED certification process in the U.S., excluding confidentially listed properties. Nearly 30% have achieved Platinum, Gold or Silver certification. An additional 154 hotels are LEED-certified. However, LEED-certified hotel properties represent less than 1% of hotel and motel properties in the U.S. Hotel REITs have a higher percentage of LEED- or Energy Star-certified portfolios among public companies, with Host boasting 23% of their portfolio certified to these standards. Marriott has nearly 9% of its owned, managed and franchised properties LEED- or Energy Star-certified, according to information gathered from LEED and Energy Star. Marriott set a goal to have 100% of their owned, managed and franchised hotels globally certified to a recognized sustainability standard, including, for example, Green Key and Green Globe.

Info graphic Summary of highlight topics from the article Covering the Environmental, Social, and Governance topics.


The hotel industry is in the early stages of achieving meaningful changes to environmental practices. Guest preferences and government mandates that include financial penalties and/or incentives will greatly influence the speed at which companies move toward their stated targets.

As the U.S. works to create a federal environmental policy, state and local governments will continue to set the agenda. Green projects will be facilitated by lowering the costs related to the projects and increasing the incentives to build and develop green projects. While current geopolitical and economic factors may have taken center stage, ESG goals will likely remain prevalent as countries prepare for the UN’s climate change conference, Conference of Parties (COP26), in November 2022.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/765521-check-hotel-sectors-esg-initiatives

Companies pledge millions in fed effort to stem road deaths

5 02 2023

Heavy traffic seen on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis. Minnesota’s own 3M is one of the companies pledging millions of dollars to help reduce traffic fatalities as part of a Department of Transportation program.  Photo: Kerem Yucel | MPR News 2022

From the Associated Press • Posted: February 4, 2023

Nearly 50 businesses and nonprofits — including rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, industrial giant 3M and automaker Honda — are pledging millions of dollars in initiatives to stem a crisis in road fatalities under a new federal effort announced Friday.

It’s part of the Department of Transportation’s “Call to Action” campaign, which urges commitments from the private sector, trade groups and health and safety organizations to reduce serious traffic injuries and deaths.

Traffic fatalities are near historic highs after a surge of dangerous driving during the coronavirus pandemic.

The public-private effort, unveiled Friday as part of the department’s multiyear strategy started last year to make roads safer, ranges from investments to improve school crosswalks to enhanced seat belt alerts in Uber vehicles and a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to promote proven injury prevention strategies, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told The Associated Press.

It comes on the heels of the award of 510 transportation grants this week totaling more than $800 million under the bipartisan infrastructure law to states and localities that, for the first time, focus on road safety such as by adding bike lanes, lighting, protected left turns and sidewalks.

After a record spike in 2021, the number of U.S. traffic deaths dipped slightly during the first nine months of 2022, but pedestrian and cyclist deaths continued to rise. More than 40,000 people are killed in road crashes a year.

“It’s still a crisis,” Buttigieg said, stressing a need for a national change in mindset. “We’re looking at road deaths coming in year after year in a similar proportion to gun deaths. The problem is they’re so widespread and so common that I fear as a country we’ve gotten used to it and perhaps fallen into the mistaken sense they’re inevitable.”

“We can’t solve any of this on our own,” he added. “We also know there isn’t one piece that will get this all down. But if we add all this together it can be enormous.”

Road travelers will see an array of safety measures this year. Uber told the AP that it is donating $500,000 — its single biggest investment in its effort to reduce drunken driving — for free and discounted rides in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri and Texas as part of the “Decide to Ride” program run in tandem with MADD and Anheuser-Busch.

The world’s largest ride-share company also said it was doubling the availability of its bike lane alerts this month from 71 cities to 144 for passengers exiting vehicles near cycling routes and providing a safety checklist for Uber Eats bicycle couriers. It also pledged to strengthen its seat belt alerts, such as by increasing their frequency or adding an audio message along with pop-up messages urging riders to “buckle up.”

“We were thinking about how we could make an impact more broadly — how we can get people to start making better choices,” said Kristin Smith, head of Uber’s road safety policy. “We know it’s going to take a broad coalition of people to be tackling the crisis on U.S. roadways right now.”

Uber’s investment comes along with separate commitments from Lyft, the second-largest rideshare company, which has partnered with the Governors Highway Safety Association in recent years to award tens of thousands of dollars in state grants to help reduce impaired driving and curtail speeding.

3M, the maker of Post-it Notes, industrial coatings and ceramics, told the AP it was continuing its partnership with state transportation agencies to identify the best technology to make road signs and lane markings more visible and reflective.

It’s already pledged to improve 100 school crossing zones and added to that a commitment of $250,000 this year for a new transportation equity initiative that will fund half a dozen major projects in underserved areas. The company cited as an example its partnership with nonprofit groups to help build out Providence, Rhode Island’s, Hope Street Urban Trail last year, featuring new bike and pedestrian lanes connecting the neighborhood to schools and the commercial district.

Dan Chen, president of 3M’s Transportation Safety Division, praised the federal government’s call for action as the “right approach” that will allow companies like 3M to work in sync with policymakers and other stakeholders “to make roads safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Other businesses and groups joining the effort include American Honda Motor Co., which pledged continuing investments totaling $2 million to improve teen driver safety; UPS, which will install automatic emergency braking on its newer big delivery vehicles; and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group, which will step up its push for industry adoption of safety technologies such as auto high beam.

The Transportation Department said it was issuing an open call for pledges, and more companies were expected to join in the coming weeks.

Buttigieg, noting the need for a sustained, multiyear effort to substantially reduce traffic fatalities, emphasized the opportunities as well with President Joe Biden’s five-year $1 trillion infrastructure law and said much more work remained to rebuild public works and improve people’s livelihoods.

“I definitely have four years’ worth of items and then some,” he said, speaking of his job as transportation secretary.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/02/04/companies-pledge-millions-in-fed-effort-to-stem-road-deaths

Net Zero Goals: Moving from Why to How to Now

4 02 2023

Image credits: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash and Meta

By Edward Palmieri via triple pundit.com Reposted: February 4, 2023

In 2020, Meta achieved net zero greenhouse gas emissions for our global operations and today, we are supported by 100 percent renewable energy. These are good first steps, but we have so, so much work still to do to become a fully sustainable company.

That was my thought as I arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th annual U.N. climate conference, or COP27. Held in November 2022 and dubbed the Climate Implementation Summit, the event gathered leaders from the public, nonprofit and private sectors — the global sustainability community — to debate, celebrate and negotiate global climate action.

Going in, “implement” was the word top of mind as leaders were expected to follow up on ambitious goals set the year before in Glasgow, Scotland. By day eight, however, the word on my mind was “mired.” As in: Are we, collectively, moving fast enough?

This year’s event had its high points — President Joe Biden’s address to world leaders, in which he affirmed the United States’ commitment to a low-carbon future, was certainly one. But COP27 missed the mark in some key ways, such as creating financing for developing countriesstruggling under the financial burden of climate change and creating mechanisms to help more countries reduce emissions. It is also clear we can all do more to measure and report on yearly progress.

executives discuss net zero at cop27
Edward Palmieri, director of global sustainability at Meta, speaks on a panel with other business leaders at COP27.  Submitted Photo.

At Meta, we believe the private sector has a critical role to play in our global ambitions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. During a challenging period for the company, focusing on the “true north” of measurable climate action and building climate resilience remains essential to our future and our bottom line.

Year-over-year, our net zero goal remains fixed even as we grow — both in terms of our users today and our plans for the metaverse tomorrow. And along with our net zero ambition, we are progressing related goals, including our aim to restore more water than we consume in our global operations.

Bringing all of this back to COP27, it’s clear that we can’t do it alone. No one can and, in fact, this is one of my favorite things about working in sustainability: collaboration. As we embark on a new year, Meta remains committed to collaborating with those committed to climate change and continues to expand our network of global partners. Most recently, we’ve:

  • Helped launch the Asian Clean Energy Coalition to advance renewable energy procurement in Asia with the World Resources Institute and other technology companies.
  • Joined with the U.S. State Department, USAID, and other companies in PREPARE Call to Action to the Private Sector on Adaptation.
  • Announced a new partnership with Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify and McKinsey Sustainability to launch Frontier, an advanced market commitment to help scale emerging carbon removal technologies that are crucial to tackling climate change.
  • Embraced an Emissions First accounting framework that moves beyond the current approach of megawatt-hour matching and focuses on emissions impact.
  • And during COP27 itself, were honored to support The Resilience Hub, an inclusively-built virtual and physical space that served as the home to the Race to Resilience campaign. Representing more than 1,500 non-state actors taking action on resilience around the world, the hub hosted more than 60 sessions each with incredible speakers offering their expertise and perspectives as well as live performances, art and culture.

Importantly, too, Meta is supporting and amplifying changemakers on the front lines of the climate fight. After our largest-ever global survey about climate change this past spring painted a picture of deep concern among respondents, we’re already seeing meaningful change happen when communities come together. More than 40 million people around the world are part of at least one of the 24,000 Facebook Groups dedicated to the discovery, protection, and appreciation of the earth and our environment.

In the meantime, Meta Sustainability continues to report on its work across our enterprise. As the U.N. High-Level Expert Group report clearly states, integrity matters, which is why our net zero commitments are not only public but are relentlessly tracked and reported each year.

But as the U.N. report notes, a net zero pledge “must contain steppingstone targets for every five years” in line with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or International Energy Agency (IEA) pathways as well as “prioritize urgent and deep reduction of emissions across their value chain.”

We agree. That’s why I look forward to sharing our own specific decarbonization plans in early 2023. And while I look forward to seeing my sustainability peers at COP28 next November as well, I encourage those in the private sector — companies big, small and every size in between— to join us in the climate fight.

Time is literally running out — and we need all of you, and all of your solutions, to make this work.

This article series is sponsored by Meta and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.  To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/accomplishing-net-zero-goals/765196

Pressures from climate change could challenge agreements safeguarding Great Lakes water

4 02 2023

The Little Sable Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. Many of the legal diversions of water tap Lake Michigan. Photo: MI PR

From Michigan Radio | By Lester Graham • Published February 2, 2023

This week a nationwide Associated Press story looked at the possibility of pumping water from the Mississippi River to the drought-stricken West. That might sound familiar. For years, people in the Great Lakes region have been wary of those dry states looking at diverting water from the Great Lakes.

The cost to pump water that far would be enormous, as Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush reported in 2015. It would require hundreds of miles of large pipes. Since much of the distance would be uphill — across at least one mountain range — many new power plants would be needed to power the pumping stations along the way. In the past, it was believed the cost of that water would astronomical.

With years-long droughts in Western states, some areas are desperate for water. And when you’re desperate you might be tempted to spend astronomical amounts. The thinking is pretty simple: If the Great Lakes have so much water and we have so little, doesn’t it make sense to give us access?

“I think that’s very intuitive to people,” said University of Michigan professor Richard Rood. He studies climate change and its effects.

But the Great Lakes states have an agreement that bans diverting water from the lakes. The Great Lakes Compact was approved partly because they were concerned about diversions closer to home. Towns straddling or just outside the basin wanted access to the water. The Great Lakes Compact bans water diversions in most cases. And even if a diversion is approved, it takes a unanimous vote from all eight Great Lakes states.

Climate change and its effects are challenging all our notions about controlling water. Economic and political pressures are building.

“I believe that once those stresses get high enough, that really all treaties, all things that have been done by humans will be up for negotiation,” Rood said.

Climate change effects are happening sooner and causing challenges that are catching policymakers unprepared.

The water levels of the Great Lakes is a good example. The lakes have always had a cycle of high levels and then low levels. But the much quicker water-level changes, along with higher highs and lower lows, are new.

When water levels get extremely high as they have been in recent years, there aren’t a lot of mechanisms to lower the level. There’s no pressure valve.

“I feel as if one of the most important things to do to anticipate climate change for this region is to start to seriously think about water and water management associated with the Great Lakes,” Rood said.

He did not specifically say that the excess water could or should be pumped elsewhere. But all the tools and all the rules regarding the Great Lakes could be subject to unprecedented economic and political pressure if officials are not prepared.

Rood says they need to start looking at things anew.

“I think all of those compacts, all the agreements, any engineering assets that are currently available were designed for an old climate. And when they were considering the new climate, I don’t think that they actually considered how quickly the climate is changing.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.michiganradio.org/environment-climate-change/2023-02-02/pressures-from-climate-change-could-challenge-agreements-safeguarding-great-lakes-water

A journey from work to home is about more than just getting there – the psychological benefits of commuting that remote work doesn’t provide

3 02 2023

Photo: The Motely Fool

By Matthew Piszczek, Assistant Professor of Management, Wayne State University and Kristie McAlpine, Assistant Professor of Management, Rutgers University • Reposted: February 3, 2023

For most American workers who commute, the trip to and from the office takes nearly one full hour a day – 26 minutes each way on average, with 7.7% of workers spending two hours or more on the road.

Many people think of commuting as a chore and a waste of time. However, during the remote work surge resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, several journalists curiously noted that people were – could it be? – missing their commutes. One woman told The Washington Post that even though she was working from home, she regularly sat in her car in the driveway at the end of the workday in an attempt to carve out some personal time and mark the transition from work to nonwork roles. 

As management scholars who study the interface between peoples’ work and personal lives, we sought to understand what it was that people missed when their commutes suddenly disappeared. 

In our recently published conceptual study, we argue that commutes are a source of “liminal space” – a time free of both home and work roles that provides an opportunity to recover from work and mentally switch gears to home. 

During the shift to remote work, many people lost this built-in support for these important daily processes. Without the ability to mentally shift gears, people experience role blurring, which can lead to stress. Without mentally disengaging from work, people can experience burnout.

We believe the loss of this space helps explain why many people missed their commutes.

Businesswoman reading a book while traveling on a commuter train
One of the more surprising discoveries during the pandemic has been that many people who switched to remote work actually missed their commutes. Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Stone via Getty Images

Commutes and liminal space

In our study, we wanted to learn whether the commute provides that time and space, and what the effects are when it becomes unavailable. 

We reviewed research on commutingrole transitions and work recovery to develop a model of a typical American worker’s commute liminal space. We focused our research on two cognitive processes: psychological detachment from the work role – mentally disengaging from the demands of work – and psychological recovery from work – rebuilding stores of mental energy used up during work.

Based on our review, we developed a model which shows that the liminal space created in the commute created opportunities for detachment and recovery. 

However, we also found that day-to-day variations may affect whether this liminal space is accessible for detachment and recovery. For instance, train commuters must devote attention to selecting their route, monitoring arrivals or departures and ensuring they get off at the right stop, whereas car commuters must devote consistent attention to driving.

We found that, on the one hand, more attention to the act of commuting means less attention that could otherwise be put toward relaxing recovery activities like listening to music and podcasts. On the other hand, longer commutes might give people more time to detach and recover.

In an unpublished follow-up study we conducted ourselves, we examined a week of commutes of 80 university employees to test our conceptual model. The employees completed morning and evening surveys asking about the characteristics of their commutes, whether they “shut off” from work and relaxed during the commute and whether they felt emotionally exhausted when they got home. 

Most of the workers in this study reported using the commute’s liminal space to both mentally transition from work to home roles and to start psychologically recovering from the demands of the workday. Our study also confirms that day-to-day variations in commutes predict the ability to do so. 

We found that on days with longer-than-average commutes, people reported higher levels of psychological detachment from work and were more relaxed during the commute. However, on days when commutes were more stressful than usual, they reported less psychological detachment from work and less relaxation during the commute.

Creating liminal space

Our findings suggest that remote workers may benefit from creating their own form of commute to provide liminal space for recovery and transition – such as a 15-minute walk to mark the beginning and end of the workday. 

Our preliminary findings align with related research suggesting that those who have returned to the workplace might benefit from seeking to use their commute to relax as much as possible

To help enhance work detachment and relaxation during the commute, commuters could try to avoid ruminating about the workday and instead focus on personally fulfilling uses of the commute time, such as listening to music or podcasts, or calling a friend. Other forms of commuting such as public transit or carpooling may also provide opportunities to socialize. 

Our data shows that commute stress detracts from detachment and relaxation during the commute more than a shorter or longer commute. So some people may find it worth their time to take the “scenic route” home in order to avoid tense driving situations.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://theconversation.com/a-journey-from-work-to-home-is-about-more-than-just-getting-there-the-psychological-benefits-of-commuting-that-remote-work-doesnt-provide-195799

Brands, Don’t Make These Mistakes During Black History Month (and What To Do Instead)

3 02 2023

A colorized image of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington, where an estimated 250,000 people gathered to demand equal access to jobs, housing and education — and hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 

By Mary Mazzoni from triple pundit.com • Reposted: February 3, 2023

Corporate efforts to observe Black History Month are often cringe-worthy at best and offensive at worst. If you’re planning to add a kente avatar on social media or pen a generic letter to employees, please do us all a favor and stop now. Business leaders can — and should — do better. Here’s some advice to get you started, from the Black thought leaders who have been telling us for years. 

Don’t: Pander to your employees and customers this Black History Month

In the Year of Our Lord 2023, we should really all be past the platitudinous “Happy Black History Month” email to employees — or worse, the dreaded product drop. Think back to when TriplePundit asked workplace inclusion expert Kim Crowder about corporate cash-grabs around Juneteenth: “This is a repeat of why Juneteenth was needed,” she reminded business leaders. “It is basically commodifying the Black American experience by those who do not share those experiences and who have benefitted from the enslavement of people.”

The same holds true for brands that seek to capitalize on Black History Month while doing little to honor Black history or benefit Black communities. Just ask Ernest Owens, editor at large for Philadelphia magazine, who has never been shy with his opinions about how brands observe the holiday. 

“Just like Pride Month, Black History Month has become a routine time of year when corporations say the absolute most while doing the least for marginalized communities,” he wrote in a 2021 op/ed for the Washington Post

Do: Look inwardly — and act accordingly 

Rather than looking to commodify the holiday or pat your company on the back for its great work on racial equity, turn your mind to the work ahead of you — and communicate frankly and thoughtfully with your employees and stakeholders about what comes up.

“Organizations should be looking beyond one day and focusing on areas such as pay equity, promotion rates, the ability for Black team members’ work to be seen and acknowledged, and partnering with Black businesses regularly — including paying them well for their work,” Crowder told us. “The goal is to work toward Black liberation every day.”  

Don’t: Expect praise for pennies 

In December polling commissioned by TriplePundit, less than 20 percent of over 3,000 U.S. consumers said they’d be impressed by a billion-dollar company donating $5 million to a social cause like racial equity, with the majority agreeing that “business should do more.” 

Findings like these indicate that people are growing more wary of brands appearing to “check the box” by donating to a nonprofit. They want to see what changes you’re making, and they want to hear about the outcomes of that change. 

“The key here is authentic leadership —  in other words, walking the walk, not just talking the talk,” Gary Cunningham, president and CEO of Prosperity Nowtold TriplePundit back in 2021. “It’s easy to say that you’re anti-racist without changing anything about how your organization operates.” 

Do: Champion your partners

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with donating to nonprofits or establishing new programs that look to address racial equity, nor is it intrinsically wrong to communicate these programs during Black History Month. But if you do, do so thoughtfully.

Find clear alignment between your company, your teams and the nonprofits you support. Communicate with your stakeholders about the great work your partners do and why you trust them. For example, did someone from your team recommend this organization? Does it work in your community? Is it particularly positioned to address the issues your teams and stakeholders care about most? Remember, this is an opportunity to educate your stakeholders about the issues — and highlight the perspective of your community partners that know these issues best. 

“So often I’ve witnessed corporations and business leaders act as if because they are very smart and can solve problems that they can understand and know how to solve the complex problems of racial and ethnic inequality,” Cunningham told us. “Trust the guidance of people who can help you learn, help you bring your work into the community, and help you understand the depth of the issues that you’re trying to contain.” 

Don’t: Task your Black employees with more unpaid work

As companies pushed to demonstrate their commitment to racial equity in 2020, it wasn’t long before they looked toward their Black employees to do the hard work for them.

Asking Black employees to speak on panels, lead new employee resource groups, or consult on strategies for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — all for no added compensation — is not only unfair, but it also plainly illustrates the very inequities these companies claim to oppose. Over half of Black women in particular told the consultancy Every Level Leadership they feel singled out as the sole resource to educate their colleagues about DEI. 

Think of your team’s well-being, and don’t repeat the ugly cycle this Black History Month. As Najoh Tita-Reid, chief marketing officer for Logitech, observed in Fortune back in June 2020: “Black people did not create these problems, so please do not expect us to resolve them alone.”

Do: Take responsibility for educating yourself

It’s past time for non-Black people to take personal responsibility for educating themselves about racial justice issues, rather than leaning on their friends and colleagues. If you’re an executive, read more, watch more and generally consume more media about the topic. Encourage everyone in your organization to do the same, and give them opportunities to discuss it, if and when they choose.  

“Take responsibility for your own education on racial issues,” Tita-Reid suggested in Fortune. “Create companywide forums and Q&A sessions to educate large groups. Bring in experts, if needed, to provide actionable plans that systematically implement racial equity. Identify those of us who are open to speak, and respect those of us who do not want to talk about the situation.” 

When it comes to your formal DEI strategy work: Resource it, and pay your teams accordingly. “Do not shortchange race equity work,” Andrea J. Rogers and Tiloma Jayasinghe of Community Resource Exchange recommend in Nonprofit Quarterly. “And if you feel like doing that, ask yourself why, and take this opportunity to unpack biases around what is valued, who is valued, and what impact means for your organization.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/brand-mistakes-black-history-month/765126

Junk food companies say they’re trying to do good. A new book raises doubts

2 02 2023

As soda consumption has dropped in the West, companies are making an effort to woo new customers in other places. This Coke bottle ad is in Mozambique. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

By Pien Huang from NPR • Posted: February 1, 2023

So how do you get people to drink more soda?

That’s a question Coca-Cola and other soda makers are wrestling with as soda drinking has waned in U.S. and European markets.

In the 2010s, Coke made a big push into rural parts of lower income countries to sell more soda. So they made smaller, more durable bottles – a 1-cup serving size that could be sold more cheaply and last longer on the shelves.

They built solar-powered coolers that allowed sellers to keep Coke bottles cold in places off the electrical grid – and offer mobile phone-charging to their customers.

And they launched “splash bars” – small businesses run by women that sold shots of Coke, Fanta and other Coca-Cola products for as low as 7 U.S. cents a serving to make the beverage affordable to everyone.

Eduardo J. Gómez is the author of the new book Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies.
Eduardo J. Gómez is the author of the new book Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies. Photo: Eduardo J. Gómez

The company presented this strategy as a win-win – they benefited because their product was becoming more available in remote areas and female entrepreneurs had a new way to earn a living.

That’s a story that Eduardo J. Gómez tells in his new book. As he points out, Coke’s characterization of a win-win isn’t universally embraced.

Gómez, director of the Institute of Health Policy and Politics at Lehigh University, says Coca-Cola is one of many junk food companies – fast-food giants like McDonald’s and KFC – who are targeting “emerging economies” – countries where income is on the rise along with trade with wealthier nations.

In these countries, many people see the ability to buy so-called junk food – not just soda but packaged chips and candies and fast food from chains – as a sign they’re made it. And the junk food manufacturers try to put a positive face on their campaigns to expand their audience. They forge partnerships with local governments to fight hunger and poverty – even as the rising consumption of junk food leads to soaring rates of obesity and diabetes.

In his new book, Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies, Gómez describes a two-way street, where industry and political leaders work together to launch well-meaning social programs – but also skirt regulations that would harm industry’s profits. The result, Gómez says, is that junk food industries thrive in low resource countries at the expense of children and the poor, who develop long-term health problems from consuming sugar-laden, ultra-processed foods.

NPR spoke with Gómez about junk food barges, soda taxes and why healthy eating campaigns aren’t cutting it against ads for candy and fried chicken. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity:

Let’s start with an easy question. What is junk food?

The new book Junk Food Politics.
Johns Hopkins University Press

I define junk food as highly ultra-processed fast foods, from KFC to burgers, candies, confectionery, ice cream. Junk food is also Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew – high-sugar, carbonated soda drinks.

What role does junk food play in lower- and middle-income countries? 

There’s a proliferation of these junk foods now, not only in cities but in rural communities in India, in Mexico, even into the Brazilian Amazon.

In the emerging economies, these foods that were not [previously] accessible suddenly became very accessible in the 1990s or early 2000s.

We’re seeing [a vast and rapid] infiltration of these foods because of what I call “fear and opportunity.” “Fear” that industries have of losing market [share] in Western nations, and “opportunity” because there’s a [growing] middle class in these emerging economies that are eager to purchase them.

What is junk food politics?

Junk food politics is a two-way street. It’s when [junk food] industries influence politics and society so they can avoid regulations that will impact their profitability, such as taxes on junk foods and regulations on marketing and sales.

We often think industry is to blame. But governments are also to blame [because political leaders partner with industry on their own political agendas – which gives industry clout to undermine policies that would cut their profits].

What’s a good example of junk food politics in action?

In Brazil, for example, you have the rise of industry groups, [like the Brazilian Food Industry Association] that were very, very influential in lobbying the congress and infiltrating national agencies that are working on regulations [like advertising restrictions for junk food]. They’re engaging in partnerships [with governments and communities where] they can be perceived as a solution to the problems [of obesity and diabetes] by, for instance, helping to improve the [sharing] of nutritional information. They’re building legitimacy and avoiding costly regulations.

At the same time, [Brazil’s] President Lula [in his prior term] had a famous anti-hunger campaign. And Lula worked with Nestlé to strengthen this program and went as far as creating an office within his presidential palace to partner with industries that wanted to contribute to this anti-hunger program. And so that was a strategic, two-way partnership that benefited industry and benefited the government.

Of course, President Lula’s intentions were admirable in alleviating hunger. But perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to partner with companies that produce a lot of these ultra-processed foods, because it indirectly legitimizes the company. It amplifies the popularity of their products and their harmful consequences to health.

As low-resource countries rise in wealth, rates of obesity and diabetes also tend to rise. What is the scope of the problem? Why does it happen?

The incidence of childhood obesity is growing much faster in developing countries [than in the West]. [Rates of] type 2 diabetes among adolescents are extremely high in India and China and Mexico.

The rural poor are also becoming obese and getting diabetes. This is something we don’t normally assume. In India, for example, in the 1990s and early 2000s, obesity was seen as a “disease of luxury.” It was perceived that only people with status and money that could go to fast food establishments were having this problem. For many years the government didn’t do anything because they perceived [growing rates of diabetes and obesity] as affecting a small minority of the population.

But now, it’s become a general issue because of the increased access to junk foods.

How has access increased? How did junk foods go from being concentrated in cities to being common food items in rural places?

[Junk food distribution] started in cities, and over time they [expand] out to other areas of the country. In Brazil, for a while, Nestlé had these large blue Nestlé boats that traveled throughout the Amazon and distributed candy and cookies throughout the Amazon. [The “junk food barges,” as critics called them, have stopped]. In rural India, there are shops where people pay for one small shot of Coca-Cola while getting their phones charged.

In every country, junk food is something that’s voluntarily bought. It’s voluntarily eaten. So why are programs that encourage healthy eating and daily exercise and nutrition labeling not enough to convince people to avoid it? 

Of course we want people to have nutritional information – we want people to know more, and we want them to know what they’re eating. And there’s growing commitment and success on better food labels. Chile, for example, has introduced more effective food labels – on products high in salt, sugar and fat, they have adopted these black octagon images that are on the food products – that have rippled out through the Americas.

But people are always flooded with marketing and access [to processed foods]. Even when you have this knowledge, there are incentives for you to eat these products that are readily available and less healthy.

What I hear you saying is that healthy eating and exercise campaigns focus on the individual, but poor health and nutrition are rooted in bigger, systemic problems.

Yes, absolutely. Nutritional information is very important, but it’s insufficient. We need to address socioeconomic factors, marketing factors, all these things that play into [making junk foods an easy, accessible choice].

You say governments in low-resource countries have made some progress on taxing junk foods and improving the labeling. What else do you think needs to happen? 

None of these governments have committed to restricting advertising. [Countries have, instead, relied on voluntary pledges from companies to refrain from marketing unhealthy foods to children.] In a lot of these countries, there are no firm laws on what can be sold in schools. And even when they have laws or rules that prohibit the sale of junk foods in schools, they are not effectively being enforced.

There’s a paradox: While countries [such as Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia] have done a great job of increasing nutritional awareness, obesity and diabetes is still skyrocketing. And that’s because governments are doing a little bit on the fringes but not really getting to the heart of the problem. They’re not taking on these industries through regulations to sales and advertising.

What does junk food politics cost society?

There’s an extremely high cost to society, mainly from the health consequences. If you develop type 2 diabetes as a consequence of high sugar intake, it has a tremendous impact on your quality of life. Argentina, for example, has seen a crisis in the affordability of insulin. In the context of global universal health care, we don’t pay enough attention to ensuring that the poor do not go broke in getting the medicines that they need to address their high blood pressure, their [blood] sugar.

What’s the solution? What can cut into the influence that junk food politics has on public health?

The solution is having a government that is committed to ensuring the health of all of society. One that provides activists and communities with a voice that is equal to, or exceeds, the voice of industries within government. One that has no fear of taking on the powerful industries and creating regulations that protect vulnerable populations – especially children and the poor – over the interests of major corporations.

And the solution, too, is our work in communities as researchers and as community members, to raise the awareness about the importance of good nutrition and exercise, and to increase awareness about the need for access to healthier foods.

And just wondering if climate change will play any role?

That’s the topic of my next book – climate change and malnutrition.

And your thesis is that with the changing climate …

… the availability of healthy foods becomes increasingly scarce.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/02/01/npr-junk-food-companies-say-theyre-trying-to-do-good-a-new-book-raises-doubts

Minnesota is poised to require carbon-free electricity. What does that mean?

2 02 2023

Solar panels gleam in the late-afternoon light at the Sylvan solar project just west of Brainerd on Dec. 7. Minnesota Power recently built the 15.2-megawatt project and two others in Hoyt Lakes and Duluth as part of its effort to increase its solar capacity. Photo: Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

By Kirsti Marohn from Minnesota Public Radio News • February 2, 2023

A bill that would require Minnesota’s electricity to be carbon-free by 2040 is speeding through the Legislature.

The House has already passed the measure, and the Senate is set to vote on it Thursday. Here’s a closer look at the bill, and what it will mean for electric utilities and their customers.

In Minnesota, burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to produce electricity is one of the biggest sources of carbon and other greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

What’s prompting state lawmakers to push this through now?

It’s being driven mainly by concerns about climate change. 

It’s no longer the biggest culprit, as utilities have moved toward cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind. Transportation and agriculture are now the largest contributors of greenhouse gasses in Minnesota.

However, Gov. Tim Walz, DFL lawmakers and environmental groups want to see utilities make the transition to cleaner electricity more quickly. The carbon-free electricity measure is part of an action plan to combat climate change the Walz administration released last fall.

The proposal has been debated for a couple of years. Now that the DFL Party controls both the House and Senate, it has a real chance of passage.

What would the bill do?

It includes two separate standards for renewable and carbon-free energy.

A 2007 Minnesota law already requires utilities to get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. The state achieved that goal early, in 2017. This bill would bump that amount up to 55 percent renewable by 2035.

It also creates a new carbon-free standard. It requires utilities that do business in Minnesota to get a percentage of their electricity from carbon-free sources — starting with 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035 and finally, 100 percent by 2040.

What’s the difference between renewable and carbon-free energy?

The bill defines renewable energy as solar, wind, hydropower, hydrogen and biomass, such as a plant that burns garbage or wood to produce electricity.

There is one exception in the bill — the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, or HERC, which burns trash for energy in downtown Minneapolis. It’s been a source of environmental justice concerns over the years because of the air pollution it emits.

HERC stacks
The HERC stacks are 215 feet tall. MPCA models show pollution disperses mostly to the north and south of the plant, with heaviest deposition between Broadway Street and Loring Park. Photo: Stephanie Hemphill | MPR 

The bill’s authors say that facility should not be considered in the same category as other renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.

Another change: Previously, only energy from small hydropower projects under 100 megawatts qualified as renewable. The bill lifts that restriction, so large, existing hydropower projects would now qualify.

That’s significant, because it would now include electricity that Minnesota Power gets from a large hydro facility on the Manitoba River in Canada, which has been controversial among some environmental and tribal groups.

What qualifies as carbon-free energy?

Carbon–free energy sources are those that don’t release any carbon dioxide, such as solar, wind, hydropower or nuclear. Under the bill, nuclear power is not considered a renewable energy source, but it is carbon free.

Minnesota has two nuclear plants, at Prairie Island and Monticello, owned by Xcel Energy. Xcel has said it plans to continue to operate those plants at least for the next couple of decades to help its carbon-free goals.

Minnesota law currently bans building new nuclear plants in the state. Some Republican lawmakers have argued that the ban should be lifted to allow new nuclear energy production, especially smaller modular technology.

Nuclear Generating Plant is seen
Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant is seen through a gate from Wakonade Drive in Prairie Island Indian Community in Welch, Minn. The plant began operating in 1973 and is located adjacent to Prairie Island Indian Community. On-site storage of nuclear waste has proven controversial, as Prairie Island is among the closest communities to a nuclear power plant in the U.S. Photo: Tom Baker for MPR News

Are utilities saying whether they will be able to meet these new standards?

The state’s largest utilities, including Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy and Duluth-based Minnesota Power, have been cautiously supportive. They already have goals of being carbon-free by 2050, so this would move up that date by a decade.

“We’re actually excited about being pushed to go faster,” said Chris Clark, Xcel’s president in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, in an interview. “We also recognize, though, that it’s a challenge.”

A big reason why major utilities aren’t opposing the bill is because it includes exemptions and ways they can meet the standard without ditching fossil fuels altogether. 

For example, a utility could buy renewable energy credits to offset electricity generated by a natural gas plant.

Also, the bill contains so-called “off ramps.” The state Public Utilities Commission could allow a utility to delay meeting the standard if doing so would have big impacts on electric rates or create reliability issues.

“It is an offset mechanism to add flexibility, and address that there is some uncertainty about how to reach a fully carbon-free electric system top to bottom,” said Allen Gleckner, clean electricity director for the nonprofit Fresh Energy. But he thinks utilities will be able to meet the standard by adding more solar and wind and adopting new technologies, such as battery storage.

Another exemption gives utilities leeway for what’s called “beneficial electrification” — for example, if a utility needs more capacity to switch people using natural gas to heat their homes to electricity.

What’s been the response of member-owned cooperatives to the bill?

Some co-ops have voiced concerns about whether they’ll be able to meet these standards while keeping their costs in check. They tend to be smaller, and often have contracts to buy power from fossil fuel plants.

As a compromise, the bill was amended to give co-ops and municipal power agencies a little more time to make the transition. 

They would need to be 60 percent carbon free by 2030, instead of 80 percent like the investor-owned utilities. But all utilities would need to reach the 100 percent standard by 2040.

Why is North Dakota involved in the debate?

North Dakota produces a lot of power from coal and gas. Top officials in that state have threatened a lawsuit over Minnesota’s bill, saying it would illegally restrict interstate commerce and hinder their ability to develop technology to capture carbon.

This isn’t the first legal spat the two states have had over the issue. 

North Dakota officials sued Minnesota over its 2007 law that essentially banned the state from importing power from new coal plants outside of the state. A federal court sided with North Dakota.

If the bill passes the Senate, what’s the next step?

The Senate will consider the same bill that passed the House. If it passes, it will go to Walz, who has said he will sign it.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/02/02/minnesota-is-poised-to-require-carbonfree-electricity-what-does-that-mean

Blue Streak

1 02 2023

Photo: © Jennifer Adler

A trailblazing approach to marine conservation piloted in Seychelles finds new success in Belize. 

By Julian Smith, Freelance Writer from the Nature Conservatory • Reposted: February 1, 2023

Scuba-diving the kaleidoscopic reefs of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, just a 15-minute plane hop from Belize City, is like swimming into an Oscar-worthy underwater nature documentary. Sea turtles and spotted eagle rays soar past silently, while rainbow parrotfish munch algae off branches of healthy coral. A 3-foot nurse shark circles close by, while at the bottom of a small canyon—Hol Chan means “little channel” in Mayan—two male coral crabs face off like gladiators.

Hol Chan is the shining star of Belize’s myriad marine wonders and one of its busiest tourism destinations, but it’s just a small part of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Studded with hundreds of offshore atolls and cayes, Belize’s 240-mile coastline is home to more than 500 kinds of fish and three species of threatened sea turtle. Along the shore, mangrove forests, lagoons and estuaries shelter West Indian manatees and American crocodiles.

A scuba diver swims alongside Belize's barrier reef.
DEEP DIVE Belize’s 185-mile barrier reef is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and features world-class dive sites like Mermaid’s Lair (pictured here) off of Ambergris Caye. Photo: © Jennifer Adler

Although a portion of the barrier reef was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, the entire reef is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and most of it is also under increased pressure from overfishing and nearby development. By 2020, Belize’s public debt had reached $1.5 billion—larger than the country’s GDP—making it difficult to set aside money for environmental protection.

COVID-19 only made things worse. Visitation to Hol Chan has dropped drastically since 2019. Since entry fees cover most of the parks’ operations, the ranger staff is down from 15 to 11 (at one point last year there were only five). Before the pandemic, the park’s marine treasures were guarded around the clock; now, rangers are available only from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Belize needed a solution that would preserve its natural capital and jump-start the industries that depend on it. The government looked to a financial transaction piloted by The Nature Conservancy in the Indian Ocean just a few years before. If that revolutionary model of marine conservation could find purchase on Belize’s Caribbean shores, it would restructure the country’s debt, freeing up tens of millions of dollars to protect its coastal and offshore resources—a transformative prospect for a country where nearly 50% of the population relies on the ocean for food and jobs.

A map of Belize shows offshore conservation projects.
CARIBBEAN COUNTRY Located on the northeastern coast of Central America, Belize is buffered by hundreds of low-lying islands known as cayes and the massive Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Graphic: © Mapping Specialists

The Nature Conservancy closed its first debt-for-ocean transaction in 2016 with the Republic of Seychelles, a far-flung island nation 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa. The Conservancy created a financial mechanism, which would later become the underpinning of its Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation program, to help Seychelles secure long-term funding for marine conservation. The Conservancy worked with the country and its creditors to help lower the financing rate for part of the nation’s debt, and helped find international grants to further support the transaction.

In exchange, the country committed to protect at least 30% of its marine territory and devotes part of its annual debt-payment savings toward conservation management.
It’s like a bank agreeing to refinance a home if the owner promises to put the savings toward improvements—just on a country-sized scale.

A purple gorgonian in Mermaid's Lair off of Ambergris Caye.
UNDERWATER GARDEN Marine biodiversity such as fused staghorn coral and purple gorgonians (pictured here at Laughing Bird Caye) draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to Belize each year. Photo: © Jennifer Adler

In the Seychelles, the program has been a resounding success. The $22 million debt restructuring has generated up to $430,000 per year for marine conservation and climate change adaptation. In less than five years, the country has been able to manage and protect more than 150,000 square miles of ocean, an area larger than Germany. The country has applied a wide scale of restrictions to these waters, including new marine preserves, dive-only sites, no-fishing zones and areas that are only open to community-level fishing.

Belize was a natural choice for the next Blue Bond, says Julie Robinson, program director for TNC in Belize, who spent much of her childhood in the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, the gateway to Hol Chan. “As far back as I can remember, I was in the water exploring the seagrass beds, reefs and mangroves,” she says. “I was 6 years old when I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting marine life.”


Mariko Wallen works with seaweed growing along a rope underwater.
GREEN THUMB Mariko Wallen, founder of the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmer’s Association, tends to seaweed on a farm 18 miles off the coast of Plancencia. Photo: © Jennifer Adler
Haley Cattouse dives to work on the seaweed farm.
GARDEN OF LIFE Haley Cattouse tends to a sustainable seaweed farm which not only provides economic opportunities for local women but also creates habitats and nurseries for marine species. Photo: © Jennifer Adler
Mariko Wallen dives with seaweed in a net.
BAG IT UP Mariko Wallen harvests a tangle of seaweed from a long cord. Belizeans use this type of seaweed in cooking and as an ingredient in punches and smoothies. Photo: © Jennifer Adler
Mariko Wallen works with seaweed growing along a rope underwater.
Haley Cattouse dives to work on the seaweed farm.
Mariko Wallen dives with seaweed in a net.

Such feelings are common among citizens of Belize. “We have a very strong connection to nature,” says Robinson. “We are proud of our country; everyone calls it ‘The Jewel.’”

Innovating strategies to conserve its dazzling terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity is nothing new for Belize. It was the first country in Central America to designate a Marine Protected Area, with the creation of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument in 1982. It was also the first to sign a subsidized “debt-for-nature” swap, an agreement finalized in 2001 that canceled $8.5 million in outstanding loans and protected 23,000 acres of its tropical rainforests.

A dense field of staghorn coral is just under the water.
CORAL COMEBACK Staghorn corals grow thick at a dive site near Laughing Bird Caye. The nonprofit organization Fragments of Hope has planted almost 90,000 corals here since 2006. Photo: © Jennifer Adler

Taking Belize’s ocean conservation to scale was the next step, says Robinson. Nearly half of the country’s population lives in coastal communities, which rely on marine ecosystems for income, food and flood protection. Tourism accounts for 40% of the country’s economy, and a quarter of that is estimated to depend on coral reefs alone. Yet the annual budget to enforce environmental laws and expand protected areas has been less than $1 million.

To bolster the national economy and address that funding gap at the same time, the Belize government began initial discussions with TNC around a debt restructure for marine conservation in 2010. The road wasn’t easy, negotiations stalled, and the model was taken to the Seychelles instead, but a decade later, with Robinson at the helm, talks resumed in earnest. Finally, in November 2021, the Conservancy, along with global investment bank Credit Suisse and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, helped restructure $553 million of the country’s debt—ultimately reducing the principal by $250 million in the process. Over the next 20 years, as Belize pays down its new, more favorably termed loan, the savings are expected to generate $180 million to support in-country marine conservation. An endowment established through the transaction is designed to finance marine protection after the loan is repaid.

Elkhorn coral under bright blue water.
MARINE MAJESTY Elkhorn coral grows at Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize. Photo: © Shireen Rahimi

Along with the large-scale policy changes, the Blue Bond will also make more money available on the ground to support community ventures that promote Belize’s marine economy. One model for what these projects might look like floats just under the surface of the water, 18 miles offshore from the beach town of Placencia. Seven square wooden frames, 50 feet on a side, are attached by cables to the shallow sandy bottom. Long cords strung across the frames are lined with tangles of Eucheuma isiforme, a type of seaweed Belizeans use in cooking and as an ingredient in punches and smoothies. This sustainable seaweed farm is run by the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association (BWSFA), a nonprofit founded in 2019.

“We were looking for supplementary livelihoods because we can’t depend on fisheries or tourism anymore, because of climate change and depleted fish stocks,” BWSFA President Mariko Wallen says. “We decided to find a way to empower ourselves.”

The Conservancy helped the group set up a seaweed farming course and used satellite imagery to determine the best places for the farms, which also provide habitat for ecologically important and commercially valuable species like snapper, spiny lobsters and conch.

Wallen hopes the BWSFA can benefit directly from the Blue Bond by accessing funding to expand the farms, open a business arm for marketing and develop products like lotions, conditioners, soaps and cosmetics that could one day be sold abroad.

We are proud of our country; everyone calls it ‘The Jewel.’

Some citizens, like Wallen, will see the Blue Bond as a boon for their ocean-based livelihood, but 18 months of confidentiality around the deal—to avoid driving up the price of the Blue Bond before an agreement was struck—mean that there is some public relations work to be done to convince others. “We need to be able to show people how they directly benefit from it,” says Robinson. To address possible concerns that the deal will make more of the ocean off-limits to Belizeans, TNC is getting the word out by holding information sessions, producing educational videos and hiring new staff dedicated to engaging with stakeholders.

Community input is a large part of how the government will determine the types of protections that will be put into place. The goal is not to cut communities off from marine resources that they need for food or tourism, but to ensure enough areas are protected to make the entire system more sustainable. 

The Blue Bond shows that it’s possible to balance economic development and conservation in a way that benefits everyone, Briceño says. “We have a responsibility to the planet and future generations to try to conserve as much as we can. That’s why this is so exciting: we can show that conservation is good business and that it can have a direct impact on the people most affected by climate change.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.nature.org/en-us/magazine/magazine-articles/belize-blue-bonds/

The ocean twilight zone could store vast amounts of carbon captured from the atmosphere – but first we need to build a 4D system to track what’s going on down there

1 02 2023

Mesobot starts its descent toward the ocean twilight zone. Photo: Marine Imaging Technologies, LLC © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

By Peter de Menocal, Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution via The Conversation • February 1, 2023

Deep below the ocean surface, the light fades into a twilight zone where whales and fish migrate and dead algae and zooplankton rain down from above. This is the heart of the ocean’s carbon pump, part of the natural ocean processes that capture about a third of all human-produced carbon dioxide and sink it into the deep sea, where it remains for hundreds of years.

There may be ways to enhance these processes so the ocean pulls more carbon out of the atmosphere to help slow climate change. Yet little is known about the consequences.

Peter de Menocal, a marine paleoclimatologist and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, discussed ocean carbon dioxide removal at a recent TEDxBoston: Planetary Stewardship event. In this interview, he dives deeper into the risks and benefits of human intervention and describes an ambitious plan to build a vast monitoring network of autonomous sensors in the ocean to help humanity understand the impact.

First, what is ocean carbon dioxide removal, and how does it work in nature?

The ocean is like a big carbonated beverage. Although it doesn’t fizz, it has about 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere. So, for taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it someplace where it won’t continue to warm the planet, the ocean is the single biggest place it can go.

Ocean carbon dioxide removal, or ocean CDR, uses the ocean’s natural ability to take up carbon on a large scale and amplifies it.

Illustration showing methods of carbon storage, including growing kelp
Methods of ocean carbon storage. Graphic: Natalie Renier/©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Carbon gets into the ocean from the atmosphere in two ways.

In the first, air dissolves into the ocean surface. Winds and crashing waves mix it into the upper half-mile or so, and because seawater is slightly alkaline, the carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean.

The second involves the biologic pump. The ocean is a living medium – it has algae and fish and whales, and when that organic material is eaten or dies, it gets recycled. It rains down through the ocean and makes its way to the ocean twilight zone, a level around 650 to 3300 feet (roughly 200 to 1,000 meters) deep.

The years indicate how long deposited carbon is expected to remain before the water cycles to the surface. Graphic: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The ocean twilight zone sustains biologic activity in the oceans. It is the “soil” of the ocean where organic carbon and nutrients accumulate and are recycled by microbes. It is also home to the largest animal migration on the planet. Each day trillions of fish and other organisms migrate from the depths to the surface to feed on plankton and one another, and go back down, acting like a large carbon pump that captures carbon from the surface and shunts it down into the deep oceans where it is stored away from the atmosphere.

Why is ocean CDR drawing so much attention right now?

The single most shocking sentence I have read in my career was in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, released in 2021. It said that we have delayed action on climate change for so long that removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is now necessary for all pathways to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F). Beyond that, climate change’s impacts become increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.

Because of its volume and carbon storage potential, the ocean is really the only arrow in our quiver that has the ability to take up and store carbon at the scale and urgency required.Peter de Menocal at TEDxBoston: Planetary Stewardship.

A 2022 report by the national academies outlined a research strategy for ocean carbon dioxide removal. The three most promising methods all explore ways to enhance the ocean’s natural ability to take up more carbon.

The first is ocean alkalinity enhancement. The oceans are salty – they’re naturally alkaline, with a pH of about 8.1. Increasing alkalinity by dissolving certain powdered rocks and minerals makes the ocean a chemical sponge for atmospheric CO2.

Vibrant corals of many types and colorful fish.
Studies show increasing alkalinity can also reduce ocean acidification stress on corals. Photo: Wise Hok Wai Lum/WikimediaCC BY-SA

A second method adds micronutrients to the surface ocean, particularly soluble iron. Very small amounts of soluble iron can stimulate greater productivity, or algae growth, which drives a more vigorous biologic pump. Over a dozen of these experiments have been done, so we know it works.

Third is perhaps the easiest to understand – grow kelp in the ocean, which captures carbon at the surface through photosynthesis, then bale it and sink it to the deep ocean. 

But all of these methods have drawbacks for large-scale use, including cost and unanticipated consequences.

The view looking toward the ocean surface through a kelp forest.
Kelp takes up carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Photo: David Fleetham/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

I’m not advocating for any one of these, or for ocean CDR more generally. But I do believe accelerating research to understand the impacts of these methods is essential. The ocean is essential for everything humans depend on – food, water, shelter, crops, climate stability. It’s the lungs of the planet. So we need to know if these ocean-based technologies to reduce carbon dioxide and climate risk are viable, safe and scalable.

You’ve talked about building an ‘internet of the ocean’ to monitor changes there. What would that involve?

The ocean is changing rapidly, and it is the single biggest cog in Earth’s climate engine, yet we have almost no observations of the subsurface ocean to understand how these changes are affecting the things we care about. We’re basically flying blind at a time when we most need observations. Moreover, if we were to try any of these carbon removal technologies at any scale right now, we wouldn’t be able to measure or verify their effectiveness or assess impacts on ocean health and ecosystems.

So, we are leading an initiative at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to build the world’s first internet for the ocean, called the Ocean Vital Signs Network. It’s a large network of moorings and sensors that provides 4D eyes on the oceans – the fourth dimension being time – that are always on, always connected to monitor these carbon cycling processes and ocean health. 

Illustration showing where different species live at different depths in the ocean.
Top predators such as whales, tuna, swordfish and sharks rely on the twilight zone for food, diving down hundreds or even thousands of feet to catch their prey. Graphic:  Eric S. Taylor /© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Right now, there is about one ocean sensor in the global Argo program for every patch of ocean the size of Texas. These go up and down like pogo sticks, mostly measuring temperature and salinity.

We envision a central hub in the middle of an ocean basin where a dense network of intelligent gliders and autonomous vehicles measure ocean properties including carbon and other vital signs of ocean and planetary health. These vehicles can dock, repower, upload data they’ve collected and go out to collect more. The vehicles would be sharing information and making intelligent sampling decisions as they measure the chemistry, biology and environmental DNA for a volume of the ocean that’s really representative of how the ocean works.

Having that kind of network of autonomous vehicles, able to come back in and power up in the middle of the ocean from wave or solar or wind energy at the mooring site and send data to a satellite, could launch a new era of ocean observing and discovery.

Does the technology needed for this level of monitoring exist?

We’re already doing much of this engineering and technology development. What we haven’t done yet is stitch it all together.

For example, we have a team that works with blue light lasers for communicating in the ocean. Underwater, you can’t use electromagnetic radiation as cellphones do, because seawater is conductive. Instead, you have to use sound or light to communicate underwater.

We also have an acoustics communications group that works on swarming technologies and communications between nearby vehicles. Another group works on how to dock vehicles into moorings in the middle of the ocean. Another specializes in mooring design. Another is building chemical sensors and physical sensors that measure ocean properties and environmental DNA. A tour of sea life in the ocean twilight zone.

This summer, 2023, an experiment in the North Atlantic called the Ocean Twilight Zone Project will image the larger functioning of the ocean over a big piece of real estate at the scale at which ocean processes actually work.

We’ll have acoustic transceivers that can create a 4D image over time of these dark, hidden regions, along with gliders, new sensors we call “minions” that will be looking at ocean carbon flow, nutrients and oxygen changes. “Minions” are basically sensors the size of a soda bottle that go down to a fixed depth, say 1,000 meters (0.6 miles), and use essentially an iPhone camera pointing up to take pictures of all the material floating down through the water column. That lets us quantify how much organic carbon is making its way into this old, cold deep water, where it can remain for centuries.

For the first time we’ll be able to see just how patchy productivity is in the ocean, how carbon gets into the ocean and if we can quantify those carbon flows. 

That’s a game-changer. The results can help establish the effectiveness and ground rules for using CDR. It’s a Wild West out there – nobody is watching the oceans or paying attention. This network makes observation possible for making decisions that will affect future generations.

Do you believe ocean CDR is the right answer?

Humanity doesn’t have a lot of time to reduce carbon emissions and to lower carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

The reason scientists are working so diligently on this is not because we’re big fans of CDR, but because we know the oceans may be able to help. With an ocean internet of sensors, we can really understand how the ocean works including the risks and benefits of ocean CDR.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/the-ocean-twilight-zone-could-store-vast-amounts-of-carbon-captured-from-the-atmosphere-but-first-we-need-to-build-a-4d-system-to-track-whats-going-on-down-there-197134

Top Universities Fail to Prepare World Leaders for the Climate Crisis, Report Finds

1 02 2023

A graduation ceremony at Harvard University. Image credit: Christian Lendl/Unsplash

By Patrick McCarthy from triple pundit.com • February 1, 2023

The late comic George Carlin once said, “You don’t need a formal conspiracy when interests converge.” 

A recent assessment of the educational background of world leaders underscores Carlin’s quip, and it provides at least one explanation for global leaders’ consistent inaction regarding climate change: They all went to the same schools.

The new project by youth campaign group Mock COP found that the 30 top universities in the world have not fostered the leadership skills and civic engagement necessary for our world leaders to navigate the impending ecological crisis.

Entitled “1.5 Degrees,” referencing the solemn recommendation from climate scientists that the planet must not warm beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent catastrophe, the project demonstrates that current world leaders are birds of a feather — an idle feather at that.

Just as Carlin said, the converging interests of world leaders — who share common backgrounds, educations, worldviews, priorities and goals — has resulted in an informal conspiracy of inertia.

Top universities failed leaders, and leaders fail us

“The people with the privilege to study at the so-called ‘top’ universities, and go on to become key decision-makers across society, are being educated at institutions that do not act in the public good and do not ensure their graduates are prepared to lead a more just and sustainable future,” the 1.5 Degrees website reads. 

The project includes a ranking that grades the world’s top universities on how their engineering, law, economics, politics and health courses, which are traditionally chosen by decision-makers, align with the actions needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The ranking of top universities includes Yale, Cambridge, Oxford and Stanford Universities, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Imperial College London. No institution received a favorable grade. MIT, as well as Beijing’s Tsinghua and Peking Universities, scored the worst at preparing their graduates for a low-carbon future.

The team of young activists at Mock COP ultimately concluded that the most educated among us are often the worst enablers of climate destruction. They further found that critical courses pertaining to environmental citizenship are “influenced by large corporates working against the advice of the world’s leading climate scientists.”

By and large, leaders around the world are consistent in their approach to climate change — they don’t approach it at all. This can’t come as a surprise, though, once the common education factor is acknowledged. For example, Mock COP found that 20 current heads of state attended Harvard University. These schools shape their students’ worldviews, so if world leaders all went to the same few top universities, it is no wonder that they are acting in lockstep.

“World leaders consistently let us down at conferences like Davos, where they have the opportunity to create real, lasting change,” said Josh Tregale, a mechanical engineering student and Mock COP campaign coordinator, in a statement — referring to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting earlier this month. “Had our leading decision makers undertaken university courses which effectively taught the facts of the climate crisis and instilled sustainable thinking, then they would understand the urgency and act accordingly. Instead they are uneducated on the facts and unprepared for climate leadership.”

This all adds up to world leaders are well-meaning and inept at best — and ill-intentioned and adept at worst. Neither is very reassuring, but now that the issue has been identified, Mock COP hopes to influence change.

Youth organizers at Mock COP push for curriculum reform to tackle climate change

Mock COP hopes this project will serve to influence curriculum reform and create more of an emphasis on civic duty and environmental engagement at these top universities. If the most exclusive and accomplished institutions begin to prioritize this sort of education, the rest of academia should follow suit. 

The team expects this information to help climate-minded young people decide where to study, as many students may think twice about attending these top institutions after Mock COP’s report.

The planet is not dying from ignorant people making mistakes. It is dying from self-interested, highly educated people making deliberate decisions that prioritize profits over planet. It is time to start teaching the people who have the power to save the planet that saving the planet is not only in their best interest — it’s in their job description.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/top-universities-failing-climate-change/765136

Installnet Launches Brand Refresh Reflecting Purpose and Mission

1 02 2023

New offerings spur rapid growth. From Installnet • February 1, 2023

With a growing roster of Fortune 1000 clients, commercial furniture solutions company Installnet today announces its brand refresh to better reflect its purpose and mission demonstrated through the company’s new offerings and development.

The company’s new wordmark reflects its modern and flexible approach to finding solutions that simplify the creation of inspired workspaces. Installnet’s self-serve platform of 350 commercial furniture installation companies, previously known as the Office Furniture Installation Alliance (OFIA), has been rebranded as Installhub.

The purpose of Installnet, founded more than 25 years ago, is to create opportunities for people and communities to thrive. The company provides a range of services, from premium project management to Ecoserv, an award-winning circular decommission program.

“Our mission is to deliver industry-leading solutions that help employees, business and communities prosper,” said Dale Ewing, founder of Installnet. “That includes zero waste to landfill through our Ecoserv program, which provides a much-needed, credible solution to companies serious about meeting their sustainability goals. Getting zero done is an audacious, but achievable goal.”

Over the last year, Installnet has served more than 50 Fortune 1000 companies. Its award-winning Ecoserv program has diverted more than 30 million pounds of waste from landfills since its founding in 2012 and served more than 1600 community groups, providing much-needed furniture, fixtures and equipment.

In 2022, Ecoserv diverted 92% more waste from landfill than the year before and donations to community groups rose 35%. Installnet and Ewing were both honored with 2022 SEAL Sustainability Awards for Ecoserv. The SEAL Sustainability Award honorees range from global brands to high-growth start-ups and scale-ups. This is the second consecutive year Installnet has received the award.

In 2022 the company completed more than 11,000 installation projects in the U.S. and Canada, helping customers create inspired workspaces. With a robust installation partner network and a proprietary web-based software, the company expects to grow 20% in 2023.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/764931-installnet-launches-brand-refresh-reflecting-purpose-and-mission

Cheap sewer pipe repairs can push toxic fumes into homes and schools – here’s how to lower the risk

1 02 2023

With this sewer pipe repair method, the chemical waste is blown into the air and can enter buildings through buried sewer pipes, plumbing, foundation cracks, windows, doors and HVAC units. Photo: Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

By Andrew J. Whelton, Professor of Civil, Environmental & Ecological Engineering, Director of the Healthy Plumbing Consortium and Center for Plumbing Safety, Purdue University. Reposted: February 1, 2023

Across the U.S., children and adults are increasingly exposed to harmful chemicals from a source few people are even aware of. 

It begins on a street outside a home or school, where a worker in a manhole is repairing a sewer pipe. The contractor inserts a resin-soaked sleeve into the buried pipe, then heats it, transforming the resin into a hard plastic pipe. 

This is one of the cheapestmost common pipe repair methods, but it comes with a serious risk: Heating the resin generates harmful fumes that can travel through the sewer lines and into surrounding buildings, sometimes several blocks away.

These chemicals have made hundreds of people ill, forced building evacuations and even led to hospitalizations. Playgroundsday care centers and schools in several states have been affected, including in ColoradoConnecticutMassachusettsMichiganPennsylvaniaWashington and Wisconsin.

With the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law now sending hundreds of millions of dollars into communities across the U.S. to fix broken pipes, the number of children and adults at risk of exposure will likely increase. 

For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have worked to understand and reduce the risks of this innovative pipe repair technique. In two new studies, in the Journal of Environmental Health and Environmental Science and Technology Letters, we show that workers, and even bystanders, including children, lack adequate protection. 

Our research also shows the technology can be used safely if companies take appropriate action.

Fixing aging pipes with harmful chemicals

As U.S. water infrastructure ages, communities nationwide are grappling with thousands of broken sewer pipes in their 1.3 million-mile inventory.

The new law provides US$11 billion for sewer fixes, about one-fifth of the EPA’s estimate of the need.

A face-on view into a sewer pipe, with a blue lining visible within the outer gray wall.
The blue cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP, can be seen inside this damaged storm sewer pipe. The CIPP was created by steam cooking the resin into the hard plastic. Photo: Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

The least expensive repair method is called cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP. It avoids the need to dig up and replace pipes. Instead, contractors insert a resin-saturated sleeve in the manhole and through the buried pipe. The resin is then “cooked,” typically with steam or hot water, and transformed into a hard plastic.

One challenge is that the resin safety data sheets do not disclose all of the chemicals, and some entirely new ones are created during heating.

Chemical plumes rising from nearby manholes and contractor exhaust pipes are also not just “steam.” These plumes contain highly concentrated chemical mixtures, uncooked resin, particulates and nanoplastics that can harm human health. When we examined the heating process in the lab, we found that as much as 9% of the resin was emitted into the air.

CIPP production is known to discharge about 40 chemicals. Some cause nausea, headaches and eye and nasal irritation. They can also lead to vomiting, breathing difficulties and other effects. Waste that contains chemicals, uncooked resin, particulates, and nanoplastics is discharged into the air during CIPP manufacture. This complex emission is not steam. Andrew Whelton/Purdue University.

Styrene, the most frequently documented chemical, is acutely toxic, and “reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer, according to the National Research Council. Chemicals other than styrene can be responsible for plume toxicity

CIPP-associated illnesses in nearby buildings

So far, chemical exposures have been reported in at least 32 states and seven countries. In addition to schools, this process has contaminated homesrestaurantsmedical facilities and other businesses. Companies have been cited for exposing their workers to unsafe levels of styrene.

The earliest U.S. incident we know about was in 1993 at an animal shelter in Austin, Texas. Seven people were overcome by fumes and transported to a hospital. In 2001, fumes entered a hospital inn Tampa, Florida, causing employee breathing problems. Since then, hundreds more people are known to have been exposed, and the numbers are likely much higher.

In our experience, exposures are rarely made public. Municipalities have encouraged people affected by the fumes to only contact the CIPP contractor and pipe owner. In some cases, people were told the exposures were always harmless. 

Chemicals can enter buildings through sinks, toilets, foundation cracks, doors, windows and HVAC systems. The chemicals can even enter buildings that have water-filled plumbing traps. Anticipating this risk, bystanders have been told to cover their toilets and close all windows and doors.

Wind can help dilute outdoor chemical levels. However, concentrated plumes can rush through buried pipes into nearby buildings. Bathroom vent fans may sometimes increase the indoor chemical levels. Levels that should prompt firefighters to wear respirators have been found in the buried pipes.

An illustration shows how fumes can move from the source into homes and buildings.
Fumes generated during sewer line repair, on the right, can enter nearby homes, schools and other buildings. Graphic: Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

The highest levels have been found during and after the heating process

Hand-held air testing devices commonly used by some firefighters and contractors do not accurately identify specific chemical levels. An earlier studyshowed the styrene levels were sometimes wrong by a thousandfold.

How to protect public health

With the wave of infrastructure projects coming, it’s clear that controls are needed to lower the risk that people will be harmed.

Our research points to several actions that residents, companies and health officials can take to keep communities safe.

We advise residents to:

  • Close all windows and doors, fill plumbing traps with water and leave the building during pipe-curing operations, especially when children are in the building. 
  • Report unusual odors or illnesses to health officials or call 911. Seek medical advice from health officials, not the contractors or pipe owners. Evacuate buildings when fumes enter. 

Companies can minimize risks too. They can:

  • Stop the cooking process when fumes leave the worksite to lessen the spread of contamination and exposures.
  • Use resins that release less air pollution than standard resins. 
  • Ask federal agencies to evaluate hand-held air testing device use.
  • Capture and treat air pollution from the process. While this has not yet been done at scale, it is straightforward and would be a fraction of the overall project cost. This waste will be hazardous because of its toxicity.

Public health and environmental agencies should also get engaged. Federal agencies know that the practice poses health risks and can be fatal to workersCalifornia and Florida recognize in safety documentation that bystanders could be harmed. But, so far, few steps have been taken to protect workers’ and bystanders’ health.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://theconversation.com/cheap-sewer-pipe-repairs-can-push-toxic-fumes-into-homes-and-schools-heres-how-to-lower-the-risk-192918

U.S. Climate Targets Are Within Reach, But Overconsumption Still Matters

31 01 2023

Image credit: Alexandru Boicu/Unsplash

By Riya Anne Polcastro from TriplePundit.com • Reposted: January 31, 2023

There’s good news on the viability of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, with a new report detailing how the U.S. could potentially come within reach of his 2030 objective to power 80 percent of the nation’s electrical grid with clean energy. Doing so would also meet U.S. targets to halve carbon emissions by 2030, using a 2005 baseline, and further reduce them to 77 percent below 2005 levels by 2035, according to the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Evergreen Action.

Time is of the essence, however. And not just because of any impending climate tipping points. The current administration isn’t guaranteed a second term. And, as the Washington Post’s Maxine Joselow pointed out last week, an incoming Republican president would likely reverse any last-minute changes. Ironically, rushing the conversion may also be the best way to end partisanship over the issue as long-term savings become apparent to businesses and consumers alike.

“President Biden committed to the most ambitious set of climate goals in American history,” Charles Harper, power sector policy lead at Evergreen Action, said in a statement. “Important progress has been made, but President Biden must take bold action this year in order to deliver on those commitments. By ramping up its work to transition the U.S. economy toward 100 percent clean energy, the Biden administration and state leaders can reduce toxic pollution, cut energy costs, create good jobs, and advance environmental justice. Let’s get to work.”

The report lists necessary measures which, based on modeling, could result in meeting the climate goals set out in the president’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) if they are implemented immediately. Researchers say setting new and stringent rules through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will be paramount. Other necessary courses of action include making the most of the IRA’s grant programs and tax credits, and promoting stronger state standards on emissions to match federal targets.

“We don’t need magic bullets or new technologies,” Manish Bapna, NRDC president and CEO, explained in a statement. “We already have the tools — and now we have a roadmap. If the Biden administration, Congress, and state leaders follow it, we will build the better future we all deserve. There is no time for half measures or delay.”

The report does not call for an end to new power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels, but it does recommend that rule changes and emission standards be applied to existing gas and coal facilities as well. The transition away from fossil fuels is thus presented as more of a carrot than a stick situation — with funds from the IRA needed to encourage the expansion of renewables, as opposed to attempting to eliminate the construction of new fossil fuel-based plants. 

The increasing availability and cheaper cost of renewable energy benefits not just consumers, but also the U.S. manufacturers and businesses that rely on all possible savings to remain competitive. The more that can be done to encourage the grid transition to renewables, the cheaper power will be for everyone. In time, then, partisan opposition to renewable energy should wane.

However, it’s important to remember that no type of consumption comes without consequences. Resources must still be extracted to build batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, etcetera in order to power the clean energy revolution. As such, we must be more careful not to create a whole new environmental disaster in the process of slowing the climate crisis.

People in the U.S. use four times as much energy as the worldwide average. Cheaper power runs the risk of increasing total consumption, as seen with the connection between gasoline prices and driving habits. With the impending robotization of multiple industries, increased power usage could be dramatically compounded and raise emissions above current modeling. Therefore, it is imperative that people in the U.S. look to reduce their consumption, in addition to cleaning up the grid. 

Many Americans are already willing to adjust their lifestyles to combat climate change, but they need the tools to successfully lower their carbon footprints. Clean power is a big part of this, but so is a public transportation infrastructure that moves us away from the personal passenger vehicle — electric or not — as the primary mode of transportation.

Likewise, the backlash against remote work doesn’t just dismiss employee needs, but it also ignores the environmental benefits of fewer commutes and climate-controlled office buildings. By looking at the bigger picture, perhaps we will begin to understand that our planet does not have unlimited resources. No matter how we power things, we cannot do so from a thought process of ever expanding abundance with zero consequences. 

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/us-climate-targets-overconsumption/765046

Red Cross: The world is not ready for the next pandemic

31 01 2023

Photo: IFRC

From the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Posted: January 31., 2023

No earthquake, drought or hurricane in recorded history has claimed more lives than the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the world’s largest disaster response network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The shocking death toll—estimated at more than 6.5 million people—has inspired the humanitarian organization to take a deep dive into how countries can prepare for the next global health emergency.

Two groundbreaking reports released by the IFRC today, the World Disasters Report and the Everyone Counts Report, offer insights into successes and challenges over the past three years—and make recommendations for how leaders can mitigate tragedies of this magnitude in the future.

Jagan Chapagain, IFRC’s Secretary General, remarks:

*”The COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the global community to prepare now for the next health crisis. Our recommendations to world leaders center around building trust, tackling inequality, and leveraging local actors and communities to perform lifesaving work. The next pandemic could be just around the corner; if the experience of COVID-19 won’t quicken our steps toward preparedness, what will?” *

The IFRC network reached more than 1.1 billion people over the past three years to help keep them safe from the virus. During that time, a theme that emerged repeatedly was the importance of trust. When people trusted safety messages, they were willing to comply with public health measures that sometimes separated them from their loved ones in order to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. Similarly, it was only possible to vaccinate millions of people in record time when most of them trusted that the vaccines were safe and effective.

Those responding to crises cannot wait until the next time to build trust. It must be cultivated through genuinely two-way communication, proximity, and consistent support over time.

In the course of their work, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams documented how the COVID-19 pandemic both thrived on and exacerbated inequalities. Poor sanitation, overcrowding, lack of access to health and social services, and malnutrition create conditions for diseases to spread faster and further. The world must address inequitable health and socio-economic vulnerabilities far in advance of the next crisis.

In its Everyone Counts Report—which surveyed National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from nearly every country in the world—the IFRC found that teams were able to quickly respond to the pandemic because they were already present in communities and many of them had engaged in preparedness efforts, had prior experience responding to epidemics, and were strong auxiliaries to their local authorities.

“Community-based organizations are an integral part of pandemic preparedness and response. Local actors and communities, as frontline responders, have distinct but equally important roles to play in all phases of disease outbreak management. Their local knowledge needs to be leveraged for greater trust, access, and resilience,” states Mr. Chapagain.

*”It has been a brutal three years, but we are releasing this research and making recommendations in an act of hope: The global community can learn lessons and do justice to this tragedy by being better prepared for future health emergencies.” *

The World Disasters Report offers six essential actions to prepare more effectively for future public health emergencies. The Everyone Counts Report highlights the need for accurate and relevant data in pandemic preparedness and response. Both are available to practitioners, leaders, and the public.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/world-not-ready-next-pandemic-warns-ifrc-enar

How supermarket freezers are heating the planet, and how they could change

30 01 2023

Grocery chains under pressure to switch from HFCs to natural refrigerants to curb climate change

Supermarket fridges and freezers leak powerful greenhouse gases called HFCs. Switching to ‘natural refrigerants’ such as CO2 could make a difference in cutting emissions. Photo: Terry Chea/AP

By Emily Chung · CBC News · Posted: January 29, 2023

Climate-conscious shoppers may buy local food and try to cut packaging waste, but those efforts could be negated by potent greenhouse gases leaking from supermarket fridges.

Refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs are widely used to keep food cold or frozen at grocery stores and during transport. (They’re also used for other refrigeration applications, like ice rinks and air conditioners).

They were originally brought in to replace ozone-depleting refrigerants called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were banned in a landmark 1987 agreement called the Montreal Protocol, in order to save the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

But HFCs are themselves powerful greenhouse gases.

Typically, each tonne of HFCs can trap as much heat in the atmosphere as 1,400 to 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 100 years, depending on the type of HFC.

Here’s a look at why that’s happening, what the solutions are, and how ordinary shoppers could make a difference.

How do HFCs get from supermarkets into the atmosphere?

Supermarket fridges aren’t like your fridge at home, which typically contains less than 200 grams of refrigerant. And it’s in a sealed unit that’s unlikely to leak, says Morgan Smith, spokesperson for the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council.

Her non-profit group has partnered with industry to help enable the transition from HFCs to more climate-friendly refrigerants because the complexity of their systems make them prone to leaking significant amounts of HFCs. 

Beneath and behind the cases of vegetables, dairy and frozen foods at a typical supermarket are kilometres of piping with thousands of valves, containing literally a tonne of refrigerant. 

“It’s so large and so complex, with so many different points of connection that those systems are inherently leaky, and so they leak about 25 per cent of their refrigerant charge every year,” said Smith.

That’s something another non-profit group called the Environmental Investigation Agency has captured on video using infrared cameras and HFC detectors in U.S. grocery stores. It also measured levels of HFCs in the store using chemical detectors.

Numbers representing refrigerant concentrations appear on digital screens of three detection meters, along with the names of the refrigerants.
Three chemical detectors show readings of HFCs at a Gristedes grocery store in New York during a survey by the Environmental Investigation Agency and 350NYC in 2022. Photo: Environmental Investigation Agency

It detected leaks at 55 per cent of the dozens of U.S. stores where it took measurements. On average, it found a single supermarket emits 875 pounds (400 kilograms) of HFCs a year, equivalent to carbon emissions from 300 cars. In the U.S. alone, it calculated supermarket HFC leaks cause as much global warming as burning 22 million tonnes of coal. 

How big a deal are these emissions really?

HFCs are such a big problem for climate change that Canada and 196 other countries have signed an international agreement, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, to reduce HFC consumption 85 per cent by 2036, relative to 2011 to 2013.

Shelie Miller, a professor who studies the environmental impact of the food system at the University of Michigan, says emissions from refrigerants may be relatively small compared to the food system emissions overall and major categories such as food waste.

“But that’s also just because the food system has such a big impact,” she said. 

On the other hand, targeting HFCs in supermarkets can be very effective at curbing emissions.

“You can make fairly small changes and have a relatively large impact just because the chemicals themselves that we’re using right now have such large global warming potentials,” Miller said.

While potent, HFCs are short-lived greenhouse gases, said Miller, lasting no more than 30 years in the atmosphere, compared to hundreds of years for CO2. Since a typical refrigeration system lasts about 30 years, decisions made now about what refrigerant to use can affect global emissions for decades.

“We need to be thinking about the sources and the hubs of where emissions are happening. And so our grocery stores are a great way to target our overall food system and reduce emissions.”

What can be used for refrigeration in place of HFCs?

The main alternatives are called “natural” refrigerants because they are all chemicals found in nature. They include:

  • CO2.
  • Ammonia.
  • Propane.

While CO2 is a greenhouse gas, its global warming potential is so much lower than that of HFCs. And propane, while it’s a fossil fuel, is not burned when used in refrigeration. In fact, all three of these chemicals are considered refrigerants with ultra-low global warming potential.

How are Canadian supermarkets progressing at switching away from HFCs?

According to Shecco, a market research firm focused on sustainable technologies, there were 340 commercial CO2 refrigeration installations in Canada as of May 2020. That was far fewer than Japan, with 6,500 and Europe with 29,000, and growing more slowly than every other region in the world listed, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

However, Jeffrey Gingras, president of Evapco LMP, a Laval, Que.-based company that makes CO2 refrigeration systems, said he’s seen an exponential growth in installations in the past three years, and did a record 125 installations in supermarkets, about half of them in Canada, in 2022.

The Environmental Investigation Agency has been building a global map of refrigerants used in supermarkets since it launched its Climate-Friendly Supermarkets project in 2019.

Two Canadian community groups, Drawdown Toronto and Drawdown B.C., have helped coordinate submissions to the map in their regions, and have added about 250 stores to the map. (Note: I volunteered for Drawdown Toronto while on leave from CBC News and added one store. You can read more about that in our What On Earth newsletter.)

A label inside a refrigerator shows information such as the type of refrigerant.
This is a refrigerator label from the inside of a supermarket fridge, showing the type of refrigerant used. In this case, it’s an HFC called R404A, with a global warming potential close to 4,000 times that of CO2. Image: Emily Chung/CBC News

That was enough for the EIA to issue its first ever scorecard on Canadian supermarkets last fall. It reported on the five largest food retailers in Canada: Costco, Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys and Walmart.

The best-performing was Sobeys, which had the highest percentage of stores using ultra-low global warming potential refrigerants (nine per cent), was the only listed company that publicly reports its refrigerant leak rate (seven per cent) and has committed to transition to climate-friendly refrigerants for all new stores and renovation projects starting in 2024.

Some stores have also reported taking their own actions on HFCs, including Loblaws, which ranked third in the report and told CBC News that it has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent “in a large part” because of its strategy to reduce refrigerant leaks: using less refrigerant, detecting leaks early and reducing the emissions intensity of the refrigerants it uses.

Walmart Canada, which came fourth in the report, told CBC News in an email that it is installing natural refrigerants in all new stores and during major remodels with new grocery departments, and will switch all stores running on HFC refrigerants to more environmentally friendly options. It did not give a timeline, but said its global operations are aiming for zero emissions by 2040.

The other companies did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment.

EIA’s global map does show very few green dots in Canada compared to the U.S. and Europe. Avipsa Mahapatra, the group’s climate campaign lead, said that may be because no Canadian supermarket chains have not submitted their own data, unlike in other countries, and there isn’t much information.

“I actually have a hunch that Canada is not very far behind,” she said.

A map of North America showing red, orange and green dots representing grocery stores with different refrigerants
Ordinary shoppers can add local grocery stores to the Environmental Investigation Agency’s map of supermarket refrigerants. (Environmental Investigation Agency)

Why aren’t HFCs getting ditched faster?

Morgan Smith of the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council said making the switch to natural refrigerants isn’t easy. They may require different training and equipment: ammonia is toxic, propane is flammable, and CO2 operates under very high pressures.

Smith said CO2 tends to be the natural refrigerant of choice for most supermarkets because it’s non-toxic and its systems work a lot like HFC systems.The high pressures mean it does need different piping and different valves, so a system can take months to build, and can’t just be swapped out overnight like parts of the existing system when it needs repairs.

It’s easiest if you have the space to build a new system alongside while the old system is still running, Smith said. Otherwise, you might have to shut down the store during the retrofit, which is difficult for both customers and the store operator.

For smaller stores, one option is to switch to individual fridges similar to your home fridge, with propane refrigerant in a sealed unit, Smith said.

A woman pushes a shopping cart between dairy fridges and freezer cases in a supermarket.
Experts say it’s not easy to convert an existing HFC refrigeration system to natural refrigerants, as they often require different equipment such as valves and piping. Photo: CBC / Radio-Canada

Michael Zabaneh of the Retail Council of Canada said refrigerant projects are quite expensive for supermarkets.

“They can be challenging and that’s probably the biggest barrier, the need to pay for higher capital costs to either upgrade the equipment so that it can handle natural refrigerants, or buy new equipment.”

However, he said most large grocery chains are aware of the problems with HFCs and customer and investor pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are taking action.

The Environmental Investigation Agency’s Mahapatra acknowledged that retrofitting older stores is expensive and challenging. However, she says grocery chains should be making all new stores use natural refrigerants.

“There is no excuse for any supermarket today to build a new store that still contains HFCs. That is just simply foolish,” she said, noting that international agreements to phase out HFCs will eventually force companies to change the systems anyway.

What is the government doing about this?

The federal government will start to offer carbon offset credits for projects that cut refrigerant emissions, including those in supermarkets. Environment and Climate Change Canada told CBC News in an email that they’ll go into effect “in the next few months.” Once that happens, companies will be able to apply to get credits for projects that started as far back as January 1, 2017. 

Federal regulations have also been brought in to comply with the Kigali Amendment, the international agreement on HFCs that went into effect in 2018, with reduction targets starting in 2019.

The regulations will start to ban the manufacture and import of certain equipment containing HFCs with a global warming potential above a specific limit.

Gingras said the Quebec government did offer incentives for a period of time starting 2014 that made natural refrigerant systems competitive with HFCs, and those did lead to a widespread conversion of supermarkets in the province. However, he hasn’t heard of anything similar in other provinces.

Is there a role for ordinary shoppers?

Avipsa Mahapatra says grocery store customers can make a difference by adding their local stores to the climate-friendly supermarket map, being more aware and putting pressure on grocery store chains, especially when it comes to new supermarkets. 

“So if it’s a new store that is being built in your community, it is our job as … residents of that community, to make sure that it is not an HFC store.”

Morgan Smith at the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council also thinks the public can make a difference: “The more people that are aware of this top

To see the original story, follow this link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/hfc-climate-supermarkets-1.6726627