Do More Good with a Tribally-Owned Business

10 05 2023

A Seneca Nation family. Tribally-owned businesses generate profits that flow directly to the Native Nation and fund the support services its members need. Images courtesy of the Seneca Media and Communications Center

By Jeffrey Ellis via • Reposted: May 10, 2023

Businesses looking to amplify their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals should consider the added impact that comes from working with a tribally-owned business. The mission of a business owned by a Native Nation is to generate income that will improve the lives of its people. Every other for-profit business seeks to maximize value for its owners. If a tribally-owned business can serve your business just as well as another (or better!), your company will simply “do more good” by working with one.

Why Native Nations form businesses

There are 574 federally recognized Native Nations in the United States. Many have sovereign territories on which their members live. For some Native Nations, their territory consists of a sliver of their ancestral homeland; for others, their territory is nowhere near their ancestral homeland. Still others have no territory at all.
It is widely recognized that Native communities have not shared in the wealth generated from their lands. Native communities are also underserved compared to other communities in the United States. These factors have contributed to conditions where poverty is high, education levels are low, health disparities still exist, and opportunities are scarce. The reasons for this are complicated, generational and well-documented.
With few exceptions, Native Nations do not have tax revenue to fund the services they provide to their members. Instead, they need to generate other forms of income to provide for the health, safety, education and social support their community members need.
Increasingly over recent decades, Native Nations have established wholly-owned businesses to generate profits that flow directly to the Native Nation and fund the support services needed by its members. While many of these businesses have done well, the revenue they generate is still not enough for most Native Nations to provide the same services to their members that most other Americans get from their federal, state and local governments. Tribally-owned businesses are now expanding in the competitive marketplace, and there are more opportunities than ever to work with them.

Seneca Nation children - tribally-owned business operations fund Native Nations
A group of Seneca Nation children. 

What makes a tribally-owned business unique?

A tribally-owned business is a for-profit business owned directly by a Native Nation, and not by any specific shareholders. Profits flow directly to the Native Nation and are used by its government to directly fund services and support for its members. The organization I lead is one such business, owned by the Seneca Nation located in the Western New York region. I regularly say that while the mission of Seneca Holdings is to generate profits — like any other business — we operate more like a nonprofit than a for-profit entity. We know that every dollar that we earn, and every dollar that we save, goes directly back to the Seneca Nation.
There are many exceptional businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans and other disadvantaged individuals that are worth supporting. The difference, which you can decide for yourself how much to value, is that the mission of a tribally-owned business is to improve the lives of an entire community, particularly those in need. This is why we think of our organization as operating more like a nonprofit than a for-profit business.
There are also unique capabilities that tribally-owned businesses can provide their customers that may not be available to smaller businesses. Seneca Holdings, for example, leverages its capabilities across multiple industries to provide back-office support and financial stability that is more mature and robust than any of our individual businesses would have on its own. 

Seneca Nation workers learning on computer - tribally-owned business operations fund Native Nations
The profit generated by tribally-owned businesses allow for education and workforce development services provided by Native Nations like the Seneca Nation. 

ESG and tribally-owned businesses

The promise of ESG is that it creates an expectation that companies “do more good” while running their businesses. Decision-makers have many options for the partnerships they pursue and the suppliers they use. A genuine commitment to ESG entails considering the added impact that a tribally-owned business has on improving the lives of the Native community it serves.
In addition to the inherent “S” benefit, many tribally-owned businesses are focused on renewable energy projects and environmental sustainability that also address the “E” in ESG. In the clean energy space, there will be an increasing number of tribally-owned businesses looking to partner with larger companies that seek to amplify their ESG commitment. 
There are multiple benefits to partnering with a tribally-owned business on a renewable energy project beyond just satisfying your company’s ESG goals. Partnering can also be good for your bottom line, as these businesses provide access to unique advantages conferred by the federal government. Incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act of 2021, the Justice40 Initiative, and Department of Energy grants and loan programs can all significantly reduce the cost of renewable energy projects.
You may also find that the kinds of people who choose to work for a tribally-owned business are more likely to earn your trust as a valued business partner. Those of us that do embrace the responsibility of representing the Native Nations we work for, and we are inspired by the meaningful contributions that our businesses can make. We are always looking for partners and clients that are inspired in the same way.

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Prioritizing Supply Chain Transparency Offers Food Brands Many Benefits

10 05 2023

By Paul Damaren, Executive Vice President, Business Development at RizePoint

Did you know that a single contaminated product could ruin your brand’s reputation and harm your customers? It’s a terrifying thought, but one that food brands must be prepared for. That’s where supply chain transparency comes in. By prioritizing transparency, brands can identify and reduce risks, improve supplier relationships, and meet stakeholder demand. In this article, we’ll explore the many benefits of prioritizing supply chain transparency for food brands.

In the food industry, transparency is key. Consumers want to know where their food is coming from, how it’s sourced, and whether it’s safe to eat. That’s why supply chain transparency is so important – it allows food brands to track their products from the point of origin to the point of consumption, ensuring safety and quality every step of the way.

Multiple food brands have successfully implemented supply chain transparency and benefited from doing so. For instance, in 2015, Chipotle suffered a series of foodborne illness outbreaks that sickened hundreds of customers and led to a decline in sales. In response, the company launched a transparency initiative to improve the safety and quality of its food. As part of this initiative, Chipotle began using software to track ingredients from farm to restaurant, implemented new food safety protocols, and provided more information to customers about the sourcing and preparation of its food. The initiative helped restore customer confidence in the brand and led to a rebound in sales.

Walmart also announced a new initiative to improve supply chain transparency for its food suppliers. As part of this initiative, the company began requiring suppliers to provide more information about the origins and production methods of their products, and to adhere to stricter food safety and animal welfare standards. The initiative helped Walmart identify and address potential risks in its supply chain, improve the quality and safety of its products, and meet the demands of its customers for more sustainable and ethical food.

Improving supply chain transparency is a smart business move that can help food brands: 

  • Identify and reduce risk. Accepting food deliveries comes with risks, but you can reduce these risks with more transparency all along your supply chain. Since just one contaminated product could sicken your customers and ruin your brand’s reputation, improving your supply chain visibility can provide critical insights into potential risk factors. For instance, if there are product recalls, you’ll want accurate information about whether your deliveries were impacted. Better visibility can tell you whether your suppliers experienced transportation delays, which could result in perishable foods spoiling. Even weather-related events, like storms or flooding, could contaminate products with more bacterial growth and migration increasing foodborne illness risks. And if your suppliers don’t prioritize food safety and quality, their carelessness around food safety protocols – such as cross-contaminating, not holding foods at proper temps, etc. – could potentially harm your customers (and your business). Improving visibility can help protect your products, customers, and business.
  • Make smarter, data-driven decisions. In the past, food brands have relied on manual systems – such as paper files and Excel spreadsheets – to manage their food safety and quality programs. Using these outdated systems means that food brands can’t get a holistic, real-time look at their data across their organization and throughout their supply chain. Instead, brands should pivot and use tech solutions, which are improving food safety and quality exponentially. Tech tools allow food brands to centralize data for a single source of truth, and provide valuable, real-time analytics to help brand leaders make smarter, more informed decisions. Brands can use these insights to reduce risks, solve problems, anticipate disruptions, select vendors, optimize operations, and maximize safety.
  • Prioritize ESG initiatives. More food brands are prioritizing ESG efforts, partly due to customer, employee, and investor demands, and partly because it’s the right thing to do. A growing number of organizations are wisely reducing their environmental impact, prioritizing sustainability, committing to DEI efforts, and buying responsibly sourced products. Organizations can’t say they’re prioritizing ESG if they’re working with vendors that don’t, so brands are gravitating towards suppliers with ESG values that align with their own. Another positive change is that food brands are using tech tools to determine whether their suppliers are properly certified. This helps ensure that brands are only working with suppliers that prioritize ESG initiatives – as well as safety, quality, transparency, and compliance.
  • Improve KPIs. Increasing supply chain transparency can significantly improve key performance indicators (KPIs), including sales, profits, investments, and customer loyalty. As more consumers gravitate towards brands that operate safely, sustainably, and ethically, sharing information about your supply chain can help you improve important metrics, such as increasing profits 2% to 10%.
  • Maximize performance. Tech tools provide a clear view of inventory, potential disruptors, and activity through every step of the supply chain, which allows brands to be more agile, flexible, responsive, and resilient. Collecting and analyzing real-time data from the point of origin to the point of consumption can help brands boost safety and quality, improve compliance, and maximize performance. Supply chain transparency also helps create more resilient operations. Armed with critical insights and data, brands can make strategic decisions, such as switching to different suppliers when their regular suppliers are impacted by transportation delays, weather events, or other disruptors.
  • Meet consumer demands. Recently, consumers have become more concerned about social issues. They want to know where their food is coming from, how it’s been sourced, how sustainable companies are, and if the animals are being treated humanely. Additionally, they want to support organizations that are committed to fair labor practices and DEI. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a whopping 94% of consumers said they’d be more loyal to brands that offer supply chain transparency.
  • Communicate more effectively with suppliers. Food brands must communicate regularly with each of their many suppliers. Consider, for instance, a global fast food brand. There are so many different suppliers necessary to supply every component of every meal around the world that trying to track their supply chain manually would be overwhelming and time-consuming. However, using tech tools to improve supply chain transparency provides key insights about potential disruptors that could negatively impact incoming products. You’ll need to know about supply chain disruptions, potential weather events that could limit products (and/or cause prices to spike), and food safety breaches (such as a farm being contaminated by bacteria or chemicals). Therefore, ongoing communication – and collaboration – with your suppliers is essential. Tech tools – like the cloud, quality management software, artificial intelligence, etc. – are revolutionizing food brands’ ability to communicate with their suppliers across the supply chain to ensure that everyone’s working together to maximize safety and quality.
  • Drive positive industry-wide change. You’ve likely heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The same could be said for food safety efforts. If food brands continue to do the same thing over and over (e.g., try to manage food safety efforts with paper files and Excel spreadsheets), we’ll never improve safety, quality, and compliance industry wide. On the other hand, when your organization (and suppliers) use tech solutions to improve visibility across the supply chain, you’ll drive positive changes not only within your company, but throughout the industry. And that’s a major win.

Key stakeholders – including customers, employees, and investors – want to work with responsible organizations. They’re more likely to support brands that provide safe food, of course, but who are also concerned about the greater good: sustainability, fair business practices, ethical treatment of people and animals, ESG, and DEI. It’s no longer enough for your brand to commit to these things – it’s also essential that you align with suppliers that do, as well. Prove your commitment by embracing transparency across your supply chain.

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Fed rate hikes, recession fears and political backlash leave ESG investors at a crossroads

9 05 2023

By Sehoon Kim, Assistant Professor of Finance, University of Florida via The Conversation • Reposted: May 9, 2023

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates again on May 3, 2023, by a quarter point, making it the Fed’s 10th rate hike since March 2022 in an ongoing fight to tame inflation. These rate hikes have been reverberating through the economy, raising prospects of a recession amid heightened concerns about the fragile state of banks

The rate hikes are also rattling sustainability-focused investing, better known as ESG investing.

The trend toward ESG investing, which puts pressure on companies to meet environmental, social and governance benchmarks, has almost redefined asset management over the past decade. ESG funds today are a multitrillion-dollar market.

However, the high uncertainty around interest rates today, along with the prospects of a looming recession and a political backlash, has put the future of ESG investors at a crossroads.

specialize in sustainable finance, and my recent work has documented the impact that tough economic times can have on ESG investing demand. Investments into U.S. sustainable mutual funds have visibly slowed since 2022, suffering their worst net flows in five years. Here are how three critical factors can affect investors’ zeal for socially conscious investing going forward.

Interest rate uncertainty

One of the primary arguments that big institutional investors like BlackRock make for ESG investing is that it creates long-term value for shareholders. Companies that pay careful attention to environmental, social and governance issues are believed to be better prepared for distant future risks, including regulatory risks and physical risks from climate change.

However, heightened uncertainty about interest rates poses a challenge today. That’s because higher rates can disproportionately affect the present value that investors assign to long-term investment outcomes. Let me explain.

Within the past year, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark lending rate from almost zero to a target range of 5% to 5.25% to combat inflation. In financial markets, higher interest rates lead to higher discount rates. That means that future cash generated by long-term investments is considered to be worth considerably less at today’s higher interest rates.

The more distant an asset’s value lies in the future, the more heavily it will be discounted in value when rates are high. So, long-duration investments – like most ESG investments – are especially sensitive to changes in interest rates.

This economic mechanism was also part of the backdrop of the recent rout in tech stocks and the series of bank failures that started with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank

Looming recession

Another factor that could affect ESG investing is the potential for an economic downturn.

As research shows, investors do not necessarily make ESG investments for greater long-term returns, but often for altruistic reasons or due to personal preferences to hold greener assets. For these ESG investors, a looming recession could change their perspective on these “luxuries.”

In an early warning about this possibility, a recent study I conducted with an economist at the Rotterdam School of Management found that retail investors showed signs of shying away from investing in sustainable mutual funds during the early months of the COVID-19 shock in 2020. This was a period when many households experienced layoffs and furloughs, which likely pushed them to set aside luxuries to prioritize protecting the values of their 401(k)s, IRAs and other investment portfolios.

In other words, investors may be all for ESG, except when times are tough.

Prominent economists, such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, have warned of a likely recession as inflation and the Fed’s battle against it persist. The International Monetary Fund also lowered its global economic growth outlook from 3.4% in 2022 to 2.8% in 2023. 

Political backlash

Finally, recent political friction and anti-ESG policies across states have started to create headwinds for pension funds and large institutions that serve them.

For example, Florida and Kansas passed laws in recent weeks and several other states including Texas and Kentucky have taken actions to restrict the ability of state public pension funds to invest in companies based on their ESG performance, citing concerns about fraudulent greenwashing and potential fiduciary duty violations, referring to the obligation institutional investors have to seek the highest returns for the lowest risk possible.

These restrictions can severely limit the capacity for ESG investing by institutional investors, which have played a significant role in driving the growth of ESG investing.

Lark Fink, in business attire and glasses, sits in a news studio being interviewed.
Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, shown during an earlier interview, told Bloomberg in 2023: ‘For the first time in my professional career, attacks are now personal. They’re trying to demonize the issues.’ Taylor Hill/Getty Images

While concerns about greenwashing and high fees in ESG investing are not totally unwarranted, these political interventions can also have unintended consequences.

recent study from economists at Wharton and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that a Texas law enacted in 2021 prohibiting municipalities from contracting with banks with ESG policies had a distorting side effect on those municipalities’ borrowing costs. The policy ended up raising the cost of public finance, meaning the law ultimately cost taxpayers.

Navigating the crossroads

As companies hold their 2023 annual meetings, the discussions among corporate officials, investors and stakeholders will serve as an important barometer for the current state and future of ESG investing.

Due to high interest rate uncertainty, prospects of a recession and political upheaval, ESG is under pressure. Perceived in recent years as a paradigm shift in how market mechanisms can address harms to society, stakeholders are now scrutinizing ESG investing with a critical lens regarding how strongly it can persist and how much impact it can have.

The next few years will be its most important stress test yet.

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Embracing sustainability through control technology

8 05 2023

Photo: Getty

How an innovative approach helped Sustainable Blue create a clean, safe and sustainable environment for fish production. By Bizclik Admin from • Reposted: May 8, 2023

Global production of fish and seafood has quadrupled over the past 50 years, with aquaculture – the practice of fish and seafood farming – now outpacing wild catch fishing. Against this backdrop, consumer tastes and preferences for fish products are also changing – desiring not only optimal taste, but also more ethical and sustainable means of production.

To capture this change in consumer demand, Nova Scotia-based salmon farm Sustainable Blue has pioneered a new method of farming that optimizes the quality and sustainability of the breeding and nurturing process. With the assistance of Fairfield Control Systems, BlueTech Systems and Rockwell Automation, Sustainable Blue has integrated an advanced control solution to improve the water treatment and purity across its network of farms. The company is now focused on scaling its operations to branch into new markets and serve more consumers.

Turning a sustainable vision into reality

The story of Sustainable Blue began on the other side of the Atlantic, in Plymouth, England. Dr Jeremy Lee, who serves as both technical director of BlueTech and CTO of Sustainable Blue, has had a 25-year career designing recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS), having previously developed the water treatment system used in the popular National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. In 2008, Dr Lee began an ambitious project to adapt his treatment technology in the burgeoning salmon-farming sector.

Having identified a business opportunity in Eastern Canada, Dr Lee founded Sustainable Blue as an inland farm with the goal of providing a safe and managed environment for the salmon to grow. In this farm, fish would be introduced from the ocean and bred over the course of 12 months, before ultimately being sold to customers including leading supermarkets and restaurants.

While land-based farming is an efficient way to breed fish, the practice has conventionally come with certain trade-offs. In normal cases, the fishery needs to maintain interaction between the farm and the open sea for discharge and replenishment. This brings several potential issues. 

Firstly, it alters the temperature of the water used in the farm, limiting the control the fishery has over the breeding process. Secondly, it has implications for quality and safety as the water entering may contain diseases or other impurities. Thirdly, it typically influences taste, introducing an ‘earthiness’ that’s the result of geosmin, a compound that is produced within many land-based farming systems that brings with it a distinctive, unpleasant smell. 

As a result, inland farms have found difficulty in consistently providing customers with fresh, clean produce. Dr Lee sought to address this issue by developing a RAS that avoided the need for an external water supply, meaning the farm could maintain complete control over water purity and, therefore, the quality of the produce. He composed a team, involving system integrator Fairfield Control Systems, along with Intelligent Motor Control technology from Rockwell Automation, to work on the solution.

Adapting to limit risk

Fairfield Control Systems, as a central part of the company’s character, thrives on risk. The company has built a strong reputation for taking on the types of tasks that other companies would shy away from. They specialise in projects where the cost of failure is high, with a track record that reinforces their credibility in developing systems that won’t buckle under pressure.

According to Peter McMorrow, Engineering Director at Fairfield Control Systems, this approach to risk helps differentiate the company as a control systems partner. “In everything we do, we apply our own set of procedures and principles to make sure that risks are mitigated and the cost of failure is minimal. Our customers know they can trust us to think through the worst-case scenarios and plan accordingly.”

Sustainable Blue’s project fitted into that category. Across six farms – Red Bank Road (RBR) numbers 1-6 – Sustainable Blue houses more than 1,000 tonnes of fish. If the systems were to fail, the fish would not survive for more than 10 minutes, with the potential cost spiralling into the millions of dollars. The focus, therefore, was on developing a control system that was resilient to pressure and offered the availability to handle extreme situations. 

“As soon as we met with Dr Lee, we knew we could really assist with his project. He wanted to scale the operations, going from farms the size of rooms to those the size of football fields – but such growth would bring complexities. He needed a partner network that could assist him on the process side in the evolution from small-scale to mass production. We really bought into the ethos of the farm and wanted to help fulfil the vision,” McMorrow added.

In 2016, BlueTech (Sustainable Blue’s technology arm) entered into an arrangement with Fairfield Control Systems to commission the water treatment system for RBR 3. The choice of control technology to use was straightforward. Fairfield Control Systems had a relationship with Rockwell Automation that had existed for more than 30 years and is a Silver SI member in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetworkTM, and BlueTech also had a history of using Rockwell equipment. Both companies had strong familiarity with Rockwell’s systems and confidence that they would be appropriate for the task of ensuring a standardised and easily maintainable control environment.

Nurturing clean, healthy produce 

The control solution the team created serves a crucial function in the farm. Each unit within the facility contains a 100% recirculation RAS, processing 5,000 tonnes of water every hour in total. The process control system provides closed-loop control of many environmental variables for each system, such as the temperature, pH levels, oxygen levels and water pressure. As well as control, the system provides reports of historical data and has an alarm-handling solution to ensure any issues receive a prompt response.

Dr Lee says that with this infrastructure, the farm can operate on a self-sustaining basis – a unique feature in the industry. “Fish are very sensitive to their environment. The temperatures in our tanks are held within a tight band that’s optimal for fish growth and vitality, which means we can produce fish in half of the time without having to introduce any antibiotics or growth hormones. Furthermore, the system offers us complete transparency, visibility and traceability of the process from end to end, which is ultimately reflected in the purity of the water and the taste of the fish.”

The value of the system extends beyond just the quality of the produce; it has been instrumental in consolidating the farm’s philosophy.

“It’s been a big benefit for us in terms of morale as our team is passionate about sustainability,” Dr Lee explained. “It also helps us to attract customers who care about the welfare of the fish and the impact on the environment – it’s a strong marketing platform.”

Now that the blueprint is in place for a scalable, reliable and high-quality fish farm, Sustainable Blue is taking steps to expand operations, both within Canada and in other markets. The model that’s in place provides assurance that this growth won’t come at the expense of the environment.

“Not only is our produce sustainable and ethical but steps have been taken to make our entire operation more environmentally friendly. We’re moving to 100% renewable energy and planning to replicate the model across new sites – the closer the farm is to the end customer, the shorter the supply chain, which benefits freshness and environmental consciousness,” Dr Lee added.

Dr Lee recognises the contribution that the control partners have made in helping him to realise the vision he’s been pursuing for nearly 15 years: “Our farms are process-heavy and, for all our good qualities, humans are not very good at tasks that involve repetition and accuracy, which is the case for managing and modulating a RAS. 

“It quickly became apparent to us that automation was something that we needed early on in our development. We’re delighted to have had the benefit of Fairfield Control Systems and Rockwell Automation’s expertise to maintain a clean, stunningly clear environment for the fish at all times.”

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ESG Amidst Inflation: 7 Governance Mechanisms That Drive Value Creation in the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry

8 05 2023

Unilever’s corporate headquarters in Blackfriars, London. Image: Unilever

By Andrew Kaminsky from • Reposted: May 8, 2023

Running a profitable business in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry isn’t easy – especially when inflation has consumers pinching pennies and hunting for basement bargains. Add that to the list of challenges the CPG industry is facing, which include lingering pandemic hurdles and conflict-zone embargoes that suppliers and manufacturers are obliged to observe.

Meanwhile, companies are under pressure to monitor their risks and impacts on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. That means not just finding and monitoring their ESG data, which can be a huge task on its own, but also developing a strategy complete with targets and accountability measures to reduce ESG risks and minimize negative impacts from business activities. 

So, how in the world are business leaders supposed to do all of that? 

The answer lies in the “G” of ESG. Strong corporate governance and commitment from C-suite executives are how organizations can manage today’s business requirements and thrive under the opportunities that this new landscape presents. After all, ESG-focused funds proved resilient even amidst recession fears — attracting $37 billion of net inflows in the fourth quarter of 2022, compared to $200 billion of net withdrawals in the broader market, according to research from Morningstar.

Which governance mechanisms drive ESG strategy?

TriplePundit sat down with Jonathan Gill, global head of sustainability advocacy at Unilever, to gain insight into the governance mechanisms that drive ESG strategy in the CPG industry. The key takeaway? ESG strategy must be integrated into overall business strategy, with the two components working in coordination to drive success across all brands.

1. Integrating ESG into business strategy

If there’s one thing to know about driving a successful ESG strategy, it’s this: ESG strategy has to be integrated into overall business strategy. Without integration, the two objectives will be competing for priority rather than working in tandem.

“Unilever’s purpose is all about making sustainable living commonplace. So that’s kind of the North Star, the way we think about everything,” Gill explained. “It’s been years since we had separate strategies for sustainability and for business. It’s one integrated strategy.”

2. Business structure facilitates ESG performance

For Unilever, this integrated strategy — which it calls the Unilever Compass — is “locked into the governance side of things,” Gill said. “The board oversees it. We have an external advisory council to make sure we’re making the right decisions and choices. It’s locked into our remuneration, but also into our structure.”

In the CPG industry, a parent company will own many different brands. While those brands have different priorities in business and in ESG strategy, the structure and the relationship between the parent company and its brands needs to facilitate ESG progression.

“We’ve got five semi-autonomous business units within Unilever, and each and every one of those business units have sustainable priorities within them,” Gill continued. “That’s agreed by the most senior level, by the executives, so the delivery is really embedded into it.”

3. Ensuring all stakeholders have their voices heard

When it comes to actually developing an ESG strategy and identifying key performance indicators (KPIs), it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what is important to stakeholders from the beginning and throughout an organization’s ESG journey. 

Whether that’s from investors, customers, employees, brands or the broader community, understanding the expectations of stakeholders will align and drive ESG strategy, Gill said. For example, the company holds bi-weekly sessions with employees and executives and operates 37 “People Data Centers” around the world to keep its finger on the pulse of what customers are looking for — among many other ways in which it engages with stakeholders. 

Organizations that listen to stakeholder voices are better positioned to perform well on the metrics that matter, driving ESG performance and business growth.

unilever brands - corporate governance in the CPG sector
Some of Unilever’s best-selling brands. Image: Unilever

4. Brands develop their own ESG priorities

It can be tempting to delegate to brands what their ESG priorities should be and how they should approach the subject. Parent companies are ultimately responsible for their brands, after all. But it is much better when those companies facilitate that development and allow brands to grow their ESG priorities organically.

“Within the Unilever Compass, the three priorities we have around sustainability are planet, health and wellbeing, and social. Our brands’ purposes generally fall within those three spaces, but we don’t have a formal way to make sure brands are focusing in specific areas,” Gill explained.  “The brands themselves are responsible for identifying what their purpose is and delivering that. It has to be organic, it has to be real, and therefore top-down just wouldn’t work.”

5. Transparent accounting 

When asked about the value of transparent accounting, Gill said, “We think it’s quite an important lever for change to accelerate the transition toward sustainability.”

As global ESG reporting and accounting standards are being hashed out around the globe, transparent accounting is not only important to today’s investors and consumers, but it’s also soon to become a requirement. Businesses that incorporate this practice before legislation is finalized will benefit from the ease of transition to mandatory reporting, as well as from the influx of investor dollars into ESG funds. Having the right technology in place to gather, track and report on ESG data will be essential for businesses in the future.

6. Transparent ESG goals, progress and communication

Transparency in ESG goals, progress and communication is vital for highly visible, consumer-facing companies like Unilever. The company reported regularly on the progress of its 10-year sustainability strategy, the Sustainable Living Plan, from 2010 to 2020. Some of its targets were reached, some were narrowly missed, and others fell well short. Whatever the case, the company was open about its progress and the challenges it faced along the way — and it continues to report on the new Unilever Compass strategy. 

This type of transparency builds trust. Trusted voices in the ESG sphere are exactly what investors and consumers are looking for amidst the tsunami of ESG information being released by companies looking to attract today’s consumers and investors.

7. Accountability measures

Finally, accountability measures must be built into the structure of the organization. Naturally, the market will act as its own accountability measure as investors and consumers pull money from companies that are underperforming and redirect those funds to companies with stronger ESG strategies.

Internally, Unilever ties ESG performance into its executive remuneration scheme. “We have essentially eight metrics, and if you perform well on those, your bonus is higher,” Gill said. “If you’re motivated by money, then obviously you’ll be motivated to deliver on those sustainability goals.”

Not everyone is motivated by money, but it’s a strong measure to incentivize performance and show commitment to ESG strategy.

A look to the future of ESG and governance challenges

One of the biggest challenges facing business executives in all sectors with regards to ESG and corporate governance is the uncertainty of reporting requirements. There are different global reporting standards, all of which are similar but none of which are mandatory — at least not yet. 

“The challenge we’ve got at the moment is there are three big standards — from the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the European Union (EU) — and they are big beasts of information that need to be prepared,” Gill explained. “Making them standardized — not necessarily the same, but interoperable — would be very helpful, and we’re very keen to see them being mandatory for all companies above a certain size.” 

The biggest challenge in Gill’s eyes is that with the sense of urgency to enact mandatory reporting and organizations rushing to comply, there are likely to be some errors in reporting, or errors made by assurers on the audit side that could provide the anti-ESG cohort some extra fuel for their fire. In the midst of our climate emergency, the onus is on legislators to not only get the requirements in place quickly, but to make sure it’s done right.

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How the new EU directive will rewrite ESG reporting

8 05 2023

Image via Shutterstock/Chayanuphol

The European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive won’t just affect local companies, it will transform sustainability reporting around the globe. By Matt Orsagh from green • Reposted: May 8, 2023

Europe has long been the trendsetter in policy and regulation around environmental, social and governance issues. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is the latest in a line of European Union policies intended to nudge economic and investment activity towards more sustainable outcomes.

The CSRD replaced the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), which only covered the disclosure requirements for about 11,000 EU companies. In contrast, the CSRD will require nearly 50,000 companies to enhance their reporting around sustainability. This number includes about 10,000 companies outside the EU, and it doesn’t just include the largest of the large companies.

The CSRD was adopted by the EU Council in November. EU companies already subject to the NFRD will have to begin compliance with the CSRD, which means reporting in 2024. Those for whom this reporting will be new, including companies outside the EU, have until 2025 to begin complying.

The NFRD was never mandatory. As a result, investors, regulators and civil society groups were often frustrated with the lack of sustainability-related information from companies and the lack of comparability of that data. The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) recently released an implementation appraisal on the NFRD that highlighted many shortcomings of the NFRD:

  • 71 percent of respondents believed the non-financial information contained in the NFRD reports was deficient in terms of comparability
  • 82 percent believed that CSRD’s requirements for companies to use a common standard would address identified issues

The purpose of the CSRD is to provide investors and businesses with more information about the sustainability of companies operating in the EU, that is timely, consistent and comparable.

In essence, the CSRD is becoming the de facto sustainability disclosure regulation for large global companies; as companies with significant business in Europe will have to adhere to the rules Europe sets down.

The rules will cover both public and private business that satisfy two of the following criteria:

  • Have more than 250 employees
  • Have net turnover of more than $44.51 million
  • Have a balance sheet of more than $22.25 million

Compliance with CSRD isn’t that far away. Companies that meet the reporting requirements will have to submit their first report of aligning with CSRD by Jan. 1, 2025. Smaller and medium-sized entities (SMEs) won’t have to comply with the rules until January 2026.

Companies outside of Europe that do business in the EU will also be covered by the new rules — companies that generate total revenue of $167 million  in the EU and have at least one branch or subsidiary in the EU with more than $44.51 million in net revenue will be required to comply with the new disclosure requirements.

In essence, the CSRD is becoming the de facto sustainability disclosure regulation for large global companies; as companies with significant business in Europe will have to adhere to the rules Europe sets down. The hope of European regulators — and sustainability-minded professionals around the world — is that this higher disclosure bar will export European best practices in disclosure globally. As large companies in global markets are forced to raise their standards, these disclosure standards will cause other companies in those markets to follow the more stringent disclosure standards set by the EU in order to keep up with best practices.

What is covered?

In addition to information already required by the NFRD, companies that comply with the CSRD will have to publish information related to:

  • Environmental protections
  • Greenhouse gas emissions targets
  • Social responsibility and treatment of employees
  • Respect for human rights
  • Anti-corruption and bribery
  • Diversity on company boards
  • Double materiality
    • How sustainability risks might affect performance
    • The company’s impact on society and the environment
  • Materiality assessments
  • Forward-looking ESG targets and progress
  • Disclosures on intangible capitals (social, human, intellectual)
  • Due diligence processes in relation to sustainability
  • Potential adverse impacts due to sustainability issues

Companies will be required to set annual ESG targets and report their process hitting these targets, including transition plans (if any).

The CSRD will require third-party assurances, including integration into the auditor’s report, a requirement not covered by the NFRD. This information will be required to be presented in a company’s annual financial reports, not in a separate sustainability report. Assurances can at first be “limited” but must reach the threshold of “reasonable” assurances by 2028. For those of you out there who are not accountants (good for you), reasonable assurances amount to an auditor affirming that the information reported is materially correct, while limited assurances simply state that the auditor is not aware of any material modifications that need to be made.

The European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) is drafting the upcoming EU Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) that the CSRD will adopt as its reporting standard. The European Commission is due to adopt the initial ESRS standards in mid-2023.

Start now. Get buy-in from everyone

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, you are right. If all of this sounds like a lot of work and a little bit intimidating if you are not a European company used to European regulation, accounting and disclosure standards, you are right again. Companies outside the EU that will be subject to CSRD reporting have realized the daunting task ahead of them. Those ahead of the curve have already started the process of adjustment to the CSRD landscape.

Chris Librie, senior director of ESG at Applied Materials, acknowledged that CSRD will require companies outside the EU to change their perspective on sustainability. “CSRD is pretty comprehensive,” Librie said. “It involves double materiality, which may bring into scope things that we may not have considered. For example, we haven’t traditionally looked at biodiversity, but that may come up.”

Most companies will need to expand their ability to measure and manage sustainability issues in their own operations; as well down their supply chains to comply with CSRD disclosure rules.

“Our ESG team is fairly small,” Librie said, “so we will be reaching to other divisions such as human resources, environmental health and safety and others, as well as our outside auditors and consultants. The number of potential topics are so many that we are taking a team approach to develop a structured approach to the CSRD process.”

The race is on to train financial professionals for the transition. Several organizations are working with companies to help them prepare for the transition. One of these is Accounting for Sustainability (A4S). A4S was established by King Charles III in 2004, with the aim of working with chief financial officers and other financial leaders to drive a shift towards more sustainable business models. A4S routinely hosts workshops to share best practices and build knowledge of financial professionals to bring them up to speed.

The number of potential topics are so many that we are taking a team approach to develop a structured approach to the CSRD process.

Brad Sparks, executive director of A4S Foundation U.S.,  emphasized how A4S is seeing significant interest from finance and accounting professionals that A4S works with around CSRD.

“CSRD has become part of the reporting workshops that we host,” Sparks said. “We also started a new controllers forum and had a meeting earlier this year where we brought in someone from EFRAG to discuss the emerging ESRS standards. The forum is designed for chief accounting officers, controllers and ESG controllers to exchange insights, challenges and responses to sustainability issues among peers. Our initial meeting had a focus on double materiality — a topic that is new to many in the finance and accounting community.”

Part of the learning curve for those outside the EU will be navigating the differences in accounting standards, investor expectations and legal systems that underpin EU regulation and norms outside the EU. “Finance and accounting professionals in the United States are seeking additional guidance to help with the emerging standards,” Sparks said. “In general, global accounting standards are typically principles-based, while U.S. accounting (GAAP) is typically rules-based. This is similar with the ESRS following a more principles-based approach, which some in the U.S. view as more challenging to implement.”

Although adjusting to a CSRD world will take time and resources, in the end, the goal is to provide investors, policymakers, civil society and companies themselves with better information. It may move sustainability reporting more to the mainstream, which has both positive and negative implications.  

What companies and investors can do to prepare

Preparing for CSRD reporting will be a step change in managing and measuring sustainability data for many companies outside the EU. Companies that need to report under the CSRD standard will need to start now if they haven’t already: January 2025 isn’t that far away. There are steps companies can take to get ready. Here are just a few places to start:

  1. Perform a gap analysis to determine current holes in sustainability measurement and management system.
  2. Review EFRAG exposure draft ESRS rules.
  3. Determine who within an organization will lead the CSRD process and determine what other people within an organization will be needed in the CSRD process.
  4. Determine what outside resources such as accountants and consultants will be needed to undertake CSRD compliance reporting.
  5. Coordinate with others within your industry to share best practices.

“I see this possibly driving companies toward more integrated reporting,” Librie said. “I think ultimately we will see more 10-Ks and sustainability reports that merge, so we will have a one-stop shop for all this information. That is a positive but a potential negative is that in a 10-K type document, you can’t be as verbose. You have to be more economical about telling your story, and that might make ESG engagement more challenging.”

“Companies are seeking to understand how they can comply with reporting requirements in an effective, efficient and impactful manner,” Sparks said. “They want to understand what best practices are and are looking for more guidance.” Sparks noted that A4S plans to hold more workshops around CSRD in the future, as it sees increasing demand from the CFOs and financial professionals they meet with.

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Why Companies Should Understand The Importance Of Sustainability Initiatives

7 05 2023

Image: Getty

By Natalia Scherbakoff, Forbes Councils Member, Forbes Technology Council via Forbes • Reposted: May 7, 2023

The world is trying to limit the rise in global temperatures and take the necessary steps toward achieving net zero. It is important because, at least for carbon dioxide, this is the state at which global warming stops.

The US Inflation Reduction Act introduces tax incentives to encourage sustainability.

In August 2022, U.S. Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes $369 billion of federal spending to address climate change, $270 billion of which will be delivered through tax incentives. These tax incentives, together with grants and loan guarantees, will be directed to clean-energy efforts to substantially reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by the end of the decade. Clean electricity and transmission will receive the lion’s share of the funds, followed by clean transportation, including electric vehicle (EV) incentives.

As tax credits will comprise the bulk of the IRA’s energy and climate funding, in the corporate sphere, the aim is to drive up private investment in clean energy, transport and manufacturing. On the consumer side, the tax incentives intend to reduce carbon emissions by making energy-saving products and services more affordable, such as rooftop solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, home batteries and geothermal heating.

The EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan promotes technology advancements for sustainability.

In January 2023, the European Union (EU) unveiled its Green Deal Industrial Plan at the World Economic Forum, a set of industrial initiatives and reforms that support its target of achieving net zero by 2050. As part of the European Green Deal, the plan intends to enhance the EU’s global competitiveness as it transitions to a carbon-neutral economy. In addition to its circular economy action plan, this reinforces the EU’s mission to be a leader on the path to a net zero age.

The first step in the Green Deal Industrial Plan is to scale up the development and production of net zero products and technologies across the next decade, as well as reduce the carbon footprint of energy-intensive industries. The plan also proposes a Net-Zero Industry Act to boost the manufacturing of green technologies, such as solar panels, heat pumps, batteries and windmills, among others.

The EU has already implemented a clear policy framework in some of these areas (such as the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation) and has launched partnerships that promote the sustainable development of raw materials, solar energy and hydrogen, batteries, and circular plastics.

Is everything coming up roses?

Motivating the world to invest or engage more in sustainable product innovation and manufacturing has become more important than ever. Up to date, there is huge room for creativity in the R&D, engineering and manufacturing processes of sustainable solutions.

When the world is setting the stage with the focus and incentives such as the IRA and Green Deal Industrial Plan, financial or otherwise, being channeled to global and national initiatives, there can still be trade barriers, important decisions driven by emotions, etc., that are to be eliminated to optimize the benefits intended for programs such as IRA or Green Deal.

There will certainly be global competition for sustainable feedstocks and skilled personnel when all four corners of the world are aiming for sustainability. What should be in place are harmonized policies or regulations among countries in the trading of waste and the removal of limitations in the use of certain recyclable materials for better utilization of resources. While localization in some instances works well, the limitation of the import/export of waste and recyclable materials will hinder the efforts spent in efficiently achieving sustainability. Nations may end up not having enough waste as sustainable feedstock.

The concerted efforts for administrations, legislatures, agencies and the chemical industry to work together to develop solutions are the keys to opening doors. The existence of infrastructure also poses another major hurdle to overcome. Needless to say, it takes incredibly careful planning and deployment of resources to bring in the necessary infrastructure to build on.

Our Action Items

Actions that are particularly important for companies during these exciting times include instilling the element of sustainability as early as the product design stage, proactively building up emerging skills required in the arena of the global workforce, and collaborating with international stakeholders in developing sustainable supply chains.

It’s easier said than done, but there is no time like now for nations and value chains to really “open up” and work hand in hand instead of competing with each other for brains or resources. Let’s treat these initiatives as a need to develop actionable items to help realize a circular economy, this time for all.

Take decarbonization as an example to manage scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. One single company cannot control all. The required collaborations, international or otherwise, are to take place upstream, downstream and horizontally along the value chains. If the world is to do it properly this time, we have to put behind us our difference and wholeheartedly utilize the benefits brought along by globalization.

The changes will not happen overnight, but the sooner we start, the merrier. Needless to say, policies play an important role in driving all these activities. When the requirements on recycled-content/biodegradable or recycling percentage become “mandatory,” the supply of sustainable feedstock and materials will be developed as the demand will increase, which eventually stimulates investment and manufacturing. On the other hand, more efforts will be put into product designs to facilitate both waste collection and recycling.

The World’s Sustainability Journey

Public perception of the world’s journey to sustainability and their behavior will reflect how successful we are in pursuing the same. Innovations utilizing scientific approaches provide objective, measurable, data-driven information, allowing us to make informed decisions. Education and collaboration are paramount. If there is one opportunity that all of us should work together to really change the fate of the next generations, the time is now.

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3 challenges for making global sustainability strategies local

7 05 2023

Image via Shutterstock/Toria

They say “all politics are local.” So are effective sustainability strategies. By Danielle Allen, Sustainability Consultant, Salterbaxter via green • Reposted: May 7, 2023

Translating global corporate sustainability ambitions into local market strategies is necessary for accelerating progress — although it’s no simple task. 

Companies of different sizes and cultures face similar challenges and questions around how to meet the needs of local markets while moving globally in a unified direction — and managing a broader strategy rollout across markets at different stages of maturity. Just as sustainability teams see the brand and business opportunities of localizing sustainability, so do local market activist employees and communicators.

And yet, most companies aren’t communicating how their global strategies will play out locally — in their reporting or other channels. Beyond the occasional case study showing how an aspect of their sustainability pillars has been implemented at the local level, companies aren’t telling complete, data-driven stories.

As companies look to localize global sustainability strategies, there are three challenges they must address. 

1. Global sustainability strategies show the ‘big picture’ at the expense of the ‘true picture’

Global sustainability strategies must be broad and high level enough to account for all the differences of the diverse markets they cover. Global strategy is, in essence, a company average. 

But averages can deflect focus and investment from the solutions and regions that need it most — and where the greatest impact can be made. 

There can also be an inherent bias leading to a focus on the most pressing social and environmental issues of where the corporate headquarters is located. At Davos, many leaders acknowledged that a “one strategy fits all” global corporate approach will not drive innovation and deliver meaningful progress, and a regional picture of impact and action is needed. While global sustainability ambitions are important, sustainability leaders must understand that their location and the maturity of that market can influence the scale and type of ambitions being set and not adequately consider other local markets.

There’s been increased awareness and interest from local markets wanting to understand how they can take their company’s global sustainability goals and strategy and make them relevant to local stakeholders. One Australian food and drink business conducted a local materiality assessment that used global issues as a basis for stakeholder engagement. It enabled them to go deeper into the high-level company wide topics and understand how the specific topics translated to the local market. By understanding which aspects to dial up or down and what sub-topics were most material to the market, they were able to interpret their global strategy in a way that resonated with local understanding and needs. This local market information could then be used by global teams to prioritize resources and efforts.

2.  Local regulations are becoming global requirements

A market’s specific regulatory environment is a major factor in the necessary approach to sustainability. What’s bold and ambitious in one market may be mere compliance in another. 

Local regulations are becoming global requirements and impacting markets beyond a single local market. In January, the Germany supply chain act came into force, which requires suppliers for German companies to comply with new requirements related to human rights and environmental risks and violations. As the European Union prepares for its own supply chain regulations, global corporate teams need to be able to understand the cross-market implications and take appropriate action.

While global sustainability ambitions are important, sustainability leaders must understand that their location and the maturity of that market can influence the scale and type of ambitions being set and not adequately consider other local markets.

When setting global ambition levels, corporate teams should engage with local markets to understand the implications of global ambitions in those markets, including how the global strategy will be implemented in each market. Considering, and answering these questions, supports prioritization and implementation plans at a global and local level. Some questions to ask include:

  • Will each market be expected to deliver against the global targets equally? 
  • Will there be a minimum standard that all markets need to meet but where some markets will be hero markets?
  • Are markets able to adapt the strategy depending on their regulatory or cultural context? 
  • To what extent can global teams support local markets to set and deliver sustainability strategies through financial and resource support?
3. Top-down sustainability strategies fail to translate at the local level

The idea that global and local perspectives conflict is quickly going out of fashion. The very concept of “local” isn’t easily defined by country or city. Sometimes different countries can share more similarities than two cities in the same country. 

When working with a global strategy at a local level, common frustrations are around the slow responsiveness of global teams, the reluctance of ambition and the centralization of sustainability resources. An approach that allows markets to retain flexibility and freedom to set their own goals while having overarching, thematic goals has been a more promising approach allowing markets to adopt a matrix approach rather than relying on top-down pressure.

Thinking three-dimensionally allows one market to look horizontally for support in similar markets. Companies have found that other markets with similar politico-cultural makeup often have learnings that are invaluable in understanding how to set a localized strategy and the allies aren’t always the ones that are geographically closest. The Australian businesses found more similarities within the Canadian market than they did with closer neighbors. 

When sustainability teams are lean and global strategies rely on a law of averages, harnessing learnings from similar markets can be extremely valuable.

To succeed, companies must design bold strategies that are agile and adaptive. 

These must be built on incremental roadmaps and supported by strong internal and external governance models, which are based on constant feedback loops across the company ecosystem. This will ensure global and local teams have the flexibility to respond to internal and external priorities, can create relevant and actional narratives that go beyond averages and set a clear direction so that everyone, regardless of location, can get behind them and be a part of delivering progress.

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How Retailers Are Embracing Sustainability With Circular Initiatives

5 05 2023

Let’s Change The Way We Shop’ sign outside Selfridges on Oxford Street. Photo: GETTY

By Clara Ludmir, Contributor via Forbes • Reposted May 5, 2023

With shoppers becoming increasingly mindful of their consumption choices, businesses are facing heightened scrutiny and pressure to meet new sustainability standards and adapt to evolving shopping habits. This is driving retailers to rethink their business models to make circularity part of their mindset and operations. So, how are retailers that weren’t born with sustainability at the core of their business concretely adapting to the circular momentum?

From Linear To Circular Business Models

Certain brands and retailers are paving the way for impactful mindset and operational shifts needed to truly put sustainability at the heart of their agenda. Luxury department store Selfridges developed a vision to reinvent retail through its ‘Project Earth’ initiative, built on three pillars: transitioning to sustainable materials, investing in new shopping models, and challenging the mindsets of its partners, teams and customers. In addition to aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, the retailer made a bold commitment: by 2030, 45% of transactions within the business will come from circular products and services.

Selfridges considers a transaction to be circular when it comes from a resale, rental, refill, repair or recycled product. This target is backed by continuous efforts and initiatives designed to accompany this ambitious strategic objective, such as the definition of specific targets to deliver a material transformation roadmap, new repair and rental services and in-store experiences to shift customer attitude towards circular shopping and consumption.

Rethinking The Product Life Cycle To Develop A Closed-loop System

Fashion brand Coach has also recently demonstrated its intent to take the circular momentum seriously through the launch of Coachtopia. Developed as a collaborative lab for innovation focused on circular craft, the launch marks a significant milestone for the company. Speaking to at the label’s Regent Street flagship, Joon Silverstein, Coach’s SVP of Global Marketing and Sustainability and Head of Coachtopia, considers that this line is “rethinking the product life cycle from end to end. Creating beautiful new things from waste, designing to re-make at scale and ultimately working towards a closed loop system.” This approach is focused on producing items designed to have multiple lives, implying that they are created with the intent to be easily disassembled and repurposed into another product in the future.

In addition to embracing an innovative approach to designing products made from waste and meant to be recycled and repurposed, Coachtopia leveraged insights from a beta community of GenZ individuals to inspire and be inspired by a demographic that is more actively invested in climate change and the environment. “We believe very strongly that it’s important to create it not for these consumers but with them,” Silverstein told, allowing this initiative to give a voice and platform to creatives and climate advocates excited to participate in disrupting fashion for the better.

The sub-brand offers a line of bags, wallets and ready-to-wear items that are available in Selfridges, Coach stores across North America and the brand’s US and UK sites.

In-Store Resale Offering Is Expanding

The second-hand apparel market is experiencing continuous growth, with sales expected to reach $350 billion by 2037 based on a report from resale platform thredUp. In the United States, 1 in 3 apparel items bought by women in 2022 was second-hand, with Millenials and GenZ responsible for more than half of the revenue. As a response to this growing demand, a number of retailers are designing in-store spaces dedicated to second-hand shopping through the launch of pop-ups, corners and own-brand initiatives.

Galeries Lafayette Paris
(RE)STORE space in Galeries Lafayette HaussmannGALERIES LAFAYETTE

In Paris, leading department stores have all started to welcome circularity through dedicated store spaces and offerings. For instance, the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann launched in 2021 a (RE)STORE space of 500 square meters dedicated to second-hand players and sustainable brands. In addition to hosting Monogram, a French luxury second-hand e-tailer, the space features a number of popular online resale shops as well as sustainable brands designing clothing or products made exclusively from offcuts and recycled materials.

Brands with a large retail footprint are evolving to embed circularity in their commercial model. For example, French baby and children’s clothing brand Petit Bateau is making space in its stores for second-hand clothing with the launch of its resale program, allowing customers to both purchase or sell second-hand items in-store. So far, around 20 stores in France are participating in the initiative, with a roll-out to other European countries and Japan expected in the next year. Petit Bateau aims to be the most durable brand in this segment, with products designed to be re-worn by multiple kids, thus almost naturally expected to embrace circularity. While today, only 1% of products sold come from this program, the brand’s CEO Guillaume Darrousez shared on French TV channel BFMTV that by 2030, 1 in 3 transactions will come from the circular economy, either through second-hand or rental products.

Adopting Circularity Is Key To Customer Acquisition And Retention

As of today, retailers are for the most part engaging in the circular momentum as a means to acquire and retain shoppers, rather than to grow profits. In fact, most brands launching their resale platform via a dedicated website struggle to make it a profitable endeavour. Luxury resale platform The RealReal has yet to find an attractive economic model, reporting a net loss of $196 million in 2022 and the closure of various retail locations, which highlights the sector’s struggle to make second-hand retail a scaleable and profitable business.

However, while retailers might not drive significant revenue from recycle, repair or resale initiatives just yet, these allow them to attract a new audience: as mentioned in thredUp’s 2023 resale report, 60% of the resale market’s growth will be attributed to new shoppers, stressing the rising interest for second-hand offerings. Considering the expected size of the resale market and growing pressure on brands to become more accountable and conscious of climate change, retailers are expected to get on board and adopt circularity on a bigger scale in the next five years.

By then, we might have the answer to the following question: will circularity – whether through recycling and reusing materials to produce new items or launching an in-house resale program – ever be scaleable and profitable? Or will it just represent a fraction of brands’ industrial and commercial operations while enabling them to showcase sustainable commitments?

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The thinking error that makes people susceptible to climate change denial

5 05 2023

Expecting black-and-white answers can make it hard to see the truth. 
bubaone via Getty Images

By Jeremy P. Shapiro, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University via The Conversation • Reposted May 5, 2023

Cold spells often bring climate change deniers out in force on social media, with hashtags like #ClimateHoax and #ClimateScam. Former President Donald Trump often chimes in, repeatedly claiming that each cold snap disproves the existence of global warming.

From a scientific standpoint, these claims of disproof are absurd. Fluctuations in the weather don’t refute clear long-term trends in the climate

Yet many people believe these claims, and the political result has been reduced willingness to take action to mitigate climate change. Why are so many people susceptible to this type of disinformation? My field, psychology, can help explain – and help people avoid being misled.

The allure of black-and-white thinking

Close examination of the arguments made by climate change deniers reveals the same mistake made over and over again. That mistake is the cognitive error known as black-and-white thinking, also called dichotomous and all-or-none thinking. As I explain in my book “Finding Goldilocks,” black-and-white thinking is a source of dysfunction in mental health, relationships – and politics.

People are often susceptible to it because in many areas of life, dichotomous thinking does something helpful: It simplifies the world.

Binaries are easy to handle because there are only two possibilities to consider. When people face a spectrum of possibilities and nuance, they have to exert more mental effort. But when that spectrum is polarized into pairs of opposites, choices are clear and dramatic.

Image of a person showing arrows pointing in opposite directions the person might take.
Most things don’t fall neatly into only two choices. eyetoeyePIX via Getty Images

This mental labor-saving device is practical in many everyday situations, but it is a poor tool for understanding complicated realities – and the climate is complicated.

Sometimes, people divide the spectrum in asymmetric ways, with one side much larger than the other. For example, perfectionists often categorize their work as either perfect or unsatisfactory, so even good and very good outcomes are lumped together with poor ones in the unsatisfactory category. In dichotomous thinking like this, a single exception can tip a person’s view to one side. It’s like a pass/fail grading system in which 100% earns a pass and everything else gets an F.

With a grading system like this, it’s not surprising that opponents of climate action have found ways to reject global warming research, despite the overwhelming evidence.

Here’s how they do it:

The all-or-nothing problem

Climate change deniers simplify the spectrum of possible scientific consensus into two categories: 100% agreement or no consensus at all. If it’s not one, it’s the other.

A 2021 review of thousands of climate science papers and conference proceedings concluded that over 99% of studies have found that burning fossil fuels warms the planet. That’s not good enough for some skeptics. If they find one contrarian scientist somewhere, they categorize the idea of human-caused global warming as controversial and conclude that there is no basis for action.

Powerful economic interests are at work here: The fossil fuel industry has funded disinformation campaigns for years to create this kind of doubt about climate change, despite knowing that their products cause it and the consequences. Members of Congress have used that disinformation to block or weaken federal policies that could slow climate change.

Expecting a straight line in a variable world

In another example of black-and-white thinking, deniers argue that if global temperatures are not increasing at a perfectly consistent rate, there is no such thing as global warming. 

However, complex variables never change in a uniform way; they wiggle up and down in the short term even when exhibiting long-term trends. Most business data, such as revenues, profits and stock prices, do this too, with short-term fluctuations contained in long-term trends.

Charts showing Apple's changing stock price and global temperatures over time. Both have a saw-tooth pattern.
These two graphs have the same form: a long-term trend of major increase within which there are short-term fluctuations. CC BY-ND

Mistaking a cold snap for disproof of climate change is like mistaking a bad month for Apple stock for proof that Apple isn’t a good long-term investment. This error results from homing in on a tiny slice of the graph and ignoring the rest.

Failing to examine the gray area

Climate change deniers also mistakenly cite correlations below 100% as evidence against human-caused global warming. They triumphantly point out that sunspots and volcanic eruptions also affect the climate, even though evidence shows both have very little influence on long-term temperature rise in comparison to greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, deniers argue that if fossil fuel burning is not all-important, it’s unimportant. They miss the gray area in between: Greenhouse gases are indeed just one factor warming the planet, but they’re the most important one and the factor humans can influence.

Charts showing impact of different forces on temperature. Natural sources have little variation, but the upward swing of temperatures corresponds closely with rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Influences on global temperature over time. 4th National Climate Assessment

‘The climate has always been changing’ – but not like this

As increases in global temperatures have become obvious, some climate change skeptics have switched from denying them to reframing them.

Their oft-repeated line, “The climate has always been changing,” typically delivered with an air of patient wisdom, is based on a striking lack of knowledge about the evidence from climate research.

Their reasoning is based on an invalid binary: Either the climate is changing or it’s not, and since it’s always been changing, there is nothing new here and no cause for concern.

However, the current warming is on par with nothing humans have ever seen, and intense warming events in the distant past were planetwide disasters that caused massive extinctions – something we do not want to repeat.

As humanity faces the challenge of global warming, we need to use all our cognitive resources. Recognizing the thinking error at the root of climate change denial could disarm objections to climate research and make science the basis of our efforts to preserve a hospitable environment for our future.

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Bridging the Sustainability Trust Gap in a Climate-Challenged World

3 05 2023

Image: Getty

Despite growing corporate efforts to drive sustainable change and climate action, there’s an underlying issue: a lack of consumer trust towards companies’ claims on this front. By Dr. Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at Getty Images from Sustainable Brands • Reposted: May 3, 2023

Around the world, major environmental events and extreme weather conditions have pushed climate change to top of mind for people worldwide. According to iStock and Getty ImagesVisualGPS research, “climate change” ranks top of the list of concerns for individuals across the globe — higher than inflation, the energy crises, or issues surrounding world peace.

However, there is still a general sense of ambiguity on who is accountable for driving forward actions to combat climate risks — is it the government? Big businesses? Or are individuals most responsible? Our insights tell us people globally believe it is a shared responsibility; yet each actor’s expectations seem to be first on others, rather than on themselves.

Historically, across different industries, ad campaigns have promoted the idea of individual responsibility. We are used to seeing visuals highlighting individual sustainable practices — from recycling to biking to using reusable shopping bags. All of these concepts, mostly driven by brands and policies, reinforce the idea that sustainability is an individual responsibility.

On the other hand, as VisualGPS found, individuals believe that government is the primary agent responsible for dealing with sustainability efforts and environmental concerns related to global climate change; and that businesses are as responsible as individuals for protecting the planet and enacting sustainable practices.

Since the first UN Climate Change Conference held in 1995, people have been able to follow some countries’ governments’ progress in dealing with climate change issues, while also seeing how corporate philanthropy evolved into impactful CSR programs. Today, 7 out of 10 individuals around the globe believe they have made a lot of progress toward living a more environmentally sustainable life, VisualGPS found.

Nonetheless, despite all involved agents taking part in making a change — denoting a high level of climate awareness — there’s an underlying issue yet to be solved: VisualGPS also revealed a lack of consumer trust towards companies’ claims on this front. More than 80 percent of consumers believe products are made to seem environmentally friendlier than they are, followed by distrust of products that are labeled ”environmentally friendly” as a marketing ploy; and they believe companies claim they abide by ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) standards but do not show enough evidence for it.

The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer reported an average five-to-one margin of respondents who want businesses to play a bigger, not smaller, role in addressing climate change. The same research found respondents have low trust in the government; in contrast, businesses continue to gain trust around the world and are the sole institution seen as competent and ethical — showing companies are uniquely positioned to bridge the sustainability trust gap, fill the void left by governments, and showcase the invaluable role they play in addressing climate change.

When it comes to deciding which company to use or buy from, 84 percent of people believe it is important that a company uses sustainable business practices and extends these to their products; yet more than half claim it’s too much work to research what brands are actively doing to mitigate climate risks. Knowing most consumers make purchase decisions based on visual content — and also expect brands to take a public stand and drive real action on social and environmental issues — companies and brands can lean on better visuals to tell their sustainability story and make their efforts known to engage with consumers.

Regularly, visuals related to environmentalism and sustainability rely on familiar visual clichés— think, the lone polar bear or hands cupping a sapling — unimaginatively used to convey environmental issues. Many brands also focus on conceptual images and videos that are too abstract to stand out or resonate in a crowded visual landscape. Instead, businesses could focus on large-scale (often policy-backed) visuals — such as actions in the realm of infrastructure, renewable energy, agriculture, water conservation, or management of green spaces — imagery representing topics and initiatives that could transcend the barrier of practices often seen as greenwashing.

As the climate crisis accelerates, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about what is sustainable; how our decisions, products and policies impact the environment; who is responsible — and whether or not they trust corporate and government sustainability claims. In turn, businesses should look to visual images and messaging that rise to the occasion.

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2 leaders on the need for organizational transformation towards sustainability

3 05 2023

Photo: WEF

By Nadine Sterley, Chief Sustainability Officer, GEA and Judith Wiese, Chief People and Sustainability Officer and Member of the Managing Board, Siemens from the World Economic Forum • Reposted: May 3, 2023

  • Corporate sustainability has become a crucial strategic imperative.
  • Sustainability leaders are pivotal in shaping organizational change.
  • Two leaders share their thoughts on how this can be achieved.

The need for critical action to achieve climate and nature goals has elevated the role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). The private sector will play a key role in multistakeholder partnerships to actualize the impact on climate and nature. 

However, this cannot be achieved without a human-centred approach, making the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) role also essential for sustainability transformation.

Within the private sector, CSOs and CHROs will shape fundamental strategies for organizational change to catalyze sustainable habits in organizations and individuals. 

“Sustainability, HR and organizational change can influence companies and their value chains” 

Nadine Sterley, Chief Sustainability Officer, GEA Group

As the world is confronted with the consequences of the climate crisis and other environmental challenges, acting sustainably is becoming increasingly essential in companies. This is true both from a strategic point of view as well as with regard to innovations and successful recruiting. At the same time, the breadth of sustainability topics is increasing year-on-year. 

The growing importance for companies to act sustainably and report on their sustainability performance has elevated the role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). Sustainability has evolved from being a niche function to a strategic one. CSOs are expected to take a key role in leading their organizations towards sustainable business practices. At GEA, the CSO role belongs to the inner circle of the company’s decision-making. It plays a crucial role in helping its executives and the entire workforce to easier understand, reasonably measure and adequately report on sustainability impacts, risks and opportunities.

As sustainability has fundamental strategic importance, GEA has put the topic at the heart of its strategic approach. In fact, sustainability is the core theme in GEA’s corporate purpose, “Engineering for a better world”, from which the company’s vision is derived: “We safeguard future generations by providing sustainable solutions for the nutrition and pharmaceutical industries.”

Moreover, sustainability has its own pillar within GEA’s Mission 26 corporate strategy and underpins the other six key levers. Taken together, they form the roadmap to ensure GEA achieves its targets. Within this framework, the CSO works strategically to ensure sustainability is integrated into all business activities and the entire company. This requires adept networking and advocacy skills and the ability to connect the dots within and outside the organization to drive sustainability transformation.

However, as important as they are, neither strategy, nor the organization or the products on their own are enough to make the key difference. What matters most to achieving real transformational change and becoming a truly sustainable company is the mindset, behaviour and commitment of a company’s employees. To help their organization succeed, employees need to be engaged, empowered, and assume a key role in the transformation. And this is where the human resources function must become part of the game. It can create a supportive environment that fosters a sustainable mindset and behaviour. It also plays a critical role in hiring and helping ensure new employees understand and embrace company values.

GEA is taking this aspect very seriously. Of GEA’s five values, the first one is: “Responsibility: We care for people and planet.” Internally and externally, our CEO, Stefan Klebert, has made it his personal mission to promote this value, thus setting the tone for all employees.

The clarity and importance placed on caring for people and planet, reinforced by GEA’s corporate purpose: “Engineering for a better world”, serve as a promise to current and future employees. This has already had a positive impact on our goal to become “Employer of Choice” in our industry. Likewise, our values and purpose set a clear expectation toward all employees and, consequently, any people-related decisions.

In addition to requesting a driving mindset towards sustainability from all employees, GEA is significantly investing in the competency development of its business leaders. Just recently, the top 160 leaders of the company, went through a comprehensive programme with a renowned business school that was strongly focused on identifying new ways of leveraging sustainability as a source for competitive advantage.

Building on that, the company’s leadership teams are now expected to develop their own strategies to create additional value for their customers by offering products and solutions that allow a reduction of energy, water, or waste. To encourage even more innovation in these areas, we set up cross-function and cross-divisional sustainability-focused hackathons to spark creativity.

As of 2023, a significant proportion of GEA’s senior leaders will participate in a variable compensation plan which is linked to GEA achieving its sustainability-related targets. For example, the reduction of CO2 emissions in GEA’s own plants and along entire supply chains will lead to higher compensation, as will the development of more efficient products that support customers in achieving their sustainability targets.

With the support of our employees, GEA is not only driving its own sustainability transformation but also the transformation of the many industries it supports through engineering excellence.

“Being Chief People and Sustainability Officer is a game changing superpower”

Judith Wiese, Chief People and Sustainability Officer and Member of the Managing Board, Siemens

The challenges to human (co-)existence on the planet from resource depletion, climate change, and unsustainable practices of the industrial age are undeniable. In the corporate world, the broader attention needed to handle sustainability issues is generally allocated to the role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). There are, however, no universal standards for what this function does or how much authority it has to be effective. At Siemens, the CSO role has been a board-level position since 2008, underscoring the importance of sustainability as a building block of our DNA and setting a strong foundation to build on. And that’s what we do, every day.

As Chief People and Sustainability Officer (CPSO) at Siemens, I have the unique opportunity to wear two hats: one for ensuring the well-being of our people and nurturing our company culture, and one for advancing sustainable practices in our own operations and all aspects of our business – multiplying the impact for our customers and communities. For me, this is a superpower. It joins two powerful elements that run horizontally across all our businesses: people and sustainability – both necessary if solutions are to be found for solving the most critical issues of our time. Add in the power of technology that Siemens brings as a technology company, and you have an unstoppable combination that actively supports the mindset shift needed for achieving a more sustainable world.

At Siemens, our push for sustainable business practices is encompassed in our 360-degree framework, containing six fields of action: Decarbonization, Ethics, Governance, Resource Efficiency, Equity, and Employability or DEGREE. Our DEGREE framework is, among other things, a commitment to ethical standards based on trust and respect for human rights in the supply chain. 

DEGREE allows a holistic view of sustainability that puts people topics like employability and equity, as well as environmental and societal impact topics, in focus. We encourage continuous learning and are committed to re- and upskilling, especially green skills. In the last fiscal year, we invested €280 million in professional training and continued education to transform our workforce into sustainability ambassadors. Our highly popular Base Camp for Sustainability offers an introduction to DEGREE and 66,000 participants have completed the course already in FY23.

We value the E for Equity that helps us integrate and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of our company. It helps us create a workforce that reflects our customer landscape and brings a fresh perspective to the way we think about creating solutions. The intersection of people’s interests with our company values creates a sense of belonging and engagement that we both admire and appreciate.

Combining the responsibilities for sustainability and people operations allows social aspects to be complemented by proficiency in the environmental and corporate governance spheres. At Siemens, with sustainability at the core of our processes, we need relevant skillsets across our business units and corporate functions. This allows sustainable approaches to be developed in an ecosystem manner, observing the cross-functional and business governance standards required to comply with new EU Taxonomy regulations and develop non-financial reporting and accounting guidelines.

To effect change, a cultural and organizational transformation and mindset shift are necessary. The convergence of people and sustainability can be a useful tool to speed up the momentum of much-needed change in all aspects of our existence. Indeed, for a company like Siemens – undergoing the transformation from industry to global technology leader – sustainability is a tremendous opportunity. Crucially, this applies both to our own operations and to our portfolio. We have increased our CO2 reduction target from 50% to 90% by 2030, compared to 2019, and will invest €650 million in decarbonizing our activities by 2030. But our products and solutions can also help our customers with their sustainability challenges – ~150 Mio tons of emissions were avoided by customers in FY22 alone.

Those companies that recognize the power of this combination will be well positioned to be drivers of innovation and growth, increase employee engagement, and mitigate the challenges associated with rapid transformation.

As a company at the intersection of the real and digital worlds, we at Siemens believe that technology is a key driver of sustainability. Embracing a holistic view that goes beyond environmental topics, we anchor sustainability firmly in all our business and operations. We are confident that leveraging the superpower combination of technology, people and sustainability can make a difference and transform the lives of billions.

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Ethical Marketing: 4 Values All Brands Should Strive For

3 05 2023

Photo: Getty Images

By Jeff Bradfor, PR pro, president of Dalton Agency’s Nashville office, author of “The Joy of Propaganda: The How and Why of Public Relations and Marketing.” via Forbes • Reposted: May 3, 2023

Today, consumers demand that companies not only offer quality products and services but also behave ethically in their marketing practices. Ethical behavior is a critical aspect of building long-term relationships with consumers.

In this article, I will list what I believe are the fundamental, perennial philosophical values that guide ethical marketing—values that have guided the work of our PR agency for the past 23 years—and describe how brands have implemented them in their strategies.


Honesty means telling the truth, being transparent and avoiding deception. In the past, many companies have used deceptive tactics in their marketing practices to gain a competitive advantage. However, with the rise of social media and other digital channels, such tactics are easily exposed and can damage a brand’s reputation.

An example of deception is Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal. The company admitted to using software that could detect when its cars were being tested for emissions and then adjust the performance to pass the test. However, in real-world driving conditions, the cars emitted up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide. The company faced massive backlash, with many consumers feeling betrayed and questioning the brand’s ethics.

On the positive side, Tylenol dramatically demonstrated how to honestly and openly respond to a crisis during the infamous Tylenol tampering incident in 1982, in which several people died after taking Tylenol laced with potassium cyanide. The company quickly and completely shared information about the incident and took a huge financial hit by removing and destroying all products on the market at the time. Not only did Tylenol’s honesty save lives, but it also saved the company’s reputation. Within a year of the incident, sales of Tylenol had rebounded to pre-incident levels—and the company was widely praised for its ethical response to a tragedy that cost it over $100 million.

Respect For Individual Rights

This includes respecting privacy, data protection and avoiding discrimination. Consumers have the right to control their personal data and decide how it is used by companies. Brands must ensure they are transparent about their data collection and usage practices and obtain explicit consent from consumers.

A recent example of this is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. Brands that prioritize individual rights and respect consumer privacy are more likely to build trust and loyalty with consumers.

Respect For Human Dignity

Brands must recognize the inherent worth and value of each person and treat them accordingly. In marketing, respect for human dignity means avoiding tactics that exploit or manipulate consumers, such as intentional deception.

For instance, while influencer marketing can be an effective way for businesses to reach new audiences, some influencers have been criticized for promoting products that they do not actually use or endorse, or for promoting products that may be harmful or unethical. This lack of authenticity and transparency can be seen as a violation of respect for human dignity.


Marketers have a responsibility to ensure that their marketing efforts do not harm people or society. They should also be responsible for ensuring that their products or services are safe and reliable.

For example, in 2019, a well-known vaping brand was criticized for its marketing practices, which contributed to the rise of teenage vaping. The company had used colorful packaging and social media influencers to target young people, despite knowing that its products were highly addictive and harmful. The company’s marketing practices had undermined the common good and contributed to a public health crisis.

Another example of irresponsibility is the issue of greenwashing, the practice of making false or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service. It has become a significant problem, as consumers are becoming more aware of environmental issues and are looking for sustainable products. Companies are being urged to be more transparent about their environmental practices and ensure that their marketing efforts are responsible.


Ethical marketing is critical for building trust and long-term relationships with consumers. Brands that prioritize honesty, responsibility and respect for individual rights and human dignity will not only meet consumer expectations but also set themselves apart from their competitors. By implementing these values in their marketing strategies, brands can create a positive impact on society while also driving business success.

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The Climate Science Behind Managing Disaster Risk

2 05 2023

Tourists try to stay dry in a flooded St Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, in 2018. Flooding in the region has only intensified in recent years. Image credit: Jonathan Ford/Unsplash

By Joyce Coffee from • Reposted: May 2, 2023

It has become de rigueur for companies eager to reduce their climate-related disaster risks to sign up with groups that focus on assisting corporate clients with their climate change challenges. 

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), for one, helps the private sector set science-based emissions reduction targets. It’s a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Another, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, offers guidelines for how companies can report their exposure to physical climate-related risks, among other things.

The assistance these groups provide is timely. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which protects investors and regulates publicly-held companies’ disclosures, is considering rules to require public companies to provide climate risk-related financial data. And most (if not all) U.N. agencies and other international climate change-related programs recognize the need to address disaster risks and other forms of climate risk worldwide. 

But do these groups follow climate science? That question arose last month when a distinguished engineer openly questioned climate science in a presentation to the U.N. Disaster Risk Reduction Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE) and its growing membership of U.S. corporate leaders. “We don’t know if climate change is happening now, and we don’t know if it will happen in the future,” he contended.

Peruse any legitimate climate source, and it’s nigh impossible to question climate science, whether our planet is warming and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. The U.N. has a growing set of resources, among them:

As the U.N. plainly asserts: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” 

ARISE, whose U.S. arm I co-chair, follows the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The latest documents of the Framework — the 2015 U.N.-adopted document that calls for assessing and reporting progress on disaster-reduction plans — emphasize that disaster risks “are growing at an unprecedented rate globally, inflicting damage across sectors and vital systems for human societies and economies.”

It also maintains: “We are living outside the boundaries of what our planet can sustain, to the detriment of future generations. Radical shifts are needed to change course toward a more sustainable and risk-informed pathway, as the world is facing a projected 40 percent increase in disasters during the lifetime of the Sendai Framework to 2030.” 

The Framework cites climate change on over half of its 140 pages, and the No. 1 commitment of the U.N. Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience is to take a risk-informed approach. 

We must also heed another distinguished engineer, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who earned a degree in the field from the Instituto Superior Técnico in Portugal back in 1949. “Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” he told CNBC last year. “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” 

And we must promote companies looking to the SBTi and others for assistance in mitigating disaster risks.  Onward with this important work!

Joyce Coffee headshot

Joyce Coffee, LEED AP, is founder and President of Climate Resilience Consulting. She is an accomplished organizational strategist and visionary leader with over 25 years of domestic and international experience in the corporate, government and non-profit sectors implementing resilience and sustainability strategies, management systems, performance measurement, partnerships, benchmarking and reporting.

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Smart tech can boost business sustainability in 6 key areas

2 05 2023

Photo: Getty Images

Graham Rihn, Founder & CEO of RoadRunner Recycling, discusses how smart technology can boost a business’s sustainability credentials in six key areas. By Graham Rihn from Sustainability Magazine • Reposted: May 2, 2023

More and more, business leaders are identifying that sustainability initiatives are not only beneficial for climate change, but can also have positive impacts on a company’s bottom line, when executed effectively. 

Resultantly, companies are investing in smart technology like AI, machine learning, and blockchain to help accelerate and streamline sustainability efforts, operate more efficiently and drive shareholder value.

While businesses, especially those with large national or global footprints, often face the challenge of scalability when it comes to implementing sustainability action plans across a variety of locations, a recent PriceWaterhouseCooper study found that more than 70% of sustainable goals could be accelerated through technology adoption.

New technologies can step into this arena to help businesses overcome these challenges among others. Here are six areas of sustainability businesses can improve with the help of tools such as AI, machine learning, and blockchain development. 

Energy Efficiency

Businesses can optimise energy efficiency through data analysis, and, in turn, identify opportunities for reduced energy consumption and potentially lower bills. For example, connected sensor technology can adjust lighting and air conditioning to occupancy levels. Fewer people in the office can equate to less energy usage. Industrial manufacturing company, Siemens, uses machine learning to optimise data center energy consumption. In the process, the company cut energy costs by 10% and carbon emissions by 16%. 

Renewable Energy

A major challenge for businesses involving climate change is sourcing energy that does not come from burning fossil fuels. In 2019, burning fossil fuels accounted for 74% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 

Businesses that choose renewable energy sources can use AI to increase efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. Google installed a 1.6 MW solar array at its company headquarters as part of its plan to wholly utilise carbon-free energy by 2030. They use AI to maximise the use of that clean energy across data centers, shifting energy-intensive processes to the times of day when the most electricity is available. 

Investing in renewables, committing to optimising green energy production, and employing technology to optimise usage can yield dividends in terms of climate change.

Sustainable Supply Chain

Supply chain transparency is essential for building a sustainable business and negating climate change, but tracing a product’s journey is no easy task. Blockchain technology can step in to help a business ensure sustainable sourcing methods are utilised for raw materials. Walmart recently partnered with IBM to implement a blockchain based supply chain tracking system to follow products and materials.

Before applying technology to the supply chain, it took a team more than six days to find the source of a package of mangoes being sold at a store location. Working with IBM, that team could eventually trace each package in less than three seconds. Sustainable sourcing can help businesses reduce emissions, better manage climate risks, and even streamline operations.

Sustainable Product Design

Analysing product performance data can be accomplished through AI algorithms that optimise product design for energy efficiency and recyclability. 

As of 2010, Nike employed AI and machine learning to design a sustainable running shoe made with recyclable materials that maintained their standards of durability and athletic performance. The carbon footprint of the product was reduced by 30%

Applying technology to product design can mean reductions in energy usage and carbon emissions for businesses.

Waste and Recycling Management

Sustainability measures are not only important at a product’s creation, but also when it reaches the end of its usable life. Waste accounts for an estimated 20% of methane emissions across the world. 

Today, new technologies can analyse waste generation to identify areas in which organisations can reduce waste output. Waste metering technology is able to monitor the types and volumes of waste being generated to optimise service. It can also identify areas for increased recycling or waste elimination. 

One example, the city of Amsterdam implemented an AI-based application in 2021 that can detect garbage and recycling on the street. It automatically maps the area and once the material is identified by the AI in real time, the information is shared with the city’s waste management department to clean up. The application is able to quickly solve waste disposal issues in Amsterdam at scale.

ESG Reporting

Embracing technologies that aid in implementing sustainable changes to businesses can also enable better, more accurate ESG reporting. Disclosing this type of information could soon become a requirement with potential new SEC Scope 3 emissions reporting rules coming in 2023 and technology adoption can help businesses be well-prepared.

Many businesses find that with the use of AI and sensor technology that data quality is improved, reporting processes can be automated, the technology can identify risks and opportunities, and they are better able to forecast future trends. 

Microsoft uses AI-based carbon management software and Internet of Things for its AI for Earth programme. It can measure, manage, and find ways to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint. That can be an attractive metric to investors measuring a company by its ESG score. Cutting emissions usually means a reduction in energy use which often translates to lower costs. Using AI for data collection and predictive analytics can provide a powerful avenue to find new methods of driving sustainability solutions. 

Why apply technology to sustainability

Implementing these tools as part of a holistic sustainability program allows companies to find solutions that fit their needs and sets your business up for success in both the short- and long-term. 

Smart technologies can help us accelerate the road to a more sustainable future, and the time to start is now. Implementing this technology now prepares your business for a future in which sustainability will have a bigger impact on the bottom line. 

In fact, more than 74% of institutional investors said they would divest from companies with a poor environmental track record. 

AI, machine learning, and blockchain technology can push businesses to achieve goals such as Zero Waste and carbon neutrality, while preparing you for the expectations of tomorrow, today. 

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Your iPhone Contains More Recycled Materials Than You Thought

1 05 2023

Image credits: Bagus Hernawan/Unsplash and Apple 

By Gary E. Frank from • Reposted: May 1, 2023

Mobile devices like Apple’s iPhone contain at least 30 chemical elements — from common metals like aluminum, copper, lithium, silver and gold, to rare earth elements like yttrium, terbium, lanthanum, neodymium and dysprosium, all of which are extracted from the earth through mining.

Apple is looking to reduce demand for these elements and others by quietly expanding its use of recycled content. The company reached a new high for recycled materials in 2021, with nearly 20 percent recycled content across all products, according to its 2022 Environmental Progress Report released last week. It also introduced certified recycled gold for the first time in 2021, and more than doubled the use of recycled tungsten, rare earth elements and cobalt, the company reported. 

Recovering more materials for use in future products helps reduce mining. For example, a single metric ton of iPhone components contains the same amount of gold and copper that’s typically extracted from 2,000 metric tons of mined rock. 

“We are making real progress in our work to address the climate crisis and to one day make our products without taking anything from the earth,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said in a public statement. “Our rapid pace of innovation is already helping our teams use today’s products to build tomorrow’s.”

Increasingly, that means the use of recycling robots like Daisy, which the company says can disassemble up to 1.2 million phones a year and recover key materials like rare earths. With recently enhanced capability, Daisy can now take apart 23 models of iPhone, and Apple has offered to license the robot’s patents to other companies and researchers free of charge.

apple daisy iphone recycling robot
Apple’s first recycling robot, Daisy, can disassemble up to 1.2 million phones each year, helping Apple recover more valuable materials for recycling, according to the company. 

Apple rolled out Taz, a cousin to Daisy, last year — which uses “shredder-like technology” to recover more rare earth elements from devices. An additional robot, Dave, disassembles taptic engines, the technology that provides users with tactile feedback to simulate actions, such as clicks on a stationary touch screen. These steps help in the recovery of valuable rare earth magnets, tungsten and steel, the company said. 

All totaled, Apple products that came off the assembly lines in 2021 included 45 percent certified recycled rare earth elements, the company’s highest mark ever. 

The company has also committed to extend product lifetimes through refurbishment. It reported sending more than 12 million devices and accessories to new owners for reuse in 2021, extending their lifetime and reducing the need for future mining. In the long term, Apple aims to use only renewable or recyclable materials in its products, a goal announced in 2017.

The company’s 2022 report also highlighted its progress toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. In a year when many other companies saw large increases in their footprints and the company’s revenue grew by 33 percent, Apple’s net emissions remained flat. The company has been carbon neutral for its global operations since 2020, including 100 percent renewable energy used to power all offices, stores and data centers since 2018.

And Apple says it’s spreading the gospel of renewables, with Apple suppliers more than doubling their use of clean power from 2020 to 2021, according to the report. As of April 2023, 213 of the company’s manufacturing partners have pledged to power all Apple production with renewables across 25 countries.

The company has also reduced plastic in its packaging by 75 percent since 2015, on the way eliminating plastic packaging entirely by 2025.

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United Nations: Global sustainability goals are in ‘deep trouble’

1 05 2023


By Laureen Fagan from sustainability-times/.com • Reposted: May 1, 2023

Global progress on achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been stalled, with the COVID-19 pandemic and conflict in Ukraine causing setbacks that threaten achievement of the 2030 goals.

“It’s time to sound the alarm. At the midway point on our way to 2030, the SDGs are in deep trouble,” said the new interim report, previewed this week. “A preliminary assessment of the roughly 140 targets with data show only about 12% are on track.”

For example, 575 million people (about 7% of the world’s population) will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030 if current trends hold. That compares to 800 million in 2015 (10.8%). “The COVID-19 pandemic reversed three decades of steady progress with the number of people living in extreme poverty increasing for the first time in a generation,” the report said. Some 70 million were pushed back into extreme poverty since 2019.

There have been successes: child mortality rates continue to fall, progress on HIV prevention and treatment continues, and there are gains on electricity access in poor countries. Renewable energy and an increased number of marine protected areas are bright spots. But on far too many measures, including climate-related goals, more is needed.

At this rate, some 660 million people will still lack power and renewable energy will still be a fraction of the mix in 2030. Climate finance is falling short and debt relief is increasingly critical in the developing world. Food security (SDG2) and safe water access (SDG6) are threatened as more people are affected by climate impacts.

“The world is on the brink of a climate catastrophe and current actions and plans to address the crisis are insufficient. Without transformative action starting now and within this decade to reduce greenhouse gas emissions deeply and rapidly in all sectors, the 1.5°C target will be at risk and with it the lives of more than three billion people,” the report said.

“Failure to act leads to intensifying heatwaves, droughts, flooding, wildfires, sea-level rise, and famines. Emissions should already be decreasing now and will need to be cut almost by half by 2030 – a mere seven years from now.”

Guterres is appealing for “deep reforms of the international financial architecture” through international lenders and development banks, including SDG stimulus funds of at least US$500 billion per year to assist low-income nations with their plans for the SDG targets.

“Many developing countries cannot invest in the SDGs because they face a financing black hole. Before the pandemic, the annual SDG funding gap was $2.5 trillion. According to the OECD, that figure is now at least $4.2 trillion,” said Guterres. “And many developing countries are buried under a mountain of debt.”

The interim report was released ahead of the UN General Assembly’s high-level Economic and Social Council meeting in July and, ultimately, the SDG summit in September.

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Markets Will Reward Brands That Are De-Risking Their Supply Chains

30 04 2023

While the volatility of economic change around us can be distracting, one thing remains clear: A new generation of expectations is shifting business for good. By Del Hudson from Sustainable Brands • Reposted: April 30, 2023

There has been a rapid recent shift from Scope 3 emissions measurement and managementas a “nice-to-have” to a requirement for doing business responsibly. If your brand intends to lead in the markets of tomorrow, you must understand your supply chain and be reducing impacts now. It is no longer tenable to not know the environmental and social implications across the production lifecycle. With disclosure regulations at play across the globe, ESG reporting is increasingly being legally mandated. Examples include the EU’s recently adopted Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, the global International Sustainability Standards Board; and the SEC’s proposed ESG disclosure mandate in the US.

Government regulators are playing a key role in shaping how we address climate change; however, influential businesses have a chance to ensure these requirements speak to the metrics that make a true impact. Policy is a catalytic vehicle for change. As a business community, we should be embracing it as a means to address the existential threat of the climate crisis — to not do so would be irresponsible and dangerous. Recognizing the tension in the system among trade organizations, policymakers and corporations doesn’t mean it can’t be done right. For businesses and brands, creating incentives around impact reductionthat tie clearly to company goals is a key opportunity for transformative action.

It’s no secret that multiple industries have reaped the rewards of a broken economic model that relies on extractive and exploitative practices that continue to harm people and the planet. Consumer goods is one of those industries; and responsible leaders recognize it is time for a new system — one that transforms design and consumption and imagines a new way of doing profitable business. Over two-thirds of US consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Globally, that number is just over a third — though that number rises to 39 percent for Gen Z and 42 percent for millennials. Capital markets will reward those that are de-risking their supply chains; and employees want to work where purpose and responsibility matters.

The argument that without perfect data we can’t do this work ignores the reality that science is always evolving. We must move forward with urgency, using the significant directional data that already exist and show where the key issues and intervention opportunities lie. Taking accountability for the full product lifecycle and impacts up and down the value chain is the only way to achieve meaningful ESG performance. It’s not about marketing single environmental or social attributes of a product. It’s not just reducing impact in owned operations while ignoring the manufacturing impact or material inputs of the end product. It’s believing that tomorrow’s customers will want (and deserve) something different than they get today.

This is hard, complex work; it won’t be completed in my lifetime. But we must move rapidly to accurately understand impact and take action with urgency. And we must be ready to learn and change as we know more. The tools to begin this work already exist. Smart businesses already see their futures. And while the volatility of economic change around us can be distracting, one thing remains clear: A new generation of expectations is shifting business for good.

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Three Things Companies Should Consider When Targeting Gen Z

29 04 2023

Photo: Getty Images

By David Herpers, Forbes Councils Member via • Reposted: April 29, 2023

As Generation Z begins to harness its buying power and make significant financial decisions, competition for its attention grows. For companies hoping to capture this generation’s business, it’s important to understand the way they view their finances and how they engage with a brand. While Gen Z’s relationship with money and brands is similar to that of its older siblings, millennials, it’s certainly not the same. Let’s look at how Gen Z approaches finances and consumer brands.

Money Habits

As with the members of any younger generation, we tend to expect Gen Z to have irresponsible spending habits and not to be the biggest savers. Studies show this isn’t the case.

Gen Z tends to spend less and save more than the other generations, contributing an average of $867 in savings per month, almost doubling what the average American saves each month ($462). One may find themselves asking, is Gen Z more fiscally responsible than the rest of us?

The answer is yes and no. One main factor leading to the high monthly average of savings is many Gen Zers still live at home. According to a 2022 study by Credit Karma, Gen Z is setting records for the number of people living with their parents following high school education. With costs of living at an all-time high, most Gen Zers are making the decision to stay home in the best interest of their short- and long-term financial security.

That said, there’s still a large portion of Gen Z that chooses to spend over saving. However, those that fall into the spending category are still taking a cautious approach. Over 68% of Gen Zers use a budgeting tool of some sort to manage their finances. Of those surveyed, 43% say they prefer the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method, while 38%, respectively, say they use online budgeting tools.

Brand Enthusiasm

Gen Zers’ cautious nature isn’t exclusive to their housing and higher costs. It extends to their relationships with brands as well. When looking at the relationship between Gen Z and brands, a recent IBM study measured brand loyalty (repeated purchases) and brand enthusiasm (active engagement between brands and customers).

According to the IBM study, Gen Z is more likely to display brand enthusiasm over brand loyalty. Known as the “generation of researchers,” this is likely due to Gen Z’s habit of turning to online platforms for reviews before making even small purchases.

Rather than committing to a brand they are familiar with, Gen Zers will evaluate all options, taking into consideration customer and influencer reviews, social media presence and value alignment. When they find a brand that checks all their boxes, they are eager to share and engage with it. But keep in mind, should the brand harm the relationship in some way, Gen Zers quickly move to purchase from a competitor.

An advantage of appealing to brand enthusiasm, as noted by IBM, is that it creates opportunities to gain insight into customers’ attitudes and purchasing habits in relation to a brand. Companies get to have conversations with customers about what they want rather than guessing. And we already have insight into what Gen Z customers crave.


While millennials may stray away from content that’s been highly edited and airbrushed and that poses perfect “promises,” Gen Z has taken it to the next level—by adeptly recognizing the differences between real and fake online content. As the first generation born into social media and becoming more tech-savvy than generations so far, Gen Z is quick to identify fantasy versus reality. According to IBM’s study of Gen Z’s relationships with brands, it’s clear this generation places a high value on a brand’s authenticity and prefers real content over staged content.

The concept of authenticity extends beyond advertising and product images for Gen Z; it includes the company’s impact. According to a 2019 Kearney study, 57% of Gen Z reports a brand’s social and environmental impacts are key factors in its purchasing decision. But a statement about a brand’s commitment isn’t enough to sway the generation of researchers. In fact, Gen Z will go out of its way to find—and even pay slightly more for—a product or service if it means the purchase aligns with its values.

As Gen Z’s influence on the market and society continues to grow, companies and brands can best position themselves for success by aligning with the values and habits of this generation. With a large number of consumers that can take the success of a brand into their own hands, keep in mind their financial concerns, engagement expectations and craving for authentic content, as these are likely essential to keep a brand afloat in the rise of this new generation.

David Herpers is the SVP of Digital Bank at Credit One Bank. His expertise includes wealth management, banking and product management.

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4 Strategies for Bridging the Sustainability Skills Gap

29 04 2023


While it may be tempting to take a ‘wait and see’ approach, more and more companies are developing their own solutions to mitigate this gap internally. Here are four such strategies. By JOANNA BUCZKOWSKA-MCCUMBER via • Reposted: April 29, 2023

Businesses across industries are under mounting pressure to adopt sustainable practices, reduce their environmental impact, and provide ESG reporting and transparency in their efforts while staying accountable to their commitments. As demand for sustainability grows, so does the need for skilled professionals and workers who can drive and implement strategy and practices effectively across organizations and supply chains. However, most companies do not have the talent with the knowledge, experience and skills to achieve their sustainability goals.

Companies are recognizing that the demand for sustainability talent is outpacing the supply; and the gap is only growing — as sustainability roles expand and new ones get created, a Corporate Sustainability Officer is just not enough. The International Labour Organization suggests that 18 million net new jobs could be created worldwide by net-zero commitments by 2030. Recent research found that 82 percent of sustainability executives believed there were significant skills gaps within their own organization to tackle sustainability requirements. The World Economic Forum has directly linked the lack of qualified talent as being one of the significant barriers to implementing sustainability strategies; while the UN Global Compact has called for direct action to address this skills gap — prompting companies to prioritize and invest in skilling, upskilling and reskilling their teams.

While it may be tempting for companies to take a ‘wait and see’ approach, it won’t bridge this gap fast enough and will have negative effects. More and more companies — includingMicrosoftSalesforce and Interface — are turning to mitigate this gap internally by developing and implementing their own solutions.

Bridging the sustainability skills gap internally will be fundamental for businesses in reaching their sustainability objectives. Here are four such strategies.

Make sustainability a strategic priority

First and foremost, a strong sustainability strategy sends a clear signal to potential and current employees that a business is committed to sustainability. This can be a major selling point for job seekers who are looking to work for a company that shares their values. By publicly committing to sustainability and investing in the resources needed to achieve sustainability goals, businesses can attract top talent and build a workforce that is passionate about sustainability. But it’s not just about attracting the right talent — a sustainability strategy can help to engage, motivate and develop the skills of existing employees.

Investing in a sustainability strategy can also help businesses to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to trends and regulations. As governments around the world enact more stringent sustainability regulations, businesses that are already taking a proactive approach to sustainability will be better positioned to adapt to these changes. By investing in a sustainability strategy now, businesses can ensure that they have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to comply with future regulations and stay ahead of their competitors.

Provide training across your organization

They’re perhaps the most obvious on the list, but education and training programs are essential for building the skills and knowledge needed to implement sustainable practices effectively. These programs can take various forms — including workshops, online courses, mentoring programs, internships, etc — and can be customized to specific job functions and levels. They can be developed internally, sourced online or even co-developed with educational institutions.

The trick is ensuring that you are levelling up your current workforce while priming the incoming talent pipeline. That focus then has to consider both an internal and external training lens. Microsoft is an excellent example of how a company can tackle the sustainability skills gap on both sides — focusing on internal training for employees while also building out external learning opportunities through its Sustainability Learning Center.

Integrate sustainability into company culture

Planning and training are key tools in providing knowledge and setting the playing field but incorporating sustainability into corporate culture is what makes sustainability efforts meaningful. In 2021, the World Economic Forum released a study that found companies with a strong sustainability culture are more likely to attract and retain employees with the appropriate skills and knowledge — helping to mitigate brain drain.

Building a culture rooted in sustainability entails fostering a culture that prioritizes and values sustainability and encourages employees to develop their sustainability skills regardless of their job responsibilities. Companies can start by creating plans that set sustainability goals and targets, and ensuring those are communicated clearly and in a format that not only engages but enables every employee to feel that they have a role to play in the execution of the plan.

Providing channels where employees can execute sustainability goals while having the agency to develop and recommend new sustainability initiatives, rounded out by volunteering opportunities or employee resource groups, provides a rich internal ecosystem for sustainability to thrive. Acknowledging employees who exhibit leadership and innovation and celebrating teams that achieve sustainability goals is an added strategy to inspire and motivate employees to become champions of sustainability within the organization and sustain an engaged workforce.

Embed sustainability into the employee lifecycle

Companies must prioritize sustainability throughout the employee lifecycle, integrating it into major HR functions. A Harvard Business Review study found that embedding sustainability in the employee lifecycle by incorporating sustainability targets and social impact considerations into the attraction and recruitment processes can improve employee engagement and retention rates. For example, job descriptions, interview questions and selection criteria can emphasize the importance of sustainability skills and experience or even a desire to learn new sustainability skills.

Investing in sustainability initiatives can offer ample opportunities for employees to develop their skills and enhance their knowledge in this critical area. Ensuring that sustainability elements are baked into regular HR functions such as professional development, checks-ins and performance reviews will enable leaders to be aware of specialized skill development and matching employees with new opportunities within the company as they arise.

To remain competitive in the marketplace, companies must adopt proactive measures to address the sustainability skills gap — by investing in making sustainability a priority, training, and embedding it across culture and people functions. Being proactive in bridging this business challenge will only have a net-positive effect on performance across environmental and social factors; but without it, companies will be left behind.

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With Public Opinion on Their Side, Corporations Begin to Fight for ESG

28 04 2023

Image credit: Joshua Sukoff/Unsplash

By Tina Casey from Triple Pundit • Reposted: April 28, 2023

An organized effort to prevent corporations from practicing ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles has gained traction among state-level Republican officials in recent years. They typically deploy scary rhetoric about the evils of “woke capitalism” to make their case against ESG investing and corporate practices. However, the movement is beginning to run out of steam. Business leaders are pushing back, and a new study from Rokk Solutions indicates that voters on both sides of the political divide are siding with them.

The anti-ESG movement sowed the seeds of its own destruction

From the beginning, many have said the anti-ESG movement was nothing more than a thinly disguised effort to protect fossil energy industries and prevent investor dollars from flowing into decarbonization technologies, including energy storage as well as wind and solar power. Some anti-ESG measures are also aimed at protecting gun industry stakeholders.

In some cases, there has been no disguise at all. Republican office holders in Texas, for example, passed a state law in 2021 that explicitly prohibits state pension funds from doing business with financial firms that “boycott” fossil energy industries.

Anti-ESG laws are ostensibly aimed at protecting pensioners, but because they have no basis in actual bottom-line impacts, they can backfire. In some cases, banks and other investment firms can pack up and take their business elsewhere. In Texas, for example, competition dried up after the anti-ESG law passed, costing the small city of Anna $277,334 on its bond sale.

In addition to interfering with direct bottom-line decisions, the anti-ESG movement also interferes with businesses that are pursuing DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) goals. A strong DEI policy helps businesses to attract and retain top talent while building stronger relations with communities, consumers and clients. In contrast, the anti-ESG position overlaps with the “woke capitalism” canard and with hate speech expressed by white supremacists and religious extremists, a sentiment that poses reputational risks for businesses.

Big business quietly finds its voice

To a great extent, businesses only have themselves to blame. Many U.S. corporations have provided financial support to help raise Republicans to power in both the legislative and judicial branches, only to see the “party of big business” suddenly turn around and become their enemy. 

But those financial ties may have helped some business leaders gain the ear of Republican office holders. Earlier this week, reporter Ross Kerber of Reuters took a deep dive into the issue. Among other leaders, he spoke with Lauren Doroghazi, senior vice president at the consulting firm MultiState Associates, who said businesses have seen some success lobbying against anti-ESG bills. Doroghazi estimates that businesses and their allies have succeeded in nipping more than 80 percent of state-level, anti-ESG proposals in the bud, though many still remain on the table.

Kerber also spoke with BlackRock Chief Financial Officer Martin Small, who also indicated that investment firms have had some success in alerting Republican office holders to the potential for anti-ESG bills to backfire and the resulting costs for public pension plans.

For example, earlier this month in Kansas, the state’s own Division of the Budget released an estimate that a newly proposed anti-ESG bill would cut state pension returns by $3.6 billion over a 10-year period, Kerber reported. Legislators made some changes in the bill, and a watered-down version eventually passed into law on April 24. However, it still includes provisions aiming to prevent public officials from considering ESG principles in financial transactions.

Your indoor voice is not working

So far, most of the corporate pushback against anti-ESG laws is happening in meetings behind closed doors. That strategy has met with much success, according to Doroghazi’s analysis. But the approximately 1 in 5 anti-ESG laws that do pass could do considerable damage. Even if banks and other financial firms suffer little direct impact, businesses could still feel the ripple effect and reputational loss of doing business in states with anti-ESG regulations and increasingly repressive social policies

Businesses can and should begin listening to public opinion and amplifying the public’s voice. Survey after survey shows that the majority of U.S. voters and other adults support climate action, abortion rights, racial and gender equality, restrictions on gun ownership, and other progressive values that are consistent with corporate ESG principles.

The fact is that the public voice needs help. Minority rule by Republican office holders has become a feature in states like Wisconsin, where gerrymandering has provided Republican districts with outsized power relative to their population. 

With red-state Democratic representation concentrated in cities, state-level Republican office holders can also consolidate power by stripping municipalities of their authority to govern. In Texas, the state legislature is currently considering a bill that would pre-empt local control by cities and counties on a variety of issues including drought response, predatory lenders and worker protections. The Tennessee legislature has moved to undermine Democratic representation in Nashville, and the New York Times has described how state legislatures in Georgia and elsewhere are stripping power from local election boards.

It’s time to pick sides on ESG

At the same time, the opinions of U.S. voters and consumers are becoming more aligned with ESG principles, and the up-and-coming generation of workers is turning away from employment in fossil energy industries.

Last week, the K Street communications firm Rokk Solutions issued an updated survey of voter opinions undertaken last year. The latest polling found that a majority of voters in both parties “believe corporate environmental action is relevant to their financial futures.”

“This belief increases for specific efforts like conservation and resource management,” the report reads. Strong majorities of both Republican and Democratic voters also view de-risking business as important to their financial futures. In particular, voters in both parties indicate that climate action is “important to their financial fortunes.”

“Republican support rises significantly for specific areas like water conservation, waste management and biodiversity,” Rokk found.

Republican voters are still skeptical of long-term climate goals, and a partisan difference of opinion persists on social issues, the report found. Still, the growing consensus on specific areas of sustainability provides businesses with a common ground on which to make the case for ESG investing, out loud and in public.

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Learning the Language of Sustainability Planning and Climate Reporting

28 04 2023

NRG Energy, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, Press release picture

By Greg Kandankulam from NRG Energy Inc. • Reposted: April 28, 2023

Now more than ever, organizations are prioritizing sustainability planning to achieve long-term climate goals. However, not every business has a dedicated team. In many cases, leaders take on such planning as an added responsibility outside of their traditional job scope.

Like many fields, sustainability has its own language with a long list of terms related to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Being able to understand and speak the language is key to pursuing, tracking, and reporting sustainability outcomes. Here, we focus on terms in one of the most critical areas: climate.

For energy and facility managers helping to lead their companies’ sustainability efforts, these terms are essential to ensure their businesses can set appropriate climate goals, and then track and report progress using best-practice standards.

Climate vocabulary basics

Climate-related sustainability action is needed because of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions that magnify both climate change and human-induced global warming. These factors are the foundation, so it’s important to have a firm grasp of what those three highlighted terms mean.

  • Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are a set of naturally occurring or human-generated gases that transform the atmosphere. According to Cornell Law School, humans generate most GHGs through actions such as agriculture and burning fossil fuels for energy, manufacturing, and transportation purposes. GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (NxO), and manufactured fluorinated gases.
  • According to NASAclimate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional, and global climates. Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the mid-20th century have been driven by human activities that have increased heat-trapping GHG levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. While natural processes also contribute to a changing climate, they are far outpaced by human-induced activities.
  • NASA defines global warming as the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the post-industrial period due to human activities that increase GHG levels in Earth’s atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term climate change but rather is a key component of a changing climate.

Climate disclosures

At face value, climate disclosures are not complicated at all. They are simply any disclosure your company makes about the impact of its operations on climate change, such as GHG emissions totals, use of renewable energy, or energy savings from energy efficiency efforts.

However, climate disclosures get complicated when the topic of standards and requirements is introduced. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in March 2022 proposed rules to enhance and standardize climate-related disclosures for investors. If finalized, investor-owned companies subject to SEC regulation will be required to make certain climate-related disclosures, including information about climate-related risks.

These disclosures are reasonably likely to have a material impact on their business, results of operations, or financial condition, and certain climate-related financial statement metrics within their audited financial statements.

Beyond the SEC rules, which won’t apply to all businesses, there are other voluntary standards for climate disclosures. For example, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures or TCFD, created by the Financial Stability Board, has issued recommendations on climate disclosures supported by more than 3,000 companies across 92 countries. The nonprofit CDP runs a widely accepted global disclosure system to help companies manage their environmental impacts.

Scope 1, 2, and 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Many businesses include GHG reduction goals in their sustainability plans, which means they need to track GHG emissions and disclose annual GHG emissions from operations to show progress toward their goals.

Simple, right? Not so fast. Who’s responsible for the GHGs created by the Amazon and FedEx trucks that deliver your products to customers? What about GHGs from the electricity delivered by your local electric provider to keep your business running?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides helpful definitions for different categories – or “scopes” – of emissions so that businesses can track and report GHGs and GHG reductions consistently.

Scope 1

Direct GHG emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization (e.g., emissions associated with fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, company-owned fleet vehicles).

Scope 2

Indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling. Although an organization’s Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where they are generated, they are accounted for in the organization’s GHG inventory because they are a result of the organization’s energy use.

Scope 3

Indirect GHG emissions resulting from activities not owned or controlled by an organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain. Scope 3 emissions for one organization are the Scope 1 or 2 emissions of another organization and often represent the majority of an organization’s total GHG emissions.

Any company with a GHG reduction goal will be expected to track and report Scope 1 and 2 emissions, while Scope 3 emissions may be considered optional. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a global nonprofit, has developed a widely accepted corporate accounting and reporting standard with guidance for companies preparing a GHG inventory.

Net-zero emissions

The World Economic Forum defines net-zero emissions as “a state of balance between emissions and emissions reductions.” For an individual business to reach net-zero, that does not mean it cannot emit any GHG emissions from operations. It means the business must offset its Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions through verified means of reducing other GHGs, such as through the purchase of renewable energy credits or carbon offset credits, carbon capture, sequestration, and/or other technologies.

As with GHG reporting, there is an internationally recognized standard for achieving net-zero, also called carbon neutrality.

Net-zero is becoming a rallying point for businesses across the globe. More than 1,200 companies have committed to science-based net-zero targets. Being a sustainable business is one of five pillars of NRG, and we are proudly committed to our own climate targets. As an organization, we set an ambitious goal to achieve net-zero and reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2025, using our 2014 emissions as our base year.

Science-based Target-setting

Did you notice the term “science-based” in the last paragraph about net-zero targets? Many companies have been criticized for greenwashing by claiming carbon neutrality with the use of various trading and accounting measures, while their operations still produce significant real emissions. According to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), emissions targets are considered “science-based” if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the United Nations Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

SBTi is a partnership of the United Nations, CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), and others that defines and promotes best practices in emissions reductions in line with climate science. Nearly 1,000 organizations have set emissions reduction targets grounded in climate science through the SBTi’s guidance.

Get started

We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future through planning and action. When it comes to climate and energy, look for a trusted advisor who can help you implement a range of solutions to track, report, and ultimately achieve your sustainability goals.

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Bridging the sustainability gap

27 04 2023
View of sun rise with mountain against blue sky. Photo: Getty Images

By Claudio Muruzabal via SAP News Center • Reposted: April 27, 2023

In today’s world, sustainability challenges affect people’s lives, ecosystems, and businesses. Whether we’re discussing environmental sustainability or people sustainability, the facts of why we collectively need to focus on sustainability are staggering.

With 79% of buyers changing preferences based on sustainability, it is clear that customers are increasingly demanding sustainable products. Investors are incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into their investment decisions, with an estimated 50% of professionally managed assets expected to be ESG-mandated by 2025. And employees are also taking an active interest in their employers’ ESG efforts, with 90% stating that such efforts enhance job satisfaction.

Faced with this reality — and pressure from multiple stakeholders — sustainability has become a critical topic for organizations worldwide, prompting businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.

The Sustainability Execution Gap

The above statistics clearly show that sustainability is not just about compliance with regulations, it is about creating a holistic vision for an organization that supports the strategy and creates a rallying point for employees. Regulations and legislation are increasingly focusing on environmental impacts, making it imperative for companies to have a sustainability strategy in place. Sustainability is about creating a business that is environmentally and socially responsible that can thrive in the long term.

Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. Businesses need to develop a road map that will allow them to advance their business transformation toward a sustainable intelligent enterprise. That starts at the top and the bottom so that everyone within the organization has a role to play in guiding the approach toward success. An overall culture of sustainability needs to be created to ensure participation at all levels.

However, even when the companies understand the need for more sustainable practices, a challenge remains for many on how to close the gap between their sustainability strategy and execution, transforming the whole organization while creating sustainable business value. Understanding the role emerging technologies play and leveraging them is a powerful enabler to close this gap and accelerate sustainable business growth and positive impact.

Emerging Technologies Are Key for Businesses Looking to Become Sustainable Intelligent Enterprises

Technology can help companies improve efficiency in business processes, utilize renewable energy, adopt circular economy practices, increase transparency, and make more informed decisions by providing real-time data and analytics. With the increasing stakeholder expectation for companies to operate sustainably, technology can enable companies to agilely adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands and build trust with their stakeholders. Ultimately, employing the right technology can lead to cost savings, new business opportunities, and a reduced impact on the environment.

Cloud technology can provide real-time monitoring for the usage of sustainable technology, while facilitating remote work and collaboration, reducing the need of scattered physical servers and hardware, and helping cloud providers invest in renewable energy sources to power their data centers. This will help organizations achieve their zero-emission goals while improving operational efficiency and reducing costs.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help many organizations optimize their waste management processes by using predictive analytics to identify potential areas of waste, forecasting demand for recycled materials, optimizing waste collection routes, and automating the process of reporting to track and comply with regulatory requirements. If the “business as usual” scenario is allowed to continue regarding the use of plastics, the oceans will contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and more plastic than fish by 2050. There is a huge opportunity to reduce waste through reuse and recycling processes, as well as building a more sustainable design process for many industries. Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as sensors and smart meters provide real-time data that can be used to reduce waste and identify recycling opportunities.

Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Blockchain provides a transparent, secure, and efficient way to track and verify emissions, encourages sustainable practices, and facilitates renewable energy trading. Electric vehicles (EVs) can reduce transportation emissions, while IoT devices can help monitor and optimize energy consumption in buildings and processes. Additionally, advances in carbon capture and storage technologies can enable organizations to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, preventing them from entering and adversely affecting the atmosphere.

The mindset shifts in the organization — and their role in the business network — also impacts the success of the sustainability efforts and uptake of processes. No single company can achieve sustainability alone. Collaboration among governments, business, technology partners, and industry players bring the necessary capabilities and perspectives to enable this collaboration. There is no need for businesses to walk this alone. Rather a joint and collaborative effort is needed to tackle this issue.

Welcome to Your Sustainability Journey

Sustainability is a strategic opportunity for companies. Whether it be the focus on creating sustainable products, services, and business models for long-term growth, or embedding it into business processes to make sustainability profitable and profitability sustainable, there is no downside. By doing this right, facilitated by the right technology, businesses can earn customer loyalty, attract funding or investment, maintain a committed workforce, and enhance brand image and reputation.

Sustainability requires collaboration as well as a deep understanding of the business and its wider impact, with a commitment to continuous improvement. Companies that can close the gap between their sustainability strategy and execution — and identify opportunities for sustainability in the business — will be well positioned to succeed in the long term.

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The Environmental And Social Impact Of Events

26 04 2023

Photo: Getty

By Lisa Bennett, Forbes Councils Member via • Reposted: April 26, 2023

Business leaders increasingly realize how important environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns are to the success of their organizations. But when making changes to how they operate, managers don’t necessarily consider their marketing events. Hybrid and virtual events offer an opportunity to reduce environmental impact and make it easier for marginalized groups to attend.

There’s no denying the environmental consequences of in-person events. A 2019 research study found that a three-day 800-person conference had a carbon footprint of 455 tons of CO2. That’s more CO2 than 95 cars produce in a year. Now consider the waste: food, marketing materials and, of course, freebies. Swag is a $64 billion industry churning out cheap water bottles, stress balls, branded socks, screen cleaners, sleep masks, gift cards and yoga mats. There must be a more responsible way to promote our brands.

That’s not the only way events, in-person or otherwise, are falling short of the mark. Despite the awareness that ESG is crucial for business, there’s a lack of diversity among attendees and speakers at business events. Nearly 70% of professional event speakers are male. This is part of a wider problem. A survey by IBM showed nearly 80% of companies are not prioritizing gender equality. And, of course, women are by no means the only group affected by the failure to promote diversity and accessibility.

Open The Doors To Everyone

There is a better way. Running virtual and hybrid events not only helps you to reduce your carbon footprint. It also allows you to level the playing field—transcending borders, languages and even time. It gives access to working parents, disabled people and those without the means to travel. With online and hybrid events, you can make the connections you need for your organization to thrive while putting your values into practice for the world to see.

In-person events still have an important role to play. They are fantastic for relationship-building, networking and learning. It’s hard to recreate this online, even though technology is improving all the time.

There are many steps you can take to make environmental sustainability and inclusivity priorities for your in-person events, too. For example, select suppliers with an active ESG policy. Minimize swag and make sure it’s recyclable. Ensure access to public transportation to and from the venue. Finally, make sure your event caters to people with disabilities and includes a diverse range of voices on your speakers’ bill.

Forget the powerful moral incentive for doing the right thing. With activist investors, switched-on customers and younger consumers who increasingly prioritize environmental impact, finding more sustainable ways to operate is a smart move. If you want to meet your ESG criteria, your events schedule is an important area to consider.

An Uncomfortable Truth

Until carbon-neutral transport is the norm, the only way to prevent travel-related emissions from an in-person event is not to hold it in the first place. So, reducing the carbon footprint of your events schedule is, at least on the face of it, simple—move some of them online. Improving the accessibility of your events so everyone gets a seat at the table is more nuanced. It’s all in the planning and the technology you use.

One big benefit of running a virtual event is the choice of features you can use to maximize convenience for all groups. For attendees with impaired vision or hearing, you can offer closed captions, an audio recording of each session and sign language. It’s possible to add dubbing and alternative audio tracks for speakers of other languages. You can stream the video of a single session at various times so people can join from different time zones. Simulive (simulated live) means recording sessions ahead of time so you can prepare captions and translations in advance while still giving your audience the feeling of a live event.

All these features, unsexy in themselves, add up to something potentially revolutionary. By making it easier for people of all abilities and backgrounds from around the world to attend your events, you’re increasing the diversity of the voices that will be heard. Exposure to a variety of views takes us out of our comfort zones, reduces the likelihood of groupthink and helps us build a future that benefits everyone.

Be Part Of The Solution

Large organizations can be like oil tankers: Once their course is set, they’re slow to change direction. But the benefits of rethinking how you run events make the transition worthwhile. By reducing the number of IRL events you run and moving them online instead, you can:

• Shrink your carbon footprint.

• Improve accessibility and welcome all groups.

• Enhance your reputation.

• Strengthen relationships with clients, suppliers and partners.

We’ve mistreated the planet. The consequences are all around us every day. Companies are part of the problem, no doubt, but they can be a big part of the solution, too. The world of events is a prime example of how technology can have a positive impact, both environmentally and socially. Reducing your carbon footprint and giving underrepresented groups a seat at the table is not just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business.

Lisa leads marketing at Kaltura. She enjoys finding the right balance between the art and science of marketing. Read Lisa Bennett’s full executive profile here.

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FTC takes a microscope to sustainability claims

26 04 2023

Does this count as recycling? | Seth Wenig/AP Photo

By Debra Kahn and Jordan Wolman from • Reposted: April 26, 2023

Companies are talking the talk on sustainability. The Federal Trade Commission is gearing up to make sure they’re walking the walk, Jordan reports.

As demand for sustainable products has skyrocketed, so have concerns about greenwashing. Public comments were due yesterday on the FTC’s first update in 11 years of its “Green Guides,” which are essentially advice for how companies can make environmental marketing claims.

The nearly 60,000 comments shed light on what companies, industry trade groups and environmentalists are fighting over:

— Recycling claims. Current FTC guidelines say companies should qualify claims of “recyclability” when products aren’t recyclable in at least 60 percent of their market. The EPA wrote that the bar “should be much higher,” while environmental groups want to clarify that at least 60 percent of products need to actually be recycled — not just collected. That coalition also wants to set a higher bar of 75 percent for store drop-off programs.

The Plastics Industry Association wants the standards to stay as-is: The FTC “should not further complicate the issue by adding hurdles,” the group wrote. It also wants take-back or drop-off programs to be equally eligible to make unqualified recycling claims.

— Corporate net-zero claims. Ceres, a nonprofit focused on corporate sustainability, wants the FTC to give guidance on how companies can use carbon offsets to make claims about their climate commitments and achievements. Sierra Club and a half-dozen other groups want disclosure of specific offsets’ climate benefits.

— Chemical recycling. The American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association want to make it easier to claim that chemical recycling — a set of technologies that involve melting hard-to-recycle plastic down into its components — counts toward companies’ recycled content and recyclability standards. The ACC submitted a new poll showing that nearly 90 percent of consumers believe chemical recycling qualifies as “recycling.” Green groups are pushing back.

— Enforcement. Environmental groups want the FTC to initiate a formal rulemaking process to codify the Green Guides (currently, the agency can bring enforcement action via violations of the FTC Act), with an eye toward California’s “truth in labeling” law. EPA seems to be on board, too, but the Plastics Industry Association opposes rulemaking.

How much does this all matter? The FTC doesn’t do a ton of enforcement of green marketing claims: It’s taken enforcement action under the Green Guides 36 times since 2013. It hasn’t taken enforcement action based on recycling claims since 2014 — although it does send warning letters, which can nudge companies into compliance.

The agency tends to pick big cases that send a signal — like its $5.5 million penalty last year against Walmart and Kohl’s over claims that they marketed rayon textiles as made from eco-friendly bamboo, when in fact converting bamboo into rayon involves toxic chemicals.

But officials are signaling willingness to wade into the details on new technologies such as chemical recycling.

“Our job is to not say what’s good or bad for society, it is to make sure that people aren’t lying,” James Kohm, associate director of enforcement in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in an interview. “We wouldn’t necessarily hesitate to get involved in a situation. What we don’t want to do is contradict the EPA, and we’ve been careful in a number of areas to not do that. There are a bunch of trade offs — that you have less trash, but you might have more air pollution, for example. If we had enough information, and we weren’t contradicting the EPA, we would probably give advice.”

We could be in this for the long haul: The last time the Green Guides were updated, the process started in 2007 and didn’t end until 2012. There’s an initial public workshop on recycling scheduled next month.

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Fashion greenwash: how companies are hiding the true environmental costs of fast fashion

25 04 2023
Greenpeace visits places of textile production, distribution, markets and waste disposals. Used and new clothes are sent to Kenya from Europe and China to be sold as so called “Mitumba” but often they end up as landfill and waste disposal due to the huge amount. Here: Textile and plastic waste at Dandora dump site in Nairobi. Photo: Greenpeace

10 years on from the Rana Plaza disaster, major fashion labels are using false green claims to conceal their destructive business model. Can big-brand fast fashion really be as sustainable as they promise? From Greenpeace • Reposted: April 23. 2023

On 24th April 2013 1,134 people lost their lives while making clothes due to the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Despite a number of labour rights initiatives, and the rise of a global fashion activism movement, including Fashion Revolution and Greenpeace’s Detox campaign, the global fashion industry is more broken than ever. 

Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, taking an already unsustainable level of production each year to an estimated 100 billion garments.

A new Greenpeace report has exposed the biggest false green claims made by major global fashion labels. Here’s what it found.

Sustainable fashion claims by big brands – can they be trusted?

Sustainability sells. And fashion labels make incredible claims to appeal to a new kind of consumer. But brands are hiding their lack of action behind false claims of environmental responsibility.

Without the evidence to back up the eco-claims made on their labels, fashion companies are guilty of greenwashing. This is when companies make themselves look eco-friendly to the public but continue polluting the environment behind the scenes.

Big fashion labels promise recycled materials, take back systems and recycling schemes. But due to the ever-increasing volumes of fashion being produced, these promises are impossible for companies to keep.

A recent screening of sustainability claims in the textile, garment and shoe sector suggested that 39% could be false or deceptive.

Big brands like H&M and Decathlon have been found by regulators to have been making false green claims. In the UK, authorities have investigated similar claims made by ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda, as part of a larger effort to develop its Green Claims Code.

In terms of materials, recycled polyester especially is becoming a central sustainability myth for the fashion industry. Clothes are being labelled as ‘recycled’, even though there’s no evidence that they are part of a truly circular system for clothes. 

This is potentially misleading – consumers might think that the term ‘recycled’ means they are made out of old clothes, and can be recycled again into new clothes, when neither is the case.

This is not only creating a false sense of security for customers, but hiding the facts about plastic recycling: as of 2015, only 9% of all plastic waste ever created has been recycled.

When fashion brands talk about recycling and circularity – this is what actually happens

Only 3% of clothes are made from recycled materials

Most of the 3% is fabric made from plastic drinks bottles. It is not recycled again but burned or dumped

Less than 1% of all clothes are made from old textiles

Greenpeace report: which brands are making false green claims, and what are they?

The report examines the sustainability claims made by 14 brands through their self-defined special ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘responsible’ collections. In doing this, the report was able to assess which brands are the most guilty of greenwashing.

Well known brands’ supposedly sustainable collections that are in the greenwash danger zone include:

Decathlon Ecodesign

H&M Conscious

Mango Committed

Primark Cares

Tesco F&F Made Faithfully

Zara Join Life

The promises made by brands on these labels were found to be lacking in a number of ways, such as:

  • Confusing labelling for customers, including false ‘certifications’ which are simply named after company sustainability programmes. 
  • Lack of in-house or even third-party verification on environmental, social and human rights measures.
  • Lack of public information from across the chain of production.
  • No attempt to slow the production of large volumes.
  • Misleading claims of ‘circularity’ relying on recycled polyester from plastic bottles
  • Using ‘sustainable’ or ‘responsible’ on materials which are only slightly better 
  • Promotion of fabric in blends such as polycotton, which is unrecyclable.
  • Continued reliance on discredited measurement tools such as the Higgs Index on Materials Sustainability.
  • Lack of breakdown of information about materials.
  • Relying on small scale changes when large changes in volume production are needed.

What must fashion companies do?

The only true way to make fashion companies green claims work is for them to reduce the amount of clothing they’re making. But many fashion companies won’t even tell us how many clothes they produce each year.

The textile industry is responsible for five to ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 85% of its greenhouse gas emissions come from the supply chains which are mostly located in the Global South.

Reducing the volume of clothing made will bring these environmental costs down, and stem the flow of clothing waste – again to countries less able to deal with it. Worldwide, one truckload of clothing is incinerated or landfilled every single second.

The simple truth is that fast fashion will never be sustainable. Companies are virtually writing their own sustainable fashion rules themselves. Many of them are refusing to even publish volumes, let alone reduce them.

Read the full report for more detailed information on companies, claims, and the potential for change in EU regulations.

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Greenwashing concerns: Marketing professionals warn of sustainability knowledge gap

25 04 2023

A perpetual knowledge gap of sustainability topics has increased within the industry, cited by 35% in 2023, compared to 20% in 2021. Image:

The majority of marketing professionals feel they need to be braver and clearer in how they communicate sustainability to avoid greenwashing, but very few within the industry feel they have the capacity or knowledge to do so. From • Reposted: April 25, 2023

The World Federation of Advertisers, which represents 90% of global marketing spend, has today (24 April) published the findings of a global survey of the marketing industry. Developed in partnership with Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice, more than 900 senior client-side marketers were surveyed across 48 countries.

The survey found that the marketing profession is lagging behind other areas of the business when it comes to understanding and embracing the broad agenda of sustainability. In total, 39% of respondents claimed they had only just started out on their sustainability journeys.

There is an understanding within the industry that corporate sustainability strategies need to be more ambitious, with 90% claiming so and a further 94% stating that marketers need to act more bravely and experiment to drive transformative change. Indeed, 43% of companies have now added sustainability as a KPI for marketing departments, up from 26% in 2021.

Marketing is one of the key departments when it comes to negating the risks of greenwashing and many firms have published marketing and comms programmes that have been accused of twisting the truth over green claims.

The industry realises that, in spite of the risks of greenwashing, companies need to be braver and smarter as to how they communicate their sustainability efforts, with 82% calling for more ambition. Additionally, 41% of brands now believe they have a sustainability story and strategy that they are “proud” to share, up from 25% in 2021.

There is, however, a widening capability gap emerging for marketing professionals. A perpetual knowledge gap of sustainability topics has increased within the industry, cited by 35% in 2023, compared to 20% in 2021. One of the issues in this regard is that sustainability no longer fits into one sole function, and a lack of metrics, definitions and complex jargon all contribute to the knowledge gap.

Key challenges highlighted by the profession include a lack of internal resources (35%), a knowledge and skills gap (35%), organisational mindset where sustainability is viewed as a cost (32%), and a lack of transparency in measurement (30%).

WFA’s chief executive Stephan Loerke said: “Marketers are finally starting to grasp the scale of the sustainability challenge, particularly the climate crisis. We have reached the point where the status quo is no longer an option.

“Radical transformation is essential. We passionately believe that marketers are uniquely placed to drive the change we need on account of their unique creativity, innovation and communication skillset. The Sustainable Marketing 2030 initiative focuses on how marketers can drive growth while embracing the sustainability agenda.”

The survey also found that 54% of marketers agreed that consumers need more education about sustainable choices and actions and that brands are well-positioned to help.

Greenwash marketing 

According to a survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in 2021, half (49%) of UK-based marketing professionals communicating the sustainability ambitions and actions of companies are worried their work may be perceived as greenwashing, amid increased consumer demand for – and scrutiny of – environmental claims.

while more than half of the 210 respondents recognised environmental sustainability as a business priority and an existential risk (51%), there was confusion about how to communicate targets and initiatives externally. Half of the respondents said they fear their company or client being accused of greenwashing by consumers if they publish communications leading on sustainability. A key problem is the fact that 40% of marketers admit to not having qualifications relating to communicating sustainability.

At the start of the year, the UK’s competition watchdog confirmed it would investigate the environmental claims made about fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) including food, drink and toiletries, as it continues its work on greenwashing.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will assess claims made online and in-store, including on-pack labelling and other marketing. Claims will be assessed against the Authority’s ‘Green Claims Code’ – a set of 13 guidelines for businesses and brands with consumer-facing products and services. Issues covered by the code include ensuring the accuracy and clarity of claims; not omitting important information and enabling ‘fair and meaningful’ comparison.

A sweep of corporate websites by the CMA found that four in ten are providing misleading information on environmental issuesA similar study from the Changing Markets Foundation found that 60% of the environmental claims of large British and European fashion brands could be classed as “unsubstantiated” and “misleading”. The CMA recently spoke to edie about how corporates can avoid falling foul of greenwashing. Read that interview here.

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The FTC Moves to Update Its Green Guides, But Can They Have the Desired Effect?

24 04 2023

Image credit: Brian Yurasits / Unsplash

By Riya Anne Polcastro from * Reposted: April 24, 2023

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may soon enact stricter rules against greenwashing. The agency is taking public comments on its Green Guides, established in 1992 to assess sustainability claims. Changes are certainly due — especially considering the ubiquity of false claims across marketplaces. But without an enhanced budget for enforcement, new rules are unlikely to have the teeth they need to make a difference. The issue also begs the question: How can the FTC even begin to define “green” with so many competing factors?

Greenwashing in action

Examples of greenwashing abound — from misleading claims about a product’s recyclability or compostability to misrepresentations of companies’ carbon footprints, the certification of illegal logging, and more. Naturally, some of the most egregious examples come from fossil fuel producers and investors, such as Shell and HSBC.

Purveyors of petroleum products – including Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Total Energies – have attempted to rebrand themselves in the fight against climate change. But while 60 percent of their 2021 advertising attempted to paint them in this light, renewable energy made up a mere 12 percent of their total investments. Similarly, HSBC claimed to be on the path to net zero and even touted its tree-planting program — all the while investing heavily in fossil fuels, including coal.

Exaggerated claims about the recyclability of a product, as well as the amount of recycled material a product is made from, are also common. As are assertions regarding the use of so-called “ocean-bound” plastics. Coca-Cola is guilty of just that, according to the Changing Markets Foundation. The beverage company spent a small fortune touting its use of such plastics, while failing to do anything about its role in creating the problem as the world’s single most prolific plastic polluter, according to the NGO. Brand audits show that Coca-Cola’s total plastic pollution continues to grow.

But the issue of greenwashing is hardly limited to a handful of brands. “Our latest investigationexposes a litany of misleading claims from household names consumers should be able to trust,” George Harding-Rolls, campaign manager for Changing Markets Foundations, told the Guardian last year. “This is just the tip of the iceberg, and it is of crucial importance that regulators take this issue seriously. The industry is happy to gloat its green credentials with little substance on the one hand, while continuing to perpetuate the plastic crisis on the other. We are calling out greenwashing so the world can see that voluntary action has led to a market saturated with false claims.”

This is precisely why the FTC is finally moving toward updating its Green Guides — which are supposed to aid brands in ensuring their environmental claims are accurate and do not mislead consumers. However, the guidelines were last updated in 2012. A lot has been learned since then about what makes a product sustainable, as well as the depths some marketers will stoop to in order to woo eco-conscious consumers.

But what about enforcement?

Unfortunately, the guides are likely to remain just that — guidance that is rarely enforced through the courts. While suits were brought against Walmart and Kohls last year for claiming rayon products were made from bamboo, their total penalty of $5.5 million is arguably a drop in the bucket. 

Indeed, only a few greenwashing suits have been brought to court each year since their height in 2014 and 2015, according to the list on the FTC’s website, with no penalty cases occurring between September 2019 and May 2022. It’s therefore difficult to believe that the updated guides will have much of an effect.

Daring to define “green”

Another relevant issue is how to even define what makes a product environmentally friendly with so many aspects to consider. Electric vehicles (EVs), for example, have been hailed as the holy grail of environmentalism by the U.S. government. But for all intents and purposes, an EV for every driver would cause unfathomable environmental destruction.

Likewise, while net zero is currently being held as the gold standard, many of the offsets used to achieve it are dubious at best. And recycling may be better than using virgin materials, but it creates its own set of problems and still pales in comparison to the ever-forgotten need to reduce first.

In truth, defining “green” should ultimately come down to what’s not being used, instead of what is — meaning the only truly green product would be no product at all. While that is not realistic in a market economy, the FTC would be wise to use its updated Green Guides to discourage the rampant consumerism and single-use products that got us into this mess in the first place.

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ESG compliant firms ‘more profitable’ says Bain & EcoVadis

24 04 2023

Study from Bain & EcoVadis suggests firms that prioritise ESG are more successful, and that those with more senior female execs also perform better. By Sean Ashcroft from supplychaindigital.conm • Reposted: April 24, 2023

New in-depth research suggests that companies that prioritise ESG are more profitable. 

The study claims organisations that focus on ethics, environmental and labour practices within their supply chains have margins 3-4% greater than those that don’t.

The research was commissioned by global management consultancy Bain & Company and EcoVadis, a provider of sustainability ratings.

Called Do ESG Efforts Create Value? It also suggests that ESG-compliant companies have higher employee satisfaction and that firms with more women at board level perform better than those with fewer.

The study was based on how thousands of private companies’ EcoVadis sustainability Scorecards compared against their financial performance. 

It found a correlation between advanced performance on key sustainability topics and stronger profitability and faster growth.

Most of the 100,000 EcoVadis-rated companies – 80% of which are private – are engaged in supply chain relationships. 

EcoVadis says this has “strong implications” for procurement teams.

A spokesperson said: “In addition to mitigating risk and complying with due diligence regulations, using ratings in sustainable procurement programs is a vital lever in building financial success and resilience of their value chain partners.”

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Four Sustainable Investments That Could Have a Positive Impact

23 04 2023

Image: Getty

As we celebrate Earth Day, consider doing some research aimed at transitioning to a more sustainable and responsible portfolio. These four companies are worth a look. By Peter Krull,  CSRIC® via • Reposted: April 23, 2023

Earth Day is a great time to take stock of your environmental impact. It’s also an ideal time to think about how your money is invested and consider making some sustainable investments. Do the companies you own positively affect the world, or are they contributing to the problems?

Most investors don’t think about the underlying holdings in the mutual funds or ETFs they purchase, and many others simply allow their financial advisers to pick and choose the individual stocks that they own. But taking the time to ask questions, do a little research and understand what you actually own can be both scary and enlightening and help empower you to transition to a more sustainable and responsible portfolio.

Other than aligning your investments with your values, investing responsibly may also reduce the long-term risk in your portfolio. Companies that employ a more sustainable and resiliency-focused business model will be more likely to succeed in a new economy that requires these attributes in order to remain competitive.

A Holistic Perspective on Sustainable Investments

I view sustainable investing from a holistic perspective. While solar, wind and electric vehicle (EV) companies are certainly an important part of our portfolios, so are complementary industries. For example, our Green Sage Sustainability Portfolio(opens in new tab) includes companies involved with water filtration, sustainable real estate and green buildings, scientific instrumentation, insurance and even biotechnology.

Understanding that and putting it in the context of what naturalist John Muir(opens in new tab) said: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe,” many industries are connected and complementary to each other and contribute to society’s vision of sustainability.

With that in mind, here are a couple of companies worth taking a look at:

STMicroelectronics (STM (opens in new tab)). Much of this Swiss semiconductor company’s technology is used in devices that you use every day, like tablets and automobile infotainment systems. But beyond these everyday uses, STMicroelectronics(opens in new tab) also makes chips that help control the motors in EVs, chips that help distribute solar power more efficiently and chips that are helping to create smart homes, cities and industries. Sustainable innovation would not be possible without semiconductor technologies underlying the advances.

Acuity Brands (AYI (opens in new tab)). This U.S.-based company manufactures high-efficiency lighting products. I often say the best kilowatt is the one that isn’t used, and through energy efficiency, we can make this true. Our homes and buildings use a considerable amount of energy, mostly for heating and cooling, but also for lighting.

The transition from incandescent bulbs to LEDs has been a major opportunity to reduce our impact. A 10-watt LED replaces a 100-watt incandescent bulb — that’s a savings of 90%. Acuity Brands(opens in new tab) manufactures a wide array of lighting products, from home to office and industrial. It even makes ultraviolet lights to disinfect health care facilities (and others) that require sterilization.

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure (HASI (opens in new tab)). Hannon Armstrong(opens in new tab) is considered a “pure play” sustainable company in that everything it does revolves around sustainability. It finances a range of projects broken down into three areas: behind-the-meter, grid-connected and fuels, transport and nature. Its behind-the-meter investments include energy efficiency projects, distributed solar and storage, while grid-connected focuses on utility-scale wind solar and storage.

It’s also involved in landfill gas projects, commercial fleet decarbonization and ecological restoration. And for income investors, the stock pays a nice dividend as well.

AXS Green Alpha ETF (NXTE(opens in new tab)). The folks at Green Alpha(opens in new tab) have been managing sustainable investments for years, going back to the old Sierra Club Mutual Funds, so they know what they’re doing. They eschew the recent trend of creating, as I call them, “less bad” ESG portfolios and focus on solutions-based investments in the next economy.

Like Earth Equity’s Green Sage Sustainability Portfolio, the portfolio is more than just solar, wind and EVs and takes a broad approach by examining systemic risks and opportunities. If you’re not comfortable with individual stock investing, or if you’re looking to diversify, check out this ETF.

Make Sure You Understand What You’re Investing In

Remember that if you choose to invest in a mutual fund or ETF, it’s important to look under the hood to truly understand what you are investing in.

I look at investing as voting with your hard-earned dollars, so consider what you want to stand for this Earth Day and how to make the best impact on the planet for generations to come.

Advisory products and services offered by Investment Adviser Representatives through Prime Capital Investment Advisors, LLC (“PCIA”), a federally registered investment adviser. PCIA: 6201 College Blvd., Suite #150 Floor, Overland Park, KS 66211. PCIA doing business as Prime Capital Wealth Management (“PCWM”) and Qualified Plan Advisors (“QPA”).

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC(opens in new tab) or with FINRA(opens in new tab).

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So, You Want To Save The World? Start Your Sustainability Career This #EarthDay

23 04 2023

Working in sustainability is easy. Graphic: GETTY

By Solitaire Townsend, Contributor via Forbes • Reposted: April 23, 2023

I’m lucky enough to meet lots of passionate folk who want to change the world. Many of them have already built a career in sustainability – they are Chief Sustainability Officers, ESG experts, social entrepreneurs, D&I advisers, climate geeks and CSR specialists.

They are in demand. According to LinkedIn, ‘Sustainability Manager’ is the second-fastest growing job title across the UK (it was seventh last year). And 1 in 10 job adverts require some green skills – a trend which is growing at 8% per year. Helpful leaders share new sustainability jobs online as the ‘war for ESG talent’ rages on.

Today is a good day to join a booming industry. The question is, how?

The first thing to say is that you don’t have to have fancy qualifications, specific knowledge or tons of experience to start working in sustainability. Solving the world’s problems takes all kinds of people, with all kinds of skills, working in every industry, sector and team.

The only thing you do need is a Solutionist’s mindset. Solutionists are the world’s problem solvers; they are people who believe they absolutely can do something about society’s biggest challenges. They are brilliant, curious, determined types – so much so, that I wrote a book about what makes a Solutionist and how to become one.

What I learned from speaking to hundreds of Solutionists over the years  is that their path is rarely a linear one. Some have known since childhood that they want to make a difference, others realise later in life; some follow traditional career paths, but (spoiler) – most do not.

So, if you’re still figuring out how to bend your career in a sustainable direction, you’re in good company. Here are just three of the many different routes available to you as you take the first steps in your sustainability career:

  1. Make change from the inside. You know your current workplace better than any other – you understand the industry, the internal politics, the norms and the need for change. You probably already know the most important decision makers, and what it will take to convince them to do things differently. Harness your knowledge by staying in your current job, and driving sustainability initiatives from the inside. This is called intrapreneurship, and it’s a powerful way to get sustainability issues on the agenda.
  2. Do sustainability on the side. Even if your main job isn’t sustainability focused, that doesn’t stop you taking on side gigs and community roles that mean something to you. Your skills and experience can make a huge difference in charities and local activist groups. Look into becoming a charitable/non-profit trustee, where you can be part of positive change while learning what’s involved in high stakes decision making.
  3. Start a sustainable business. This is the path I took. Identify the sustainability gap in your industry, and fill it. If you know the world of food and drink – what product could you launch that would support food sovereignty and environmental justice? If you’re an HR expert – what product or service could you create that makes hiring more fair and equitable?

Whichever route you take, the important thing is to do it now. Don’t wait for the perfect sustainability job description to land in your inbox – it might never happen. Solutionists operate at the very forefront of society’s responses to the world’s biggest challenges, which means traditional job roles often can’t keep up with us.

Still not sure? In my book, I set out prompts to get you going:

  • Sign up for an online course about sustainability.
  • Start a ‘sustainability team’ at work, for those passionate about change.
  • Finish that book/blog post about sustainability you’ve been working on.
  • Build out a business case for your current workplace to pivot into social & environmental solutions.
  • Look for promising sustainability start-ups to invest in.
  • Sketch out a list of who might help/mentor you to become a solutionist.
  • Register for some online events/talks about sustainability.
  • Create a presentation about sustainability to inspire your team/colleagues.
  • Find online communities of sustainability to get some support.

So go experiment, adapt, and forge your unique sustainability path. This #EarthDay is a good day to start.

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Social Sustainability is the Next Supply Chain Frontier

23 04 2023

Photo: Sustainable Brands

Eliminating negatives is about to become the minimum viable approach to social performance. Companies and suppliers benefiting people and communities will see stronger corporate brands and accelerated revenue growth. By Jeff Baldassari from • Reposted: April 23. 2023

Fueled by an upcoming Securities and Exchange Commission rule on human capital management, increased focus on the ‘social’ element of ESG, and rising consumer awareness of supply chain issues, social sustainability in supply chains is poised to become the next frontier for brands.

The S in environmental, social and governance performance has been gaining currency over the past couple of years; and public companies will soon have to start reporting more thoroughly on their social impact. A Bloomberg Law analysis of the SEC’s direction predicts that human capital management will be a front-burner topic this year, and investors will seek more disclosures to ensure that companies are walking their talk. At the same time, pandemic-driven disruptions have sparked ongoing media coverage of supply chain issues. Consumers are seeing the sausage-making, and it isn’t always pretty.

This is all to the good. Accountability can sting; but for companies that view it as an opportunity, the new focus on social sustainability in supply chains can lead to stronger corporate brands and accelerated revenue growth for suppliers pursuing positive social impact.

Focus on social impact brings risks and opportunities

What is a socially sustainable supply chain? Certainly, it’s free of negative practices such as child labor, forced labor, unsafe working conditions, below-living wages, and racial and gender discrimination. The case for excluding suppliers that layer these social costs into a corporation’s products and services is clear from both an ethical and a business standpoint: Investors, customers and employees are buying into a brand’s reputation — and “risking that over a supplier with poor ESG credentials could cost you all three,” Moody’s observes.

Eliminating negatives is fast becoming table stakes, though. The emerging standard is net-positive impact — actively contributing to solving social problems.

“The very nature of social impact isn’t just about risk; it’s also about prosocial behavior. In other words, a company’s actions, policies and investments can and should positively impact people’s lives,” writes Jason Saul, executive director of the Center for Impact Sciences at the University of Chicago. And, he notes, these social impacts can also positively affect a company’s financial performance “through competitive advantage, business growth, market relevance, brand purpose and securing license to operate.”

Stocking the corporate supply chain with companies that are broadening workforce opportunities, contributing to stronger local economies and providing other social benefits brings real supply chain reliability and ESG benefits. Suppliers that hire from a broader talent pool and create a positive work environment that reduces churn are better able to deliver consistently. Those that also build community wealth and diversify their supply chain contribute to equity and inclusion goals.

For supplier companies, delivering these positive social impacts is a differentiator — especially where other value dimensions such as effectiveness, design and price are comparable — and it will remain so until their competitors catch up.

3 big impact areas cut across supplier types

Building a socially sustainable supply chain requires reviewing and upgrading the full spectrum of suppliers — not only suppliers of raw materials, value-added inputs and finished goods, but also professional services and technology providers. That is a big universe; but when looking at it from a positive social impact perspective, most suppliers can add value in three broad areas.

Workforce development: Companies that actively recruit, train and retain people who have been excluded from opportunities or face barriers to employment can improve the lives of whole families and communities while developing untapped talent pools that provide a hedge against tight labor markets. For example, the growing second-chance (or fair-chance) movement delivers high social returns by focusing on hiring formerly incarcerated people. Nearly 70 million Americans have a criminal record; and even after they’ve paid their debt to society, many remain marginalized. Incarceration brands those it touches, trapping them in a cycle of unemployment and poverty — which can lead to recidivism. Second-chance hiring can transform their lives. It also has multiple business benefits. At U.S. Rubber, for example, we fueled substantial growth through pandemic labor shortages by making a significant investment in second-chance hiring: Ex-felons now constitute about 60 percent of our workforce.

Community investment: Fair-trade programs that bring new resources to local supplier communitiescorporate treasury investments in community finance institutions, and other direct material contributions to customer or supplier communities can have a powerful multiplier effect. Community development financial institutions, for example, responsibly serve people and places that often don’t have access to mainstream finance — providing business loans to women, people of color and low-income entrepreneurs; funding affordable housing; and supporting climate-change resilience projects. Minority-owned banks play a similar role as community capital providers. Small and medium-sized suppliers, which have traditionally been community anchors, can expand their impact by stocking their own supply chains with small businesses that play key roles in local economies.

Diverse leadership: Diversifying the supplier pool to include more companies owned and led by women and people of color — especially in fields where they continue to face barriers to entry — contributes to corporate diversity, equity and inclusion goals and expands both opportunities for the suppliers and resources for the buyers. This is also an area where corporate commitments are under a microscope and investors, customers and employees are looking for measurable progress.

The opportunity in supply chain sustainability is huge. Eliminating negatives is about to become the minimum viable approach to social performance. Public and large private companies and their supply chain partners that go beyond that to create positive impacts will reap the benefits: stronger brands, greater customer loyalty, investor favor and the ability to attract increasingly choosy workers. And in doing so, they’ll help advance prosperity for everyone.

JEFF BALDASSARI: Jeff Baldassari is CEO of US Rubber Recycling — a triple-bottom-line business that manufactures high quality fitness flooring and acoustical underlayment by giving discarded tires a second life and providing employment to a second-chance workforce.

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What Brands Can Learn from Diageo’s Sustainability Journey

22 04 2023

Transforming a business to reduce its environmental impact and embrace sustainable practices isn’t a quick fix, but a journey of a thousand steps. Diageo, the beverages giant behind brands like Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, has been on that journey since 2008, and it’s forced it to innovate and make difficult decisions. It has been scrutinising its supply chain – last year it launched a pilot in regenerative farming for its Guinness business and announced a new hydrogen-powered glass furnace to reduce the impact of glass bottle production. And when it comes to marketing, it has rolled out brand activism training across its marketing teams to ensure that they’re equipped to talk about green issues in a responsible way. . And on Earth Day, Diageo will be switching on a huge field of solar panels in Scotland to power its packaging plant at Diageo Leven. 

This Earth Day, the beverages giant talk about the lessons they’ve learned, how an innovation gap drove them forward and how they’re steering clear of greenwashing. From • Reposted: April 22, 2023

LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with a Diageo spokesperson to find out more.

LBB>What inspired Diageo to prioritise sustainability?

Diageo> Sustainability has long been a priority of Diageo and our work on it started in 2008. Environmental sustainability is key to our long term business success and we have a responsibility to care for the people and planet around us.

LBB> And what have been the key lessons you’ve learned as a business since embarking on this journey? 

Diageo> We set our 2030 sustainability targets with an innovation gap built into them as we know we need to stretch ourselves to reach them. We’ve learnt partnership working is core to us making progress on our targets, and that reaching those targets will be a challenge and will take a change in approach across our business.

LBB> How does Diageo ensure that each brand can adjust to fit into those sustainability objectives in a way that works for that part of the business? 

Diageo> The work our brands do on sustainability is guided by our corporate sustainability goals in Society 2030. All the sustainability action they take ladders up our commitments on packaging and waste, water and carbon.

LBB> Baileys has been accredited as a B Corp – what have you learned from this process and is it something you’re considering rolling out across more Diageo brands?

Diageo> We’re really proud of Baileys for being B-Corp certified and it’s definitely a robust process to the accreditation, so is well-deserved. We’re learning through Baileys on the process and benefits of being B-Corp certified before taking a decision on the rest of our brands.

LBB> Diageo has been getting really granular on the environmental impact of its supply chain, and there’s quite a bit of innovation involved. For example you’ve been working with Encirc on the use of hydrogen to produce glass bottles with a reduced environmental impact, producing 200 million for brands like Captain Morgan’s, Tanqueray and Smirnoff. How is Diageo enabling that level of innovation? 

Diageo> Innovation is central to us achieving our 2030 goals. The hydrogen powered furnace is an example of the power and outcome of working closely with our suppliers and partners to embed sustainability across our supply chain. We’re really excited that by 2030, up to 200 million of our bottles will be net zero, which is a huge achievement in the glass industry. We also foster innovation through our Diageo Sustainable Solutions programme. This gives innovators who we don’t currently work with, to provide a solution to sustainability challenges that we put out to them. It generates new ideas and ways of working to help us tackle the trickiest issues.

LBB> How are you tracking the impact of these innovations and ensuring buy-in across the organisation? 

Diageo> All sustainability reporting is in our Annual Report and ESG Reporting Index, which includes innovation work on sustainability. All employees across the business have a responsibility for helping us achieve our corporate goals, and achieving our sustainability goals is as important as delivering our financial performance. Our senior leadership group is responsible for the delivery of a subset of our ESG targets via our Long Term Incentive Plan, which helps us to embed that accountability across our business.

LBB> Diageo has some great green initiatives underway, transforming its supply chain, from regenerative farming to net zero glass bottles – but how are you thinking about the balance between talking about these projects, sharing knowledge with the need to avoid overclaiming and greenwash? 

Diageo> Greenwashing is a real reputation risk when talking about sustainability. We have a robust approach to our sustainability comms and ensure that all comms on sustainability are approved by our CR and legal teams to validate the claims. Claims are only made where we have validation.

LBB> On this, Diageo has invested in sustainability training for marketers – why was that so important and what are some of the key principles or takeaways from this training? 

Diageo> It’s important that everyone knows the role they can play in helping us achieve our goals, but to also have the confidence in doing so.

LBB> What are some of the challenges that the team has been navigating in putting that training into action and implementing the insights on a company-wide level? 

Diageo> We’re using the training to build our marketing team’s confidence in talking about sustainability. A key challenge has been giving them the confidence to talk about it credibly without the threat of greenwashing. We’ve also recently rolled out a partnership with the Said Business School at Oxford to educate our top 600 leaders on sustainability, both within Diageo and outside of it, so they can make the connections between the work we do and the difference this can make externally.

LBB> What advice would you have for marketers that are still wrestling with all of this?

Diageo> It’s an exciting but difficult space! If you’re ever not sure on putting something out on sustainability, ask your experts and listen to their advice. Also, read around what others are doing in sustainability marketing and see where companies are being caught out for greenwashing and what you can learn from this.

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Employees want to know what their employer is doing to fight climate change

22 04 2023

Photo: Artem Podrez from Pexels

By Paola Peralta from • Reposted: April 22, 2023

For employees, “going green” has evolved beyond a corporate buzzword. Sustainable business practices are now a must for discerning workers. 

A recent study from Oxford Economics reported that 65% of companies have created a clear mission statement around sustainability, and an additional 23% are in the process of developing such a mission, meaning that the vast majority of businesses are prioritizing sustainability and building pathways to reduce company-generated emissions and environmental impact.  

“For sustainability to be successful, it has to be embedded into the core business units themselves,” Adam Braun, CEO sustainability startup Climate Club, recently told EBN. “It needs to be done in a way that helps every single person across a large enterprise understand what their unique goals are, how they can contribute towards those goals, and then how they’re attracting clear performance benchmarks both internally and externally.”

From a sustainability report card to help employees understand the potential impact of their retirement investments to startups that focus on ensuring that businesses are creating more sustainable investment opportunities, it’s in employers’ best interest to meet their workforce’s demands. 

Catch up on EBN’s recent coverage of sustainability in the workforce as well as the growing prominence of ESG retirement contributions — and what it will all mean for the future.

Where ESG meets recruiting: 65% of employees want to work for a sustainable company 

Eighty-three percent of workers think their employer is not doing enough to be more sustainable and tackle climate change, and 65% would be more likely to work for a company with robust environmental policies, according to a 2021 report from intranet company Unily. 

“Whereas sustainability and climate change used to be more siloed within companies, now it’s really integrated throughout the company,” says William Theisen, CEO in North America at EcoAct, a climate consultancy that provides a wide range of sustainable solutions to businesses. There’s no part of the company that’s not going to be affected by setting science-based targets or net zero targets.”

 Climate Club’s software platform is helping companies and employees meet ESG goals 

How to show employees you’re making steps toward sustainability? Startup Climate Club partners with companies to create a dashboard that employees can interact with, tracking their own carbon emission levels (as well as their employer’s) and providing resources to help meet sustainability goals.

“[When we started], the big question was: what can we do as individuals to contribute towards reversing climate change?” says CEO Braun. “We started to really observe that, not only were individuals asking this question, but companies were also stepping up to contribute toward goals across the sustainability and climate spectrum.”

Why ESG retirement plans could get employees to save more for the future 

Eighty-seven percent of retirement plan participants want their investments to be aligned with their values, according to Schroder’s 2022 Retirement Survey. That’s leading the majority of employees (74%) to seek out investment options that follow environmental, social and governance goals. Those employees would also contribute more if offered an ESG option. 

“There is a lot of education necessary with adding ESG options, when they’re implemented and ongoing,” she says. “Another factor is a final Department of Labor regulation ruling, and that is the main reason why plan sponsors are getting ready and thinking about adding this option.” 

Microsoft, Campbell’s shareholders rejected resolutions to make 401(k)s sustainable. What it means for ESG goals 

As You Sow, a California-based nonprofit that advocates for corporate sustainability, last year submitted official shareholder resolutions to both Campbell’s and Microsoft, asking them to prepare a report assessing how the companies’ retirement funds and investments may be contributing to climate change. The request was made after investors reached out to engage As You Sow.

“We think that there’s a fiduciary duty to consider climate change in employees’ [investments],” says Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow. “The question that we raise with Campbell’s is, why does a company that believes in climate risk have a significant amount of its employee retirement funds invested in target date funds that have high levels of fossil fuels and high-carbon companies?”

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What CIOs need to become better enablers of sustainability

21 04 2023


History shows the CIO role is well positioned to broker a more environmentally sustainable way of doing business. But adjustments are required as the landscape shifts. By Mark Chillingworth from CIO • Reposted: April 21, 2023

Over 90 wildfires ravaged Spain’s Asturias principality in March this year. Though not as cold and wet as northern Europe, March is still the tail end of winter in northwest Spain, a region not typically considered a tinder box. But the climate emergency is steadily changing that.

But Spain’s predicament isn’t unique. Across the world, climate change has bitten hard into the economies of tech-centric California, again due to wildfires. Australia and Pakistan have seen communities wrecked by large-scale flooding and continual rain, while in 2022, Europe had its hottest summer on record.

There is a need and realization by the business world to be more environmentally sustainable since organizations are seeing an impact on the bottom line as a direct result of climate change. So the CIO, the technologies they deploy, and the partnerships they form are essential to the future of a more environmentally sustainable way of doing business.

A question of time

Thomas Kiessling, CTO with Siemens Smart Infrastructure, part of the German engineering and technology conglomerate that makes trains, electrical equipment, traffic control systems, and more, understands that time is running out. His concerns are backed up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which on March 20, 2023, said it’s unlikely the world will keep to its Paris Climate Accord promises.

And if the world’s temperatures rise by or above 1.5 degrees Celsius, businesses will feel further impacts to their bottom line, including increased supply-chain issues on a network already overstretched and fragile. Food and water insecurity will increase, and energy systems, housing stock, insurance, and currency markets will all become more volatile—a worrying set of scenarios for business leaders and boards.

CIO enablement

Historically, CIOs have been vital enablers during times of major change, championing e-commerce, digital transformation or agile ways of working. Organizations responding to the climate emergency are, therefore, calling on those enablement skills to mitigate the environmental impact of the business.

use of unsustainable practices and resources. As with most business challenges, data is instrumental. “Like anything, the hard work is the initial assessment,” says CGI director of business consulting and CIO advisor Sean Sadler. “From a technology perspective, you need to look at the infrastructure, where it’s applied, how much energy it draws, and then how it fits into the overall sustainability scheme.” 

CIOs who create data cultures across organizations enable not only sustainable business processes but also reduce reliance on consultancies, according to IDC. “Organizations with the most mature environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies are increasingly turning to software platforms to meet their data management and reporting needs,” says Amy Cravens, IDC research manager, ESG Reporting and Management Technologies. “This represents an important transition toward independent ESG program management and away from dependence on ESG consultants and service providers. Software platforms will also play an essential role in an organization’s ESG maturity journey. These platforms will support organizations from early-stage data gathering and materiality assessments through sustainable business strategy enablement and every step in between.”

Sadler, who has led technology in healthcare, veterinary services, media firms, and technology suppliers, says consultancies and systems integrators should be considered as part of a CIO’s sustainability plans. Their deep connections to a variety of vendors, skills, experience and templates will be highly useful. “It can often help with the collaboration with other parts of the business, like finance and procurement as you have a more holistic approach,” he says.

The IDC survey further finds that the manufacturing sector is leading the maturity of ESG strategies, followed by the services sector, indicative, perhaps, of industries with the most challenging sustainability demands to get on the front foot.

CIOs in organizations already with ESG maturity adopt data management, ESG reporting, and risk tools. In the 2022 Digital Leadership Report by international staffing and CIO recruitment firm Nash Squared, 70% of business technology leaders said that technology plays a crucial part in sustainability.

“CIOs are in a great position to demonstrate their business acumen,” says Sadler. “They can cut costs and generate additional revenue streams.” And DXC Technology director and GM Carl Kinson says IT is now central to cost reduction, while high inflation and rising energy costs make CIOs and organizations assess their energy spending in a level of detail not seen for a long time. This will have a knock-on environmental benefit. Kinson says CIOs are looking to extract greater value from enterprise cloud computing estates, application workloads, system code, and even the use or return of on-premise technology in order to reduce energy costs.

“We’re working with clients to set carbon budgets for each stakeholder to make them accountable, which is a great way to make sure all areas of the business are doing their bit to be more sustainable,” says Sadler.

Great expectations

Falling short of corporate sustainability goals will not only upset the board but exacerbate the search for skills CIOs face, which, in turn, complicates strategies to digitize the business.

Becoming an environmentally sustainable business is core to the purpose of a modern organization and its ability to recruit and retain today’s technology talent.

Climate urgency also impacts CIOs themselves in their employment decisions, too. “I would need to understand the sustainability angles of an organization,” says James Holmes, CIO with The North of England P&I Association, a shipping insurance firm. Business advisory firm McKinsey also finds that 83% of C-suite executives and investment professionals believe that organizational ESG programs will contribute to an increase in shareholder value in the next five years. And the Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report adds that due to the urgent global move to integrate sustainability into core business operations and the customer proposition, it’s important that digital leaders have what it calls a dual lens on sustainability.

Part of that increased shareholder value will be to ensure the business is able to meet the evolving regulations surrounding environmental sustainability. For CIOs in Europe, the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation was adopted in April 2022, and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) secured a majority in the European Parliament in November 2022. California also introduced environmental regulations in September 2022, and other US states are likely to follow.

“Regulation can be pro-growth,” Chi Onwurah, shadow business minister in the UK Parliament and a former technologist, recently said at an open-source technology conference. “Good regulations create a virtuous circle as more people trust the system.”

CIOs and IT leadership, whether in the UK or not, are integral to make organizations more environmentally sustainable in order to help stave off environmental collapse. No vertical market can operate effectively during an ongoing environmental emergency unless a technological response based on collated data is enacted and supported across the organization. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, CIOs and IT leaders enabled new ways of adapting to change, and these need to continue as environmentally sustainable business processes become greater priorities.

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Can the Ad World Kick Its Greenwashing Habit?

21 04 2023


With Earth Day approaching and stricter laws on the horizon in the EU and the UK, figures from the creative industries take stock. F

rom • Reposted: April 21, 2023

Greenwashing. We’ve been talking about it for years, but still many brands are struggling to kick the habit. Whether it’s deliberately making false claims about carbon emissions, or (intentionally or unintentionally) hiding a toxic company behind a comforting cloud of fluffy, feel-good green haze, it’s a practice that lingers like pollution.

And it appears that regulators and governments have lost their patience too. In March 2023, the European Union proposed the Green Claims Directive, a beefed up regime to hold businesses accountable for misleading the public about the sustainability of their products and services. In France, erroneous sustainability claims have been a legal matter since 2021.  In the UK, the Competitons and Markets Authority (CMA) has been working to clarify guidance on greenwashing and has been taking brands, such as boohoo, ASDA and Coca-Cola to task, and the upcoming digital markets, competition and consumer bill could see brands face eye-watering fines

So, with the stick coming in to take the place of the carrot, how can brands and agencies skill up and clean up their act?

Rob McFaul, co-founder, Purpose Disurptors

How do we avoid greenwashing? It’s a question that comes up nearly every time we onboard a new agency to the #ChangeTheBrief Alliance, our sustainability and climate learning programme for the industry. It’s a signal that the industry is recognising they need to skill up and fast, especially as greenwashing moves up the regulatory agenda.

We all need to be sustainability professionals now. We all need to be comfortable asking the right questions of the brands we work with, and become familiar with the net zero pathway for a brand’s sector: What changes are required and when? What are the brand’s actions in response to reaching net zero? Are brands being transparent and ambitious enough in their current actions and future ambitions? 

Essentially, we need to shift our perception of sustainability as just a slogan toward understanding it as a clearly defined pathway for that brand to transition to reach net zero. If we can’t find the answers to our questions… 

Then take a moment to pause. 

You could be greenwashing. 

Greenwashing only maintains business as usual and delays the transformation we know we need to create a thriving future. 

Juan Jose Posada, CCO, Grey Columbia

I think the creative industry – maybe as a reflection of the people that make it – has been, for years, pushing for more responsible, more environmentally concerned brands on all fronts: design-wise, communicationally, and with the products themselves.

However, the pace of these changes has been too slow and totally insufficient. If manufacturers, brands, communication actors and society can’t understand change needs to happen at a faster pace and in a more honest way, then regulators will have to step in. It will take everyone’s effort; we’re simply not doing enough as a society who’s self-inflicting at a faster pace than it is healing its wounds.

But also, one thing that has bothered me – having taken part in many initiatives seeking popular support – is how indifferent people can be. It is heartbreaking.

People are watching closely and judging greenwashing mercilessly, so for brands it just isn’t worth taking the risk.

Valerie Richard, Head of corporate social responsibility, BETC Paris

In France, advertising’s accountability about climate change has been heavily questioned during the last few years. The public debate ended up with reinforced regulations and new legislations introduced. Advertisements now have to include messages with an environmental argument to fight against greenwashing. In 2021, these measures lead to the signing of the Climate & Resilience law that regulates some types of advertising. For example, it is now forbidden for an advertiser to claim that a product or a service is carbon-neutral without precise proof or detailed efforts. Brands can lead themselves to financial sanctions otherwise. Also, ads for automotive brands are now regulated and have to include the environmental rating of the car shown. This rating varies from ‘A’ (low CO2 emission) to ‘G’ (high emission of CO2). 

As you know, French people love to debate endlessly. And these measures have opponents and supporters. In a more objective way, a 2022 Greenflex/ADEME survey indicates that 84% of people in France need to see proof in order to believe a brand’s commitment to the environment. It constitutes a four point increase to the same 2021 survey. The survey also demonstrates that only 30% of French people generally trust large companies – a significant drop from a number that was close to 58% between 2004 and 2016. So, even though we have strict regulations in place, there is still a lot of trust to gain between brands and consumers.

Facing this enormous challenge that we have to overcome against the climate crisis, we need to go beyond regulations. As communication professionals, it is our duty to orient brands towards a type of advertising that is clearer about actual commitments. We are also blessed with a superpower: our creativity and our unique ability to make products and lifestyles appealing. Now is the time to make the need for urgent global environmental action sexy.

Ad Net Zero

Greenwashing may be unintentional, leading to accidental or even well-meaning greenwashing. No matter how it happens, there is simply no place for misleading environmental claims, given the importance of people trusting the advertising of sustainable products and services.

As the world transitions towards a net zero economy, it is vital that advertisers and brands can showcase everything they can offer. Ad Net Zero has a training qualification to help people working in the advertising and marketing services industry. This includes providing an understanding of the regulatory landscape, reviewing examples of rulings by regulators – for example, in the UK, the ASA – and providing global examples for those taking the international training. It also offers practical tips for anyone working in advertising, such as ‘greenwash checks’ for client work, how to upskill their teams in an engaging way, and how to proactively reframe existing work if needed.

Over 1,000 people from across 130 companies have taken the training to date, and we encourage everyone to sign up.

We also recommend everyone keep an eye out for rule updates. We try to make this simpler for supporters by providing updates from the ASA and in addition, the CMA, which has green claims guidance. Both these organisations also offer supportive information on their websites.

Alex Thompson, strategic planner, Ardmore

As long as sustainability is an important issue for consumers, greenwashing remains a problem to be solved for brands and agencies. Advertising performance is directly tethered to brand reputation, and marketers will always pursue avenues that benefit this metric – sustainability messaging included.

The pending EU and UK regulations may therefore be a double-edged sword. It’s great that efforts are being made to help stave off dubious eco claims, but we may see businesses hop off the sustainability train if it becomes more laborious to shout about it in their advertising. Reputation will always be a strong motivator for brands to change behaviour for the better, and sustainability is no different. 

The rub is that we need a real, quantifiable proposition. You can’t market something if the claims don’t stack up, and so for marketers, this means calling out unsubstantiated statements to deliver campaigns that are both impactful and transparent. We must ensure that marketing activity is built on strong foundations of data and insights, so that greenwashing isn’t an issue.

For this to work, brands must also be honest about what they can promote, and recognise that it’s okay if the changes to their sustainability practice have been incremental. Consumers will always respect and appreciate a willingness to progress and improve.

Ardmore is on its own sustainability journey, and key to our commitment to deliver a sustainable model for advertising is acknowledging that Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, whilst it’s tempting to present your green machinations as transformative and revolutionary, just showing that you’re moving in the right direction can go a long way.

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New Federal Climate Laws Are Bringing U.S. Manufacturing Back

20 04 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at the Wolfspeed semiconductor manufacturing plant in Durham, North Carolina, for the kickoff of his “Investing in America” tour last month. (Image credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

By Tina Casey from triple • Reposted: April 20, 2023

The Joe Biden administration fought tooth and nail to pass new laws that transform the carbon-heavy U.S. economy into a climate action hero. The results are beginning to show. Both the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act provide federal tax credits for manufacturers to onshore their operations in the U.S. Red states are benefitting from the renewed U.S. manufacturing boom as well as blue states, further undercutting the anti-ESG movement promoted by high-profile Republican office holders.

U.S. drops the ball on climate action

Ironically, the U.S. sparked the solar technology revolution back in the 1950s when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was searching for energy to power operations in orbit. The U.S. continued to dominate the global solar industry for decades.

Unfortunately, by the time former President Barack Obama took office in 2009, overseas manufacturers had caught up and raced ahead. In addition, the mainstream market for renewable energy was only beginning to take shape. The overall, installed (aka levelized) cost of solar panels and wind turbines remained high relative to fossil energy during President Obama’s time in office. Blowback against his Clean Power Plan and ongoing competition from overseas manufacturers provided two additional obstacles.

The clean power manufacturing situation worsened under former President Donald Trump. He took office as a strong supporter of fossil energy and pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Though he talked a big game about bringing back U.S. manufacturing jobs, he disengaged with the job-creating, global decarbonization movement. His U.S. manufacturing policy was failing long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March of 2020.

The Biden administration picks up the ball and runs with it, spurring billions in U.S. manufacturing commitments 

The new Biden-supported legislation provide a sharp contrast in both policy and circumstances. In addition to substantial tax breaks, the Biden administration is benefitting from the continuation of Obama-era initiatives that fostered a drop in the cost of renewable energy hardware while addressing obstacles in the “soft” area of costs related to inspections, permits, marketing and other administrative areas. Leading U.S. corporations also continued to raise the demand for renewable energy by leveraging their buying power throughout the Trump administration.

The results have been striking. On Jan. 11, for example, the South Korean Firm Hanwha Solutions Corp. announced a $2.5 billion plan to construct a solar manufacturing campus in Georgia. The soup-to-nuts campus will include facilities to manufacture solar ingots, wafers, cells and modules.

That’s just one example. Last week, the Financial Times credited the Biden administration with attracting new corporate manufacturing commitments totaling more than $200 billion since the Infrastructure and CHIPS bills passed last year. “The investment in semiconductor and clean tech investments is almost double the commitments made in the same sectors in the whole of 2021, and nearly 20 times the amount in 2019,” reported Amanda Chu and Oliver Roeder of the Financial Times, citing data the paper compiled on U.S. manufacturing deals.

“While the FT identified four projects worth at least $1 billion each in these sectors in 2019, there were 31 of that size after August 2022,” they added. The Financial Times also took note of 75 other new clean tech manufacturing projects in the U.S. of $100 million or more.

Who’s afraid of the ESG?

Chu and Roeder of the Times concluded by observing that additional guidance on the tax credits is forthcoming from the Biden administration, leading to the announcement of even more projects in the near future.

Red states are already jostling with blue states for a share of the action, regardless of state-level Republican officials who have been railing against “woke” capitalism and ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors being used in investing. The anti-ESG movement purports to protect public pension funds, but it is nothing more than a thinly disguised effort to protect fossil energy stakeholders. 

Georgia is a case in point. The Republican-led state never enacted a renewable energy portfolio standard or even set voluntary renewable energy targets. It has lagged behind other states in terms of increasing access to renewable energy within its borders. However, Georgia policymakers seem to have no problem with enticing clean energy industries to set up shop in the Peach State.

Hanwha company Qcells opened its first solar panel factory in Dalton, Georgia, in 2019. That put the state on the map as host to the largest factory of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has been effusive in his praise for the company’s decision to add another $2.5 billion to the state’s economy.

“Qcells will build a new facility in Cartersville and add a third facility to its Dalton location, creating more than 2,500 new jobs in northwest Georgia. These investments are expected to bring Qcells’ total solar panel production capacity in Georgia to 8.4 gigawatts by 2024,” the governor’s office reported in January.

“With a focus on innovation and technology, Georgia continues to set itself apart as the No. 1 state for business,” Gov. Kemp stated. “Georgia provides a business-friendly environment that means jobs for hardworking Georgians in every corner of the state and success for both existing and new companies. We’re excited for Qcells’ continued success in the Peach State.”

Those “business-friendly” words are at odds with Kemp’s support for anti-LGBTQ legislation, but the point has been made. Georgia and other red states don’t care if their new Biden-enabled, home-grown industries export technologies that shrink the fossil energy profile of the US. Regardless of their political posturing, they just want the jobs.  

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How the Collective Power of Small and Medium Sized Businesses Can Combat Climate Change

20 04 2023

Photo: Meta

By Mary Riddle from triple • Reposted: April 20, 2023

The collective power of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) — defined as those employing less than 500 employees — is far greater than many may expect. Together SMEs make up 90 percent of businesses worldwide and affect the livelihoods of more than 2 billion people.

In Europe, SMEs reign supreme — accounting for 99 percent of all companies and 63 percent of business-related emissions across the EU. Business owners in Europe have faced incredible challenges in recent years — from the pandemic, to supply chain disruptions, to inflation and labor shortages. Creating and implementing a sustainability program is difficult work during normal times, but recent crises have compounded the challenges.

Together, SMEs could wield significant influence over their industries, including suppliers, vendors, customers and other stakeholders, as well as their neighborhoods. With the help of SME Climate Hub, a nonprofit global initiative empowering small- to medium-sized businesses to take climate action, Meta is working to help SMEs overcome barriers to creating more sustainable business operations, one company at a time.

Harnessing Meta’s power of convening to help SMEs

“Meta has over 200 million businesses that use Meta platforms, so as a company we are uniquely positioned to help,” said Eoghan Griffin, Meta’s head of sustainability for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We have a brilliant convening power.”

Traditionally, Meta has focused on enabling business, particularly SMEs, to navigate the digital transition — from e-commerce to social media to communications, Griffin said. “Recently we have been looking at how to support SMEs in the green transition, as well,” he continued. “We knew informally that small businesses are struggling with supply chain requirements of larger companies, the complexity in navigating terminology, and customer expectations. Their customers are asking for this.”

To address these challenges, Meta collaborated with the SME Climate Hub to create the Meta Boost Guide to Green, a sustainability training program for SMEs in Europe. “Guide to Green was a huge success,” Griffin said, “and we heard from businesses loud and clear that they want more support and guidance.”

The Guide to Green offers information to help businesses incorporate sustainability into their company operations, as well as ways to communicate their stories.

Many small businesses are already playing their part on climate action and are using Meta’s platforms to support their businesses. For example, family-run Hippersons Boatyard in Norfolk, U.K., is taking a leadership role in promoting climate action within the local community. The Sparrow family, who run Hippersons, is working with their neighbors to increase recycling and rewilding. On top of that, they are embedding climate action into their own business operations through efforts such using lower-carbon fuel alternatives and providing discounts for those who use the train to get to the site rather than driving.

Belfast-based local produce delivery service, Farm Next Door, is encouraging customers to switch to ethically-grown produce from local farmers through educational programming. They also host events that help customers understand the various steps involved in growing produce and the benefits of buying local. The company has found this to be a great tool for engaging with its customer base and encouraging them to buy from Farm Next Door.

Breaking down SME barriers to sustainability

In 2022, Meta partnered with Accenture to learn more about the barriers that SMEs face to implementing sustainability programs — and they came away with three high-level findings.

Making the business case. “First, there is a need to provide and boost the value case for this kind of work,” Griffin said. “We need to showcase success stories, provide funding and provide value. Demonstrating and enabling that value is a critical barrier.”

Understanding how to take action. SMEs also need help in knowing what matters most. “The climate change landscape is rapidly evolving. There is an overload of information from external sources, and it mostly targets different kinds of businesses,” Griffin explained. “We need to cut through the noise to address what kinds of actions SMEs can take.”

A big part of this is understanding what climate action looks like for smaller businesses with fewer resources, because it will look different than it does at a major multinational. “SMEs can’t do everything, nor should they have to do the same things as a big company that has a bigger footprint,” Griffin said. “However, SMEs can be massive drivers of change. They have a galvanizing and accelerating role and opportunity in their communities.”

Keep it simple. “The third big challenge is that we need to make it massively easier to deliver these changes,” Griffin said. “COVID taught us that: With supply chain disruptions and the cost of living crisis, somehow we need to make [sustainability] a lot smoother and easier for them. It is not realistic for SMEs to spend four or six months to put together sustainability plans, but Meta can get valuable, third-party content to as many businesses as possible.”

As part of its work in the EU, Meta is also looking to ensure that sustainability information is available in as many countries and cultural contexts as possible. Meta Boost Guide to Green is translated and available in the local language for some of the company’s EU markets. The training was also piloted with SMEs throughout Europe to ensure the programs were relevant for business owners across the region.

“Our flagship partner, SME Climate Hub, has been a critical partner in guiding us,” Griffin said. “They have a pledging tool, which allows businesses access to even more external validation. We don’t want to duplicate what other organizations are doing. We want to highlight the external resources, like SME Climate Hub, that are already available. Much of our guidance is highlighting the great work they are doing already.”

The collective impact of SMEs

Historically, SMEs have been underrepresented in many of the agencies and programs dedicated to reducing business emissions. “The U.N. and other agencies are focused on the emissions of large businesses, but collectively, SMEs have a huge impact, and they have been neglected in terms of support,” Griffin said.

“That led us to creating this program,” he continued. “We aren’t a consulting firm, but we do think we have a brilliant convening factor and can get access to a lot of businesses at the same time. We are excited to support businesses in their journeys where we can.”

While small businesses individually have small levels of greenhouse gas emissions, their collective action can help eliminate business sector emissions and galvanize communities.

“No one is putting the blame on SMEs,” Griffin hastened to say. “As a large company, we have a huge focus on ourselves. However, collectively, SME emissions account for 63 percent of all business emissions in Europe. Sixty-six percent of customers want businesses to take a stand on climate, and SMEs have enormous reach in their communities. There is a huge opportunity there.”

And Griffin noted that when SMEs succeed, Meta also succeeds. “We are always keen to develop and deepen the relationships we have with SMEs, and there is a lot of shared social value within that,” he said. “Our training reached over 1 million SMEs, and in a climate crisis, we get to contribute to the drumbeat of stories that highlight how important this is and where the resources are.”

Meta continues to partner with businesses of all sizes to help them establish communications plans and campaigns around their sustainability progress. “When a business is ready to communicate their stories, Meta is ready to help them do that,” Griffin concluded. “Those stories can lead to more brand loyalty. We can help translate the sustainability work that they’re doing into tangible business opportunities.”

This article series is sponsored by Meta and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.

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Investing Insights: ESG + Sustainability

19 04 2023

From • Reporsted: april 19, 2023

2022 was a year of transition and consolidation for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing. On the one hand, regulatory changes and significant global economic headwinds saw European equity ESG funds underperform their benchmarks by 5%, worse than the 4.6% recorded by their traditional rivals. 

However, most analysts agree that these metrics only dampen the case for ESG led investing based on short term ROI alone. The facts are that climate change is not going anywhere and the energy transition will drive sustainable fund returns over the long term. As Sarah Merrick, CEO of Ripple, who raised £2.1m on Seedrs last year, says: “There are very few sectors like ClimateTech where the fundamentals of massively accelerating demand are quite as clear and present.” 

That’s why the world of venture capital is telling a different story when it comes to ESG. While global overall investment activity sunk by 57% in 2022, ClimateTech funding achieved an all time high, with 25% of all venture funding globally going into the sector according to a PwC report. That same report found that investors globally are set to embrace ESG investing on a massive scale and predict that it will soar 84% to $33.9 trillion by 2026 – equating to 21.5% of total assets under management or more than $1 for every $5 invested. 

We’re seeing evidence of this across the investment ecosystem. The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund in Norway said it would vote against companies that don’t set net zero carbon targets, overpay top executives, or lack diversity on their boards. Meanwhile, exchange traded funds (ETFs) aligned with ESG outcomes accounted for 65% of all net inflows into ETFs in 2022 – which suggests that investors are recognising the inevitability of long term structural change. 

And the markets only reflect what’s happening in industry. For example, looking at technology adoption curves, a recent BloombergNEF report suggested that clean energy has a tipping point that 87 countries have now reached. This is a fact that car companies seem to have picked up on – almost every major manufacturer intends to stop making internal combustion engines within 20 years.

At Seedrs, these broader ESG investing trends are reflected in the investment behaviour we’re seeing on the platform. In 2022, 47% more sustainability focused businesses (103 up from 70) received investment on the platform YoY, raising from 40% more investors. In particular, the Clean Energy sector thrived with investment growing 266% from £11m to £36m, with 50% more business raising from 50% more investors. And according to our summer investor survey, ClimateTech is the #1 sector of interest on Seedrs. That all explains why last year we saw alumni businesses in this sector like QED NavalSolivus and Ripple return for another round on Seedrs to run highly successful campaigns, raising millions from our investors and their communities. At the same time, we also welcomed many innovative new businesses, like Gazelle Wind Power, who raised over €3.8m on Seedrs. 

How to approach ESG investing 

There are several key ideas to consider when looking to make investments on Seedrs in campaigns that are demonstrating strong ESG credentials. 

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that paying attention to ESG is more than being a climate crusader but rather about picking businesses that are building products and services that will help us to adapt to an ever changing world. Those companies are likely to see their fundamentals strengthen over time as their offering becomes more vital and consumers become increasingly conscious. 

Secondly, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) will be a crucial factor in allowing businesses to thrive, innovate and adapt moving forward. It is becoming an increasingly important line of enquiry for investors looking at the long term prospects of an organisation and having a strong record on DEI will also mean that businesses are better positioned to attract world leading ESG talent. 

Finally, in terms of portfolio management, diversification is key. 80% of the companies that have ever raised on Seedrs have either exited (going public or private sale) or are still trading. That means investing in a variety of sustainable businesses across a range of sectors is the best way to approach building a portfolio.

But don’t just take our word for it. At Seedrs, we’ve been working in partnership with leading Venture Capital (VC) funds for years, pioneering an innovative way of allowing money to flow into the startup ecosystem by allowing eligible individual investors on our platform to participate in funds that invest in some of the UK’s most exciting early stage startups. Here, some of those Fund Managers give us their perspective on ESG investing in 2023: 

Emma Steele, Partner, Ascension Ventures: “I see 2023 as the year for mission driven founders proving to the world they will outperform the market, by driving value through their social and environmental focus. There is a big opportunity to focus on early-stage investing where the economics are more favourable and more likely to weather the medium term macro storms. Also, the best companies are formed in downturns so now is not the time to take your foot off the gas as an early stage investor.”

Louis Warner, COO, Founders Factory COO & General Partner, G-Force Fund: “One of the sectors we see thriving is Climate Tech. The north star and unanimously agreed global target of reaching Net Zero by 2050 is driving governments, legislators, asset managers, investors, businesses and consumers to act, not only because these problems need to be solved, but also because there are significant financial returns to be made, and early results are promising. The scale of the challenge in the transition to a low carbon global economy is seeing huge influxes of capital and talent into the sector, and there are encouraging examples of this investment starting to make progress.”

Alexandra Clark, Founder & Principal, Sentient Ventures: “While 2022 was a difficult year in general due to the global economic crisis, events have also shone a light on the need for a sustainable and secure food system, after the food supply chain has been severely disrupted by various factors including the pandemic, war, and the impacts of climate breakdown. Sustainability and impact are now very much on the radar at a government level, and we are seeing more investors recognise the importance of natural capital and the need to include impact metrics such as ESG into their investment criteria.”

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Earth Day 2023 Brings Wellness And Affordability To The Sustainability Conversation

19 04 2023
Marble-look gray and white porcelain slab kitchen countertops

Porcelain surfacing adds wellness and sustainability to a new construction or remodeling project. Photo: FONDOVALLE/CERAMICS OF ITALY MEMBER COMPANY

By Jamie Gold, Contributor via Forbes • Reposted: April 19, 2023

Earth Day will be celebrated this year on Saturday, and it brings some good news for environmental advocates: Homeowners are starting to prioritize sustainability in their new construction and renovation projects, as observed in the latest American Society of Interior Designers report, published in February.

For many years, this aspiration frequently gave way to budget constraints, as so many of the products that supported the goal of a healthier planet cost more for purchasers weighing many competing project needs. Perhaps because of more mainstream media coverage, more natural disasters linked to climate change, or a growing number of Millennial homeowners, “Consumers are placing increasing emphasis on sustainability as a value guiding their purchasing choices, with increasing numbers of consumers saying they are willing to pay a purchase premium for sustainability,” the ASID report noted.

This has positive ramifications not just for the planet, but for the well-being of the people who live in these improved homes. “Sustainability and wellness are very closely linked,” commented New York-based interior designer Isfira Jensen in the Interior Design Community Facebook group. “Things that are harmful for people are, in most cases, just as harmful for the living organisms in the ecosystem. The reverse happens to also be true,” she noted. These are some of the major areas where the two converge.

Sustainable Materials

Kitchen with cork floor tiles.
Cork floors are sustainable and don’t off-gas dangerous chemicals, improving a home’s wellness … [+]PHOTO COURTESY OF TORLYS SMART FLOORS, WWW.TORLYS.COM // NEW KITCHEN IDEAS THAT WORK (TAUNTON PRESS)

“The use of eco-friendly and high-efficiency products not only helps reduce our impact on the environment, but also improves things like indoor air quality through the reduction of constant exposure to toxins (materials containing chemical byproducts and formaldehyde),” Jensen explained in her remarks.

Many designers educate their residential clients on these products and avoid specifying them whenever they can. “While we craft our clients’ interiors based on their needs and lifestyle, we systemically prescribe healthy materials and sustainably conceived products. From paint, to flooring, to work surfaces, to furniture, to appliances, every aspect of a design project is conceived to promote a healthier way of living without compromising on the functionality and practicality of the space,” commented Chicago based interior designer Dijana Savic-Jambertin Facebook’s Wellness Designed group for professionals.

Her team favors ethically sourced ceramic or porcelain and FSC certified wood flooring over the widely popular luxury vinyl tile (LVT), given that material’s vinyl chloride composition, which can be hazardous to workers and, potentially, to homeowners, Savic-Jambert noted. (Some of this risk is associated with another component, phthalates, which the industry has worked to reduce with more phthalate-free LVT offerings.)

Charmain Bibby of British Columbia shared a preference for sustainable cork flooring, which is also a wellness material that is soft underfoot and allergen-free. The designer noted on her blog, “Cork is also a great insulator and in our previous home we chose to have cork under our carpets because of its super insulating properties.” That can potentially help with heat loss and energy bill savings.

Fabrics can also off-gas, which is the occurrence of chemicals used to manufacture the material leaching into the air. Sometimes this only happens in the first days or weeks of the product being installed and ventilating the space during that interval addresses the issue. Some fabrics, carpets and other textiles can off-gas for months or years, putting the household that chose it – and future buyers of that home – at risk. “There are some beautiful fabrics out there that are sustainable and low or No VOCs. And the colors are great for clients’ mental health and energy. I love combining the two!” declared Wilmington, North Carolina-based designer Andrea Morris in Wellness Designed.

Induction Cooking Technology

Person cooking with an app and induction cooktop.
Induction cooktops are not only more sustainable, safer and healthier than gas, they’re also faster … Photo: [+]GE PROFILE

Another indoor air quality concern is gas cooking surfaces. “I have noticed an increased interest in induction cooktops over natural gas ranges,” observed Ontario, Canada-based Coralee Monaghan in the same group. “This may be related to the recent media attention surrounding gas ranges and the possible link to negative health concerns and poor indoor air quality,” she added. As noted in an earlier article, induction has numerous wellness benefits.

Tanya Kortum Shively, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based designer and IDC Facebook group member, commented in that group, “Induction cooktops are really becoming popular now because they are so efficient, great to cook with, and do not have the danger of natural gas fumes.”

Much of the media coverage surrounding the health and environmental risks of gas cooking has focused on bans and political clashes, rather than the many benefits of induction technology, which homeowners often embrace once they’ve learned about them.

Lighting Technology

Bathroom with clawfoot tub, oversized shower stall, nature views and circadian lighting.
Energy-efficient LEDs can be used in circadian lighting systems that support better sleep patterns. PHOTO COURTESY OF SERVICE TECH, INC. / CEDIA MEMBER COMPANY // WELLNESS BY DESIGN (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2020) (C) J. GOLD

California has been one of the leaders in imposing strict energy-saving lighting standards in its regulations, and this has spurred widespread adoption of light emitting diode (LED) replacements. This, in turn, has spurred dramatic price reductions and technological advancement in LED offerings.

LEDs now regularly lead designer preferences for their ability to support better sleep with circadian technology, provide better pathway and in-drawer lighting for increased safety and accessibility, generate more light with less energy, and provide greatly-improved dimmability compared to early releases. Bibby noted in her design blog, “Did you know that LED bulbs use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last 25 times longer?” The U.S. Department of Energy backs up this extraordinary figure.

Last Words

Man installing smart lightbulb
Smart bulbs can reduce energy usage and enhance sleep and mood. Photo: GETTY

Just as regulations made LEDs more affordable and spurred technological advancement, regulations around residential gas lines promise to do the same for induction cooking, heat pumps and other safer, healthier, more sustainable alternatives.

You can do well by the planet and the people and pets in your household — and with new government incentives, product advancements and more demand lowering prices — you may preserve your fiscal health too!

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